Principles of Success—
In the light of Seerah
By Maulana Wahiduddin Khan
It is a well-known fact that the Prophet of Islam (PBUH) was the supremely successful man in the entire human history. But he was not just a hero, as Thomas Carlyle has called him. According to the Qur’an, he was a good example for all mankind. He has shown us the way of achieving supreme success in this world.
By studying the life of the Prophet we can derive those important principles which were followed by the Prophet. In short, the Prophet of Islam was a positive thinker in the full sense of the word. All his activities were result-oriented. He completely refrained from all such steps as may prove counter-productive.
First Principle: To begin from the possible
This principle is well explained in a saying of Aishah. She said: "Whenever the Prophet had to choose between two options, he always opted for the easier choice." (Al-Bukhari)To choose the easiest option means to begin from the possible, and one who begins from the possible will surely reach his goal.
Taken from "The Life of Muhammad" by Muhammad Husayn Haykal,
translated by Dr. Ismail Ragi A. al Faruqi
American economist Robert Samuelson recently made an interesting observation about the American society in his Newsweek column: "America's glories and evils are tightly fused together." Quoting sociologist Seymour Lipset, he asserts that America's economic vitality and progress come from the same source as do crime, family breakdown, inequality, and vulgarity. Freedom and individualism have fired economic advance, yet have also inhibited social control. But why the qualities that bring the best in a nation also should bring the worst in it? Is humanity doomed by having its vices and virtues so intricately mixed?
Samuelson does not probe the issue. Instead he seems to be happily resigned to it. "We are burdened as well as blessed by our beliefs," he says. Economics, we may be reminded, is the dismal science.
Actually the world is not doomed by design. Samuelson comes very close to the truth but he confuses approaches or tools with attributes. A tool that works great in one area is also being used in another for which it was never designed. The problem lies with the user who keeps on insisting on its use in the second area citing its success in the first. To put matters simply, it's the free use of reason and intellect that is behind most of America's (and West's in general) phenomenal scientific and material progress. It's the use of the same tool in moral, and religious life that has caused its equally phenomenal moral degeneration!
Every tool has a designated area of application. Outside, it will fail to work. A 4 bit computer is good for some elementary math involving whole numbers. It may multiply 2 by 20 and give the correct answer instantly. But burdened with complex calculations involving several decimal digits, it will give the WRONG answers. A weighing scale meant for gold will not work for iron and vice versa. Their resolution and capacity are inappropriate for those applications.
Same with the tools we use for learning about the world. Our senses and intellect are wonderful things. Science and technology are all about their use. Certainly it was free inquiry driven by reason that led to so many of the discoveries of science. It happened at an accelerated pace during the past four centuries and the results are everywhere around us to be seen.
But a tool that is so great in one area may be totally useless, even dangerous, in another. Pure Reason, uninformed by Divine Guidance, is a defective tool for deciding purpose of life or suggesting its values. What is Right and what is Wrong? These questions require knowledge beyond what we can acquire by using our senses and reasoned analysis. As a direct result, everyone's reasoning is different. That is why philosophers have never been able to agree upon what should be the goal of life. Happiness? Survival? Pleasure? Love? Self-fulfillment? You name it. In addition, it is impossible for us to separate our reasoning in these matters from our feelings. Pure or uninformed reason becomes just a tool to justify what we desire.
Today West's problem is that it has accepted the wrong tool for developing its moral compass. Probably the majority of its people abhor homosexuality. They may know that it is an abomination and evil. Yet today same-sex marriages are getting legal sanction in the West. And they are helpless in trying to stop its advances. Why? Because they cannot argue that it is wrong based on pure reason. It is easier to make a case against smoking in public places, then against the worst forms of immorality. Such is the result when pure reason becomes the accepted arbiter of right and wrong.
There is nothing modern about this either. Several centuries ago, Obaidullah Hasan Qirwani, a leader of the renegade batani cult declared it foolish for a brother to marry his beautiful sister to a total stranger, while trying to be content with a less qualified wife -- another stranger. She would be much more suited to be wife of her own brother, with whom she may be a lot more compatible, he argued. His argument is, no doubt, sickening. But is there a counter argument based on pure reason?
Certainly mankind needs a superior tool for determining the values and purpose of life. A source of guidance that is based on certain knowledge, not conjecture. One that can inform our desires rather than being subservient to them. This is what Prophets, Alayhim assalam, came with. They claimed to have access to the higher source of knowledge, the Divine Revelation. Those who accepted them used reason and observation to verify their authenticity and character. But they accepted Divine Revelation as a SUPERIOR source of knowledge! That is why a son can tell his father:
"O my father! To me has come knowledge that had not reached you. So follow me. I will guide you to a Way that is even and straight." (Maryam, 19:43).
All this is obvious, except in implications. We accept this is Right and that is Wrong because the Revelation TOLD us, not because it PROVED it to us. What is wrong with riba? Gambling? Pork? Alcohol? Revelation told us that they were wrong. Why is hijab necessary? Allah and His Prophet, Salla-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, ordered that. What are the rights of men and women? Those given to them by Allah and His Prophet, Salla-Allahu alayhi wa sallam. The attribute of the Muslims is that they "listened and followed" (Al-Baqarah, 2:285). It is not that they listened and questioned, and argued, and investigated and then if they felt like it, they followed. That is also THE message of Prophet Ibrahim, alayhi assalm's, sacrifice, a defining event for Islam. For the Qur'an describes the moment when the father and son were ready for the ultimate sacrifice by saying: "When they surrendered" (Al-Saffat, 37:103). Literally it can also be translated: "When they accepted Islam." For pure reason could have raised a million questions about the command for that sacrifice.
Normally it is difficult for us to say "I don't know." It is even more difficult for nations to admit a weakness in their celebrated tools of inquiry. That is the dilemma of the modern world, which sees so much wrong with itself but cannot bring itself to admitting the problem with its basic approach. But a Muslim is the person who has both the wisdom and the courage to surrender before the higher source of knowledge and guidance. For him Revelation informs his reason and his reason controls his emotions. Such is the person who is blessed, but not burdened, by his beliefs.
Reference url: http://www.albalagh.net/food_for_thought/reason.shtml
His charity was of various kinds. Sometimes he gave a gift; sometimes he borrowed something and repaid it generously; sometimes he bought a thing and paid more than the price to the seller; and sometimes he gave charity. He accepted gifts from other people but always gave more gifts in return for them.
Muhammad never said no to any request from anyone in his life. He used to say that he was only a distributor and a treasurer and that Allah was the Bestower of everything. Once a man came to him and saw his herd of goats stretching over a vast area. He requested help and Muhammad gave him the whole herd of goats. He went back to his people and told them to accept Islam, for Muhammad was so generous that there was no fear of poverty. Another man asked him for help when he had nothing to give, so he told the man to borrow on his behalf and he would repay the loan. `Umar, who was present, asked Muhammad whether Allah had not burdened him more than he could bear. The Prophet kept quiet. However, a man was present there who offered to help. Muhammad smiled with great joy at his offer.
Muhammad was so generous that he always gave something to anyone who asked him for help, but if he had nothing, he promised help later on. Sometimes it so happened that Muhammad purchased an article for himself, then gave it as a gift to the seller. Once he bought a camel from `Umar and straightaway gave it as a gift to `Umar’s son `Abdullah. Once he bought something from Jabir and gave it back to him as a gift.
Sometimes Allah blessed the food that the Prophet shared so that it multiplied to feed many. During one battle, there were 130 Companions with the Prophet. He bought one goat, slaughtered it and ordered its liver to be roasted. When it was ready, he distributed it among all the Companions and kept a share for those who were not present.
Whenever he received anything, he did not sit in peace until it was finished. Umm Salmah, the Prophet's wife, reported that one day Allah's Messenger came home looking disturbed. She asked him what the matter was. He replied that the seven dinars he had received the day before had remained on the bed until evening and had not been distributed. He did not rest until they were given away.
Abu Dharr reported that one evening he was walking with Allah's Messenger when he said, "Abu Dharr, if the mountain of Uhud were turned into gold for me, I would not like three nights to pass and one dinar still be left with me, excepting what I would leave for paying my debts." He would never rest until all the cash in the house was completely finished. Once the Prophet went home in a hurry after the prayer and then immediately came out again. The people were surprised, but he told them that he had remembered during the prayer that there was some gold in his house. He thought that he might forget and the gold might remain there all night. He went back home to ask that it might immediately be given in charity.
He always paid the debts of the dead and issued instructions to the effect that if anyone died leaving any debt, he should be informed of it so that he could pay it off.
Whenever Muhammad met any miserly person, he advised him to be more generous and charitable. Ibn `Abbas said that he heard Allah's Messenger say, "The believer is not the one who eats when his neighbor beside him is hungry," Abu Hurayrah reported Allah's Messenger as saying, "The believer is simple and generous, but the wicked person is deceitful and ignoble." In short, Muhammad was so generous and charitable that he never kept anything surplus for himself but gave all to those who came to him for help.
The nation of Thamud comes after the 'Aad people as the worst transgressors. Basically, their deviation was the same as of the people of Hazrat Nuh and the 'Aad. They also believed in the existence of Allah and His being the Ilah and the Rabb but they did not agree that He was the only ilah, that He alone was worthy of all 'ibadah, and that He was Rabb in all the senses of the word. They insisted that there were others, besides Allah, who too could accept prayers, grant favors, and remove distress, and in moral and cultural matters they took their law from their chiefs and priests instead of following Divine guidance. It was this which made them into a tragically misled people and brought down on them Allah's punishment:
And (O' Muhammad) if they turn away (and do not listen to what you say) then say to them: I am warning you of a punishment the like of that which visited the 'Aad and the Thamud, to whom Prophets came repeatedly telling them not to give their 'ibadah to any but Allah, and whose only reply was: 'If our Rabb had wanted, He would surely have sent down angels, (but since He did not), we reject the message which you bring'. (Quran 14:13-14)
And to the Thamud (we sent) their kinsman Saleh, who said to them, "O' my People: 'give your 'ibadah to Allah; you have no ilah but He."...They replied, "O' Saleh, we had great hopes of you (and now you spear strangely); Do you mean to forbid us to give our 'ibadah to those to whom our ancestors used to give their?" (Quran 11:61-62)
When their kinsman Saleh said to them: "Do you not fear (God)? I am verily an apostle worthy of trust where fore fear God, and obey me and not obey all the words of transgressors who cause strife in the land and who do not mend their ways." (Quran 26:142-143, 150-152).