You might have a PhD but do your children hate you?
You might have millions of fans but are you incapable of having a loving relationship?
You might earn a ton of money, but is it all sitting in high-interest accounts or shares in unethical mining or arms companies, while the people around you are eating tinned dog food?
You might have earned the praise and admiration of your peers, but does the old lady at the Post Office secretly call you ‘that pompous, rude git who swans about like he owns the place and couldn’t tell a joke if it bit him in the arse’?
Achievement has about as much to do with what looks good on paper as beauty has to do with plastic surgery. What have Muslims contributed in the last 500 years or so? Many millions of tiny acts of kindness that no newspaper would bother printing and no organisation would bother stumping up the cash for an awards ceremony to celebrate.
Dealing with your own self is a far more difficult task than going to university, getting a job, and rising up the career ladder, gathering accolades on the way. You can employ all sorts of underhanded methods in the latter, but in the former, only ruthless self-accounting and discipline will work – and that doesn’t get you any certificate.
Humility, disinterested acts of kindness, generosity, service to others, being the kind of everyday hero that doesn’t demand a medal – these acts are elevated in Islam to the rank of achievement, far more than winning a battle or having your critics pat you on the back for that paper you just published.
The higher you climb in this world, the further you have to fall. In contrast, practising non-attachment to the world whilst caring for it is surely the greatest challenge humanity faces.
By Medina Tenour Whiteman, Cavemum
Resources for Seekers: