WITH the new calendar year recently ushered in by both Muharram and January, we realise that another year has passed; minutes move into hours, hours into days, days into weeks, weeks into months and months into years – seemingly faster than ever before; yet every moment is a precious component of life and every moment counts.
We are commanded in the Qur’an to carefully consider what we are sending forth for the future. This introspective question should evoke critical self-evaluation in each individual. What am I doing with my today?
The capital of life
Our attitude towards time indicates our attitude towards the value we give to the capital of life. That is why the Qur’an exhorts us to value the time we have before life is up [Qur’an 63:10]; to realise that time is the measure of life, an amaanah (trust); and be conscious that what we do with time is what we do with our lives.
The times we live in
We seem to be living in times of tremendous negativity, great stress, devastating anxiety, overwhelming fears and ever-growing uncertainty. Social, economic, political and environmental conditions of the world are deteriorating. Injustice, crimes, violence, evil and injustice abound everywhere. Many feel pessimistic and disheartened. Wars are waged in the interest of multi-national corporations and conglomerates in different parts of the world at the expense of the poor and downtrodden, and in the process thousands of innocent men, women and children are dying, millions of refugees are going through most tragic difficulties.
Peoples of the world are undergoing the most radical, far-reaching, and challenging transformation in history. The stakes are high… the very survival of life on our planet. There are options: we could tread the path of either chaos and destruction or the way of creative transformation leading to the birth of a new consciousness. Forces, which have been at work for centuries, have in our day reached a climax that has the power to draw the human race into a global network of co-operation and link the religions of the world into a global spiritual community, or total annihilation of communities and even of life as we know it. What shall we choose to do?
The new calendar year being ushered in is a good time to make personal resolutions. A resolution is a commitment that an individual makes to an attitude, a moral task, personal habits, or a lifestyle change that is advantageous to the self and others. These commitments set goals to be achieved and is a means of self-assessment and repentance that demands personal honesty, moral commitment, humility and dedication.
For a meaningful resolution, there needs to be pre-resolution questions…Where am I, where could I be? Our lives are continually being shaped by the choices we make and the convictions and values that underlie them. In this sense, our lives are like works of art in progress. We can take the material of life and either react to it in a passive way, always remaining life’s victim or take it and use it creatively, becoming the architect of one’s life and a participant in shaping one’s destiny and in designing one’s true potential.
Learn to recognise the purpose of your existence, and realise the value of what you could offer. No person is insignificant and no good deed is too small. Every little counts; the desert is vast, but it is constituted of tiny grains of sand. No grains, no desert. We may be a drop in the ocean, but the ocean would be less without that drop and if every drop was to be removed, there’d be no ocean.
There is a fundamental reality we have to acknowledge and that is that no human being is perfect, but every single one is a work in progress. Commit yourself to excellence in everything you do, but do not seek perfection; and have the wisdom to know the difference. The quest for excellence is not a quest for perfection, for only Allah is perfect. The quest for excellence is actually a willingness and determination to maximise the potential which Allah has granted to you in spite of your weaknesses and limitations.
Wise are the words of the one who said, “A person would do nothing if he waited until he could do it so well that no one could find fault.” Remember that excellence can be attained by man, while perfection is the domain of the Divine. So, there is nothing wrong with making a mistake provided that you learn from errors and setbacks, so that your past serves as a lesson to you and you get better and wiser each and every day.
Do not let obstacles in your path prevent you from reaching your destination. Prophet Yusuf (pbuh) was betrayed by his brothers, sold into slavery, went through tremendous trials and tribulations; but eventually reached a position of great honour (religiously and politically) despite the dishonourable things that were done to him by those who were supposed to be closest and dearest to him. Prophet Yusuf, like all the emissaries of the Divine (pbut), lived a meaningful life and remains a model of excellence.
Shift in perception – change in life
Meaningful living comes from honouring each moment and making every action count. It is a tiny shift in perception that assigns meaning and importance to each moment. It means stopping to notice the beauty and love around us, and within us. It means being fully present in each moment, because only the present moment truly exists.
So many of us worry about the future, hold regrets about the past and completely ignore the present. When we give the now our full attention, even mundane tasks can take on an aura of significance. It is then that our lives become millions of meaningful moments, and we learn to value the Prophetic advice to be in this world as if you a stranger or a passer-by, appreciating every moment
Part of a story
Although our lives are but footnotes on the pages of history; each has his/her own life and each life is a unique story. Sometimes we enter into each other’s lives and become a temporary part or a permanent part of each other’s stories. All our lives are but part of a larger story. The fundamental question remains: How do we contribute to the larger story?
Give your best anyway
A companion of Prophet Muhammad is reported to have said: “When going to sleep, do not assume you will live to see the dawn. When waking up, do not assume you will live to see the sunset; take precaution from your health against sickness, take from your life what will benefit you in death.”
Part of reality is to hope for the best but to be prepared for the worst. The experience of life shows that those who befriend you may betray you, those who benefit from you may belittle you, those whom you fight for may forsake you, those whom you favour may forget you, those whom you assist may abandon you, those whom you elevate may humiliate you. Indeed, we live in a cynical world where the good you do may be minimised while your errors are magnified. But that is the very world we need to make into a better place; and take comfort in the words of Mother Teresa who advised: … “Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough; Give the world your best anyway. In the final analysis, it is between you and God; it was never between you and them anyway.”
As fallible human beings are with limitations, there is yet the potential to do remarkable things, if there is a firm resolve to do so. Let each one, therefore, make a resolution to be the best that he/she can be; and that is a stepping stone towards an improved self and hopefully a better world.
Khan, a motivational speaker and an author, has served in several roles in universities and Islamic centres in Southern California and is currently involved with Impower Development International based in South Africa.
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