HOW DO YOU SPELL SUCCESS?
Many people would perhaps say “m-o-n-e-y” or “p-o-s-s-e-s-s-i-o-n-s” believing that having the most things makes you the most successful. Some would say “p-o-w-e-r” or “i-n-f-l-u-e-n-c-e” believing that might and strength instills fear and respect and this equals success. This world is becoming more and more about instant gratification. Life is short, so many people feel compelled to say: “I need to grab as much as I can as quickly as I can. No need to worry about who I run over in the process or whether I save anything for the future.”
A dictionary definition of success might be “the accomplishment of an aim or purpose.” It’s not necessarily monetary; it’s not necessarily influential. It just means that you have achieved some goal. So, clearly it’s a word open to wide interpretation. And in this worldly life, someone with a lot of wealth and/or power is usually perceived as successful. The idea has become ingrained in our culture. The volume of news stories about celebrities is mind-boggling. Very rarely are they positive stories, but people can’t seem to get enough of them. They make heroes, even idols, out of these celebrities. They flock to see them and get their pictures taken with them, as if some of that “success” will rub off on them. They hang on every word. These celebrities seem to have everything, including an adoring public that wishes they could be like them.
But is this worldly life real? Is it where we want to measure our success? Listen to the story of Qãroon. [28:76-83] Qãroon (the slave driver) was one of Moses’ people who betrayed them and oppressed them. We gave him so many treasures that the keys thereof were almost too heavy for the strongest band. His people said to him, “Do not be so arrogant; GOD does not love those who are arrogant. “Use the provisions bestowed upon you by GOD to seek the abode of the Hereafter, without neglecting your share in this world. Be charitable, as GOD has been charitable towards you.
Do not keep on corrupting the earth. GOD does not love the corruptors.” He said, “I attained all this because of my own cleverness.” Did he not realize that GOD had annihilated before him generations that were much stronger than he, and greater in number? The (annihilated) transgressors were not asked about their crimes.
One day, he came out to his people in full splendor. Those who preferred this worldly life said, “Oh, we wish that we possess what Qãroon has attained. Indeed, he is very fortunate.” As for those who were blessed with knowledge, they said, “Woe to you, GOD’s recompense is far better for those who believe and lead a righteous life.” None attains this except the steadfast. We then caused the earth to swallow him and his mansion. No army could have helped him against GOD; he was not destined to be a winner. Those who were envious of him the day before said, “Now we realize that GOD is the One who provides for whomever He chooses from among His servants, and withholds. If it were not for GOD’s grace towards us, He could have caused the earth to swallow us too. We now realize that the disbelievers never succeed.”
We reserve the abode of the Hereafter for those who do not seek exaltation on earth, nor corruption. The ultimate victory belongs to the righteous.
This story has many important points. Arrogance is never allowed in God’s kingdom, so someone thinking that they achieved success on their own is clearly wrong. It’s okay to seek things of this world— without neglecting your share in this world—it’s just very important to recognize that all wealth and dignity comes from God. Our focus should be on the Hereafter. And God is the Provider of all things and He can take them away in an instant.
God knows that as humans we have weaknesses and desiring things is one common weakness. It’s easy to be envious of someone who seems so well off, has everything so luxurious. But God reminds us that things aren’t always as they appear, and we don’t have to be jealous of others.
We don’t know what’s happening for that person. They may be a strong believer and have earned their achievements—they may be attributing all their success to God. Or they may be a total disbeliever, arrogantly tooting their own horn. Either way, it doesn’t matter to me. I only need to take care of myself. God tells us not to worry about what’s happening for another.
[3:196] Do not be impressed by the apparent success of disbelievers.
[40:4] None argues against GOD’s revelations except those who disbelieve. Do not be impressed by their apparent success.
As submitters, we know that real success is not measured in material terms. [28:60] Everything that is given to you is only the material of this life, and its vanity. What is with GOD is far better, and everlasting. Do you not understand?
[3:14] Adorned for the people are the worldly pleasures, such as the women, having children, piles upon piles of gold and silver, trained horses, livestock, and crops. These are the materials of this world. A far better abode is reserved at GOD.
[9:38] O you who believe, when you are told, “Mobilize in the cause of GOD,” why do you become heavily attached to the ground? Have you chosen this worldly life in place of the Hereafter? The materials of this world, compared to the Hereafter, are nil.
God tells us how to find success.
[23:1-5, 10] Successful indeed are the believers; who are reverent during their Contact Prayers (Salat). And they avoid vain talk. And they give their obligatory charity (Zakat). And they maintain their chastity. … Such are the inheritors.
[87:14-15] Successful indeed is the one who redeems his soul. By remembering
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