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The Fuel for Success

Every person who has achieved something great in this world, has undoubtedly had a vision which they strived towards in order to succeed. The greatest of all people were the prophets of Allah, who had the greatest and most ambitious of visions, i.e., saving their nations (and beyond) from the Hellfire, and helping them to attain Jannah.
In today’s world, many successful businessmen and politicians have reached their positions due to having worked hard towards their vision of success. Some of the leaders of the most powerful countries show us that striving towards an ambitious goal can see one achieve it, even when one is under-qualified to do so; such is the power of a vision!
The conversation around having a vision or detailed plan to achieve success is one that is frequently limited to management theory and corporate boardrooms, yet the reality is that it is something we should all individually have at the forefront of our minds, as we will come to see.
First of all, let us look at the concept of true success, as every person surely wishes for it and hence it is the starting point of any vision. Success comes in many forms, depending on what we perceive it to be; but ultimately, attaining Allah’s pleasure and entering Jannah, whilst avoiding the Hellfire, is its very essence. Allah reminds us of the “great success” many times in the Qur’an.
In one short surah that is probably known to all readers, Allah gives us a model for success:
“By time. Indeed, mankind is in loss. Except for those have believed and done righteous deeds, and advised each other to trust, and advised each other to patience.”
Imam Ash-Shafii commented on this chapter of the Qur’an, saying ‘if people were to reflect over it, it would suffice them’; meaning that it holds the key to success. What we learn from the surah is that if one achieves success in the Hereafter, but never achieved any worldly accomplishment, Allah classifies him/her as successful person. Likewise, the opposite is true; if one achieves great things in this world but ends up in the Hellfire, this is the ultimate loss and failure. The Prophet explained this to us beautifully when he said:
On the Day of Resurrection the disbeliever who lived the most luxurious life will be brought, and it will be said: ‘Dip him once in Hell.’ So he will be dipped in it, then it will be said to him: ‘O so- and-so, have you ever enjoyed any pleasure?’ He will say: ‘No, I have never enjoyed any pleasure.’ Then the believer who suffered the most hardship and trouble will be brought and it will be said: ‘Dip him once in Paradise.’ So he will be dipped in it and it will be said to him: ‘O so-and-so, have you ever suffered any hardship or trouble?’ He will say: ‘I have never suffered any hardship or trouble.
Of course, we live in this world and should undoubtedly seek to succeed here too; the dunya and the Akhirah are not contradictory, and it is certainly not a choice between one or the other. Rather, Muslims should seek to succeed in both and be amongst the most successful in this world too (albeit with the Akhirah as the end goal).
Obviously aspirations can be both good (‘uluww, lit. high) and bad (suful, lit. low). ‘Uluww al-Himmah is having lofty goals; the loftiest of which is seeking the pleasure of God Almighty – the ultimate goal of the believer. Taking that understanding into consideration, ‘Uluww al-Himmah is to think little of everything other than this most important matter, keeping perspective on this objective and not letting any other objective get in its way.
A person having ‘uluww al-himmah is a sign of their success and, conversely, suful al-himmah is a sign of a person’s destruction. In the Qur’an we read,
‘There are those among mankind who say “Our Lord! Give us good of this world!” and they have no portion of the Hereafter, and there are those who say “Our Lord! Give us good of this world and of the Hereafter.”
We learn that there are those whose himmah does not go beyond this dunya and others whose himmah is for this dunya and for the Hereafter. Having mentioned our ultimate goal, a further reflection from this verse is that we should also seek the good of this world, and this is part and parcel of having lofty aspirations. The Ummah would benefit largely in seeing Muslims attaining successful leadership positions, be that in the corporate, political, educational, or any other sphere – whereby a positive influence, directed by Islamic values, can be made.
If we Muslims do not seek to have lofty aspirations in this world and the next and have no vision ahead of us, then we are simply traveling upon a path haphazardly with no end goal in mind. Perhaps we all agree we want Jannah in the end, and we would like a comfortable life in this world too, but without some sort of plan or roadmap to achieve these, can we safely assume they will happen? If we live without direction, we will end up getting involved in things which have minimal value and make little or no progress each year.
First of all; what is a vision? It is the starting point for forming a plan or strategy towards one’s goals. Without a vision, there can be no strategy, and hence we find companies spending a large amount of time refining their vision and constantly reminding employees of it. Their end goal may be to reach a certain level of profitability or to become the market leader, but for the Muslim individual and indeed the collective, our end goal is far more important and therefore naturally needs even more thought and focus.