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 The Godly and Un-Godly Races

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Obedient Angel
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Join date : 2011-04-30
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PostSubject: The Godly and Un-Godly Races   Thu Dec 15, 2011 12:30 pm


The Different Races, The Race to Allah

Imagine three people running a race of equal athletic ability. The first person has weights strapped on to every inch of their body, so they don’t see the load they carry but they just feel heavy and exhausted, and in a short amount of time, they burn out. They keep trying but keep burning out quickly every time. The second person is trying to run while carrying a heavy load they recognize and see is on their backs, but they are still determined to run. Unfortunately, the load they carry slips around and even distracts their vision from the racecourse so they veer off in the wrong direction often. Because they won’t simply let go of the load, even coming back to the racecourse itself becomes its own challenge. The third person has no weights or loads. They are free to run without anything holding them down. They feel light as the wind, and they actually enjoy the run.

Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala (exalted is He) mentions twice in the Qur’an:

“[...] So race to all that is good. [...]” (Qur’an 2:148 and 5:48)

We see the image of the race, of rushing to Allah (swt) with speed, in the following verses:

“Race toward forgiveness from your Lord and a Garden whose width is like the width of the heavens and earth, prepared for those who believed in Allah and His messengers. That is the bounty of Allah which He gives to whom He wills, and Allah is the possessor of great bounty.” (Qur’an 57:21)

“And hasten to forgiveness from your Lord and a garden as wide as the heavens and earth, prepared for the righteous.” (Qur’an 3:133)

“It is these who race for the good deeds, and they are foremost in them.” (Qur’an 23:61)

“And the foremost in the race, the foremost in the race. Those are the ones brought near to Allah.” (Qur’an 56:10-11)

“And those who race each other in a race.” (Qur’an 79:4)

In these verses, two different roots are used to describe this act of racing. The first – ‘s-b-q’ – has the meaning of competition. The second – ‘s-r-‘’ – has the meaning of speed and haste. Both roots have also been used with an alif—implying it is done with others.

Sheikh al-Tantawi mentioned in his tafsir (exegesis):

“The meaning of al-Sabq is that the one who walks surpasses the one walking with them, and reaches the destination before them.”

The Different Races

There are some important reflections to take from these verses. First, the truth is, we are all headed somewhere in a race whether we consciously know it or not. Allah (swt) asks all of humanity, “Where are you going?” (Qur’an 81:26). And just as Allah (swt) mentions those who race for good he also mentions those who actually race for disbelief.

“O Messenger! Let them not grieve you (those) who vie with another in the race to disbelief…” (Qur’an 5:41)

Secondly, many times the concept of competition ‘being healthy’ is actually practiced in a very worldly sense where greed, jealousy, and enmity towards the competitors would be felt. Subhan Allah (glory be to God), this is the way of those in the “Rat Race” which is also described by Allah (swt) in the Qur’an:

“Many of them you see, racing each other in sin and enmity, and their eating of things forbidden. Evil indeed are the things that they do.” (5:62)

When it comes to racing for other than Allah, enmity comes with the race. If the ilah or actual goal in the race becomes material, then the heart becomes jealous and desires enmity. So if two sisters are memorizing Qur’an and one gets ahead of the other, and the second sister actually wishes bad upon the first for getting ahead, the jealous sister should realize she was racing for dunya—material worldly gain—and not Allah (swt). Deep down, she questions Allah’s qadar (recorded plan) in allowing her sister to excel in Qur’an. Maybe she wanted worldly fame for being a hafitha (one who has memorized the Qur’an), or was memorizing for no other goal than being better than others. She should also realize that not only is she headed in the wrong direction, but she is also carrying weights strapped onto her—the enmity and lack of self-approval—that is weighing her down. If she was happy for her sister, while also wishing good for herself, this is as it should be. However, even if religious and community leaders feel enmity towards one another for some good that the other has achieved, this is a sign that they have veered off course, and are heavy with the burden they have chosen to carry until they let it go.
I use the term ‘chosen’ because holding onto jealousy is something we have been asked to avoid, so it falls within the realm of our own abilities and choices. The Prophet ﷺ (peace be upon him) mentioned, “Avoid jealousy, for it destroys good deeds as fire destroys wood.”

There are also those who always assume others are jealous of them, that they are the destination of other people’s races. This usually means that instead of looking ahead of themselves, they’re busy looking back and wishing for others not to catch up. Rather than fixing their sight on the pleasure of Allah (swt), they too get caught in the “Rat Race” of enmity, and veer off course.

The Race to Allah (swt)

Yet subhan Allah, the opposite spirit is the case for those truly racing towards Allah (swt). Surrounding yourself with excellent company means you will be competing with the best. This means you will actually achieve much more than you would on your own. Their company is a blessing that helps you push yourself harder. The race is not about beating others as much as it’s about achieving your own best efforts for Allah (swt), because al-Kareem (the Generous) rewards without measure from his infinite Mercy to each and every one of us.

In this race, the competitors are inspired by one another and want each person to do as well as possible. They are happy to see them advance and help them. If they see someone headed in the wrong direction, they try to correct them and bring them back. Each time they help their competitors advance, they are also advanced. They help their competitors through obstacles, and obstacles are magically removed from their own path. The race track is much more of an obstacle course anyway with each person racing through their own set of unique life challenges and opportunities designed according to the perfection of Allah’s plan. This is exemplified when Zakariyah ‘alayhi sallatu wa sallam (may Allah send His peace and blessings on him) was inspired to make du`a’ to Allah (swt) for a son right after Maryam `alayha as-salaam (peace be upon her) explains to Him that Allah (swt) is the source of her rizq (wealth or provision).

Now imagine that as we race to Allah (swt), He also rushes towards us as is mentioned in the Hadith Qudsi (record of the words of the Prophet ﷺ, relating words of God that were not revealed as part of the Qur’an):

“He who draws close to Me a hand’s span, I will draw close to him an arm’s length. And whoever draws near Me an arm’s length, I will draw near him a fathom’s length. And whoever comes to Me walking, I will go to him running.”

Finally, the sirat (bridge) over Hell-Fire which we all have to cross in order to enter Jannah (paradise), provides important imagery. Some will crawl, others will walk, and the very fortunate will run across. It is those who ran to Allah (swt) in this life, who will get to run to Him in the next. May we be of them insha Allah (God willing). Ameen.

Understanding the Weights and the Loads

There are so many people holding onto heavy loads trying to make it through the race. People are holding onto sadness and grief, fears and insecurities, anger, and all the other limiting emotions. Limiting and difficult emotions are normal to experience, and we are rewarded for enduring challenges with patience and perseverance. But after those events have brought us back to Allah (swt), it’s time to let go of the pain. And subhan‘Allah (glory be to God), we have always had the power to do that. Letting go does not mean giving up or justifying wrongs. It means you are willing to continue the race with all the lessons learned, without carrying the emotional load with you. In place of bitterness and feeling victimized, you allow yourself to feel free, and even grateful for the wisdom and reward attained. Experiencing negative emotions is not wrong, rather very normal and human, and it can even be a blessing that reminds us to turn to Allah (swt). But after we have turned to Him, we go back to being content with Him and His decree. We let go of the attachments of needing sadness, of needing anxiety and fear to protect us and help us, because we have Allah (swt) to do those things and we have been given power over our own immediate choices to work for them.

Negative emotions, when held onto, become part of the attachments of dunya (this world). They are the weights attached to the runner as they try to run to Allah (swt) and get exhausted early. A traumatic life event is the heavy load that someone carries over their shoulders after the calamity has passed and they have the ability to put it down. Sometimes it takes the help of others to say, “Here, let me help you put that down. You don’t need to carry it anymore.” Some are so used to the weight, they’re actually afraid of what it would feel like to live without it. The heavy load allowed them to turn to Allah (swt) and they are afraid that putting it down would mean they would forget Him and become heedless. So we have to understand something:

What Does Allah (swt) Himself Want for Us?

While remembering Allah (swt) during our moments of weakness is a blessing from Him, He is more Merciful to us than His wanting us to hold onto that weakness in order to feel close to Him. Actually the opposite is encouraged:

The Prophet ﷺ (peace be upon him) taught us, “The strong believer is better and more beloved to Allah than the weak believer, while there is good in both. Guard over that which benefits you, seek Allah’s assistance, and don’t lend yourself to things devoid of benefit, and if something befalls you, then don’t say ‘If I only would have done such and such,’ rather say ‘Allâh ordained this and He does what He wills’ for verily the phrase ‘If I would have’ makes way for the work of the Devil.” (Muslim)

Imam al-Nawawi commented, “The intended meaning of strength here is a firm will and a desire to work for the Hereafter. So the one being described as a strong believer is more bold and stern against the enemy in Jihad, quicker to go out and searching for striving in Allah’s path, more in his enjoining the good and forbidding the evil, in his patience with the harms he faces throughout, and stronger in the way he carries out difficult tasks for Allah’s sake. He loves to pray, fast, make dhikr (remembrance of Allah), and perform the rest of the acts of worship, and he is more active in seeking after these affairs, as he keeps a closer watch over his performance of them.” (Sharh Muslim (9/341))

Allah (swt) is more Merciful than His wanting us to punish ourselves with hardship, pain, self-imposed weakness and heaviness. He wants for us ease and lightness despite the natural human tendency towards weakness:

يُرِيدُ اللَّهُ بِكُمُ الْيُسْرَ وَلَا يُرِيدُ بِكُمُ الْعُسْرَ

“Allah intends for you ease and does not intend for you hardship.” (Qur’an, 2:185)

يُرِيدُ اللَّهُ أَنْ يُخَفِّفَ عَنْكُمْ وَخُلِقَ الْإِنْسَانُ ضَعِيفًا

“And Allah wants to lighten for you [your difficulties]; and mankind was created weak.” (Qur’an, 4:28)

Furthermore, whenever there is a command in the Qur’an or from the Prophet ﷺ, it means that following such a command is humanly possible. Here are just a few examples that show the option to hold onto an emotion or not is within our control:

Allah mentions in the Qur’an:

وَلَا تَهِنُوا وَلَا تَحْزَنُوا

“Do not be weak and do not be sad.” (Qur’an 3:139)

And to Musa `alayhi as-salaam (peace be upon him) and Harun (as):

قَالَ لَا تَخَافَا إِنَّنِي مَعَكُمَا أَسْمَعُ وَأَرَى

“(Allah) said, ‘Fear not. Indeed, I am with you both; I hear and I see.’” (Qur’an, 20:46)

The Prophet ﷺ mentions, “Don’t become angry.”

Tricks of the Mind and Nafs (Ego)

It’s interesting to note that ‘sadness’ in particular and emotions in general are often spoken about in English as nouns, making them seem static, unmoving, like you cannot do anything about them once they are there but wait for them to go away on their own. People become overwhelmed by their emotions when they feel they are static, and when they think they can’t control them, so instead of trying to regain control they simply give in, and even justify it. In Arabic, emotions are often used as active verbs that include the responsible party in the verb. So it’s as if it’s saying, “Don’t you do sadness,” or “Don’t you do fear.” Meaning, when it comes to holding onto emotions, we are the active doers, doing it to ourselves.

The nafs has tricked us into thinking we have no power over these weights, these loads we’re carrying. The nafs also tells us we need these weights in order to succeed, that they make us stronger. And sometimes they do, but only when we have learned about our power to remove them. Otherwise, the weights carried indefinitely lead to massive health and psychological problems, rather than strength. It continuously lies to us, like any oppressor for no other reason other than staying in charge, so that these lies control our direction. Subhan’Allah, fear and anxiety don’t help us become safer. They actually make us panic and become less safe. Anger makes us lose control even though people choose to become angry in order to gain control. Feeling self-pity, actively maintaining the ‘victim’ mentality does not bring the promise of self-approval or control in life. It makes the person desperate for the attention and approval of others (aka riya’), and can even lead to manipulative behavior in trying to control others. Holding onto sadness after loss doesn’t make experiencing the loss any easier, it makes it harder and more prolonged, more acutely felt.

The nafs wants us to hold on dearly to all the emotions that can make us a slave to it. Letting go is about freeing our souls so we can run to Allah (swt), feeling secure, loved, and in control in the presence of al-Mawlaa, al-Wadud, and al-Qaadir. May Allah (swt) allow us to let go of that which slows us down in the race to Him, and may He make us of the strong believers.


http://www.suhaibwebb.com/personaldvlpt/character/letting-go/
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