01 Mar Fresh Beginning and New Opportunities
Dedicated to all Muslim Students starting university this year
For new students at a university it’s a new beginning, and beginnings are seldom tidy. Becoming a student for some is like the beginning of Rome. Rome had a humble beginning but was overwhelmed by its greatness. The conscious and intelligent Muslim starts as a humble fresher but never becomes overwhelmed. Faith, careful search for knowledge, and interest in the pleasure of God, these three things, keep the student focussed on learning and not wasting opportunities. The greatness that comes with that never falls because it is achieved and retained without pride, as a gift from Allah. Faith, knowledge, and God’s pleasure nourish the heart and keep it alive to virtue, fairness, and good treatment towards all and everything.
So start well and listen to what our Prophet said. The Messenger of Allah (sallallahu `alaihi wa sallam) said, “Grab five things before five others: your youth before your old age, your health before your illness, your wealth before your poverty, your free-time before your preoccupation, and your life before your death.” [al-Hakim] If you are young and healthy then what better encouragement can you have than these words from our Prophet?
A good beginning is just like a good seed, so nourish it well, and it will sprout to grow as a sturdy tree, tall and wide. The least you will then do is give comfort of the shade of your kindness and support to humanity, who are all travellers on their way to Allah’s judgement.
Be brave enough to seize the opportunities, and then you will see what you can really do and become. If you feel daunted or scared then are we to live fearing ghosts? If we are Muslims then know God loves us to take initiatives for the right reasons in the right way for His pleasure. Initiatives are taken when opportunities smile on us. Don’t be that person who sits in a prison of his own making, with the key in his hand, all covered with dust and too scared to walk out into the rain outside. As Rumi once said, “You were born with wings, why prefer to crawl through life?” Muslim scholars teach that these are the wings of awareness of one’s own faults and recognition of the Lord’s favours. We fly through life and soar high with humility and gratitude.
Within each of us there is something noble and precious called the soul that lives in a magnificent receptacle which throbs with life that turns with our emotions. Faith refines, directs and energizes the emotions and soothes away their badness.
There is always a tension between a wish to enjoy something and a wish to improve it. Which wish gets its way depends on which wish is stronger. Am I a student to enjoy my time or am I student to improve myself? I need to ask that everyday. Yes, everyday, because it is daily life that wears one out. Most of us can face a crisis and we amaze ourselves at our ability to cope, but we don’t face a crisis every day. It’s the normal humdrum of life that tells on us and then we either want to enjoy it or face it to improve. That’s why this ought to be a daily question.
Should we be virtuous because of the scarcity of opportunity to be otherwise? If so then that is the heart itching to submit to temptations that Allah disapproves. Remember Allah only disapproves of those matters that we, as human beings, instinctively dislike, until we corrupt or change our natural self. How often have you come across a great man ever complaining about lack of opportunity?
With this one life we have, we started off being utterly dependent on others, and then in turn became useful to others. God loves that. We don’t become useful without taking up the privileges, opportunities, and responsibilities to give something back; and that always means becoming more than what we have been! This growth isn’t surely about becoming bigger in size, but certainly about doing; doing with excellence; and knowledge; knowing with excellence self-dignity, respect, truthfulness and rightful conduct in any given time, place and situation.
Life is something to do when you can’t get to sleep. [Fran Lebowitz] It is about thinking; thinking to achieve excellent thoughts; because if you do think about it, life is pretty much what your thoughts make it. It is about realising; realising with the heart the excellence of one’s being and relations with creation; and it is about maturity; excellent in depth, subtlety and endurance. All that makes us excel before Allah and come nearer to Him; and that is excellence in faith and practice with wisdom and sincerity. To quote Rumi again, “Start a huge, ‘foolish’ project, like Noah…it makes absolutely no difference what people think of you.” So don’t be lazy or simply fun loving but listen and respond to the Prophet.
The Prophet (SAS) said, “Rise early to earn your living and carry out your affairs, for it brings about blessing and success.” [Tabarani]
He said to his daughter Fatima when he saw her still lying in bed one morning, “My daughter, get up and witness your Lord’s bounty, and do not be among the indifferent; Allah distributes daily bread between the break of dawn and sunrise.” [Baihaqi]
What you think is precious depends on how much of your life you devote to it. In other words the value of anything is in the time you give it. Time is indeed limited and nobody knows how much of it we have; only that it will be cut off suddenly and then in an instant, we face the Afterlife!
The Prophet (SAS) said, “Lose no time to do good deeds before you are caught up by one of seven calamities awaiting you: a starvation which may impair your wisdom; a prosperity which may mislead you; an ailment which may damage your health; old age which may harm your senses; a sudden death; the Antichrist; or Doomsday, which is indeed the hardest and most bitter.” [Tirmidhi]
The Prophet (SAS) said, “If one becomes worried, he hurries up, and if he hurries up, he sooner reaches his destination.” [Tirmidhi]
Allah bless you all.