Success for most of us, is commonly attributed to worldly achievements or desires. This could mean attaining a higher level qualification, getting the job of your dreams, living a blissful life with the people you care about the most, etc. Although perspectives differ, in general, the attachment or association is tied to worldly elements.
For Muslims, the Quran - as a complete code of life - specifies and reiterates the prescription for success for the believer. Surah Mu'minoon, is one such surah that was revealed to the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, to remind his Ummah or followers (those who believe in Allah and worship Him alone) of what true success is. It is imperative for parents to understand the true meaning of success in the light of the Quran first, in order to be able to translate it onto the future generations.
The Principles of Success
The Surah is titled Al-Mu'minoon which literally translates to ”The Believers.” This leaves one to ponder over a number of questions - who are The Believers? what are their characteristics? and, how can one aspire to become one of those who believe?
The main theme of this Surah is to remind the people of their origin, of the purpose of their creation and of the ultimate truth which is the ultimate end - the life Hereafter, that is going to be eternal. So, as we are reminded about the ultimate end, we are encouraged to adopt the path towards success, i.e. the path of those who believe in righteousness and divine success.
The first eleven verses of the Surah shed light on the criterion for success and failure by highlighting the qualities or personality traits of those who will attain a higher rank and be welcomed to enter Paradise. This assertion goes on to remind us that the criterion for success and failure does not depend on how we perceive things in this world, but rather on what has been established by Allah - Al Khaliq, The Creator - through His guidance. Allah says in Surah Mu'minoon:
In the name of Allah, the most gracious and the most merciful.
- Success is really attained by the believers,
- who concentrate their attention in humbleness when offering Salah(prayers),
- and who keep themselves away from vain things,
- and who are performers of Zakah,
- and who guard their private parts
- except from their wives or from those (bondwomen who are) owned by their hand,
as they are not to be blamed.
- However, those who seek (sexual pleasure) beyond that are the transgressors
- and (success is attained) by those who honestly look after their trusts and covenant,
- and who consistently observe their prayers.
- Those are the inheritors.
- who will inherit Firdaus (the Paradise). They will be there forever.
(Surah Mu'mi'nun, 23:1-11)
Scholars have explained the virtuous characteristics of the believers in the following ways.
1. Those who establish prayers with solemnity and submissiveness.
The Arabic word khushoo, refers to standing in prayers with complete devotion, attention and submissiveness. If we were to elaborate on this, it would liken to standing in complete awe of a superior being, out of respect and love. Khushoo is also a means of attaining peace, when the mind and the tongue both are aligned and in a state of harmony.
A true believer consciously makes an effort to perform their salah or prayers with concentration and full devotion. They are mindful of their thoughts, and actions during the prayers for the sake of protecting and honoring their worship. This is heightened to the point that if they feel hurt by something during prayers, such as a sharp object or the sting of an insect, they may cast it aside by one hand and quickly shift their focus back to their prayers.
To do: Almost too often, our minds are overly occupied with worldly affairs or it may be that we find ourselves yawning or swinging to and fro (whilst standing) or scratching ourselves or fiddling with our clothes in prayers. Although this is a natural human weakness, we must try to be more conscious of preserving our acts of worship and try to amend our mistakes as much as possible.
2. Those who refrain from vain acts.
The Quran mentions the Arabic word laghv, which refers to idle talk, falsehood, vain acts or anything which is meaningless in purpose and may become the source of hindrance to achieving the real purpose of life, i.e. to worship and please Allah and refrain from all that is forbidden.
For a believer, time is of the essence and indeed very precious. Therefore, the believer does not wish to casually engage in anything which may result is a loss of opportunity to attain Allah's mercy and blessings. They try to strike the right balance between worldly affairs and the remembrance of Allah, by consciously turning towards Allah for help and guidance. They seek that which is beneficial for them, in this world and the hereafter and ask for protection against all kinds of evil and vain things.
To do: In present times, we can associate laghv with gossip, watching TV, listening to music, social media, spending time engaging in social gatherings for the sole purpose of pleasing others, and other similar acts. Again, as easy as it is to fall prey to activities that are of little or no benefit, we must make it a habit to seek help repeatedly from Allah and try to discipline ourselves for the greater benefit in this world and the Hereafter.
3. Those who purify their wealth.
The word zakat has been mentioned in several places in the Quran and particularly in this surah, in conjunction with the purification of one's wealth. And, not only that but it is also established that it helps purify one's self, of greed as well. It is also one of the five fundamental pillars of Islam, which suggests its significance in the attainment of eternal success.
Speaking of the believers, they are mindful of calculating their zakat annually and paying it to those who are eligible to receive it. The benefit that the believers receive out of this noble act is that they purify themselves in the process (of lust for material possession which will ultimately be left behind) and humble themselves in terms of moral values as well. Additionally, scholars suggest that the paying of zakat also purifies the lives of other people in the society as the wealth is distributed amongst the needy.
To do: In the age where materialism is promoted almost in every sector of the economy, in the form of commercialization, be it in education, brands, business markets, etc., we must hold on firmly to the rope of Allah and be sincere in practicing our fundamentals. We should consistently strive to purify our wealth, by paying zakat in its due time and not delay it unnecessarily. Acts of Sadaqah or charity are also known to have the similar benefits.
4. Those who preserve their chastity.
Verses pertaining to chastity imply that those who seek to please Allah and earn his pleasure for the greater good, must practice modesty in all affairs and refrain from indulging in any kind of unlawful sexual act.
This is a supreme characteristic of the believers, who are fearful of displeasing Allah. They are wary of Allah's presence and are conscious of their thoughts and acts even when no one is around. They are aware that holding sexual desires is part of human nature but indulging in a sexual relationship in an unlawful way is strictly prohibited in Islam and severely punishable. Hence, they strictly guard their thoughts and observe chastity.
To do: Among many of the ills present in today's society, is that of immodesty, a misconception and exploitation of beauty, and the notion of gender fluidity. Men, women, boys and girls, are equally subject to it. As Muslims, we need to practice and preserve our teachings and raise awareness against that which is unlawful and forbidden in Islam, especially when it comes to raising our future generations. Often they are more susceptible to these ills which include casual exposure to pornography, homosexuality, casual mixing and dating, sexual relations outside of marriage, etc.
5. Those who remain faithful.
Being faithful has a dual meaning with reference to the verse, "and (success is attained)by those who honestly look after their trusts and covenant."
- It refers to being truthful when something is placed in your trust, i.e. amanah.
- It refers to being honest when it comes to fulfilling your promises or making a pledge.
The best example of such a believer, is none other than our beloved Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, who was trusted even by his enemies and given the title of As-Sadiq (the truthful) and Al-Ameen (the trustworthy). According to a narration reported both by Bukhari and Muslim, the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said:
Four characteristics are such that if a person has all four in him, he is beyond any doubt a hypocrite, and the one who has one of these, is a hypocrite to that extent till he gives it up:
- When something is placed in his trust, he commits a breach of the trust.
- When he speaks, he tells a lie.
- When he makes a promise, he breaks it.
- When he has a quarrel with somebody, he exceeds all limits (of decency and morality).
To do: How often do we lie to protect our dignity and feed our egos? In order to become a true believer, we need to strengthen ourselves from within and refrain from spreading rumors or false talk just to put down others. Additionally, we need to save ourselves from lying or deceiving others casually, in order to fulfill our own pursuits. Shaming others is also another deed that is highly unethical and immoral, but practiced widely by many over petty issues.
6. Those who regularly observe prayers.
This characteristic refers to strict adherence to meeting all pre-requisites of the prayers such as personal hygiene and cleanliness and preparing one's self to stand forth before Allah, in total submission. The believers make the extra effort to join in congregational prayers regularly, at their prescribed timings. They preserve and protect their prayers and do not consider them burdensome but rather look forward to them as a means of attaining peace in the midst of their busy routine life.
To do: As mentioned earlier, we need to safeguard our precious acts of worship and be mindful of becoming regular in them (if we are not). Moreover, by reminding ourselves to pay due respect to our prayers, we will improve our salah, strengthen our relationship with Allah, and attain success in this world and the Hereafter.
All of the above mentioned exemplary characteristics or personality traits describe a true mu’min or believer. And, serve as a message for muslims around the globe to understand that this world is transitory in nature and for them to attain success in it and the hereafter, they must first strive to please Allah and follow the path of righteousness as prescribed in the Quran, the teachings of our Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, and as stated under the shariah or Islamic law.
May Allah help us learn from those who believe and guide us to practice the deen in its entirety, so that we may attain ultimate success in this world and hereinafter become the inheritors of the highest ranks of Jannah, inshaAllah. Aameen.
Umm Ahmed is an early childhood educator and mother of three boys. Always on the quest to learn, she is passionate about seeking knowledge and passing it on to others. A writer in the making, she draws inspiration through deep conversations, laws of nature, and her own children. She and her family are currently living in Abu Dhabi, UAE.