Thursday, May 1, 2014

The Secret of Success

By the passage of time,

Man is indeed in a state of loss,

Except those who believe and do righteous deeds,

And who enjoin the Truth, and who enjoin patience.

(Surah Al Asr)


A lot of people strive to live successful lives. For some success is in accumulating great wealth. For others it might be in honor, happiness, spending time with loved ones, achieving peace, recognition, promotion, control, service or in leaving a legacy. What if I told you that I know the secret of ultimate success that encompasses all these aspects and much more? So would you be interested in knowing?

Well I believe that the secret of success is in something called “sincerity”. In Western culture, being sincere to someone means that one is honest with them and completely fulfills one’s obligation to them. In Islam, “sincerity” or ikhlass has a lot deeper meaning. It means to do everything based on the love and fear of God. The intention must always be to please Him foremost despite all consequences. Sincerity in interpersonal relations of the creation is a consequence of the sincerity to the Creator. If one is truly sincere, one is promised success in this world and the hereafter.

There is a difference in the paradigm of Reality a believer experiences from what others apparently see with their naked eyes. A believer sees from the perspective of the value system that God has intended for him. His definition of success might seem like that of failure to others. To him apparent success without sincerity is failure and apparent failure is really success if he is sincere.

Even at work, one can never achieve true success without true sincerity no matter how many signs of apparent success are displayed. One must realize that one’s work is an amaanah (trust) from God and one must do one’s utmost never to betray that trust but rather to fulfill it in the most excellent of manners. One’s motivation is to please one’s Lord and one constantly fears His punishment. This is the primary driver rather than to meet the KPIs, get a good performance rating, get a promotion, get an award and basically look good in the eyes of other than God. In many ways if one is motivated more by these other factors one’s sincerity is in doubt. In fact showing off is a kind of a sin. It does not matter if his manager, VP, SVP and CEO change, his Lord will always be the same. His true expectation will always be from Him. If one is really sincere one will consciously hold himself accountable to God, even before one is held accountable by any man-made system, which by the way can never be made perfectly fair, no matter how much the company tries to make it.

A believer will strive to constantly apply his expertise to add value to the business. He will work honestly and hard. He will not cheat his employer. He will avoid being dependent on anyone other than God. He will have good relations with his colleagues and not hold grudges. He will not envy or backbite them. He will constantly be learning himself and mentoring others. He will not take credit for the work of others. He will not hide information and resources. He will do all this not because it is the company policy, but rather because these are the things which please his Creator. He will not worry about the consequences of his actions or fear evil from others, because he is completely satisfied regarding the outcome God has planned for Him. His relationship with Him is so strong that he knows that in God’s infinite wisdom, even apparent failures are real successes in the long run.

Thus a true believer is always successful. Setbacks are tests from God for him to develop patience and develop other aspects of his work if he faces roadblocks. Worldly success does not get to his head as he knows that too is a test for him to be humble and thankful to God. If he does not achieve whatever he planned for, God might have stored for him more benefits in other avenues which he had never thought of exploring earlier. This makes him fearless and confident to face the future, enabling him to have the sense to take full advantage of the opportunities that God will send his way in the future.

In Islam, faith is not blind. Once a person has submitted himself to God and His worship he uses his reason to understand and implement the principles of his religion. Thus he seriously studies and implements the Quran to develop his personal mission and vision and core values. He studies and implements the Sunnah of the Prophet (SWAS) as best practices for his conduct. He studies the Seerat (biography) of the Prophet (SWAS) for lessons learnt. He studies the lives of the Companions of the Prophet (SWAS) as useful case studies. He deeply reflects on the principles that are at work in Creation based on insights from these sources and implements guidance from them in his life. Thus a believer lives a life of constant holistic learning and improving which helps him in all phases of life. As God is the Creator and Sustainer of all Creation, He is most knowledgeable of the inner workings of all aspects of the challenges man faces. So if he studies the sources of his religion constantly, be will be able to glean the wisdom from them for his success in any situation in life. The resultant vision acquired through prolonged worship and pursuit of knowledge is all encompassing, enabling the believer to fearlessly apply his expertise for the complete good of the whole company, industry and community. Someone without such a vision might be fearful and strive just for himself, or his team or his department or his division alone at the expense of harming other parts of the organization. Thus sincerity to God developed by knowledge of Him and His religion, is the secret of ultimate success for man.