INsights 018, Friday 1st July 2022
INsights 018, Friday 1st July 2022
What will you sacrifice?
Assalamu-alaikum, Peace be upon you.
The timing of this edition of INsights couldn’t have been better.
It’s the first day of the second half of the year according to the Gregorian calendar. Just like a sports contest that’s broken up into timed segments, there’s something about the half-way point that lends itself to reflection and renewal. “We can do this!” is what goes through the minds of committed players, regardless of how well or badly they performed in the first half.
More significantly, we have entered the sacred days of the final month of the Hijri calendar. In the first third of Dhul-Hijjah, we celebrate sacrifice and commemorate God’s true friend, Abraham, for the lengths he was willing to go in putting His Lord above all else, not least himself and his family.
So what better time to reconsider your own future, the goals you’re working to achieve and the sacrifices you're willing to make for the King?
In the fourth and final instalment of this mini-series on the mission-driven life, you’ll discover key principles and practical approaches to help you identify a worthy cause and pursue a life of service and leadership.
Partly because of the weight of this topic and partly because of the examples from my own life that I’ve reflected on and shared, this is the edition of INsights that I’ve most enjoyed writing so far. I got goosebumps at one point and shed a tear at another!
So for you, and for me, do give it a read… and allow yourself some time to do the simple exercises I’ve suggested.
You never know, it could change your life.
You can listen to or download an audio file of this edition of INsights by clicking below.
Or if you prefer to read then simply scroll down.
What do you see?
“Remember Our servants Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, all people of strength and vision. We caused them to be fully devoted to Us through their sincere remembrance of the Final Home: with Us they will be among the elect, the truly good.” (38:45-7)
A meaningful journey must begin with a clear destination in mind. Yes, we know that the ultimate destination is the Garden, where we hope to be in the blessed company of our Lord, the prophets and the righteous.
But the question that we don’t ask ourselves enough is this one… What earthly vision is worth pursuing that corresponds to this everlasting outcome?
After all, we don’t get to experience the ultimate vision of God Himself despite the earthly vision we pursue. If anything, we get to see Him precisely because what we’re striving towards here on earth counts so greatly with Him.
Submission to God is not a way for low aspiration and failure in this life, and then success in the next. It’s a way to experience the heights of success in both abodes.
The prophets were people of vision. They could see clearly what was in front of them – and it typically didn’t look too promising at first – but they also knew where they wanted to take people: from paganism to monotheism, from darkness to light, from division to unity, from superstition to reason, from oppression to justice. It was their undying commitment to a brighter vision for society, stemming from their commitment to their Lord, that made them legendary.
So what about you?
- are you moved by a similar vision of the future that’s worth striving for?
- aren’t the societies we live in just as much in need of improvement as those in which the prophets lived?
- do you want a world in which submission to God flourishes as a source of prosperity and harmony for all its inhabitants?
If so, and if we can call this the macro-vision which any true believer wants to see, then the first thing to do to get clear on your own contribution to such an outcome is to write down your mini-vision.
What I mean by a mini-vision is:
- just a sentence, then perhaps a paragraph or more, describing an outcome that aligns with the macro-vision that is clearly different and better than the reality today.
- one that shouldn’t be so vague or exaggerated to the extent that it feels completely unreachable, nor should it be so narrow or understated to the extent that it feels too easy and uninspiring.
- most of all, an outcome that naturally inspires you based on your natural inclinations, and one to which you’d love to contribute. In this way, you’ll find something that matters to you and matters to your Lord. That’s a powerful combination.
Here are three deliberately varied examples of first sentences of different visions that should give you some ideas and inspiration:
a. A world where every believer achieves consistency, focus and tranquility in their daily prayers.
b. A United Kingdom where all public and private organisations function in a way that is beneficial for the natural environment in which we live.
c. A city of London where all mosques have adequate services for the support and development of confident and conscientious young believers.
You can see that all three describe important outcomes (a) that align with what society might look like if true knowledge and consciousness of God were to be widespread, and (b) that certainly are far from today's reality.
Now it’s your turn. Imagine what a better future might look like in a way that relates to issues and people you most care about… and start writing! I’d love to see what you come up with, so feel free to share your vision with me at [email protected].
What do you do?
Once you can articulate a vision that you feel empowered by, the next thing to figure out is exactly how you want to contribute. Here you are trying to align three things:
- What the world needs: what is the specific problem statement that relates to your vision and gives you a clear starting point for the issue you’re trying to resolve?
- What you love: what kind of productive activities or work do you enjoy so much that you really want to do them and are fully absorbed by them?
- What you’re good at: what are your skills that you or others would define as your superpowers? What are you known to be most effective at doing?
Here’s an example of how I’d answer these three things as it relates to the first vision example above and my work with Transform My Prayer.
- What the world needs: English-speaking adults who are God-conscious and open-minded need an inspiring, relatable and practical way to understand the significance of Salat and how they can improve the consistency and quality of their prayers.
- What I love: I love thinking in innovative and creative ways. I love reframing important concepts and practices for our relationship with God and communicating them in a way that feels natural and that people can understand. I love helping people achieve a mindset shift – an ‘aha’ moment – that will improve their relationship with their Lord.
- What I’m good at: I’ve been told I’m good at communication, especially live and in-person but also online and written. I’ve also been told my superpower is persuasion, helping people to think differently, sometimes radically so, about themselves and the world around them; also to help them see the problems in front of them more clearly and the solutions for the way forward.
Yes, in a nutshell, this is how Transform My Prayer came about! It was through a long process of getting clear on all these things and identifying the overlaps. Putting it all together resulted in the course and various other initiatives that have impacted the prayer of thousands of people with God’s help and, with His further support, will continue to do so.
Now it’s your turn. Brainstorm everything that comes to mind on the three areas above and see if you can find overlaps that help inform how you can best work towards the vision that you’ve laid out.
What will you sacrifice?
Your vision, mission and strategy have all been given some attention.
They don’t need to be perfectly detailed or even fixed forever, but at least they give you a starting point… to get started! Beware of paralysis by analysis and remember that a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.
You might realise you have to change course along the way. That’s totally normal and even praiseworthy, as long as changes in direction are because of greater clarity in your vision, knowledge of yourself and your understanding of what is most beloved to Him and needed by people.
The key thing is to get going and start making sacrifices in pursuit of your noble vision.
I remember the first Transform My Prayer course that I taught in my local area of Sutton in London. It was a really busy and somewhat stressful period for me as Chief Executive of National Zakat Foundation, my third daughter was 13 days old and my house had just been robbed and vandalised!
I could have said, “I don’t have time!” or “I’ll do this when I’m ready!” or made some other lame excuse. But I told myself what I would always tell others then and since: when it comes to striving for God’s cause, everything else must take second place, and a day in which no progress has been made for life’s real purpose is a day that’s been lost and cannot be regained.
If we’re not willing to make sacrifices of our time, energy and resources for our vision, then how serious are we really? Won’t we then have done what God says that most people do and have just preferred the life of this world and the endless and frankly low-value activities with which it will occupy us?
So start small, but make sure you start. Once you take the first step, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how fast doors will open. I believe strongly that God puts the love of those who love Him straight into the hearts of others. He will make them see your sincerity and your effort just as He sees it, and He will send them to help in ways you couldn’t have previously imagined or expected.
Sure, it won’t always be plain sailing. You’ll face disappointments and have your detractors. But as long as you combine extreme humility with extreme determination, you’ll witness miracles.
This brings me to one final note on the topic of money and sustainability...
I have received so many questions over the years on how I managed to transition from a very high salary in my finance career to what was initially a voluntary position on the road to running National Zakat Foundation; and then how I went from a stable salaried role at NZF to independently running courses, speaking and writing.
The long version of the story is for another time. In short, it comes down to deep trust. I have always believed that worrying about finances should never get in the way of me doing the things that really matter and that my Lord would look after me. He’s never let me down in any way. Frankly, the less I think about how I’m going to look after my family and the less I make money a barrier for people to access the services I’m providing, the more sustainable me and my work become. Strange, but true!
So whether it’s for the costs of running your project or paying your household bills so that you can dedicate more of your time and energy to your dream, don’t underestimate the fact that God Himself can and will pay for it all. Just focus on adding value for His sake and for His cause. Then money, which is simply an exchange of value, will come your way to make all your dreams come true. After all, why wouldn’t The Most Generous compensate His workers who make sacrifices sincerely and effectively for Him?
“You who believe, if you help God, He will help you and make you stand firm.” (47:7)
“[…] Anyone who believes in God and the Last Day should heed this: God will find a way out for those who are mindful of Him, and will provide for them from an unexpected source; God will be enough for those who put their trust in Him. God achieves His purpose; God has set a due measure for everything.” (65:2-3)
So that’s that!
The mission-driven life is a beautiful life. It’s a life worth living.
I hope this mini-series helps you aspire to, and eventually achieve, higher and greater things in your life. Your Lord is with you all the way.
And if I can help as you go on your journey, you know where to find me 🙂
The summary of the four parts of this mini-series is as follows:
- Part 1: If understood properly, your Salat should inspire you to think carefully about how to spend the time in between prayers in a way that is more meaningful and impactful.
- Part 2: Then once you set out on a path of serving others for the sake of God and furthering God’s cause, your Salat is vital in lifting you up when things are difficult and humbling you when things are going well.
- Part 3: You should be inspired by the example of the final messenger and that of his companions who were motivated by revelation to devote themselves to God fully and embrace all the struggle and sacrifice that this requires.
- Part 4: It’s vital that you take the time to come up with a vision and mission that matter to you and matter to your Lord. Once you’ve done that, simply get started. For as long as you are humble and determined, He will always be with you.
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Have a blessed fortnight. I'll see you in two Fridays, God willing.