Assalaamu-alaikum, Peace be upon you.
What would you do if you were ten times braver?
I can’t remember where I was when I came across this question, nor can I remember if I heard someone ask it or if I read it in a book. But I remember how I felt.
My instant response was to get defensive. It felt like I was being attacked. Are you saying I’m a coward? Am I not displaying enough courage? Are you implying I’m imprisoned by fear? Whatever!
But then my thinking became more constructive. I started being honest with myself and began answering the question. As I did so, my mind opened to new possibilities. Ambitions that had been tucked away, perhaps forgotten, came to the fore.
If you give yourself the time to explore the full implications of this question in your life, it can be so powerful.
Start with just five minutes after you’ve finished reading to jot down everything that comes to mind as an answer. Then make a note of what’s really getting in your way. Which paralysing fears do you need to confront and overcome?
This edition of INsights is about tackling fear. I mean the kind of fear that we know deep down is unjustified and ungodly; the devilish kind that obscures opportunity, prevents progress and destroys dreams; the kind that manifests as self-doubt or in a preoccupation with what others might think or say; the kind that often results in inaction, apathy or cynicism.
How can prayer help us? What does God tell us in His final revelation? Is there any place for fear if we are serious about fulfilling our leadership potential?
Read on to explore further…
Salat done properly and constantly is supposed to help us achieve a positive psychological and emotional state.
God tells us that “people were created truly anxious” (70:19) but then follows up by saying “except those who pray and are constant in their prayers” (70:22-23).
Prayer restores perspective. It reminds us of who’s in control, who can change situations and conditions, and what is expected of us. It brings peace and tranquility. It energises and motivates us to focus on what really matters, to do the right thing. It makes us resilient and courageous. Praying consistently moulds our automatic system of thinking into one that is more secure, confident and open to possibility.
But, to repeat the words above, this only happens if Salat is offered properly and constantly! If we do pray but we are still anxious, it might be worth examining how we pray in the first place.
If we were to really prioritise and show up in our prayers, consciously standing, bowing, prostrating and sitting before our Lord, and meaningfully communicating in a heartfelt way, we’d find ourselves to be less anxious, less agitated and less reactionary.
Our Lord repeatedly tells us about those who believe, who are mindful of Him, pursue excellence and seek to rectify affairs: “there is no fear for them, nor will they grieve.” This phrase occurs fourteen times in the Qur’an (two of which are in the second person) and can be understood in relation to our fears for what might happen in this life as well as the next. It’s as if our Lord is telling us: just be true to Me, and I will lift the veil of fear from above you so you can be free.
No doubt some of the most powerful verses on this subject are in relation to our fears of other people, especially those who do not submit to God as they should. God encourages us to let our fear of people be melted by our fear of Him.
“…do you fear them? It is God you should fear if you are true believers.” (9:13)
“It is Satan who urges you to fear his followers; do not fear them, but fear Me, if you are true believers.” (3:175)
“…so do not fear people, fear Me; do not barter away My messages for a small price…” (5:44)
Fearing people is a form of submission to them. We disrespect God and degrade ourselves. Whereas fearing and submitting to God is both honourable and liberating.
Remember that when I talk about ‘leadership’ I refer specifically to taking purposeful action with the intention of facilitating the straight path for other people. To me, it means striving for God’s cause and doing so for God’s sake.
One can’t rise to this level of contribution if gripped by fear and doubt. Consider this powerful verse, “The true believers are the ones who have faith in God and His Messenger and leave all doubt behind, the ones who strive with their possessions and their persons in God’s cause: they are the ones who are true.” (49:15)
In the journey to complete our faith and strive wholeheartedly, we need to identify and work on removing our fears proactively such that we are held back no more. We can't let the doubts of the doubters or the hate of the haters get in the way of meaningful progress.
Bearing all this in mind, I leave you with these powerful words spoken in 1910 by Theodore Roosevelt:
“It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself in a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.”
Now spend five minutes answering the question…
What would you do if you were ten times braver?
…and start bringing the answers into reality. Because often the best way to tackle your fears is to overcome them with action.
May God be with you always.
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Have a blessed fortnight. I'll see you in two Fridays, God willing
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