By Hamza Nabi
Bismilah. Alhamdulillah. Was salatu was salamu ‘ala Rasoolillah. Amma ba’d.
(In the name of God. All praise be to God. And peace and blessings on the Messenger of God.)
There are things we are supposed to learn in life. Balancing our fear of God’s Punishment and our hope in God’s Mercy. Figuring out a way to earn a livelihood. Embodying character traits such as honesty, altruism, patience and loyalty. Dealing with people justly, doing our best not to tread upon the rights of others and forgiving when our rights are not duly respected. Of course, the list goes on and on.
There is something about this list that is different than other lists. The average to-do list has boxes beside each point to indicate whether the task has been completed or still needs to get done. The list of things we are supposed to learn in life isn’t that simple. This list has levels and stages. This list does not have an exam at the end, nor a completion date. The contents of this list are all a work in progress. Everyone has a level and a stage but there are very few who will get straight A’s on this report card. And that is important. It is important to recognize because this recognition breeds humility. It is important to recognize because this recognition renders arrogance an impossibility. There will be tests along the way and we might get indications as to how well we are doing, but we will not really find out until it’s all over. Until it is too late.
So. As people who wish to be successful in every facet of our lives, how do we improve ourselves? How do we attain the ranks which give our hearts peace? How do we know whether or not it is “too late”? Allah, subhanahu wa ta`ala (exalted is He), has given us the clear answer to this. As long as we are alive, it’s never too late. No matter how much we wrong ourselves, there is always a path to redemption. The road to sincerity is never too far away. The thief has forgiveness. The adulterer has forgiveness. The one who commits shirk (belief in more than one God) knowingly is clearly not a Muslim, yet her/his acceptance of Islam wipes this away.
Some say it sounds too easy, it’s too good to be true, things don’t just work that way. What they fail to realize is that it’s not that easy. It’s really not. To be real. To be honest. To be sincere. To be truthful. All of this takes a lot of strength. Rectifying oneself after a lifetime of misconduct is not as easy as it sounds. Even after knowing what is right, look at how many people fall short.
There is no running away from Allah, except to Allah (swt). The sooner we recognize that, the better. The sooner we understand that and act according to its implications, the sooner our lives will be much happier and far more peaceful.
Our mistakes give us two things. They present a greater challenge to do better. Textbook recidivism. Yes, it’s a liability. Yes, we need to put more barriers up to keep us from falling. Yes, our mistakes can change our mindset and we can either adopt a lax attitude, or fall into excessive cynicism about ourselves and others. These mistakes, however, have also been given the ability to add to our sincerity. To strengthen our resolve. To understand that we don’t want to be disgraced when we stand before our Lord. Some honest reflection allows us to understand that we cannot change the past. It is up to us to use our past constructively, or let it affect us destructively. This goes along with another benefit that we need to actively identify and seek. Our increased ability to learn from the mistakes of others that stems from the learning process we underwent is priceless. The goal is to minimize our mistakes and continuously improve ourselves. Aim high. There are people whose choices are between good and a greater good—bad leaves the equation after a certain point.
Where we will end up depends on a lot of factors. Our best bet is to truly give it our all. Again, easier said than done. Sometimes we will slip where we least expect it. Many times we will find ourselves exceeding our own expectations. If our general direction is up, then we are on the right track. If we are falling, then we better catch ourselves quick. The sooner the better. Do not let it be “too late.”