Today, we are hardwired to believe that a sign of victory when things fall into place in the way and time that we like. We feel triumphant, for example, when our husbands, wives and children behave in the way we want. We feel proud if our children are extremely cute and intelligent. If the opposite happens – our marriages are not successful, our children are not as adorable as our friends’ – we feel defeated.
This way of thinking is in fact, a sign of arrogance and defeat. Why should we feel defeated for failing to be able to control a situation or other people’s personalities or looks? We are not the owners of their souls – we are not the creator.
If our thoughts are dominated by striving for our journey of faith, the love of Allah and His Prophet, the journey of death, the Day of Judgment, in trying to better ourselves and seeking the knowledge of Allah, we are already victorious, even if we don’t see the results. If the surroundings in this life – spouses, jobs, status, children, money – don’t influence us, then we are victorious.
Those who are defeated will always be in a state of stress, panic and ingratitude. Whenever an incident touches them, the drama is magnified because they usually react by cursing and complaining. They place so many hopes on the condition, and cannot handle it whenever a glitch occurs. They place reliance on the ability and influence other men and women, and disregard the presence of Allah and His ability to change their conditions.
Nowadays, we love our husbands, wives, children, friends and even pet animals so excessively that it borders on worship. When this happens, we go through the cycle of life being constantly preoccupied by our personal dramas on topics which do not relate to akhirah. How can we achieve victory if we spend 15 hours a day worrying and attending to those around us, and just five minutes nourishing our deen?
Any obsession or attachment with anything in our material life that leads us away from our journey of faith is a defeat. When we become slaves to our emotions, or when we are stubborn, or face any disruption in our souls which takes our minds and hearts away from Allah, we are defeated.
When we place priority over anything above Allah, we will find that whatever we are running after – from a new living room furniture to pushing our children to academic pursuits at the expense of neglecting their Islam – will only disgrace us. The man we run after will never respect us, our material possessions will only keep us awake at night and humiliate us, and our child with his first class university degree but no deen will be the cause of our heartache.
Today our Islam is a thin layer, like cheap gold plating. If our Islam is weak, any storm that descends upon us will strip away the fake surface and our habits, attachments and inborn inclinations will be revealed. All the fasting, salah, crying to Allah will just be hollow rituals which never took roots inside the hearts and were never integral parts of our lives, because we never truly gave Allah the correct priority.
If you go to bed thinking of Allah you are victorious, but if you go to bed worrying about tomorrow, a man or a woman, a job, an exam, you are defeated.
This is simple in theory, but challenging in reality. The journey is non-stop: a continuous battle against our inner weaknesses, temptations, Shaitan and bad habits. Unless we eradicate all of these, and be pure and devoted to Allah entirely, we will never be victorious in this life or the next. Our life will be a series of defeat and humiliation.
One of the main stories from the Qur’an is about an ordinary man from a village – a normal human being, not a Prophet or Messenger. The full story is in The man from Surah Ya Seen . In summary, this unnamed man came running from the edge of his village to advise his community to take heed of the Messengers that had come to invite them to Islam. This man believed in Allah and tried to persuade his community likewise. For this act, the enraged villagers killed him.
It seems that this man died in a state of defeat, yet, the opposite is true. The man died as a martyr.
What made him so special to Allah? He came rushing when he was aware of what was happening – he did not weigh his prospects or delay on account of some unfinished chore or errand. He spoke to his people gently, asking why they did not follow the Messengers and Prophets, who came to them purely to spread the message without of asking for money. (Incidentally, none of the Prophets and Messengers in history had ever corrupted the message by charging people for their da’wah. The current trend of Islamic speakers agreeing to speak only for a huge premium is a new phenomenon and has no precedent or basis in the Qur’an or Sunnah).
When they challenged him, he asked why they would deny him from worshipping his Creator, as it did not make sense to worship any other than the One who created him. He did not engage them in any argument, but instead remained calm even though they were malicious and violent. He did not allow himself to be provoked, because any hostility or aggressiveness when delivering the message is a defeat. He neither attacked them, verbally or physically, nor demonstrated any anger, raised voice, rudeness, or bad manner. The first stage of inviting others to Islam is to be calm. Any display of anger defeats oneself and the message. Victory can never be achieved this way.
As the conversation escalated, they threw rocks to him. Yet, following the example of Prophets and Messengers, he did not retaliate. From the history of Islam, there has never been a Prophet or Messenger counter-attacking when provoked, because if this happens, then the tables are turned and the inviter to Islam loses his moral high ground.
Apply this principle to marriages: once the anger overcomes, the fight is lost. The one who is shouting or making crude remarks has already lost the upper hand, and the adverse reaction will be demonized. Once you lose your temper in the time of your right, you already lose such rights. If you have a bad manner, it will take years to unravel the damage.
The man from Surah Ya Seen, although injured and dying, still implored the people to Islam. At his moment of death, Allah allowed him a glimpse of his place in Jannah. Even so, he did not gloat or seek vengeance from his people. The aim was so high that he did not take the terrible treatment by his villagers personally; he still wished for his people to understand and follow him to jannah.
This is the real fiqh of dawah, the manner of spreading and inviting Islam.
After he died, Allah did not send any army or any huge congregation to punish the villagers for their behaviour. Jibril AS was dispatched, and in one breath, the town was summarily destroyed. Allah avenged the unjust death of one man, whose name we do not even know.