We aspire to see our children succeed in life but often enough our criterion of success is a thick soup of ideas and expectations.
We want to see them well educated and earning lots of money, we want them to be happily married and also have children who are well endowed in all respects. For many of us, that is what success is and that pretty much sums up our own aspirations from our children.
For those who have explored the purpose of life deeply enough, those who have encountered loss and failure or those who feel unfulfilled in spite of having achieved all of the above, success is really something else.
If you really think about it, to succeed in life and to succeed ‘with’ life one must respond to what life throws one’s way appropriately. It is to respond to a situation with what the situation demands. Rephrasing this, to be successful in/with life one must give to life what life requires on a transaction to transaction basis. Wealth, beauty and successful relationships are outcomes which are pretty much beyond one’s absolute control. So then, success cannot be about an outcome, it has to be about the process. Success is to pursue excellence. And pursuing excellence requires our action, our contribution, our giving appropriately.
I was delighted when an ayat of the Quran summed up the matter for me and delighted more so because what it said, validates Schuitema’s assertion that you achieve excellence when you focus on transacting appropriately moment by moment. ‘Rabbi Hab li minus saaliheen (37:100)’ translated as ‘My Rabb, grant me (a son) who is among the righteous ones’ was uttered by the Prophet Ibrahim (A.S.) when he made a fervent prayer yearning for his progeny. What struck me was that the Prophet Ibrahim A.S. did not wish for a beautiful, wealthy, intelligent or obedient (a very strong aspiration in Eastern cultures) child. No. The aspiration of the Prophet was to have a child who would grow up to be righteous.
To be righteous is to discriminate between right and wrong in a situation one comes across and then respond to do what is right. Respond to do what is appropriate, what life requires one to do. It is a very sophisticated level of enablement in an individual. Again being righteous demands our action, our contribution and our giving appropriately.
And then someone who acts consistently with what life requires lives excellently so long as s/he lives. To live excellently is to succeed at life in the truest sense. The Quran validates this again where it says, “And, indeed, after having exhorted (man), We laid it down in all the books of divine wisdom that my righteous servants shall inherit the earth: herein behold, there is a message for people who (truly) worship God.” (21:105)
Righteous servants shall inherit the earth. As Muhammad Assad explains the verse:
“…the implication being that it is only through faith in God and righteous behaviour on earth that man can reach the heights envisaged for him by his Creator’s grace.”
What a huge endowment for being righteous, for giving to a situation what the situation requires!