The Extraordinary Goal
The most beautiful story from the Seerah that I can recall about the extraordinary goal of Rasoolullah(SAW), about the absolute certainty with which he believed in his message; the truth of it, the importance of it and the criticality of it for the well being of all mankind is as follows. The story relates to the early days of Islam in Makkah where it had no support and Rasoolullah(SAW) was preaching his message almost alone.
Ta-Ha. 2. We have not sent down the Qur’an unto you (O Muhammad) to cause you distress, 3. But only as a Reminder to those who fear (Allah). 4. A revelation from Him (Allah) Who has created the earth and the heavens on high. 5. The Most Beneficent (Allah) Istawa (rose over) the (Mighty) Throne (in a manner that suits His Majesty). 6. To Him belongs all that is in the heavens and all that is on the earth, and all that is between them, and all that is under the soil. 7. And if you (O Muhammad) speak (the invocation) aloud, then verily, He knows the secret and that which is yet more hidden. 8. Allah! La ilaha illa Huwa (none has the right to be worshipped but He)! To Him belong the Best Names.
The narrator said; ‘I was standing on a hilltop in Mina after Haj. The plain was covered with the tents of the pilgrims who had come to make Haj. It was the height of summer and the middle of the day, very hot and dry. In this heat I saw a man going from tent to tent, inviting people to the worship of Allah(SWT) alone and warning them not to indulge in idolatry. Some would listen to him but turn away. Others would rebuff him. Still others would physically push him away. I didn’t see anyone accepting his message. In the heat of the day I saw the man stop by a rock near his own tent to rest. His daughter came out of the tent with some water and washed her father’s face and gave him some water to drink. She was very sad to see his state and said, ‘O! Father, what have they done to you?’
The man replied, ‘Don’t be sad my daughter. A day will come when this message will reach every temporary or permanent dwelling on the face of the earth.’ If there were no other proof of the Divine Mission of Rasoolullah(SAW), this story would be enough proof in itself. Who but a Messenger of Allah(SWT) could have the courage, fortitude and perseverance to continue on a mission when there was no material proof to show that it would ever succeed? Who but someone with total certainty in the worth of his mission and faith that in the end it would be successful could find the energy to continue on wards in the face of disappointment after disappointment? Who but a Nabi could have a heart big enough to take rejection after rejection, yet not falter in the least about taking his message to people who showed no sign of appreciating or wanting it?
It may be surprising for some to reflect on the nature of this goal as expressed by the statement of Rasoolullah(SAW) to his
daughter when he said, ‘Don’t be sad my daughter. A day will come when this message will reach every temporary or permanent dwelling on the face of the earth.’ Here was a man talking about his message reaching every temporary and permanent dwelling on earth when he couldn’t even get it to reach the dwellings which he could personally call at. Here was a man speaking about freeing the world when he couldn’t even guarantee his own freedom. Here was a man who was concerned about the eternal well being of uncaring strangers.
But then, it is in the very nature of the extraordinary goal to inspire extraordinary effort. People don’t rise to low expectations. They rise to high expectations. A climber standing at the base camp of Mount Everest doesn’t need a motivational lecture. The mountain motivates him. The thought of the joy that he will feel when he finally breasts the last ridge and stands on the peak motivates him while he is still standing at the base and continues to motivate him as he goes through hour after hour of grueling effort. It is the difficulty of the climb itself that is the motivation. After all, ask yourself, how motivated would you be to walk 11 km down the road from your home? To climb Everest is, no doubt, to walk on the earth but it is the incline which adds value. The satisfaction at the achievement of a goal is directly proportional to its difficulty.
What could be more difficult than to talk about revolutionary change, not simply incremental change but much more seminal and intrinsic – a change of belief. It is very important to understand the huge challenge that this poses because all action is a result of belief. People act in accordance with their beliefs, consciously or unconsciously. For example, people may act in accordance with religious beliefs, consciously and practice certain things and they act according to their belief that a particular course of action is profitable and invest in it. On the other hand, a person gets up and goes to work because of his unconscious belief that he will live that day and beyond it and that the world is not coming to an end. So beliefs form the very foundation of all our thought and action. To have that system challenged and to be told that it is completely false and that it would lead to eternal punishment was not easy. Yet Rasoolullah(SAW)’s own belief in the truth of his message was such that nothing deterred him from taking it to the people. It is reported that he went to the house of Abu Jahl, one of his worst enemies, more than 100 times in the hope that he would accept the message of Islam. Who but a Nabi would work to save the one who did his best to cause him as much harm as possible?
Another thing about working towards an extraordinary goal is that the work itself is training. As the Arabs say, ‘If it doesn’t break your back, it only strengthens you.’ So also in working towards an extraordinary goal, one is only strengthened. This was also the case of Rasoolullah(SAW) and the early Muslims. All the opposition, torture and punishment only made them and their connection with Allah(SWT) stronger and made them more resilient. The extraordinary goal makes the effort feel worthwhile. If it is worth doing, then it is worth the effort. And what could be more worthy of effort and sacrifice than the effort to save all of mankind from the Hellfire and enter them into Jannah? Rasoolullah(SAW) and the Sahaba saw what we call sacrifice as their investment in earning the pleasure of Allah(SWT) and so it was possible for them to make it without hesitation.
Excerpt from Sheikh Mirza Yawar Baig book – “Leadership Lessons from the Life of Rasoolullah: Proven techniques of how to succeed in today’s world”