Success or Not?

>> Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Dearest Little Auntie. First off, let me start of by saying that I love you guys so much for the sake of Allah!! <3 alhamdulillah, alhamdulillah, you guys absolutely, totally rock. :D
Well my problem is (as all problems are :P) kind of confusing. I have always been a high achiever. Alhamdulillah. Ever since my 10th grade, I have been soaring high with my grades mashaAllah. I topped my high school examination, and I got into one of the top medical schools of my country, also acing that test. And now THAT'S become my real problem. I can't seem to want to "stop," I keep wanting to go for more. I work hard to get good grades, I feel as if Allah SWT expects me to be a great doctor since he has blessed me with a good brain, and that if I fall even a little short of that standard, He will not be pleased. Then I look at the other side of the picture: I am a woman, and I will be married some day, I will be answerable if I compromise my family life and do not give my children enough time because of being a doctor! It's driving me insane, all these thoughts. Also, I want to get rid of the "competitiveness" that is growing inside me. All the times in medicine we read just how much stress is bad for your body, and I end up taking so much stress. I make a conscious effort to realize that I am doing whatever I am doing for Allah. Yet I believe my competitiveness ends up overwhelming my efforts to realize I want to please Allah, and that I am becoming a doctor for Him, to save the life of one person, which Allah says is equivalent to saving the entire Humanity. Please help. JazakAllah for hearing me out! <3<3
Not wanting to get too high!

Wa'alaikumussalam wa rahmatullah! 

May the one for whom you love us love you (lol, I'm always saying this to my baby sister), and right back atcha! :D 

Girl, that's awesome, mashaAllah, but I can see why you're getting really worried. I felt the same way, and after countless conversations with friends and family, reading, and such, I think I'm finally on my way to understanding why. And I know, this is pretty tough, because it's your future on the line here. O' course your confuzzled. :/

Let's start with defining success. What is true success? Anybody? The Oxford English Dictionary defines it as being "the accomplishment of an aim or purpose, or the good or bad outcome of an undertaking". There's another meaning also: obsolete. Ponder on it...

Depending on who you ask, you'll get different interpretations of what success is. If asked on worldly terms, "Who is the most fortunate and most blessed of all the people?" some may answer by saying the richest man, or the president of the U.S., or even a doctor or engineer (based on the varying convictions of belief in the hearts). But the reality is that the person who may be regarded as the most fortunate in this world, if this person leaves the world without imaan, so wretched will be his condition. On the Day of Judgment (according to a hadith more or less to the effect), death will be brought out in the shape of a ram and will be slaughtered. After that, no one will face death. If it were possible to die as a result of extreme joy, the people of jannah would die due to the ecstasy they will experience, subhanAllah. And it it were possible to die out of extreme grief, the people of jahunnam would die due to that, a'oodhu billah. 

So what is true success? Why, what we're striving to achieve, of course!

"Everyone shall taste death. And only on the Day of Resurrection shall you be paid your wages in full. And whoever is removed away from the Fire and admitted to Paradise, he indeed is successful. The life of this world is only the enjoyment of deception." [Al-Qur'an 3:185]

Again, just something for all of us to think about (myself first)...Those in whose hearts was the reality of imaan feared the dunya. Yes, they feared it, so they distanced themselves from it.

A tabi'ee asked Mu'aawiya (radi Allahu anh) to describe Ali (radi Allahu anh), he replied, "I saw Ali one night. It  was very dark. It was pitch black. I saw Ali standing in his mehraab and he had caught hold of his beard in his hands. He was crying so incessantly, like a woman who had been given news of a great calamity. He was shivering with fear and was shaking as if he had been bitten by a scorpion. He was saying, 'Oh my Allah, what will become of me? What is going to happen to me?' He then addressed the dunya and said, 'Are you trying to entice me? Have you beautified yourself for me? Are you trying to cause me to fall into your trap? Are you trying to deceive me? Oh gold, oh diamond, oh silver, deceive someone else. You are valueless!'" 

SubhanAllah, this was a Sahaabi about whom Allah (subhaanahu wa ta'aala) said he was pleased with! Makes you think, doesn't it?

Now to actually getting on to answering your question (sorry, I really caught up on all the background info. there :P), it's wonderful that you're a high achiever! We all should try our absolute best in everything we do, in all of our endeavors. But now it's become a problem for you, hasn't it? This is what I've realized from my experiences: it's okay to let go and just breathe. It's great that you've started thinking about this already. :) I'm taking it that you're probably from England (or a country that follows their education pathway) since by what you wrote, it seems that you go to med. school right after high school. In the U.S., we have four years of undergraduate studies and then graduate school (medicine, law, social work, etc.) Anyhoo, you're not alone in this; I was just like you in high school. It was my goal to be valedictorian when I graduated two years ago, so I just went crazy after my grades. And...I got it. And guess what? That was it. I'm being serious. 
That. Was. It. 
 I got the highest academic distinction anyone can get at graduation. Yes, it was exciting and everything, alhamdulillah. I'm not trying to downplay it. But then what? I hit the top, and there was no other place for me to go except to come back down. So I realized, that in dunya, there will always be a "glass ceiling". Once you reach the pinnacle of "success", you're done. You got to your goal and there's nothing else to go after. Woo-hoo, but you'll  feel empty inside. There's going to be this gnawing feeling inside of you asking you what's missing. But get this, there's no "glass ceiling" in the deen! None at all! How amazing is that, subhanAllah?! We'll never hit the top. We'll always be striving until our very last breath. This was the eye-opener for me. It was like my "AHA" moment, haha. I'm still just flabbergasted. I mean, I'm sure we all know this, but when you truly think about, you'll start looking at life and success from another perspective. What truly matters? For so many of us who are really focused on being high achievers academically, have we to thought about maybe diverting some of that energy and effort into our deen and becoming better muslimahs? Now there's a thought!

It's so easy to get caught up in this dunya. For us, right now, it's education. Later, it'll be work. I know so many people (sorry, I only have the example of doctors around me) who are just going crazy after their work. They're at the hospitals before Fajr and back home after Ishaa', and I know it's exhausting since I've seen it firsthand. Some get posted on the billboards off the freeways, are affiliated with the best hospitals in the state, but they don't seem content for some reason. They're just running after one thing or the other. Granted, they're very good doctors and I'm sure they're also good muslims.

"Verily, in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find rest." (13:28).

This doesn't mean that we're supposed to drop our academic pursuits. No way! But we have to realize that going to college and embarking upon our careers is only a means to get to the end. I don't think I can stress this point enough.Our end is to please Allah (subhaanahu wa ta'aala). Isn't that our ultimate goal in life? We can't lose sight of that. I think we get so caught thinking that there's only one way of doing things (the means), but in reality, there's so many ways. Our lives could take off in so many different directions, but in the end, we can still have the end we need in order to get into jannah. College/medicine/law/teaching/you name it isn't the only way to reach the desired end. If we make college our end, then that's like getting on a bridge and just staying there. It'll be like not crossing the bridge, and when we think about it, it seems so silly to stand on the bridge and just stay stagnant. My dad always tells us kids, that no matter what we're doing, to always ask ourselves, "What does Allah (subhaanahu wa ta'aala) want from me? What would please him?" We have to keep our goal in mind. Yes, I know, it's easier said than done, but that's why we're all here, aye? :D

Niyah is a big issue here too. Our intentions can make a seemingly mundane act become an act of 'ibaadah. Say, for college or whatever field you're going into, you could intend to do it for the betterment of the ummah, to help our fellow brothers and sisters, and also humanity. We could even make niyah for it to be da'wah to non-Muslims, and actually invite people towards Islam. There's so many different intentions that we can make. 

Yes, women with careers who have kids do have it harder than most, especially doctors. But really, that's a balance you'll have to find for yourself later on. Everyone takes care of it differently. Some have their parents take care of the children. Others hire nannies and babysitters. Some even work from nine to five or part-time, so that they leave when their kids leave for school and come home around the same time as the kids do. Others still, go back to work after their kids are in middle or high school, or even college. And some decide that domestic life is what suits them best. :)

Just one more thing. I promise! For those of you who are obsessed with their >4.0 GPA's (I used to be one of them :P), as I said before, please breathe. Just inhale...and exhale. It's okay, I promise you, your life won't be over if you don't graduate as valedictorian or get that full-ride scholarship or get a 36 on your ACT. You'll still get into a good college, inshaAllah. And seriously, don't expect to excel at everything. That's a recipe for disaster. You'll only end up disappointing yourself. You will fail at times, I promise you. :P No, really, you will. Just try your best and leave the rest up to Allah (subhaanahu wa ta'aala). Rely on Him. Just don't get too focused on your studies that you forget to have fun if you're in high school. Come on, guys, it's high school! Have some fun! Get to know your teachers. Play pranks on them (harmless ones, haha). Skip class (I'm kidding! In college, yes, but not in high school.) Join organizations. It's also a great time for you to grow socially. 

Whatever choices you have to make, just remember to pray istikharah and seek advice and naseehah from others. Both are from the sunnah of the Prophet Muhammah (salallahu 'alaihi wa sallam), so they should definitely help you out. :)

I hope this post helped to answer and alleviate some of your concerns, inshaAllah! 


12 wonderful sprinkely thoughts:

Not wanting to get too high,  January 17, 2012 at 12:19 PM  

I couldn't have asked for a better adivce, alhamdulillah! :D JazakAllah Apple Blossoms.
Okay, points to be remembered: "And whoever is removed away from the Fire and admitted to Paradise, he indeed is successful."

"I think we get so caught thinking that there's only one way of doing things (the means), but in reality, there's so many ways. Our lives could take off in so many different directions, but in the end, we can still have the end we need in order to get into jannah."

SubhanAllah! Thankyou thankyou, this article really got me thinking about the true meaning of "success." Alhamdulillah! JazakAllah! Love u lots!

Anonymous,  January 17, 2012 at 4:19 PM  

Just to add on to what the Auntie said.

Realize that when Allah subhanu wa ta'ala blesses us with gifts, talent or resources so that we can DO something with it.
Allah has blessed you with intelligence, don't let it go to waste. Never waste what Allah has blessed you with. Yes becoming a doctor may be extremely stressful especially in the future when Insha Allah you have a family of your own, but realize that if you make your intention that you want to help people, you want to help people for the sake of Allah, then He will help you through it. He will find a way for you to get through any difficulty.

Take it easy. Go become a doctor. The Ummah needs more doctors. As long as your intentions are sincere everything will work out Insha Allah.

Never decide against achieving a goal because of fears you may have. In 10 years time do you want to sit down and think "What if I had gone through with medical school?"

Hope that helped.

HalaalPepperoni January 17, 2012 at 5:48 PM  

I just stumbled across your blog and love this advice. :)

Apple Blossoms January 17, 2012 at 8:07 PM  

Anonymous: Loved your advice, barakAllhufeeki. :)May Allah (swt) have us all use our gifts and talents to benefit the ummah and purify our intentions. Ameen!

Not Wanting to get too High: Waiyyaki. I learned from it too. :D

Not wanting to get too high,  January 18, 2012 at 12:25 AM  

Anonymous: Yes alhamdulillah it helped. All what you guys are saying gets me thinking, and it all comes down to balancing all the goals that I'm trying to achieve in my life. SubhanAllah.:)

Black Abaya Girl January 18, 2012 at 2:56 AM  

Salam dear sis "not wanting to get too high"

Subhaan Allah, Apple Blossoms gave a very comprehensive and thorough answer and I am glad to see that through it, Allah's guidance reached you. Alhamdulillah. I want to add three things:

1. This article defines "good" and "bad". It's a very basic perspective and once you absorb it and live it, your life REALLY gets on track, alhamdulillah:

2. This article describes the status of a Muslim doctor in Islam. It's long but it's worth the read, and it highlights what Apple Blossoms pointed out, that you can put all this hard work into the folder of "deeds I am doing to please Allah" when you develop and live the proper intention, inshaa Allah:

It also highlights the fact that "becoming" a "Muslim" "doctor" is a bigger deal than you thought. Meaning, it's not just hitting the books that is required, it's also developing the mindset of a "muttaqi" professional i.e. a professional who is consciously aware of Allah. If you are not, to put it bluntly, there's no difference between you and a robot. Artificial Intelligence can grasp all this information (or will be able to, in the future) but TAQWA is what makes Muslims outstanding.

And you know what, once you get the hang of "adding one's activities to the 'to please Allah' category" mindset, it's addictive. You want to mould everything to fit this intention and if it doesn't fit it, you honestly feel that it's a waste of time. Once you arrange all your goals under the umbrella of "PLEASING ALLAH", they're safe and sound. Because that way, whether you get what you aimed for or not, ALL THE TIME, ENERGY, BRAIN POWER, BODY POWER, EMOTIONS, THOUGHTS, EVERYTHING ***COUNTS*** AS TAKING STEPS TOWARDS ALLAH. So NOTHING you do is EVER wasted. SUBHAAN ALLAH!

Black Abaya Girl January 18, 2012 at 3:06 AM  

3. I got this concept from an Islamic talk I attended and it was EXTREMELY guilt-inducing for me, because I have always been a high achiever in worldly education, with the grace of Allah. The concept is:

We want the best degree from the best institute with the best teachers and the best books, and we want to be the best and most learned professionals. But when it comes to deen, we are interested in only fulfilling the minimum requirements. Knowledge of deen is farz. Knowledge of the dunya is certainly allowed but it is not farz for women. It is farz for men to get knowledge/skill which they can apply to make a halal living. So, we as females are allowed by deen to get a bachelors or even masters or PhD education, if we want, nothing wrong with that as long as we balance everything, but we don't realize that it is OBLIGATORY to gain basic knowledge of the five pillars of Islam (tawheed, prayer, fasting, zakat, hajj) and the beliefs of Islam (belief in Allah, in angels, in all revealed books, in all prophets including the Seal of the Prophets (peace be upon them all), in the life hereafter). Also, specific knowledge regarding your role in life. And knowledge of how to perform wudhu (ablution), ghusl (bath of purification) (the second is ESPECIALLY IMPORTANT after becoming mature and after getting married). This means studying the explanations of the Quranic verses and hadith regarding all these topics. Role in life=knowing the explanation, significance and "how to apply it" regarding Quranic verses, hadith and Islamic law regarding yourself as a daughter, sister, mature girl, wife, daughter-in-law, sister-in-law, mother, grandmother, businesswoman, teacher, doctor, investor and so on, whatever applies to you as you progress with life.

Here are some online articles about Islamic knowledge:

When I first got to know about this perspective I was extremely guilty, depressed, frustrated and regretful. And even angry. That is normal and natural. When you're going full speed down what you think is the 100% guaranteed way to a peaceful life and then suddenly you find out about this great obligation, you even question it at first. That's mental inertia. Your brain needs time to expand to fit a new idea. You think, is this viewpoint even true? That CAN'T be right, all the people around me, even all the elders in my family, did not pursue all this knowledge of Islam and they are all doing fine and are nice people. But you know, even the Quran tells us not to follow what our parents/guardians/elders do just because they are our elders. We should follow them if they are following the Prophet (peace be upon him) and His Lord. If we do some Islamic thing and our elders find out about it through us, there is nothing bad about that. If the elders are too caught up in their "I am the elder so I am right" status, that shouldn't discourage us.

Black Abaya Girl January 18, 2012 at 3:07 AM  

The Divine Grace that helped me implement this thing that I learned taught me two things:

i. You are already a committed student. You know how to study. You know how to work hard. You just have to work on your priorities and your intention, evaluate what things in your life are not adding to your status in the hereafter, and modify/drop them to make time for pursuit of Islamic knowledge. And you have to realize, just like you can't become a doctor in a day, or a week, or a month, or a year, similarly, you can't attain all this knowledge all at once. The overwhelming feeling can be handled by making "Islamic things I need to know about" a long-term mission. (In fact it's a lifelong mission but that concept can be overwhelming as well. Bottom line=just give yourself time to accept and absorb this new perspective, that is, if you want to. And if you want to start living it, let me tell you, you've already lived it whenever you thought about Islam, or discussed it with someone, or read an Islamic article [even the articles I posted right here!] So we are all ALREADY on this journey of knowledge of deen. We just don't organize it or realize it. Once you realize and organize, you're on your way!)

ii. The Internet is a double-edged sword. It makes Islamic knowledge available to us, but then we are ACCOUNTABLE BEFORE ALLAH that we had Internet in the house and did not use it for the deen. Think about it.

I know this is a lot of information overload but you seem to be following up on all the replies with interest so I went ahead and spilled all this out. I can say more about gaining Islamic information online but I'll leave that for another post, another day, in the meantime I'll just say: don't just google things up. Find Islamic speakers and Islamic online classes that emphasize on Quran and on doing things for Allah. If some speaker says "the Quran says this but you don't NEED to do this, it's optional" or focuses ONLY on the controversial issues, then there's something fishy. If they focus on the basic things like Allah, Quran, hadith, prayer, etc, then you'll know they're fine. You'll KNOW. And it may be that the talking/teaching style of a popular, authentic speaker just DOESN'T appeal to you. That doesn't mean there's something wrong with your faith. You just need to hunt more for someone who talks to the youth in their language. Nouman Ali Khan uses the language of the youth but I will let you judge him for yourself, if you want to check his talks out. Some people become fans of his others say "he's nice but.........". So no worries.
love and dua
Black Abaya Girl

Not wanting to get too high,  January 19, 2012 at 12:42 AM  

Black Abaya Girl: Dear, thankyou so much, for taking time out and writing to me, thankyou, thankyou, JazakAllah. Since the day Sister Apple Blossoms gave me the reply, I really have been thinking, and obviously what you think governs how you act, so I have been trying to change the way I look at things like "success" and "education" etcetera, and how pivotal the role of Knowledge of Deen is in this life, and the Hereafter. Because if you think about it, both the lives are the same- just a continuation of time from one place to another. And whatever we do to earn our living, or whatever we learn as educaiton should befit our role in both the lives. I will check out the articles you posted insha Allah and oh yes, Nouman Ali Khan is really one of my favourties, yes yes :) :) JazakAllah again and lots of love! <3

Aziza January 21, 2012 at 8:54 AM  

MashaAllah this is wonderful advice!!! I found it very helpful as I am only a freshman in college, but I am trying to figure out what I want to do in life and weighing the options. My dream is to become a pediatrician because I love kids and have been so inspired by my aunt who owns her own clinic but is still able to balance everything and be a good doesn't seem like an easy balnce to achieve by any means, but I also believe that it is possible if we keep our intentions sincerely for Allah's sake.
So go for it dear sister and put your trust in Allah, InshAllah everything will fall into place. :) <3

jaket kulit March 31, 2012 at 8:12 AM  

Normally I do not learn post on blogs, nonetheless I would like to say that this write-up quite pressured me to check out and do so! Your writing style has been surprised me. Thank you, quite excellent post.

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Asalamu aialkum!
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