By Wael Abdelgawad for IslamicSunrays.com
Listen to the quiet voice inside yourself. The persistent voice that tells you that there’s something more to life, that calls you to do something meaningful, to experience the world in a profound way. So many of us dismiss that voice and suppress it. We are told that our dreams are not realistic or practical. We are told that we should settle for what is reliable, and will pay the bills, and garner us the respect of our peers.
But if we do not listen to that quiet voice, then who will? There is no external advocate who can read the yearnings of your heart and speak up on your soul’s behalf. You must be the champion of your own soul.
On the authority of Abu Malik Al-Harith bin Asim Al-Ashari said that the messenger of Allah said:
“Purity is half of faith. alhamdu-lillah [Praise be to Allah] fills the scales, and subhana-Allah [How far is Allah from every imperfection] and alhamdu-lillah [Praise be to Allah] fill that which is between heaven and earth. Prayer is light; charity is a proof; patience is illumination; and the Quran is an argument for or against you. Everyone starts his day and is a vendor of his soul, either freeing it or bringing about its ruin.”
(Related by Muslim).
You are the vendor of your soul: either freeing it or bringing about its ruin. You free it by worshiping Allah in love, gratitude and fear; keeping the praises of Allah on your tongue and in your heart; praying and fasting and living righteously (as opposed to self-righteously); by showing love and concern for other human beings; and by being true to yourself.
Allah created you with a unique nature. Do you think it’s only your fingerprints that are unique? Or your retinal scan, palm print, voice print and DNA? Do you believe that your uniqueness is encapsulated by measurable biometrical data? No, your uniqueness extends to your own wonderful thought patterns, your special heart, and your soul. You are you, not anyone else.
You are not an assembly-line robot, or a machine put here to consume, produce and expire. You are different from everyone else in the world because you are you. Respect that, and don’t try to force yourself into an uncomfortable or even impossible mold that someone else has dictated for you. Be true, be you, and free your soul.
I’m not talking about sinful desires. I am speaking of the quiet and inspired urgings of your heart. Maybe you dream of working in disaster relief, helping all those poor souls who suffered after the Indian Ocean tsunami, or from the earthquake in Haiti. Maybe you have an inner artist and you’d like to pursue that passionately and see where it takes you. Maybe you love children and would like to teach; maybe you are not satisfied with current school curricula and you have an idea of starting your own school. Maybe you’ve always fantasized about being a karate black belt, or helping poor villages in Africa become self-sustaining, or campaigning for human rights.
Maybe you’re single and you have feelings for a certain person, or just an undercurrent of admiration and respect, but you fear rejection if you come forward with a marriage proposal; or maybe the person comes from a different cultural background and you worry that your family or your peers would not approve.
I could go on, but you get the point. The fact that each of us is utterly unique is a blessing, because each of us brings a new imagination to solving the world’s problems, and each of us beautifies the world in a new way. Each of us has something important to teach. Each of us has a different voice, not so that we can win “American Idol”, but so that we add to the universal chorus that praises Allah.
Don’t fear your dreams: cherish them, nurture them, and do your best to live them. Let’s face it, life is short; it passes so quickly, much sooner than we expect, and when we get to the end of the road we will regret only that we suppressed our hearts, and shoved them down into silence, and failed to live up to our potential as believers and as unique individuals, with our own God-given gifts.
Sister Sara, author of the Sweet Serenity blog, pointed out, “Often while in search for who we truly are, we are dictated by the world around us, and thereby lose ourselves. The words of the Qur’an and example of the Prophet (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wasallam) should be our guides and inspiration, reaffirming that we need to patiently persevere, following the calling in our hearts and Insha’Allah, we will be able to make our dreams a reality.”
One person pointed out that following his dreams is impractical for him due to his family obligations. That is a valid objection. We have realities of family to deal with, and that often requires compromise. Our duties to our family are a part of our deen.
In response, I would point out that most of us have several dreams that call to us. If one is impossible at the moment, another may be possible.
One of my dreams is to master the martial art of Hapkido, and open a school in the future Insha’Allah. I’ve had four years of proper instruction, but now there is no teacher in my city. If I didn’t have a child I would move to a city where I could study Hapkido properly, and since I’m also fascinated by Southeast Asian martial arts, I might move to Malaysia or Singapore. But I do have a wonderful little girl – Alhamdulillah – and she cannot be moved at this time. I have to find a way to realize my dream while staying put, and fulfilling my duties as a father. So every few months I travel several hours for one evening of intensive training. Then I come back to my city and I work with a group of practice partners that I organized here, teaching them what I’ve learned and practicing it over and over, hundreds of times. In this way I have become proficient. My repertoire is not as broad as some, but what I know, I know very well Alhamdulillah.
I also have an interest in human rights, but I don’t have the ability at this time to travel and work in this field, or to commit to it full time. So I started a human rights blog. I write about human rights issues, and I provide links for people to take action on critical cases.
So pursue the dreams that you can, to whatever degree you are able, and don’t punish or blame yourself for having to give up on others. What is right for others may not be right for you, and what feels right to you may not be what others would choose. Use your wisdom, and let the struggle itself draw you closer to Allah.
Achieving your dream will certainly take very hard work. It may also require some compromises, a creative approach, and putting up with criticism or even ridicule from others. But if it is something pleasing to Allah, something worthwhile, something you believe in, then put your nose to the grindstone and do not quit.
We will never regret pursuing our dreams, taking bold chances, and expressing our love in halal and pure ways. We will never regret attempting to fulfill our missions and destinies here on earth, whether or not we succeed or fail, whether we experienced great joy or intense pain. In the end the difference between success and failure in any venture is in Allah’s hands anyway. All you can do is try, and trying is everything. In that sense, there is no failure, because a sincere whole-hearted attempt is enough of a milestone in itself.
Stand up for your inner voice. Listen to it.
Stand up for your dreams. Give them a chance.
No one else will do it for you.