Move Your Feet

Blue and white earth

By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com

Life is a heavyweight bout. The other guy – let’s call him Mr. World – hits hard and doesn’t let up. There’s no standing eight count. If you lose this particular bout you don’t die, you just go to your corner and sit on a stool. Everyone’s gone and the arena is dark. You sit there nursing your wounds and wondering what might have been.

The good news is that anytime you want a rematch, it’s yours. The lights come up and the crowd roars, and Mr. World is there again, dancing in his blue-green robe, throwing combinations you’ve never seen. You don’t have to be big to win this fight. You just have to want it, and believe, and move your feet, and not take no for an answer.

When the Unstoppable Force Meets the Immovable Object

Rhinoceros charging

The unstoppable force

By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com

There’s a centuries old Chinese story about a man trying to sell a spear and a shield. When asked how good his spear was, he said that his spear could pierce any shield. Then, when asked how good his shield was, he said that it could defend from all spear attacks. One person asked him what would happen if he were to take his spear and strike his shield; the seller could not answer. This led to the idiom of “zìx?ang máodùn“, or “self-contradictory”.

Today we would call this a paradox. A modern phrasing of this particular paradox might be, “What happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object?”

The scientist and author Isaac Asimov answered this by saying that the question was essentially meaningless, because a universe in which there exists such a thing as an irresistible force is, by definition, a universe which cannot also contain an immovable object, and vice versa.

I want to look at this paradox from a personal angle, in terms of challenges in our relationships and at work, and confronting the myriad obstacles of life.

I believe that – within this worldly plane and subject only to God’s decree – the human will triumphs over all. I can become either the unstoppable force or the immovable object.

Unstoppable Force

Try it. When faced with a challenge, become the unstoppable force. Don’t give up, no matter what. If one approach does not work, try another. Ignore those who tell you that what you’re doing is impossible. Learn from failure and try again. When the road is dark, ask Allah for guidance and feel your way forward. When the path is obscured with thorns and branches, blaze your own trail. You will find that through sheer determination, the so-called “unstoppable force” will crumble before you like a clod of dirt, Insha’Allah.

I’ve experienced this. By not taking “no” for an answer, I’ve gotten jobs when there were no jobs to be had. By being persistent and patient and never losing hope, I’ve experienced true love. By never quitting even when I was tired and discouraged, I’ve become a martial arts expert.

I first began practicing martial arts as a teenager. I used to literally walk across the desert outside Riyadh to get to karate class, carrying stones in case I needed to keep the wild dogs at bay. Later, when I lived in Oakland, I took up a different martial art called Hapkido. When I moved to Panama I found a Hapkido school and I rode the bus over an hour each way to get there. The bus had no air conditioning and was packed with tired Panamanians going home from work. It was noisy, hot and uncomfortable. People covered their mouths with cloths because of the smog. The Hapkido school also had no air conditioning. After class I would wring the sweat out of my uniform.

When I later moved up to a village in the mountains there were no martial arts schools nearby, so I bought mats, laid them in my living room, and recruited a few locals to come to my house for training. I even convinced my gardener to practice with me, on the clock. So I was paying him to learn from me, just so I could have a practice partner! When I returned to California I found no Hapkido school, so I started my own class, and three years later that class is still going strong. Meanwhile I have earned black belts in two other martial arts.

I’m not boasting, I’m simply trying to give you a real-world example. When you want something badly enough, become the unstoppable force. Keep moving toward your goal no matter what.

Immovable Object

Conversely, when you feel like you are under attack, become the immovable object. Duck your head and root yourself like a mountain, and the “unstoppable force” will break around you like a breeze. Whether you are under attack for your faith, or being criticized for making life choices that others do not understand, hold your ground and do not yield an inch, as long as you are on the right path.

When the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) began preaching in Makkah, the people were idol worshipers. The Prophet used to go to the Ka’bah, the square mosque which is the oldest house of worship on earth, and preach the idea of “Laa ilaha-il-Allah”. There is no God but Allah. In other words no idol is worthy of worship, no human being should be deified, no saint or angel should be venerated. Only Allah (God – the Creator).

Because of this preaching the Quraysh (the Arab tribe which held sway in Makkah, and to which the Prophet Muhammad himself belonged) persecuted him relentlessly. And yet he persisted, gaining followers, until the Quraysh became desperate. They met with Muhammad (sws) privately, and offered to make him king of Quraysh, and to bestow great wealth on him, on the condition that he stop preaching. He replied, “…if they should put the sun in my right hand and the moon in my left, even then I shall not abandon the proclamation of the Oneness of God. I shall set up the true faith upon the earth or perish in the attempt.”

Allahu Akbar! That is the immovable object! I will not detail the extreme suffering that was imposed upon the Prophet Muhammad (sws) and his family after that; the economic boycott, the assassination attempts and attempted wars of extermination against the Muslims; suffice it to say that Islam persisted and grew until it became one of the two dominant religions of the world. All because one man was unstoppable and immovable.

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