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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Article by Wael

Wael Abdelgawad is an Egyptian-American living in Fresno, California. He is the founder of several Islamic websites, including Zawaj.com and IslamicAnswers.com, and also of various technology and travel websites. He is a writer and poet, and has been a web developer since 1997. This project, IslamicSunrays.com, is very dear to his heart, as it has allowed him to express ideas that have growing inside him for many years. Wael is divorced and has one lovely young daughter. He practices and teaches martial arts (somewhat obsessively), and loves Islamic books, science fiction, and vanilla fudge ice cream. Wael is an advocate for human rights and blogs about these issues at AbolishTorture.com. He is also a volunteer with the MyDeen Muslim youth organization in Fresno. Wael tagged this post with: , , , , Read 267 articles by
14 Comments Post a Comment
  1. […] A friend of mine wrote another outstanding blog post this morning. I love most everything he writes, and today’s was definitely one of my favorites (you can link to it here: http://islamicsunrays.com/when-the-unstoppable-force-meets-the-immovable-object/ ) […]

  2. Amy says:

    Hope you don’t mind that I linked to this post on my own blog post today. If you do let me know and I’ll take it off.

    • Wael says:

      I don’t mind at all, feel free to do so anytime. I’m so pleased that you liked the article. I was thinking it might be a little too “out there”. Unstoppable force, immovable object, Chinese parables, Isaac Asimov, huh, what? It took me ages to write. I had the article in Draft status for maybe six months, and I’d come back to it every now and then, trying to figure out where it was going.

      • Amy says:

        It didn’t register as being too “out there”, at least to me. One of my favorites actually, I could really relate to it. The reason I wrote on mine was because this one inspired me, actually.

  3. Asmaa says:

    Manshaalaah brother! Your posts are very motivatingand morale booster may Allaah increase for you wisdom and knowledge.

  4. SisterZ says:

    According to mumsy, I’ve been an immovable object for a good 15-20 years. So despite the seriousness of this article, the reality of it and significance in my own life made me laugh – a rather much needed laugh. Something like this huh, lollllll:



  5. Suhail Qatar says:

    Wonderful thoughts Sir… I really appreciate the way you defined both of the topics here… But Please never mind, I have small objection in one of the sentences here… and I will be grateful if you will change it or If cannot then just for your info..

    You wrote “Laa ilaha-il-Allah”. There is no God but God”

    Sir, Please do change this to “Laa ilaha-il-Allah”. There is no God but only ALLAH”

    Thanks and Best regards.

  6. Tony says:

    Mashaalaah brother! Very nice article. I am a fan. 🙂 I loved it. Keep up the great work.

  7. Miss Mimsy says:

    Asalamou’alaikum. Brother Wael, I have read lot of your posts in times of sadness, and happiness. Your posts are very helpful, indeed- they make me hopeful. May Allaah Bless you and Reward you with jannatul-firdous for your efforts, ameen. JazakAllaahu khairan bruvv.

  8. Geoff says:

    I’m not a practitioner of any religion, but I wanted to let you know that I found this post very inspiring…moving, if you will!

  9. Fernando says:

    very nice!

    thank you.

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