The idea of striving for success is a central theme of both the Qur’an and Prophetic teachings. It is something ultimately sought by every human. But how is success achieved?
Shaykh al-Islam Shabbir Usmani, one of the great Muslim scholars of the 20th century and a leading voice in the Independence Movement in the Indian subcontinent, said we can understand from the Qur’an and Prophetic teachings that, if the following four conditions are present, success is guaranteed.
THE FOUR KEYS:
1) One’s intention must be true;
2) One’s goal must be true;
3) The means one takes must be true; and
4) The way one takes the means must be true.
How are these four conditions made “true”?
FIRST: TRUE INTENTION:
A true intention is for one’s action to be sincerely for the sake of Allah.
Allah Most High says,
“They were only ordered to serve Allah, making their religion sincerely His.”
“Whoever hopes for the meeting with his Lord, let him do righteous work, and make none sharer of the service due unto his Lord.”
The Messenger of Allah (SallAllahu Alaihi Wa Sallam) said:
“Actions are by intentions, and each person shall only have that which he intended.”
[Related by Bukhari and Muslim, on the authority of Umar – RadiyAllahu Anhu] The second Islamic century scholar and Sufi, Abdullah Ibn al-Mubarak (God have mercy on him), said,
“How often is a small action made tremendous through its intention, and how often is a tremendous action rendered small through its intention.”
[Dhahabi, Siyar A’lam al-Nubala, 8.400]
SECOND: TRUE GOALS:
Having a true goal entails that one’s goal is something that is pleasing to Allah. What pleases Allah is seeking to make good one’s relationship with Him and to seek the good for oneself and for all creation.
THIRD: TRUE MEANS:
The Prophet (SallAllahu Alaihi Wa Sallam) said:
“The strong believer is better and more beloved to Allah than the weak believer, though there is good in both. Be avid for that which benefits. Rely on Allah, and don’t deem yourself incapable.”
[Related by Muslim, on the authority of Abu Hurayra – RadiyAllahu Anhu] The “strong believer” in this hadith has been explained in various ways, but perhaps the best explanation is that the strong believer is the one who is able to take the best of means – outward and inward – in each situation.
Some sunnas in planning the right way of action include:
 Considering all options;
 Consulting those worthy of consultation;
 Carefully weighing the choices based on the greatest likely benefit;
 Consigning the matter to Allah by suspending one’s judgment before acting and performing the prayer of seeking guidance (istikhara); and
 Acting in the way one then feels is of the greatest likely benefit. It is a Prophetic promise that such action will be blessed.
FOURTH: TRUE WAY OF TAKING THE MEANS:
This entails that the way one takes the means be in accordance with the spirit of excellence, wisdom, gentleness, dignity and forbearance that are the essence of the way of the Beloved Messenger Muhammad (SallAllahu Alaihi Wa Sallam).
It entails striving to promote the good – for oneself and others – in one’s action and as one acts; and to strive to respond to all challenges that arise in the best way possible.
May Allah inspire us to all that is best and most pleasing to Him.
And Allaah alone gives success.