To be selfish is one of those traits we’ve learned to be negative since we were children. Remember hearing grown-ups say, “We have to share,” when all you really wanted to do was keep things to yourself? That was definitely a great piece of advice, but too much of anything runs the risk of being harmful. Because of this and similar reminders growing up, many of us have grown to put so much focus on the opinions of others and on putting others first.
Sounds harmless, but this can actually eat away at you fulfilling the dreams you’ve set for yourself, and in you reaching your greatest potential. It’s true that in Islam we are taught to consider others and want for our brothers what we would want for ourselves, but there are limitations to this because if we don’t secure ourselves, we can’t be our best for those we want to help and support. It’s like the question of whom you would help first if you were sitting on a plane beside an elderly person and a child, while the plane was falling towards a crash. Some would feel this is a dilemma of which of those two lives are more valuable. The correct answer to that question, however, is to first help yourself so that you can have the strength and ability to help both the elderly and child.
Balancing Giving Back
“Your body has a right over you, your eye has a right over you, your wife has a right over you, and your visitor has a right over you.” – Prophet Muhammad (SAW)
Personally, as I’ve strived towards helping as many people as possible with my life and time, I’ve struggled in finding a balance. I would often worry so much about helping others that I would end up finding myself with absolutely nothing left to keep myself going. It’s not just in monetary matters, but also in securing myself mentally and physically. I’ve always sought to follow the example of the Prophet (SAW) and his companions in how to help people, to the best of abilities. I remember once reading that the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) was so generous that it was as though he didn’t fear poverty. So, I strive towards being like that, not only in giving monetary charity, but also in helping people in any way I can. Truthfully though, it often leaves me drained at the end of the interactions.
Don’t get me wrong. I love helping people. It’s a core aspect of what makes me who I am and what makes me happy. But, the truth was indisputable. I needed to find some fuel. Unless I found a way to feed my mind, body, and soul, I would quickly drain myself of energy and would be of no use to anyone.
So, I began my search, first seeking out fuel for my soul, as that is what would give me strength in finding nourishment for the rest of my needs. As I ventured through my spiritual search, I found what I believe to be the answer to my concerns and the rapid drain of energy that would come from my efforts.
The solution was to make everything I do an act of worship; to find a way to make my intentions such that they would make everything I do be for the sake of Allah. I found that doing this gave me a greater motivation and discipline in doing things. I don’t get as tired, I always have energy to keep going, and I always feel good about what I do.
In addition to this, I began to strive towards purifying my thoughts and intentions. So, for example, my reason for gaining knowledge wouldn’t be solely because I believe knowledge to be a core source of power, but would also be because it is a command from Allah. This way, the more I learned, the more reward I was stacking up for the Hereafter. The same would go for when I helped others. If I strengthened the stability in my faith, it would give me ease and clarity when advising others.
The benefits of this approach, and truly running your every thought and action through the filter of Islam really helps towards finding inner-peace, happiness, and success.
As I said, seeking knowledge has become one of the greatest things I have included as a part of my life. As I continuously grow in knowledge, I build wisdom with which I can advice and help others. I still have a lifetime of knowledge and wisdom to gain though, so I am in no way qualified to consider myself wise. But, my pursuit is towards never holding back from an opportunity for knowledge. More knowledge means more clarity, structure, and balance when helping others.
Something someone very important to me once said is that their reason for pursuing a healthy lifestyle and getting in shape is because, “This body and life is an Amana (loan) from Allah, so it’s my duty and responsibility to respect it and keep it in the best condition I can.” (That was paraphrased.) This was monumental in helping me shape my approach towards healthy living. If I meet someone who needs help in lifting something, or if I need to run somewhere in a state of emergency of helping someone, I would be much more helpful if I were in shape. When it comes down to helping people in any way, the better shape I’m in, the more energy I will have towards helping them. Allah has given me my body on loan, so I should use it in His service by being a benefit to humanity.
Please Him and You Will Please Others
The bottom line is simple. Please Allah, and you will end up pleasing others. Our ultimate goal is to get to Jannah (Paradise), and the beauty of Islam is that helping others AND helping our own selves counts for rewards in the Hereafter. We need to be selfish in that sense, such that we can be the best we can be to ourselves and thus the best we can be to others.
Be selfish in doing everything you can to follow the Quran and Sunnah. Be selfish in collecting as many good deeds as possible. Be selfish in doing whatever it takes to get to Jannah. Being selfish like this is beautiful, because in Islam, you can follow the Quran and Sunnah, collect as many good deeds as possible, and do whatever it takes to get into Jannah, just by being generous and helping others.
Consider it a double-dip in the Ajr (reward) Jar 🙂