Event Review – Raising Aspirations: Positioning to Lead
Date, Time & Venue: 22/10/2013, 8-10pm, Simply Islam
Organiser: Simply Islam
Speaker: Dr Bilal Hassam
- UMA Global Ltd – Director
- National Health Service – Doctor
- The Leaf Network – Co-Founder & Executive Member
- Muslim Community Fund – Trustee
I really had a hard time writing this review. To sum up, even in a few or a multitude of words would never do justice to the profound journey that Dr Bilal Hassam had brought us through in his lecture. This journey, as most complex ideas go, was packaged in such a simple yet perfect scenario – A car ride.
“Check your mirrors.”
Most drivers reading this would understand. Checking the rear view and side mirrors are some of the most important things to do before driving (besides switching the engine on of course!). As important as it is to be able see and be aware of what is behind us, it is equally as important that we be aware of where we came from.
As Muslims, we belong to a legacy that can only be described as majestic. Starting from the trials suffered by Prophet Muhammad (S) and his Sahabah (companions), then to the great expansion and dominance of the Muslim Empire started by the Righteous Caliphs.
And not forgetting the many great innovators, scientists, inventors, scholars and visionaries that had helped our society be what it is today.
Unfortunately, we are now victims of many distractions, influences, malice and ignorance that have made us forget this legacy that we have.
We should realise and understand that we belong to this great civilisation and that we have as much potential and ability to achieve whatever they did. Only then can we pick ourselves up and carry on the work to improve human civilisation.
In simpler terms, Dr Hassam shared with us a story of a lion cub that was separated from his pack and ended up following a group of ostriches. As time passed, the lion cub started to talk, act and think like an ostrich, believing itself to be one. It was only when he was discovered by his pack and brought to the river to look at his own reflection that he realised that he is a lion all along.
The message behind this simple yet incredible story is that we, like the lion cub, have been influenced so much by foreign ideas and perceptions that we start to thinking that we belong to such. It is only when we take a good hard look at ourselves and rediscover our roots that we can see the fallacy of our previous mindset.
“Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the men of old; seek what they sought” – Matsu Basho.
Following the paths of our predecessors though is not to simply emulate their every footstep. We have to understand that their dreams far outweighed their achievements. The only way to equal or to surpass them is to dream as they dreamt, aspire as they aspired and strive as they had strove.
“The dials, buttons, pedals and whatever that is happening in front.”
The steering wheel, the foot pedals, the gear stick and the other gadgets in the car. These instruments help take us where we want to go. Likewise, we have to take note of our resources, strengths and skill sets in order to fully utilise them.
Being aware of whatever that is happening in front of us will help us make the appropriate changes and alterations that we need. Rampaging through every obstacle in our journey would not only slow us down but will cause harm to ourselves and those around us.
“Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift. That’s why it is called the ‘present’” – Oogway, Kung Fu Panda (2008).
It is only now, in the present, that we can do the things that we want and achieve what we aspire. It is not enough to dream and aspire if we won’t start anything now.
It is also impractical to dwell on the mistakes and missed opportunities of that had passed because it is history. We can only achieve great things if we seize the present and use it for all it’s worth.
Dr Hassam said that it’s no use hoping to be rich to be able to give sadaqah (alms) if we aren’t giving sadaqah right now. A person will remain the same whether he or she is rich or not. We should start doing something now in order to change ourselves for the better.
Of course, we should never forget our best and most important resource, Allah SWT. He is the one who made us, placed us here and guided us to the Truth that is Islam. He is the one who inspired us with the realisation that we are capable of achieving greatness.
The best way to do anything and everything is to put one’s full and unwavering trust in Him. Because no matter the outcome, it will only happen with the infinite Wisdom of The Almighty, The Most Wise.
Dr Hassam shared another incredible story to illustrate putting one’s faith in Allah SWT.
There was a muslimah who decided to don the hijab (headscarf). Starting out all pumped up and excited, the heat, stuffiness and people’s reactions started to affect her by midday. While in class, she realised that her hijab looked a little haphazard and asked her teacher for permission to adjust it outside.
However, for whatever reason that only Allah SWT knows, her teacher refused.
Disappointed, the muslimah made a small and simple dua (supplication) to Allah SWT – to make it easy for her to please Him. Almost immediately, all the boys in the class stood up and went out of the class. They told her that they would wait outside while she fixes her hijab.
Such is the power of having absolute faith in Allah SWT in any situation.
“What is your destination?”
Every journey needs a destination. And every destination needs a well-planned route leading up to it.
Are we living our lives based on a planned route and destination? Or are we just stumbling along to whatever comes next, as though we’re driving blind in the middle of a storm?
It is important to know what we want to achieve. Only with a solid goal would we be able to chart our path accordingly and not be distracted along the way.
An example of an extraordinary Muslim who achieved his goal is the Turkish Sultan Mehmed Al-Fatih. After reading the hadith about the blessings bestowed upon the Muslim king and army that would conquer Constantinople (Istanbul), he made it his one goal to fulfil the prophecy.
By the Will of Allah SWT, he eventually conquered Constantinople for the Muslims.
Sometimes, the journey towards fulfilling our aspirations may be the one that bears the most fruit, even if we don’t end up reaching our goal.
Take the example of Abu Ayyub Al-Ansari, a Sahabah who joined every single military campaign that he could in order to be part of the army to conquer Constantinople. Although he passed on before the actual conquest, his participation in the many battles for the Muslim state greatly helped with its expansion.
And by the Grace of Allah, he was buried near the walls of Constantinople. A tomb and a mosque were also built in his honour.
We should start contemplating on the direction that we are currently heading. Are we happy with how we are? What do we really want to do?
It is possible for us to change our directions. It is difficult yes, but we shouldn’t be afraid to dream the impossible. Our fellow Muslim ancestors dreamt the impossible and just look at what they achieved.
“There are people with a hundred times less than what you have but will achieve a hundred times more than what you will ever achieve.”
What then is our excuse for not achieving as much as these people? What will we do if all the resources are available to us? – These are the questions that we Muslims have to ask ourselves.
Lastly, we can strive our hardest, put in the most effort and work tirelessly. But we should never ever forget that great things happen not because of us but because of Allah’s SWT Greatness. Everything happens by His Will, whether we like it or not and whether we want it or not.
It is of utmost importance for every Muslim to understand that.
So make the intention to do something different, something practical and do it now! And leave the rest to Allah SWT.
Muhammad Ilham Othman
An aspiring writer currently studying Journalism and Media Studies. One who is also constantly trying to better himself for Allah SWT.