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Striving for Perfection

Are we choosing the best, or settling for less?

We often hear that we must choose between good and bad, between right and wrong. Yet if we open our minds and begin to think critically before we act, we will realize a better judgment is made when we make our options such that the choice is between good and best. For when we choose good over best, our soul feels no need to progress, always remaining content with its current state and forgoing that which will lead it closer to the state of perfection. Should we settle for that? Choosing the best over the good will certainly require ourselves to struggle more, yet the benefits of going above and beyond the bare minimum required of us in order to attain Allah’s nearness we cannot even begin to imagine.

Are we choosing the best, or settling for less?

Imam Ali (peace be upon him) said, “There is no compensation for the Hereafter, and this life is not a worthy price for the self.” (Ghurar al-Hikam) Yet often we find ourselves selling our “self” short. As Muslims living in the Western world where not everything is Halal (whether it be food, entertainment, environment or otherwise), we tend to do this quite easily and readily.

Islam has laid great emphasis on the constant battle we encounter with our nafs (soul). In fact, we are taught that this is mankind’s biggest battle. It is therefore of utmost importance that we make decisions in life that will aid us in this struggle, ones that will allow us to conquer our worldly desires and hence conquer our self.

Today we find ourselves settling for Halal. When we discover something is Halal, i.e. not prohibited, we instantaneously perform that action without letting the following thought cross our mind: Yes it is permissible, but is it really the best choice to make? Will it allow my soul to excel closer to God, or rather will it have the counter effect?

A man once came to our 6th Imam, Imam Jafar as-Sadiq (peace be upon him) and said, “Imam, I want to build a large house, what is your opinion on this?” The Imam replied, “Although there is nothing wrong with it, a mo’min (believer) does not have time for these things.” Thus we see that while the Imam acknowledges it was indeed permissible to build the large house, he advised that a true believer does not have time for such things.

We must question, are we selling ourselves short for worldly and materialistic things? Are we making our souls incapable of striving to the highest level, which Allah has made it able to do? If we believe that Allah is our Creator and is “closer to us than our jugular vein”, then why do we sell ourselves short?

Sinning is a gradual process. A person does not become a regular sinner, especially in relation to major sins, in a matter of one situation. When our souls become accustomed to sinning and do not feel any regret upon doing so, it is because we constantly allowed the opportunity for our souls to excel, slip away. It then begins to feel comfortable with not having to struggle for the best, slowly becoming accustomed to settling for lower, or even compromising.

We often hear that we must choose between good and bad, between right and wrong. Yet if we open our minds and begin to think critically before we act, we will realize a better judgment is made when we make our options such that the choice is between good and best. For when we choose good over best, our soul feels no need to progress, always remaining content with its current state and forgoing that which will lead it closer to the state of perfection. Should we settle for that? Choosing the best over the good will certainly require ourselves to struggle more, yet the benefits of going above and beyond the bare minimum required of us in order to attain Allah’s nearness we cannot even begin to imagine.

Let us take an example from a situation we recently found ourselves in. Although it is not prohibited by Islamic decree to celebrate New Year’s Eve if it coincides with our period of mourning for Imam Hussain (peace be upon him), is it the best choice to do so? Will engaging in celebrations and greetings on that day have a positive effect in taking us away from the memory of our Imam and his sacrifice?

Ayatullah Dastaghaib Shirazi has mentioned in his book Greater Sins that according to Allama Majlisi, there are four types of Taqwa:

  1. Wara at-Ta’biri – to abstain from the prohibited things.
  2. Wara as-Salihin – to abstain from doubtful things so that one may not commit a Haram act.
  3. Wara al-Muttaqin – to abstain from permissible things so that one is absolutely protected from Haram.
  4. Wara as-Sadiqin – to avoid everything that is not religious so that one may not waste precious time in useless acts, even though there may not be any risk of committing a sin.

We therefore see that while it is not Wajib, practicing Ehtiyat (precaution) not only with doubtful things but even those that are permissible, increases one’s level of Taqwa (God-consciousness). The spiritual and physical benefits of this are indeed countless and invaluable. So before playing that doubtful musical nasheed next time, purchasing a bag of lollies without consideration of any gelatin content, delaying our prayers until we have completed all our work, running to the newest Halal restaurant in town just because we heard it is Halal – it is a good idea to give it greater thought and reap the benefits of abstaining from the unlawful, taking precaution, and going above and beyond to be closer to our Lord.

Allah has created man as the best of His creation. Are we worthy of being called so? At the end of the day, the choices we make for the betterment of our soul are ours to make. Are we choosing the best, or settling for less?

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6 comments

  1. Subhana’Allah, yes indeed. Barik Allah feekum!

  2. very beautiful article. clearly explained every aspect.
    jazakAllah for sharing it with us.

  3. Jazakallah for sharing this important information with us, may Allah (swt) give all of us the strength and determination to follow such important instructions.

  4. Great reminder sister … God bless you

  5. Awesome article – thank you!

  6. Beautiful article mashaAllah! thank you sister

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