What is Your Legacy?
The Islamic tradition promotes excellence and high achievements. Allah ﷻ states, “Race toward forgiveness from your Lord and a Garden whose width is like the width of the heavens and earth, prepared for those who believed in Allah and His messengers…” (Quran 57:21). Prophet Muhammad ﷺ was reported to have said, “When you ask Allah for Jannah, do not just ask for Jannah, ask for Jannat al-Firdaws. It is the best of Jannah, the highest of Jannah, the middle of Jannah, and under the Throne of Allah” (Muslim). Therefore as Muslims, we should not settle for less and instead develop sincere intentions to achieve excellence in this life and the next. If we aim for Jannat al-Firdaws and fail, at least we will be in Jannah.
The righteous companions would compete with each other in performing good deeds. They monitored each other to see who would perform more ‘ibadah, who would give more sadaqa, and who would adhere most to the Sunnah. Their culture was that of perfecting العمل الصالح, or good works. They were not interested in external appearances and positions. Their goals were so incredibly noble and intentions sincere that Allah ﷻ elevated their names and life stories, placed their love in the hearts and minds of generations of Muslims who followed them, and blessed their good works so that they left imprints on the far ends of the earth.
Prophet Muhammad ﷺ was reported to have said, “Be greedy for that which will benefit you” (Muslim). A Muslim should feel a sense of urgency in doing works that will benefit this life and the next. This requires having a vision and plan and striving to perform good works. Because when it comes down to it, nothing else matters. Therefore, we need to have an honest conversation with ourselves about the legacy we will leave behind and what we will accomplish in this life which Allah ﷻ has bestowed upon us and that He will inevitably take from us without any warning.
To do this, we should keep several points in mind. The first is to internalize what it means to be a Muslim and what practicing Islam looks like. This requires closely studying Islamic knowledge and engrossing ourselves in the company of those who are competing to perform good works. If you find yourself in the company of people who are discouraging your seeking of Islamic knowledge or practice, then it is time to move on from them. Ibn Abbas would wait patiently outside the great Sahabah’s doors as a child until they came out to spend moments with them. And because he honored Islamic knowledge and the people of knowledge, Allah ﷻ granted him honor amongst people.
The second matter to constantly remember is death. This does not mean having an obsession with death, but using death as a motivation to make use of our time in this life. Prophet Muhammad ﷺ commanded us, “Think frequently of that which destroys all pleasures (death).” He ﷺ is encouraging us to ask ourselves, ‘What have I accomplished so far? What am I currently doing? What legacy will I leave behind?’ A legacy does not necessarily require doing something glorious as long as it is in the eyes of Allah ﷻ. It can range from privately raising a righteous child to publicly building a masjid. A scholar of the past said, “I am amazed at humankind. Every day they live, they want to decorate their houses even more even though they have one day less to live in those houses every day. Every day they live, they have no concern how their house in Jannah looks, and every day they live, they are coming closer to that house.”
The third is to rectify our intentions and make dua’a to Allah ﷻ consistently. Seek the help and support of Allah ﷻ to bless you, your good works, and your progeny. The dua’as that roll off your tongue daily define your intentions and goals. Do you only ask of matters concerning this life, or does your dua’a include the next life?
Finally, do not trivialize your role in this life. Allah ﷻ chose to guide you and so embrace His guidance and practice Islam to the fullest. Billions of humans have been born and perished. Their good works are what defined them both in this life and the next. Let us not allow ourselves to be amongst those who regret seeking the pleasure and acceptance of others over Allah’s satisfaction and acceptance ﷻ.
May Allah ﷻ bless our works, may He overlook our shortcomings, may He allow us to achieve the heights of each effort we make, and may He forgive our sins and mistakes. We ask Allah ﷻ to keep us on His Straight Path, to live as Muslims and die as Muslims and be resurrected amongst the ranks of the messengers, the truthful, the witnesses, and the righteous. Ameen.
Sh. Jamal M. Said