Ramadhan has departed. It was a month of patience. It was a month that called for sacrifice of desires, sacrifice of time, at the same time calling for much bodily exertion and striving. Ramadhan was followed by the joyous day of Eid. The day of Eid wasn’t a matter of taking the day off from acts of devotion and worship after a month long period of devotion, sacrifice and striving.It wasn’t just relaxation and good times – it entailed extra salah, two khutbahs and distribution of fitra. The theme of sacrifice and striving was clearly evident in this! After Eid, the optional six Shawwal fasts are rewarding and virtuous. They present another wonderful opportunity for sacrifice and striving.
The fasts of the first 10 days of Zil Hajj (barring Eid) and the intensive Ibadah in these 10 holy nights is yet a continuation of the theme of sacrifice and striving. These days are also the days of the Hajj. The Hajj is one mammoth lesson in sacrifice of time, money and great physical and spiritual striving. Then Eid-al-Adha follows. Another lesson is sacrificing of time and money and striving!
This is the essence of the life of a believer in this world, from start to end, it is non-stop sacrifice and striving! All of these micro occasions of sacrifice and striving prepares a Muslim for greater sacrifices, until he is ready and willing for the ultimate sacrifice, the sacrifice of his own life.
Over and over, the Holy Quran repeats the theme of striving and sacrifice:
“And strive (jahidu) for Allah in such an endeavour which is His right.” (22:78)
“And whosoever strives (Jahada), strives (Yujahidu) only for himself, for surely! Allah is independent of the universe.” (29:6)
“Did you think that you would enter Paradise while yet Allah knows not those of you who really strives (Jahada), nor knows those (of you) who are steadfast.” (3:142)
“As for those who strive (Jahada) in Our ways, We surely guide them to Our paths, and surely Allah is with the good doers.” (29:69)
“The (true) believers are only those who believe in Allah and His messenger and afterward doubt not, but strive with their wealth and their selves for the cause of Allah. Such are the truthful.” (49:15)
“O man! You must strive a hard striving (to attain) to thy Lord, until you meet Him.”
The repeated mention of the theme of striving in so many verses of the Holy Quran, indicates that the Holy Quran wishes to prepare and build the mindset of the Muslim for ongoing sacrifice and striving in this world. These is no place in a Muslim’s life for laziness, lethargy, indolence, carelessness, negligence and heedlessness. In fact, nothing is achieved even of worldly benefit, without effort, striving and sacrifice, then how can the endless bliss of the Hereafter be achieved without it, merely on wishful thinking or pious hopes?
In fact the fulfilment of every order and command entails striving and sacrifice. Abstaining from sin and evil also requires striving and sacrifice of ones desires. This is referred to as Mujahada or Jihad-an-Nafs – the fight against desires. This striving against oneself is obligatory upon every Muslim male and female. The self of man calls towards transgression, preference of the world, and the desires and love of pleasures. But Allah calls to fear of His punishment, awe of His Might and great rewards for following His commands. “And as for the one who fears standing in front of His Lord and restrains himself from evil desires and lusts, verily, Paradise shall be his abode.” [79:40-41]
The Messenger of Allah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) also said: “The MUJAHID (one who strives) is actually he who strives against himself (his desires) for the sake of Allah, and the MUHAJIR (one who emigrates) is he who emigrates from sin.” (Sahih Ibn Hibban No. 4862)
Many a time we find a person saying: ‘I have tried many times, to turn my soul away from committing these acts of disobedience but my efforts have failed.’ Another person says: ‘I tried to get myself to perform acts of obedience (to Allah), righteous deeds, but I am not able to remain firm upon them, I leave them so quickly.’ And yet another says: ‘I have repented from evil actions and promised myself that I would not commit them again. However after the passing of time and being occupied much it did not take long before I returned to them. In fact I fell into others and increased in them.’ If we were to look at the condition of these people we would realise that the main reason for them not being able to dominate and control their souls and not being able to remain firm upon what they have promised themselves is their lack of sacrifice and striving against their souls. In fact they have left the steering wheel of the soul so that it leads them wherever it wills. The soul is such that if it is not fought against and controlled it commands its possessor to commit evil and obscene deeds.
This striving is all-encompassing and entails striving to learn the teachings of Islam, striving to make oneself act in accordance with what one has learned, striving against shaitaan to ward off the corrupt desires that he stirs in the heart, striving to bear patiently the difficulties involved in calling people to Allah and the insults of people.
Serving others and fulfilling their rights also requires striving and effort. A man asked Nabi Muhammad (sallallahu alayhi wasallam): “Should I join the jihad?” He asked, “Do you have parents?” The man said, “Yes!” The Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) said, “Then strive by serving them!” (Sahih Al-Bukhari No. 5972)
The life of the Nabi Muhammad (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) was a life of constant sacrifice and striving to call mankind to Allah, to convey to them the clear message of Islam, to save them from hell fire and to liberate them from the yokes of every form of tyranny.
People are despondent about the pathetic plight of the Muslim Ummah and how they are being massacred with impunity in many troubled spots. The reality of the matter is no amount of emotional outbursts, without action and commitment from the Muslims is going to achieve anything. Until the Muslim Ummah – all of its members – everyone of US – have not mastered the lesson of sacrificing and striving at every required moment, there can be no success. When feeble and frivolous desires are not being sacrificed, how will big sacrifices be given, which is a requirement for an easy and quick entry into Jannah? There are no short cuts to Jannatul-Firdaus … It is an uphill path that has to be climbed with determination, sacrifice and striving. Those who make it to the summit will celebrate.
Even the success on the actual battlefield is an illusion without learning to strive and sacrifice. If not, the behaviour of Muslims will be characterised even there, by acts of emotionalism, irrationality, fear, cowardice, weak resolve, confusion, fleeing, etc. When a person is not able to struggle against his own self and overcome it in that which Allah commands, he will not be able to fight against the external enemy, nor overcome him. How can he, who is defeated and weak, both mentally and spiritually, and cannot even gain control over his own feeble soul, do so?