What does real success mean to you?

Are wealth and material prosperity more important than steadfast imaan?

Abu Hurayrah 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) reported that the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said: “Look at those who are below you, and do not look at those who are above you, for that is more likely to hold you back from belittling the blessings that Allah has bestowed upon you.” [Bukhari and Muslim]

Recently, I saw a story on Facebook about a rickshaw driver. If read through a secular lens, it doesn’t seem like a very worthwhile or helpful tale for our parental journey. But when read with spiritual eyes, it tells a very different story – one of a mother who succeeded at the Muslim parental mission of instilling imaan in her son. The story goes as follows:

“When I was a young boy, I had a daily task that made me want to grow up and make as much money as I could. Almost every day, my mother used to send me to ask our neighbors for salt, chili, or onions for our meals. They were almost as poor as we were, giving us what we needed a little begrudgingly – knowing we wouldn’t be able to return the favor. It was almost impossible for us to cook without borrowing a little from a different neighbor each evening, but that didn’t stop us from the other thing that we did as a family every day: our prayers.

My father died when I was very young, leaving me with my mother and sisters to support. I started working at age 9, making 15 taka a day and wishing my life away. I wanted to be older so that I could make more to help my family. 

One thing that I never stopped doing was attending morning prayers. Even today, waking up early to attend prayers also gives me extra hours to drive the rickshaw and make money to send my sisters to school – which is something I could never do. 

My mother has now reached old age and relies on me for financial support – especially since she struggles with her physical condition. I drive the rickshaw the entire day so that I can send her between four and five thousand taka every month for her medicine and food. Even between driving the rickshaw and my other jobs, I still take time out of my day for my prayers. Five times a day, I kneel down and I pray. I always pray for my mother. She is everything to me, and the umbrella over my head. I have nothing without her or my relationship to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He)

I always pray that my mother’s health will improve and that she won’t die before I do, because I could not bear the pain of losing her. Recently, I bought her a green saree, because I know that she loves to wear green. Seeing her so happy about her gift brought me just as much joy, and I will continue to work and pray for my mother every day.

Success as a Muslim in the Deen

While this son ended up working a lower income job and not reaching the material idea of success, she has succeeded where many parents fail – she succeeded in her parental mission to raise children to believe and trust in Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). Her son is a practicing Muslim who is able to help his family and be an integral part of his community.

Take a step back and consider what we are prioritizing when teaching our children what’s important in life. Is our parental mission as Muslims to nurture in our children a love and understanding of the deen? Or is it to teach them that excellence in education and career is more important than a deep understanding of the deen? Of course, we start our parental journey determined to teach the love of the deen, but down the road when our children are growing up, our priorities change, and instilling deen takes the backseat while everything else steps into the foreground. This doesn’t happen overnight, and it doesn’t happen consciously. But when we look back over the years, especially when kids reach the difficult tween age, we can see it happening.

When our children are young, before they reach age 10, things are mostly in order. When they enter middle school, that’s when things start to go down a different path. There is more emphasis on studies and extracurricular activities. Gradually, any deen-related activities fall to the bottom of the list. Also, at this stage, kids start to develop an interest in games among other media gadgets. They also are influenced much more by their friends and social circles.

Once they reach high school, their (and our) focus changes to grades, university admission, and so on. Both, the children and us as parents, unintentionally get into the rat race like most of the world. Our children first enter the race because their friends are preparing for it. The rest of the world (non-Muslims) see life through the lens of scarcity. So, their primary focus is to establish and protect their well-being. Indirectly, we are conditioned to fit into their mold. And unless we consciously pause and reflect on our life’s journey with regards to where we are heading to, we would just be traveling our life using their map. Using their GPS.

They don’t have a hereafter. I don’t mean it literally, yes, they also have a hereafter, but either they don’t know about it or they don’t believe in it. So, their 100% focus is on this duniya. On being successful in this world. Their terms of success are very different than what success means to us believers. Their GPS will not caution us about the traps of shaytan. In fact, their GPS will highlight those traps with fancy lights! Their GPS won’t recommend stopovers at opportunities that would bring true gain in our hereafter.

Hence, in our journey, knowingly or unknowingly, we lose focus on the purpose of this life. Our vision gets clouded.

Responding to Tests in our Lives: Patience and Gratitude

Each one of us goes through tests in this life. This poor mother went through a test of poverty to an extent where she literally didn’t have anything at home, not even a few pinches of salt. She could have made her children beg on the streets, or she could have even sold one of her children to get some money… or worse, she could have spiraled into prostitution to survive life and be able to feed her children. But she didn’t blend in. Rather, she chose to fight. She chose to struggle. She chose to endure her hardship. These tests didn’t cloud her vision of this life. They didn’t cloud the purpose of her life. She had clarity. She showed this through her actions by instilling the seeds of imaan in her children.

Some of us go through tests of abundance. When we open our refrigerator, we have plenty of food for the week. When we open our pantry, we have plenty of staple food items for months. We have enough money in our savings to last us for quite some time. In spite of all the abundance we have, when we are conditioned to look at life through a lens of scarcity, our vision for this life gets clouded. Our life has become a standardized test. We aim to score high. We aim to buy high. We aim to secure high. We do that many times at the cost of losing our hereafter. Instead of making the hereafter our primary focus, we tend to live our life another way round. When our children observe that they go many steps ahead of us in that direction, Islam gets diluted in their lives. It becomes a culture in their lives. It doesn’t become the way of life, for many, unfortunately.

This story also teaches us the power of gratitude. The hadith quoted above reminds us to live a life filled with patience, thankfulness, and contentment – because there are always those who relish material things and show us how to recognize the blessings of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) in our own lives.

You can use this as a lesson for your own children: every time they need to carry grocery bags in, remind each other to be thankful for food, for a home, and for one another. Make dua’ regularly with your children and help them practice the deen from childhood well into their adulthood years.

We should all strive to follow in the poor rickshaw mother’s footprints and raise our children on the deen. Despite all her personal hardships, she still succeeded in raising a son who loved Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) and stayed rooted in the deen during both good times and bad. Her son practiced the deen from childhood with passion and knowledge, thanks to his faithful mother’s example.

The Responsibility of Parents

We should re-prioritize our life to have crystal-clear clarity on where we are headed and what we want from this life; and we should pass these same values onto our children so that the deen never becomes diluted in their lives. As parents, that responsibility lies heavily on our shoulders. Every day is a new opportunity for us to make a U-turn if we ever realize that we are off track. Every new day is a new opportunity for us to seek help from Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) to always guide us, keep us on track, and keep our children on track.

May Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) guide and bless us all with the strength we need to stay resilient and rooted in the deen, despite all the distractions around us.


Related reading:

 – Raising Children with Deen and Dunya

Raising Children with Deen and Dunya

 – Raising a Child between Ages 7-12

Raising a Child between Ages 7-12

 – Spiritual Parenting: Building Ties with your Tween

Spiritual Parenting: Building Ties with your Tween