بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَـانِ الرَّحِيمِ
So, yeah, here I am. Finally. 😇 You must have noticed that I have been a little missing-in-action on this blog, since many months. Except for the “totally-frustrated-and-fed-up-with-society-as- a-misunderstood-unschooling-mother” rant that was my last post. *Chuckle*.
Anyhow, I was actually working hard on my next book project, among other ongoing things, of course. The family front keeps me increasingly busier, as I have already stated in the past. My last book, “How to Benefit from the Qur’an” came out at the end of Ramadan last year, after months of work. That was over 6 months ago. After that, I took a bit of a hiatus to catch my breath. Then, it was back to work.
I have noticed that any content that I write (or edit, compile, and proofread) about the Qur’an, always takes longer to complete, polish, fine-tune, and prepare for final publishing. This is because, truly, the Qur’an is a “weighty word”, as Allah says Himself:
إِنَّا سَنُلْقِي عَلَيْكَ قَوْلًا ثَقِيلًا
“Behold, We shall bestow upon you a weighty message.” [73:5]
Allah also empathetically says about the Qur’an:
إِنَّهُ لَقَوْلٌ فَصْلٌ
وَمَا هُوَ بِالْهَزْلِ
“Behold, this [divine writ] is indeed a conclusive word; And it is no pleasantry.” [86:13,14]
So, that is why, those of my projects that involve analyses and commentary upon the Qur’an, take not just longer, but also employ more of my brain energy.
But before I go on about the details of my latest book, please read this excerpt from it below:
Never Retiring From Work
Perceptions about good leadership cannot change unless we first alter our thoughts about getting older. Old age is sometimes perceived as a negative concept and stage of life, thought to be boring, dull, and burdensome for oneself and for others. Many young people, therefore, wrongfully tend to assume that youth is a necessary requirement for achieving something worthwhile in life; for seeking knowledge and education; for establishing oneself as a strong leader in their field of work; and for the acquisition of wealth and success. One might assume that all these milestones cannot be achieved by someone who is past the age of 60 or 70.
I therefore think that it is very important for the youth to have a positive and broader ‘vision’ regarding old age. Bearing in mind that there is no guarantee that one will live long enough to see it, one should still endeavor to remind themselves of a factual reality: no one stays young forever. One’s health, circle of friends, social activities, primary occupation, and leisure interests do change with time. And more often than not, old age does bring with it physical weakness and ailments.
That being said, there is no reason to morbidly assume that one will become lonely, weak, ill and useless once they traverse the age of 60 or 70. Allah decrees for a believer what he or she expects Allah to decree for them, and if one prays and hopes for a productive, active, fulfilled, and happy life till their last breath, including during old age, then that is what Allah might just decree for them.
What is Your “Retirement Plan”?
Until the past century, many if not most people presumed that after they retired from professional life, they’d spend their last years living idly, “enjoying their grandchildren”, and being served and looked after by their adult children.
That is fast changing, as increasing globalization and immigration brings about a fusion of cultural values and traditions and, not to mention, facilitates frequent relocation and turnover of occupations for professional people.
Nowadays it is not uncommon for a family to spend different decades (or fewer number of years) of their lives in different countries of the world, often splitting up due to issues related to visa, work permits, citizenship, offshore contracts, and their children’s educational/schooling needs.
Before someone thinks I am supposedly encouraging the younger generation to “abandon” their elderly, let me explain from which angle I am approaching this subject.
One of the positive results of the above-mentioned social trends, is that as some people grow older in this era of instant communication, online work opportunities, telecommunication, and globalization, they become more self-sufficient and independent, and do not always perceive their old age as a phase to be spent just with their children and grandchildren as the sole post-retirement occupation.
For a few but increasing number of elderly people nowadays, professional retirement only signals the onset of a new phase of life, in which they expect a different kind of occupation to keep them busy – be it traveling for leisure, upholding familial ties, seeking to learn a new skill, doing volunteer charity work, or partaking in multiple social welfare projects.
Prophet Ibrahim: An Energetic and Productive “Old Man”
As I wonder about what I will be doing once (and if) I reach old age, I turn to the Qur’an in my quest for real-life examples of productively occupied elderly people.
The first example that immediately comes forth is that of Prophet Ibrahim (peace be upon him). He and his wife Sarah were childless until he became what is known in Arabic as “shaikhaa” (i.e. an old man). [11:42] Yet, even though Allah then blessed him with not one, but two Prophetic sons (Ishmael and Isaac) at such an advanced age, he did not sigh with exhaustion and declare himself to be too old to raise the two little boys.
Rather, Prophet Ibrahim kept on the move even after that, and went on to do rather physically taxing things, such as traveling to Makkah to leave Hajar and Ishmael alone in the desert, in obedience to Allah’s command, as Allah had decreed for the barren land to eventually transform into a hustling and bustling trade town. Many years later (when he was even older in age), he visited them in the desert again, and saw that Ishmael had taken a wife [i].
Later on, at an even older age, Prophet Ibrahim visited Ishmael again to inform him that he had been commanded by Allah to build the Ka’bah with his help. Ishmael readily agreed and worked by his side with the heavy stones, helping him lay the foundation of the holy structure (once again, in obedience to Allah’s command). [2:127]
Is it not obvious that Allah placed command after command upon the supposedly “weak” shoulders of an elderly and aging Prophet Ibrahim, as tests of his faith and submission, and each time, he rose to the occasion and submitted his will to that of his Lord, working very hard during his old age to obey Allah? [2:124]
Why did he not put his feet up once he got so old, and stop doing physical work? Why didn’t he expect Ishmael and Isaac (and their wives) to serve him night and day?
Just Us Two: Not Enough?
Prophet Ibrahim and Sarah were living as a childless old couple when angels came to give them glad tidings of a son who’d be born to them. The whole incident, in which they served freshly roasted calf meat to their guests, which has been described in the Qur’an, proves that they were happily married and close even at that age. [11:69]
In some of my other books, I have often highlighted how spouses who engage in exclusive, ‘escapist’ activities early on and throughout their marriage, in order to ignore or undermine their lack of mutual love, compassion and emotional closeness, end up facing a gnawing emptiness at home at the onset of old age, after all of their children get married, leave home and settle down with their own families.
Watching television and cooking constantly in the kitchen are two such activities used, respectively, by young husbands and wives, to avoid candidly communicating with each other while both are present at home, in order to solve their problems, e.g. on weeknights and on weekends.
As the distance between them grows over the years, and the bridges of communication disappear, they hope and expect their adult children and grandchildren to be there to keep them occupied once they grow old, to escape the void in their own relationship.
Fact? That doesn’t, and cannot, always happen in today’s fast-paced world! Nowadays, many an old couple is left alone all day, with no one besides each other for company, even if they have 4 or 5 grown up children, one or two of whom might even be living with them, or nearby.
This is because the contemporary world is so busy for children and adults alike, that staying at home is fast becoming a rarity, even for the active elderly, as it is just too boring. People are always on the move, with little time to give to anyone else.
In such a scenario, it is best to have had a close, loving relationship with your (now elderly) spouse since early on in marriage, because as the flame of lust jades with time, companionship and interesting conversation is what keeps the marriage spark alive, especially in old age.
The example of Prophet Ibrahim should inspire us all to hope, pray and intend in our hearts from now on, that we will remain active, productive, and constructively occupied until our death, even when and if we reach old age.
We will not crib and complain that our children don’t visit us often enough, or that we see our grandchildren only once or twice a year. We will not keep track of how little our relatives and our old friends keep in touch with us. We will not lament that no one calls us any more; that we have become useless burdens on society with nothing to do.
Instead, we should pray from now on, that Allah keeps us busy doing good work that pleases Him, and that lets us “give back” to mankind in any way, little or small, until the day we die.
Conclusion: Find Real Examples Around You
I know that many readers might think that Prophet Ibrahim is too exceptional and one-of-a-kind of an example for us to even come close to in terms of righteousness, sincerity of faith, strength of patience, and submission to Allah. They might desire to see a less ‘out-of-reach’ example to emulate .
Well, there are several such examples around the world, of leaders, activists, professionals, and change-makers who are still going strong in their fields of work despite being above the age of 60 or 70. They are still leading an active life and making waves in positive and beneficial work, both those who are Muslim as well as non-Muslims. We only need to seek them out with a discerning eye in order to notice how they are quietly breaking the “elderly and idle” stereotype.
The example of the deceased Shaikh Muhammad Sayyid Tantawi, the former Grand Imam of Al-Azhar in Egypt also comes to my mind. What I find particularly interesting about him, is how Allah caused him to die. He was in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia to attend an Islamic event, reportedly in very good health at the age of 81. As he was boarding the airplane for taking his flight back home to Egypt, he collapsed on the plane’s stairwell. He died of a heart attack there and then. After his funeral prayers were held at Prophet Muhammad’s mosque in Madinah, he was buried in Jannat Al-Baqi, the graveyard where many pious predecessors of Islam have been buried.
He died in a state of good health, while on a journey in the path of Allah, physically active and constructively occupied till his very last breath. Allah sent the angel of death to take his soul merely minutes before he was to leave Arabia to fly back home, because Allah had decreed for him to be buried right next to his righteous Muslim predecessors.
We should all similarly dare to dream. We should, literally, never say “die!” It should be our hope and intention to keep working for whatever cause or mission we feel passionate about and to stay productive for as long as we are alive, come what may.
May Allah grant us a life that keeps us active, healthy and productive till our very last breath. Amen.
[i] Sahih Al-Bukhari 3365
My Latest Business Book:
Ta-da! So here it is:
“True Heroes: The Prophetic Guide to Leadership”.☞
This business book is a leadership guide for professionals, or for anyone who aspires to be an effective leader.
I am calling it a “business book” because it talks about leadership (the Prophetic kind) and how to deal with people. It grants insights about how to positively influence others, and how to not allow yourself to get negatively affected or thwarted by haters and antagonists.
However, anyone in a leadership position, where they have subordinates and need to deal with the challenges put forth by the latter (such as a mother with growing children, *cough*), can also benefit from this book, insha’Allah (God willing).
The only difference between this business book and the others that you will find in the international literati circles and bookselling marketplaces, is that this book contains leadership lessons derived from the Qur’an (as well as from a few ahadith) by putting into the spotlight those men who were chosen by Allah Himself, to become leaders, motivators, managers, coaches, influencers, and change-makers for mankind throughout history: His Prophets.
Each chapter in this book highlights one aspect of leadership, management, or motivational strategy. I have written a lot before on how all the Prophets of Allah encountered enormous challenges and difficulties in life, both before and after they turned 40 (i.e. when they were granted the role of Prophethood).
Each challenge and problem in life became a stepping-stone for them, making them learn valuable lessons, and also imparting these lessons to their followers and companions. Not to mention, each rock they surmounted added to their strength, resilience, and credibility, and motivated their followers to go on striving to achieve their vision even after their deaths.
How it Came About…
I read a lot of self-help articles online, in particular, those shared by “influencers” on LinkedIn. However, none of them, and I say this without any bias, possess even a fraction of the wisdom and leadership guidance that is contained in the Qur’an (duh!), although a few have been blessed with some.
In a world that is fast becoming disillusioned with, and disappointed in, the credibility of their leaders at every level, in every country, I think it is about time that we all begin to turn back to Allah and study the Qur’an as our primary source of wisdom.
In the past, as a naive youngster with limited knowledge of both Islam and the world, I used to ‘blindly’ believe that the Prophets of Allah were the best leaders who ever lived. That was because I was born as a believing Muslim after all. I had to stick to my roots.
But now, as a fully-grown adult at the threshold of age 40 (I’m still 38 years old, though), I believe with all my heart — both, on the basis of my research upon the Qur’an, as well as my cursory studies of the short biographies and profiles of many of the world’s past and present leaders online, — that the best leadership lessons can only be derived from seriously studying the details of the events that occurred in the lives of the Prophets of Allah, in the Qur’an.
What I find amazing is how Allah has highlighted the different aspects of leadership by mentioning the different events that took place in the lives of different Prophets. Think: David and the two disputing men demanding his fair judgment. Jesus and the demand for a table-spread. Moses and the calf. Joseph and his ensnarement. Abraham and the idol breakage. Noah and the boat construction project. Solomon and the hoopoe. Salih and the she-camel. (عَلَيْهِمُ السَّلَامُ)
Although my book does not cover all of the above-mentioned incidents (in fact, it does not even cover all of the Prophets’ stories mentioned in the Qur’an), I am just mentioning them here as examples, to highlight the fact that not a single letter of the Qur’an is irrelevant or unworthy of deep, focused study.
The Qur’an has abrogated all previous Divinely revealed scriptures, setting the records straight about the previous Prophets (with the help of Prophet Muhammad’s ﷺ narrations, or ahadith). It remains unparalleled as the single most authentic book/text/source of guidance on the face of this planet, till the end of time.
Among other valuable things, it is the best leadership guide that you can ever study to seek inspiration and to learn practical life skills from.
This — my latest non-fiction, self-help, business book — attempts to highlight just that.
May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon all of His noble Prophets.
May Allah accept from us. Ameen.