“You won’t make it. You won’t achieve it. It’s impossible. Why even try. Who are you to even try? Just settle you’re getting too old. I don’t approve. You can’t do it”.
Are these sentences familiar to you? If they are, firstly I just want to empathize with you. You’re not alone in being confronted with odds stacked against you, and it probably hurts you more because it’s the people you love most telling you that you cannot follow that which you love, and which is important to you, and which is the route you feel is the best way you can help your fellow man.
I want to recall an overlapping story of when I was a child; several altercations with teachers affected me. One science lesson a friend of mine got a high grade, and the teacher commented ‘not as dumb as he looks’. Although that was meant as a positive comment and in a humorous way, looking back at it now, to come from a respected figure who you look up to it was quiet twisted. I laughed that time, though I remember how it had hurt my friend… and subconsciously had affected me too. Another friend of mine was involved in violent altercations whilst in school, but instead of instilling hope in him with genuine care, he was told by a teacher he would end up in prison after he left school. I was good at English, but was not as confident when it came to Math. Pressure from my peers had intimidated me, and I always felt more comfortable to stick to English and hence be known as an ‘English guy’. I was too scared to do something else, though I hadn’t realised at the time. It affected me in P.E too, that the coach wouldn’t even look at me, though I felt I had potential when it came to certain sports, I never dared try to claim it to him on a serious level because of how much I was put down when it came to the others. This damaging thought process continued into religion, as I remember one night when I was a child I had attended a gathering where there was a hafiz Quran, a child not older than 10 years of age, who was asked several questions on verses within the Holy Quran and what pages they are on by the astonished audience. I was intimidated by him for no reason, but that I felt I was not worthy to even attempt to be like him due to the damage to my self-esteem as a child. I didn’t realise any of this was going on inside me, but it affected me for a long time, that I was so intimidated by the Holy Quran I would hardly read it whilst growing up, and so deteriorated my command of the Arabic language.
Like many other children, I was vulnerable and it took many years for me to bring out the courage to actually embrace myself, and the power I had within me. I hadn’t realised those psychological limitations I had put on myself until I was older. I was sleeping, but it was time for me to wake up.
Just two years ago I was in a class in Dar Al-Islam mosque in London with 10-12 year olds learning how to read the Quran. Full beard, almost the same age as my teacher, yet I sat with them and made my mistakes with them as I read. It was a humbling experience to say the least, as I sat with kids trying to learn how to read, but I wanted to share this story to show that from experience, it is never too late. I now aim for my Arabic to be better than native speakers, and will endeavour to make that happen. I now also reject the notion that I am just an ‘English guy’, diving into whatever form of education that interests me and confident in my ability to not just memorise information, but to understand it. It took years of training and some inspirational people along the way, but I’m more than confident now when it comes to physical exertion. Whatever it may be, when you put those limits on yourself eventually they will manifest themselves into shackling very meaningful parts of your life and ultimately determine the person you will become. Do not allow it. You are not to be branded a certain name or label and then fit that model you are given whether intentionally or not. Let go of who you are, to become who you want to be.
It doesn’t stop when you get older, only now you aren’t as vulnerable, if you choose not to be. As you pursue your dreams, you will face a lot of obstacles in the way. These people will plant seeds in you, it is up to you whether you nourish that seed of doubt and let it halt your growth as a person. The seed that has been planted in you by Allah (swt), that seed of potentiality that the human being has far exceeds even your imagination. There are people who are sad when it rains, and happy when the sun is out. However, there are also people who take their weather with them wherever they go. Let your inspiration come intrinsically from Allah (swt) from your core within which is everlasting, rather than outside motivation which may last a few hours or days, but eventually dies off. Search deeply, find it and let it fuel you.
It will take time. You will most probably fail, several times, but this failure will be the seed that brings forth your plant of success. The strength of conviction comes from getting back up, dusting yourself down, and starting again. That strength of conviction is what will make you a purposeful man or woman, that even if you had to live in the worst circumstances you would still do what you do, because success is subjective. It is what you say it is depending on the place you are coming from with whatever it is you do. Your approach will determine your outcome. The result of everything you do depends on where you are coming from, because you will ultimately end up there. Whether you think you are strong, or you think you are helpless, or you think you are bored, or you think you will change the world; you’re right.
“Every action is measured by the depth of the sentiment from which it proceeds.”
Your focus, concentration and discipline will form this sentiment and how deep it goes. If held together with a Godly rope, you will always end up back with Allah. Hardly anything is going to be the right choice the first time. You start on a journey. You make a choice, maybe not the right choice, but then make that choice right.
So whether you want to refine yourself in terms of discipline, or spirituality, or career-wise, or with seeking knowledge, or financially, or with academic studies, or with physical sports, know why you are doing it, and become deep rooted in that worthy sentiment, not allowing yourself to be intimidated by anything in the process. Do not allow anyone to confine you to be any ‘type’ of person, Allah has given you the free will to be who you choose, and aside from his divine instruction which is for your betterment, there is no other limit that you should adhere to . Know your power, and trust thyself.
Author: Hussain Makke