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9/30/15 – Can the reward for excellence be anything but excellence?

By Dr. Hesham A. Hassaballa

Such is the rhetorical question asked by God in surah Al Rahman (55:60). It comes after a beautiful passage describing the richness of the reward of paradise, with its gardens, and waterfalls, and fruits, and spouses, and unimaginable splendor. While God knows best, I suspect that He placed the question there as a motivator for us: that if we do good, God will reward us with good in return.

And so, in this Islamic New Year that starts soon, we should each ask ourselves the question: is it too much to demand excellence of ourselves? Is it too much to demand that we conduct ourselves in the most excellent manner?

Is it too much to demand of ourselves to be the best employees possible; to come to work on time and do as excellent a job as we can; and to not cheat or steal? If we are employers ourselves, is it too much to demand of ourselves to treat our employees as the dignified human beings they are; to not cheat them out of their fair wages; and to not cheat our customers by selling them substandard goods at premium prices?

Is it too much to demand of ourselves to be the best citizens possible; to not cheat the government out of its fair share of taxes; to not lie on immigration or customs forms; and to truly uphold the laws of our country? It is too much to demand of ourselves to be the best neighbors possible; to treat our neighbors with kindness and compassion; and to not block their driveway or the entrance to their business simply because it will save us 10 feet of walking to the mosque on Friday?

Is it too much to demand of ourselves to be the best Muslims possible; to commit ourselves to not only the letter of our faith, but its spirit as well; to treat each other with brotherhood and sisterhood; and to greet each other with a smile on our face?

Is it too much to demand of the so-called “Muslim World” to start acting like true Muslims; to stop fighting and killing each other over power politics; to take in more Syrian refugees – who are their brothers and sisters in faith – and not wait for the West to come to the rescue?

Is it too much to ask? I think not.

Now, I do not mean to say that Muslims in general are bad employees, or bad employers, or bad citizens, or bad believers. Not in the least. But we all know of examples of Muslims who have fallen short of the Divine standards of excellence outlined in our faith. Not only do these “bad apples” tarnish the image of our faith, but they also run the risk of making the rest of us cynical and conclude that demanding excellence of ourselves is a “pipe dream.”

But it is not a “pipe dream.” It is our job as Muslims, in fact, to do our best to remain steadfast to that Divine standard of excellence, and not because it is good “public relations” or even good “da’wah.” Rather, it is because our Lord demands excellence of us; our faith demands excellence of us; our Messenger (pbuh) demanded excellence of us. And as the verse in surah Al Rahman promises us, we shall be handsomely rewarded for it.

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