In this article, we look at the criteria for success according to God. In today’s society, the acquisition of wealth and seducing as many women as possible are considered the benchmarks of success. Not too long ago, the acquisition of wealth and sons were considered the criteria for success. However, we find in Chapter 23 of the Qur’an a complete and utter refutation of this notion.
Successful are the believers:
Those who in their duty are humble,
And those who from vain speech turn away,
And those who act upon the purity.
And those who preserve their chastity
Save with their wives or what their right hands possess, then are they not blameworthy;
— But whoso seeks beyond that: it is they who are the transgressors —
And those who attend to their trusts and their covenant,
And those who preserve their duties:
It is they who are the heirs,
Those who inherit Paradise; therein will they abide eternally.The Qur’an: A Complete Revelation (23:1-11)
Thus, it is not material wealth or power that are the criteria for success but belief in God, the Last Day and the doing of good works. This idea is repeated in another place in the Qur’an.
And it is not your wealth or your children that bring you near to Us in proximity, only whoso believes and works righteousness: those have the double reward for what they did, and they will be in the high chambers, secure.The Qur’an: A Complete Revelation (34:37)
Doing righteous deeds increases a man in prudent fear and brings him closer to God; not the acquiring of wealth, prestige or power – which more often that not serve to lead him farther away from God.
O mankind: We have created you from a male and a female, and have made you nations and tribes that you might know one another. The most noble of you in the sight of God is he of you most in prudent fear; God is knowing and aware.The Qur’an: A Complete Revelation (49:13)
Coming back to Chapter 23 of the Qur’an, we see that those who are ignorant think that because they are increasing in wealth, children, fame and prosperity i.e. elites of today, they are somehow favored by God. However, they do not perceive the true reality of their situation.
“O you Messengers: eat of the good things, and work righteousness; I know what you do.”
And this, your community, is one community, and I am your Lord; so be in prudent fear of Me.
But they divided their command among them into writings, each party exulting at what it has,
So leave thou them in their flood of ignorance for a time.
Think they that in the wealth and sons wherewith We supply them
We hasten for them good things? The truth is, they perceive not.
(Those who are from fear of their Lord in dread,
And those who believe in the proofs of their Lord,
And those who ascribe not a partnership to their Lord,
And those who give what they give with their hearts in dread that they are returning to their Lord:
Those compete in good deeds, and they are forerunners therein.
And We burden not any soul save to its capacity; and with Us is a writ which speaks the truth, and they will not be wronged.)
The truth is, their hearts are in a flood of ignorance about this. And they have works besides that which they are doing.
When We have seized their opulent ones with punishment, then will they cry out.
“Cry not out this day! You will not be helped by Us!
“My proofs were recited to you, and you turned back therefrom on your heels,
“Waxing proud thereat, talking to no purpose into the night.”The Qur’an: A Complete Revelation (23:51-67)
We now come to the crux of the matter: Those who perceive not think that because they are supplied wealth and sons, they are being favored and good things are being hastened unto them. However, the fact of the matter is that these things are bad for them because – more often than not – they lead to arrogance and denial of God’s bounty and generosity. It is God that expands and restricts the provision of His servants.
Furthermore, God in His infinite wisdom, grants them respite i.e. he does not seize them for their wrongdoings right away because he wishes them to increase in their sins.
And let not those who ignore warning think that We but grant them respite good for their souls; We but grant them respite that they might increase in sin; and they have a humiliating punishment.The Qur’an: A Complete Revelation (3:178)
The truth is that those fear their Lord and believe in His proofs, and do not ascribe partners to Him and give in charity, they are those who compete in good deeds and are the real attainers of success in the life to come.
Qārūn was of the people of Moses, but he oppressed them. And We had given him of treasures that whereof the keys weighed down a company of men endowed with strength. When his people said to him: “Exult thou not — God loves not the exultant —
“But seek thou, in what God has given thee, the abode of the Hereafter; and forget thou not thy portion in the World; and do thou good, as God has done good to thee; and seek thou not corruption in the land; God loves not the workers of corruption,”
He said: “I have been given it only because of knowledge I have,” — knew he not that God had destroyed before him generations stronger than him in power, and greater in accumulation? — “and the lawbreakers will not be questioned about their transgressions!”
So went he forth to his people in his finery. Those who sought the life of this world said: “Would that we had the like of what has been given to Qārūn! He is one of great fortune!”
But those given knowledge said: “Woe to you! The reward of God is better for him who believes and works righteousness”; and none is granted it save the patient.
(Then We caused the earth to swallow him and his abode. And there was for him no band to help him besides God; and he was not of those who help themselves.
And morning found those who had desired his place the day before, saying: “Oh, how God expands and straitens the provision for whom He wills of His servants! Had God not been gracious to us, He would have caused it to swallow us. And oh, how the false claimers of guidance do not succeed!”)
That is the abode of the Hereafter We make for those who seek neither exaltedness nor corruption in the land. And the final outcome is for those of prudent fear.The Qur’an: A Complete Revelation (28:76-83)
So let us strive and become of those who are successful according to God and not be of the ignorant who strive for success in this life by acquiring wealth, power and prestige.