Personal Mission Statement
by Faisal Akhtar
“I have not created jinn and men except that they should worship Me” (51:56)
When my professor first introduced the idea of a personal mission statement, I had no idea what a personal mission statement was, but the professor showed me some examples and I began to understand. Before I begin my mission statement, I want the readers to know that this was written before I started having my “Islamic Episodes” (as my cousin so wonderfully put it). So here it is…
What is my personal mission? That question troubled me a lot before I was finally able to answer it. The answer is obvious in a sense but in another, it is quite concealed. After careful introspection, I was finally able to answer this question with, “I want to succeed”. You must be wondering why it took some deep introspection to come up with such an obvious answer. The truth is that the answer never troubled me but it was defining the answer that gave me problems. I know that everyone wants to succeed at something. Even the devil wants to succeed at destroying humanity. The difficult part for me was to define success.
Different people use different criterion to measure success. Some people equate success with wealth while others equate it with power. The more of each you have, you are considered that much more successful. This created even more problems since I could not decide which criterion best fit my ideal of success. What is the right criterion for success? Perhaps a combination of these factors would be the key to success. Taking this approach, a similar question arose. What combination of these factors is the right one? This question gave me even more trouble since there is only so much money and power one can acquire in a lifetime. Can the pursuit of wealth, power or even personal happiness lead to ultimate success? What is ultimate success?
In an attempt to answer these questions, I started to think what would make me happy and perhaps would lead to success. I equated success with happiness. So in order to succeed, I must accumulate as much happiness as I can in this lifetime. I want a lot of money, a beautiful wife, a successful career, lots of education that would broaden my horizons, me, me, me, my, my, my, I, I, and I. I felt sick! Is there nothing beyond me? Is there nothing worth achieving other than personal happiness and contentment?
In an attempt to answer these questions, I started to think about what was beyond my miniscule existence and perhaps that would lead me to success. The answer was all around me and it was “I must live for other people”. I equated collective happiness with success. So in order to succeed, I must help other people accumulate as much happiness as possible. I should help other people achieve their full potential, financial security, emotional stability, us, us, us, we, we, we, our, our, and our. I felt sick again! Is there nothing beyond us? Is there nothing worth achieving other than collective happiness and contentment?
The answer to this question was not as obvious as the previous one. I had to ask myself questions that philosophers have been asking for centuries. What are we? Why are we significant, if at all? What is the ultimate goal of existence? After some careful thought, I started becoming convinced by the absurd arguments philosophers have made, the inevitable conclusion of which is “We are insignificant creatures without any ultimate goal of existence”. The proof of this answer lay in a simple philosophical argument. A thousand years from now, we do not matter. The proof of this conclusion lies in thinking of people who lived a thousand years ago. Do they matter now? Well perhaps a little since we are their descendants so perhaps we should think back even further. If a human being existed a billion years ago, does he matter now? Will we matter in a billion years from now? The answer is simply “no,” that he does not and we will not matter. A billion years is a small instance of time on a geographic time scale let alone a cosmic one. Then how are we significant?
I discovered a pattern in the previous two questions. When I found myself to be insignificant at first, I tried to attach meaning to myself by finding something greater than I. So in order to find meaning in us as humans, I need to find something bigger than us that would give us meaning. However, we would run into the same problem all over again if the next entity were finite like us. The collective whole would become absurd and insignificant again as we are now. What then is that final infinite entity that gives us and everything else meaning? I am vaguely familiar with religion so the answer was not too difficult for me. Only God can give us meaning and significance so our ultimate goal should be to please God and only through him can we find any meaning in our existence.
So in order to find ultimate success, I will please my Lord and in doing that, I will help others and myself achieve perfect success and happiness. My personal mission in life, from now on, is to please my Lord by helping others since humanity’s happiness pleases him. I will also attempt to make myself happy since my happiness also pleases him.
Don’t label me a kaafir just yet. This statement was, after all, written before I came to ISRU. But how is a personal mission statement relevant to us as Muslims? Ought we to have a mission in life? What is that mission? One of the ways my professor asked us to think about a personal mission statement was to visualize the end result of our lives. Think about the three most important people in your lives. Then imagine them at your funeral and they are giving your eulogy. What would you like them to say? Maybe right now you are not too moved by this mental exercise but if you really think about this, you will start to realize some of the things you are doing wrong in your life. The three most important people I wrote down in my life were my mother, my sister and my father. The more I thought about it, the more I realized my life was not on the right track. If I continue like I am, the people that matter most to me won’t have much good to say of me after I am gone. Then how should I change my life?
This mental exercise might seem rather futile. After all, it was written by the kuffaar. Now are you ready to really flex you brain muscles? I am going to paint a mental picture for you so visualize with me for a second.
Your death is inevitable but what about after death? After you die, the trumpet is blown and you come out of your grave completely bewildered. All of mankind, from Adam to the last human being, is marching towards their lord. There are some who are under the shade of Allah (SWT) and others who are suffering. There are the wretched whose faces are completely black and then there are those who prayed often and remembered their Lord, whose faces are bright like the sun. One by one, judgment is passed on all of them and then you are brought before your Lord. He, in all his might and majesty, is ready to judge you according to your deeds. You see the wretched falling off the Sirat and the pious crossing it safely and entering Jannah. You can see the Jannah with all of its delights across the bridge of Sirat and Jahannum is roaring under your feet. You can hear the torment that is being inflicted on the people of hellfire and you can see the people of Jannah enjoying the delights of Jannah. Now the time is for the judgment to be passed on you. Your Angels bring forth the book of your deeds. This book will be evidence for you either falling into the endless pit below, or to enjoy the infinite delights ahead. Now with this visual in mind, answer me this. What would you like that book to say? You, brothers and sisters, are writing that book in this life. If you would like for it to be filled with worship and good deeds, then you must act accordingly and if you would like for it to contain something else (astaghfirullah) then follow your whims and desires. May Allah (SWT) help us clearly understand what our mission in life is ameen.