I recently had the opportunity to learn 5 vital life lessons while participating in a camping and whitewater river rafting excursion with my two younger sons and a group of friends organized by a dear friend, Ahmed Pierstorff of Dust & Tribe.
There are many life lessons to be learned from the natural world, which our Lord and Sustainer has created as a reflection of His divine will, and that ultimately points to and leads to His Divine Presence.
In this brief article, I would like to share 5 key life lessons learned from the river that I will be significantly helpful towards the attainment and experience of happiness and success when learned and applied.
Life Lessons, #1: Go With the Flow
Life, like the river, is continually moving forward and seeks to ultimately return to the sea. It has its will and flow as established by Allah Almighty, the Creator, towards the purpose of progressively carrying us to greater levels of consciousness and ultimately to awakening to and in the Divine Presence of God. This is the precise meaning of the statement, “Verily, to God do we belong, and verily, to God is our return,” [Holy Qur’an, 2:156]
The greatest impediment to our progress is resistance, and hence, the religion before God is surrender, or al-Islam, [Holy Qur’an, 3:19]. Through internal emotional and spiritual surrender, we learn to flow with the current rather than perpetually struggling against it in an attempt to assert control over creation, a hopelessly futile endeavor that is in reality a form of shirk, or idolatry, in which we are in reality unconsciously seeking to assert our selves as gods besides God.
Life is such that we will continually be faced with hardships, challenges and difficulties, and these serve a divine purpose, [Holy Qur’an, 2:214, 67:2]. In each situation, we have the choice to either surrender to the will of God as it is manifesting in the present moment, or to resist what is, the present moment and the manifestation of divine will in the here and now.
In surrendering with patience, we will be led to wisdom and to greater levels of faith, growth, development and awakening. Yet in resisting what is in the present moment with anger and with arrogance, we perpetuate our own suffering through unconsciousness.
The prerequisite to change is first acceptance. Surrender and acceptance to the will of God as it manifests in the present moment leads us to the state of al-islam, which is the means to awakening and ascension.
In maintaining a state of islam, which is an internal state of emotional and spiritual surrender, we diminish the self and ego-consciousness, thereby increasing our soul’s connection with the Divine Presence of God, which is the source of peace, prosperity and success.
Life Lessons Learned from the River, #1: Surrender. Succeed.
Life Lessons, #2: Work Together in Unison
Al-Islam, the way of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ and the way of all prophets and messengers of God is to seek harmony and unity, and to work together towards goodness.
Life and the world pose to us great challenges, trials, obstacles and perils both physically and spiritually, and it is only through unity that we both succeed and ascend.
While Allah Almighty, our Lord and Creator, continually calls us towards unity, harmony and oneness, [Holy Qur’an, 49:13], Satan continually incites towards separation, fragmentation, dispersion and disunity.
Sadly, nearly the entirety of modern and contemporary culture serves to separate and isolate human beings, most tragically within the household and family.
As believers, we must learn to humble ourselves, cultivate patience, seek the pleasure and presence of our Lord and Creator, and strive in surrender towards unity, love and harmony, most especially within our households and amongst our close kin.
In failing to maintain an environment of peace, calm and spiritual light within our homes and amongst our closest of relationships, most notably in the relationship between husband and wife, we fail in our religion, for the Messenger of God ﷺ is recorded as having said, “Marriage is half the religion,” and, “The best amongst you are they who are best to their families.“
Life Lessons Learned from the River, #2: Come Together. Stay Together.
Life Lessons, #3: Learn and Live with Divine Guidance
We live in an age and culture of ego and of arrogance, and so, sadly most do not seek divine knowledge, wisdom and guidance in living their lives. Rather, the norm is to seek to navigate through the myriad of challenges that life presents through our own will and the limitations of our intellect.
Yet Allah Almighty out of love and compassion for His creation has eternally sent and provided guidance, knowledge and wisdom to His creatures, and for but one reason, that being to lead us to happiness, prosperity and success.
We must remember that our Lord and Creator needs absolutely nothing from us, and that the guidance of faith and religion has been provided to humanity purely for our benefit.
If we seek to properly understand and follow such divinely revealed guidance, manifest in this age and until the end of this world in the Holy Qur’an and in the noble and blessed path of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, we do so to our benefit and success. Yet if we resist and remain ignorant, it is only we who suffer and ultimately fail.
There is incomprehensible benefit and blessings in the simple and pure path of the Prophet ﷺ. In humbling ourselves, connecting with his light and way, and structuring our lives and our households upon the firm foundation of faith, it is we who will attain to both success and the divine pleasure of God.
Through truly and sincerely following and living according to the way, path and light of the Prophet ﷺ, we succeed both in this life and the next. With lives structured and built upon his love and his way, we attract the divine protection and guidance of God upon ourselves and our loved ones, for it is through the path of the Prophet ﷺ that true love, harmony, oneness and unity can be achieved.
Life Lessons Learned from the River, #3: Embrace Divine Guidance.
Life Lessons, #4: Seek and Support Your Leader
In spite of the current cultural norm to continually assert one’s self and to vie for dominance, control and power, the spiritual path is built upon humility, and this necessitates embracing, loving and supporting the leaders that have been established in our lives.
We must remember that the great sin of Iblees, later named Shaytan, or Satan, was precisely in refusing to humble himself before the leader Allah Almighty chose and established.
The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ taught that in any gathering or group, there must be a leader who takes on the responsibility of leadership for the group. He is advised to consult his companions who have experience and input in any given matter, yet the responsibility of making a decision rests with he. Once a decision is made by the leader, all who are concerned must support it and their leader without contention as if the decision was theirs.
This divine and heavenly system of hierarchy ensures blessings, success, harmony and unity amongst human beings in every area of life, be it government, business, military or family.
Note that in Islam, leadership is not sought, for it is but a responsibility and a burden. A leader is one whose primary goal is to serve, and this means to ensure the success and welfare of his dependents, they who are entrusted unto him. Yet in order to do so, his people must also support and stand by him. Failing to do so results in pointless competition and conflict, and ultimately in fracture and failure.
We must also remember that we tend to get the leaders that we deserve, that everything serves the divine purpose of our growth and expansion, and that only be first changing and correcting ourselves and our flaws do we attract the divine support and will of God in the transformation of our circumstances, [Holy Qur’an, 13:11].
In addition to leadership in the practical areas of our lives, it is also important to seek out leadership in the spiritual dimension of our lives, and that the greatest growth and development is possible in the company of they who have been endowed with divine authority and who are the living inheritors of the prophetic path and light, [Holy Qur’an, 4:59, 9:119].
Life Lessons Learned from the River, #4: Follow and Support Your Leader.
Life Lessons, #5: Enjoy the Journey
Fundamental to the character and state of he or she who believes is a state of surrender that results in peace, calm, gratitude, joy and happiness.
Allah Almighty clearly states in the Holy Qur’an that when we are happy and grateful, He will increase us in blessings and in grace, [Holy Qur’an, 14:7].
Yet we must remember that the inverse of this statement is also true, and that when we complain, we will only increasingly lose blessings and divine support.
Gratitude and happiness are so important in al-Islam that kufr, or unbelief, is actually equated with ingratitude.
Truly, the the true believer is one who has surrendered so completely and absolutely to the will of the Divine that he or she accepts in love and humility both the blessings and the hardships He Almighty has willed in any given moment.
Note that this does not mean we do not seek to improve our circumstances, but that we surrender to and accept in the present moment whatever condition we find ourselves in, for it can only be by the will of God.
Only from surrender can we hope to create change, for what we resist will persist.
Furthermore, we are continually provided so many blessings that we become veiled to if we do not actively, consciously and intentionally exercise gratitude.
It is important to remember that the state of the believer is by default happiness, joy and contentment, positive emotions that are the result of surrender, whereas frustration, complaint and unhappiness are the result of resistance.
Life Lessons Learned from the River, #5: Be Present. Be Grateful.
To your divine, eternal and absolute success.