Everyone cherishes success. Whether it is in school, work, athletics, or something else, people do things with the intention to succeed. One does not enter school with the intention of failing, nor go to work and not expect to get paid, nor fight to lose.
The bright side of this as Muslims is that Allah judges us by our intentions. As the Prophet (sal Allahu `alayhi wa sallam – peace be upon him) eloquently said: “Actions are by their intentions. Everyone will be compensated according to what they intended.”1
As Muslims, we realize that life is a test. Success lies in adjusting our deeds to be in accordance with what pleases Allah. That may mean that things don’t always go our way. It may sometimes, in our limited view of reality, seem that we have failed. Yet, as this hadith indicates, the Prophet (s) once again revolutionizes our view of reality: “The life of a believer is truly amazing. Everything that happens to him is good. This is only true for a believer and none else. If something pleasant happens to him, he is thankful and that is good for him. But if something bad afflicts him, he is patient and that is also good for him.”2
This is a huge comfort to us Muslims. We understand that behind all difficulties is a master plan being executed by the Lord of all worlds. But what about being successful in the tasks that we attempt to undertake? Is failure itself always a test for which we should resort to patience? Or is it that we are doing something wrong that needs to be corrected?
There are thousands of tips and tricks in how to be successful; many lines have been written on the subject. The Messenger of Allah (s), however, was blessed with the ability to impact people with a few words. One of his concise sayings about success should echo in the thoughts of every Muslim: “The most beloved actions to Allah are those performed consistently, even if they are few.”3
Many times we get into action mode and begin to do something, whether it’s exercise, extra fasting, or increasing in knowledge. But one of the common complaints is that this “rush” doesn’t last long. The solution, however, is so blatantly simple that the Prophet (s) had summarized it the one sentence above. Furthermore, we should know that one of the reasons why it is better to perform one’s actions consistently is because it is tougher. We can pray all night once or twice a year, fast an extra week, or browse through a few books, but real success lies in consistency. It lies in building good habits, not merely in compulsive deeds, and requires a commitment.
Pay close attention to the above statement of the Prophet (s). It is not only consistency that leads to success; experts in the motivational field would agree upon that. The essential ingredient which leads to success is that the action is something that is loved by Allah. Once that is established, then Allah loves our consistent actions more than our compulsive ones. There are two reasons for this; first, because it is more difficult to be consistent, and requires more effort; and second, because consistency helps lead to success. May Allah reward us with success in this life and the next.