It was a breathtaking view from my window. Thousands of feet up in the air, I was passing through heaps of white cotton candy spread across the sky. The clouds swished by and a chain of giant mountains pierced boldly through the atmosphere. Glistening in the sunlight was a vast ocean, with its little white waves hugging the sandy shores that meandered around the land.
“Surely, in the creation of the heavens and the earth, and in the alternation of night and day, are signs for those of understanding,” (Qur’an, 3:190). All this pristine beauty got me thinking about the sunnah (way) of Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala (exalted is He) in His creation—that He created the greatest of things out of smaller components; the clouds and oceans from tiny water molecules, the mountains from grains of sand, rocks and pebbles, giant forests and gardens from individual plants and trees. In living organisms too, entire systems are composed of smaller organs, layered with tissues composed of miniscule cells that house tiny organelles!
Doesn’t that sunnah apply to our lives too? When we nurture the tiniest elements, we create greatness in every aspect of our lives, from our relationships, to our health, to our connection with Allah (swt). Prophet Muhammad ﷺ (peace be upon him) reminds us, “Do not belittle any good action, even if it be greeting your brother with a pleasant face,” (Muslim). Every action, down to the invisibly tiny atom, is significant with Allah (swt). It could be stroking the head of a sad child, or visiting someone who is sick, or giving $5 or $10 to the poor and needy, or lending a helping hand when someone needs you. And when you assist others in any way, know that Allah (swt) is helping you! Prophet Muhammad ﷺ says, “Whoever relieves a believer of distress in this world, Allah will relieve him of some of the distress of the Day of Resurrection. Whoever makes things easy for those who are in difficulty, Allah will make things easy for him in this world and in the next. Whoever conceals (the faults of) a Muslim in this world, Allah will conceal him (his faults) in this world and in the Hereafter. Allah will help the servant so long as the servant helps his brother,” (Tirmidhi).
With your friends or loved ones, it could be the smallest acts of kindness that make the biggest difference: a comforting phone call during the day, a warm hug, a genuine smile that brightens their mood, or even doing the grocery shopping or washing the dishes after they’ve had a long day. Doing these loving, generous acts—and doing them often—is what fuels loving, intimate relationships. These are the seemingly insignificant day-to-day gestures that build solid, beautiful bonds.
Great health also comes with adopting small healthy habits. Allah (swt) created our bodies in the best form, so it behooves us to invest in honoring and taking care of that trust. And strong, healthy individuals, like you, are what make a collectively strong Muslim Ummah! It’s the minor things like cutting down on the heavy carbohydrates, fats and sugars that could relieve you of a few unwanted inches and decrease the risk of cardiovascular diseases. Other small changes include exercising portion control and eating a variety of colorful fruits, vegetables and lean proteins. Allah (swt) says, “And whatever He multiplied for you on the earth of varying colors. Indeed in that is a sign for a people who remember. And it is He who subjected the sea for you to eat from it tender meat [...] that you might seek of His bounty; and perhaps you will be grateful,” (Qur’an, 16:13-14).
Another good practice to have is to plan your meals and workouts ahead of time. When you know what you will eat during the day, you’re less likely to eat whatever is around when you feel hungry. Also, scheduling your workouts throughout the week ensures that you get enough exercise. Walk as much and as often as you can. Walk around the neighborhood, or in a park, or at your workplace. Make time during your lunch break, or take a 10 minute break from work to walk. Get some fresh air, clear your mind and smell the roses while you’re out! Hit the gym if possible and incorporate strength training to burn fat and tone your muscles. Prophet Muhammad ﷺ encourages us to increase our physical strength when he says, “The strong believer is better and more beloved to Allah than the weak believer,” (Muslim). If you can’t make it to the gym, exercise at home or outdoors. Do more push-ups, sit-ups, squats and lunges, and exercise with a partner for motivation. Aim for at least 20-30 minutes a day of continuous exercise. When you start developing all these minor eating and exercise habits, you embark on a path of greater health and fitness, which of course makes you more energized to worship Allah (swt).
Remember what actions are most beloved to Allah?—the ones done consistently, even if they are small. In your relationship with Allah (swt), that means small doses of Qur’anic recitation, prayers and du`a’ (supplication) are better than large doses every once in a blue moon. A short du`a’ after every prayer is preferred over supplicating for a long time only when you’re having trouble and need Allah’s help. Reading five minutes of Qur’an daily and praying a few rak`as (units) of qiyam (night prayer) before sleeping or before Fajr is better than doing these only when Ramadan rolls around.
If Fajr is not part of your morning practice, that would be a prime place to start. If you’re determined to wake up for Fajr prayer, force yourself to sleep early and go to bed in a state of wudu’ while doing dhikr. Of course, drop the caffeine in the afternoons, set your alarms, and get a family member or buddy to make sure you wake up. If you’re with family, praying together is the best motivator! On the Day of Judgment, people will be wishing they had read just one more ayah (verse) of Qur’an, and prostrated just one more time—because the benefits are enormous. Prophet Muhammad ﷺ says, “Recite the Qur’an, for it will come on the Day of Judgment as in intercessor for its companions,” (Muslim). He also says, “Prostrate a lot because there is not one prostration that you do for Allah except that Allah raises your rank (in Paradise) by it, and removes a sin by it for you,” (Muslim).
What area in your life can you create more beauty, more greatness, and more success in? Pick one area and just start! Start with tiny changes and little adjustments that push you in the right direction. When you do the minor acts repeatedly and consistently, you create a series of successes for yourself. These small feats add up, and motivate you to challenge yourself—to give more, exercise more often, read Qur’an and pray more regularly, and do even more thoughtful acts for others. Before you know it, by Allah’s will, your life will be a big success made up of many smaller ones.
Just like our bodies are made up of millions of magnificent smaller entities, loving relationships are made up of numerous, loving acts of kindness, a healthy person practices a variety of healthy eating and exercise habits, and a righteous person is one who does many righteous acts. And don’t forget that every little bit counts. As Allah (swt) reminds us, “Whoever does an atom’s weight of good will see it,” (Qur’an, 99:7) and “Whatever good you do, Allah knows it,” (Qur’an, 2:197).