The Meaning of Success

 By Lina Rauf

In a world where everyone is chasing after success, what does success mean to you?

The idea of success: expectations from others  

image1Success and competition is something we are taught from a very young age. Who drew the best drawing in the class? Who has the best toy? Who is the smartest etc. As you get older the things you compete in change: when you are younger it may be toys, when you’re older its clothes, then its cars, jobs, houses, the area you live in etc. – dunya is endless competition.

But the question is, is this true success?

And compete with one another for your Lord’s forgiveness and a Paradise as vast as the heavens and earth prepared for the God-fearing, who give generously whether in times of plenty or in times of hardship, and hold in check their anger, and pardon their fellow human beings; Allah loves such doers of good. [Ali Imran 3:133-134]

It all comes down to how Allah defines success, and then whether or not our definition and ambitions match up with that. Because dunya’s general idea of success can often be clouded, and extremely materialistic.

The idea of success that society talks about comes with a price, because if we are not careful it can corrupt…. it’s not just what we get in our success, it’s who WE BECOME as people that we have to think about. Allah gives success and blessings in life as a gift in our hands and not our heart.


Sometimes in life so much is expected of you, and it can most definitely get overwhelming: Get good grades, Go to a good university, Do a good degree, Get a good job etc. Life is FULL of expectations, and all of it can get overwhelming if our INTENTIONS are impure. Because the fact of the matter is, if those expectations that come from your friends, family etc. become for the sake of Allah, then those same acts turn into acts of WORSHIP and that is when you find yourself to be truly successful.

From personal experience, I can definitely say that the only way you will find blessing in your time is by spending it for the sake of Allah – whether you’re eating, sleeping, walking, studying, doing housework etc. – if it’s all for Allah, then you will be MOTIVATED to do it. You won’t feel forced, you won’t feel like there’s no end goal, you won’t doubt yourself and most importantly – you won’t be scared about the future. Instead of letting people expect so much from us and also us expecting so much from others, we should put our hopes and expectations in Allah, not in the means. For example don’t think that only your degree will get you a job – you could study all you want but what Allah wills will happen. We have to trust Allah and his judgement and decisions. This ayah warns us not to be those who forget Allah:

“Those who rest not their hopes on their meeting with Us, but are pleased and satisfied with the life of the present, and those who heed not Our signs” (10:7)

Personality and success 

The people who often look the most successful to everyone, are actually the unhappiest.

You would think the richest, most ‘successful’ people in the world are the happiest – because they have everything everyone works for: a good, high paying job, a big house or many houses, a big car etc. but then, why aren’t they the happiest? I am not saying rich people aren’t ever happy, there are many Muslim families that Masha ‘Allah are happy and have been blessed with wealth, but it’s because they hold their wealth in their hands and not their heart. Which is also extremely difficult. It’s hard to not be arrogant

Success is seeing the world differently as you grow older: 

Mohammed Ali:

“A man who sees the world the same way he does at 50 as he did at 30, has wasted 20 years of his life”.

There are a few things to know as we get older, to make sure we don’t fall into the trap of not changing at all:

  • Set your own goals, and find what you need to succeed in.
  • You define your own success – what is success to someone else may not be success to you.
  • With wealth people can often become greedy:

“If the son of Adam had a valley full of gold, he would like to have two valleys” – Bukhari 

This hadith shows how even thousands of years ago, the mentality of people was the same: no matter how much wealth we become blessed with, we yearn for more and are not thankful for the wealth we have.

I don’t want anyone to think that having a good job or money is a bad thing, as it is not. Several sahaba and prophets e.g. Uthman ibn Affan and Abdur-Rahman ibn Awf (RA) were wealthy – but they did something which we struggle to do: they did not hold the wealth in their heart because when you do, then it gets to your head. That’s where arrogance and jealousy and competition arise from

We should believe in ourselves but never think that everything we have in our life is from us. We put in effort and time, but that ability comes from Allah. Ultimately everything belongs to Allah.

We should look up to the people that have wealth and success yet are very humble people. Success comes from being thankful for what you have, because if you are thankful for what you have then it will always seem like what you have is enough for you, and you are satisfied. Success does not equal materialism.

Bob Marley is someone who had success in this dunya with his music, but he saw through the shallowness of some people’s definition of success: “Money is numbers and numbers never end. If it takes money to be happy, your search for happiness will never end.” 

Take advantage of 5 things before 5 other things 

A very famous and beautiful hadith illustrates how we can become successful people:

The Prophet Muhammed (Peace be upon him) said:

“Take benefit of five things before  five other things:
your youth before your old age,
your health before your sickness,
your wealth before your poverty,
your free-time before you become busy,
and your life before your death.”

image2This hadith has so much depth and meaning to it. It illustrates beautifully how we often spend our lives trying to gain wealth, but what we end up losing is time and health. And then once we have that money we try desperately to get some free time and people spend that money they’ve earned to try to recover their health.

When you’re young, you have less money, a lot of time and a good health. But as you grow older, yes your money increases but you barely have any time and your health goes down too. The point is: use your time wisely, and appreciate every moment in life. At each point in our life Allah has blessed us with something different, so your good deeds can vary. When you are younger your blessing is time and youth – so you can do good deeds such as helping your neighbours, or helping out your family or with charity events. When you get older you increase in wealth, so can start to give more to charity.

 How can you be successful? 

Don’t forget the ultimate goal: Jannah 

  • Aim to be successful in life but don’t forget as to WHY and who you are doing it for
  • Whether it’s your job or education etc., you will naturally want to progress and better yourself and improve, but don’t forget why you are doing it, which is for the sake of Allah.
  • Keep Jannah in mind and Insha’Allah you’ll stay motivated
  • Our prime purpose in life is to worship Allah – so remember that everything you are studying and working for is for Allah and that way everything good you do will become a form of worship Insha’Allah.


  • Is what ultimately makes you successful
  • The Azaan clearly says  “come to success”
  • This is because not only does prayer bring success but it IS success.
  • When you delay your salah think you are delaying your success
  • Whenever you are going to pray, think of how it is your success

“Successful indeed are the believers, those who humble themselves in their prayers” (23:1-2)


  • Read the Quran and reflect
  • It is a guidance and inspiration and in there will you find your key to success
  • Worship will put blessing in your time, even if you read a few pages a day

Being a good and honest person 

  • Whether you have a business, or are a student, or any other job – be honest and never cheat people. People who cheat in their business and build a very successful company, may seem successful, but there is no blessing in their wealth.
  • Allah is with those who are honest to themselves and others.

Have hope, not expectation

  • Hope is different to expectation
  • Hope is hoping for the best of a situation whilst expectation is expecting something of a particular standard to happen
  • Rely and depend on others, have hope in them, but do not expect too much of others. After all we are just the creation, and we all have flaws.
  • People shouldn’t expect too much of us and vice versa. Have hope and expectation from Allah – He will never let you down.

Follow the Sunnah

  • The Prophet Muhammed (peace be upon him) never gave up, he always had hope in Allah even in the most difficult of times.
  • He (peace be upon him) is the most successful person who has ever lived, and should therefore be our ultimate role model for success.

Success in subjective, what it means to others may not be what it means to you. But what success means to Allah is always the same. Allah has clearly shown us through the Prophet (peace be upon him), the hadith and Quran, that ultimate success is pleasing Allah, and attaining paradise. Allah wants the best for us in this world and the next, so let’s keep our intentions pure for whatever good deed we set out to do.

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