Several weeks ago, the tech world lost a very talented leader in Steve Jobs, one of the founding fathers of computer graphics. One can argue that the invention of computer graphics is the source of all modern-day high-tech devices, and Jobs was a visionary, business leader, and technocrat who pushed the field of computer technology, smartphones, and tablets to a new level. His loss is being mourned by people of all stripes, from technology leaders, to Wall Street powerhouses, to the multitudes in the vast Apple fan base. Jobs inspired many people with his dedication to pursuing and realizing his vision of a high-tech world.
In general, the life course of any human being can take two paths, based on his or her attitude. Robert Frost aptly describes this in his poem “The Road Not Taken”:
“Two roads diverged in a wood, and
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”
Robert Frost (1920)
Frost’s “most traveled” road follows the average, mediocre lifestyle. People in this category do not have any superior vision of life for which they strive. The average man compares himself to his peers and tries to imitate them. His aspirations tend to be modest and unremarkable: living a decent life, providing for a family, enjoying some leisure, and achieving a comfortable retirement. As another individual in the crowd, he does not concern himself with a larger vision for society, the nation, or humanity. It is safe to say that the majority of the human population follows this most-traveled road.
But there is a “less traveled” road with a much more ambitious course in life. People on this path have a distinct vision which they want to bring to fruition. They possess a zeal and deep desire to make a positive contribution to their world. It is immaterial for them what their peers are doing, as they have their own crystal-clear goals in front of them. This the attitude Steve Jobs illustrated when he said, “Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else’s life. Don't be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people's thinking.” To accomplish this, one must be willing to undertake self-sacrifice. In the end, these are the people who leave their stamp on their world and make a difference. Anyone with the will and heart to do so can be change-maker, but most people do not realize how pivotal they can be in improving the condition of mankind.
In the Islamic worldview, our approach to life should be of the latter brand. Allah SWT has clearly defined the purpose of a Muslim’s life, which is to be a witness to mankind and serve humanity by promoting good and forbidding evil.
"Thus We have made you (Muslims) a just nation, that you be witnesses over mankind."(2:143)
“You are the best community ever raised up for mankind; you enjoin good things and forbid evil and believe in Allah.” (3:110)
Our Lord has laid out a clear and noble goal for us, one that is much clearer than what Steve Jobs or any other successful individual has developed for themselves.
With these goals firmly set in mind, it shouldn’t matter to Muslim what his neighbors or friends are pursuing. His or her mind should be immune to those external influences which distract from the vision which was prescribed by Allah SWT.
"Let not the one who disbelieves (in Allah and the Hereafter), and the one who follows his own lusts, divert you (from your purpose), lest you perish." (20:16)
With so much suffering and need around us, a Muslim’s approach to life should not stick to the well-traveled road, upon which wealth, enjoyment and leisure are the main attractions. It should not even be a life restricted to simply performing prayers and obeying the limits prescribed by Allah SWT. Rather, there should be an ardent passion in a true believer to work for the cause of Allah and to bring a positive change to the ummah.This zeal should translate into activism and self-sacrifice in the cause of promoting good and forbidding evil. Without such effort to bring change, our faith remains far from perfect.
"Do you think that you will enter Paradise while Allah has not yet known those who strive hard from among you, and who has been patient?" (3:142)
The reward of taking this road is beyond our imaginations. It is far more than the nine billion dollars which Steve Job was worth when he died. It is the eternal life of happiness which has been promised by Allah SWT. Jobs’ words--”Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life.”--should remind us to value our life and choose a higher path towards success as prescribed by our Creator.
"Compete with one another for forgiveness from your Lord and for gardens the extent of which is like the extensiveness of the heaven and the earth prepared for the believers."(57:21)