Aqeedah (Belief) Overcoming Hardships

The Amazing Race

The Amazing Race Series: Part I | Part II | Part III

Note: The lessons in this 4-Part Series were inspired by the free 7-Day Trial of the program. While this series focuses mostly on concepts, the program works to internalize them.

The Amazing Race, Earthview Inc.

Part 1: The Amazing Race, The Different Races, The Race to Allah

Imagine three people running a race of equal athletic ability. The first person has weights strapped on to every inch of their body, so they don’t see the load they carry but they just feel heavy and exhausted, and in a short amount of time, they burn out. They keep trying but keep burning out quickly every time. The second person is trying to run while carrying a heavy load they recognize and see is on their backs, but they are still determined to run. Unfortunately, the load they carry slips around and even distracts their vision from the racecourse so they veer off in the wrong direction often. Because they won’t simply let go of the load, even coming back to the racecourse itself becomes its own challenge. The third person has no weights or loads. They are free to run without anything holding them down. They feel light as the wind, and they actually enjoy the run.

Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala (exalted is He) mentions twice in the Qur’an:

“[…] So race to all that is good. […]” (Qur’an 2:148 and 5:48)

We see the image of the race, of rushing to Allah (swt) with speed, in the following verses:

“Race toward forgiveness from your Lord and a Garden whose width is like the width of the heavens and earth, prepared for those who believed in Allah and His messengers. That is the bounty of Allah which He gives to whom He wills, and Allah is the possessor of great bounty.” (Qur’an 57:21)

“And hasten to forgiveness from your Lord and a garden as wide as the heavens and earth, prepared for the righteous.” (Qur’an 3:133)

“It is these who race for the good deeds, and they are foremost in them.” (Qur’an 23:61)

“And the foremost in the race, the foremost in the race. Those are the ones brought near to Allah.” (Qur’an 56:10-11)

“And those who race each other in a race.” (Qur’an 79:4)

In these verses, two different roots  are used to describe this act of racing. The first – ‘s-b-q’ – has the meaning of competition. The second – ‘s-r-‘’ – has the meaning of speed and haste. Both roots have also been used with an alif—implying it is done with others.

Sheikh al-Tantawi mentioned in his tafsir (exegesis):

إذ السبق معناه : أن يتجاوز السائر من يسير معه ، ويسبقه إلى المكان المقصود الوصول إليه

“The meaning of al-Sabq is that the one who walks surpasses the one walking with them, and reaches the destination before them.”

The Different Races

There are some important reflections to take from these verses. First, the truth is, we are all headed somewhere in a race whether we consciously know it or not. Allah (swt) asks all of humanity, “Where are you going?” (Qur’an 81:26). And just as Allah (swt) mentions those who race for good he also mentions those who actually race for disbelief.

“O Messenger! Let them not grieve you (those) who vie with another in the race to disbelief…” (Qur’an 5:41)

Secondly, many times the concept of competition ‘being healthy’ is actually practiced in a very worldly sense where greed, jealousy, and enmity towards the competitors would be felt. Subhan Allah (glory be to God), this is the way of those in the “Rat Race” which is also described by Allah (swt) in the Qur’an:

“Many of them you see, racing each other in sin and enmity, and their eating of things forbidden. Evil indeed are the things that they do.” (5:62)
When it comes to racing for other than Allah, enmity comes with the race. If the ilah or actual goal in the race becomes material, then the heart becomes jealous and desires enmity. So if two sisters are memorizing Qur’an and one gets ahead of the other, and the second sister actually wishes bad upon the first for getting ahead, the jealous sister should realize she was racing for dunya—material worldly gain—and not Allah (swt). Deep down, she questions Allah’s qadar (recorded plan) in allowing her sister to excel in Qur’an. Maybe she wanted worldly fame for being a hafitha (one who has memorized the Qur’an), or was memorizing for no other goal than being better than others. She should also realize that not only is she headed in the wrong direction, but she is also carrying weights strapped onto her—the enmity and lack of self-approval—that is weighing her down. If she was happy for her sister, while also wishing good for herself, this is as it should be. However, even if religious and community leaders feel enmity towards one another for some good that the other has achieved, this is a sign that they have veered off course, and are heavy with the burden they have chosen to carry until they let it go.

I use the term ‘chosen’ because holding onto jealousy is something we have been asked to avoid, so it falls within the realm of our own abilities and choices. The Prophet ﷺ (peace be upon him) mentioned, “Avoid jealousy, for it destroys good deeds as fire destroys wood.”

There are also those who always assume others are jealous of them, that they are the destination of other people’s races. This usually means that instead of looking ahead of themselves, they’re busy looking back and wishing for others not to catch up. Rather than fixing their sight on the pleasure of Allah (swt), they too get caught in the “Rat Race” of enmity, and veer off course.

The Race to Allah (swt)

Yet subhan Allah, the opposite spirit is the case for those truly racing towards Allah (swt). Surrounding yourself with excellent company means you will be competing with the best. This means you will actually achieve much more than you would on your own. Their company is a blessing that helps you push yourself harder. The race is not about beating others as much as it’s about achieving your own best efforts for Allah (swt), because al-Kareem (the Generous) rewards without measure from his infinite Mercy to each and every one of us.

In this race, the competitors are inspired by one another and want each person to do as well as possible. They are happy to see them advance and help them. If they see someone headed in the wrong direction, they try to correct them and bring them back. Each time they help their competitors advance, they are also advanced. They help their competitors through obstacles, and obstacles are magically removed from their own path. The race track is much more of an obstacle course anyway with each person racing through their own set of unique life challenges and opportunities designed according to the perfection of Allah’s plan. This is exemplified when Zakariyah ‘alayhi sallatu wa sallam (may Allah send His peace and blessings on him) was inspired to make du`a’ to Allah (swt) for a son right after Maryam `alayha as-salaam (peace be upon her) explains to Him that Allah (swt) is the source of her rizq (wealth or provision).

Now imagine that as we race to Allah (swt), He also rushes towards us as is mentioned in the Hadith Qudsi (record of the words of the Prophet ﷺ, relating words of God that were not revealed as part of the Qur’an):

“He who draws close to Me a hand’s span, I will draw close to him an arm’s length. And whoever draws near Me an arm’s length, I will draw near him a fathom’s length. And whoever comes to Me walking, I will go to him running.”

Finally, the sirat (bridge) over Hell-Fire which we all have to cross in order to enter Jannah (paradise), provides important imagery. Some will crawl, others will walk, and the very fortunate will run across. It is those who ran to Allah (swt) in this life, who will get to run to Him in the next. May we be of them insha Allah (God willing). Ameen.

Stay tuned for Part 2 which includes: Understanding the Racers’ Weights and Loads, What Does Allah Wants for Us? and Tricks of the Mind and Nafs.

About the author

Muslema Purmul

Shaykha Muslema Purmul was born in Raleigh, North Carolina and raised in San Diego, California. She received a Bachelor’s Degree in the Study of Religion and a Bachelor’s in Middle Eastern Studies from the University of California at San Diego. She was a scholarship student with the Islamic American University and participated in the International Union of Muslim Scholars “Future Scholars Program” in 2008/2009. She has completed the Bachelor’s degree program in the College of Shari`ah at al-Azhar University in Cairo. Currently, she is a busy new mom and gives weekly classes at the Islamic Center of Irvine.


  • Jazakallah khair for starting this interesting and informativ series of posts! Inshallah,I’m looking forward to reading the upcoming posts as well!

  • Salaams

    There is something about feeling the Truth that touches the very essence of the soul-inspirational words sister.

    I am into month 4 of the ipersonalenrichment programme. It is something incredibly special MashAllah!

    Peace, Aseea

  • Ma’sha’allah, Sr. Muslema, this sounds like a wonderful series indeed and I can see why the program must have been of so much benefit! Jazak’Allahu Khairan for this first part – will catch up to Part II soon iA!

  • MashaALLAH, a very very very nice article…. SubhanALLAH, they way you have put these everyday emotions into a beautiful example… is GREAT ! Alhamdulilah, once can realte to it… Also i think LOVE is one of the emotions that acts as a load… I mean the wrong kind of love.. for example.. being addicted to a drama serial… or a soap… And then feeling love and compassion for the charaters in it… its is SO WRONG… but thats what happening now… every body has these emotions attached to actors and actresses… and on the other hand… xcessive love for a worldy person is also not correct.. for example.. a newly wed couple… doesnt mean that they fall in love sooo much.. that they go out for Europe tour for their honey money… go to cinemas together.. miss their prayers… etc etc… all emotions have to be in balance… My friend who is going to get married in two months time now.. has gone totally insane… she listen to love songs… talks about love all the time… keeps on watching othr ppl wedding vids on youtube… talk abt the wedding arrangements.. her dress… talks about her tobe husband…. and is in her own world of Love and Fantasy… is this all correct ? Please address such issues… Now a days you also see… every other teenager going through two haraam phases… first is that fall in love phase… and everything becomes so lovely around them… and the second phase is of break up… when everything around them shatters… they cry.. listen to sad songs.. watch sad movies.. talk in a pesimistic way… etc etc… Sister, you are addressing a very important topic… If emotions can be mastered, which can only be done, with teh help of ALLAH and Islamic knowledge…. then inshaALLAH, all our lives wud become soo much better… May ALLAH bless you for your hard work… Ameen…

    • Salamu Alaykom wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuh,

      As one releases that lack of approval, they no longer chase love. What you describe above is people desperately chasing something that they don’t have. The ‘over acting’ of love, the obsession about the special day (a bit of a con to have one amazing day in your entire life! But a conversation for another time), listening to love songs etc…

      Why ?

      If you felt true love you wouldn’t need to listen to anything to make it stronger or feel better… Those people who crash after a broken heart are doing exactly the same thing that they were doing when they were desperately trying to find love – they are lacking love/approval… But it’s the other side of the coin.

      It’s the same disease of the heart, just manifested differently.

      Those that seek love through a tv series… There is no love more flawed and shallow than that ! If they knew true love, they wouldn’t need this false replacement.

      I request that you differentiate between this real love and lack of it. So no matter how much true love you have for someone… It will not lead you astray. As it stems from mercy and generosity. It isn’t emotional blackmail (“say you love me, or else!) and it isn’t something that you will sacrifice your relationship with Allah for.

      What’s the difference ? How do you know if it’s true love or not ?
      True love stems from inside and radiates out.
      False love is dependant on an external factor – person, action, words etc.

      You see the Prophet (pbuh) loving his worst enemies – else how would he give them Dawah, how would he want salvation for those that have hurt him so much ?!

      My two pennies ! (as we say in the UK)

      AbdelRahman Mussa

      Founder of iPersonalEnrichment

    • Assalamu Alaikum Sis. Anon,

      There is a beautiful statement of Ibn al-Qayyim that I love:

      “Truly in the heart there is a void that can not be removed except with the company of Allah. And in it there is a sadness that can not be removed except with the happiness of knowing Allah and being true to Him. And in it there is an emptiness that can not be filled except with love for Him and by turning to Him and always remembering Him. And if a person were given all of the world and what is in it, it would not fill this emptiness.”

      What you mentioned about young people obsessing over marriage and then becoming depressed over a broken engagement shows something interesting: People sometimes use emotions to fill an emptiness– ‘good’ or ‘bad’ emotions. They try to feel ‘in love’ or ‘sad’ over some relationship– they don’t realize that happiness and fulfillment comes from within, and from their relationship with Allah (swt), and they can love even themselves for His sake, and out of their love for Allah (swt). Once they realize that, and also allow themselves to feel *His* love for them– they wouldn’t have a need to listen to sad/romantic music in order to perpetuate a desperate feeling they want. They just wouldn’t have the want in the first place– this puts the soul and heart at peace– and is the life-source of tawakkul.

      If emotions control us, and we don’t control them– it is a good sign that we are in need of strengthening our tazkiyah.

      Jzk for engaging the topic!


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