The entertainment and sports industries bombard us with images of “successful” people and present them as idols. Assuming that everything is done in a halal manner, being wealthy, strong, intelligent, romantic, and charming – and in a general worldly sense “successful” – is highly encouraged in Islam, for the Prophet ﷺ said, “The strong [or powerful] believer is better and more beloved to Allah than the weak believer; and in both is goodness.” (Sahih Muslim) Unfortunately, these “successful” icons that we see in movies, TV shows, and games are often used as an escape mechanism from an imperfect reality we face to unwind or bond with others.
This passive mentality in healing or building our social circles is problematic: instead of changing a reality we do not like, we try to forget and ignore it; instead of unwinding from school and work by practicing refreshing activities such as creating new experiences with our families and friends and strengthening our bonds of understanding and compassion, we watch others lead a “full life” on the screen.
In Surat an-Nisaa’, Allah (subhanahu wa ta`ala – exalted is He) discourages us from becoming passive in building our communities and He (swt) clearly outlines the difference between those who do, and those who do not in the Qur’an:
“Not equal are those believers remaining [at home] – other than the disabled – and the mujahideen, [who strive and fight] in the cause of Allah with their wealth and their lives. Allah has preferred the mujahideen through their wealth and their lives over those who remain [behind], by degrees. And to both Allah has promised the best [reward]. But Allah has preferred the mujahideen over those who remain [behind] with a great reward – Degrees [of high position] from Him and forgiveness and mercy. And Allah is ever Forgiving and Merciful.” [4:95-96]
Allah (swt) promises great reward, with lots of bonuses, to the believers who are actively working to improve their situation. Allah (swt) explicitly says they are better than those who passively stand by as events unfold. In another hadith, the Prophet ﷺ said, “The Muslim, if he mixes with the people and is patient with their harm, is better than a Muslim who does not mix with the people and is not patient with their harm.” (Tirmidhi; Sahih according to Al-Albani)
We find that Islam encourages us to be proactive, and lead a “full life” that pleases Allah `azza wa jal. For example, `Umar ibn Al-Khattab (may Allah be pleased with him) encouraged us to help our children develop physically and mentally: “Teach your children swimming, archery and horseback riding.” However, with movies, TV, computer/video games, and internet access to all our favorite shows, it is no wonder that childhood obesity has become an epidemic in the US – an epidemic that the First Lady tackled earlier this year. Yet results of such a campaign will only be observed when people like you and me consciously change their mindset and habits.
Take, for instance, watching a basketball game or an adventure movie, or even reading a novel. Instead of sitting in amazement at the successful relationship or amazing skill the hero/athlete has, ask if you are successful in this aspect of life that impresses you, again all within the realms of halal.
Did the ninja in the movie amaze you with his awesome moves? Why don’t you start taking lessons in karate, kung-fu or self-defense?
Are you single? What real steps are you taking to prepare for a happy marriage?
Are you married? How are you maintaining a healthy & romantic relationship? How are you revitalizing it?
Did you love how Kobe made that nice slam dunk last night? Are you able to dunk? How can you get in shape?
This mindset is not limited to what you see on the screen or read in a book. It can apply to any characteristic you like from your circle of family and friends.
Your friend is so organized and is never late to an appointment, while you’re having a hard time with that. Ask them for advice and help.
What about that special dish your mom makes for `Eid? Why not ask her to teach you how to make it?
Your youth group leader is an amazing person who is successful in deen and dunya (and our opinion about anyone’s righteousness never precedes Allah’s judgment). Ask them how they got to that stage. Set a plan with similar steps.
And the list goes on.
It is a blessing that in Islam, we are prohibited from drinking or getting high. In addition to the many health and socio-economic benefits, it pushes us to be proactive problem-solvers and achievers. It makes us lead a happier life that we live through us, not through movie stars, athletes, heroes or acquaintances. It makes us live our life, versus sitting through it.
“Whoever does righteousness, whether male or female, while he is a believer – We will surely cause him to live a good life, and We will surely give them their reward [in the Hereafter] according to the best of what they used to do.” [16:97]
Islam not only gives life to dead minds, hearts and souls, it literally gives us “the life,” in dunya and aakhira.