Community Islamic Character Seeking Knowledge

A Measure of Your Success is What You Leave Behind

Lessons in Islamic Work: Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV | Part V | Part VI | Part VII | Part VIII |Part IX | Part X | Part XI | Part XII

We have discussed previously the importance of quality over quantity and how we should focus on the development of people. This lesson is related to that one in that it gives us something to measure our success or lack thereof by. 

It is true that we should be concerned about our efforts more than the results and that sometimes a person or group will do all that they can and still not see the fruits of their efforts. This was clearly shown through the story of Noah, `alayhi as-salaam (peace and blessings upon him), in the Qur’an where he called to Islam for centuries and still only ended up with a handful of followers. However, at the same time, it is important to look to certain things to figure out if we are having real success with our people or not.

Some of the practical day-to-day indicators for this are the prayers and classes. Efforts like the youth group and other mostly social-based activities are means by which to draw people closer to the community and masjid (mosque) so that they can come closer to God, subhanahu wa ta`ala (exalted is He). One of the main indicators of this is whether or not they attend the prayers. This is also an indicator for ourselves. If we do not find that we are more encouraged to attend prayers in the masjid then there is a problem in how things are coming together for us. We can also tell this through attendance at classes. Classes take more effort than social activities but they also indicate that people are taking serious steps towards making themselves more grounded in their faith.

These are both things that lead to people who are firmly founded in knowledge and worship and therefore are qualified for leadership. The real question of success is whether or not you leave leaders behind. Charismatic leaders are a fact of life and have their place but the work should never be dependent upon one individual. If things are structured well and efforts are put into developing people then when one leaves, one’s place will be taken by another. The work will not stop. If work is done for years, but there are no people to show for it, then the efforts may have been put in the wrong place. 

Ibrahim (as) understood this and that is why when God (swt) tells him that he will make him a leader in the earth he asks,

“And as for my descendants?” God replies by saying, “My covenant does not apply to the wrongdoers,” (Qur’an 2:124).

Ibrahim (as) understood that the message of Islam is about more than one person, and that if righteousness is to continue in the earth, then it must have bearers who can carry the message of truth. God (swt) gives him an indirect answer which basically implies that if they are righteous then His promise will apply to them too but if not, then no. As we work and organize, we should always be planning for the future and trying to plant the seeds of goodness and righteousness in the potential leaders of the coming years.

About the author

Jamaal Diwan

Jamaal Diwan

Jamaal Diwan was born and raised in Southern California and received a Bachelor’s Degree in Third World Studies and a minor in Psychology from the University of California, San Diego . He accepted Islam in 2003 and has been married to his wife, Muslema Purmul, since 2004. He has served with the Muslim Student Association (MSA), MSA West, and Muslim American Society (MAS) at varying capacities. He remains an active MAS member and is a scholarship student with the Islamic American University. Jamaal is a graduate of the Faculty of Shariah at al-Azhar University in Cairo and has done some graduate work in Islamic Studies from the Western academic perspective. He recently finished serving as the Resident Scholar at the Islamic Center of Irvine (ICOI).


  • All what we will take with us from this life r ur deeds. We will success only with Allah stw Rahma and not because of our effort or achivements in this dunia (and nothing what we do is good enough for perfection of Allah stw).
    Leaders r as we deserve, Allah is just with us and better to not complain because in this case they will be changed to werse.

  • Time holds the branches,
    Abrahamic branches that yield.
    Islam is the pruning for all faiths.
    A simple basket weaves a common thread.
    Who then objects to the fruit?

  • Dear Jamaal Diwan,

    I enjoyed reading some of your articles both on this site and Thank you for sharing your insights.
    I havea vision of becoming a leader of a state in the future.
    I heard that wishing or assuming leadership is not welcomed in our deen for it begets love of this world and the huge responsibility linked to it only a pious person appointed by the public without his wish can manage the affairs of the state.
    To be honest I am not pious but I love the Deen and struggling to be better muslim.
    To make my dream come true,
    I want to set this taeget:
    1. Learn
    2. Become an entrepreneur to learn how to manage organization and gain experience.
    3. Then run for presidency or start running for an MP then run for presidency.
    My question is wishing and assuming for leadership bad. Is there something lacking in steps I want to realize my dream.
    What advise will you give me to achieve my dream.

    • Assalam Alaykum brother,

      Firstly, having high ambitions is part of faith- its great to aim big and have big hopes from Allah. Its important not to tout this before people, but keep your ambitions between you and Allah to maintain sincerity.

      Here’s a quote from Umar Ibn Abdul-Azeez one of Islam’s luminaries and past Khaliphs: (I think it answers your question)

      Umar ibn Abdul-Azeez was one day with his servant, and he said “inna li nafsii tawwaqaa”- I have a very ambitious soul, I can’t settle with the daily wishes of average people. I craved for knowledge- and I got that. I wanted to marry the daughter of the khalifah- and i did. I wanted to become the leader of one of the provinces of our empire- and I became the princelly leader of a province. Then I wanted to become the Khalifah- and I became the khalifah. —As we can see, he’s very ambitoius, he doesn’t rest, these were the personalities that created Islam—- and then he said, “Now I have the ambition of making it to paradise- and I won’t settle till I get there.”

      So dream big, make big duas and have big trust in Allah. And make dua for me too 🙂 I am entrepreneurially driven as well, and I think the private-sector represents the greatest opportunity of contributing positively to the world.

  • Jazak Allaahu Khair for the naseeha. The position of being a leader is a great trial for the one who is at the top and the others who are next in line. It is very difficult to avoid listening to the whispers of the shaytan and the nafs calling for personal glory in expense of the other people involved or linked to the organisation. It is not easy to find the likes of Yusuf ‘Alaihisalam and his great and sincere leadership in Egypt being in charge of the crops and food supply.

  • Assalam-oAlaikum
    Jazak-Allah K hair.
    In this world the word “success” means what you can do for the betterment of other people. In Islam this way is right. The china is progressing due to this point. Your life is meaningful when you live for others. In the opposite way your life is meaning less when you are living for your own betterment wondered to read this article. Very good article is written by the author. This article has got a place in my mind and heart.

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