Three faith-based misconceptions that are ruining your career (part 2)
- 14 November 2017
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Faith and spirituality form a powerful force in human nature. They offer meaning and purpose to life, give a sense of community, and instil values and ideals to live up to that help people become better versions of themselves.
However, sometimes certain concepts in faith can be misunderstood, leading to a detrimental effect on one’s outlook on their life and career. In this article series, I will explore three misconceptions that affect your career as a Muslim working professional.
MISCONCEPTION 2: WHEN THINGS GO BAD, HAVE ‘SABR’
Think about a real challenge in your career. Maybe you failed at a project, or got demoted because of poor performance, or lost your job. What advice do you usually get from family and friends in such circumstances?
For many Muslims, chances are it’s something like “It’s okay, have sabr [patience].”
When you hear advice like this, how do you interpret it? Do you think that, instead of fighting back, you should just accept what happened and sit in a corner, waiting for things to get better or for a new opportunity?
But is that really the true meaning of sabr as the Islamic faith understands it? The word has often been mistranslated as ‘patience’, but perhaps a better word is ‘perseverance.’ Sabr does not mean giving up and sitting in a corner. It means taking the conditions you’re in and reacting positively to them.
SABR AND THE CACTUS TREE
Recently, I bought a small cactus tree for my home office. The word for this plant in Arabic is ‘sabbar’, literally “the one that consistently perseveres”.
Think about the cactus tree: it typically grows in the harshest conditions of the desert, and yet it'll pursue all necessary means to survive and produce sweet water. This is the meaning of sabr. No matter the circumstances, you remain hopeful, confident and productive against all the odds.
I had a friend who lost four sisters and one brother in a single car accident. It was a tragic incident that would depress anyone. However, my friend understood the true meaning of sabr. Instead of being crushed by this tragic loss, he started a charity organization on behalf of his late siblings that now does a lot of good work around the world.
If we look at the life of the prophets of the past, we’ll see that they understood sabr. Despite the many challenges they faced in trying to deliver their message, they persevered. Prophet Yunus, the one prophet who lost patience with his people and left before he was permitted to, was swallowed by a whale; in its belly he realized that not persevering was a mistake, and he sought forgiveness from Allah.
Even in personal matters, the prophets persevered. Prophet Yusuf's father lost his son for almost 40 years and cried until he became blind. Even at his lowest point, he said to his children:
“O my sons, go and find out about Yusuf and his brother, and despair not of relief from Allah. Indeed, no one despairs of relief from Allah except the disbelieving people.” (The Quran, 12:87).
This verse highlights a key point about sabr; the reason a person perseveres against all odds is that he or she continues to have hope and does not despair. And this hope comes from having faith.
SABR IS EMPOWERING
Sabr is an empowering concept and not an argument for defeatism. So the next time you face a situation that sets you back, or challenges you, or even upends your entire life, have sabr. Rebuild your faith, don’t despair, and think about how you can turn your predicament into a beautiful example of sabr for all to see.
Mohammed Faris is an international coach, author, and speaker who helps professionals and entrepreneurs achieve peak performance through productivity training and coaching. He’s the founder of ProductiveMuslim.com and author of “The Productive Muslim: Where Faith Meets Productivity”.
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