Races, competitions, and contests are what we see all around! Just take a look. From a young child to an old man, we see people engaged in a kind of race or another. People have a common goal: we want more and more of what we have, and the more we want, the more we don’t have. Our surroundings are designed in such a way that competition is unavoidable. No doubt, competition is good, for it esteems the spirits, encourages individuals to achieve their goals, builds the habit of hard work and continuous labor, and enhances the quality of work. Competition is necessary for individuals and groups, but only up to a certain level. When competition becomes the ultimate goal of life, and when achieving the competition becomes the criterion for being the ‘fittest’, when it becomes the matter of life and death, when it distracts us from the soul purpose of our lives, then… We need to stop for a while and ponder: Is this what I was sent for in this world? Am I really ‘unfit’ to live if I don’t achieve my goal? Take, for example, being unable to achieve the expected scores, qualify for a national-level exam, get admission to any prominent institute, get a job overseas, meet the expectations of the’ successful people, or make a handsome amount of money. Am I really not worthy to live if I don’t have a four-wheeler, air-conditioned rooms, and so on?
Sorry to say, but this is what I see in my surroundings. I read in the news headlines that a person committed suicide because he or she was unable to crack the exam or couldn’t meet the expectations of his or her parents. This is the society we are living in, where the sole purpose of our lives is forgotten and building the castels in the air has become common. Our Creator calls us and says, Alhakum ut Takathur. “Competition for more gains diverts you from Allah, until you end up in your graves.” (Surah Takathur). We are engrossed in these things to such an extent that we don’t care to know the reason for our existence, we don’t care for ourselves, we break the ties of relationships, and we don’t care to help out those in pain. Alas! What a tragedy!
We need to wake up and look around; in the world of competition, there is a lot more. There are many who lack the basic necessities of life; there are many suffering from one thing or another; there are many languishing behind bars for no reason; and there are many children who want to quench their thirst for love and their thirst for gaining education. Let these competitions divert us from them. Let not these competitions make us forget our responsibilities; let not these competitions make the relatives apart from each other. There is another domain of competition to which our Creator calls us: “So compete in good deeds” (Surah Baqarah). Let us rush for what is everlasting and eternal.
Let me state it again: I don’t say we shouldn’t compete for all these things. We should try our best to achieve our goals by legitimate means, but we should also take care of where we are headed. We should not make these races our criterion for ‘ultimate success’. Winning the race by legitimate (halal) means is, no doubt, a success. However, the ultimate success is “whoever is spared the Fire and admitted to Paradise has indeed been successful. The life of this world is merely an illusory enjoyment.” (Surah Al-e-Imran)