“Abba, I wish to become a great man,” Aslam told his unlettered father. “A very great man. I want to earn a lot of money, fame, and name. I want to be really successful.” Aslam was in his final year of M.B.B.S.
“No son,” his aging father gently rebuked him, “you mustn’t talk like that. What does being a great man have to do with money, fame, or name?”
Seeing the confused look on his son’s face, in response his father continued.
“Look son, Aslam, the journey of life starts from being human to becoming a man. Then from a man one becomes a person that worships. Then from here he becomes a person that gradually becomes successful and eventually a great man.”
“I really don’t understand what you mean Abba,” there was bewilderment in Aslam’s eyes.
“Son, a human is a creature that has an inherent thirst of knowledge within it. This is unlike animals. The one who gains this knowledge, becomes a man. This is not just random knowledge but a knowledge which is also aligned with moral principles. The man who follows this knowledge becomes the person who recognizes his Creator and becomes a worshipper. There is no greater honor in life than to worship the Creator. The one whose worship is accepted is the one who can rightfully be deemed a great or successful man. This means that on the Day of Judgment when Allah (swt) meets your eye, He should smile. This is the real success for which you should strive and of which you can be proud of. When man becomes great as I told you how, then the world shrinks in comparison.”
Aslam interrupted his father right then. He was getting bored by his father’s unintelligible philosophizing.
“Oh forget it Abba,” he scorned lightly. “Your talk makes no sense to me. I’m going to become a doctor and make lots of money. There is a tremendous amount of income in this profession. You will no longer have to work as a clothes dyer.”
“No, no son,” Abdul was alarmed by his son’s ‘noble’ plans. “Being a doctor is not a profession, it is a service. And when you are performing a service, your eye mustn’t be on the income. A humble person can only try the best he can to present himself before the Lord but it is upon His discretion to choose. Allah (swt) always gives appreciation where it is due. If you use with wisdom the faculties He has provided you, He will most certainly reward you amply. My dear son, just learn the proper way to make supplication. To supplicate is to ask humbly, to call, to cry out, and to repeat the name of the provider over and over again. Add thankfulness at the start and end of each supplication. Allah (swt) never punishes the one who thanks Him. He only awards him more.”
“Abba, just watch,” Aslam impatiently interrupted his father yet again, “I’m going to trample this world under the soles of my feet. I have the talent, intelligence, perseverance, enthusiasm, and the drive to get ahead of everyone else. I have the vision, the discipline, and the wit to do all this and more.”
Abdul was alarmed by the lack of humility in his son’s tone.
“No son, no,” he admonished again. “It is the foolish who are quick tongued because those who have the fear of Allah (swt) in their hearts can never be quick tongued. They think several times before uttering a word. And this world that you so carelessly talking about trampling with your feet has never belonged to anyone, nor has anyone ever been able to trample it. It is only a place of trial. Once ago, a man of wisdom saw the world in his dream. It came to him in the form of a chaste maiden. He asked in surprise how she was still so chaste. The girl laughed and replied that the real men never even attempted to touch her. While those who were not men only died trying and never succeed.”
Abdul’s meaningful talks hardly made a dent upon his son’s lofty ideas. This was proved further in the coming three decades which Aslam spent in the attempt to make himself the great man that he had told his father he would be. While Aslam spent his life minting money and attempting to trample the world under his feet, Abdul serenely went on with his own life, engrossed peacefully with his clothes dyeing business.
Today Abdul’s time to bid farewell to the world had come. Aslam was seated at his old father’s side. It was time to make some difficult admissions.
“Abba, I have everything today,” he told his father in a low voice, “but I do not have peace of heart or restfulness of soul. I can’t think back to where I erred.”
“Nothing has happened son,” Abdul spoke feebly, “except that your colors have scattered. Can a piece of cloth catch a dye before it is completely woven? It is only a worshipper who can be dyed with a fast color. But the weave of worshipping has to be strong otherwise the colors sheds off. Let the weave of worshipping be complete. Then use whichever dye you choose. The color will never scatter. If you use the dye prematurely, all will go to waste.”
This time Aslam did not interrupt his father. He listened raptly, his eyes moist with tears.
“And one last thing son,” said Abdul. “The great man is the one who believes with all his heart that he is the most insignificant one of them all…”