The Concept of Success in Our Era

Concept of Success

Before we start with the concept of success, most of us should have seen here and there glamorous headlines and attractive advertisements. These advertisements come as; the path of success, happiness and wealth, the steps of success, the secrets of success, success stories, keys to success, means of success in life or how to be successful, or fame and success and so on.

Some certainly did not just hear about that; rather, they red, attended lectures, and participated in specialized courses from the many courses offered by experts and trainers of self-development and human development.

But no one asks what kind of success do we seek? Or, more precisely, success in what exactly? 

The Topic Problem

I wrote this article in an attempt to find answers to some of the questions that create a” research problem “when addressing the topic of success and what is being raised about it. Here are some of the research questions.

Success in what exactly?

What do most people implicitly agree on when they do not ask this question? Or what is the common unified answer in their minds that makes them consider it a question of an obvious matter?

Is the silence of marketers of success stories, success books and success courses to defining the framework for success a deliberate tactic intended to succeed in accommodating as many people interested in success as possible? Success in marketing success.

The Concept of Success

Success in language (Arabic) is a general term that only means completing something[1] and nothing more.

That is to say, the concept of success does not include what that thing is, what its nature, and whether it is good or bad. 

Idiomatically, the apparent character on most prominent authors [2] in this field is their complete disregard to identify the idiomatic concept of success, leaving it to the various individual projections and expectations of the recipients, where each draws his own concept of success.

Other than that, the best thing that was said to define it is achieving the goal, obtaining what is desired, or other definitions having this meaning. However, like previously questioned, what is that goal and desire? The concept does not specify any of this.

Therefore, it is possible to say that achieving any goal and desire is a success.

This thing led some researchers [3] to add a limitation (interest) to the definition in order to remove from it the vices created by the general concept.

The Mislead in The Concept of Success

Yes, there is cheating, deception, and misleading in praising, achieving, and promoting success without specifying its framework and destination or answering the main question: Success in what exactly?

The answer was left to what people think according to their instincts, impressions, traditions, media, and guidance in their era, as well as to the trivial interests of some celebrities, to the preconceived mental mobilization of their individuals, and even to the behavioral and intellectual mistakes and deviations of each other.

Some Muslim writers and pioneers in the field of human development have mislead to the extent that they infer the praising and promoting of success from Qur’an verses and honorable Hadiths, which support the idea in general such as praising work, strength, mastery, and so on. As for the latent details, they are left to the devil

The General Concept of Success

If we expel the satanic whisperers, think well of the intent of success advocates and of what the public understood, and exclude historical examples confirming that it is possible for a large group of people such as the tribe, sect or nation to agree on the validity of ideas. As well as on the legitimacy of behaviors, which the rest of the planet’s population sees as wrong and deviant by peremptory evidence, then we will reach this conclusion:  

The success that success books publishers mean, the success that the audience understood, and the success that people minds think of when hearing the word is the success in the general, good, positive and permissible concept. Such as success in school, in a job, in business,  in human relationships including family, and in life in general, in the context of what people see as good, beautiful and desirable.

Well, what do people see as good, beautiful and desirable? Here we face a new problem that we must address in detail a little bit, so we can answer this question.

Authenticity of Public Opinion

Some people absolutely believe in the integrity, preponderance and truthfulness of public opinion. Moreover, they believe that it is evidence against the offender and add the public taste in the same importance.

That is, although it was unlikely for people in the normal situation to agree on a corrupt and deviant opinion in all walks of life, this ,however, doesn’t prevent corruption and deviation from affecting their overall opinion in a side or two or three such as love, marriage, worship, economics, family, etc. .

Therefore, it is very possible that the public opinion on the concept of success is wrong.

The Corrupt Custom

In Islamic jurisprudence, scholars of Islamic law decide that custom is a ruler and tradition is a court.  This is concerning not only scholars of Islamic law, but also the wise in general who agree on that despite their different religions, doctrines and convictions.

In spite of the rule of respecting customs and traditions, it is not totally correct. People may get to know something that is wrong and deviant. As a result, scholars divided custom into two parts: a correct custom and a corrupt custom  .

As for wondering about what the reference of judging this is or that custom as correct or corrupt, scholars of Islamic law linked this judgment to the legitimate standard. So the correct custom for them is: what people commonly known, what doesn’t violate any legal evidence, what doesn’t legalize the forbidden, and what doesn’t nullify a duty, such as their common knowledge of the istisna’a contract (construction or manufacturing financing), and dividing the dowry into prompt and deferred.   

The corrupt custom is what people commonly known, but goes against the law, legalize the forbidden, or nullify a duty, such as doing many evil things in rituals and funerals, devouring usury and making gambling contracts.

The references of judgment among people other than of Islamic law might be their own religious laws. In case they do not have a religion, then it is the positive laws generally accepted.  Moreover, if their laws do not include the disagreed subject matter, they refer to the major moral principles that are generally agreed upon.

But when investigating, we will see that the positive laws and the major moral principles will bring us back to recourse to customs and traditions, and thus we get into an endless cycle. This is considered an old intellectual dilemma facing the concept of freedom; however, this is not the basis of its research[4].

Therefore, people may traditionally know a certain concept of success, and this concept is wrong and deviant. Therefore, they recognize it as a corrupt custom.

The Dominance of Reality (Generality of Scourge)

Reality has a power that is difficult to break, and this power can be good and can be the worst. If reality has dominance and power since Allah created man and earth, our technological era has contributed to the ultimate rise of reality dominance, driven by globalization, which is underpinned by new media and communication technologies.

Instead of being created, as in the past, because of the reality of the matter in a tribe, village, city, or country, reality dominance has appeared due to realism in the whole world led by the great powers headed by America, and then generalizing this realistic model to the rest of the world.

Owing to this, international concepts and standards that are difficult to confront or discuss have been imposed on individuals, societies and people. Whoever attempts to do so will come across the nearest victim of the realistic world school to hear the famous saying, Oh, brother, be realistic!

Among these are the many international standards distributed to the world to adhere to. They have also established an international organization for standards known as ISO with 162 members from all over the world.

In our own world, we, the bloggers and website owners, see SEO standards for search engines as one of the international standards that compel individuals to adhere to. Otherwise, search engines dismiss them out of the first ten pages of search results.

The Divine Natural Laws in Creation (Sunnat Allah)

Allah sends the prophets, messengers, and reformers to the people to remind them of the high values and good morals as well as to remind them to resist the desire to follow sordid instincts and lusts. If it is been so long, people gradually move away from the commandments of the prophets, messengers and reformers until they reach a dangerous level. After that, Allah sends back those who remind them and bring them back to the right path, and so forth.

Allah the Almighty said, (Has the time not come for those who have believed that their hearts should become humbly submissive at the remembrance of Allah and what has come down of the truth? And let them not be like those who were given the Scripture before, and a long period passed over them, so their hearts hardened; and many of them are defiantly disobedient). Al-Hadid: verse 16

Because of the long period of time between our time and the times of the prophets we all, individuals and groups, gradually move naturally in a morally sloping line until Allah inherits the earth and those on it.

We all see in this era the deviation of the whole world in many major issues, such as widespread corruption of all kinds, the predominance of bad people, the fame of fools and buggers, the tyranny of materialism, and so on.

If the standards of the era deviate from the concept of right and wrong, good and bad, the concept of success deviates too, since we have said in the definition that success is the completion of the thing, which achieves the goal. So if era makes the wrong bad thing a right good one, its completion and achievement then becomes also right and good under the name of success.

Materialism of The Era

One of our most blatant deviations is the tyranny of materialism. Materialism in the general concept as opposed to spirituality or (money) in the private concept as opposed to moral. 

The first general concept inevitably produce the second private concept, as whoever sees the whole world is a material even in its non-material parts as mind, awareness, spirit and feelings will inevitably believe that money is the main engine of materials (life(. Thus he will end up worshiping money and glorifying it as well as any and everything leads to it. Not only will that but also consider it as the pinnacle of success.

Success, Money And Fame

As a result of the previous reasons, one concept of success has prevailed in this era: Success in earning money or gaining fame that makes money and considering them the highest levels of success. Rather, they are the most prominent criterion and model for success. I will elaborate a little on these two elements.

Success in Earning Money

Earning and collecting money through legitimate methods is not a fault .However, the fault is to let money be the most important thing, the highest objective in life and the only reason to live. In the past, people were disgracing those who have this character under several names such as greed, stinginess, miserliness, money loving, and materialism. Nevertheless, in the modern materialistic era, it has become a habit, then a good habit, then a virtue whose attainment is a competitive success.

Most authors who promote success stories feel ashamed to express this materiality explicitly in their articles, so they merge it implicitly with other issues in this way:

Success in social stability, success in psychological stability, success in family making, success in noble jobs such as education and medicine, success in earning money, as if the latter is a sub-part that has no advantage over the rest of its kinds .

But no matter how they attempt to hide their implicit conviction from linking success to money and embellish it by mentioning other reasons, they are quickly exposed in some of their sayings and doings, for instance:

Ibrahim Al-Feki in his book “The Road to Success“. He mentioned that success has components including success in practice, in social, and in material, in addition to other components, and making all of them elements to achieve general success or happiness, and then quickly goes back after few papers and mentioned the story of a taxi driver who complained to him about the difficulty economic conditions. He spontaneously judged him as failure, negative, unsuccessful and unhappy since only he did not seek to own the taxi instead of renting it[5]. The author did not search for the rest of the other available elements of success for the taxi driver.

Notice

Honestly, I did not read the entire book and do not intend to do so. Perhaps Al-Feki was directing people to determine the concept of success and purify it from common deviations. However, personally, the example that supports my idea was enough for me. If Al-Feki in general is not suitable for my example, then it is all right to suppose that it’s another Al-Feki.

On the Internet, you will find dozens of books and recent articles promoting success, human development and self-development. When you reach the paragraph of pictures of success, or examples of successful people, you will find that they almost agree to give examples of people who stumbled at the beginning of their lives and are now on the list of the world’s wealthy or entrepreneurs and everything about money, wealth and materialism.

Success in Gaining Fame

Fame was not in the past an end in itself, but rather a result of what a person is famous for, whether good or bad. Today, fame has become a demand regardless of the subject on which it is based.

The fame that people might aspire to in the past is the one that has noble meanings such as glory, greatness, worthiness and good influence. They were also very keen to avoid being badly remembered or infamous.

We read a lot in Arab literature and history the repeatedly said phrase: I do not want Arabs to say this and that about me. The literal translation of this phrase is I do not want to gain fame among people in a bad matter. This thing does not only concern Arabs, but also all human beings.

Nowadays with the help of the digital world, fame becomes a goal, with a noticeable decline in the criteria of mental advisability and demonization. Therefore, all kinds of fame became a good and required thing regardless of the material and subject of that fame.

I even see it more than that. Fame becomes today exclusive to the fools and buggers instead of people who have serious issues and goals. This happens in our societies, which retain – timidly – certain morals, religious and social values.

In other societies, fame is for all, even for moral degeneracy stars, who are the first to be famous. In fact, I do not know whether this is a natural result due to the deviation of people in general, or there are hidden hands doing that. (Conspiracy theory).

Celebrities and Influence

Celebrities are of two types:

Type 1: Celebrities who have no influence in directing people because their fame is in a minor unimportant matter, such as celebrities of singing, acting, sports, and so on, like Mohammed Abdu, Adel Imam, Messi, and Thekra.

Type 2: Celebrities who have influence in directing people regardless of whether toward good or evil, such as the fame of the presidents of great states and situations and great thinkers, as prophets and great kings. In our era, this type of celebrities includes; Winston Churchill, Donald Trump, Mohammed bin Salman, Noam Chomsky, Salman al-Ouda, Azmi Bishara, Adnan Ibrahim.  

But the problem we are experiencing today is creating a third type of fame by exploiting people of the first type to make them of the second type, therefore producing influential secondary celebrities.

We see Tariq Al-Ali theorizing in politic matters, Elham Shaheen leading the audiences, and Lady Gaga discussing the moral principles of the world. We can also see that great sayings attributed to Kadim Al Sahir, Al Pacino, actress Yousra and possibly, porn star, Mia Khalifa are being cites.

This problem culminated when another new type is added to the preceding type. They are the new celebrities of social media, who most of whom have nothing but followers in their accounts. Hence, the new title becomes; Empty influential celebrities.

Fame and Money

We have said that the fame without good content is a contemporary disaster. However, if we add to it empty fame of good content with a business purpose, the disaster becomes greater.

Today we see people compete to gain fame and appear by all possible means, even by the most foolish and ridiculous means, knowing that this fame will attract money to them through commercial advertising and media appearance. Accordingly, they consider this success.

I have heard so many times a person saying in objection; the person you describe as ridiculous, stupid and silly gains huge amount of money, as if to say; I wish I would be like him!

The Relationship Between Success And Happiness

Most speakers of success topics link success to happiness as a natural outcome of it. Success leads to happiness, thus a successful person is inevitably happy.

But after we saw that the greatest percentage of success topics tend to link success to money, indeed the abundance of money and wealth, then the amount of money a person owns determines his level of success.

Based on this, Karun is the most successful for them as well as all those on the list of world’s richest people such as, Jeff Bezos Bill Gates, Google and Facebook owners, Alwaleed bin Talal, and others. These are the happiest people ever.

Reality proves this theory wrong because there are people who are supposed to be successful and happy according to this equation. However, in fact, they suffer from stressful psychological illnesses like depression, anxiety and psychological disorder, some of which led to suicide.

Causes of Happiness (Real Success)

Allah the Almighty said; (So he who is drawn away from the Fire and admitted to Paradise has attained [his desire]. And what is the life of this world except the enjoyment of delusion). Al-Imran :verse 185

Allah the Almighty said; (And whoever obeys Allah and His Messenger has certainly attained a great attainment). Al-Ahzaab: verse 71

Allah The Almighty said; (The Day He will assemble you for the Day of Assembly – that is the Day of Deprivation. And whoever believes in Allah and does righteousness – He will remove from him his misdeeds and admit him to gardens beneath which rivers flow, wherein they will abide forever. That is the great attainment). At-Taghaabun: verse 9   

Prophet Mohamed peace be upon him said: (Four things are part of happiness: a righteous spouse, a spacious dwelling, a righteous neighbor, and a comfortable mount) [6]

He also said; (Whoever among you wakes up secure in his property, healthy in his body, and he has his food for the day, it is as if he were given the entire world)[7].

Means of Real Success

From the previous texts, we understand that happiness, success and victory can only be in the obedience of Allah and his prophet who leads to entering paradise.

This thinking is almost non-existent among any of those who advocate success, indicate its means and reveal its secrets. That is because they are only concerned with the means of success in life, leaving the discussion about the means of success in the afterlife to the preacher of mosque, the preacher of church and the nerds who do not enjoy life such as members of ISIS and Muslim Brotherhood. Actually, the Muslim Brotherhood  love life and aspires to power, too. 

Means of Success in Life

The reasons of the means of success in life are simple after achieving the conditions for success in the afterlife. These reasons are good family, suitable residence for a decent life, good social relationship, comfortable mean of transportation, security and safety, good health and adequate income.

So if a person prepares and familiarizes himself to be convinced of these easy reasons available to the majority, he will become happy and successful.

On the other hand, if a person links happiness to achieving difficult conditions such as wealth and fame, he will spend his life working hard to achieve them. Moreover, if one succeeded in this, a thousand others failed. Consequently, contentment is an undiminishing treasure and easy acquisition.

Personal Experience

If we agree on the concept of real success and true happiness as in the previous words, then I classify myself as successful and happy, praise be to Allah.

I have a beautiful family I enjoy the mutual love with them, a house with the basic amenities and a car with radio, air conditioner, and four-wheel drive for desert nights. I also have daily food and good health. Besides that, I feel psychological stability, and above all, I covet the mercy of Allah and winning paradise.  

Despite these many great blessings and other blessings I did not mention, there are people around me who see me as a confused unsuccessful person. Of course, they mean the kind of success previously detailed.

I’m often told; why don’t you do like that political and media analyst who always appears on television talking about the issue of the real hidden reasons of Qatar blockade, then rewarded with a sum of money, Success in the criterion of earning money.

Or why do not you do like this person who always posts “sweet things” in Snapchat and becomes a celebrity of social media.(Success in the criterion of fame)

Or why don’t you do like that person who worked hard and opened a successful company and now owns real estates and parks. (Success in the criterion of wealth)

I however believe that real success and true happiness are in calm, peace, stability, and honesty with the soul and people as well as advising and loving them, absolutely after seeking Allah’s satisfaction. Moreover, they can be in spreading virtue and beautiful meanings, and in contributing even in a small part to do good work for the community.

I want to tell all those people that success is closer than you believe and happiness is simpler than you think.


[1] Fairuzabadi, Al-Qamus Al-Muhit: success word. in English is: the achieving of the results wanted or hoped for.

[2] See Jack Canfield, The Success Principles. John C. Maxwell, How Successful People Think. Noah St. John, The Secret Code of Success .Ibrahim Al-Feki, The Road to success. Al-Feki, Ten Keys to Success .Samir Sheikhani, Your Path to Success and Happiness.

Warning: It is customary to say, “See” when referring to references. However, I advise you not to see these books a lot since they are a waste of time, and depend on the idea of money is the most important means of success in life, which is a deviation in the concept of success.

[3] Saif Al-Nasr Ali Issa, Elements of success in the message of the Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him, and applying that in our contemporary reality: p 10.

 [4] Scholars of assets and philosophy in Islam (Al- Mu’tazila and the Ash’ari) discussed this issue under the title of mental refinement and demonization, which means the competence and ability of mind to judge something as good or bad, in isolation from the Islamic ruling. In this material scientific era, some fancy that man is capable to solve all the secrets of the universe and judge them as correct and corrupt, good and bad. Based on what humans have discovered, such as science, laws and discoveries, forgetting that it is nothing in comparison to what they have not yet discovered from the rest of the sciences and scientific secrets. Humans with their limited senses and short lifetime cannot discover the final stable laws of some long-term cosmic phenomena like the theory of evolution and promotion, or invisible microcosmic phenomena like atoms or time. So, how about all the final cosmic laws? In return, Allāh the Almighty said, (My Lord encompasses all things in knowledge) Al-An’aam: verse 80.

[5] Al-Feki, The Road to success, p 11.

[6] Sahih Ibn Hibban, classed as saheeh by al-Albani in al-Silsilah al-Saheehah

[7] Narrated by Al-Tirmidhi, and improved by al-Albani in Al-Silsilah al-Saheehah.

Abdullah Al-Salem
Abdullah Al-Salem
Blogger critic poet from Qatar

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