I am fully responsible for my beliefs.
The above statement is in itself a belief..
I am convinced that I am responsible for my beliefs and I can not say, “I believe such-and-such because so-and-so told me to”.
That belief gives rise to a certain standard now, doesn’t it? Now whatever I come across, I have to analyse it before accepting it. And if I accept it without analysing it, I must take full ownership of it going forward, because now I have taken that belief to be true.
This standard is what we’d call value.
Our values are related to behaviors, and they come from our beliefs.
I believe freedom not only means that I’m free to choose; it also means that whatever I have chosen, I take full ownership of that. So that belief now has given me a value – a standard – to which I try to live up to.
Your Values and Your Identity
Once I wrap my head around this concept of my beliefs giving rise to certain standards, I begin to see how those standards – values – shape my identity.
Who am I? I am someone who does this and believes that etc.
- Excellence (من المحسنین)
- Disciplined Creativity
The above list is absolutely meaningless.
Unless my beliefs give it meaning.
The Ultimate Belief, The Ultimate Test
It is my belief that Quran is the Word of the Creator of All of This. So it becomes very, very important for me to refer to, so that I can plan, mould, shear, craft and design my life.
The Ultimate Belief is that all of this is a test of Excellence; that is what I am being tested on. And for the Urdu-speaking world, there is a tragedy of translation happening here.
Excellence in Arabic is Ihsaan. This word Ihsaan is also readily used in Urdu but it is an absolutely different word. Allow me to translate:
- Ihsaan in Urdu is Favor in English. It is a verb, and when you do Ihsaan on someone, it means you have done someone a favor.
- Ihsaan in Arabic is Excellence in English, and – lo and behold – there is no readily available word for that in Urdu, so we use a phrase, and that’s Khoobi Sey Kaam Karna.
And the Ultimate Test – mentioned in several places in the Quran, Surah Kahaf, verse 7 being one of them – is to pursue Excellence.
That simplies a whole lot of debate and philosophical jui-jitsu that one would otherwise have to undertake to figure out “what am I supposed to do in this world?”
What I am supposed to do in this world is to pass this Ultimate Test with “the highest marks” possible. Because the Ultimate Test is that of Excellence, that demands I pursue Excellence in each and every situation that I find myself in.
This simplifies everything. It really does. And Excellence becomes the primary value…
The First Value: Excellence
I may find myself debating a school friend on the intricacies of playing golf, or I may find myself working to serve a client, or I may find myself treading on an argument with my sibling, or I may find myself defending my position to my wife. In every situation imaginable, I now know my immediate next step – “how can I do this better?”
That is the essence of Excellence and that’s why it has long been understood as being a habit rather than a destination-type goal. It is not a thing to achieve but rather it’s a thing to do.
It is absolutely inwards – you ask yourself and improve within – and it is also absolutely outwards in that you are always “in a relationship” with the external world.
Excellence as a value is all encompassing, completely comprehensive and precisely subtle. You can use it in the most micro of micro thoughts, and you can use it in the most elaborate of elaborate plans.
The Ultimate Belief is that this is all a test, and the Ultimate Test is that of Excellence.
So Excellence becomes a value like none other.
But there are more…
Freedom does not mean you can do whatever you feel like; freedom means that you can choose what to do. You can choose good, and you can choose bad. Freedom works both ways.
Can you choose? Are you allowed to choose? From the typical “my boss won’t let me” to the subtle “my bias won’t let me”, I need freedom to choose my own bosses and freedom to choose my own opinions.
Real independence is choosing the best route, instead of the easiest one. (And if you notice, the fact that you are trying to choose the best route has a lot to do with the First Value: Excellence).
The most dangerous of all assumptions is that the struggle for freedom has an end. No, the struggle can never stop. Only two states of being: either you grow or your decay. Either you stay free or you tighten that noose around your neck.
Either you join the struggle, or your find comfort in your shackles.
Freedom comes with a price / Qeemtee cheez hai, muft nahi
Freedom to choose comes with a price. It always brings with it the responsibilities, that’s the price.
To reclaim my freedom, I must pay the price. To be independent, I must do my duty.
In the fight between desire and duty, the best route is to desire my duty! But what is my duty? To be the best I can be, which is what Excellence is all about.
How? By doing justice to all the gifts I have been given.
“With faith, discipline and selfless devotion to duty, there is nothing worthwhile that you cannot achieve” ~ M A Jinnah, Founder of Pakistan