One of the world’s artistic geniuses once received a letter from an admirer. It was addressed to “the greatest artist in Italy.” He refused to accept the letter, saying: “This is not mine. If it were meant for me, it would be addressed to the greatest artist in the world!”
One night, Picasso returned home and found that a burglar had broken into his house and stolen all the furniture. He pulled his face in distress.The burglars had wounded Picasso’s pride. Their greatest crime was not theft, but rather their ignorance of the value of the famous paintings they left behind.
A man who was with him said: “Did they steal anything of value?”
Picasso answered: “No.”
The man asked: “Then why are you so distressed?”
“It pains me that they didn’t steal any of my priceless paintings!”
True greatness is to possess great gifts and an equally great helping of modesty! The greatest gift of all is the gift of good manners, noble morals, and a deep ethical sense. The best of manners, moreover, is reflected in how one deals with oneself.
Every human being is gifted in one way or another. Each of us is an original. There are no carbon copies. This applies to identical twins as much as to anyone else.
Therefore, it is vitally important that we all choose to be ourselves and not the shadow ofd someone else. We must all live authentically. In order for us to realize the true potential of our gifts, our personalities must be strong and mature. We must be able to appreciate the true value of our gifts – and it is essential for us to show thanks to Him who bestowed those gifts upon us!
We must also be able to imagine the possibility of having those gifts taken away.
The Prophet Joseph (peace be upon him) was blessed with exceptional beauty and deep insight in his youth. He surmounted great hardships to become prime minister of Egypt under the Pharaoh. All of his prayers were answered. At the end of all his life, he made the following prayer: “My Lord! You have given me such authority and taught me something of the interpretation of dreams. O Originator of the heavens and the Earth! You are my protector in this world and in the Hereafter. Bid me to die a Muslim and join me with the righteous.” [Sūrah Yūsuf: 101]
This is a beautiful conclusion to a blessed life. This itself is the greatest gift of all: to have one’s life conclude with the best of this world behind you and the best of the next world waiting for you; to have honor with Allah and with the righteous people of the Earth.
The Caliph `Umar b. Abd al-`Azīz established justice in the land. Though he was the supreme ruler over one of the world’s greatest powers in that era, his hopes were pinned on the Hereafter. He said: “It seems I have an insatiable soul. I desired to be a prince, and I achieved my desire. The I wanted to be Caliph, and I achieved that as well. But now I desire to attain Paradise.”
Muhammad Ali Clay was blessed with great physical prowess which allowed him to retain the world champion boxing title for a very long time. After a long and illustrious career, he developed Parkinson disease which causes the slow degeneration of the nervous system. His movements became slow and unsteady, and his hands and face grew stiff. His memory was also impaired.
However, Muhammad Ali was not only a great boxer, he was also a very wise man. He said:
“Age is whatever you think it is. You are as old as you think you are.”
“I hated every minute of training, but I said, ‘Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion’.”
“Inside of a ring or out, ain’t nothing wrong with going down. It's staying down that’s wrong.”
“Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.”
“The man who has no imagination has no wings.”
“Only a man who knows what it is like to be defeated can reach down to the bottom of his soul and come up with the extra ounce of power it takes to win when the match is even.”
In Islamic history, we find the great pioneer of optics Ibn al-Haytham, the medical genius Ibn Zahr, the groundbreaking surgeon al-Zahrawī, the inventor of algebra Ibn al-Khawarismī, the mathematician al-Majrītī, the explorer Ibn Batūtah, the discoverer of the circulatory system Ibn al-Nafīs, the founder of modern chemistry Jābir b. Hayyān, and the founder of sociology Ibn Khaldūn.
They were not necessarily all perfect examples of religious piety. That is not the point. They were all blessed with gifts, and they used those gifts for the benefit of humanity. There were many non-Muslim citizens of the Muslim state who also prospered and achieved great things in the conducive intellectual environment that the Muslim world used to be.
Sheikh Salman al-Oadah
Source: en.islamtoday.net (Apr.14, 2013)