With the Name of Allah, the extremely Merciful at this very moment, and the extremely Merciful at all times.
On February 4th 2012, Jeremy Lin of the New York Knicks scored 25 points to go along with 7 assists and 5 rebounds in a victory against the New Jersey Nets. In his first career start 2 days later, he netted 28 points and dished 10 assists- without the help of All Stars Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire. On February 14, with the opposing crowd on their feet, Lin calmly dribbled the ball at the top of the circle and hit a game winning three against the Raptors with less than a second left.
Players are getting jealous. Fans are thrilled. Analysts are baffled. And every time we expect Lin to “come back to Earth”, he comes back and dazzles again (EDIT: or maybe for 1 game). And the media is taking full notice- ripping Vince Carter’s nickname (Vinsanity) and dubbing the insanity behind Jeremy Lin’s rise to stardom as “Linsanity.”
So why am I writing about Linsanity? Other than the fact that I’m a little jealous because I always thought I was the PG that would be saving the Knicks franchise, (I’m still available, if the Lakers are listening 😉 ) there are lessons that can be learned from this phenomenon. Perhaps the most important is to never pass judgment on anyone- especially by appearance.
Don’t judge a book by its cover
Despite the cliché, the age old saying that we never seem to learn from has come back to haunt us. For too long, Asian Americans have been the target of specific stereotypes- you know what I’m talking about. I realize that meme’s are all in good fun and target various stereotypes without malicious intent, but sometimes it’s unfortunate that beautiful traits like discipline and determination are the butt of jokes, and at the expense of Asian Americans. Sometimes when we are so steeped in stereotypes, we forget that people of a specific racial profile have much more to offer than what they are “popularly” known for. This is also true of our own Muslim community. A person might not be the most learned, but he might be closer to Allah than us. A person may look lazy to us, but he might be the one who set up the events we enjoy. He might look frail, but he may be the one standing for half of the night in front of his Lord-with no sign of fatigue. Similarly, the guy who is always at the Masjid with the big beard memorizing Qur’an might be the one to school you on the court. Jeremy Lin reminds us that no matter how a person looks, it is his underlying talent and skill that determine how he is at his craft.
Related to this issue, a fine example to learn from is Ibn Masud (ra), one of the early companions of the Prophet (saw). A post on a blog wouldn’t do this man justice, but I was reminded of an incident involving him when I reflected on Linsanity. In “Men around the Messenger”, it is mentioned:
“He was so thin and short that he was the same height as a sitting person. He had very thin legs. He once climbed a tree to pick some “arak sticks” for the Prophet (saw), and when the Companions saw how thin his legs were they laughed. The Prophet (saw) said, “Are you laughing at Ibn Masud’s legs? On Allah’s scales of justice they are heavier than the mountain of Uhud.” Indeed that was the poor, weak hired boy who became by faith an Imam (leader) guiding people to the light.”
In fact, this lesson is prevalent in many books, movies, and TV shows. An example I always think of is the famous scene from Star Wars Episode 5, where Jedi Master Yoda explains the ways of the “Force” to Luke Skywalker:
“Size matters not. Look at me. Judge me by my size do you? And where you should not, for my ally is the Force, and a powerful ally it is.”
If Yoda was Muslim, he would be speaking about taking Allah as an ally, and subsequently being the reason for his success. If you put your “Muslim hat” on, you have a powerful scene that gives inspiration to any Muslim who wishes to make a difference, but might feel held back because of negative thoughts.
And whoever is an ally of Allah and His Messenger and those who have believed – indeed, the party of Allah – they will be the predominant. (Surah Maidah, Chapter 5, verse 56)
Always be ready
The lessons we can derive from Linsanity are many. Hard work pays off in the end, being patient with adversity, the trials of being in the limelight, and many others. A lesson to briefly mention is to always be ready for your chance to shine, because you never know when your chance will present itself. For Jeremy Lin, it was on that night just a few weeks ago when the coach called his number. He could have given up after not being actively recruited out of high school, after being undrafted, when he bounced from team to team, or after riding the bench for so long in the NBA. But he stuck with it. And now he’s enjoying his time in the spotlight with the talent he has worked on for all of his life. At the same time, he has sent the media into a frenzy and made the issue of race relevant again– ironically in the middle of Black History month.
Sometimes we forget that appearance is not indicative of how religious, strong, or talented a person is. As Muslims, we know that Allah only looks at what is in our hearts and who is the most righteous among us as the measure between who is honored and who is shamed. Allah is the one who protects, guides, gives success, and gives victory to whomever He pleases- no matter who they are, where they are from, or what they look like.
So what then, do you think Allah will have in store for you? You, the one who believes in Him, loves Him, asks and hopes for His help, and follows what He has ordered you to do?
“If Allah should aid you, no one can overcome you; but if He should forsake you, who is there that can aid you after Him? And upon Allah let the believers rely.” (Surah Al-Imran, Chapter 3, v. 160)