With the Name of Allah, the extremely Merciful at this very moment, and the extremely Merciful at all times.
There is honor in keeping one’s word, in completing projects, and in fulfilling goals. But there is no shame in starting a project and not being able to finish, in attempting to do good but not being able to complete it, in shooting for the moon but ending up as a star.
A couple months ago, I started a project called “Lessons from the Cave”, a weekly series in preparation for Ramadan that takes common Qur’anic words and presents them as easily accessible words to beginners, in an attempt to facilitate a relationship with the Arabic portion of the Qur’an and it’s basic themes to increase focus in prayer.
This project sprouted from my own experience. It was just a few years ago that I couldn’t pronounce “Qaf” or “3ain” (Arabic letters). Not to mention, I had zero idea of Arabic grammar or meanings outside of “Allah”, “Salah” and “Qur’an.”
But somewhere along the way, I met inspiring people. I met people who took my life into a new direction- and for the first time I dared to dream big. I dared to dream that I could correct my recitation of Qur’an. I dared to dream that I could memorize more Qur’an outside of the few small chapters. I dared to dream that I could understand Qur’an during prayer.
With the blessings of Allah, what followed and continues to follow is a growing relationship with the Qur’an that I could never have dreamed. Over time, I started to correct my recitation from listening and imitating Mishary Al-Afasy over and over again, even if it didn’t sound anything like him. This led to memorization. And finally, after taking a few tajweed and Arabic grammar courses, I began my journey toward understanding.
“Lessons from the Cave” was meant to be a representation of how I took my first steps in developing understanding of Qur’an to benefit others in similar positions. It was meant to show that through just a few words and due diligence, anyone is able to understand Qur’an at a basic level and enjoy prayer- no matter how long the Imam makes it or where they recite from.
I put a lot of effort into this series, and I believed it would be beneficial, but at the same time I didn’t want to be the guy who starts something and would not be able to complete it. However over time, life caught up and I haven’t updated the series in many weeks. Suddenly I find myself as “that guy.”
But that’s ok.
When attempting new projects, we sometimes get bombarded with doubt: should I put myself out there and take a risk? Will I be able to go through with it to the end? What will people think?
The problem is that many of us never get past our doubt. Never take the risk. Never take that last second shot because we think we’re going to miss. As a result, we are left with two outcomes:
- Regret for not trying that brilliant idea
- Arrogance that we had a brilliant idea but were to busy to work on it
A failed project protects from both of these outcomes. One will not feel regret because they tried and one will be protected from arrogance since their project failed. But in trying, there is the risk of becoming disheartened…
“Lessons from the Cave” was my learning experience. It was an ambitious project that looked good in my head, but didn’t pan out. It was a heavy workload that I wasn’t ready for. It was a failed project, but that doesn’t mean I should become disheartened. Failed projects should never stop us from attempting new ones, and most importantly, from realizing our ultimate goals.
Does that mean we should be lax in completing our projects toward our intended goals?
Nope. Rather, it means that we should aim for our goals- no matter how lofty- and not be discouraged if we trip on the way.
Yet others among us will start projects and succeed, struggle through thick and thin, and see their goals accomplished. They are the people we should look up to and imitate, and we ask Allah to make us among them.
For the rest of us, we pick up from where we left off and try something new, continuing our journey to our goals. We learn from our mistakes and go back to the Qur’an and Sunnah for advice.
In this case, the hadith of ‘Aisha (ra) narrated in Sahih Bukhari comes to mind:
The Prophet (saw) was asked, “What deeds are loved most by Allah?” He said, “The most regular constant deeds even though they may be few.” He added, ‘Don’t take upon yourselves, except the deeds which are within your ability.” (Volume 8, Book 76, Number 472)
So the failed project’s lesson is to revolve future projects and deeds around consistency– a consistency that is realistic- and stick to it.
Realization of our end goal and ultimate success however, is with Allah.
*Note: Lessons from the Cave series will not be updated further