The life or death poem. In the 8th year after Hijrah, Shurahbeel ibn `Amr al-Ghassani attacked and killed the Prophet’s envoy `Umar al-Azadi. Allah’s Messenger, sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam, sent 3000 of his men to Mu’ta in retaliation. He named Zayd ibn Haritha as the leader — but gave the instruction that if Zayd were killed, then Ja`far ibn abi Talib (the Prophet’s cousin) should become the leader. And if he too was killed, then Ibn Rawaha was to assume command.
Everything happened as the last Prophet said. First Zayd and then Jafar became martyred, may Allah be pleased with them. Seeing his turn had come, Abdullah ibn Rawaha slightly hesitated to pick up the commander’s flag. He knew, picking it up meant he was going to die.
But language! Language has the power to move.
Abdullah ibn Rawaha recited a poem to himself, as he rode his horse, reminding himself:
“Dear soul! Why do I find you disliking Paradise.
Even if you do not fight, you will die one day / Now the dove of death is near
Whatever you want, Allah will give you, my dear soul!”
He picked up the commander’s flag.
Language has the power to move nations — and it has the power to move you. Unfortunately, we all have a collection of language patterns that have gotten us to where we are today, but may not get us to where we want to go. Do you have big dreams? Yes? Then you’re going to have to raise the quality standard of the language you use inside.
According to Compton’s Encyclopedia, the English language contains some 500,000 words. Yet the average person’s working vocabulary consists of 2,000—0.5% of the entire language. And the number of words we use most frequently—the words that make up our habitual vocabulary? For most people, it averages 200-300 words (Robbins, 2012).
Now think: What if you had your own anthems, power language, and statements that raise YOUR standards?
Here are two examples of language patterns that I’ve stopped saying:
I stopped saying “OR”
.. and replaced it with AND.
I started a campaign to bring people’s attention to the litter problem around the Holy sites in Makkah and Madinah. Someone tweeted me, ‘You’re a role model Muhammad. Surely there’s more important issues in the Ummah that need addressing. Why waste everyone’s time on this?”
This person has “OR” thinking. You either do a campaign to curb litter, OR you address this topic or that.
I don’t use that type of language. I use AND thinking.
I can do a litter campaign AND AND AND I can care about and address this other topic and that.
You hear this low quality “OR” thinking all the time. It usually shows up in the form of criticism — either external criticism, or you internally criticising yourself.
Why would you buy this productivity course when you could donate the money to charity? (Umm, how about BOTH?)
Why would you go on vacation when you could spend the money to perform Umrah? (Umm, how about BOTH?)
I stopped saying “the best”
Everywhere you look, people want to be the best. The best mom in the world. The best student in the class. The best this or that.
But here’s the problem with aiming to be “the best”. It necessitates the failure of others. For how can you be the best unless others have fallen behind you? What if someone else in your domain begins to thrive, will you jealously attempt to sabotage their success so that you can remain “the best”.
Change your language to “.. to be AMONGST the best”.
I want to be AMONGST the best moms in the world. I strive to be AMONGST the best students in my city.
Can you feel the world of difference between the two? I know, right?
Step 1: Think of something you want to achieve but feel blocked.
Step 2: Surely your block is a collection of words and sentences. Write down what you say that blocks you.
Step 3: Now make a new column and write down alternative, empowering language patterns. Try first by writing the EXACT opposite of what you wrote in step 2.
I want to attend this powerful seminar, halfway across the world, which costs $10k.
Language block: I can’t afford that. What if it’s not worth the financial cost?
New language: HOW can I afford it? What if it’s worth it and I missed out?
I want to get married, but all the good ones are taken.
Language block: All the good ones are taken (Very interesting, grammatically, this sentence is PASSIVE voice).
New language: The good ones are like buses. With 7 billion humans, if you miss one, there’s another one coming right after it.
(lol, OK I don’t know if that’s very empowering.)
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[NEW: Muhammad Alshareef writes a new MuslimSuccess.com blog article every Thursday. In sha Allah.]
Founder and President of DiscoverU, an Islam-based personal development institute. Muhammad Alshareef graduated Islamic Law from Madinah University and holds a Masters Degree from West Virginia University. Canadian, ethnically Egyptian, and a true citizen of the world. He writes about Islamic solutions to popular personal development questions.