How your WORDS determine your FATE (and what you can do about it)

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.

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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?

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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?

Action steps:
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.

Example (a):
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?

Example (b):
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.)

Got a question? Ask below. I’ll answer 2 of the best questions on the MuslimSuccess blog.

[NEW: Muhammad Alshareef writes a new blog article every Thursday. In sha Allah.]

About the Author Muhammad Alshareef

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.

Leave a Comment:

UmmYusuf says

Assalaamu ‘alaikum wa rahmatullaah Sheikh Muhammad,

Jazaaka Allaahu khairan for your wonderful messages. They are truly inspiring. Every time I read your email i feel positive and energized, alhamdulillaah. May Allah subhana wa ta’aala reward you and protect you, aameen.

Laode Aptsar says

That’s great. a powerfull motivation. Still
there were some question why most people particularly muslim people, they were lack of motivation. at present day of course.

Ismail Tambi says

Very interesting approach to life.

shafique fakier says

Salaam alaikum. JazaakAllahu ghair. Shafique

jameela says

MashaAllsh amazing
The words empowered me and made me feel the difference really

Fatima says

Lol! Really if you miss one,there is another one coming right after it? I can’t seriously funny …lol……….next bus pls

Nahida says

Jazak Allah khairan, nice article. We really need to monitor our words.

Taqwah says

Jazakum Allahu Khairun for this email. By Allah’s permission, I was able to read your wonderful words of inspiration (And) will Insh’Allah, benefit greatly from them.

Muhammad Younus Abid says

Very impressive approach to life.

Farieda says

Very inspiring,masha Allah baarakallahu feekum

Housnah says

Jazakum Allahu khayran for this amazing blog. I’ve joined the toastmasters club and now I realised the amount of filers words we used. Each person has its own filer word eg..’like’ and ‘so’.
As you indicated the phrase of sentence we used to express our thoughts are very important as this has a different effect on the actions and results.
I still remember in your visionnaire duas course how you put emphasis on the words we use to ask a specific you use different words to ask for a specific duas and how the duas was manisfed through the change of words used.
Looking forward read more of blogs from you. Jazakum Allahu khayran .May Allahswt grant you and family good in this life and hereafter…ameen

Thanaya says

MashaAllah sheikh I love your approach to life and the way you incorporate deen into everything! JazakAllah al Khair for your inspiring mails always!!

Aziz Kaiwa says

Hello sheyk Kazakallah hayra May Allah reward you for all those messeges and hopefully i expect you to visit our home country Uganda in Africa my contact is +256701346303

YudiBachtiar says

Some words make a great change… I’ll try to prove it.

Yudi Bachtiar says

Sometimes a wisewords can arise our feelings better than lectures or sermons.

Mona says

I was reading before fajar and I love it , allhamdulilah. Now , I am thinking to teach my daughter who always strives to be the best and that takes lots of energy , it’s much better to ask Allah and to strive to be amongst the best inshallah . Jazska Allah kheyr , sheikh Mohammed Al shared. May Allah bless you.

Safia says

aSA. Seeing as no questions have been asked yet, I will dive in!

Can you link to some of your fav online resources when it comes to this topic?
Can you give us examples of how language adaptation, directly changed areas of your life?

Safia says

Ada. Can you give us examples of how language adaptation directly impacted areas of your own life?

Youcef Sennoun says

Baraka Allah fik
Very empowering. Surely this is a very good method to adopt ti seek motivation when coming out from ine comfort zone

Aminah says

Simple powerful complete makeover words. Jazakallah khayran

Rofaida says

Alhamdulillah, thank you for your inspirational post. I often do positive affirmations of myself but little i realize it’s implications on how i manuever my life. This post makes me want to rephrase my goals and make them all come true. May Allah bless you for your hard work.

Aisha says

Jazakakalahu khairah for the write up. This is the first time am seeing a muslim writing on how to motivate others. Please keep it up,more grease to ur elbow.

Anonymous says

Simple words hustle someone or somebody more enterprising in making daily decisions .Good job Sheikh .may Allah bless you .wassalam

Aminah says

Jazakallah khaer shaykh. I enjoy reading your articles and learn so much from them mashaAllah. I’d appreciate if you can give some more examples please on how we can use words to empower us in general areas of life. For eg, someone struggling to offer five prayers regularly and read Quran and feeling awful after years of unsuccessful results. A mum of young kids trying to find balance with in all the roles Allah swt has blessed her with. Jazakilah khaer

Bilkis says

Sounds easy but its not so easy to practice especially when you have been striving and all that you have done seem not to be working. When your motivation is at its lowest , its hard to be positive.

Jamila says

JazakAllah khayrn, I never thought language could have massive impact to the mindset.

Hauwa says

Jazzakallahu khairan !

moin says

Thank you very much for the blog sir.. Inshallah it ll change my approach to challenges in life..

Misturah Bello says

Salam alaykum ww, jazakallah khayran kazirah always. Quite inspiring n ever challenging articles from the stable of Bro Muhammad. May Allah continue to strengthen you, make Islam easy for us all to practice n grant us all success in dunniyyah n akhirah, ameen

Yusuf says

What if something is blocking me which i can’t ignore. for example, i want to marry some one but mom doesn’t like her. should i wait for the next bus ? 🙂


Mahamadou Drame says

Salam alaikum.
That’s Great a Powerfull

Mey says

Jazakallah sheikh.

Abdullahi Labaran says

These are inspirational words.
JazaakAllah Khair.

zainab says

Jazakhallahu khair and jummat kareem

Waasafa says

This is a brilliant article, very insightful and eye-opening. If you feel you are blocked in getting married due to your circumstances, how do you change your language to make marriage a possibility?

Mohammed says

Maashallah. I have learnt alot today . Allah barik

Ibrahim says

Thank you Sheikh for this inspiring insight. I did not you had a master degree. In which field you did your master if I might ask?

Leeza says

Asslamu alaikum,

I have developed a detailed planner to live my life by. I have taken a year off work, from my profession – chartered accountant, to develop myself as a muslim in all spheres of my life. In this, I have dedicated 30 hours per week to islamic study (quran memorisation, tafseer, seerah, fiqh etc). (Previous to this i have attended a handful of al maghrib/ al kauthar courses and this is the extent of my learning. i have not memorised any quran, but have done 2 levels of tajweed).

I am struggling with how i should be apportioning my time in my study, especially with regards to the portion quran memorisation should have? Should it be 50% for e.g.?

Jazak Allah khair.

Leeza says

Just wanted to add to my above question….

I’m memorising the Quran with meaning, and also learning to write it. However tasfeer (using bayinnah tv) is very time consuming per surah.

My current approach is to memorise (in the method above) with allocated time for tafseer per week also – but this is lagging significantly behind memorisation. Do you think this approach is fine?

Aliyu Rabi'u says

JazakALLAAHU Khyran

Murtawakil Danzaki says

Salamualikum waramatulahi wabarakatu… Alliamdullillai for your motivational words. We learn so much from you. I will say, Jazakhalla khair

Anisa Hosai says

Assalamu alaikum 🙂
Jazak Allahu Khair, I really appreciate your book and courses, I have learned a lot and may Allah reward you both in this dunya and next ameen.

abdullah says

Barakallah ya Sheikh Muhammad, you are inspiring person. I love to read all your articles, very clear and enthusiastic.

Shakirah says

Jazakumlah Khaeran. may Allah continue to increase you in iman and iqma. Amin

Xara says

This is really true.. jazakallah khairan. Everytime i read your mail i feel you are really talking about me or things i ‘ve. Some bitter words i rememberd that made my life miserable. Words do have power to do good and bad.

Safia says

ASA. Can you give us examples of how you have used this to directly impact changes in your life?

Anonymous says

ماشاءالله يا شيخ محمد جزاكم آللة كل خير

Nur says

Masha Allah, what a beautiful article. I am going to change the way I am thinking, but honestly I always and continuosly feeling down everyday. Especially when it comes to my personal life. I just married earlier this year (March 2015) with the man mom chose for me. I have to admit that I am not happy with this marriage and sometimes I regretted that I got married with the guy I did not love. I always think about getting a divorce. What should I do? I am unhappy with my marriage.

farida says

Inspiring words to live by. Alhamdulillah.

Anisha Panda Aguam says

Thank you very much for the great inspiring words. I understand that you had finished studying Islamic Law. Do you mean “Shariah?” Would it be possible to make some consultations with you regarding some Islamic way of life issues? I would appreciate it very much if you could do it. Thank you very much.

khadija Harrar says

Assalamualykum Alhamdullilah the emphasis of being the best has many draw backs. Your advice on being amongst the best is exactly what the sahaaba radialluhum ajmaieen strived for. This is the true spirit of Imaan and Ukhuwa. May Allah Ta’ala guide me and all Muslims to please Allah Ta’ala in all circumstances. Aameen

Alagbo. Nigeria. WestAfrica says

salam alikun. u are book.I love reading u. u are an institution .I love attending ur class. pls keep it up. may Allah S.W.T rwd u.

ayaan says

Salaamu alaikum Sheikh

JazakaAllahu khair, this is exactly what all people from all walks of life, need to read and know. You succeed to bring positivity to mankind maashaAllah. Allah used you and others to equip me with whatever islamic knowledge I know today. May Allah safeguard you, bless you and your family.

umibrahim says

la hawlah wa la kuwwata illah billah…
jazakallahu khayra , very much needed…

salatho says

Jazak Allah kheyr brother in islam
very educative

Anonymous says

The believe and achieve image is so powerful

I’d add:

I will………… then when?

Basel says

Well written article. It’s among the best articles I have read.
My question is: how do we expand our use of the language? .
How effective is writing our hurdles Down on a piece of paper ?

Alibaba Lumumba says

As salamu alaikum, I manage a community newspaper in Fort Myers, Florida. This newspaper covers the southwest Florida area and it’s not a Muslim publication, but I will have a dawah page in the newspaper, Insha Allah. I’m Asking your permission to be able to reprint some of your writings.

rohimah khoiriyah says

Assalamualaikum Syekh,
Alhamdulillah you’ve showed me a positive way to look at life situation.What’s important is I need to think first before O speak and have a niyat (attention) solely for Allah SWT.Jazakumullah al khair

Hafsa says

Masha’Allah! Very empowering. Moved by your words, the poem made me cry. I have benefitted a lot from you and this article is just timely. Jazakallah khair brother continue with the work your doing you just have no clue how much it has helped me and I’m sure others are also inspired! May Allah reward you abundantly.

Syed Muneer Ahmed says

Alhamdulillah ;I am Reading this

ummkhayr says

Assalamu alaikum,

My question is amongst the best 2 questions : May I schedule a personal 1 on 1 meeting with you shaykh muhammad this week? I need some immediate advise on a business matter and your feedback would be amongst the best :).

Jazakallahu khayran katheran

Samiya Saifulla Amin says

A very inspiring and an empowering blog.
God Bless! Jazakallah khair.

nasiru hamisu says

Only Allah can reward you fully.

lawal zeenatullah says

As Salam alaikum, jazakallahu khair for all your inspiring messages may Allah reward u abundantly

Bassem says

Nice reminders of the power of words to shape outcomes small and large. Shifting from an OR to an AND paradigm is a really empowering technique if you can implement it. I also like the aiming to be ‘Amongst the best’ way of thinking. Question: When are you making a public appearance in Ottawa next? It would be nice to catch up a bit and say salam in person! All the best 🙂

Fatima says

Jazak Allah Khair. Inspirational.

Abdulwahab Ohiorenuan Obomeile says

Interesting, indeed

ibrahim duosinloun says

Ma sha Allah Power of word is one of the favours of Allah being given to us that’s why he said to us in some verses of the Qur’an: Say. الله يجزيك عنا خيرا

reshad zherka says


Aisha Ibrahim says

Salam Alaikum Muhammad!
I really, really liked this post about our choice of words we use on a daily basis and how we self-sabotage.
Could you kindly give more examples of how a shift in word usage can change our outlook for the better, please?
This is an area I am deeply concerned about and want to see change for the better in my life, Inshaallah.
We appreciate all that you do for the Ummah.

Thank you!
Aisha Ibrahim.

Maketta says

Very good article! Yes, the words we speak can determine our fate. Also, what we think about can too. I’m working on my mindset and speaking more positively.

Laila Durrani says

Very well Sir!! keep it up 🙂

Mohammad saeed says

Thank you for the aspring words
May allah reward you and your family in abandance

a passenger says

Assalemou alaykom..
I was wondering, isn’t a muslim supposed to be the best so he could be a great model for everyone..?? (Certainly without negative emotions and actions againt others..)

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