Everyone is Capable of Leaving a Legacy Behind

By: Mohd Abbas Abdul Razak

A legacy is something noble, precious or even useful that we leave behind for others before we make an exit from this world. For the vast majority of us, the imagination that comes to our mind with regard to a legacy is that of a monumental structure, system, an ideology, statue of a most influential leader, etc. Some even think of a huge sum of money you leave behind for posterity.

When such imaginations come to our mind, as laymen, we might feel that we have nothing great to contribute to others when we compare ourselves with those who are affluent or influential. Conversely, from the Islamic perspective, each and every one of us is capable of doing something trivial, yet it can be great in the sight of Allah and others when we are no longer there. 

The Qur’an and Hadith are replete with recommendations for mankind to have humanly qualities in our relationship with others. We are encouraged to share the goodness that God has given us and to be kind with others like the wayfarers, orphans, destitute, poor, captives of war, people burdened with debt (Surah 2:177; 9:60), etc.

Moreover, the Qur’an reminds us that the act of righteousness is not solely based on the fulfilment of the rituals (ibadah), but also based on the act of being kind and having the sympathy and empathy towards those who are in need in any manner. In today’s world, where life has become individualistic due to egocentrism, a regular visit as a volunteer to serve an orphanage, old folks home, centre for the disabled people or to be a regular blood donor, etc. can be a great service to humanity. 

Going through the annals of history, we will find that many philosophers, prophets and men of wisdom have left behind their teachings as a legacy to be followed by humanity. Michael H. Hart, who wrote ‘The 100: A Ranking of the Most Influential Persons in History’ chose Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) to be the number one leader and personality among those analysed. When we look into the biography of this universal prophet, we will discover that he did not sit on a majestic throne or lead a life full of luxury and flamboyance like the mighty kings and emperors of Rome and Persia at that time.

Although Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was poor in many ways, he led a selfless and altruistic life, prioritising the needs of the people of his time. His noble character and simplicity of life attracted the pagans of Mecca into the fold of Islam.

In describing the character of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), the Qur’an says. 

“And We have not sent you, (O Muhammad), except as a mercy to the worlds” (21:17); “And you are truly a man of outstanding character” (68:4).

In a Hadith, the Prophet (PBUH) said

“Allah has sent me as an apostle so that I may demonstrate perfection of character, refinement of manners and loftiness of deportment”

[Malik and Ahmad]

The wisdom and moral teachings which Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) left behind have now become a legacy which has been followed by the 1.7 billion population of the world. 

Most religions of the world preach that man by birth is the most exalted, intelligent and honoured creation of God. His downfall only happens when something has gone wrong either in his upbringing, education, socialisation, etc. Some psychologists paint man with a negative image, but most have stated the many good qualities of man.

We should not assume that a good man is like an angel and never makes mistakes in his life. After all, they say, “To err is of human”. Generally, most people accept the fact that life, like history, does not travel in a straight line. From childhood to old age, we are bound to experience some pleasant surprises and unpleasant misfortunes.

So, let us agree that a good man is one who is constantly evolving to be a better human being on a daily basis by getting closer to God, and feeling compassionate to fellow human beings, flora and fauna. In his attitude, he is a humanist and tries to rise above all self-centredness and be of service to others in any small way he can. With this understanding, let us concur that legacy is unlike the success of a man, which is normally quantified in terms of monetary value or the magnitude of an object that he leaves behind. 

Good human qualities like compassion, love, respect, friendship, brotherhood, etc., towards others in the name of God and in humanity can be considered as a legacy. When individuals with the aforementioned qualities depart from this life, they just don’t disappear from this world. A wise man once said that the metaphor of such individuals is that of a precious stone that breaks and shatters into a thousand pieces. Every tiny piece of the stone will stay in the hearts of people reflecting the deceased person’s good quality.

Simply put, such a personality lives beyond his/her bodily death in the hearts of people. With this broader perspective on what a legacy is all about, let us, as good human beings and responsible citizens of the world, do all that is within our means to help one another. 

Some of the things that we can do for one another and for humanity, will be acts like respecting our neighbours regardless of their race and religion, involving in fundraising activities, being at the forefront for peace and unity, being a member of the anti-war movement, be a member of wildlife conservation society, etc.

In shifting away from the narrow perspective of what a legacy is all about, now let’s do some soul-searching and discover the hidden emotion which has been hibernating within our bosoms. Be it small or big, let’s bring those good intentions to the surface and make them into a reality.

Upon discovering our own legacy, let’s inspire our children, students, friends and humanity to have a legacy of their own. They say, a life lived, and happiness sought for oneself is an incomplete life, but when they are meant for everyone around us, they become more meaningful. So, let us ask, “What is my legacy?”

Source: IIUMToday

(Dr. Mohd Abbas Abdul Razak is an academic in the Department of Fundamental and Inter-Disciplinary Studies, KIRKHS)


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