For many people life is an endless quest for the elusive. We seek success, advancement, and wealth. We crave ultimate and unending happiness through the acquisition of material things. We desire the perfect companion, friend, and lover. The list goes on, and on. Without having a map, however, and without having rules and principles to guide you along the way, this can oftentimes lead to the opposite desired effect: frustration and grief. You never seem to actually get what you want, so you give up believing that the quest is impossible, and the dream is unachievable. However, if you understand that the quest itself is the reward, you can shift your paradigm and dramatically alter your relationship with the things you want. The key is in understanding how to be mindful of the process instead of the goal. Let me explain.
One of the most important lessons I was taught early on is that God “hides eight things in eight things.” He hides:
1. His Supreme Name in all His beautiful Names.
2. The Night of Power (laylat al-qadr) amongst the last ten nights of Ramadan.
3. The answered supplication in the last third of the night.
4. The “the seven oft repeated” (al-sab’ al-mathānī) in the entire Quran.
5. The “middle prayer” (al-ṣalāt al-wusṭā) amongst all the prayers.
6. The hour during which supplications are answered on Friday.
7. The saint amongst all of creation.
8. The major sins amongst all the sins.
These are all great matters and things we want (1–7) and things we definitely don’t want (number 8). However, when you examine the Prophetic statements about these eight matters, you will conclude, as stated above, they are things we will never have certainty about. So, is this all a game and a ploy? Is this some sick system we are placed in? Nothing could be further from the truth.
These things are hidden from us so that we can be mindful about something greater than the things themselves. Another way of restating this list is as follows:
1. His Supreme Name in all His beautiful Names, so that we will call Him by all His Names and leave none out of our daily prayers.
2. The Night of Power (laylat al-qadr) amongst the last ten nights of Ramadan, so that we remain vigilant all the nights in Ramadan and bring our A game to reap the most benefits.
3. The answered supplication in the last third of the night, to encourage us to keep this part of the night as a vigil in its entirety.
4. The “the seven oft repeated” (al-sab’ al-mathānī) in the entire Quran, so as to encourage us to recite the entire Quran and never leave any part of it out.
5. The “middle prayer” (al-ṣalāt al-wusṭā) amongst all the prayers, so we keep all our daily prayers in check.
6. The hour during which supplications are answered on Friday, so that we make Friday a special day of remembrance and supplication.
7. The saint amongst all of creation, in order for us to respect and love everyone, regardless of who they are and where they come from.
8. The major sins amongst all the sins, in order to be mindful of our misdeeds, seek repentance often from them, and honor the boundaries God has given us.
By understanding this specific lesson, you can see the greater principle that the things hidden from us are hidden in order for us to be mindful, not of the things themselves, but of the process of achieving them. It’s not weight loss that’s the goal, but the little steps and habits you have to develop along the way that matter. It’s not a certain salary or dollar amount we seek, but rather being thankful for what we have and being content that brings about the true feeling of wealth and happiness.
Most people want instant gratification because the modern world is moving ever more towards the immediacy of things. While this undoubtedly brings great comforts and advancements, it can also lead us to a pure materialist mindset where we think the acquisitions of things is actually good in itself. In this way we ultimately lose the process and the journey. It is the process that leads to happiness, discipline, success, and fulfillment. The process is the way and the goal itself. This is the greater lesson.