Reflecting Allowed

Maha Bali’s blog about education

The best prayer


I have no idea how to categorize this post, and it’s not the post I started my day planning to write, but it’s one I felt compelled to write after I got an email from a close friend.

My friend wrote a prayer for me in the email. For readers who are not Muslim, in Islam, there are some preset prayers, but also a lot of the time we just use our own words for whatever context, and we pray out loud sometimes, directing the prayer to the person in front of us. Often, to thank someone for doing something, we say things like, “may God protect you”, “may God be generous to you”, or “may God bless you”. My friend said the first and last but added another thing that I think is the best prayer anyone has said to me. He added “may God make you of benefit to others”.

I just started shaking my head at how wonderful this prayer is. I don’t think anyone’s ever said that to me. Wow.

As I embark on a lot of different projects, I keep reminding myself that as an educator, my hope is that everything I do benefits someone else. If I participate in organizing a conference, doing research, teaching a course, writing an article, even sending a tweet, my goal is not (merely) to enjoy (self-fulfillment), nor (simply) to develop professionally… My ultimate goal is that whatever I do somehow benefits other people. The measure of my success in life is about that. That’s why I am in the field of education. And the person who said this prayer to me? He’s one of the people in the world whose whole life is dedicated to benefiting others, and who helps me all the time, inspires me to find new ways to benefit others when I lose sight of some of my options to do so.

And one more thing? Just a cultural note. There’s something in Islam called the fiqh (science I guess?) of priorities, and it goes that anything we do to benefit others is worth so much more than any spiritual undertaking or form of worship that benefits only oneself. So giving money or time to help the poor or needy is worth more than praying or fasting or whatever.

You don’t need to necessarily care about religion or be spiritual in order to reflect on this idea… It’s kind of like Covey’s “leave a legacy” thing as part of what makes up a complete life, but one can wish to leave a legacy for selfish reasons.

I’m not being selfless when I talk about wanting to benefit others. It’s what makes me happy. What I think makes most educators happy. What hopefully makes people in careers in healthcare, for example, happy. It would be really really truly sad if someone worked in a caring/giving profession and did not have that as their ultimate goal, but sadly some people don’t. I’m lucky to be surrounded by many wonderful people who do, though 🙂 If you’re reading this, you’re probably one of them 🙂

May more of your actions continue to benefit others 🙂


  1. What a perfect line to insert into the middle of a prayer. I think it is the “hope” of truly helping others that is my primary motivation for teaching. And the primary frustration is when roadblocks to this hope are put into place.

    • Ur so right, Susan. “Hope” is an operative word here, and you’re right about the frustrations as well. U’ve got me thinking about something else, might blog again soon..

  2. After reading this post, I decided to write to you after being hesitated for a while now.

    I consider myself as the anonymous indirect learner that you have never taught in a class. We have never met in real life and I was not a student in one of your classes before, yet I have heard about you and read many of your writings and posts which allowed me to draw an imagination of your personality in my mind. I have the feeling that I don’t want to meet you in person out of fear that I discover that you may have some character defects. 😀

    In my inbox, I have many notifications of blogs that I follow and sometimes I choose to postpone reading them till later because of my busy days but not yours. I eagerly open your posts to read them and add something valuable to my life whether by learning about new trends in teaching or starting off critical questions. I got to know the importance of reflection in the professional development and having blogs for sharing ideas and benefiting others. I like it when you open a little window to your personal life as it feels good to know more about you as a person. I also find the hash-tags that you include in your posts very useful such as #clmooc, #rhizo14 and #edcmooc and others. The way you talk about them and how passionate you are about them makes me feel their importance and follow them.

    I admire and appreciate your passion of benefiting others and always asked myself ” How can anyone make everything that is developing him professionally accessible to everyone without being worried of competition?”. I guess you answered my question today in your post when you said that the measure of your success in life is about how much you benefit others. And the reason of writing this post today is to confirm that there are people that you may not know who benefit from what you share with them.

    I guess what I am trying to say here is thank you. Thank you for being a good Egyptian citizen who is thinking about benefiting her country and its people. Thank you for spending time in learning and sharing what you learn with others while you can waste extra time in chatting about others or trivial things in our lives. Thank you for teaching me indirectly many things through your posts. And above all that, thank you for giving me a hope and a wish to be someone as dedicated to her job and mission in life as you are.

    May Allah create the suitable conditions for you to always leave a good impact on people who get in contact with you whether you know them or not.

    • Sally, your beautiful heartfelt comment made me cry, I was so touched. Thank you so much for this, you have just made my day (possibly my year!). And I can tell from reading this comment that you’re a wonderful person.
      I laughed about not wanting to meet me in person lest I have character defects hehe – I have many 🙂 But I am pretty much the same in person as online, I think 🙂 Just with a different intensity 🙂

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