Reflecting Allowed

Maha Bali’s blog about education

The best prayer

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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 🙂

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