The Extra Mile An Essay by

Ever wondered what was the difference between an ordinary person and an extraordinary person?

It’s just that one remained ordinary, while the other went the extra mile, making him extraordinary.

Sounds too simple to be true? Take a quick look at the famous personalities around us. Whether they are famous in the field of politics, sports, acting, or any other prolific career, they usually got there by simply putting in the extra time that others didn’t. In politics, anybody can theoretically run for an elected position, yet we only ever see two or three people, out of hundreds and thousands of people, run to get elected for a government position. This is true not only in politics, but in almost every type of leadership and working capacity. Roger Staubach, a businessman and Hall of Fame quarterback, once said,

There are no traffic jams along the extra mile.”

If you find yourself along the extra mile and look around, you will notice that there are only handful amounts of people . You essentially become a pioneer, carving out undiscovered lands of Barakah and opportunity for others to follow. Every step that you take in this extra mile is a historic first in its own right.

It sounds great from all aspects, so why don’t we see Muslims actually taking the extra mile? I personally see several syndromes that account for this:

1. The 9-5 Job Syndrome - It’s practically set in stone; an employee signs in at 9am, works the day (with lunch and several breaks of course), and then promptly leaves as soon as the clock hits 5pm. It’s a job after all, so why bother staying longer than necessary?

The sad thing is that many apply this rationale to their Islamic activism. This is not limited to part-time Islamic activists, but also includes those who work full-time hours for an Islamic cause and/or organization. It so happens that as soon as the time shows that it’s time to go, they promptly shut off their whirling brains and head out for home, their mind now thinking about what will be for dinner instead of caring for what they were doing just a few minutes ago. The problem is not necessarily that they leave immediately, but that there is no semblance that they have a strong attachment to their work. It shouldn’t be that they view their work…as work or as a chore, but it should rather be that they view it as their life mission. They eagerly share their ideas for Islam with others, they inspire their families and friends to get more involved in the community, and they’re constantly working and being productive because their motivation is not money, but Jannah. They’re always aiming to be along the extra mile.

A friend of mine was once talking to his mother-in-law, and he mentioned to her that he once became very amazed when this one brother  told him that he was working three jobs to keep his children in an Islamic school. His mother-in-law replied,

“This is not putting the brother down or anything, but this is what every Muslim needs to do to make sure that the Ummah moves forward. I also had to work two jobs, attend medical school, and look after my children”.

SubhanAllāh, just think about that for a moment; she is saying that at the very least, we need to pump more than 120 hours per week for Islam. This would not only us very far on the extra mile, but it would ensure that Islam truly becomes a Deen, a way of life, for us. I’ve seen Muslim friends wearing t-shirts that proudly proclaim, “I eat, drink, breathe, walk, talk, and sleep [insert favorite team]”.

Perhaps it’s time that we insert Islam in there.

2. The “Good Enough” Syndrome“Just slap a “beta” sticker onto the project and release it to the world” – that’s the way several Muslim organizations have been operating ever since their inception, unfortunately. They simply complete the bare minimum and see no reason to do anymore. As Muslims, this really should not be the way we conduct ourselves because our aim is to have Ihsan, excellence, in everything we do. Whenever I try bringing this up to others, they normally retort in an exasperated tone, “Well, I know that it’s impossible to reach perfection, so why bother trying?” Well, nobody’s asking you to be fully perfect, but we are saying that good is the enemy of great. We can no longer afford to be mediocre. We can no longer have our projects laying around half-completed. The focus needs to immediately shift from focusing on quantity, to focusing on the quality of our work as  this will directly accelerate our Ummah’s growth.

3. Laziness SyndromeAt the end of the day, it all comes down to being lazy (I wouldn’t be surprised if someone flinched while reading the title and seeing the words “Extra” and “Mile”). Ustadh Muhammad AlShareef once mentioned in his lecture, “Lazy Boy”, that laziness is actually at the root of many sins that people commit; they steal and gamble because they are too lazy to earn Halal money, they commit Zinaa’ (fornication) because they are too lazy to get married, etc. In the same way, many are just way too lazy to get up and go the extra mile. They are in their comfort zone and have no wish to ever get out of it.

Sorry, but all of us need to get out of our comfort zones, especially since it may just be a trap of Shaytaan. Imam AbdulBasit once gave an excellent Halaqah on this topic and mentioned that Shaytaan’s initial trap is to get us to commit sins. If he doesn’t succeed in luring someone to do so, then he will try to get him to perform Mubaah (merely permissible, with no good or bad deeds gained) acts because that is better than that individual performing good deeds. It doesn’t stop there however, because an additional trap of Shaytaan, in the case that all else fails, is that he will try to get us to perform acts that are Mustahab (recommended, with good deeds gained). Why? Because it turns out that these good deeds are actually less in reward than others acts of worship of great reward and benefit that we could be doing with our time instead. SubhanAllāh…

Gauge yourself on this scale; are you in the extra mile zone, with Shaytaan frantically trying to keep you from performing the best of deeds, or are you still struggling with the bare minimum? Gauge your level, and then work on continuously improving yourself. Realize that Islam is a way of life, work around-the-clock for Allāh, make excellence your goal, and get out of your comfort zone. Insha’Allāh, in this way, our Ummah will move forward.

May Allāh (subhanahu wa ta’ala) help us to reach and continue through the extra mile. Ameen…