I think a lot when I run. Second to showering, I am utterly convinced that running is the time when the most random, and sometimes most interesting thoughts will come to mind.
Recently, I thought about how similar running was to life, in seeking truth. If you have read Murakami’s What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, you’ll know that he parallels much of this activity to that of writing a book. And by that extension, life too. More specifically, anything which we have set goals for in life.
The thing about any endeavour is that the journey is what matters. It is the journey that makes it worthwhile.
And for us to embark on a journey, it is crucial to take the first step.
When I was running in the park, I thought, hey, the fellow runners I see, including myself, wouldn’t be there if we didn’t take the first step to put on our running shoes and get out of the house. Similarly, if we don’t take that first step in bettering ourselves as a Muslim, we would still be sleeping, procrastinating, wasting our time doing things that displeases Him and thinking we have all the time in the world, when we don’t.
The first step is always the most important step to make.
“If he comes near to Me a handspan, I come near to him the distance of a cubit. If he comes near to Me the distance of a cubit, I come near to him the distance of two outspread arms. If he comes to Me walking, I come to him running.” [Sahih al-Bukhari (6856) and Sahih Muslim (4832)
Doesn’t matter if it is to don the hijab, stopping a bad habit like smoking, attending your first religious class, etc. Whatever that initial step is that you take in pleasing Allah, once you’ve done it, Allah will ease your affairs and open you doors in places you never imagined. All it takes is that first step on the path of sweetness and struggles, towards Him. You will look back in awe and eternal gratitude to Allah for moving you.
My friend shared with me how she had always wanted to learn more about the deen and has been contemplating to wear the hijab for years now. When she finally did during last year’s Ramadhan, she never looked back. She then encountered opportunities on top of opportunities in attending religious classes. She was close to tears when she recalled to me her story, and I could see all at once the initial struggle and the effort she placed in taking the first step. Now she feels the endless love and mercy Allah has showered upon her.
When you begin to jog to warm up, you will see other runners in the park, running past you like bullets. But this is inevitable. You might be slightly jealous, but you’ll realize that this is a good kind of competition. So instead of letting envy and helplessness fester in your heart, you turn this competitiveness into motivation. And you must be glad that they cross paths with you because they make you want to run faster. Be better. You aim to be like them. To run at their pace. To be steadfast in your journey towards your goal.
When you gather your energy and keep going, day by day, you will find your balance, and you’ll notice your stamina improving, your speed increasing. You want to keep moving forward and never stop. Along the way, you will also realize that there are others who are simply walking, trailing behind you. Don’t ever mock, or think you are better than them. Remember that you once started out by walking too. We all start somewhere. Smile when you cross paths with them. Don’t think you are way ahead. Instead, be the source of motivation for them. You will never know, one day they might be running at your pace. And don’t be complacent, some might even overtake you one day!
Wherever we are in our journey, it’s important to keep track of our own pace and not be too bothered about who’s in front or who’s behind. We all come from different places, we arrive at different stages, but ultimately, our destination is the same. Be motivated by those ahead, be helpful to those trailing behind, but never once think we are better than the other runners. The only person we should be competing with is the person we were yesterday.
اهدِنَــــا الصِّرَاطَ المُستَقِيمَ
“Guide us to the straight path.” [1:6]
When we recite surah Al-Fatihah, we ask Allah to keep us on the straight path. Islam is this path. We need to strive to increase our iman for we need it to light up our way. Without it, we’d be lost in darkness, we won’t be able to see where we’re going, and we won’t know if we’ve veered away from the path we’re on. Hence, we ask Him every day to make us of people who never lose focus, and who remain constant on this journey. Allah wants to see progress, not perfection. He wants us to keep trying. Doesn’t matter if it’s a jog, a walk, or even a crawl… as long as we take that first step towards the right destination, His promise is true – He will always guide us through.