If you have two kids in front of you and you give them each the exact same candy, chances are they would immediately look at each other’s, if not snatch it, to check if their’s is better or not. This thirst of having the better item grows with the kids and translates into horrifying attitudes in later life.
Competition today has taken the form of a contagious disease in our society. And this is what Prophet Muhammad ﷺ predicted or feared about us years ago.
Sahih Bukhari, 3596:
Narrated `Uqba bin `Amr:
The Prophet (ﷺ) once came out and offered the funeral prayer for the martyrs of Uhud, and proceeded to the pulpit and said, “I shall be your predecessor and a witness on you, and I am really looking at my sacred Fount now, and no doubt, I have been given the keys of the treasures of the world. By Allah, I am not afraid that you will worship others along with Allah, but I am afraid that you will envy and fight one another for worldly fortunes.”
Competition itself isn’t a bad thing when done in healthy ways and things. But the one we witness today reeks of spite, malice and narcissism. It is doing nothing but destroying human relations and family structures. Everyone’s racing towards the ‘bigger and better’ and sometimes they don’t even know that their whole life just got wasted in this chase. We have to somehow undo this attitude to have our hands free for the real goals of this life.
It does not matter if you live in an elite area and I live in one having no fancy facilities. It does not matter if your child studies in a private posh school and mine studies in a cheap public one. It does not matter if you wear designer clothes and I wear clothes off the street vendor. It does not matter if your husband gives you expensive jewellery as gifts and mine only brings me onions and potatoes to be cooked for dinner. It does not matter if your post on social media gets more likes than mine. Seriously, it does not!
Somewhere between our competition of which school is more flashy for my kids, morals got lost. Respect for elders and teachers got lost. Education for the sake of making responsible citizens got lost. Somewhere between the desire of having clothes of the best brand, modesty and simplicity got lost. Somewhere between the competition of whose house is better, love between blood relations got lost. Empathy and sharing of joys and griefs got lost. What a sad state we are in!
So what then is healthy competition? Which competition is encouraged that would make this world a better place to live in?
Allah says in Al-Mutaffifin 26,
“…So for this let the competitors compete.”
Compete for higher ranks in Paradise because that will make you do more good deeds and make you a better person. Compete for that what is eternal, not what is temporary.
Look at the example set for us by the people of the best times:
Whenever Abu Bakr (may Allah be pleased with him) prayed Fajr, he would then go out into the desert to collect something before returning to Madinah. Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) would be surprised as to why he would leave, so he decided one day to follow him secretly. After Fajr that day, he saw Abu Bakr leaving Madinah and arriving at an old tent in the desert. Umar hid behind a huge rock to see what was about to happen. Abu Bakr spent very little time in the tent and then left. Umar then emerged from behind the rock and entered the tent to find a weak and blind woman with small children.
Umar asked her, “Who is this person who comes to you?” She said, “I don’t know him. He is just an ordinary Muslim man. He has been coming to us every morning since such-and-such a time.” Umar said, “So what does he do for you?” She replied, “He cleans the house, prepares the dough, milks our animals, and then leaves.” Umar then left, saying to himself, “You have left the Caliphs who will succeed you exhausted, O Abu Bakr! You have left the Caliphs who will succeed you exhausted!”
[Taken from Enjoy Your Life, 2nd edition, Pg. 443]