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Steadiness in the Language of Mathematics
Nov 1, 2009

Many people think that walking two meters is easy, as the interval between the start and the finish is so small. Anyone who can walk half a meter with every step can cover this distance in four steps, and anyone who can walk a quarter of a meter can complete this in eight. However, it is possible that this distance could not be completed, as to do so is dependent on the steps taken. For example, if a living being moves one meter with its first step and half a meter in the following and then a quarter of a meter in the third… i.e., if with every step one only covers half the distance of the previous step, one will not be able to reach the final destination. As the steps taken in this way decrease by half with every step, it is not important how many steps this being takes. The distance can be covered only after infinite number of steps taken, for mathematics explains us that 1+1/2+1/4+1/8+....can only reach 2 if the series is summed to infinity.

A being that covers half the remaining distance with every step can reach its destination only if it can walk for infinity. When the ability to walk is limited, irrespective of the length of the steps taken, one will only be able to cover half the remaining distance, not the entire distance. In other words, there will always be a distance that remains to be covered. To cover more than half would be nothing less than attempting the impossible, because no being lives long enough to do this. With every step that the being moves forward it can only cover half the distance between the location and the destination.

In the light of this mathematical perspective, we can analyze the deeds we carry out and the steps that we have already taken, and those that we will take in our journey through life that is to be carried out towards God. I wonder if the steps we have already taken are enough to acquire His love and consent at the end of the journey. Answering this question in a conclusive way is difficult, because in the end this situation depends on God’s will. Moreover, God informed us of what needs to be done when he sent the Prophets and Books. Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, encouraged us to increase our steps in one of his hadith: “He whose two days are equal is at a loss.” As life passes by, we may be satisfied with our performance so far and we may be sure that we will reach our goal, but if our steps which we make for the sake of God are abating, then we are deceiving ourselves. After some time, our steps become so small as to disappear and it becomes impossible to attain our goals. There is no doubt that such a break in our actions creates a lack of progress, and this in turn induces us to take no further steps. In this saying the Prophet, peace be upon him, highlights this danger and advises us to take more steps than the day before.

In another hadith qudsi (a saying uttered by the Prophet but the meaning of which belongs to God) related to the subject, the Prophet describes how to acquire God’s love in the following manner:

“My servant draws not near to Me with anything more loved by Me than the religious duties I have enjoined upon him, and My servant continues to draw near to Me with supererogatory works so that I shall love him. When I love him I am his hearing with which he hears, his seeing with which he sees, his hand with which he strikes and his foot with which he walks. (I protect her/him from hearing, looking at, touching forbidden things and walking on the wrong path.” (Bukhari, Tawhid, 15)

Certainly, there are occasions when we become so enthusiastic that we lose ourselves in the desire to gain the consent of God and to be reunited with God. On special days and nights and at holy times, we push ourselves; at such times we might perform supererogatory prayers. We hope that God the Almighty accepts these prayers; but if this worship is short-lived, it will not be enough to help us reach our goal. As we can understand from the above hadith, what is important is that prayers are constant. In another hadith, the narrator Abdullah bin Amr bin As reports that our Prophet, peace be upon him, told him “O Abdullah! Do not be like such and such a person who used to pray during the nights but gave up later” (Bukhari-Muslim). Again, according to a narration by Aisha, the Messenger of God, peace be upon him, carried out twelve cycles of prayer to compensate a night in which he had been unable to pray because of pain or some other reason (Muslim).

All of this shows us how important it is to be steadfast in prayer. Taking control of one’s carnal self, the believer should walk toward God with constant steps. To attain the prosperity of the servant described in the above hadith qudsi, a person should make obligatory and supererogatory prayers a habit. Although sometimes the carnal self, nafs, and the Devil try to imprison one in hopelessness, the believer should do whatever they can in order not to lose their zeal and enthusiasm. Even if, from time to time, they stumble or fall, they should never fall into a whirlpool of despair and should not be overcome by pessimism. Thoughts about the brevity of their steps or the inadequacy of their worship should never slow the servant down nor should they be a reason for the servant turning back on the road to which they have devoted their lives. We should not forget that “our Lords’ most beloved worship is the one that is consistent, even if it is small.”