By: Dr. Shadee Elmasry
One of my favorite themes from the Quran: That which truly benefits people will last the test of time. That which merely gets superficial attention fades away.
فَأَمَّا الزَّبَدُ فَيَذْهَبُ جُفَاءً ۖ وَأَمَّا مَا يَنفَعُ النَّاسَ فَيَمْكُثُ فِي الْأَرْضِ
In a world where there is so much competition and amplification, it's nice to know that success isn't about attention. It's about something much more objective, namely bringing a benefit to someone. Benefitting people, as Muhammad Ali put it, is the rent we owe for living on this earth.
The benefit is often so muted it's taken for granted. But when you zoom out and look at the years and decades, you see it. How did certain people, or certain acts, or certain jobs or industries or organizations last that long?
People were silently benefitting.
In contrast, zoom out at and look at the attention-getters of society. At the moment, you can't take your eyes off them. Sometimes it's a completely euphoric buzz that enraptures the whole world. Fast-forward... if there was no real-life benefit, those types end up on "Where are they now?" click-bait websites.
True success and worthiness in any field really needs the ability to withstand the test of time.
With this aya, we don't have to debate within ourselves about whether to spend our time bringing benefit vs getting attention.
The answer is clear.
Actually, too much attention can cause harm. It's a distraction. It invites a lot of things that seem nice on the outside but simply don't have any role in helping you offer the benefit that you bring to the table every day.
Furthermore, crowd-pleasing is exhausting. It's subjective. It turns a sane person into a clown. You have to please whims and keep feeding them and feeding them. And at the end, the moment there's a new flavor of the month, you get tossed aside.
Becoming great at a craft is the exact opposite. It's patiently repeating the same process until you become an expert at it. Anyone can learn patience. Anyone can repeat something over and over. You can't rush expertise. You can't sky-rocket to it. Which means that nobody will just surpass you overnight. You don't have to worry about that and live in paranoia.
This aya is yet another case of the Quran settling an issue in our minds, giving us certainty as we march forward and saving us from wasting our time.