Brief ReadsSoul Cleansers

Poised for Progress

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I hope you live a life that you’re proud of. If you find you’re not, I hope you have the strength to start all over. -—F. Scott Fitzgerald

Celebrate words. Smother them with attention. Even words disregarded as lowest common-denominator diction. All words, words found on your little sister’s spelling homework. Why celebrate? Because there is a spiritual mystery hidden in the folds of language. Take the word (أصاب) `aṣāba: it is one of the Arabic words meaning “to do right.” Traditionally, though, for the archers, (أصاب) also meant “to strike the arrow,” or “to hit the bulls-eye.” Place that note in your mental basket and consider the opposite of doing right: (أخطئة) `akhṭa`a, meaning “to sin.” The Arab archers of old understood this word as meaning “to miss the mark.”

Two words. أصاب and أخطئة. Together, they suggest a timeless truth about human behavior: we are all archers in the field of dunyā, and despite our proneness to sin, we are incessantly aiming for goodness-—poising ourselves toward the target of human perfection. Always. And when we “miss the mark”-—when we fall short, when we transgress, when our arrows sway to the left or the right-—the way to rectify that is tawba. We go back, reset our aim, and try again.

Because every setback is your springboard for a comeback.

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