A Winning Mindset
As relentless real-time depictions unveil the unspeakable horrors and sufferings endured by our besieged brothers and sisters in Gaza, the grave fatalities make us wistful, yet, it simultaneously punctuates a deep reflection: Are these losses really deemed a loss?
Today, we have generated many definitions of unbidden glories in life — victory, triumph, winning; all of which denote a false pretense to the actuality of success. Through our rose-tinted vision in this transitory plain, we can only grasp the spirit of what success means, but we cannot govern its precise meaning.
From our common perspective, we see the embattled Muslims facing their own untimely demise in the hands of their pitiless perpetrators. But in the lens of Allah, He sees the souls whom He has honored as martyrs — for honor, entirely belongs to Him. A clear denotation of success is being honored by Allah, as He lucidly defined in the Qur’an.
مَن كَانَ يُرِيدُ ٱلْعِزَّةَ فَلِلَّهِ ٱلْعِزَّةُ جَمِيعًا ۚ إِلَيْهِ يَصْعَدُ ٱلْكَلِمُ ٱلطَّيِّبُ وَٱلْعَمَلُ ٱلصَّـٰلِحُ يَرْفَعُهُۥ ۚ وَٱلَّذِينَ يَمْكُرُونَ ٱلسَّيِّـَٔاتِ لَهُمْ عَذَابٌۭ شَدِيدٌۭ ۖ وَمَكْرُ أُو۟لَـٰٓئِكَ هُوَ يَبُورُ
Whoever seeks honor and power, then ˹let them know that˺ all honor and power belongs to Allah. To Him ˹alone˺ good words ascend, and righteous deeds are raised up by Him. As for those who plot evil, they will suffer a severe punishment. And the plotting of such ˹people˺ is doomed ˹to fail˺. (35:10)
Winning in Losing
Our Deen cognitively reframes our mindsets, enabling us to see in a different kind of light — it revolutionizes our understanding of winning and losing. Knowing Allah is on our side, we make a mental pivot never to be depleted of hope amid looming conflict.
To dismantle the notion of losing, we must come to the realization that in truth, the martyrs have actually been preserved and kept safe by Allah. They are currently soaring high up in the heavens, nestling by His Throne and savoring every moment of pleasure. They have nothing more to lose. So, they are the ones that have truly excelled as winners.
وَلَا تَقُولُوا۟ لِمَن يُقْتَلُ فِى سَبِيلِ ٱللَّهِ أَمْوَٰتٌۢ ۚ بَلْ أَحْيَآءٌۭ وَلَـٰكِن لَّا تَشْعُرُونَ
Never say that those martyred in the cause of Allah are dead—in fact, they are alive! But you do not perceive it. (2:154)
Intelligible accounts show us that the Prophet’s ﷺ existence was similarly shaped by immense tragedy and heartache. He underwent the greatest sufferings and losses in his lifetime, more than any human being on earth — and yet, he is honored as the best of Allah’s creation. Once, he was simply undermined as an unlettered man in the Arabian Peninsula, incapable of dominating the world through his mission. Now, his praised name, Muhammad ﷺ, resounds in every corner of the world and his message continues reverberating in the hearts of humanity.
To reconfigure the reality of our losses in this life, our world must be centered upon sacrificing everything for the sake of Allah and accepting His divine decree. During the time of Hudaybiyyah, after seeing a dream, the Prophet ﷺ gathered his Companions in Madinah and marched forth to Makkah to perform umrah. They anticipated seeing the Ka’ba once more and could almost taste the sweetness of worship in the Holy Land, but were barred by the Quraysh from entering. As a result, a treaty was formed far from the favor of the Muslims.
The Companions were devastated by the stipulation that they had to return to Madinah and only perform umrah the following year. Unable to fathom the dreaded circumstances, Umar ibn al-Khattab (RA) asked the Prophet ﷺ:
يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ أَلَسْنَا عَلَى حَقٍّ وَهُمْ عَلَى بَاطِلٍ
“O Messenger of Allah, aren't we fighting for truth and they for falsehood?”
أَلَيْسَ قَتْلاَنَا فِي الْجَنَّةِ وَقَتْلاَهُمْ فِي النَّارِ
“Are not those killed from our side in Paradise and those killed from their side in the Fire?”
When the Prophet ﷺ replied with the affirmative, he argued:
فَفِيمَ نُعْطِي الدَّنِيَّةَ فِي دِينِنَا وَنَرْجِعُ وَلَمَّا يَحْكُمِ اللَّهُ بَيْنَنَا وَبَيْنَهُمْ
“Then why should we put a blot upon our religion and return, while Allah has not decided the issue between them and ourselves?”
But the Prophet ﷺ remained firm in his stance:
إِنِّي رَسُولُ اللَّهِ، وَلَسْتُ أَعْصِيهِ وَهْوَ نَاصِرِي
“I am Allah's Messenger and I do not disobey Him, and He will make me victorious.”
Umar, who did not settle with the outcome of the truce, continued questioning the Prophet ﷺ:
أَوَلَيْسَ كُنْتَ تُحَدِّثُنَا أَنَّا سَنَأْتِي الْبَيْتَ فَنَطُوفُ بِهِ
“Didn't you tell us that we would go to the Ka’ba and perform Tawaf around it?”
The Prophet ﷺ responded:
بَلَى، فَأَخْبَرْتُكَ أَنَّا نَأْتِيهِ الْعَامَ
“Yes, but did I tell you that we would visit the Ka’ba this year?”
In frustration, Umar confronted Abu Bakr RA, who in his wisdom, only shared the same sentiments as the Prophet ﷺ. Though it may have been inconceivable for Umar as well as the rest of the Companions to see a silver lining, they did not disobey the Prophet ﷺ. It was at this moment that Allah revealed Surah al-Fath (the victory), declaring the treaty to be a clear victory. When the Prophet ﷺ recited the surah in front of Umar, Umar clarified:
يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ، أَوَفَتْحٌ هُوَ
“O Allah's Messenger ﷺ was it (the Hudaybiyyah treaty) a victory?” The Prophet ﷺ concurred, “Yes”.
This, indeed, marked the turning point for the Muslims, and it was a great honor bestowed upon the Prophet ﷺ. Allah elevated the status of His most obedient and righteous servant Muhammad ﷺ, who honored His commands and prohibitions, and granted him victory above his enemies.
Allah made it clear that rooted in every supposed downfall, lies a significant metaphor of winning itself. We are meant to experience the rise and the fall in this imperfect abode, so we can relish perfection in the everlasting abode — where triumph without any tragedies has been promised.
إِنَّ ٱلَّذِينَ قَالُوا۟ رَبُّنَا ٱللَّهُ ثُمَّ ٱسْتَقَـٰمُوا۟ تَتَنَزَّلُ عَلَيْهِمُ ٱلْمَلَـٰٓئِكَةُ أَلَّا تَخَافُوا۟ وَلَا تَحْزَنُوا۟ وَأَبْشِرُوا۟ بِٱلْجَنَّةِ ٱلَّتِى كُنتُمْ تُوعَدُونَ
Indeed, those who have said, “Our Lord is Allah” and then remained on a right course – the angels will descend upon them, [saying], “Do not fear and do not grieve but receive good tidings of Paradise, which you were promised. (41:30)
True Loss vs True Success
When Allah uses the word loss in the Qur’an, He only attributes it to those who have lost in the hereafter — the true losers. A loser’s illusory success will become an inescapable reality the minute they realize their catastrophic fate upon leaving this world. Likewise, on the Day of Judgment, when they stand before Allah, whatever they believe they have achieved, will be inconsequential in the grandest scheme of Allah’s judgment.
قُلْ هَلْ نُنَبِّئُكُم بِالْأَخْسَرِينَ أَعْمَالًا ﴿١٠٣﴾ الَّذِينَ ضَلَّ سَعْيُهُمْ فِي الْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا وَهُمْ يَحْسَبُونَ أَنَّهُمْ يُحْسِنُونَ صُنْعًا ﴿١٠٤﴾ أُولَٰئِكَ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا بِآيَاتِ رَبِّهِمْ وَلِقَائِهِ فَحَبِطَتْ أَعْمَالُهُمْ فَلَا نُقِيمُ لَهُمْ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ وَزْنًا ﴿١٠٥﴾
Say, [O Muhammad], “Shall we [believers] inform you of the greatest losers as to [their] deeds? [They are] those whose effort is lost in worldly life, while they think that they are doing well in work. Those are the ones who disbelieve in the verses of their Lord and in [their] meeting Him, so their deeds have become worthless; and We will not assign to them on the Day of Resurrection any importance.” (18:103-105)
In contrast, true success consists precisely of surrendering to Allah. Coming to terms with loss in congruent to trusting that Allah will recompense us with His reward, is the surest path to becoming a winner. This is a sentiment echoed by the Prophet ﷺ when he assured his Companions, for every loss we face, Allah will surely replace it with something better. Then, he taught them to recite this du’a:
اللهم آجرني في مصيبتي، واخلف لي خيرا منها
O Allah! Compensate me in my affliction, recompense my loss and give me something better in exchange for it.
In the end, success in its heightened forms, extraordinary properties and truest expressions, is given in full compensation to the believer — with Paradise as the ultimate reward. It’s worth spelling out that everything we want is with Allah. So long as we remain fixated on the hereafter and leave this world in a state that He is pleased with us, victory is ours to keep, forever.
فَمَن زُحۡزِحَ عَنِ ٱلنَّارِ وَأُدۡخِلَ ٱلۡجَنَّةَ فَقَدۡ فَازَۗ وَمَا ٱلۡحَيَوٰةُ ٱلدُّنۡيَآ إِلَّا مَتَٰعُ ٱلۡغُرُورِ
So he who is drawn away from the Fire and admitted to Paradise has attained [his desire]. And what is the life of this world except the enjoyment of delusion. (3:185)