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Do not confuse motion and progress

The Prophet (SAW) taught us

Whoever believes in God and the Last Day, let him speak well or keep quiet.’

– al-Bukhāri [no.2018] and Muslim [no.47]

In his book al-Adhkaar, Imam al-Nawawi (d.676H/1277CE) devotes a whole chapter to the obligation of guarding the tongue and the merits of silence. The following is a translation of the opening segments of that discussion:

‘Know that it is required of every legally responsible person (mukallaf) that they guard their tongue from all types of speech, save that which contains an overriding benefit. Whenever speaking or keeping silent are equal in their benefits, then the sunnah is to refrain from speaking. For speech that starts off as permissible can quickly degenerate into what is forbidden or disliked. In fact, this occurs a lot, or is more often the habit; and there is no substitute for safety.’

Do not confuse motion and progress. A rocking horse keeps moving but does not make any progress. — ALFRED A. MONTAPERT

We’ve grown to subconsciously measure a person’s worth based off how many hours they work, how much is on their plate and put simply — whether or not they are running around like a headless chicken.

But, sooner or later, all of us have to ask ourselves what our mission is — is it to be the busiest or is it to make the most impact?

A story is told of an old crocodile who was floating at the river’s edge when a younger crocodile swam up next to him,

“I’ve heard from many that you’re the fiercest hunter in all of the river bottoms. Please, teach me your ways.”

Awoken from a nice long afternoon nap, the old crocodile glanced at the young crocodile with one of his reptilian eyes, said nothing and then fell back asleep atop the water.

Feeling frustrated and disrespected, the young crocodile swam off upriver to chase after some catfish, leaving behind a flurry of bubbles. “I’ll show him”, he thought to himself.

Later that day the young crocodile returned to the old crocodile who was still napping and began to brag to him about his successful hunt,

“I caught two meaty catfish today. What have you caught? Nothing? Perhaps you’re not so fierce after all.”

Unphased the old crocodile again looked at the young crocodile, said nothing, closed his eyes and continued to float atop the water as tiny minnows muched away lightly at the algae on his underbelly.

Again, the young crocodile was angry he couldn’t get a response from the elder, and he swam off a second time upstream to see what he could hunt.

After a few hours of thrashing about he was able to hunt down a small crane. Smiling, he kept the bird in his jaws and swam back to the old crocodile, adamant about showing him who the true hunter was.

As the young crocodile rounded the bend, he saw the elder crocodile still floating in the same spot near the river’s edge.

However, something had changed — a large wildebeest was enjoying an afternoon drink just inches near the old crocodile’s head.

In one lightning fast movement, the old crocodile bolted out of the water, wrapped his jaws around the great wildebeest and pulled him under the river.

Awestruck the young crocodile swam up with the tiny bird hanging from his mouth and watched as the old crocodile enjoyed his 500 lb meal.

The young crocodile asked him, “Please… tell me… how… how did you do that?”

Through mouthfuls of wildebeest, the old crocodile finally responded,

“I did nothing.”



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