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What Islam Has to Say About 'Perfection' – Hint, It's Not What You Think!

Posted on Jul 20, 2020
Guest Contributor


By Danah Shuli

Living in a time where perfection is often a big goal, especially in the world of social media, can be very exhausting and mentally draining for so many of us. I know I feel it with my two young children. Picture perfect memories posted onto Facebook and Instagram stories of well behaved children completing activities and following instructions, beautifully styled homes and mess-free play rooms on the feed – how is that reality?

I’m oftentimes left questioning my mothering style and the capabilities of my own kids because of this curated vision of perfection. We all know that this is really an illusion; unrealistic standards set by society that force people to only show the good on camera and not what goes on behind the scenes. It leaves many of us feeling inadequate and defeated.

social media on cell phones

So, why am I dedicating an entire blog post on the concept of “living life to perfection?” When diving deeper into the concept of perfection in Islam, I discovered that living your life to perfection, or itqan, does not have the same connotation as the perfection our society thrusts on us. Rather, it is more of a standard we as Muslims hold for ourselves and should strive to achieve in order to attain Allah’s (S) pleasure, rather than the pleasure of His servants.

Itqan is also not the end result. It’s the means in which you carry out your tasks, whether those done professionally or in your personal life.

The word itqan in Arabic refers to the work and duties performed and completed in the highest quality. In the Quran, the verb atqan is used to describe the perfection in which Allah (S) has created all things:

And you see the mountains, thinking them rigid, while they will pass as the passing of clouds. [It is] the work of Allah, who perfected all things. Indeed, He is acquainted with that which you do. (Al-Naml, 27:88)

We also see the concept of itqan implemented in the life of the Prophet Muhammad (saw) in an array of instances from before he became a prophet and throughout his lifetime. He was granted the nickname of “the honest and trustworthy” prior to his prophecy, indicating that the way in which he carried out his business affairs was at the highest level.

Through numerous trials and tribulations – both on a personal level with losing the most beloved and dearest members of his family – to being persecuted from his hometown and mocked and harassed by an entire city, he always carried out his family affairs and religious duties with the grace, patience and perseverance acting upon the highest level of itqan. This shows us that we are not in control of the results of our efforts, rather the means in which we carry out our tasks and duties.

As part of our Live Boldly campaign and building off of what Melanie talks about in her ChangeMakers events, it’s important to realize that living our best lives, striving to do our best in deen and dunya – whatever our talents may be, whatever we are capable of doing – is part and parcel of our faith. This is where itqan becomes so important to implement.

So, how do we implement itqan in our lives? We start by purifying your intentions and letting go of what we can’t control.

As is the norm with anything in our deen, purifying our intentions when performing tasks is the first thing to check off our list. We know that our actions will not be accepted by Allah (S) if they are not done solely and truly for His sake. Therefore, it is important to constantly check in with ourselves and renew our intentions before doing anything. This also is a great opportunity to remind ourselves that day to day obligations, such as meal prep, house chores and raising children, count as a form of ibadah, or worship. And, this ties into itqan.

Your intention to clean your house to provide a sanitary, beautiful living space for your family is a form of worship when done for the sake of Allah (S). Raising your children to the best of your ability, with the intention of raising them to be responsible citizens of the Earth and forthright Muslims, is a form of worship. Going out to work or working from home, for the sake of providing a halal income for your family and putting good into the world, is also a form of worship when setting the right intention.

The concept of itqan is applied to all of these day to day tasks that are directly related to our relationship with Allah (S) and the good deeds we want to reap.

Muslim mom and daughter

Photo by Mihai Surdu on Unsplash

As a mother, I strive for excellence and perfection in how I choose to raise my family. In reality it may not seem this way, because motherhood and parenthood in general is not meant to be “perfect.” Rather, the concept of perfecting the means in which I parent by and striving for that excellence is the goal.

A simple example of this in my own personal life is picking up a parenting book to educate myself on how to better handle hard situations with my toddler and to be better equipped with providing a stimulating and nourishing environment for my children. In other words – trying to be the best I can be as a parent.

When preparing meals for my family, I am constantly trying different recipes to keep meals appealing, and I strive to include healthy and wholesome ingredients. These efforts may seem trivial but this is the essence of itqan, living life to perfection, in Islam. It is not about the picture perfect result that you may or may not achieve, rather the means in which you carry out your task.

It also means taking time to discover what your talents are and developing them to the best of your abilities in order to put good out into the world. If itqan is striving for perfection, then investing in our own talents helps with this.

Your work is a direct reflection of who you are.

We know that in creating anything, whether that’s a presentation at school, a status report at work, a post for a blog, a painting for a client, or a cake for an event – your name is written all over the final product. We would never want to present any of those things half-heartedly or without knowing that we put in 100 percent of our work and effort. Having itqan, in this sense, means that you will strive to produce something that is nothing less than perfect with your name on it.

Likewise when raising your children, you want to raise them to the best of your abilities knowing that you invested your time and resources so that when they are out in society, their manners and behaviors are a reflection of the household they grew up in. Again, the concept of tawakkul is embedded into this as well, because we cannot control the actions of others. We may be tested with challenging children, however doing your part with itqan is the goal in every aspect of life.

May Allah (S) help us attain itqan in all that we do. May we strive to seek His pleasure, and His alone, and may we reap the benefits of our good deeds in this life and the hereafter. Ameen.