Opinion: What we can learn from the Holy Quran about worldly success

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Last Updated on 23rd September 2022

Qasim Choudhary, Missionary, Texas USA
Nike

If you scan your closet or shoe rack, chances are you will discover a fluid checkmark or swoosh symbol on your apparel. We can thank Phil Knight for the iconic symbol that transcends borders and is instantly recognised worldwide. 

Not much was known about the founder of shoe giant Nike, but that all changed with the release of his recent best-selling memoir “Shoe Dog”. It is a beautifully crafted and enthralling account of a young man’s desire to leave an indelible mark on the world. As Knight puts it, “Like all my friends I wanted to be successful… But deep down I was searching for something else, something more. I wanted to leave a mark on the world.” (Knight, Philip H., Shoe Dog: A Memoir By the Creator of Nike, New York: Scribner, 2016, p. 3)

As I flipped through the pages of this inspiring book, I recollected the four principles of success outlined in the first chapter of the Holy Quran. To my utter amazement, the growth and success of Nike corresponded with those Quranic principles revealed 1,400 years ago. I was compelled to dig deeper. Without further ado, let’s take a look at how Nike’s success coincides with the Quranic principles of success. 

Aptitude

The first factor that is necessary for success is competence and ability. (Khutbat-e-Mahmud, Vol. 12, p. 495)

In this regard, Allah declares:

اَلْحَمْدُلِلّٰه‭ ‬رَبِّ‭ ‬الْعٰلَمِيْنَ

“All praise belongs to Allah, Lord of All the Worlds.” (Surah Fatihah, Ch1:V2)

Meaning, that it is God who sustains and develops everything so that we can achieve our objectives through the capacities he bestows upon us.

It is evident in Knight’s upbringing that certain factors played a major role in preparing him to become a future CEO of a billion-dollar company. For instance, he graduated from the University of Oregon and went on to earn a master’s from a top business school – Stanford. He further equipped himself with accounting knowledge and earned his CPA. Apart from his academic prowess, Knight also did a yearlong hitch in the US Army, which taught him discipline and perseverance. 

But more importantly, Phil Knight loved to run. It was his passion for running – more than anything – that allowed him to venture into and dominate the shoe business. As Knight reveals, “I’d puzzle over my sudden success at selling […] So why was selling shoes so different? Because I realized, it wasn’t selling. I believed in running. I believed that if people go out and ran a few miles every day, the world would be a better place, and I believed these shoes were better to run in. People, sensing my belief, wanted some of that belief for themselves.” (Knight, Philip H, Shoe Dog: A Memoir By the Creator of Nike, New York: Scribner, 2016, pp. 55-56)

Provisions

The second matter that is required for success is the availability of provisions and materials. (Khutbat-e-Mahmud, Vol.12, p. 495) 

For instance, a fisherman would be rendered useless without a boat and fishing net. God Almighty, however, is الرحمٰن (The Gracious) i.e. He provides the necessary tools that are needed for man to succeed. Even before man’s existence, God had equipped man with the amenities required for his survival. 

Analysing Knights’ life, it becomes clear that he was afforded the necessary goods to kickstart his business. Seeing an opportunity to do business with the Japanese, Knight travelled to Kobe, Japan and paired up with a sports shoe company – Onitsuka Tiger becoming the exclusive distributor of Tiger shoes in the United States. What’s amusing is that Knight couldn’t even afford a sample shipment, so he immediately sent his father a letter asking him to wire 50 dollars to Onitsuka Corp of Kobe. Fortunately for Knight, his father would grudgingly loan him more money for future shipments. 

Hard Work

The third element obligatory for victory is hard work. As the Promised Messiahas aptly states, “Struggle is something without which one cannot attain any high ranking success.” (Malfuzat, [English], Vol. 3, p. 199)

But hard work alone won’t carry one to the heights of success. Results are just as important. (Khutbat-e-Mahmud, Vol.12, p. 496)

Going back to the example of our fisherman, if he doesn’t find anyone to sell his fish, his efforts are in vain. In turn, he will not be motivated to work hard if he sees no gain. 

 That is why God Almighty states:

الرَّحِيْم

“The Merciful.” 

It means that, man on his part ought to toil incessantly and Allah shall provide and grant results. 

Knight understood that leaving his mark on the world would require him to venture out of the quiet Portland suburb he grew up in. Unlike today, in the 1960s the earth was bigger and people weren’t accustomed to travelling farther than 100 miles from their front door. 90% of Americans still had never been on an aeroplane. Despite the risks and uncertainties involved in global travel, Knight mustered up the courage and travelled the world, gaining a plethora of knowledge about other cultures and traditions. If he hadn’t taken on this risk, he would’ve never been associated with the Japanese who kickstarted his career.  

Teamwork

اِيَّا‭ ‬كَ‭ ‬نَعْبُدُ‭ ‬وَاِ‭ ‬يَّاكَ‭ ‬نَسْتَعِيْنُ

“You alone do we worship, You alone do we beseech for help.” (Surah Al-Fatihah, Ch.1: V.5)

The Holy Quran advocates one to giving greater preference to the collective good and aiming for cohesion. For this reason, the above verse takes the plural form instead of the singular. Although man individually strives and perseveres, it is only until we are surrounded by a supporting cast that we can truly conquer our goals.

In other words, man requires the cooperation of others to succeed. Whether it was his mother’s undying support, his father’s connections and initial financial backing, or his early dealings with Japanese businessmen; Phil Knight had no shortage of benefactors. 

One ally, however, who stood out the most was his old track coach and mentor, Bill Bowerman. Regarded as the country’s top track coach, “Bowerman was a genius coach, a master motivator, a natural leader of young men, and there was one piece of gear he deemed crucial to their development. Shoes. He was obsessed with how human beings are shod,” said Knight. Bowerman and Knight would eventually go on to become business partners.

It’s fascinating to see the Holy Quran’s blueprint for success materialise in the shape of a modern-day corporation like Nike. This divine book that was revealed over a millennium ago truly catapults its reader and adherent to the pinnacles of success in both the worldly and spiritual realms. 

So, if you are chasing success, what are you waiting for? Open the treasure trove of wisdom and knowledge and take your pick of its infinite insights and verities. For the Promised Messiahas emphatically declared, “Success is impossible and inconceivable if one forsakes the Quran.” (Malfuzat, [English], Vol. 3, p. 51)

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