Make Your Bed…Change The World?


Qasim Choudhary, Canada

Remember that viral video, in which an admiral of the U.S navy addressed the graduating class of the University of Texas? Perhaps you remember his iconic words, ‘if you want to change the world, make your bed’. Admiral William H. McRaven, in his highly motivating and celebrated speech, suggests that little things can change your life and perhaps, subsequently, the world. In his bestseller, Make Your Bed, Admiral McRaven imparts different lessons from Navy Seal training, and how he overcame difficult obstacles during the course of his training. According to McRaven, these simple lessons are equally important in dealing with the challenges of life. Sifting through this book, I was curious to know if these lessons could aid one in overcoming spiritual challenges and fortify a person in their spiritual journey. I wondered if these lessons coincide with Islamic wisdom? What is the attitude of the religious divines towards these lessons? With all these questions in mind, I set out to better understand if practicing a few of these lessons could change my life, or better yet, the world. 

(1) Start by making your bed

Life can be chaotic and sometimes it feels as if there is little we can do to control the outcome of our day. In the midst of all this chaos, we search for something that can grant us stability and hope. Without stability, our daily life loses a sense of structure which we all desperately require. Without hope, we lose ourselves in the dark pit of misery. Admiral McRaven asserts that the simple act of making our bed can give a person the lift they need to start their day and provide the satisfaction to end it right. [1] What appears to be a menial task, in reality, welcomes stability and hope. If done consistently, the act of making your bed becomes a small victory providing you with added motivation for a more productive day. It can become one constant in your day that you can count on and feed off for extra energy.

The same philosophy was introduced over 1400 years ago when, The Holy Prophet (sa) declared, ‘the most beloved deed to Allah is the most regular and constant even if it were little.’ [2]

Often times we make the error of believing that we are part of a spiritual race rather than a spiritual marathon. Instead of pacing ourselves and building up our spiritual lungs, we are guilty of overexerting ourselves and ultimately burning out. We find ourselves falling into this mistake especially when it comes to worship. How many times have you found yourself falling prey to temporary enthusiasm for worship which results in a short lived and demoralising state? In reality, the key to lasting fervour in our worship is borne with consistency. [3]

 Just as Admiral McRaven utilised making his bed as a daily constant, we as Muslims are also fortunate to have one constant in the morning that helps regulate our day, and that is the morning prayer. It is a golden opportunity to kickstart our day with positivity and achievement. In fact, the Holy Prophet (sa) prayed for his people, ‘O Allah, bless my nation early in the morning’. [4] He also placed great value of the morning prayer by stating, ‘The two rak’ahs [units of prayer] at dawn are better than this world and what it contains’. [5] Additionally, there is a particular blessing in the prayer found in Surah al-Fatiha, the opening chapter of the Holy Qur’an, ‘guide us to the right path.’ As we recite this prayer, we are constantly beseeching God for the stability that we require throughout the day, to stay firm on the path of our spiritual marathon, that will lead us to Him. 

(2) Find someone to help you paddle

Teamwork makes the dream work– John C. Maxwell [6]

Traversing alone through the uncertain and winding terrain of life can be a daunting venture. Admiral McRaven learned early on in his training about the value of teamwork and reliance on others to get through difficult tasks. Echoing the importance of teamwork and solidarity, the Holy Prophet (sa) remarked, ‘A faithful believer to a faithful believer is like the bricks of a wall, enforcing each other.’ [7] While saying this, the Prophet (sa) clasped his hands, by interlacing his fingers.

Sometimes, out of hesitation or due to pride, we have a tendency to avoid asking others for help. If anyone in the world did not require assistance from other humans, it was most definitely the Holy Prophet (sa). But we see that God Almighty Himself instructed the Holy Prophet (sa) to consult his companions in different matters. [8]

Accordingly, in Islam, the power and benefit of teamwork can be observed in the congregational prayer. The Promised Messiah (as) and founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, whilst commenting on the benefits of congregational prayer, reveals that, ‘man is gifted with the power to absorb the light that others radiate’. [9]

This is undoubtedly the case in other aspects of life as well. We all require a team of good people to help us reach our destination. Similarly, a team of spiritual and righteous people can help us rise higher in our spiritual journey and give us the added boost required to reach the final destination. It is for this reason that God Almighty instructs the believers, ‘Be with the truthful’. [10] Good company facilitates overall spiritual growth and can pull us out of spiritual dormancy. 

(3) Give People Hope

‘The basis of faith is hope and anticipation’- The Promised Messiah (as). [11]

When a loved one endures unimaginable pain and loss, it can seem impossible to console them with mere words. While they are suffering through difficult times, we often wonder if our words and actions can truly bring them solace. Admiral McRaven argues that the most powerful force in the universe is hope. With hope, entire nations can be inspired to achieve greatness. With hope, one can raise up the downtrodden. With hope, one can ease the pain of unbearable loss. The beauty of hope is that it only needs to radiate from one person, yet it can inspire millions. 

A hallmark of divine men is their ability to radiate hope to the masses. Upon visiting the ill, the Holy Prophet (sa) would always express words of encouragement to uplift the ailing. He assured them by saying, ‘Don’t worry, Allah willing, your sickness will be an expiation for your sins’. [12]

Islam is a religion which advocates hope and condemns despair. In fact, hope is an attribute of the believers whereas despair is an attribute of the disbelievers. [13]

Accordingly, God Almighty states, ‘despair not of the mercy of Allah; for none despairs of Allah’s mercy save the unbelieving people.’

The Holy Qur’an is a book of optimism and the Promised Messiah (as), who drew everything from this Holy Book, also inspired hope. At certain occasions during the course of our spiritual journey, we may feel that our state is so deplorable that we cannot even worship and are too impure to enter God’s court. The Promised Messiah (as) persuades us to think otherwise by likening sin to a stain that can be washed away. [14]

He writes in one place: ‘Do not lose hope and do not be discouraged by the thought: ‘Our souls are so defiled with sin; of what value are our supplications and what impact would they have?’ The human soul has, in fact, been created for the love of God and although the fire of sin may intensely excite him, even then he possesses such power of repentance that it can extinguish that fire. Just as you observe that however much water is heated, when it is poured over a fire it still extinguishes the fire.’ [15]

Amplifying this message, God Almighty states in the Holy Qur’an,

‘O My servants who have committed excesses against their own souls! despair not of the mercy of Allah, surely Allah forgives all sins.’ [16]

The optimism which permeates the Holy Quran is unequaled in any other Holy Book. Passages such as, ‘surely there is ease after hardship’ breathes new life into its reader. [17]


(4) Don’t back down from the sharks

Expect someone to stand in your way and impede you from reaching your goal. There are people who want to see you fail and will do anything to crush your spirit. However, we must never let opposition define our path forward. Admiral McRaven stresses the cruciality of courage to rise above the hate. Unfeigned courage is apparent in the Prophets of God who undergo the toughest of trails and hostility. As a matter of fact, all Prophets in one way or another face antagonism but never fold. [18] The Holy Prophet (sa) never bowed down to the powerful and affluent Makkan chiefs. Prophet Moses (as) defied the evil and tyrannical Pharaoh. Prophet Abraham (as) stood firm in his beliefs and confounded King Nimrod. The annals of history testify to the unwavering courage exhibited by the men of God who discarded all fear. They dumbfounded the sharks around them who sense and thrive on fear. It is the way of God that He places hostile adversaries in opposition to His prophets, so that their deep moral qualities of forbearance, strength, and trust in God are given the opportunity to shine forth. Were it not for the appearance of these opponents, the world would be denied the glimpse of these high moral characteristics embedded in the hearts of God’s elect. Thus, even in our own limited lives, we should view adversaries and their hostility as nothing but a means to develop and practice our own moral qualities, that otherwise could not be exercised. 

(5) Life’s not Fair – Drive On!

Are you that person who says, ‘Why me?’ Do you constantly display pity for yourself? If the answer is yes, then you should know that life isn’t fair and the sooner you learn that the better off you will be. A fact Admiral McRaven was told early in his training. It is easy to blame your loss in life on some outside force, to stop trying because you believe fate is against you. It is easy to blame your circumstances and point fingers at why you didn’t make it. But the quality that sets apart the ordinary from the extraordinary is their ability to embrace life’s unfairness. 

A golden principle taught to us by the Holy Prophet (sa) in this regard is to, ‘look at those who are beneath you and do not look at those who are above you’. By employing this wisdom, we move away from self-pity and into the realm of gratitude. A realm, all too familiar to the Holy Prophet (sa) who constantly thrived on gratitude despite the losses he endured throughout his life. 

The Holy Prophet (sa) is a prime example of someone who had the cards of life stacked against him. Upon being asked who is most severely tested, he replied, ‘The Prophets’. [19] Reflecting on his noble life, the Holy Prophet (sa) endured great adversity and loss. The loss of twelve children, his parents, wives, relatives, all in a single life time would break any ordinary person. But despite the painful loss, his heart never moved away from the Divine in the least degree. He never blamed God or complained to people at the unimaginable pain he endured. When life isn’t going our way, we tend to lean on other people or express our grief before them in hope of finding comfort. But people with true spiritual insight are cognizant of the fact that mere mortals can bring us no real consolation. They address their pain and sorrow at the threshold of God and utter the words of Jacob, ‘I only complain of my sorrow and my grief to Allah’. [20]

 When faced with trials, we often crumble and give up on our spiritual journey. We fall and blame the poor cards which we were dealt to us as the reason. But remember, it is ok to fall. As Confucius once said, Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall’.

However, the difference is when you and I fall, we fall on our backs. But when the Holy Prophet (sa) would fall, it would be on his knees prostrating before the Lord of all the worlds. Perhaps this is the most important lesson if we wish to change our lives or maybe the world. 

About the Author: Qasim Choudhary is a recent graduate from the Ahmadiyya Institute of Languages and Theology in Canada.


[1] Make Your Bed, by William H. McRaven, pg.9, New York, Grand Central Publishing, 2017

[2] Bukhari, Kitab Ar-Riqaq

[3] Friday Sermon, September 25, 2015

[4] Ibn Majah, Kitab Al-Tijaarat

[5] Muslim, Kitab Salat Al-Musafireen Wa-Qasruhaa

[6] Teamwork Makes The Dream Work, by John C Maxwell, Nashville, J.Countryman, 2002

[7] Bukhari, Kitab As-Salat

[8] The Holy Qur’an, 3:160

[9] Lecture Ludhiana, by Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (as), (Eng. Translation) pg.47

[10] The Holy Qur’an, 9:119

[11] The Way Of Seekers, by Hazrat Mirza Bashirudeen Mahmud Ahmad (ra), (Eng. Translation) pg.95

[12] Bukhari, Kitab Al-Mardhaa

[13] Tafsir Hazrat Masih Maud (as), Vol.3, pg.250

[14] The Way Of Seekers, by Hazrat Mirza Bashirudeen Mahmud Ahmad (ra), (Eng. Translation) pg.34

[15] Barahin-e-Ahmadiyya Part V, by Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (as), (Eng. Translation) pg.52

[16] The Holy Qur’an, 39:54

[17] The Holy Qur’an, 94:7

[18] The Holy Qur’an, 15:12

[19] Ibn Majah, Kitab Al-Fitn

[20] The Holy Qur’an, 12:87

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  • Thoroughly enjoyed reading this article which demonstrates that while insightful quotes are motivational, but the true wisdom and ways of practicing it is taught by Allah and His most Beloved, our master, Holy Prophet Muhammad (sa). Jazakallah for an inspiring read.