God First

Salaam and Greetings of Peace:

When I was around nine years old and in public elementary school, our teacher was a kind young woman who made a deep impression on me much later in life. The memory of her face and features is vague now. I think she wore glasses. But she was a very good teacher, and one day a student said, “You’re nice.”  She said, “That’s because I live by one simple rule, and someday you may find that it’s the best way to live: God first, others second, myself third.”

I looked at her as if she were speaking a foreign language. “Who, what?”  At nine, the only thought I had in my head was of myself. Now more than fifty years later, I finally understand that in those six words she had distilled the teachings of every Holy Book from the Bible to the Qur’an, and had also summed up the blessed life of all the Prophets of God, including Jesus and Muhammad (peace be unto them), and the loving-kindness and service of the Saints and Sufi Masters of every age. The entire length of the Sufi path is in those six words.

God first, others second, myself third.

I don’t remember her name, or know whether she is still alive, but may Allah bless her soul, who so long ago spoke wisdom to children. 

Ya Haqq! 

24 Responses to God First

  1. ikramuddin says:

    Ameen thuma ameen to your dua dear brother.

  2. almiskeenah says:

    Assalamu alaikum,
    a touching recall dear brother Irving! Indicates how impressionable our precious young ones are and how, Insha’Allah our relationship with them is one of Da’wah to the One.
    JazakumuLlahu khairan for the gift you have of sharing such deep and loving reminders.
    Wassalamu alaikum

  3. Aaminah says:

    Asalaamu alaikum.

    AlhamdulAllah. You are right: a perfect distillation of the root of all the Prophets’ teachings and the most important tool in guiding our lives.

  4. Merryweather says:

    Your posts always leave me happy, beaming… almost thrilled :)
    Beautiful. SO beautiful =)

  5. Abdur Rahman says:

    Salaams Irving bhai

    Amin, Ya Rabb, amin.

    Abdur Rahman

  6. Yafiah says:

    Salaam Dear Irving,

    Those words are certainly worth remembering and putting into action. they remind me of someone who once told me, ‘God first, and everything else falls into place’

  7. Suroor says:

    You are inspiration personified, mashallah!. Thank you dear brother Irving.

  8. Musnawira says:

    As-Salamu alaykum Dear Brother Irving,
    yes, God first. Then, as Sister Yafiah says, ourselves and the others also fall into place.
    Simple things are not easy to apply, so thank you very much for remembering this.
    I think i’ll have a better day.

  9. alisanaei says:

    great blog, well done.

  10. naveed says:

    Salaam! good post!

    But what about God first, the individual second, others third?

    Consider this analogy: On an airplane, in the case of an emergency and oxygen masks fall, they always tell you to put the mask on yourself first before proceeding to help others. We could be more of a service to humanity if we could improve ourselves as human beings.

    Hope you are doing well.

  11. Umm Layth says:

    wa `alaykum as-Salaam

    Jazaaka Allaahu khairan for an uplifting post.

  12. Irving says:

    Salaam Dear Brothers and Sisters:
    May Allah bless you all for your kind comments :) And Naveed, I think your analogy is not quite correct. The airlines tell you to put the oxygen mask on yourself before you help your children on with theirs, as they don’t always know how to work it. That makes sense. The Sufi path is nothing more than to love and serve Allah by loving and serving His creation. When you put others first, you are indeed serving God. The nafs/ego always says, “Me first!” but that is a sad way to live.
    Conside this: The oxygen masks come down, but only one is working. Do you use it yourself, or put it on your son or daughter? Or even on a child you do not know? Are a few more moments or weeks or months or years of life worth it?
    In the end, we all answer for how we spent our lives to the One who gave us life.
    Ya Haqq!

  13. sf says:

    Salaams Brother Irving,

    Jazaak Allah Khair for sharing these true words of wisdom.
    Ameen to your prayer.


  14. MysticSaint says:

    simply reading it, the truth touching the heart,
    brings tears of unknown source, unknown emotion to eyes!

    May God bless you teacher, wherever she is (in this world or hereafter) assalamualikum o blessed teacher, and
    may God bless you for resurrecting this memory alive with such simplcity of description.

    may divine peace and blessings be with you and your readers.

  15. priya says:

    i have always found your blog very interesting.think of the teacher what a great impact she had created in the little minds,at least if one remembers her in this world that is enough .May God give her peace . what lovely words it brought tears in my eyes.
    thanks a lot

  16. wayfarer says:

    What a wonderful teacher mash’Allah.

  17. cyclewala says:

    superb! What clarity brevity & profundity!
    How simple to say. Wish I could live up to it.

  18. Kozi Wolf says:

    beautifully simple and whole!

  19. Irving says:

    Salaam Dear Brothers and Sisters:
    Thank you all for the kind and eloquent comments. Indeed, this simple rule on living a good life that my teacher gave us so long ago has withstood the test of ages, and is as true now as it was when humans first turned gazed toward the heavens and wondered at the meaning of it all.
    It is as clear as pure water and encompassing as love.
    Ya Haqq!

  20. Joubin says:

    Salaam Irving,

    “The entire length of the Sufi path is in those six words[:] God first, others second, myself third.”

    That can’t be, unless the Sufis in question were of the Moshrekeen. Certainly no Prophet of Islam ever taught such a doctrine.

    /& Salaam

  21. Irving says:

    Salaam Dear Brother Joubin:

    And the Prophet (pbuh) said, “Shall i not inform you of the best of your works, the purest of them with your Master (Allah), the loftiest of them in your stations, the thing that is better for you than spending gold and silver (in charity), and better for you than meeting your enemies and slaying them and being slain by them?” They (the Companions) said, “Of course!” He said, “Rememberance of Allah, the Most high.” – At-Tirmithi 5/459, Ibn Majah 2/1245. See Al-Albani, Sahih Ibn Majah 2/316 and Sahih At-Tirmithi 3/139.

    Allah is always first in the mind and heart of of the blessed Prophet (pbuh), and by word and deed, did he not always put others before himself? The perfected Masters of the Sufi path try to emulate this. They are not Prophets, but can only follow his example.

    But if I have offended you with the post, I beg your forgiveness brother. And may Allah forgive me for the offense of causing you discomfort.

    Ya Haqq!

  22. Joubin says:

    Salaam Brother Irving,

    I hope I didn’t offend. There is no reason for you to apologize.

    This is the “summation” of the “Prophets” and The Divine Law:

    “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the Great and *First* Commandment.

    And a *Second* is _like it_: You shall love your neighbor _even as_ yourself.

    These *Two Commandments* sum up and upon them depend ** all the Law and the Prophets**.

    That is a Saying of the Ayatollah Massih Kalaam Allah Isa Ibn Mariam (Salaam Be Upon Them both) [Matt 22:37-40]

    & I’ll elaborate, dear Darvish. (I wasn’t trying to be rude.)


    There is no ‘other’. And our God Is ONE GOD.

    “Hear, O Israel, Jehovah our God [is] one Jehovah” [Deut. 6.4]

    /& Salaam!

  23. Irving says:

    Salaam Dear Brother Joubin:
    You have said it rightly. The commandment you state is certainly putting God first. On the Sufi path, to love and serve God is to love and serve all of His creation, regardless of race, creed, color, etc. It is loving they neighbor, and more, serving him before thyself.
    Ya Haqq!

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