Slowly but Surely: The Art of Persistence and Productivity

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Great things come to those who wait.

Are you familiar with this phrase? This quote is so popular but not many people know the full version of this phrase.

Great things come to those who wait, but only what’s left from those who hustle.

– Abraham Lincoln

That’s right, those who hustle definitely reach the great things because they work their way towards success, while those who wait only wait until the great things come. But will the great things ever come with just mere waiting, without any effort and prayer?

Forget those who only wait, we will focus on those who hustle for success. Two things that these people have in common are persistence and productivity. It is the art of keeping things and ourselves in motion despite the hurdles and setbacks we meet along the way. It is the process of doing something worthwhile and being consistent with it in order to achieve our goals. This article will explore these two noble traits.


If we want to be a haafiz, or even to memorize just one juzz of the Qur’an, we don’t go straight to memorize it in one night. There must be little steps taken to achieve that one big goal. We start by perfecting our tajweed to make sure that our recitation is correct. And then we start to memorize one ayah or one line at a time, this process of memorizing the part of the Qur’an that we haven’t memorized before is called ziyadah. After we have completed memorizing one page or one juzz, it doesn’t stop there. There’s a continuous process of muraja’ah too, it’s a process repeating our Qur’an memorization in order to keep them perfectly memorized. The combination of ziyadah and muraja’ah are a daily routine for a Qur’an student.

For every Qur’an student, no matter how bright or passionate they are, they will encounter some kind of setbacks during the process. Laziness, lack of motivation, tiredness, or feeling stuck because the memorization part is getting harder. This is where persistence plays a big role. People with persistence will tackle that kind of negative feelings and mindsets by reminding themselves of their vision and dream. They will support their own selves to keep going even when they feel tired and lazy. They will cheer themselves up to try adding new progress each day even though the task is getting harder. They will pray and supplicate more to Allah to be given strength and spirit to continue their journey to success.

The quality of persistence is honourable and highly encouraged in Islam. Let’s take a look in this sahih hadith:

Abu Hurairah r.a narrated that: The Prophet ﷺ said: “One of you will be responded to, so long as he is not hasty, saying: ‘I supplicated, and I was not responded to.’”

(Jami’ At-Tirmidhi 3387)

The hadith above shows how the trait of hastiness and giving up are unfavourable in Islam. Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala loves the servants who are persistence in supplicating to Him. So keep on working, keep on praying.


It’s very important to have a routine which can enhance our skills, expand our knowledge, and train us to have a great work ethic. An inspiring story comes from Johnny Harris, the creator of a successful YouTube series ‘Vox Borders’. By creating the series, he gets to work on his dream, something he is very passionate about and also travel around the world. Sounds really fun right?

Johnny’s dream was to combine his passion of video-making and his expertise in international relations. However, he didn’t start his career by directly creating successful videos about international journalism. He went through other jobs before, one job he noted the most was when he worked as a video creator for an architecture firm. Even though it’s not something that directly correlates with his main vision, that job helped him to gain new knowledge and skills of video-making. Not only that, but it also provided him with a high-quality routine as a foundation of professional work ethic. These skills and professional work-ethic he got from the seemingly boring conventional job turned out to be very useful for him to achieve his main goal later.

Sometimes we hesitate to do that seemingly unflattering routine because it’s not something big we’ve dreamed before. This hesitation can result in one of the biggest problems of our generation: unproductivity. But the recipe of success requires high-quality routine, and surprisingly this can be achieved by those kinds of conventional and seemingly boring task/job.

For example, our main goal is to be a children book writer, we don’t have to wait until the big publishing opportunity comes. We could be an elementary or kindergarten teacher so that you interact a lot with children, this interaction could help us to know the children’s world better and inspire us to write our dream children’s book. We could also take other writing job/volunteers, be it journalism, video script writing, or other types of writing, even though they do not seem to directly correlate with children’s book but the routine of writing will definitely shape us to be a professional writer soon. These types of productive activities can be done while we constantly improve our knowledge and skill of children’s book too.

إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَا يُغَيِّرُ مَا بِقَوْمٍ حَتَّىٰ يُغَيِّرُوا مَا بِأَنفُسِهِمْ ۗ

Indeed, Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves.

(Surah Ar-Ra’d : 11)

The successful people don’t just sit idle while waiting for the big opportunity. Nor do they postpone until they have a perfect time or the perfect tools to start. They do many sorts of high-quality activities that bring them closer to that opportunity. Don’t just wait around for the miracle to happen; do something and be productive.

Start where you are

Use what you have

Do what you can

– Arthur Ashe

Remember, success doesn’t happen overnight. Every biographical book about successful people contains lots of pages, not a mere one page because there are so many processes involved to achieve that success. Success requires effort. Success requires time. Most importantly, success requires du’aa. May Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala grant us success in this world and hereafter.

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