Imam Ibn al-Qayyim is a renowned scholar of the Hanbali school of thought. Hundreds of years ago, he wrote something profound in his book regarding the power of connecting with Allah (swt). When people prefer loving others over Allah (swt), it is Allah’s (swt) Sunnah to leave them to the ones they love. For example, a husband may say: “Honey, I love you. I don’t want you to wear the Hijab.” The wife obeys him: “Sure, I won’t, for your sake.”
The problem is that a husband’s love, like any other creation’s love, is limited, incidental, and episodical. He may love you today and not tomorrow. Humans are imperfect. However, Allah’s (swt) love is perfect and incomparable.
When the people of Taif disgracefully turned the beloved Prophet (sa) away, he earnestly invoked upon Allah (swt): “To whom have you entrusted me? To a distant person who receives me with hostility? Or to an enemy to whom you have granted authority over my affair? As long as You are not angry with me, I do not care. Your favour is of a more expansive relief to me. I seek refuge in the light of Your Face by which all darkness is dispelled and every affair of this world and the next is set right, lest Your anger or Your displeasure descends upon me. I desire Your pleasure and satisfaction until You are pleased. There is no power and no might except by You.” (Recorded by al-Haythami and as-Suyooti)
Why should you be happy? Not because you have a great life, but because Allah (swt) is the best Disposer of affairs. You have a Lord Who looks after you even if you are sinful. This should create peace in your heart.
The greatest example mentioned in the collection of Imam Tirmidhi is of the day when Jibrael (as) came down to the Prophet (sa) and discussed the incident of how the Pharoah was killed.
The Messenger of Allah (sa) said: “When Allah drowned Pharoah, he said: ‘I believe that there is no god except the One that the children of Israel believe in.’ Jibrael said: ‘O Muhammad! If you could only have seen me while I was taking (the mud) from the sea, and filling his mouth out of fear that the mercy would reach him.’” (Tirmidhi)
Allah (swt) had commanded Jibrael (as) to part the Red Sea to allow a safe passage to Prophet Musa (as) and the Bani Israel. Then He ordered the ocean to merge to trap the Pharaoh and his army. While drowning, the Pharaoh proclaimed that he believed in the Lord of Musa (as) and the Lord of the children of Israel. Upon hearing this, Jibrael (as) shoved water and mud into the Pharaoh’s mouth, fearing that Allah’s (swt) mercy will overtake Him, and He will forgive the Pharaoh. Jibrael (as) wished to see him punished for the atrocities he had committed against innocent people. Just imagine. This is Allah’s (swt) love for one of His biggest enemies.
It is one of the greatest acts of Ibadah to maintain positive thoughts about Allah (swt) – Husn zan billah. And because we fail to do so, we feel sorry and dejected. Allah (swt) states: “I am with my servant as my servant thinks I am.” (Bukhari and Muslim)
When you become impatient with your prayers and complain that you have asked the Lord to help you but He is not responding or paying attention to you, Allah (swt) actually delays the response and extends your suffering. These sufferings are a means of cleansing our sins, purifying our soul, saving us from the Hell fire, and raising our levels of Jannah.
Imran bin Husain (rtam) was suffering from hemorrhoids. He said: “I asked Allah’s Messenger (sa) about the praying of a man while sitting. He said: ‘If he prays while standing it is better, and he who prays while sitting gets half the reward of the one who prays standing; whoever prays while lying gets half the reward of the one who prays while sitting.’” (Bukhari)
Once a companion called upon him and inquired how Imran (rtam) was. He was withering in pain. Yet Imran (rtam) smiled: “If Allah (swt) has desired this for me, I am happy.” Contentment stems from good thoughts about Allah (swt).
Zubair (rtam) was Abu Bakr’s (rtam) son-in-law. He was mighty and strong. People requested him to keep their wealth with him for safekeeping. So he was literally the first Islamic Bank. He, however, told them that he would not just keep their money, but if they give it to him as a loan, he would rather invest it for them. But as we know that not all investments mature and you do face cash crises at times. Hence, when Zubair’s (rtam) son Abdullah, who was also his business partner, would approach his father informing him that so and so wanted his loan back, Zubair (rtam) would smile and tell him: “Ask Allah (swt) to divulge your debt for you.” And sure enough Allah (swt) relieved them of their hardship. After Zubair (rtam) passed away, his son would pray to Allah (swt): “The Lord of Zubair (rtam), please pay my debt as well.” This was the hope that sprang from good thoughts of Allah (swt). Don’t lose this. Don’t miss this.
If you will think of Allah (swt) as a tyrant God, Who will destroy all His creation, you are likely to be punished. You will not be safe from Jahannum. But if you believe that Allah (swt) loves you more than your dear parents, it is Allah’s (swt) promise that He is upon the good thoughts His slave has of Him.
When is it absolutely critical to foster positive thoughts of Allah (swt)? Scholars of Islam suggest that following are some highly significant times when a believer must nurture good thoughts about the Lord:
- At the time of death
This is the moment when the Saliheen (obedient) are evident from the Dalieen (disobedient). As death approaches, disobedient people either die unhappy or are completely oblivious to the reality of what lies ahead. A misguided individual has regrets while dying as he dies alone, abandoned by his loved ones. There is a granny dumping syndrome in Australia as most young people admit their ailing parents into a hospital on the pretext of ill health on December 25th at Christmas time and take a holiday in Bali or some distant resort.
Similarly, the heedless ones are known to say things like: “I had a good innings!” It is as if life was a game to them. They have no or little comprehension about what lies in the grave and beyond for them; hence, they have a carefree attitude.
A young teenaged neighbour of the Prophet (sa) was on his deathbed. The Prophet (sa) went to inquire about him. He asked: “How are you?” The boy replied: “Ya Rasulullah (sa), I am in between fearing Allah’s (swt) punishment and hoping for His mercy and forgiveness. The Messenger (sa) reassured him: “When the hope of being forgiven and the fear of sin have come together into the heart of a believer at this time, Allah will certainly accept the wish of His slave and ensure him of what he fears.” (Nasai)
One of the greatest scholars of the Quran was Imam Tabari. As he approached the end of his life, he cried bitterly upon reading the Quranic verse: “So there came upon them, what they never thought was going to happen.” All his companions came to offer him hope by reciting numerous verses of the Quran that gave hope of Allah’s (swt) mercy, until he began to smile. He said: “Ahlan Wa Sahlan Marhaban to the angels of my Lord.” And he died.
Sickness, disease, and hurt can change into ease by a simple twist in the mindset and deep belief in what Allah (swt) is capable of. Hence, it is essential for people around a dying person to encourage him to think positively of Allah’s (swt) decree.
- After performing good deeds
For example, when we approach the end of Ramadan, we can appraise Allah’s (swt) mercy after having fasted, paid Zakah and Sadaqat, having performed Qiyam-ul-Lail, etc.
My daughter bakes marvellous cakes and cookies for me. But when she was young, I remember her baking would end up tasting horrible, and I would fear that it might give me diarrhea. It was a tragedy. But in spite of all the deficiencies, it was okay because she tried. If a father’s love for her daughter can overlook the deficiencies in the offering of the child, can you imagine how Allah (swt) dearly accepts the flawed good deeds you perform for Him every day?
Husn Az-Zan Qubool Al-Amal. This means you should nurture good thoughts about Allah (swt) that He will accept your good deeds. He might be the Majestic, and your actions might appear feeble and little, but keep anticipating His mercy.
- When distress engulfs you
The principle is that the more distressed you are, the more good thoughts you must have of Allah (swt) so that He changes your situation, instead of prolonging it.
Who can imagine how Prophet Yunus (as) would have felt in the dark belly of a whale: hearing the thumping of the heartbeat, the churning of the stomach, and being tossed up and down through the gastric secretions as the whale flopped and flipped through the waters?
Surah Al-Qalam mentions the story of Prophet Yunus (as), who was thrown onto the shore after being engulfed by the whale.
“So wait with patience for the Decision of your Lord, and be not like the Companion of the Fish, when he cried out (to Us) while he was in deep sorrow. Had not a Grace from his Lord reached him, he would indeed have been (left in the stomach of the fish, but We forgave him), so he was cast off on the naked shore, while he was to be blamed. But his Lord chose him and made him of the righteous.” (Al-Qalam 48-50)
Jamaluddin Afghani was a Sheikh at Madinah University. He died at the age of forty. While he was teaching, he was diagnosed with cancer. Because of his busy schedule, he requested his students to go and collect his report from the doctor. They were told the Sheikh would die in a week’s time.
They returned to him in tears. Upon hearing the diagnosis, the Sheikh smiled and said: “Allah (swt) is waiting to meet me. Shouldn’t I wait to meet Him?” If death overtakes, it is nothing but a sweet meeting with the Creator.
Allah (swt) waits to meet anyone who waits to meet Him. Likewise, Allah (swt) hates to meet anyone who hates to meet Him (swt).
- After you have repented
Imam Ibn Al-Qayyim stated: “I don’t fear my past sins, as I have repented and I know Allah (swt) loves to forgive and He will forgive. What I am scared of is that the next deed I do may not be in accordance with the Quran and the Sunnah, and that might be my last one and I meet Allah (swt) upon it.”
People assume Allah (swt) is not listening to them. Why would He even bother? If you have sinned, never think that your sins are too much and your repentance shall not be accepted. Allah (swt) loves it when believers turn to Him and repent. He accepts them and embraces them with open arms.
Remember that He is the Creator, and He knows you are weak, fragile, and always falling into sins. He also proportionately gives His mercy so when you repent, He will definitely forgive you, Insha’Allah.
Don’t drive looking at the rear mirror. The past is gone. The future has not yet arrived. Now is the time to repent without further delay.
- When you reach your peak of virtues
There have been moments in our life of which we are truly proud. When you have performed a massive deed that you know you will not be able to repeat, ask Allah (swt) to accept it, for example, an entire month of Qiyam-ul-Lail or Taraweeh prayer at Masjid-ul-Haram at Makkah.
Scholars believe that when you do something big for Allah (swt), Allah (swt) returns big. At the time of the Battle of Tabuk, when the Prophet (sa) was asking the believers for Infaq to raise an army to fight the Kuffar, Uthman bin Affan (rtam) donated an entire trade caravan for Allah’s (swt) sake. Upon this gesture of generosity, the Prophet (sa) gave glad tidings to Uthman (rtam) that Allah (swt) had averted his face from the hellfire by a thousand years’ worth of distance.
When many years go past and you have not achieved anything worthwhile, seize the moment when you have an opportunity to do a major good deed, because you won’t get such opportunities all the time.
- At the time of Azab (punishment) from Allah (swt)
When Allah’s (swt) punishment comes down, for example, at the time of coming of the Dajjal, at the time of war and battle, the time when you are in your grave, the standing of Arafat for 50,000 years, and when you are crossing the Sirat, what will grant you safety?
Transcribed by Rana Rais Khan, Editor, Hiba.