16 May 2011

Thinking Well of Allah

“Allah SWT probably hates me. I am so bad; I always mess up. I don’t deserve any good from Allah SWT, and as punishment, I probably will not be given success in my other endeavors.”

How many people have felt this way at some point? Sometimes, our sins weigh heavily on us. We recognize our mistakes but instead of turning back to Allah SWT, we turn away. We feel that we must be so bad that even the All-Merciful will reject us. Other times, we do not see the fruits of our perseverance and believe that we will not be given what we have worked so hard for. Perhaps we do not even begin an endeavor, thinking there is no use. 

Unfortunately, when we do this, we attribute human qualities to Allah SWT. We act as if Allah SWT has some grudge against us that will heal as soon as He punishes us or rejects one of our requests. We act as though Allah SWT is just waiting for us to slip up and say “Ha! Caught you!”. We assume that we have to “deserve” the mercy of Allah by being almost perfect. This sounds absurd when articulated, but our actions unfortunately indicate that we believe otherwise.

What does this thought process actually tell us about ourselves? It tells us that we did not really have hope in Him to begin with. Rather, our hope was in what we believed to be our own good deeds or abilities. Once we slip up or feel that we do not have the strength to continue, we do not think well enough of Allah SWT to believe that He will guide us through. We must understand that when we think well of Allah, that is what we will find.

“I am as My servant’s opinion of Me.” (Bukhari)

Think well of Allah SWT when embarking on something difficult, even if you fail. 
When the most beloved person to Allah SWT, the Prophet ﷺ, was thinking of migrating to Madinah, he started talking to all of the different tribes that came for Hajj in the hopes that one of them would accept Islam or at least offer the believers protection. He spoke to twenty-six different tribes and was rejected by all of them. Some of the tribes even cursed and mocked him. Let’s stop here. He made da`wah (calling to Islam) to twenty-six tribes. Can you imagine the feeling of being rejected by five? What would happen after ten rejected you? How low would your morale be? When would you have given up? Finally, he ﷺ met a few youth from Madinah who believed in his message. He did not despair because he had a good opinion of Allah SWT, which motivated him; he knew Allah would not leave him ﷺ. Many people give up in the face of something seemingly impossible. Sometimes, we give up on an individual level: getting married, getting that job we want; sometimes it is on a global level, such as injustice in the Muslim world. The point of the struggle is to realize who is in charge. It is Allah SWT. Allah SWT has told us that He is as His servant’s think of Him. If we think well, then that is what we will find. If we do not, then that is what we will find. Your opinion should be that Allah SWT is so Merciful that He will come to your aid.

What happens when we are faced with failure? When one does not get something, even if their intention was for the sake of Allah SWT, they should not feel disheartened. You have a good opinion of Allah SWT; “failure” is just a minor setback. You need to be tested to strengthen your resolve. If you do not get that amazing job you want, know that Allah SWT has saved something better for you. Only He knows what is best for you. 

Think well of Allah when you sin.
What about when we constantly slip-up and cannot leave a certain sin? For some of us, this makes us give up on ourselves; we believe we don’t deserve any good from Allah. We have to remember that Allah SWT is al-Wadud (the Most Loving). His Mercy overcomes His blame. It is not about deserving. If you thank Allah, He gives you more. It is not because we deserve more, it is because Allah is that Great. He is that Generous. Shaytan (the devil) makes us focus on how bad we are in order that we despair of Allah’s mercy, when the Prophet ﷺ taught us:

“All the children of Adam constantly err, but the best of those who constantly err are those who constantly repent.” (Tirmidhi)

The Prophet ﷺ said that:

“One of the signs of excellence of one’s worship is thinking well of Allah SWT.” (Ahmad)

This does not mean that we should not reflect on our state. Al-Hasan al-Basri said A true believer is one who thinks well of Allah SWT and therefore does good, whereas the disobedient one thinks bad of Allah SWT and therefore does bad.” If we think well of Allah, no matter how bad we are, we also have hope that we can be better and thus we strive to do good deeds. If we think badly of Allah, we assume that He will never forgive us nor can He make us better; so we continue to sin. However, we should not make a mockery of this concept and deliberately sin, thinking Allah SWT will forgive us anyway. One of the key principles of repentance is regret. If we do not truly regret the sin, and simply ask for forgiveness to have that sin erased, we are paying lip service. Remember,

“You will only get what you intend.” (Bukhari)

When we do wrong, let us feel guilty, but let us also flee to Allah SWT. Have a good opinion of Allah SWT. If you are sincere, He will forgive you. He is that forgiving. He is that Great. He is that Magnanimous. Even when we commit the same sin again and again and again, our good opinion of Allah SWT should let us know that as long as we constantly strive against our nafs (lower self) and against that part of us that wants to indulge in that sin, we have already been forgiven. At the end of the day, it is shaytan who wants us to go to hell, not Allah. Allah tells us in the Qur’an: 

“Allah wants to accept your repentance, but those who follow (their) passions want you to digress (into) a great deviation.” (Surah An-Nisa' 4:27)

Shaytan does not just want you to go to hell, but also wants to ensure you live in hell in this world. Just like he despaired, he wants you to despair. Our good opinion of Allah SWT should never allow us to do that. Allah SWT wants to accept your repentance, because your repenting is recognition of His Name al-Ghaffar (the One who constantly forgives). Just as the Prophet ﷺ told us that Allah SWT is too gracious to turn away the hand that asks Him, He is also too Merciful to disappoint you and your good opinion of Him.

Think well of Allah when you are tested.
Tests come to us in a myriad of ways. We should just know that thinking well of Allah SWT should make us look beyond the test. This test is something from Allah SWT, and He wants to teach us, to purify us from sin, to strengthen us, and to bring us closer to Him. We do not have a cruel God; our God is the Most Merciful of those who show Mercy. When we approach our tests with that frame of mind, we cannot but gain from our experience, insyaAllah. 

So what does it mean to think well of Allah?
It means to take that step. When we mess up, even if we messed up in a major way, we return to Him. We return to Him recognizing that what we did was truly horrible, but we ask for His forgiveness because we know He is that forgiving, and that His Mercy encompasses everything. When we mess up again and again, and feel sick of ourselves, we return to Him with a sincere do'a (supplication) to help us stop, knowing that He will respond. It means having grand hopes and aspirations, and working towards them.

"Indeed, those who have believed and done righteous deeds - indeed, We will not allow to be lost the reward of any who did well in deeds." (Surah Al-Kahf 18:30)

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