Ascending in the Levels of Worship: Eighteenth Stop of Your Spiritual Journey to God

Ascending in the Levels of Worship: Eighteenth Stop of Your Spiritual Journey to God

By Dr. Jasser Auda

He diversified the acts of worship for you because He knows how quickly you get bored. And He did not permit you certain acts of worship at certain times so you do not go to extremes. The objective is to perfect your prayers not to merely perform them. Not every performer of prayer perfects them.

Ascending in the Levels of Worship- Eighteenth Stop of Your Spiritual Journey to God

Allah diversified the acts of worship. So you can worship God in different ways.

The word of wisdom under discussion is related to a very important topic in our journey to God which is that of the level of worship. A servant may lose all the levels of worship and feel bored. God, out of His mercy, knows that, as humans, it is natural to feel bored.

Different Forms of Worship

Therefore, He diversified the acts of worship. So you can worship God in different ways. For example, prayer is a fixed act of worship that should be performed five times a day. But God recommended other forms of supererogatory prayers such as late-night prayer, prayer of thankfulness, and prayer at times of need, etc.

If a servant feels bored, he may perform the obligatory acts of worship such as prayer and fasting only. He may not want to perform the recommended prayers and fasting, but at the same time he shows much interest in other rituals such as charity, performing `Umrah, education, being kind to neighbors and relatives, helping people with his time and efforts, etc. All these are forms of worship that draw one closer to God.

People are different. Diversity is a universal law of God. Diversity is not limited to capabilities only, but there is a diversity in one’s ability to continue the performance of recommended prayers. If you pray day and night without a pause, you will feel bored. The Sheikh refers here to God’s knowledge about our desire to continue the worship without a pause.

Therefore, He, in His infinite knowledge, prohibited some acts of worship at certain times. The Prophet said: “Surely this religion (Islam) is firm. So apply it with tenderness. The one who is too harsh on his riding animal, he will not reach his destination and the riding animal will die.”

It is undesirable to pray after the sunset or before the time when the sun moves away from its central meridian, or after the `Asr Prayer. The recommended prayer is not to be performed at all times so that we are eager for performing them again. So, we leave the prayer after `Asr so that we wait for the recommended prayer after Maghrib in eagerness. The same applies to fasting. We are not permitted to fast at certain times, for example, immediately before the beginning of Ramadan and on the first day of `Eid.

When God opens for you the door of reading the Qur’an, you may wish to read it all the time. But it is not allowed to read the Qur’an while we are kneeling down or prostrating in prayer, or in the toilet, or while we are in a state of impurity. Because God knows our nature, He diversified the acts of worship and made some of them prohibited at certain times.

If God guides you to perform a specific act of worship, you have to perfect it and ascend in the levels of performing the worship. The Sheikh gives the example of prayer as he says: “The objective is to perfect your prayers not to merely perform them. Not every performer of prayer perfects them.”

When God talks about prayer, he asked us to “… and be constant in prayer.”  (Al-Baqarah 2:43) Perfecting the prayer is different from performing it. Perfecting the prayer is about concentration and humbleness. God says: “Truly, to a happy state shall attain the believers those who humble themselves in their prayer.” (Al-Mu’minun 23:1,2)

Humbleness is the objective of avoiding the performance of prayer at certain times in case one feels bored or when one goes to extremes. Humbleness cannot be achieved in these two cases.

According to Sufis, humbleness is a science and being a science is supported by the Prophetic tradition in which the Prophet (peace be upon him) talked about the signs of the Day of Judgment, as reported by Abu Ad-Darda’, and said: “We were with the Prophet and looked at the sky then said: This is a time when science is abandoned by people so that they cannot do anything.’ Then he said: ‘If you want I can tell you about the first science that will be abandoned by people; it is humbleness. You may enter a mosque but you do not see a man in a state of humbleness.’” (At-Tirmidhi)

Levels of Humbleness

Scholars divide humbleness into three levels:

Humiliation

The first level is humiliation which means that you pray to God and feel humiliated before Him. This is reflected in the movements of the prayer. We kneel down and prostrate only to God. These movements are a manifestation of humiliation which should be shown only to God.

Humiliation requires that you feel that you are weak and that God is the powerful, the rich, and the mighty. Humiliation is the result of neediness as the Sheikh explained in his word of wisdom in which he says: “The tree of humiliation stems from a seed of neediness.” When you feel you are in need of God, a state of humbleness is produced.

Feeling Awe of God

The second level is feeling awe of God. The higher level is to elevate you from the stage of humiliation to the stage of feeling awe of God, His mighty and punishment. God says:

.. (and) whenever the messages of the Most Gracious were conveyed unto them, they would fall down (before Him), prostrating themselves and weeping. (Maryam 19:85)

This is the level of feeling awe of God which might lead to crying.

God bestows from on high the best of all teachings in the shape of a divine writ fully consistent within itself, repeating each statement (of the truth) in manifold forms [a divine writ) whereat shiver the skins of all who of their Sustainer stand in awe: (but) in the end their skins and their hearts do soften at the remembrance of (the grace of) God. Such is God’s guidance: He guides therewith him that wills (to be guided) whereas he whom God lets go astray can never find any guide. (Az-Zumar 39:23)

`Abdullah ibn Al-Shakheer informed his some, Mutrif, that he met the Prophet as he was praying. He said that he heard a whistling sound from the chest of the Prophet resembling the sound of a boiling kettle as he was weeping. (Abu Dawud)

Happiness

The third level is happiness. The best state of humbleness in prayer is to find yourself happy and pleased because of being in the presence of God. So you feel happy when you read the Qur’an, mention God or praise Him. This is a high level of the humbleness levels in which angels descend from heavens to listen to you and a state of tranquility prevails in the place.

Al-Bara’ reported that a person was reciting Surat Al-Kahf and there was a horse tied with two ropes at his side, a cloud overshadowed him, and as it began to come nearer and nearer his horse began to take fright from it. He went and mentioned that to the Prophet (peace be upon him) in the morning, and he (the Prophet) said: “That was tranquility which came down at the recitation of the Qur’an.” (Muslim)

When God takes you to the level of happiness, this will be out of His favor not because of your deeds. However, there are reasons that help one ascend to this level. Among these reasons is reflecting on the meaning of the Quran and feeling humble by calling to mind the concepts related to humiliation, feeling awe of God and happiness. A Muslim poet says:

In the twinkling of an eye                          God may change one from a state to another

Therefore, by God grace you are elevated from the level of humiliation to the level of feeling awe of God, from the level of feeling awe of God to the level of happiness, i.e. from submission to belief and from belief to excellence.

The three levels mentioned above may be expressed in various forms of worship not only in prayer. Submission to God is the outward work, i.e. performing the prayer by kneeling down and prostration. You give out in charity by your money. You observe fasting by abstaining from eating and drinking. And you perform pilgrimage by circumnutating around the Kab`ah, going between the two hills of Al-Safa and Al-Marwah and offering the sacrifice.

However, belief is what is planted in the heart. Once it is planted in the heart, you believe in God, His angels, His scriptures, His messengers, the Day of Judgment, and destiny whether good or bad. All this leads to a wider meaning of the rituals.

So prayer is not only about kneeling down and prostration, but it is about humbleness, feeling awe of God, and happiness. Zakat is not only giving money, but it is about having mercy on the poor and indifference about the world. Fasting is not abstaining from food drink, but it is about mentioning God, thankfulness, and meditation.

Pilgrimage is not only circumnutating around the Ka`bah, going between the two hills of As-Safa and Al-Marwah and offering the sacrifice, but it is about remembering the Hereafter and following the steps of the prophets and messengers. Then comes the level of excellence, i.e. to worship God as though you are seeing Him, and while you see Him not yet truly He sees you.

The three levels of humbleness, i.e. humiliation, feelings awe of God and happiness are best demonstrated in the prayer. The level of humiliation is reflected in the physical movements of the body. The level of feeling awe of God is felt in the heart. Finally the level of happiness is reflected in perfecting the prayer.

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The article is excerpted from “Some of Al-Hikam Al-Ataiyyah” (The Path to God: A Journey with Ibn `Ata’illah’s Words of Wisdom In the Light of the Quran, the Prophetic Tradition, and Universal Laws of God- By Dr. Jasser Auda

 

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Understanding God’s Giving and Deprivation: Sixteenth Stop of Your Spiritual Journey to God

Understanding God’s Giving and Deprivation: Sixteenth Stop of Your Spiritual Journey to God

By Dr. Jasser Auda

You might think that He is giving you, while in reality He is depriving you. And you might think that He is depriving you, while in reality He is giving you. If through your deprivation, He opens the doors of understanding for you, then this deprivation is exactly a gift. You feel bad about your deprivation because you do not understand. He might open the door of worship for you, but does not open the door of acceptance. And you might be destined to sin, but this becomes a means to ascension towards Him. A sin that produces humbleness and need is better than an act of worship that produces pride and prejudice.

Understanding God’s Giving and Deprivation

God might test you through bad and good things, through misfortune and hardship.

At times, God gives you and at other times He deprives you. God might test you through bad and good things, through misfortune and hardship, or through bestowing blessings on you or depriving you. The matter is apparently different from what we assume.

At this stage in our journey to God, we have to understand the wisdom behind God’s giving and deprivation. God says:

But as for man, whenever his Sustainer tries him by His generosity and by letting him enjoy a life of ease, he says, “My Sustainer has been (justly) generous towards me”; whereas, whenever He tries him by straitening his means of livelihood, he says, “My Sustainer has disgraced me!” But nay, nay… (Al-Fajr 89:15-17)

It is as if God is saying that this is not the correct understanding of the issue of providence.

When God tries you by straitening your means of livelihood, this does not mean that He is disgracing you. And when He tries you by letting you enjoy a life of ease, this does not mean that He is generous towards you. The question is: how should we judge this issue?

Wisdom behind Deprivation

The Sheikh, Ibn `Ata’illah, is drawing our attention to a very important meaning is this word of wisdom which is that of ‘understanding’: “If through your deprivation, He opens the doors of understanding for you, then this deprivation is exactly a gift.” If God deprives by losing your money, job, health, or family, but at the same time He opens the doors of understanding for you, then this is not a deprivation but it is a gift from Him. In this case, the trial turns into a gift.

By understanding, you come to know that the trials you are afflicted with are the actual giving. This is because before understanding you were looking at the material, at the five senses and at numbers. You say, for example, I lost ten thousands or I lost my family, my health, etc. This is the material calculation.

God might take the ten thousands but gives you the understanding or makes you content, or makes you do a good deed, or gives you a strong will or gives you a good friend or gives you humbleness and closeness to Him.

Therefore, the loss of the ten thousands is the actual giving and gift. It is possible that God gives you 100 thousands later when you review your calculations and improve your behavior.

Therefore, we have to understand the actual meaning of giving and deprivation. Sometimes, we think that a specific thing is a deprivation while it is the actual giving and vice versa.

Behind Giving

The above-mentioned example may be given the other way around. One might suffer ten thousands of trials, but he does not thank God either by sayings or actions. He might be deceived by money or might spend it in something unlawful and the result will be undesirable. God may give this person more than a chance so that he can return to Him. God says:

… for, behold, though I may give them rein for a while, My subtle scheme is exceedingly firm! (Al-Qalam 68:45)

God sometimes throws open to them the gates of all [good] things as a kind of punishment.

… Until -even as they were rejoicing in what they had been granted – We suddenly took them to task: and lo! they were broken in spirit. (Al-An`am 6:45)

If God opens the doors of providence for you or answers your request for something, you have to understand. First, you have to thank God so that the blessing is tied to you. Second, you have to understand the wisdom and the meaning behind this giving and to be cautious about the trial it might involve.

The Sheikh gives another example which has the same meaning. He says: “He might open the door of worship for you, but does not open the door of acceptance. And you might be destined to sin, but this becomes a means to ascension towards Him.”

Missing the Reward

God might guide you to do good deeds such as praying qiyam al-layl (late-night supererogatory prayer) memorizing the Qur’an, giving out in charity, observing fasting, or performing Hajj. But you have to be cautious. Sometime you imagine that the worship is in itself a giving from God, but in reality it is not. The question is: why?

The answer is that the servant may miss the reward after doing a specific good deed. God says:

They who spend their possessions for the sake of God and do not thereafter mar their spending by stressing their own benevolence and hurting (the feelings of the needy) shall have their reward with ‘their Sustainer. (Al-Baqarah 2:262)

Stressing benevolence and hurting the feelings of the needy nullify the charity and block the door of acceptance and receiving God’s rewards.

The servant might do a good deed only to show off and to be praised by people. Thus, the good deed devoid of sincerity leads to punishment.

Behold, the hypocrites seek to deceive God – while it is He who causes them to be deceived (by themselves.) And when they rise to pray, they rise reluctantly, only to be seen and praised by men, remembering God but seldom. (An-Nisaa’ 4:142)

The main purpose of worship is sincerity and gaining moral and spiritual benefits from it. A ritual devoid of sincerity and moral, spiritual benefit is worthless. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “Whoever does not give up forged speech and evil actions, God is not in need of his leaving his food and drink.” (Al-Bukhari) This means that God will not accept his fasting.

Then the Sheikh gives us another example related to the issue of acts of worship and sinning which requires an accurate understanding. The Sheikh says: “And you might be destined to sin, but this becomes a means to ascension towards Him.” Ibn Al-Qayyim Al-Jawziyyah says in this regard: “A sin may produce humbleness and need so that it takes one to Paradise. An act of worship may produce pride and prejudice so that it takes one to Hell.”

The Criterion

Of course, sinning itself does not lead one to entering Paradise, but the sin already happened and the one who committed it repented sincerely to God. A sinner always remembers his sin and tries his best to do good deeds in order to go to Paradise. Therefore, sinning produces humbleness and need and thus it becomes a giving and a gift from God.

But this does not mean that one commits sins and says that I am sinning in order to repent to God. This is a wrong and deviated understanding adopted by some ignorant people. Here I am talking about past sins which produce humbleness and need. This is much better than an act of worship that produces pride. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said:

“He who has in his heart the weight of a mustard seed of pride shall not enter Paradise.” (Muslim)

Therefore, we have to consider the degree of being close or far from God and make it the criterion of deprivation or giving. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said:

“How wonderful is the affair of the believer, for his affairs are all good, and this applies to no one but the believer. If something good happens to him, he is thankful for it and that is good for him. If something bad happens to him, he bears it with patience and that is good for him.” (Muslim)

Your Deeds

The hadith indicates that you are the one who brings good or bad to yourself. It is all up to you. If you are thankful for God for the good things that happen to you, this is good for you. If you are patient when bad things happen to you, this is also good for you.

However, if you feel pride when good things happen to you, this is bad for you. If you are impatient when bad things happen to you, this is also bad for you. Thus, based on your reaction you are the one who determines whether what happens to you is a deprivation or giving.

You might think that God is giving you, while in reality, He is depriving you. And you might think that He is depriving you, while in reality, He is giving you. So, you have to understand God’s wisdom when He gives or deprives you.

This understanding is very important for those journeying to God with excellent good deeds. God always gives you what is good for you. He always chooses the best for you. Then it is up to us to determine whether what happens to us is deprivation or a giving. This is in itself a blessing and a favor from God. “In Your hand is all good. Verily, You have the power to will anything.” (Aal `Imran 3:26)

We pray to God to make use understand well His deprivation and giving.

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The article is excerpted from “Some of Al-Hikam Al-Ataiyyah” (The Path to God: A Journey with Ibn `Ata’illah’s Words of Wisdom In the Light of the Quran, the Prophetic Tradition, and Universal Laws of God- By Dr. Jasser Auda

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The Night Journey: Sometimes It Causes Me to Tremble

The Night Journey: Sometimes It Causes Me to Tremble

Al-Quds

Imagine yourself accompanying the Prophet on that miraculous journey.

OK, folks, try this one at two o’clock in the morning or, if you can’t manage that, after the Fajr (Dawn) Prayer when the world around you is quiet.

Spend some time reflecting on the Prophet’s Night Journey and Ascension—Israa’ and Mi`raj—which are remembered on 27 Rajab. Imagine yourself accompanying him on that miraculous journey.

Here’s a guy (peace and blessings be upon him) who’s been struggling for 12 long years to get people to worship only the One God, Allah. They call him “Al-Ameen”, The Trustworthy, and even the staunchest pagans continue to entrust their property to him when they travel because of his honesty. Yet they won’t accept his words concerning Allah.

Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) sees his followers persecuted and tortured and is powerless to help them. He himself is persecuted and reviled by most. He has recently traveled to a distant city, Ta’if, to try to win the people there to Islam, but he was ignominiously driven out. His mission as a prophet has not brought him wealth or power. There has not yet been any vision of a Muslim state such as was later to be established in Madinah.

So here he is asleep, an ordinary human with an extraordinary mission. Imagine if you can, the Angel Jibreel (Gabriel) coming to wake him up and setting him on the marvelous steed, Al-Buraq. Imagine the flight to Jerusalem and the salah(ritual Prayer) of all the past prophets with Muhammad as their imam (peace and blessings on them all).

In this miraculous gathering of these holy men, they didn’t go around shaking hands and slapping each other on the back. “Hey, Moses! I always wanted to meet you! I’ve heard so much about you!” “Jesus! What really happened when they tried to arrest you?” If it had been me, that’s what I would have done. But Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) didn’t do that, he didn’t try to gain moral strength and encouragement from his fellow prophets, and they didn’t offer any. Instead, they all turned their attention to their Lord and worshipped Him in the way He had instructed. Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) sought moral and spiritual strength not from other humans—even if they were great ones who miraculously appeared to him then—but from his Lord and Creator.

And then their flight to the heavens. It’s hard to picture it because, of course, it’s totally out of our comprehension. How can a human being—with all his physical limits, his composition of matter—how can he possibly travel in the Unseen? (Well, then it wouldn’t have been a miracle, would it, if it hadn’t happened so?) That’s the whole wonder and glory of it. That a human could be lifted to another realm of existence and return unharmed.

Dwell upon that for a few minutes while the world around you sleeps. Let your spirit be lifted up towards your Creator and Lord.

I imagine Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) at the highest point of his ascension, when he has reached the vicinity of the Throne of Allah. But even for Muhammad, who has already passed through so much on that night, the vision if limited. Allah is veiled by light and Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) is unable to see Him. I contemplate that. I imagine that I’m standing behind Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) and also gazing at the veil of light. And I long to have the veil lifted. I long to gaze in adoration at my Lord.

But not yet. I’m still limited by my humanity, my corporeal being.

In a Hadith, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) told us that the believers will have ocular vision of their Lord in the hereafter. Will we only be able to glance because even in our resurrected bodies (new and improved!) the sight will be too much for us? Or will we be able to feast our eyes and gaze lovingly, adoringly? I hope the latter.

For now, when the world is quiet, I can only imagine myself before a veil of light, longing for what is within. And when I recall that Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) actually was in the presence of that veil of light, the tune of a gospel song comes to mind (I long ago changed the words):

Were you there when the Prophet made Mi`raj?
Were you there when the Prophet made Mi`raj?
O-o-o-oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when the Prophet made Mi`raj?

The world is waking up around me as I write and my own spiritual “flight” must end as I am brought back to the daily realities: breakfast to make, family to wake up, bus to catch, etc., etc. But those few minutes of quiet contemplation have fed my spirit and (at least for a few days) when life gets stressful, I will close my eyes and imagine myself again standing behind Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) in the vicinity of the Throne of the One Being Whom I long to see.

And I will tremble again at the thought that he (peace and blessings be upon him) was really there.

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Source: Onislam.net.

 

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Freedom from Humiliation, Neediness, and Illusion: The Fourteenth Stop of Your Spiritual Journey to God

By Dr. Jasser Auda

The tree of humiliation stems from a seed of neediness. Nothing deceives you as your illusion. You are free from what you gave up on, and you are a slave to what you are in need of.

Freedom from Humiliation

If you are a servant to God, then you are free from others than Him.

Cleaning up before beautification is still passing through the stage of searching for another flaw which affects one’s belief which is that of feeling humiliated by others. Because trying to discover the flaws within you is better than trying to discover the worlds hidden from you, Ibn `Ata’illah analyses the reason behind this flaw and shows us how to overcome it.

The direct reason for feeling humiliated by people is neediness. Ibn `Ata’illah eloquently expresses this in the following words: “The tree of humiliation stems from a seed of neediness.” The small seed of neediness is watered with words and actions through which one tries to reach his goals, and thus, he feels deeply humiliated.

Then Ibn `Ata’illah says: “Nothing deceives you as your illusion. You are free from what you gave up on, and you are a slave to what you are in need of.”

A Slave to Others

Neediness makes you a slave to others than God. But what is the reason behind neediness? What is the reason behind being a slave to others than God and feeling humiliated by others? Ibn `Ata’illah tells us that the main reason behind all this is illusion, so he says: “Nothing deceives you as your illusion.” The question is: what is the illusion about which Ibn `Ata’illah is talking?

The one who is need of what people have might think that those people will benefit or harm him. For example, he might think that people who have power or wealth will bring benefit or harm to him, so he becomes greedy and thus feels humiliated by others.

In fact, people never bring benefit or cause harm to others. God is the creator of good and the creator of the harmful. Neediness is the source of humiliation, and illusion is the source of neediness.

Ibn `Ata’illah says that nothing deceives you as the illusion that people benefit or harm you. It is true that you have to interact with people, ask them to help you with something or do you a favor. There is nothing wrong with this as long as seeking peoples’ help does not imply any neediness which produces humiliation. This feeling of humiliation is the result of the illusion that people might benefit or harm others.

With Dignity

The Prophet (peace be upon him) says: “Ask for your needs with dignity.” It is normal to ask for your needs, but when you ask people to do you a favor or ask them for money, you have to ask them with dignity, i.e. without feeling humiliated or having a greedy attitude. You should not plant the seed of neediness as it leads to humiliation, which grows like the tree. Eventually, humiliation turns into a state of being a slave to others than God.

If you free yourself from the illusion that people have the ability to benefit or harm you, you will be saved. The Prophet (peace be upon him) told Ibn `Abbas (may God be pleased with him) when he was young that:

“If the whole nation were to unite and try to benefit you in something, they would never benefit you except by that which God has written for you. And if the whole nation were to unite and try to harm you in something, they would never be able to harm you except that God had written it upon you.”

Real Freedom

The real freedom is servitude to God. This is the definition of freedom in the Islamic perspective of life. If you are a servant to God, then you are free from others than Him. You are free from human beings. You are free from any social, economic, psychological or financial pressures. You are free from all this because “you are from what you gave up on.”

If you have a sound belief in God and you are trusting God, you feel sure that people cannot benefit or harm you. You will become a real servant to God. No humiliation, no neediness, no illusion.

Ibn `Ata’illah’s saying that the tree of humiliation stems from a seed of neediness is achieved when one asks God only and feels humiliated before Him alone. This feeling of humiliation supports the concept of servitude to God which is the real meaning of freedom, i.e. you become a servant to God alone through asking from Him and giving up the idea that people can benefit or harm.

The more you ask from God alone and the more you rely on Him, the more you feel humiliated before Him. Eventually this feeling of humiliation leads to the feeling of dignity.

Based on this, the word of wisdom that says: “the tree of humiliation stems from a seed of neediness” can be understood from two sides: first, the human side in which one shows a greedy attitude to what people have. This attitude is in itself an illusion because the one who causes benefit and harm is God, the Almighty. We should rid ourselves of this attitude which makes one a slave to others than God.

The other side which helps us understand Ibn `Ata’illah’s words is to ask God alone and seek His provision only with a feeling of humiliation which leads to a state of servitude to God. What a beautiful servitude and what a great freedom which you can enjoy only when you serve God alone. If you become a real servant to God, then you are free from others and you are journeying to Him.

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The article is excerpted from “Some of Al-Hikam Al-Ataiyyah” (The Path to God: A Journey with Ibn `Ata’illah’s Words of Wisdom In the Light of the Quran, the Prophetic Tradition, and Universal Laws of God- By Dr. Jasser Auda

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Thanking God for His Blessings: The Fifteenth Stop of Your Spiritual Journey to God

By Dr. Jasser Auda

“You risk losing your blessings when you do not thank Him for them, and you tie them to you firmly when you do. And if you do not advance towards Him by doing excellent deeds, He will pull you towards Him with the chains of tests.”

Thanking God for His Blessings

The one who thanks God for His blessings, he is tying them to him firmly.

One of the universal laws of God which govern the issue of providence with all its kinds is that if we thank God, He will multiply the blessings or replace them with something better. God says: “If you are grateful (to Me), I shall most certainly give you more and more.” (Ibrahim 14:7)

God declared that we will not be able to count all God’s blessings. God says: “… and should you try to count God’s blessings, you could never compute them.” (Ibrahim 14:34) Every Muslim should do his best to thank God for whatever He gives him.

Then God says: “… but if you are ungrateful, verily, My chastisement will be severe indeed!” (Ibrahim 14:7) The Arabic word “kufr”, in this verse, means being unthankful to God for His blessings. It does not mean disbelief in God. Unthankfulness is another flaw that Ibn `Ata’illah is telling us about in this word of wisdom.

Ibn `Ata’illah says: “You risk losing your blessings when you do not thank Him for them, and you tie them to you firmly when you do.”

The one who thanks God for His blessings, he is tying them to him firmly. God’s promise of rewarding those who thank Him is a true promise. It is like a guarantee, but this guarantee requires that you have to thank God.

Actions

Thankfulness is not only limited to saying Alhamdulillah (praise to God). However, thankfulness can be offered through actions. God says: “Labour, O David’s people, in gratitude (towards Me).” (Saba’ 34:13)

Thankfulness through actions requires that everyone should ask himself the following: What am I going to do with this blessing? Am I going to use it in doing a lawful thing? Am I going to contribute with it or part of it in doing a good deed? Or am I going to use it in doing an unlawful thing? If it is last case, the action itself is a form of denying the blessing.

Therefore, if you do not thank God for His blessings with sayings and actions, you will risk losing them. But if you thank God, you are tying His blessings to you firmly.

Then the Sheikh says: “And if you do not advance towards Him by doing excellent deeds, He will pull you towards Him with the chains of tests.”

To the Test

Thus, if you do not thank God for His blessings and advance to Him until you reach the level of excellence, God will put you to tests. By putting you to tests, God is giving you a last chance so that you can reach the level of excellence.

By tests God is elevating you and purifying your heart. If you are afflicted with tests, you will draw closer to God and He will forgive your sins. God says:

And, indeed, We tested them through suffering, but they did not abase themselves before their Sustainer; and they will never humble themselves. (Al-Mu’minun 23:76)

When God puts you to tests, you have to humble yourself, and pray to God. God says about the hypocrites: “Are they, then, not aware that they are being tested year-in, year-out? And yet, they do not repent and do not bethink themselves (of God).” (At-Tawbah 9:126)

Uncountable Blessings

God does want to punish you by testing you. But He wants to draw you closer to Him and to count His blessings which He bestowed on you. He wants you to thank Him by your tongue and actions.

When God puts you to a test by losing some blessings, He is testing you by a touch of chastisement. Every one of us has billions of uncountable blessings. When God puts one of us to a test by losing one, two or even five blessings, he feels that he is faced with a severe crisis. While in reality he has billions of blessings which God is bestowing on him every moment.

In every cell in your body, there is a blessing. In every second you live, there is a blessing. In every breath you breathe, there is a blessing. In every glance, there is a blessing. God is the one who is worthy of thankfulness. When God tests you by losing one or two blessings, He, according to Ibn `Ata’illah, is pulling you towards Him.

By losing a blessing, God wants you to return and repent to Him. He also wants you to remember His blessings and reflect on them. If you sincerely repent to God, He will never put you to any test for ever. God says: “And, behold, with every hardship comes ease: verily, with every hardship comes ease!”  (Al-Inshirah 95:5-6) We notice that God repeated the verse twice.

In another verse we read: “(and it may well be that) God will grant, after hardship, ease.” (At-Talaq 65:7) Sometimes matters get worse, but God makes a way out and with difficulty comes ease.

Get Closer

When you are faced with a problem or afflicted with a calamity, God brings ease in the middle of the crisis. If this state of ease draws you closer to God, this is in itself a blessing from God.

By testing you, God wants to draw you closer to Him. In such a case, the test is nothing when compared to the benefit you gained from this test, i.e. drawing closer to God. When one loses a blessing, he should remember the other countless blessings bestowed on him by God. In this case, God will elevate his status by testing him. Then, He will relieve the test from you.

Repent

If we want to avoid all of this, we have to advance towards God by doing excellent deeds and thanking Him. But this will never happen because we are humans. We cannot maintain thanking God all the time.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Every son of Adam is a sinner.”  (At-Tirmidhi)

Therefore, God is purifying us and mending our behavior by putting us to tests which are always accompanied or followed by ease.

I ask God to make us among those who always remember His blessings and repent to Him. I also pray to God to help us maintain mentioning Him, thanking Him, and worshipping Him in the best way.

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The article is excerpted from “Some of Al-Hikam Al-Ataiyyah” (The Path to God: A Journey with Ibn `Ata’illah’s Words of Wisdom In the Light of the Quran, the Prophetic Tradition, and Universal Laws of God- By Dr. Jasser Auda

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