Both extreme happiness and extreme pain constitute a great trap for the human soul. Accepting one’s condition, on the other hand, and patience and reliance on Allah are the distinguishing characteristics of the believers who have reached a state of perfection.
An unshakeable rule of happiness is that the mind follows revelation, the heart is adorned with beautiful character and one is accepting of the unexpected surprises that occur in one’s life. Once again true happiness is only possible when one accepts the ups and downs of life, when one tolerates the difficulties, and one tries to reform oneself and looks to the good of everything and submits to the Lord of the worlds.
How nice is the following advice of Luqman Hakim:
‘My child! Do not occupy your heart with worries and sadness. Beware of greed. Be accepting of your fate. Be content with what Allah has given you so that your life is made beautiful, your heart is filled with joy and you can receive pleasure from life’.
To be accepting of the manifestations and events that bring one happiness and then to be upset with worrying and saddening events does not comply with the spirit of Islam. Nevertheless, so long as the human being does not reach a peak of spiritual maturity, he will find it very difficult to be free of this human weakness. When, on the other hand, he has purified his soul and reached a state of contentedness, he can submit without hesitation, and be pleased with the rulings of his fate that manifest as a form of divine will, either good or bad. He will never complain. How great is the divine good news about such people:
‘O self at rest and at peace, return to your Lord, well-pleasing and well-pleased! Enter among My slaves! Enter My Garden.’ (Al-Fajr, 89:27-30).
It is easy to do something that one loves or has accepted or to tolerate it. What is easy will be done without hardship, in comfort and with pleasure. For the believer who loves Allah, everything that comes from Him will be easy, and will give pleasure and joy.
Those righteous people who have certain faith will be pleased with the decrees of Allah. They know that no misfortune can befall them that has not been ‘written’ by Allah. This is why everything that happens to them in this world is tiny compared to the pain of the hereafter.
Allah Most High bestows a state of peace on such people. In fact for them, the different manifestations of Allah in their eyes are a thousand times greater than the fleeting dreams and world of mirages. Because they have withdrawn themselves from those things that the common people turn to and consider to be bounties.
The Blessed Prophet (pbuh) has said:
“The greatness of one’s reward is according to the intensity of one’s misfortune. Allah allows misfortune to befall those that he loves. Whoever is accepting of what has befallen them, Allah will be pleased with them. And whoever is dissatisfied, will be subject to the wrath of Allah” (Tirmidhi, Zuhd, 57/2396; Ibn Majah, Fitan, 23).
In another hadith the Prophet (pbuh) has said:
“In the eyes of Allah, the believer strong in his faith is better and more pleasing than the believer who is weak in faith. But there is good in both. You should try to obtain what is beneficial for you. Ask for help from Allah and do not show weakness. If something happens to you, do not bemoan and say: ‘If only I had done this, such and such would have happened’ but say instead: ‘This is the decree of Allah. He does whatever He wills’. The phrase ‘If only’ opens the door to the acts that please Satan”. (Muslim, Qadr, 34; Ibn Majah, Muqaddima, 10).
The person who is not content with his situation and says ‘If only I had done such and such’, will become subject to states that are contrary to faith, such as discontentment, objecting to one’s fate, and disliking the will of Allah. And these states please Satan and lead a person to ruin. Being content with one’s state, on the other hand, will allow one to gain the pleasure of Allah. After enumerating all of the happiness in this world and the next, the Qur’an says: “And Allah’s good pleasure is even greater. That is the great victory” (Al-Tawba, 9:72).
Scenes of Virtue
Usama ibn Zayd (r.a) narrates:
“One day Zainab, the daughter of the Prophet sent news to her father:
“My son is about to die, please come to us”. The Prophet sent back greetings to his daughter saying:
“The one who gives and the one who takes is Allah. Everything has its time. Let her be patient and await her reward from Allah”.
His daughter sent news again:
“Please tell him he must come”.
This time the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) arose and went to his daughter’s house, along with some of his Companions, such as Sa’d ibn Ubada , Muadh ibn Jabal , Ubayy ibn Ka’b , and Zayd ibn Thabit. They gave the child to the Prophet who took him in his arms. The little child was having difficulty breathing. The tears started to flow from the blessed eyes of the Messenger of Allah (pbuh). Seeing this Sa’d ibn Ubada asked:
“What is this state of Messenger of Allah?”
Allah’s Messenger replied:
“This is the feeling of compassion which Allah has put into the hearts of those of his servants he wishes. And Allah will only show compassion to those of his servants who are compassionate”(Bukhari, Janaiz, 33, Ayman 9, Merda 9; Muslim, Janaiz 9,11).
The first greeting and advice that the Prophet sent to his daughter were of the nature of being content with one’s fate. The real skill is to be able to be content and submit to one’s fate at the time it occurs despite the pain. The second state of the Prophet, was not, as some of the Companions assumed at first, rebellion against one’s fate by screaming and wailing and tearing one’s clothes which the Prophet forbade, but it was rather a display of the feeling of compassion that Allah has bestowed on his servants.
The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) has informed us of the reward of the believer who has been content with his fate as follows:
“When a servant’s child dies Allah Most High says to his angels:
“Did you take the soul of my servant’s child?” The angels answer: “Yes, my Lord”. Allah then says:
“Have you broken off the fruit of his/her heart?”
“Yes, our Lord” the angels reply once more. Allah Most High says:
“And what did my servant say?” The angels reply:
“He/She praised you and seeking refuge only in You, said: ‘Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’uun’… ‘We belong to Allah and to Him we will return’(Al-Baqara, 2:156).
Then Allah Most High says:
“In that case build a house for my servant in Paradise and name it ‘The House of Praise” (Tirmidhi, Janaiz, 36/1021).
The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) has stated:
“When a servant falls ill, Allah sends two of his angels and says to them:
“Go and have a look, what does my servant say to his helpers”.
If, when the angels arrive, the servant is praising Allah, they send this information to Allah, (who knows everything anyway). Allah Most High, who sent His angels merely so that they can be a witness to the deeds of the servant, then says:
“If I take back the soul of my servant, then to put him in Paradise is his right on Me. If I cure him, it is a right on Me to replace his flesh with better flesh, to change his blood with better blood, and to forgive him his sins”(Muwatta, Ayn, 5).
Abu Huraira (r.a) narrates:
One day the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said to his Companions:
“Who will take these words of mine and teach others to act according to them?”
I immediately jumped up.
“I will o Messenger of Allah”. The Prophet then took me by the hand and said the following five things to me:
“Beware of forbidden things and you will be a worshiping servant of Allah”.
“If you are content with what Allah has set aside for you, then You will the wealthiest person”.
“Show kindness to your neighbour and you will be a perfect believer”.
“Desire for others what you desire for yourself so that you can become a perfect Muslim”
“Do not laugh too much. Too much laughter kills the heart”.(Tirmidthi, Zud, 2/2305; Ibn Majah, Zuhd, 24).
Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) was once sitting with Abu Bakr (r.a) . Abu Bakr was wearing an old cloak. It was so old that he had fastened the skirt of his cloak to his breast using little pieces of wood.
Just at that point the angel Gabriel (a.s) appeared. He greeted him with the greeting of peace from Allah and said:
“O Messenger of Allah! What is this state of Abu Bakr? He is wearing an old dress and he has fastened the ends with wooden sticks?”
The Prophet replied:
“O Gabriel! He spent everything he had on the religion of Allah before the conquest of Mecca, this is why he is in this state”. Then Gabriel (a.s) said:
“Give him greetings of peace from Allah Most High. Say to him: ‘Your Lord asks you: Are you pleased with me as a result of this poor and needy state you are in or do you complain about your situation?”
Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) turned to his friend and asked:
“O Abu Bakr! Here is Gabriel and he has brought you greetings of peace from Allah Most High. Our Lord wants to know whether you are pleased with your poor and needy state, and thus pleased with Allah, or do you have any complaints?”
Abu Bakr (r.a) did not know what to do out of happiness in the face of this divine compliment. He was tongue-tied. He cried and cried for a period and then said:
“Am I to complain of my Lord? I am pleased with my Lord! I am pleased with my Lord! I am pleased with my Lord!” (Abu Nuaym, Hilya, VII, 105; Ibn al-Jawziya, Sifat as-Safwa, I, 249-250).
According to narrations the Prophet Yûnus (upon whom be peace) once asked the angel Gabriel (r.a):
“Can you show me the most worshipping person on the face of the earth?”
Gabriel showed him a man whose hands and feet had rotted from leprosy and who had lost his eye. In spite of all of this, the man kept repeating:
“O Allah! Whatever has been given to me through these hands and feet have only been given to me by You. Whatever you have made distant from me, it is only You that has made them distant. O Allah. You have left only one desire in me and that is only the desire of being reunited with You”
The Prophet Ayyûb (Job) (upon whom be peace) was experiencing the most intense days of his illness. His wife Rahima Hatun said to him:
“You are a prophet. Why do you not ask Allah for health and well-being so that you can be free of this illness?” Ayyub replied:
“How many days did we pass in health and wealth-being?” Rahima Hatun replied:
“80 years”. Ayyûb then said:
“O Rahima! Almighty Allah bestowed upon me 80 years of health. The period of my illness is very little compared to the time of my life which was passed in health. This being the condition, I would feel ashamed to complain to Allah about my situation. We are well-pleased when Allah Most High bestows bounties upon us, so why should we not show patience when misfortunes come from Him? I am pleased with my Lord.”
This attitude of the Prophet Ayyûb is a beautiful example of contentment. Despite all of his misfortune and distress, the Prophet Job refrained from complaining to almighty Allah about his illness and asking for health and well-being so as not to fall into a state of complaint and to refrain from being defective in being pleased with Allah’s decree. However at the insistence of his wife, he eventually prayed:
‘Great harm has afflicted me and You are the Most Merciful of the Merciful’ (Al-Anbiya 21:83)
It was upon this prayer that Allah Most High removed his affliction as a reminder of his mercy to those who are consistent in their servanthood. He cured him and bestowed upon him wealth and sons once again. In terms of showing forbearance and gratitude, and being content with ones’ state, almighty Allah compliments the Prophet Ayyûb as follows: “What an excellent slave’ (Sa’d 38:44)
In the following story Rumi tells of how true love and friendship is possible when one responds with kindness to the pain and harshness one receives from one’s friends and by accepting and submitting to the event:
“Some close friends who had come to visit a man brought with them a melon as a gift. The man called his loyal and deeply emotional servant Luqman, whom he loved dearly and who was his confidante.
When Luqman arrived, his master cut a slice of the melon and offered it to Luqman. Luqman ate that slice of melon as if it were honey or sugar. He ate it with such enjoyment and pleasure that the appetites of those who saw him were wetted and they envied him. His master gave him a second slice as he was happy at the pleasure felt by his loyal servant Luqman. At last, there was only one slice of melon left. The master then said:
“Let me eat this slice and see how sweet a melon it is”. However, as soon as he ate the melon, his mouth was burned by the bitter taste of the melon. His tongue immediately developed cold sores and his throat burned. He said to Luqman:
“O my dear servant. How did you eat such poison as if it were the sweetest thing? How could you consider such an unbearable thing to be a bounty? What patience is this? Who knows how much pain you put up with in order to be patient and not sour your face. Are you an enemy to your sweet soul? Why did you not say anything? Why did you not at least say: “Please excuse me I cannot eat right now.”
“I have eaten such sweet food from the hands of you, my lord. I have received such rare nourishment, both physical and spiritual, that I have been ashamed at not being able to reciprocate. How can I say about something that you have presented to me with your own hands: “This is bitter and I cannot eat it”. And anyway, all bitterness that is from your hands is sweet to me. Because each cell in my body has been nourished with your bounties”.
Then Luqman continued expressing his feelings in excitement and with words filled with love:
“My lord. If I ever complain about anything painful that comes to me from you, let dirt be thrown over me. How can your hand, which is always in a state of bestowal, cause pain? It is through love that pain becomes sweet, and copper turns to gold. It is through love that cloudiness and vagueness is resolved and gains clarity. Love allows incurable diseases to be cured. Love brings to life what is dead. Love turns sultans into slaves. Love turns dungeons into rose-gardens. Love illuminates dark houses. It is because of love that fire becomes light. It is because of love that the ugly become like beautiful nymphs. It is through love that worries, anxieties and sadness become joy and happiness. Those who have strayed from the path and brigands become guides of happiness through love. It is because of love that illnesses are transformed into health and well-being. It is through love that great sorrows become mercy”.
This is a most apparent sign of love of Allah and a true state of contentment.
Whenever Umar ibn Abdulaziz (may the mercy of Allah be upon him) was asked:
“What do you love?” he would answer:
“I love whatever is in my fate. I love the decree of Allah”…
The following conversation between a master and his servant is very telling:
A man once bought a slave. The slave was a pious and righteous believer. When the master took the slave home the following conversation took place between them:
The master said:
“What would you like to do in my home?”
The slave replied:
“Whatever you tell me to do”
“What sort of clothes would you like to wear?”
“Whatever you give me to wear”.
“In which room would you like to sleep?”
“In whichever room you would like me to”.
“Which of my chores would you like to do?”
“Whichever of your tasks you would like me to do.”
After this last reply, the master reflected for a while and then wiping the tears that fell down his face he said:
“If only I could submit like this to my Lord. Then how happy I would be!…
At that point the slave said:
“O my master. Can the slave carry out his will and choose over the Master?”
The master then said:
“I am setting you free. You are free for the sake of Allah. However I would like it if you stayed with me, so that I can serve you with my life and my property”…
Whoever knows Allah in reality will submit to Him with true love, and if he is content with the state decreed by Him, he will forego his willpower and his freedom to choose. He will only say:
“Who am I to ask for anything from Allah”…
One day one of the friends of Allah, Sunbul Sinan Efendi asked his followers:
“Just imagine that almighty Allah gave the reigns of the administration of this universe to you, what would you do?”
His students were shocked at this question that they had never come across before. However they did not want to be impolite in not replying so they put forward their various opinions:
“Master, I would not leave one unbeliever living on the face of the earth”
“I would eradicate all evil”.
“I would destroy all those who drank alcohol”.
One of them however was silent and did not reply at all. His master noticed him and looked at him asking:
“My child. And what would you do?”
The student blushed due to his manners and in great humility said:
“My master. Is there a flaw in Allah Most High’s administration of this universe that would require me to do anything different? The divine order in the universe continues to flow in a manner beyond my comprehension. How on earth could I, with this incapable, limited, and narrow mind and will have the audacity to say: “I would change such and such and I would do such and such”… then he lowered his eyes out of his embarrassment.
His Master was, however, very pleased at this knowledgeable answer. Looking over his student with a smiling and radiant face he said to him:
“Now the matter is settled and has found its centre.”
From then on, this student was known as “Merkez efendi” (Master of the Centre) and his real name of Musa Muslihiddin was forgotten.
In short, being content with one’s state is a manifestation of one’s love for Allah and trust in Him. Being content with whatever Allah gives is an elevated state that only those slaves who have been freed from jealousy and greed, and have attained to knowledge of Allah can attain to.
Allah Most High knows what is best for his slave, more so than the slave does himself. This is why the safest path is to be content with the divine decree and to show gratitude in all situations. Almighty Allah gives the following warning:
‘It may be that you hate something when it is good for you and it may be that you love something when it is bad for you. And Allah knows and you do not know.’ (Al-Baqara, 2:216)
. Abdulqadir Gaylani, “Al Fathu al-Rabbani”. Istanbul 1987, pg 421)