“I am as My servant’s opinion of Me.”
“Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala (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.
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 Madina, 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 Madina 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. But as we read in Sr. Yasmin’s amazing article, 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.” (Qur’an, 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 have already discussed why tests happen in a previous post, so I will not discuss it too much here. 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, insha’Allah.
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 du’a (supplication) to help us stop, knowing that He will respond. It means having grand hopes and aspirations, and working towards them knowing that Allah (swt)
“will not allow to be lost the reward of any who did well in deeds.” (Qur’an, 18:30).
The Qur'an says several times that Allah is most Merciful and Forgiving but also says many times that He gives severe punishment. Is He Forgiving or Revengeful?
Answer1. Allah is most Merciful
The Qur'an says several times that Allah is the most Merciful. In fact all the 114 Surahs i.e. chapters of the Glorious Qur'an except for Surah Taubah chapter 9, begin with the beautiful formula, Bismillah-hir-Rahman-nir-Rahim, which means, "In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful".
2. Allah is Forgiving
I want to start here. This is not a place to be harsh and judgmental (which is easy in the throes of passionate discussion). I believe that we can have a discussion about these topics and do so in a way that is productive, which having and speaking from an attitude of judgement is not. So, as I said before, let's start with Jesus' words in Matthew 7.
"You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your bother's eye."
Judgement is essential to life. I must deem whether situations and persons are safe. I must determine critically whether my path with lead me to my desired destination. I must observe and think about the things people do and say in order to honor their actions and their intelligence. This means I just pass judgement, everyday. I must pass judgement may times a day, everyday. Judgement is essential to life and Christian life, in particular.
However, "judgmental-ism" is neither essential nor is it even Christ-like. When we look down our noses at people because they are different or "wrong," we walk away from the person Christ calls us to be.
Jesus doesn't say a blanket, "Don't judge." He ends this with saying, "... then you will see clearly to remove the speck..." He expects us to judge, but our attitude is everything in terms of judgement. If we come to others ignoring the sin or fault in our own lives or if we come with a spirit that is demeaning or belittling, we are sinning even further. We take over God's place as Judge. He is the one who determines right and wrong, not us. But, if we come with a spirit of grace and mercy, in order to lovingly help remove the faults in others (faults that we have in our own lives; it's another thing altogether to try and "help" people with things that you have no experience with or expertise in) then we are serving God by serving them. We carry another's burdens and love as Jesus loved.