I had a series of blogs in a Q and A fashion – asking questions to amplify Islamic teachings on life.
Below is one of those questions..The aim of this question what is to help the reader comprehend that we will not be asked about results, but our efforts. I explored this theme many times.
This question was in 2012 in a blog on the Star Tribune. Although, it was explored earlier on in my writings with other teachers.
Wazwaz: Final question. Let us just say that a person finds within him/herself traits that are against the Sacred Law. We discussed that it is a form of misguidance to feel oneself is damned and go into despair. It is also a misguidance to consider another human being damned. So you struggle to purify the ego, but you fail. You keep struggling and struggling and you keep failing. What if your inclinations are too strong and your failures cause you to be depressed and feel like a failure?
Shaykh Qays: This is an extremely important question that returns to our very first interview – it returns to the matter of Tawhid or true monotheism. It is all too easy to think that because the Sacred Law exists and it consists of commands and prohibitions that that is what religion is about. The Quran is very clear about what religion is about: God, and our relationship with Him. I have come across groups of Christians, for example, who criticize Islam for being too “legalistic” and for having at its core the idea that salvation is through works. When Muslims fall into despair it is for the same reason- thinking that religion is about works or anything other than God when, in fact, the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said:
“‘No one of you will enter Paradise because of his works.’ They said, ‘Not even you Oh Messenger of God?’ He said, ‘Not even I, unless God, Himself, envelops me in His mercy and grace…”
The law, virtue and morality are means to God, Most High they are not the end. We are commanded so that, as I noted earlier, we make our best effort then either we fail or we succeed. Whatever the outcome, we are to return to God, Most High. If we succeed in obeying God then we owe Him gratitude for His grace in facilitating our obedience. That gratitude should be an internal state of thanks that finds expression in a greater commitment to His command. If we fail to obey and fall into sin then we should likewise return to God with repentance and try again.
Repentance is an internal state of remorse that finds expression in acts of repentance (like the prayer of repentance) and a resolve not to return to the sin. In both gratitude and repentance we are to rely on God and be sincere.
So for the true believer the point is always God; success and failure, happiness and sadness are means not cause for depression or giving up, nor self-righteousness and egoism. One either achieves piety or dies trying; either way one is in the grace of God, Most High. That is what life and Religion are about. That is Tawhid in practice
Wazwaz: Another way I tried to amplify the idea is helping people understand that faith is about climbing the spiritual mountain. The Quran refers to the road of guidance as the steep road.
“The person on top of the mountain, didn’t fall there.”Vince Lombardi
This effort includes weathering trials and tribulations that God puts in our path. It is not all our own effort based on ego or our desire for greatness. Although, if we put effort into a task for egotistical purposes, we will find results. God rewards people for their efforts made. However, if you are seeking this world, you will be rewarded with what you seek of this world, through hard work and effort. However, if you are seeking to elevate the word of God, your reward will more than likely be in the hereafter. What you seek, you find.
“We have made some of you as a trial for others: will ye have patience? for Allah is One Who sees (all things).”(Quran 25:20)
You can find some scholarly commentary on this verse here.
Sometimes God wants to elevate someone in rank – and pour a trial upon them, or test another who is deluded and arrogant. If the believer weathers these trials by turning to God, seeking help via patience and prayer, then God will elevate his or her rank, and the trials become the means that elevate their climb of the spiritual mountain of faith closer to Him.
There is a verse in chapter 18 that I like to repeat. You may want to search the meaning of the word: ‘asa or I hope/wish/pray/aspire to.
Hope for what? Listen:
“I hope that my Lord will guide me ever closer (even) than this to the right road.”(Quran 18:24)
Part of this discussion was plagiarized by Yasmin Mogahed in her videos, books, and talks. I have no problem if the person taking the ideas is doing so to help others or sharpen their argument in face of an oppressor. However, it is unethical to take other people’s ideas and work without giving credit or attribution to promote oneself, books, and gain fame and status. Please ask Yasmin Mogahed to stop plagiarizing my writings.