Book Club > Purification of the Heart > Displeasure with the Divine Decree

This is an effort to provide an impact summary of one of the chapters read in the book club established at the mosque. Refer to the book club page for more information.

Some people complain and moan: I do not deserve this! ~ Why me?? This person’s heart develop rancor, a bitterness and long-lasting resentment towards others and life. As a result, he is in denial of God’s omnipotence and decree. God chooses to make things happen and we have no say in that. However, God gives us the ability to choose how we respond to things and events he befalls on us.

Those who keep God in their mind believe that all what happens, good or bad,  is for a good reason. As a consequence, they are people who understand the nature of this life, that it is a trial. They respond with patience.

Those who keep the world in their mind are blind to the wonders of God, his creations and signs. They believe that the world is it. When good things happen to them they are happy and boastful how good, smart or talented they are to achieve such success. When they fail they complain and moan and compare themselves with others who succeeded in the same endeavour.

Everything that can happen to a person can be in either four states. What is important is how we respond to each of these states:

  1. Receiving a blessing (Ni3ma): the person should respond with gratiutude. Gratitude is not merely uttering words of thanks and praise because such words can be just words. A better Gratitude is more practical. It is to perform obligations and then virtuous recommended deeds. Only then can a person awaken the energy inside that makes him appreciate the receipt of the blessing. Only then uttering words of thanks and praise to God have a sweeter and more powerful effect. Someone who doesn’t respond with gratitude will respond with ingratitude (Nakrou Al-I7ssan). Ingratitude may not necessarily be uttering words along the lines of “I’ve done this myself!” but it is more often expressed by saving wealth or knowledge and not sharing it with the needy, or wasting and squandering wealth or knowledge.
  2. Receiving tribulations (Bala’e): the person should respond with patience, steadfastness and resolve. Consistent patience that comes at the guts of tribulations, that is free of complaints and that is  not broken by surrendering out of following desires, fearing someone or aggressing someone is referred to in the Quran as a “beautiful patience”.
  3. Living in obediance (Ta3a): the person should respond with recognizing that this quality of obediance is itself a blessing from God bestowed upon the person. Otherwise an obediant believer may feel arrogant and self-righteous and that is an extreme disease of the heart. Prophet Mohammed said that whoever has a mustard seed of arrogance will not enter heaven. He also said not to try and make it a job to find faults in others, because God may take away their faults and apply them to you. It is inapproriate for an obediant believer to speak to or look at someone passing by trials or someone unguided, with contempt, let alone spread the word among people that such person’s iman is weak or is carrying a punishment from God. Because someone may be in trial and tribulations as a blessing from God and may come out of it with a stronger faith and more obediance than that obediant believer. a scholar said that a wrong action that leads to a sense of shame and hunility before God is better than obediance that leads to a sense of pride and arrogance. That is the secret of wrong actions. Therefore it is appropriate for a believer to have feelings of compassion towards someone who is less obediant, and to express gratitude to God for not befalling the same trial on him/her.
  4. Living in Disobediance (Ma3ssiya): the person should respond with repentence. It is to ask forgiveness, mercy and to resolve not to repeat the mistake again.

If we respond to these four states properly, we get closer to God.

Ibn Abbass said that when someone is passing by a tribulation they can still find three blessings in them, the thought of which can relieve the person. Also, if you feel for someone in tribulation then remind him or her of these blessings:

  1. The tribulation could have been worse. Think of practical examples of what could have been worse to clearly grasp this blessing
  2. The tribulation has affected tangible wordly matters and not spiritual things which could be irreversible.
  3. The tribulation’s scope is still in this finite world and not the next world when it is too late to resolve.

After realizing these blessings, thank God.

Prophet Mohammed passed by many tribulations:

  • Only one out of six of his children survived
  • He never met his dad
  • His mom died when he was a little boy
  • his Guardian uncle died and his wife for 25 years died when he needed them the most
  • His people who highly esteemed him before turned against him and he incured 13 assassination attempts
  • Many of his beloved friends died while supporting him

Yet he never complained, why? because he understood the nature of life and he was pleased with the decree of God, good or bad.

Those who don’t realize this, plunge into heedlisness (Ghafla) and loss. They may blame themselves, others and even God.

Imam Qarfi distinguished between the divine decree, and the reaction to it. He said that we should not be displeased with God allowing bad things to happen. However, we should be displeased with those who plunge and enjoin bad.

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