Applied Belief Science: The first of the ĥikam explained


The great scholars of taşawwuf are also great scholars of belief, because taşawwuf is about bringing all ones actions, most specifically those of the heart, in alignment with the Islamic belief in Aļļaah. For this reason we will put some writings of taşawwuf on this blog. The first of these is from the ĥikam of Ibn ˆAţaa’ illaah As-Sakandariyy. These ĥikam, or words of wisdom, need to be put in context of each other as well as the Islamic beliefs and laws established by the Qur’aan, ĥadiitħs and Scholarly Ijmaaˆ Consensus. They are a set of tools for diagnosis and treatment of the heart. A competent medical doctor does not base his diagnosis on temperature alone, but combined with clinical signs, blood tests, x-rays and other tools. Having said that, the following is the first of the ĥikam and its explanation:

من علامات الاعتماد على العمل، نقصان الرجاء عند وجود الزلل

Among the sign of one’s reliance on his own effort, is the loss of hope when one makes a mistake.

The author is saying that if you experience such loss of hope, then this may be a sign that your heart is skewed towards relying on your deeds to succeed in the Hereafter. The perfect state however, is to rely on Aļļaah only, since He is the Creator of all deeds, all benefit, all harm, all reward, and all punishment. Nothing influences Aļļaah, including your deeds, because He created them, knew what you would do eternally, and He Himself is not created. He is eternal and does not change, so nothing with a beginning can influence Him in any way. He is the creator of everything, so He is not affected by it, because an effect must have a beginning, and anything with a beginning is His creation.

Aļļaah is not obliged to punish or reward anyone for anything they do.

Al-Bukħaariyy narrated through Abuu Hurayrah that the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) said:

لَنْ يُدْخِلَ أَحَدًا عَمَلُهُ الْجَنَّةَ قَالُوا وَلا أَنْتَ يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ قَالَ لا وَلا أَنَا إِلاَّ أَنْ يَتَغَمَّدَنِي اللَّهُ بِفَضْلٍ وَرَحْمَةٍ فَسَدِّدُوا وَقَارِبُوا وَلا يَتَمَنَّيَنَّ أَحَدُكُمْ الْمَوْتَ إِمَّا مُحْسِنًا فَلَعَلَّهُ أَنْ يَزْدَادَ خَيْرًا وَإِمَّا مُسِيئًا فَلَعَلَّهُ أَنْ يَسْتَعْتِبَ

"Your deeds will not put you in Paradise." They asked: "Not even for you, O Messenger of Aļļaah?" He answered: "No, not even for me, except that Aļļaah will cover me with grace and mercy. So seek what is correct, and strive to be close to it, and let no one of you hope for death, because he will either be a doing well, so perhaps he will do better, or he will be doing poorly, so perhaps he will remove what is blameworthy."

The actions we make are creations of Allah, predestined and created by him.

Aļļaah (عز وجل) said:

وَاللَّهُ خَلَقَكُمْ وَمَا تَعْمَلُونَ

Meaning: "Aļļaah created you and what you do." (Aş-Şaaffaat. 96).

He (عز وجل) also said:

وما تشاءون إلا أن يشاء الله

Meaning: "You do not will anything unless Aļļaah has willed it." (Al-Insaan, 30).

Every instance of pleasure or pain is created by Him.

Aļļaah (عز وجل) said:

وَخَلَقَ كُلَّ شَيْءٍ فَقَدَّرَهُ تَقْدِيرًا

Meaning: "And He created everything and predestined it." (Al-Furqaan, 2) He (سبحانه وتعالى) also said:

هَلْ مِنْ خَالِقٍ غَيْرُ اللَّهِ

Meaning: "Is there another creator than Aļļaah?" (Faaţir, 3)

Accordingly, if one makes a mistake and loses hope because of that, then it is an indication that one is relying on one’s own deeds, rather than on their Creator.

As long as there is life there is hope

One should not lose hope, because it is the state one is at in the final moment that matters, and this can change completely in a matter of seconds. Al-Bukħaariyy narrated that the Prophet said:

إِنَّ أَحَدَكُمْ يُجْمَعُ فِي بَطْنِ أُمِّهِ أَرْبَعِينَ يَوْمًا ثُمَّ عَلَقَةً مِثْلَ ذَلِكَ ثُمَّ يَكُونُ مُضْغَةً مِثْلَ ذَلِكَ ثُمَّ يَبْعَثُ اللَّهُ مَلَكًا فَيُؤْمَرُ بِأَرْبَعٍ بِرِزْقِهِ وَأَجَلِهِ وَشَقِيٌّ أَوْ سَعِيدٌ فَوَاللَّهِ إِنَّ أَحَدَكُمْ أَوْ الرَّجُلَ يَعْمَلُ بِعَمَلِ أَهْلِ النَّارِ حَتَّى مَا يَكُونُ بَيْنَهُ وَبَيْنَهَا غَيْرُ بَاعٍ أَوْ ذِرَاعٍ فَيَسْبِقُ عَلَيْهِ الْكِتَابُ فَيَعْمَلُ بِعَمَلِ أَهْلِ الْجَنَّةِ فَيَدْخُلُهَا وَإِنَّ الرَّجُلَ لَيَعْمَلُ بِعَمَلِ أَهْلِ الْجَنَّةِ حَتَّى مَا يَكُونُ بَيْنَهُ وَبَيْنَهَا غَيْرُ ذِرَاعٍ أَوْ ذِرَاعَيْنِ فَيَسْبِقُ عَلَيْهِ الْكِتَابُ فَيَعْمَلُ بِعَمَلِ أَهْلِ النَّارِ فَيَدْخُلُهَا

"Verily one of you is gathered in his mothers stomach for forty days, then he is a blood-clot for forty days, then a piece of meat for forty days, then Aļļaah sends an angel ordered with four words: his provision, his end, happy or miserable. By Aļļaah, verily one of you may be committing the deeds of the people of Hell, until he is only an arm’s length away, when (it is as if) his destined end overwhelms him and he starts to perform the works of the people of Paradise, and enters it. And verily one of you may be committing the deeds of the people of Paradise, until he is only an arm’s length away, when (it is as if) his destined end overwhelms him and he starts to perform the works of the people of Hell, and enters it."

The meaning of all of the above

One’s hope for Allah’s grace and mercy should be based purely on hoping from Allah alone, because all your efforts, intentions and thoughts are all simply part of what Allah has created in you. Aļļaah is attributed with pure and perfect benevolence, His benevolence and gifts are hoped for because of His perfection in His Self, attributes and actions, not because of other than Him, including one’s deeds. This does not contradict the desire for His reward, due to His benevolence, when obedience occurs; nor does it contradict fear from punishment, when one is afflicted with committing a sin.

The point is that the focus of the one who truly knows Aļļaah, is towards His Lord and not his own deeds, because Aļļaah:

– gave us the power to do good deeds.

– created them in us.

– and out of generosity accepted them.

Not only that, but after he gave us the power, and created them, and accepted them, then without any obligation, he rewards us on our deeds. So how can we thank our God that rewards us on deeds that He created and accepted?

Scholars and worshipful Muslims used to perform a lot of prayers and fasting and other good deeds, because they knew that no matter what they do, they cannot thank Aļļaah as He deserves. The Prophet Muhammad had no sins to worry about for his Hereafter, yet his heals would get swollen from standing long hours in prayers. When asked about this he said, "should I not be a thankful slave?"

Good deeds are signs that a person is a good person, but if Allah does not accept them they are nothing. If a person made sujuud for Aļļaah on fire from the days of Adam to the end of this world will he have thanked Aļļaah as He deserves? How can he, when he is Aļļaah’s creation and Aļļaah is the one who created this sujuud in him and he is an absolute slave of Aļļaah, created and sustained by Him in every sense?

On the other hand, when a person does a bad thing, then the sin by itself is nothing in light of Aļļaah’s forgiveness and mercifulness, or His Self Existence, without need for anything or anyone. If a person does a sin and sees only his deed without recognizing Aļļaah’s mercifulness and forgiveness, then this is a sign that this person is arrogant; he gives his deeds a great deal of importance. Sins are signs that this person is not a thankful person, but sins by themselves are nothing if Aļļaah does not will to punish us for them.

All taşawwuf revolve around the belief that everything is by Aļļaah’s will, and is created by Aļļaah and that we are slaves that do not have the power or will to do anything if Aļļaah does not will it . Our own existence is by the will of Aļļaah and His creation. Our deeds are created by Aļļaah; our intensions are created by Aļļaah. We would be nothing if Aļļaah had not willed us to exist.

This does not mean that a person should not do good deeds or he should not feel sad or bad when he does a sin. It means that a person should know who he is. He should always remember that he is a slave that has no power or will if His Creator does not will.

All great sufis, scholars, and Islamic figures were great worshipers, because they knew the greatness of Aļļaah, and knew their state as slaves, and knew that no matter what they do they cannot thank their creator for all the gifts that He gave them. This state of always recognizing that they are slaves and trying to thank their Creator for all His gifts overwhelmed them and this led them to do all this worship.

Good deeds are good because they are signs of worshipping Aļļaah, and sins are bad because they are signs of disobeying Aļļaah. From this one can see why Allah might forgive sins, but will not forgive kufr, because the person who does a sin still recognizes that He is a slave and has a God, a Creator that owns him. The one who does kufr, however, is so egocentric that He thinks himself not a slave. Even when he worships idols he only does that because his ancestors did so, and this is arrogance in thinking high of his ancestors. If, on the other hand, he selects what he thinks is his god, other than Aļļaah, or attributes to Aļļaah what does not befit Him, then this is also arrogance, because he only does that thinking he has the right, or power, or knowledge to so.

I end this by saying that they say that Abuu Yaziid al Bustaamiyy saw Aļļaah in his dream and asked him: O Aļļaah! How can a person reach a state of "wusuul," which is a high state in taşawwuf (slavery to Aļļaah). They say that Allah answered him in the dream: "leave your ‘self’ and you will reach that state."


8 Responses to Applied Belief Science: The first of the ĥikam explained

  1. Souphienne says:

    Bismillah wassalam’aleykum Shaykh,

    Jazakum Allaahu khairan!

    I hope more is coming!

    I, formyself,hope for Allaah’s Mercy and to keep this hope alive oblige me to obey Allaah to the best of my ability as Allaah said:

    (3.132) Obey Allah and the Messenger so that hopefully you will gain mercy.

    and as for willingly disobeying Allaah it would be as willfully getting out of Allaah’s Mercy which is stupidity.

    I am grateful to Him for having created in me this will to be among those who will enter His Mercy,plainly aware that this created will is intself a Mercy from Him that He can cut whenever He wants.

    As far as I knwow ‘Ilm At Tawhid is Fard’ayn,Salat,Sawm and so on are Fard’ayn,Tassawuf is Fard’ayn:that means doing it to the best of one’s ability allows to hope for His Mercy and leaving it entails refusing His Mercy…Choosing the way to His Mercy is a Mercy from Him.

    And That’s it…

    I have never seen things explained EXACTLY like that but as for today that is how I understand my Religion.


  2. Souphienne says:

    Bismillah wassalam’aleykum Shaykh,

    You said:

    “Good deeds are signs that a person is a good person, but if Allah does not accept them they are nothing.”

    1.Can we be sure that,if we complied with fiqh and Ikhlass validity of an act of worship, that this act will be accepted or we can only hope for it and wait for the answer after death?

    2.Is it a good thing to make du’a for the acceptance of one’s act of worship?


  3. Isa says:

    Masha’Allah this is great. I hope you could complete a full commentary on the first section, at least, which is all about Tawhid.

  4. Ayman says:

    Assalamulaikum dear Shaykh,

    Alhamdulillah, this is truly an inspiring post. It addresses a lot of spiritual problems people may undergo from a state of hopelessness. I was wondering if you could clarify the meaning of: “leave yourself, and you will reach that state.”

    This doesn’t mean that we need to suppress our desires, does it? For instance, things such as eating food, taking a shower, getting married etc. Does it simply mean being, and experiencing existence, but with the constant understanding of His Will over all things (i.e. keeping at heart and mind, the truth – all things that we do and receive are willed by Him)?

    Thank you,


  5. defendingislam10 says:

    Salam Alaykum,

    A non-Muslim asked that what is the use of us Muslims saying that we do things “for the sake of Allah”, if at the end of the day our goal is to avoid Hellfire and to enter Paradise. I think what he was hinting at is that there is no intrinsic morality when one thinks in terms of Paradise and Hellfire, and that (according to him) any religion that has this element of other-worldly punishment and recompense is flawed, since it only feeds off of the selfishness and fear of people.

    Also, related to this question was another question by a non-Muslim as to what is the real basis for which humans have to obey God. He said that if the reason for human obedience is to avoid punishment by God, then this is again feeding off of human fear and selfishness; and if we say it is thanking God, then what is the basis for which we have to thank God (that is, why are we obliged to thank our benefactors?).

    • wa3alaykumussalaam,

      I think these questions are answered in the article, but there are two points I might help you with. First, there are many states of worship, one is only based on fear and complete submission of the heart, and this is minimum, but at a more complete stage there is being overwhelmed by thankfulness, or worshiping Allaah because He deserves to be worshiped. This is according to the psychological state of the worshiper, and his knowledge. Second, there is no such thing as intrinsic morality, and trying to raise such an issue is to try to turn the conversation away from reality. Islam is fundamentally about what is true in terms of this life and the hereafter, and as such the objection you mentioned in irrelevant, because it is irrelevant to the facts at hand. Third, the reason why we are obliged to thank Allaah is given in detail in the above article.

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