Indeed the shayṭān has succeeded in leading many people astray from the straight path of Allāh. He promised this, as we were informed by our Lord – The Most High – when He said:
قَالَ فَبِمَا أَغْوَيْتَنِي لَأَقْعُدَنَّ لَهُمْ صِرَاطَكَ الْمُسْتَقِيمَ ﴿١٦﴾ ثُمَّ لَآتِيَنَّهُم مِّن بَيْنِ أَيْدِيهِمْ وَمِنْ خَلْفِهِمْ وَعَنْ أَيْمَانِهِمْ وَعَن شَمَائِلِهِمْ ۖ وَلَا تَجِدُ أَكْثَرَهُمْ شَاكِرِينَ ﴿١٧﴾ قَالَ اخْرُجْ مِنْهَا مَذْءُومًا مَّدْحُورًا ۖ لَّمَن تَبِعَكَ مِنْهُمْ لَأَمْلَأَنَّ جَهَنَّمَ مِنكُمْ أَجْمَعِينَ ﴿١٨﴾
I will indeed sit on Your straight path. Then I will approach them from the front, from behind, from the right and then from the left. You will find most of them to be ungrateful.
From the countless tricks of the shayṭān and his constant deception of the children of Ādam (may the blessings of Allāh be upon him) is that he seeks to divert the servant away from performing sincere repentance. He is keen to accomplish this through several means and sinister strategies.
Amongst his strategies is persuading an individual to blame others for difficulties and calamities that occur as a result of one’s own sins. Due to this Allāh – The Most High – has informed His servant that that which occurs in one’s life of calamity is a direct or indirect result of what a person has put forward by way of his own hands. Allāh – The Most High – said:
وَمَا أَصَابَكُم مِّن مُّصِيبَةٍ فَبِمَا كَسَبَتْ أَيْدِيكُمْ وَيَعْفُو عَن كَثِيرٍ ﴿٣٠﴾
That which befalls you of calamity is due to what your hands have put forward, and Allāh pardons much.
Shaykh ʿAbd al-Raḥmān as-Saʿdi commented on the above verse:
Allāh informs in this verse that a person is not afflicted with a trial in his body, wealth, children, or in anything that he loves and is dear to him, except that this occurs due to that which he has put forward of sins from his own hands. (Tayseer Kareem al Raḥmān pg.899)
The Salaf of the past realized this evil plot of the shayṭān and as a result, they did not seek to blame others if calamities took place, especially those which occurred as a result of one’s sins.
If one were to read the speech of the Salaf, one would find them to be undoubtedly well versed and exceptionally intelligent as it pertains to sins and repentance. The likes of their true understanding of the ill effects of sins and what follows them of trials and calamity can be witnessed in the statement of Fuḍayl ibn ʿIyāḍ, he said:
إني لأعصي الله فأعرف ذلك في خلق حماري وخادمي
Indeed, I disobey Allāh and as a consequence, I witness the evil result in the character of my donkey and my servant.
(Hilyat al Awliyah 8/109, Al-Daa wa Dawaa pg.134)
Another example which shows how the Salaf viewed this matter is illustrated in the story of the repentance of Al Habeeb Abū Muḥammad. It is mentioned that he was a wealthy merchant who used to lend money to those in need, but with a stipulation that the debtor repays the loan along with interest. One day while Al Habeeb was leaving his home he passed by a group of young boys who upon seeing him began to chant:
Here comes the man who deals in interest!
Upon hearing this, Al Habeeb lowered his head in humiliation and said:
Oh Allāh! You have exposed my affair even to these young boys!
Al Habeeb then returned home, gathered his wealth and said:
Oh my Lord! I am a slave, and I seek to purchase myself with this wealth, so please free me.
In the morning Al Habeeb donated all of his wealth in charity and thereafter he began to diligently busy himself with the worship Allāh.
It is mentioned that from that time on, if anyone saw Al Habeeb, he would either be fasting, or indulged in prayer and remembrance of Allāh.
It took place that after some time Al Habeeb passed by a group of youth who upon seeing him mentioned:
Lower your voices. Here comes Al Habeeb, the devoted worshiper!
Upon hearing this Al Habeeb said:
Oh Allāh! At times You admonish, and other times You praise. Indeed this is all from You.
The people of his time mentioned that Al Habeeb became in individual whose supplication was always accepted. (Tahtheeb al Kalām 5/390)
Many lessons and points of reflection can be derived from this story. From amongst them:
- When Al Habeeb realized that his affair became well known to the public, he immediately turned to Allāh in repentance and sought His forgiveness.
- He did not become angry because of the information being spread, but rather he straight away concluded that his own sins were the cause of the public becoming aware of his faults.
- Without delay, Al Habeeb removed from his presence that which he had gained of wealth by way of sin. This is an indication of his true sincerity in repentance.
- Al Habeeb did not begin to inquire about who informed the youth of his sin, nor did he say that those who informed the youth had backbitten him. Instead, he grasped the most significant benefit derived from this occurrence, which is the fact that he has committed a wrong against his soul, and he is in need of Allāh’s forgiveness.
- Due to his true sincerity and eagerness to repent, Allāh blessed Al Habeeb by rectifying his honor with the people, and He made him and individual whose supplication was always answered.
In the actions of Al Habeeb are important lessons for the believers and we should all try to gain from this tremendous story.
A present day example of this is, if a Muslim female, for example, was to listen to music from time to time on the internet. One day while her husband is sitting with their children one of them says: Abī, do you know that Ummi listens to music on the computer? If the husband confronts and admonishes his wife, she should not become upset and angry with her children. Instead, she should recognize that possibly this means that her Lord wants well for her! How? It’s possible that if her husband never became aware of this sin, she would continue performing it thereby causing greater harm to her soul. But once her fault became known to her husband and she was admonished for it, at this point, if she stops the sin, turns to Allāh and seeks His forgiveness, this trial in reality has become a blessing!
The statement of Fuḍayl and the story of Al Habeeb clearly illustrate how the Salaf understood the great affair of repentance, and how they attributed what befell them of trials and tribulations to themselves and not to others. Indeed, when an individual comes to such a realization, he will begin to sincerely turn to Allāh and seek His pardon.
Another matter which is worthy of mentioning is that if a servant finds himself constantly committing wrong, however, his Lord does not cause difficulties and misfortunes to occur in his life, but instead Allāh continues to bless him, this is considered Istidraaj (leading to one’s destruction). This fact was mentioned by our beloved Prophet Muḥammad (may the peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), he said:
إذا رأيت الله يعطي العبد من الدنيا على معاصيه ما يحب فإنما هو استدراج
If you notice that Allāh continues to bless an individual with that which he loves of this world, while that person persists to indulge in sin, know that this is leading to his destruction.
(Musnad Imam Aḥmad and rated authentic in Silsilah al Ṣaḥīḥah 1/700)
The Prophet (ﷺ) also said:
إذا أراد الله بعبده الخير عجل له العقوبة في الدنيا وإذا أراد الله بعبده الشر أمسك عنه بذنبه حتى يوافي به يوم القيامة
If Allāh wants well for His servant, He rushes the punishment for his sins in this life, but when Allāh doesn’t want well for His servant, He delays the punishment until the Day of Judgment.
(Jame’ al Tirmidhī: 2396)
The above narrations clearly show that when Allāh wants good for a person who has wronged himself, He will put in that person’s path a calamity that will distress him to such a degree that it consequently causes him to turn to his Lord in a state of humiliation seeking His mercy and begging for His pardon. This proves that tribulations in the life of the Muslim can in fact become enormously needed means of purification. But this only takes place if the servant notices this reality and uses the calamity to his benefit from the very beginning. In light of this, the Prophet of Mercy (may Allāh be pleased with him) said:
إِنَّمَا الصَّبْرُ عِنْدَ الصَّدْمَةِ الأُولَى
Indeed, patience is to be displayed at the beginning of the mishap.
(Ṣaḥiḥ al Bukharī:1283, Ṣaḥiḥ Muslim:2178)
With clarification of this important issue, it becomes evident how cleverly the shayṭān has allowed tremendous reward and forgiveness to escape the hands of those who are neglectful and careless at times of major tests in their lives!
May Allāh correct our affairs and grant us tawfīq to understand all matters of our wonderful religion so that we may be saved from the endless plots of the shayṭān.
Mustafa George DeBerry
August 24, 2010 [updated August 28th, 2010]