Do Not Say “If Only” When Dealing with Sadness and Disappointment

Imām ʿAbd al-Raḥmān al-Saʿdī

How the Muslim should conduct himself when afflicted with trying situations and the harms of using an “if only” approach.
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Narrated by Abū Hurayrah (may Allāh be pleased with him) who said: The Prophet (ﷺ) said:

The strong believer is better and more beloved in the sight of Allāh than a weak believer. In both there exists goodness. Aspire and strive in the path of that which is beneficial to you. Seek aid from Allāh, and never fall into despair and dejection. If some calamity should befall you, never say: If I had only done such-and-such, it would have been such-and-such. Rather, say: Allāh has decreed [this], and whatever He wills will surely come to pass. For, verily, [the word] ‘if’ opens the actions of shayṭān.’

Narrated by Muslim1

Imām Abd al-Raḥmān ibn Nāṣir al-Saʿdī (d. 1373 AH) comments:

[In this ḥadīth], the Prophet (ﷺ) encourages us to be pleased with the divine predestination of Allāh and His decrees after implementing and completely expending all effort and resources in pursuit of that which is beneficial. If, then, a slave [of Allāh] still experiences that which is hateful to him, let him not associate its occurrence with some means [action] he left off which he surmises would have been beneficial if implemented. Rather, let him find peace with the divine predestination and the decree of Allāh such that his īmān increases, and his heart and soul finds peace and rest.

For, truly, saying ‘if’ in these circumstances only serves to open the doors of despair and sadness and to extenuate it in the heart. The condition that the Prophet (ﷺ) guides to in this ḥadīth is the greatest of paths to attain calmness of the heart, and closest to the acquisition of true satisfaction and a tranquil existence. It is to strive in the path of that which is beneficial, striving to its end, while seeking aid from Allāh in its attainment, thanking Him for that which he has granted from it, and being pleased with that which has been missed, and left unattained.

Know, also, that utilisation of the word ‘if’ differs in accordance with the situation it is uttered within. If it is used in a situation in which there is no way for a person to retrieve that which has been lost, then this opens the work of shayṭān as aforementioned. Just as if it is used to wish the occurrence of evil, or to partake in disobedient acts, then it is also blameworthy. The person is considered a sinner, even if he never takes part in the disobedient act itself; he wished for its occurrence. As for using it in the context of wishing the occurrence of good or increasing the viability of beneficial knowledge, then it is praiseworthy. For the actions undertaken in pursuit of an end goal will adopt a ruling consistent with the intention held when carrying out those actions.

Endnotes:

1. Authentic ḥadīth; Narrated by Muslim: 2664

Source: Bahjah Qulūb al-Abrār: 45
Translated by: Riyāḍ al-Kanadī

Published: January 4, 2023
Edited: January 16, 2023

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