Seeking the Pleasure of Allāh Is the Secret to True Happiness in Worldly Affairs

Shaykh al-Islām Ibn Taymiyyah

A discussion on how happiness can be achieved through Islām. Obedience to Allāh and avoidance of things that cause harm to the soul are both necessary to be victorious in this life.
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Happiness in your dealings with the creation [of Allāh] is achieved only through making your dealings with them for the sake of Allāh alone, such that you hope for the reward of Allāh through those dealings, while never investing your hope in them for the attainment of Allāh’s [reward].

Shaykh al-Islām Ibn Taymiyyah [d. 728 AH]

Fear Allāh in your dealings with them, and do not fear them over Allāh. Be good to them in hope of Allāh’s reward, never in the hopes of reciprocation from them. Desist from oppressing them purely out of fear of Allāh, not out of fear of them. As mentioned in a ḥadīth:

‘Hope for the reward of Allāh in your dealings with mankind, do not put your hope in mankind for the reward of Allāh. Fear Allāh in your dealings with mankind, do not fear mankind over Allāh.’

Explanation

Do not execute any form of worship or means to gain closeness [to Allāh] for the creation, seeking their praise or out of fear for their blame. Rather, have hope for reward only from Allāh, and fear not the creation over Allāh in that which you carry out or leave off. Rather, do what you have been ordered with even if they [the creation around you] despise it. As in the ḥadīth:

‘Truly, it is from weakness of faith that a person seeks to please the people with that which is detestable to Allāh, or that he blames the people for that which Allāh has not granted him.’1

For true faith denotes having assuredness in the execution of the commands of Allāh and in Allāh’s promise to the people who obey Him. It stipulates complete faith in Allāh’s predestination, His creation, and His control of affairs. Thus, if you seek to please people with that which is detestable to Allāh you will not attain true faith, not in His promise nor in His provision. For human beings will only take part in such things [that are detestable to Allāh] either due to their inclination towards that which is in their [the creation’s] control from worldly affairs, such that they leave off what Allāh has ordered regarding them [i.e. the creation] for what they hope from them [from worldly benefits]. Or it is due to a weakness in belief in that which Allāh has promised the people of obedience from victory, support, and reward, in the worldly life and in the hereafter.

For, indeed, if you attempt to please Allāh [alone], He will make you victorious, He will provide for you and satiate your need for that which the creation possesses. Thus, seeking the pleasure [of the creation] while executing that which is detestable to Allāh is borne only out of fear of the creation, and hope for what they possess. For such is true weakness of faith.

If it so happens that what it was assumed that the [creation] would be able to accomplish is not decreed, then [remember] that the true command over the matter is for Allāh, it does not belong to them. For, indeed, whatever He wills must come to pass and whatever He does not can never occur. Thus, if you then were to blame them [the creation] for that which has not been decreed, this would be from the weakness of your faith. So do not follow your own desires and wants that would drive you to fear them, or put your hopes in them, or blame them. Rather, whoever is blessed by Allāh and His Messenger (ﷺ) [i.e. through following his Sunnah], then he is truly blessed. And whomever is blameworthy in their relation to Allāh and His Messenger (ﷺ), then he is indeed blameworthy.

When some of the retinue from Banī Tamīm said:

‘O Muḥammad! Give me! For [if you] bless me, it is indeed a true adornment. [If you] blame me, it is a true dishonour.’

The Messenger of Allāh (ﷺ) said:

‘That is for Allāh, the Exalted in Majesty.’2

Āʾishah (may Allāh be pleased with her) wrote to Muʿāwaiyah (may Allāh be pleased with him), [and her writing] was narrated to the Prophet (ﷺ):

‘Whoever pleases Allāh through that which angers mankind, Allāh will satiate his need for the provisions they possess. Whoever seeks the pleasure of mankind through that which angers Allāh will never find [mankind] able to satisfy his needs instead of Allāh.’3

Such is the wording of the marfūʿ ḥadīth.4

The wording of the mawqūf: 5

‘Whoever pleases Allāh through that which angers mankind, Allāh will be pleased with him and will make mankind pleased with him. Whoever seeks the pleasure of mankind through that which angers Allāh, his approvers from mankind will return to be among those who blame him.’6

Such is the narrated wording from her [Āʾishah (may Allāh be pleased with her)].

This is from among the most prudent understanding of this dīn. While the marfūʿ iteration is even more true and sincere. For, truly, the one who seeks the pleasure of Allāh through that which angers them [mankind] would have shown his taqwá [God-consciousness], and would be from among His righteous servants whom Allāh has taken as close friends and allies [awliyāʾ]. He is sufficient to satisfy the needs of His slaves.

[Allāh says]:

وَمَن يَتَّقِ اللَّهَ يَجْعَل لَّهُ مَخْرَجًا ‎﴿٢﴾‏ وَيَرْزُقْهُ مِنْ حَيْثُ لَا يَحْتَسِبُ ‎﴿٣﴾‏

‘And whoever fears Allāh – He will make for him a way out. And will provide for him from where he does not expect’
[Al-Ṭalāq, 65:2-3]

Thus, Allāh will undoubtedly satiate his need for the provisions of mankind. As for mankind in its entirety all being pleased with Him, this may not occur. However, they will be pleased with him [eventually], in so long as they are able to rid themselves of ulterior motives [regarding him] and should the outcome [of his actions] become evident to them. Whoever seeks the pleasure of mankind with that which angers Allāh [should know] that they [mankind] will never satiate his needs in place of Allāh. He is like the oppressor who attempts to bite into his entire hand [out of regret for what has transpired],

[Allāh says]:

وَيَوْمَ يَعَضُّ الظَّالِمُ عَلَىٰ يَدَيْهِ يَقُولُ يَا لَيْتَنِي اتَّخَذْتُ مَعَ الرَّسُولِ سَبِيلًا ‎﴿٢٧﴾‏

‘And the Day the wrongdoer will bite on his hands [in regret] he will say, “O, I wish I had taken with the Messenger a way.’
[Al-Furqān, 25:27]

As for His approvers turning to blame Him eventually, this happens frequently in the end. For the true end will always favour those with taqwá. This is not immediately apparent [to most people] at the beginning [of the matter] in the face of their desires.

And Allāh Alone knows best.7

Endnotes:

1. Al-Bayhaqī: 207, Abū Nuʿaym: 5:106. The ḥadīth with this wording is weak but confirmed with multiple other narrations: Al-Tirmidhī: 2414, Ibn Ḥibbān: 276, Saḥīḥ al-Jāmiʿby al-Albānī: 6010.
2. Al-Tirmidhī:3268, al-Nasāʾī: 2:11015, and Aḥmad: 3:488
3. Al-Tirmidhī: 2414, Abū Nuʿaym: 8:188
4. i.e. Narrated to the Prophet (ﷺ).
5. i.e. Narrated to one of the ṣahābah [in this case Āʾishah (may Allāh be pleased with her)], not associated directly to the Prophet (ﷺ).
6. Al-Tirmidhī: 2414
7. Al-Majmūʿ al-Fatāwá 1:41-42

Translated by: Riyāḍ al-Kanadī

Published: December 25, 2022
Edited: December 26, 2022

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