The servant continuously finds himself altering between the laws of commandments and the laws of decree. Therefore he is perpetually in need of aid to fulfil the commandments and in need of kindness and leniency at the onset of the calamity.
The Greatness of Allāh
He is controlling the affairs of all the kingdoms. He commands and prohibits, creates and gives provision, and gives death and gives life. He raises and lowers people’s status, alternates night and day, gives days (good and not so good) to men by turns, and causes nations to rise and fall, so that one nation vanishes and another emerges. His command and decree are carried out throughout the heavens and on earth, above it and below it, in the oceans and in the air. He has knowledge of all things and knows the number of all things. He hears all voices, and does not mistake one for another; He hears them all, in all the different languages and with all their varied requests and pleas. No voice distracts Him from hearing another, He does not confuse their requests, and He never tires of hearing the pleas of those in need. He sees all that is visible, even the walk of a black ant across a solid rock in the darkest night. The unseen is visible to Him, and secrets are known to Him…
“Whosoever is in the heavens and on earth begs of Him [its needs from Him]. Every day He has a matter to bring forth”
[Sūrah al-Raḥmān, 55:29].
He forgives sins, eases worries, relieves distress, helps the defeated person back on his feet, makes the poor rich, guides the one who is astray and confused, fulfils the needs of the desperate, feeds the hungry, clothes the naked, conceals faults, and calms fears. He raises the status of some and lowers the status of others… Even if all the inhabitants of heaven and earth, the first and the last of them, mankind and jinn alike, were to be as pious as the most pious among them, this would not increase His sovereignty in the slightest. If they all, the first and the last of them, mankind and jinn alike, were to be as rebellious as the most rebellious among them, this would not decrease His sovereignty in the slightest. If everything in heaven and on earth, the first and the last of them, mankind and jinn, living and dead, animate and inanimate, were to stand in one place and ask of Him, and He were to give them everything that they asked for, this would not decrease what He has by even an atom’s weight… He is the First, before Whom there is nothing, and the Last, after Whom there is nothing, may He be blessed and exalted. He is the Most deserving of being remembered, the Most deserving of being worshipped, the Most deserving of being thanked. He is the Most Compassionate of kings, the Most Generous of those who are asked… He is the King Who has no partner or associate, the One who has no rival, the Self-Sufficient Master, Who has no son, the Most High, and there is none like unto Him.
“Everything will perish save His face.”
[Sūrah al-Qasas, 28:88]
And everything will vanish except His sovereignty… He will not be obeyed except by His permission, and He will not be disobeyed except with His knowledge. He is obeyed, so He shows His appreciation, and He is disobeyed, so he forgives. Every punishment on His part is justice, and every blessing from Him is a favour. He is the closest of witnesses and the nearest of protectors. He seizes people by their forelocks, records their deeds and decrees the appointed time for all things. Hearts conceal nothing from Him, for secrets are known to Him. His gift is a word and His punishment is a word,
“Verily, His Command, when He intends a thing, is only that He says to it, “Be!” – and it is.”
[Sūrah Yāsīn, 36:82]1
Between the Past and the Future
Your life at the present muʿmīnt is in between the past and the future. So what has preceded can be rectified by tawbah (repentance), nadam (regret) and istighfār (seeking Allāh’s forgiveness). This is something that will neither tire you nor cause you to toil as you would with strenuous labour. Rather it is an action of the heart.
As regards the future [then it can be corrected by] withholding yourself from sins. This abandonment is merely the leaving of something and to be at ease from it. This is also not an action of the limbs, which requires you to strive and toil. Rather this is a firm resolve and intention of the heart – which will give rest to your body, heart and thoughts.
So as for what has preceded, then you rectify it with repentance and as for the future – then you rectify it with firm resolve and intention. Neither of these involves any hardship or exertion of the limbs.
But then your attention must be directed to your life in the present – the time between the two times. If you waste it, then you have wasted the opportunity to be of the fortunate and saved ones. If you look after it, having rectified the two times – what is before and after it, as we have said – then you will be successful and achieve rest, delight and ever-lasting bliss. However, looking after it is harder than that which comes before and after it, since guarding it involves keeping to that which is most befitting and beneficial for your soul, and that which will bring it success and well-being.2
The Roots of Corruption
It is upon the one who speaks in this matter, or any other matter, that He should only do so based upon the knowledge and the truth: and that his objective should be sincerity to Allāh, to His Book, to His Messenger and the giving of sincere advice to his Muslim brothers. But if he makes the truth accord with his own whims and desires, then this will corrupt and ruin the hearts, the actions, and the state of affairs. Allāh, the Most High said,
“And if the truth were to be in accordance with their desires, then indeed the heavens and the earth – and all that is therein -would be corrupted and ruined.”
[Al-Muʿminūn (23): 71]
The Prophet ﷺ said,
“None of you truly believe until he makes desires accord with what I have been sent with.”3
So ʿilm (knowledge) and ʿadl (justice) are the roots of every good, whereas ẓulm (oppression) and jahl (ignorance) are the roots of every evil. And Allāh, the Most High, sent His Messenger ﷺ with the Guidance and the Religion of Truth, and he commanded the doing of justice between people and that none of them should follow their whims and desires.
Allāh, the Most High said,
“So call to Islām and stand firm, and do not follow their whims and desires, but say: ‘I believe in whatever has been revealed by Allāh from the Book, and I have been commanded to do justice between you. Allāh is our Lord and your Lord, for us our deeds and for you your deeds. There is no dispute between you and us. Allāh will assemble us all, and to Him is the final return.’”
[Al-Shūrá (42): 15] 4
The Reality of Evil
…However before proceeding to discuss them it is necessary to explain the word ‘sharr’ (evil) – what is it and what is its reality?
We say: the word evil is applied to two things only: that which causes pain and that which leads to it. Therefore sins, disbelief, shirk, and all the various types of oppression and injustice are included amongst the evils even though the person committing them may feel a type of fulfillment and satisfaction. This is because they lead to the onset of pain and torment just as a person’s ingesting poison leads to the onset of death as does being burnt in fire or being hanged.
What we have said holds true provided that there is nothing preventing the cause from taking effect such as its opposite cause being stronger and more closely followed; for example, the cause of performing sins being prevented by firm faith. This is true for all the causes that occur in opposites such as the causes leading to well-being and illness and the causes leading to strength and weakness [in that the stronger of the two takes effect].
The point is that these causes (that lead to pain) are evil even though they may contain some satisfaction and a fleeting sense of joy for those committing them. These can be compared to delicious and tempting food that is poisonous, when a person eats it he gains a sense of satisfaction and fulfillment but after a short time the poison takes effect. The exact same applies to sins and actions of disobedience to the point that had the Legislator not informed us of this then the state of affairs and experience would have physically demonstrated and proven this.
Indeed what has caused the blessings to be removed from anyone except the evil of sins? When Allāh favours His servant, He does not remove that favour until that person himself causes it to be removed. Allāh says,
“Indeed Allāh never changes the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves. When Allāh Wills a people’s punishment then there can be no turning it back and neither will they find any to protect them besides Him.”
“That is because Allāh will never change the favour that He has bestowed on a people until they change what is in their own souls.”
Whosoever considers the events of the past nations that Allāh has narrated to us in His Book from whom Allāh removed His favours will find that the reason behind this was their disobedience to Him and His Messengers. Similarly, whosoever considers the events of the people of his time will find that whenever they have favours removed from them then this occurs as the evil consequences of sins. It is said,
If you are in a state of blessings then preserve it
For indeed sins remove blessings
The favours of Allāh cannot be preserved by anything as they are preserved by being obedient to Him. The favours of Allāh are not increased by anything as they are increased by showing gratitude to Him. The favours of Allāh are not removed by anything as they are removed by disobeying Him for indeed actions of disobience are like fire consuming the favours just as real fire consumes dry wood.
Therefore these causes are definitely evil. As for the end results of these causes being evil then this is because they cause spiritual and physical torment. The servant who has committed them feels both bodily and spiritual anguish through grief, anxiety, concern and a sense of loss. This truth is such that if an intelligent person understood it and gave it the attention it deserves then for sure he would be wary of it and expend effort in fleeing from it out of terror. However, the veil of negligence has been placed upon his heart preventing him from arriving at this realisation and were he to truly wake up then he would sever his connection to the delights of this world by reason of his sorrow for the favours of Allāh that he has missed in this world and the Hereafter. The servant will only truly realise this truth when he departs from this world to come to the next. At this time he will say,
“Woe to me! Would that I had sent forth (good deeds) for this my (future) life.”
“Woe to me! I neglected (my duty) towards Allāh.”
[al-Zumar (39): 56]
Now because evil refers to that which causes pain and those things that lead to it then all of the statements that were said by Messenger of Allāh ﷺ with regards to seeking refuge revolved around these two principles – therefore either he sought refuge from that which causes pain or he sought refuge from that which leads to it.
At the end of his prayers he would seek refuge from four things and he commanded the servant to do this also. These matters are: the punishment of the grave, the punishment of the Fire, the trials of life and death and the trial of the Dajjāl. 5
The first two are the greatest of pains that a person can be afflicted with and the last two are the causes that lead to these punishments for trials and tribulations are causes of punishment. Two specific categories of trials have been mentioned because trials befall one either during his lifetime or after his death. As for the trials of life then it is possible that the resultant punishment be alleviated for a time but as for the trials of death then the punishment that follows on from it is not alleviated.
Therefore his seeking refuge revolved around seeking refuge from pain, punishment and its causes.
This supplication has been strongly stressed to be said in the prayer to the extent that some of the Salaf and later scholars made it obligatory upon the one who did not say it in the last tashahhud to repeat his prayer.6
Ibn Hazm considered supplicating with it to be obligatory in every tashahhud such that the one who did not say it rendered his prayer invalid.
In a similar vein is his ﷺ supplication,
“O Allāh I take refuge with you from worries and grief, from incapacity and laziness, from miserliness and cowardice, from being heavily in debt and being overpowered by other men.”7
So the Messenger of Allāh ﷺ took refuge from eight things, each pair being intricately linked. So worries and grief are things that cause pain and torment to the soul. The difference between the two is that worries are linked to those evils that may occur in the future while grief concerns the pain that one feels over experiencing something detestable or missing out on something desirable in the past.
Incapacity and laziness lead to the torment [of the soul] for they necessitate that one misses out on attaining something desired. So incapacity refers to the person being unable to attain the good and laziness refers to the person not caring to attain the good. Hence the soul is pained from both of these.
Miserliness and cowardice also lead to the torment [of the soul] for they necessitate the person not taking the benefit from his wealth and body. This is because through cowardice the person will miss out on a great number of desirable things that can only be attained through courage and resolve. Similarly, miserliness prevents a person from attaining the desirable.
Being heavily in debt (dayn) and overpowered by others causes pain and torment to the soul. The first refers to being overcome by something that is rightfully due and the second refers to being overcome by something that is not rightfully due, [in fact his being unjustly overcome]. Furthermore being heavily in debt is something that in general arises by fault of the person himself whereas being overcome by others is something that occurs without his consent.
In a similar vein is his ﷺ taking refuge from all kinds of sin and from being in debt (al-maghram) for both of these lead to pain.8
In a similar vein is his ﷺ saying,
“I take refuge with Your Pleasure from Your Displeasure and with Your Forgiveness from Your Punishment.”9
The Displeasure of Allāh is the greatest cause that leads to pain and the Punishment of Allāh is the greatest pain of all. 10
The Shayṭān has misled most people by beautifying for them the performance of certain voluntary acts of worship such as voluntary prayers and voluntary fasting while neglecting other obligatory acts of worship such as enjoining the good and eraḍīcating the evil, to the extent that they do not even make the intention of performing them whenever they are able. Such people are considered by scholars to be on the bottom of the scale of religion: for the essence of our religion is to perform what Allāh ordered us to do.
The one who does not perform the obligations is actually worse than the one who performs sins. Anyone having knowledge about the revelation of Allāh, the guidance of the Prophet ﷺ and the life of the Companions would conclude that those who are pointed at today as the most pious people are in fact the least pious. Indeed, what kind of piety is there in a person who witnesses Allāh’s sanctities being violated, His religion abandoned, the Sunnah of His Messenger shunned, and yet remains still with a cold heart and a shut mouth?
Such a person is like a dumb Shayṭān! In the same way the one who speaks falsehood is a speaking Shayṭān. Is not the misfortune of Islām due only to those who whenever their life and food are secure, would not care about what happens to the religion? The best among them would offer a sorry face. But if they were challenged in one of the things their heart is attached to such as their money, they would spare no effort to get it back.
These people, besides deserving the Anger of Allāh, are afflicted with the greatest calamity without even knowing it: They have a dead heart. Indeed the more alive a person’s heart is, the stronger its anger for the sake of Allāh and the more complete its support to Islām and the Muslims. 11
The Reality of Seeking Refuge
Know that the word `Aadha and its derivatives carry the meaning of being careful and wary, guarding and fortifying, being rescued and victorious. Its essential meaning is to flee from that which you fear will harm you to that which will safeguard you from it. This is why the one you seek refuge with is called m`aadh and malja` (the source of refuge and recourse). In the ḥadīth there occurs,
“When the daughter of al-Jawn entered upon the Prophet ﷺ [after their marriage] he moved his hand (to touch her) and she said, ‘I take refuge with Allāh from you.’ He said, ‘indeed you have sought refuge with the Ma`aadh, return and rejoin your family.’”12
Therefore the meaning of a`oodhu is: I take refuge, guard myself and take precaution. There are two opinions concerning the basis of this verb. The first that it is derived from the meaning of as-satar (covering or protection) and the second that it is derived from the meaning of luzūm al-mujāwara (firmly adhering to that which adjoins it).
As for the first opinion then the Arabs used to say with regards to a house that is overshadowed by a tree – `uwwadha. Therefore when this house did `aadha with this tree by being built under its shade the Arabs called it `uwwadh. The same applies to the one who takes refuge for he seeks protection and cover from his enemy with the one he seeks refuge with.
As for the second opinion then the Arabs used to say regarding flesh that was stuck to a bone and could not be removed – `uwwadha – because of its refusing to be dislodged from the bone. The same applies to the one taking refuge for he sticks firmly to the one he is seeking refuge with and refuses to be distanced.
Both of these opinions are correct for seeking refuge includes both. The one taking refuge seeks protection with the one he is seeking refuge with and sticks firmly to him. His heart attaches itself to him and holds firm just as the child sticks close to its father when threatened by an enemy. The same applies to the one taking refuge for he flees from his enemy who desires his destruction to his Lord, throwing himself between His Hands, holding firmly to Him, sticking close to Him and resorting to Him.
Now, know that the reality of seeking refuge that is established in the heart of the believer surpasses and is beyond these descriptions, for these serve only as examples and representations. As for that which is established in the heart in its taking refuge, holding fast to and its throwing itself before its Lord, its need of Him and its submission and humility before Him then all of this is beyond description.
In a similar vein, love of Him and fear of Him can only be described in a deficient way for they cannot truly be understood except through experiencing them. This is similar to the case of one trying to describe the pleasure of sexual intercourse to one who is impotent and feels no sexual urges. No matter how much you describe it and how many examples you give never will he truly understand it. However, if you were to describe it to one who does have these urges and has had intercourse then he will understand your descriptions completely.
If it is asked: When one is commanded to take refuge with Allāh why does the form of the command carry a seen and taa`? For example in His saying,
“Seek protection (fasta`idh) with Allāh from the Accursed Shayṭān.”
Yet one says, ‘I take refuge (a`oodhu)’ and ‘I took refuge (ta`awwadhtu)’ without including the seen and taa`?
The reply is: the seen and taa` are grammatically used to denote a person’s seeking something. Therefore, when one says, ‘asta`eedhu with Allāh’ he is saying, ‘I seek refuge with Him.’ When he says, ‘astaghfirullāh’ he is saying, ‘I seek the forgiveness of Allāh.’
Hence when the person says, ‘I take refuge (a`oodhu) with Allāh’ he is actually implementing and realising what he seeks because he sought refuge and protection with Allāh. There is a clear difference between actually taking refuge and seeking refuge. Therefore, when the one who is seeking refuge is actually recoursing to Allāh and holding firmly to Him then he says the verb that denotes this rather than saying the verb that denotes that he only seeks this.
The opposite is true for the saying, ‘astaghfirullāh’ (I seek the forgiveness of Allāh) for in this case the person is asking Allāh to forgive him. Therefore, when he says, ‘astaghfirullāh’ he is implementing what he desires because the meaning of this statement is, ‘I ask Allāh that He forgive me.’
This then is the best way of seeking refuge and it was for this reason that the Prophet ﷺ used to say, “I take refuge with Allāh from the Accursed Shayṭān” and, “I take refuge with Allāh’s perfect words” and, “I take refuge with the Might and Power of Allāh” saying, ‘aʿoodhu’ rather then ‘asta`eedhu.’
Indeed this is what Allāh taught him to say with His words,
“Say: I take refuge with the Lord of Daybreak”
“Say: I take refuge with the Lord of Mankind.”
Employing the word ‘a`oodhu’ rather than ‘ast`eedhu.’13
 From al-Wābil al-Ṣayyib (p. 125).
 From al-al-Fawāʾid (p. 515-152)
 Da‘eef: Related by Ibn Abī ʿĀṣim (no.15). It was declared weak by al-Ḥāfiẓ Ibn Rajab in Jāmiʿ al-Ulūm wa-al-Ḥikam (no.41).
 From Madārij al-Sālikīn (5/532).
 Reported by al-Bukhārī and al-Nasāʿī from Abū Hurayrah (raḍī Allāhu ʿanhu) with the words, “O Allāh! I take refuge with you from the punishment of Hellfire, and the punishment of the grave, and from the trials of living and dying and from the evil of the False Christ.”
 Ibn Hajr mentions that from the Salaf who held this view was Ṭāwūs, may Allāh have mercy upon him, as is reported by ʿAbd al-Razzāq with a ṣaḥīḥ isnād. ‘Fath al-Bārī’ [2/408]
 Ṣaḥīḥ Bukhārī [Eng. Trans. 8/249 no. 374]. Some of the Salaf used to say, “the worry of debt does not enter into the heart of a person except that some of his intelligence leaves him, never to return.” – ‘Fath al-Bārī’ [11/208]
Al-Kirmaanee said, “this supplication is from the succinct statements (bestowed to the Prophet ﷺ). This is because the vices are of three types: spiritual, bodily, and external. The first type, with respect to the strength of a person, further falls into three categories: those vices that arise from the intellect, one’s anger and lustful desires. Hence worry and grief is linked to the intellect. Cowardice is linked to anger and miserliness is linked to lustful desires. Incapacity and laziness are connected to bodily vices. The second is linked to the body being whole and healthy whereas the first is linked to parts of the body being amputated etc. Debt and being overpowered are connected to external matters – debt being linked to one’s wealth and property and being overpowered being linked to one’s social esteem. Hence this supplication comprises seeking refuge from all of this.” – ‘Ibid.’
 From Āʿishah (raḍī Allāhu ʿanhu) that the Messenger of Allāh ﷺ used to supplicate in the prayer saying, “O Allāh! I take refuge with you from all kinds of sins and from being in debt.” A person asked him, “O Messenger of Allāh why is it that you seek refuge from debt so often?” He replied, “if a person is in debt, he tells lies when he speaks and breaks his promises when he promises.” Ṣaḥīḥ Bukhārī [Eng. Trans. 3/342 no. 582]
From Āʿishah (raḍī Allāhu ʿʿanhu) that the Messenger of Allāh (ṣallallāhu ʿalayhi wa-sallam) used to say, “O Allāh! I take refuge with You from laziness and geriatric old age; from all kinds of sins and being in debt; from the trial and punishment of the grave; from the trial and punishment of the Fire and from the evil trial of affluence. I take refuge with You from the trial of poverty and I take refuge with You from the trial of the False Christ.” Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī [Eng. Trans. 8/252 no. 379]
The meaning of debt (al-maghram) is all that is necessary for a person to repay and includes monetary debt. ‘Fath al-Bārī’ [11/211] The meaning of debt (dayn) in the previous ḥadīth refers specifically to monetary debt.
 From Badaa’iul-al-Fawāʾid (1/444-447).
 From Iʿlām al-Muwaqiʿīn (2/176).
 Ṣaḥīḥ Bukhārī [Eng. Trans. 7/181 no. 181, 182].
 From Badaa’iul-al-Fawāʾid (1/439-440).