In life, we experience something amazing that makes us feel compelled to come closer to Allah, where we feel a sense of iman-rush. But after a while, dunya gets to us and our reality check makes us feel that we cannot be spiritual consistently.
Here’s a tip on how to remain consistently on the path towards the pleasure of Allah.
In this Lifelong Iman Rush series, we have previously discussed 13 tips on how to strengthen one’s Iman, alhamdulillah. This article is the last tip of the series, and it’s all about ourselves setting our own aspiration and ambition. The question that we should be asking is: How strong of my Iman do I really want it to be?
To answer this question, there is actually a practical approach mentioned in the Qur’an. Allah SWT says:
“…But there are among them (1) some who wrong their own souls;
(2) some who follow a middle course;
and (3) some who are, by Allah’s leave,
foremost in good deeds; that is the highest Grace.”
In this ayah, Allah SWT highlights for us 3 different levels of people, one of them is where we can truly find our aspiration in regard to our Iman. Let us first break down these 3 different groups:
1. The first that Allah SWT mentions is a group of people who wrong themselves by neglecting His obligations. For example, neglecting the five daily prayers, consuming alcoholic drinks, committing zulm towards people, etc. Not only do they abandon the commandments of Allah SWT, they also allow themselves to indulge in doubtful matters.
What are doubtful matters?
Al-Hasan ibn ‘Ali said: I remember that Rasulallah (ﷺ) said:
“Leave what makes you in doubt for what does not make you doubt.
The truth brings tranquility while falsehood sows doubt.”
Al-Mannawi rahimahullah commented the hadith above: Refrain from that which you are uncertain as to whether it is good or bad, halal or haram; and turn instead to that which you are certain, that you are sure is good and halal. “Truth brings tranquility” means that the heart is at ease with it, and “falsehood sows doubt” means that they make the heart anxious and uneasy.
Al-Hafiz Ibn Rajab rahimahullah commented: This hadith highlights the importance of being careful when faced with doubtful and dubious matters, and keeping away from them, because in the case of that which is definitely halal, the believer will have no doubt in his heart concerning it, rather he will feel at ease and will have reassurance in his heart. As for that which is doubtful, he will feel anxious and worry concerning it.
If we put it in a layman term, doubtful matters are basically those uncertain things where we start to think “I’m not sure whether this is right or wrong, or haram or halal…” At this point, it is better for us to refrain from committing it. This is what the Sunnah teaches us, and it is the safest way in safeguarding our Iman. Doubtful matters are not negligible, insignificant matters. Those who decide to go ahead in committing doubtful matters will fall into destruction. Rasulallah ﷺ said:
“Both legal and illegal things are obvious,
and in between them are doubtful matters.
So whoever forsakes those doubtful things lest he may commit a sin,
will definitely avoid what is clearly illegal;
and whoever indulges in these doubtful things bravely,
is likely to commit what is clearly illegal.
Sins are Allah’s Hima (i.e. private pasture)
and whoever pastures near it,
is likely to get in it at any moment.”
The best of mankind ﷺ has taught us that whoever commits himself to doubtful matters will fall into sins, just like how a shepherd allows his sheep to graze near the borders of someone else’s private property – he will eventually venture illegally into it and therefore will be punished.
Such are the characteristics of the first group. May Allah SWT protect us from ever becoming one of them.
2. The second that Allah SWT mentions is a group of people who are moderate in their Deen. Meaning, they fulfill obligations as well as leave what is prohibited by Allah SWT. However, they may neglect some supererogatory good deeds (such as nawafil prayers) and commit some things which are disliked / makrooh (such as giving and taking with the left hand).
In our time, this is probably our definition of a really pious person, right? If we are of those in the second group, alhamdulillah. But when we talk about strengthening our Iman, we must continuously strive to improve ourselves in accordance to what is more beloved to Allah SWT.
And this is where we come to the third group – the group that we all should aim for.
3. This is the group of people that Allah SWT praises and defines them as “some who are, by Allah’s leave, foremost in good deeds; that is the highest Grace.” Subhanallah! Allah SWT praises them in another Surah where He SWT says:
“And ye shall be sorted out into three classes.
Then (there will be) the Companions of the Right Hand
– what will be the Companions of the Right Hand?
And the Companions of the Left hand
– what will be the Companions of the Left Hand?
And those Foremost (in Faith) will be Foremost (in the Hereafter) [As-Sabiqoon].
These will be those Nearest to Allah.”
[Al Waqia 56:7-11]
On the Day of Judgment, there will be 3 groups: a group of people on the left, on the right, and a group of people who are called As-Sabiqoon, the foremost, and closest to Allah SWT. As-Sabiqoon are those from the third group, who will be the VIPs on that Day.
Let us quickly look at the characteristics of the third group. In terms of prohibitions (haram) and disliked deeds (makrooh):
- They stay away from all prohibitions (haram matters) set by Allah SWT.
- They leave disliked (makrooh) matters.
- They leave doubtful matters as we’ve discussed earlier.
- They also leave excessiveness in permissible matters, for example excessiveness in leisure. Because excessiveness even in permissible matters can distract a believer from the remembrance of Allah.
In terms of obligations and other good deeds:
- They fulfil all obligations set by Allah SWT.
- They also fulfil all recommendations in good deeds (supererogatory deeds), such as qiyamulail, fasting six days in Shawwal, etc.
Such are the characteristics of the third group. The sahabah are those from the third group, they set THE standard that we should aspire to follow. No Sahabi ever said: “Oh it’s just makrooh, so it’s ok to do that.” or “Oh, that’s just a sunnah, I can skip that.”
Yes, supererogatory deeds are not wajib, there is a reason why Allah SWT does not make supererogatory deeds as fardh. But we can definitely raise our personal standard by making them ‘mandatory’ upon ourselves. For example, on top of our fardh duties, we can set our mind not to abandon a single nawafil prayer without valid reasons. This way, not only do we protect our fardh obligations, but we also enforce protection upon our extra good deeds. This is for the those who aspire to do more.
As mentioned in previous articles of the series, it is wise however, not to overwhelm ourselves by doing every single supererogatory deed immediately. We won’t be able to keep up that way. Therefore, if we want to start praying nawafil prayers for example, begin that pace one at a time. Start first with the 2 raka’ats prayer before Fajr prayer consistently; then Witr consistently; until we get accustomed before taking in more supererogatory deeds. It was Rasulallah ﷺ himself who taught us that good deeds should be done constantly, no matter how little they are:
“Do good deeds properly, sincerely, and moderately
and know that your deeds will not make you enter Paradise,
and that the most beloved deed to Allah
is the most regular and constant, even if it were little.”
So to summarize this tip, we must have both long term and short term goals with regard to our Iman. In the long term, we should all aspire to become As-Sabiqoon, to be muhsinin, aspiring to perform at the level of maximum capacity. But we can’t reach the station of ihsan if we have not fortified our foundations first. So we need to set reasonable short term goals that are low enough to attain, yet high enough that will still inspire us to reach our lofty long term goals. Set ourselves a 1-month, or 3-months, 5-months, 1-year goal. The same way we set our dunya aspirations, do the same for our akhirah as well.
Before I end this article, let me address one of concerns that we might have:
“But the third group is too far to reach. How can we ever be like the Sahabah?”
Allah SWT says:
“Say (O Muhammad ﷺ to mankind):
If you (really) love Allah, then follow me,
Allah will love you and forgive you your sins.
And Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.”
[Ali Imran 3:31]
There are wisdom and reasons why Allah SWT mentions His forgiveness in the above ayah. When we follow the way, the lifestyle of Rasulallah ﷺ, we will realize that we cannot achieve what he ﷺ achieved. But Allah SWT is telling us, by our virtue of trying to follow him ﷺ, He SWT will love us back and will forgive our shortcomings. And the sahabahs, may Allah SWT be pleased with all of them, are examples for us, meant to inspire us. We cannot reach their level, but we can definitely strive and in that process we will reach an acceptable level, insya Allah. Because if we want to progress, then we have to push ourselves out of our comfort zone.
May Allah s.w.t. make us His beloved slaves from the third group – Allahumma ameen.
Alhamdulillah, this is the end of the Lifelong Iman Rush series. If you would like to read the previous tips in chronological order, please click the links below. Jazakumullah khayran.