10 steps to firmfootedness

Relationship with Allah

For the last few years as my desire to be closer to Allah has increased, my spirituality in Salat and general recitation of Quraan has decreased! Earlier, from time to time, I would have a salaat in which I would feel very connected to Allah, and tears would flow. The same would happen when I would be sitting reading Quraan. Now it has been a couple of years since I had that feeling, and my eyes have not wetted. I am now afraid that as I am nearing the end of my life, I am ending up becoming mechanically better but worse off spiritually.

I feel it was my bad mind and tongue that did me in. I had a lot of bad, angry, and vicious arguments with Salafis, and others. It would keep me angry inside for days. I thought and said many many things that I later regretted. Shaytan deceived me and led my tongue down the wrong path. These things happened off and on over more than a couple of years. I should have just stayed quiet and not engaged in anything. I feel convinced that I have lost all the good deeds I have ever done. I look back at my life and only see mountains of sins piled up to the sky.

Besides the arguments, I have done lots of wrongs in my life. I have routinely wronged everyone around me in all kinds of ways. I get doubts, suspicions, and bad thoughts about other people all the time. Often for selfish or even petty reasons I find myself wishing bad for some others or their families, even some who have passed away years ago, even people from whom I don’t expect to talk or see them ever again in this life. I am not a person who holds grudges and acts on such things. I always unconditionally forgive all who did bad to me so that Allah, who is Most Forgiving, will forgive me completely too.

As I am getting closer to my older age, and my beard and hair almost went white, I am constantly in a situation that is greatly distressing. I don’t want to reach the end of my life with all these bad problems. Please guide me on how to fix it.

The one great silver lining I see, Alhamdulillah for His Mercy on me, that I don’t have any doubts in any matters of deen like aqeedah and ahkaam, I may lack knowledge in many matters, and I may be lax in many practices, but I don’t doubt what Allah has sent us through His Messenger (Peace be upon him) Alhamdulillah my heart is completely at ease with it, I love Allah and I love His Messenger, and the Quran, and the believers. May Allah forgive my failure and lapses, and make me improve up in whatever I am lacking in the deen. Ameen. Please tell me how I can fix this situation. Please, regularly make lots of duas for me.

Assalamu alaykum

Thank you for writing to us.

Our relationship with Allah

Drawing close to Allah is our primary reason for existence. We come from Allah, and to Him, we shall return. The reality, however, is that drawing close to him is not an easy or straightforward journey.  In short, there are two primary challenges.

The first one is that this world is full of tests. Many of our pious predecessors stated that faith increases and decreases. Thus, in our journey to Allah, we encounter hurdles. Sin is one of the greatest of these hurdles. It may distract us or lengthen our journey, but the journey continues. Many a wrongdoer has become one of the great saints after repenting and persevering. Read the biography of Bishr al-Hafi – a transgressor who became one of the greatest saints. Persevere and know that Allah is aware of your efforts and worries.

The second challenge is that we are not in control. The matter of being close to Allah and connected to Him is not in our hands. Yes, we must strive to perfect our way. We must increase in worship and devotion. We must abstain from all that causes Allah’s displeasure. We must do all of these, but we are not in control. Allah described those who are close and present with Him in surah Waqi’ah as muqarrabun – those who are drawn close. They strive to attain closeness to Allah, but, ultimately, Allah draws us closer to Him. Again, persevere and when nothing else in existence is more dear to you than proximity to Allah, wait for Him to draw you near.

I have shared these two points in relation to your challenge for the following reasons.

Firstly, do not think that your wrongs are so great that you cannot attain pardon or forgiveness. Know that Allah’s Mercy is greater.

Secondly, desire Allah’s closeness more than anything and you will achieve it. Be more focused on the fact that Allah is pleased with your good deeds and actions than on whether you are shedding tears or having any other spiritual experiences. Spiritual experiences are peripheral; the objective is for Allah to be pleased.

Lastly, there is nothing that assists one more in gaining closeness to Allah than being connected to the pious. Search for them, and keep their company.

“O you who have believed, fear Allah and be with those who are true” (Qur’an, 9:119).

Bad thoughts of others

Imam Ghazali (may Allah be pleased with him) defined good thoughts as not interpreting “a person’s action in a bad way for as long as it could possibly be interpreted in a good way” (Ihya Ulum al-Din).

This means that the one who has bad or ill thoughts is continually interpreting the actions of others negatively. This is a major internal sin. Ibn Hajar mentioned that one of the evil effects of having bad thoughts is that when they persist, they become part of you and embedded in your heart (Zawajir). This means that you live your life in sin, seeing only bad things in creation.

Imam Ghazali provided the following remedy for bad thoughts: “You must dispel bad thoughts from yourself and emphasize to yourself that his state (or intention) is hidden from you and that his action (or words) could contain bad or evil” (Ihya Ulum al-Din). This means that you do not know what he intended. His intention is the domain of Allah Most High. Claiming to know what is hidden within him is indirectly competing with Allah and His Knowledge.

Yes, one is not in control of bad thoughts that may appear in one’s head or mind. However, one is required to block these thoughts as best as one can. Most importantly, one should not allow them to materialize in one’s heart or limbs. Bad thoughts materialize in one’s heart when one believes them and develops an aversion or hatred towards the person. They materialize in one’s limbs when one begins acting on them.

The Prophet (may Allah bless him and give peace) said, “Three things will afflict the believer, but he can deflect them: 1. bad thoughts (of others). He can deflect bad thoughts by not allowing them to materialize …” (Tabarani).

And Allah knows best.
Abdurragmaan Khan

Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Shaykh Abdurragmaan received ijazah ’ammah from various luminaries, including but not restricted to: Habib Umar ibn Hafiz—a personality who affected him greatly and who has changed his relationship with Allah, Maulana Yusuf Karaan—the former Mufti of Cape Town; Habib ‘Ali al-Mashhur—the current Mufti of Tarim; Habib ‘Umar al-Jaylani—the Shafi‘i Mufti of Makkah; Sayyid Ahmad bin Abi Bakr al-Hibshi; Habib Kadhim as-Saqqaf; Shaykh Mahmud Sa’id Mamduh; Maulana Abdul Hafiz al-Makki; Shaykh Ala ad-Din al-Afghani; Maulana Fazlur Rahman al-Azami and Shaykh Yahya al-Gawthani amongst others.