The Approval of Allah
“… Allah will guide to the ways of peace those who follow what pleases Him. He will bring them by His will from darkness to the light, and will guide them to a straight path.” (Surat al-Ma’ida: 16)
What makes a sincerely believing Muslim different from other people? People who do not sincerely believe may answer this question in a number of ways; they may talk about cultural and moral differences, about “different outlooks on the world” or values which they deny outright. Alternatively, some may say the difference has its roots in the “different views” which the sincere believers embrace and they don’t approve.
However, all these answers relate to “visible” differences that appear to be the consequences of a more fundamental one. Often, they fail to grasp the reasons underlying this difference. (In fact, the reason they are not sincere believers is because they have failed to grasp this very difference.)
Muslim is actually the name Allah gives to those who adhere to His religion. The basic attribute, referred to in the Qur’an that distinguishes believers from other people is their being totally aware of Allah’s infinite might. Awareness of Allah’s infinite might does not in all cases mean affirmation of the existence of Our Creator, Almighty Allah, however. In the Qur’an this fact is underlined as follows:
Say: “Who provides for you out of heaven and earth? Who controls hearing and sight? Who brings forth the living from the dead and the dead from the living? Who ordains all things?” They will reply, “Allah.” Say, “Then will you not fear Allah? Such is Allah, your Lord, the Truth, and what is there after truth except misguidance? How then can you turn away from Him?” (Surah Yunus: 31-32)
In the verse above, the questions are put to somebody who expresses his belief in Allah, accepts His attributes yet, despite all these attributes, has no fear of Allah and thus turns away from Him. (In fact, it is revealed in the Qur’an that Satan confesses he believes in the existence of Allah and has fear of Allah but displays a mutinous attitude and a kind of ill character.
Grasping Allah’s might is not only a matter of verbal expression. Believers are those who recognize Allah’s existence and His greatness, love and fear Him, “are steadfast in their duty” to Him and re-orient all their deeds and conduct in the light of this reality which has become apparent to them. Others, , by means of contrast , are either those who deny Allah, or, as is similar to the case of the people depicted in the above verse, those who do not perform their duty to Allah, despite their acceptance of His existence.
Throughout their lives, such people foolishly remain entirely oblivious of Allah, the Creator of man. He to Whom they owe their life and how and why they were granted a lifetime on earth are questions with which they illogically do not care to concern themselves with. They envision a kind of life entirely separate from Allah and His religion due to a rationale of their own making. However, the following comparison in the Qur’an makes it clear that such a life rests upon vain and rotten foundations and is doomed to destruction:
Who is better: someone who founds his building on fear of Allah and His approval; or someone who founds his building on the brink of a crumbling precipice, so that it collapses with him into the Fire of Hell? Allah does not love wrongdoers. (Surat at Tawba: 109)
As also stated in the above verse, the lives of those who lack faith, as described in the Qur’an, are founded on the brink of a “crumbling precipice.” The major goal to which unbelievers are committed is the attainment of happiness and peace “in this world.” In this sense, what some most want is to become rich. They do their best to achieve this goal, making all-out physical and mental efforts. For others, on the other hand, becoming a respected and well-known person is the purpose of life; they will do anything and make any sacrifices to earn public respect. However, these are nothing but worldly goals that will vanish once death comes upon them. Some of them may even lose their grasp right here in this world. Moreover, if the people in question achieve these aims, even if they succeed in them throughout their lives, and even if they obtain much more than they had originally planned, their gains will never satisfy them spiritually and they will never find the peace, happiness, love and calm they seek, because true happiness, deep love and inner peace are blessings that can only be acquired through true faith.
A believer, however, is fully aware of Allah’s existence and might. He knows why Allah has created him and what His expectations are of him. For this reason, his basic aim in life is to be a servant with whom Allah is pleased. He employs all means to try to reach his goal, and strives to do so. This being the case, he knows the real meaning of death: for many it means nothing but the ultimate end but for him, death is not extinction under any consideration, but a phase of transition to the real life.
In a most illogical way, some non-believers assume that death, which they take to be an incident that puts an end to their lives, is a “self-generated accident,” just as they assume that life emerged coincidentally and spontaneously. The fact is, however, that Allah creates life and likewise takes it away. Death, which is by no means a coincidence or an accident, is an incident that takes place by the law of Allah at a predestined moment and place.
A sincere believer is a person who grasps that Allah has power over all things and it is He Who creates him and the whole universe, as well as understanding that death is not an end but a transition to the real abode of man (the Hereafter). Aware of these facts, he carefully avoids building his life on a “crumbling precipice.” He turns to Allah, aware that He is the real Lord and Creator of life, death and what lies beyond. In this order created by Allah – and that is also being created all the time- he comprehends that wealth, social status or good looks are not the means that lead man to salvation; they are only “causes” operating under the rules laid down by Allah, which are effective for only a brief period of time.
The foundation of the order that Allah has created is the consent of Allah. That is because Allah guides only those who seek His approval.
“… Allah will guide to the ways of peace those who follow what pleases Him. He will bring them by His will from darkness to the light, and will guide them to a straight path.” (Surat al-Ma'ida: 16)
A believer is a believer because he seeks Allah’s approval. This is the most important trait that makes a believer different from all other people. Believers know that religion is the true way to earn Allah’s approval, whereas the majority of people ignorantly consider it to be a system of beliefs which occupies an insignificant portion of their lives. Surely, these people feel the pain of their misconception of this world in all respects. However, the pain that they will experience in the Hereafter is definitely much greater.
Indeed, at this very point there emerges the distinction between real believers and those hypocrites who imitate being believers. Believers live by their faith with enthusiasm, desire and joy, for Allah’s approval, while hypocrites merely engage in a shallow imitation in order to obtain what they imagine to be advantages. Although they do not really believe in the religion and do not live by its moral values, they behave as if they do. That is why a hypocrite’s prayers are of a “pretentious” nature (Surat al-Ma‘un: 6) while believers pray in humility (Surat al-Mu’minun: 1-2). Similarly, while believers spend their money in Allah’s cause, hypocrites spend to impress people rather than to earn Allah’s approval.
You who believe! Do not nullify your almsgiving by demands for gratitude or insulting words, like him who spends his wealth, showing off to people and not having faith in Allah and the Last Day. He is like a smooth rock coated with soil, which, when heavy rain falls on it, is left stripped bare. They shall have no power over anything they have earned. Allah does not guide the unbelievers. (Surat al-Baqara: 264)
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