A scene from Murphy’s Boy, a non-fiction book by Torey Hayden, has been engraved into my mind forever. I read the book 6 years ago and yet, the image remains vivid, the message clear. Kevin, a young boy disturbed by his traumatic past, sits huddled in the corner of a room under a desk. In the same room, a woman trying to alleviate her pain and grief sits, waiting. “Do you know Murphy’s law?” he asks. In a voice unheard by a single soul for many years, he continues, “The law that says that everything that can go wrong…will go wrong.” I imagined her nodding her head ever so slowly, not knowing what to expect. “Well, I am Murphy’s Boy.”
When I read this, I automatically thought inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji`un (indeed we belong to Allah, and indeed to Him we will return)—this boy needs Islam, that’s his problem. No Muslim thinks like this, even when dealing with the biggest of problems. But as the years pass, I have realized that there is a little bit of Murphy’s Boy in many of us — dormant, just waiting for the whispers of shaytan to lure him out of slumber.
His prime time debut occurs in these moments of despair – when the bad seems to have just gotten worse and everyone around us appears to be living on Cloud 9. At this point, you may find yourself thinking “The odds are always against me,” “Just my luck,” or “Why bother?” This, my friend, is your biggest problem.
The Prophet ﷺsaid that Allah asserts,
“I am as My servant thinks I am. I am with him when he makes mention of Me. If he makes mention of Me to himself, I make mention of him to Myself; and if he makes mention of Me in an assembly, I make mention of him in an assembly better than it. And if he draws near to Me an arm’s length, I draw near to him a fathom’s length. And if he comes to Me walking, I go to him at speed.” [Bukhari & Muslim]
Allah says here that He will be to us as we expect of Him. In times of stress, if we set forth with the mindset that this is just a continuation of our “bad luck” and that things just never seem to go right for us, then that is exactly what will happen. The Prophet ﷺsaid: “Make du`a’ to Allah in a state that you are certain that your du`a’ will be responded to.”(Tirmidhi) What this hadith means is that when we ask Allah for anything, we should be certain that Allah will not leave our du`a’ unanswered. If a person expects only good from Allah, it is certain that Allah will not destroy their hopes and desires; rather, He will fulfil their expectations. If we raise our hands in du`a’ out of ritual, while in reality thinking that the du`a’ will not be answered, then we will reap nothing from our du`a’ but tired hands and lost time.
In this day and age, having poor expectations of Allah is so commonplace that we hardly recognize it. Society instils in us a mentality that diminishes our worth and readies us for failure, thereby keeping our expectations grounded and our works mediocre. The question now is how do we achieve husn adh-dhan billah (having good expectations of Allah)?
Below are a few steps we can take in order to correct our mindsets and increase our husn adh-dhan billah.
1) Study the names and the attributes of Allah (subhanahu wa ta`ala – exalted is He).
When we take the time to get to know our Rabb (Lord), to understand His many names and attributes, we will begin to increase our love for Him. We will begin to see the infinite capabilities of our Lord and wipe away any feelings that contradict husn adh-dhan. For example, when we realize that Allah is Al-Ghafur, we will see that there is no sin too great for Allah to forgive. This, in turn, will cause us to have full confidence in our Lord so that when we raise our hands, He will forgive us.
2) Surround yourself with righteous company who will hold you up when you are down.
Naturally, our iman (faith) goes up and down, leaving us vulnerable at times. We should strive to surround ourselves with righteous company so that when we do have that drop in faith and start to say and feel things that we shouldn’t, our friends will be there to talk some sense in to us.
3) “Check yourself before you wreck yourself.”
When we find ourselves in positions of stress and times of turbulence, we should always take a moment to think about how we are approaching the situation. Stop and check yourself. Check your attitude, check your words, and check your overall reaction to the issue at hand.
4) Don’t stop to smell the roses when you realize they’re dead.
One of the biggest problems we have as humans is that we are ungrateful. When things are going well, we forget how much we need Allah and we become lazy in worshipping him. The Prophet ﷺ warned us against doing this when he said “Whoever wishes that Allah responds to his du`a’ at times of hardship, then let him increase his du`a’ at times of ease!” (Tirmidhi) As an exercise, next time you feel like it’s just about as bad as it can get, take a sheet of paper and write down all the things that are going right. Don’t forget to include the blessings of eyesight, the blessing of hearing, and the blessing of the ability to distinguish scents!
5) Make du`a’.
Du`a’ is our strongest weapon. It’s like nuclear warfare against shaytan. If we want to see a change in ourselves, our attitudes, or our situation, the most important thing we can do is make du`a’. Let us be like Sa’eed Ibn Jubayr who would call out to Allah and say, “اللهم إني أسألك صدق التوكل عليك وحسن الظن بك” “Oh Allah I ask you to make me truly reliant upon you and grant me high expectations of you.”
With that being said, I would like to leave you with a pearl of wisdom related by Sufyaan ibn Uyaynah, who said: “Let none of you think that his du`a’ will not be answered because of (the sins) that he knows of himself. Indeed, Allah responded to the du`a’ of the worst of the creation, Iblis, may Allah curse him, when he said:
“He said: ‘My Lord, then reprieve me until the Day they are resurrected.’ [Allah] said, ‘So indeed, you are of those reprieved.’” [Qur’an, 15:36-37]
If Iblis’ du`a’ can be answered, surely the du`a’ of a sinner has more precedence than his!