Originally published November 2010.
Becoming the Servants of the Most Merciful Series
Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV | Part V | Part VI | Part VII | Part VIII | Part IX | Part X | Part XI | Part XII | Part XIII | Part XIV | Part XV
The distinguishing characteristics of the true Servants of the Merciful have been laid out for us by our Most Merciful Creator. They are humility, forbearance, praying the vigil, seeking the guidance and support of God from sins, fearing the possibility of going to Hell for one moment, balance in spending wealth, avoiding the major sins, protecting the major objectives of Islam, repentance, not witnessing the glorification of falsehood, avoiding useless speech, submitting to scripture, building one’s family on piety and seeking the help of God while doing so.
After guiding us to these most noble characteristics, our Beloved Creator than told us the reward of working to attain them:
“These Servants of the Merciful will be rewarded with a high position in Heaven as a result of their perseverance. They will be greeted therein with the glad tidings of eternal life free of enmity, discontent or any other defects.” (Qur’an 25:75)
Surely life is a test and it is not easy. The guidance has been facilitated and the path to the eternal bliss in the pleasure of our creator is clear. Now it is upon us to work for it as God said,
“How excellent is the reward of those who work for it.” (Qur’an 3:136)
In the verse about the reward of the Servants of the Merciful, the qualifying clause was “as a result of their perseverance”. This is the translation of “bi maa sabaroo”. God is telling us that the whole of life and the test therein is about perseverance in showing Him our devotion, loyalty, and gratitude. Our scholars have defined for us the three types of “sabr” that we all face in life. Basically our test is in disciplining ourselves to rise above our carnal egotistical instincts to become spiritual servants of our Creator. There are basically three aspects of perseverance that we are facing.
The first of these is persevering by fulfilling all of our religious obligations. The fact is we value our time and we incline towards instant gratification of our desire to enjoy our time. We must regulate our time so that we do everything we possibly can to fulfill whatever God has commanded us to do (i.e. practicing the 5 pillars of Islam). In doing this we make the divine obligations the most important thing in life. If they weren’t important then God wouldn’t have obligated us to do them. If we don’t feel the importance of them then we need to strengthen our faith by reading about the miracles of the Qur’an, the biography of the Prophet ﷺ and his companions and the previous prophecies about the coming of our Prophet. After building a strong faith, we must increase our knowledge so we can understand why we have been obligated to perform these acts of worship. After completing these steps we are on our way to a fruitful life of service to the Almighty. In today’s secular world we are brainwashed from a young age that worship is a matter of choice and not a requirement whereas our scripture treats intentionally leaving obligatory worship as even more sinful than committing acts prohibited by God.
The second aspect of perseverance in life is in avoiding all of the things prohibited by scripture. We have certain carnal desires as animals that we are inclined to. A big test in life is in breaking down our ego and our desires so that we may protect our souls. Again weak faith is a reason for committing sins so we must seek to feed and nurture our faith as mentioned previously. Similarly, we should seek the knowledge of the wisdom behind prohibitions so that we may see the big picture and how God is protecting us from great harm by prohibiting us from things we incline to egotistically and materialistically. One of the biggest means in avoiding sins is the environment we choose. If we choose friends and surroundings which facilitate piety then we will be much more likely to stay free of major sins. God almighty commanded us,
“Train yourself to persevere with the company of those who live in sincere servitude to their Lord throughout the day… “ (Quran 18:28)
Our beloved Prophet ﷺ said, “A person is influenced by the ways of his close friends. So pay close attention to those who you take as close friends.” (Abu Dawood 4833)
Finally, we have the last aspect of the perseverance required to pass the test of life. This is the way we deal with hardship and difficulty that we face. One of the main arguments of atheism is that if God is good and in control of everything then why does He decree so much violence, evil, and corruption. The fact is that this argument doesn’t hold up to a day in court with Islamic theology. It is crystal clear in Islam that this life is a test. We have been blessed with life, intelligence, creativity and all our sustenance at our finger tips. We are asked to persevere through life by disciplining ourselves through knowledge and human struggle to be spiritual entities who are not content as a result of material gain or worldly attachments, but through submitting to our Creator’s divine plan for us. If we fulfill this trust then we will attain eternal bliss. On the other hand, if we allow our ego and desires to get the best of us we will live and die as animals until the hereafter where we will be responsible for our rebellion against our Creator. The hardships and calamities we face in this life are one of two things for a believer. It is either a means of purifying ourselves from sins in this life or a means of pleasing God through showing our pure submission to His will even when it doesn’t serve our desires. The Prophet ﷺ said,
“If God has goodwill towards his servant, He hastens his punishment in this life. If He has bad will for His servant who is deserving of it, He leaves him to pay for his sins on the Day of Judgment.”(Tirmidhi)
“Verily the greatness of reward is according to the greatness of the trial. Surely if God loves a people then he tests them with hardship. So whoever is content with God’s decree then God is content with him and whoever is displeased with it then God will be displeased with them. (Tirmidhi)
We pray the Almighty Merciful One facilitate our struggle with perseverance that we may indeed be counted as His servants! Ameen