It was just one of those days that make you want to crawl back into bed, put your covers over your head, and sleep until things just fix themselves. But I crawled out of bed, got dressed and moved on with my life. Why? Why didn’t I just sulk in my unhappy state? Because I knew – al-Lateef was doing ihsaan upon me.
What does going through a hard time, lutf and ihsaan have to do with one another? Aren’t these three different things? To answer that, let’s take a moment and look at someone from the past who knew more about Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala – exalted is He – than any one of us. Let’s take a look at the life of Prophet Yusuf (`alayhi assalam – may Allah’s peace be upon him).
Yusuf (as) went through many trials – so many that we are often reminded to read Surat Yusuf when we too are going through difficult times. He was thrown into a well, taken into slavery, and seduced by a wealthy woman. After all of this, he was also thrown in jail for a deed he didn’t commit, was all the while separated from his beloved father and brother. Despite these trying times let’s take a look at the way Yusuf (as) reacted:
And he raised his parents upon the throne, and they bowed to him in prostration. And he said, “O my father, this is the explanation of my vision of before. My Lord has made it reality. And He had Ihsaan with me when He took me out of prison and brought you [here] from bedouin life after Satan had induced [estrangement] between me and my brothers. Indeed, my Lord is Lateef in what He wills. Indeed, it is He who is the Knowing, the Wise. [Qur’an, 12:100]
Here Yusuf (as) is talking about what happened to him. He says “qad ahsana bi” and then later in the ayah he said that his lord is “Lateefu-lee maa ya shaa’.” So we see here that Yusuf (as) too made the connection between hard times, ihsaan and lutf. But is that connection clear?
To simplify this, Allah had a plan, and as we know the plan of Allah always prevails. Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala, from the very beginning, knew that Yusuf (as) would be raised in status, that he would be reunited with his family, and that the severed ties between him and his brothers would be restored.
Now take a moment and ponder.
In reality we see that each and every one of the hardships that he went through led to this success. But while examining each of the hardships Yusuf (as) went through individually, could we have even fathomed that success would be the outcome?
The truth is, had he not been thrown in the well, he would not have been taken into slavery. Had he not been taken into slavery, he would not have been seduced by the wife of Al-Aziz. Had he not been seduced by the wife of Al-Aziz, he would not have been wrongfully sent to prison. Had he not been sent to prison, he would not have been known as a dream interpreter. Had he not been known as a dream interpreter, he would have never made it out of jail and into the high rank that the king had placed him in. Had he not been given this high rank, he would not have met his brothers. Had he not met his brothers, he would have not been reunited with his beloved family. If we were in any of these situations, even in our wildest imaginations we would have not seen such a happy ending coming. And that is where lutf comes in.
Shaikh As-Sa’di describes this name of Allah – al-Lateef – with grace and beauty. He says:
“From His beautiful and excellent Names is the Ever-Discreetly Gentle (al-Lateef). He is the One who is discreet in His actions that he discerns the hidden and secret, and what the hearts are filled with. He also perceives what is in the lands, of enclosed grains and seeds. He is Ever-Gentle with His devoted slaves and makes things easy for them and keeps them away from difficulties. He makes the path to His pleasure and generosity easy for them. He protects them from anything that may lead to His anger. This is through means that they may perceive as well as means that they do not perceive. He also decrees matters for them that they dislike in order for them to be granted what they love. He is gentle with respect to their own souls as He guides them with respect to matters that are external to them with every goodness and with righteousness. The name al-Lateef is close in meaning to al-Khabeer (the Well-Acquainted with all things), ar-Ra’oof (the Clement) and al-Kareem (the Generous).” 1
To reiterate the point that Shaikh As-Sa’di made—Allah subhanAhu wa ta`ala knows all and decrees matters for us that we dislike so that we can be granted what we love. That is precisely when Allah is doing ihsaan upon his slave. As-Sa’idi says concerning the name al-Lateef in connection with ihsaan,
“Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala bestows his ihsaan upon his `abd in ways that he (the `abd) does not even realize. He raises his status in ways that he may hate.” 2
It is in those trying times when we feel like the world is turning inside out, when everything seems to be going in directions we do not want them to, it is those times that we have to realize that al-Khabeer, al-Ra’oof, al-Kareem, al-Lateef is doing what is best for us – taking away those “good times” so we can have better, not allowing us what we want so we can have what we need.
But if we do not come to this realization, if we don’t have the proper sabr when we should, then we are simply digging our selves deeper into trouble. We are setting ourselves up for more pain and more unhappiness. Except this time, it’s eternal.
So the next time you get the urge to cover yourself up with your covers and let out a sigh of “Why me?” toughen up. Be patient. And realize that al-Lateef, subhanahu wa ta’la, is doing ihsaan upon you.