by Imam Ibn al-Jawzī | Translated by Shazia Ahmad
It is reported that in some of the revealed books of old, Allah the Exalted says, “O My servant, for how long will you continue in your sins, while I nourish you with My provision and treat you with honor? Haven’t I shaped you with My own hands? Haven’t I breathed into you from My own spirit? Don’t you know what I do for those who lovingly obey Me, and how I punish those who do not? Don’t you feel shame that you only remember Me in times of difficulty, and in times of ease forget Me? The eye of your heart has been blinded by your desires. How then can you see Me?”
You disobey the Divine, yet claim love for Him –
This is impossible, illogical reasoning.
If your love were true, you would certainly obey
For the lover to the Beloved is ever obedient.
My dear brother [or sister], turn yourself to the qiblah of attention to your Master, and turn away from persistence in your transgressions and lowly desires. Spend the rest of your life in the work of obedience. Be steadfast in forsaking the immediate gratification of your desires. Flee from wrongdoing and the heavy burden of sin, O you who will be responsible for your deeds. Bearing with the temptations of this life is much easier than patiently withstanding the punishment of Hellfire.
My Lord, certainly, I am a weak slave
Who has come before You seeking that which You have to give.
I come before You complaining of the affliction of my sins,
For can one complain of grief to anyone but You?
Gift me with Your Pardon, my Benevolent Master
For my reliance is on none but You.
O you imprisoned by this life, slave to your own desires, affixed permanently in wrong doing, accumulating naught but a heavy loss – contemplate what your hands have sent forward in deeds, and be fearful of your Lord and Master. Be fearful that your missteps and misdeeds have barred you from His door, distanced you from His proximity, and prevented you from the companionship of His loved ones, and left you only in disappointment.
Do you really understand what you have done? You have exchanged what is closest to you for something distant and obscure, your sensibility for inordinate passions, and your religion for the lowly life of this world.
A tradition from the Prophet ﷺ states that Allah the Exalted revealed to the Prophet Dawud, “O Dawud, give glad tidings to the sinners and give warning to the righteous.” He replied, “My Lord, how is it that I should give glad tidings to the guilty, and warn those who do good?” Allah the Exalted said, “Give glad tidings to the sinner that no sin is too grave for Me to forgive; and warn the righteous against admiring their own work [which leads to ostentation]—for I do not hold someone strictly to account for their deeds, except that they are destroyed. O Dawud, if you claim to love Me, then remove the love of this world from your heart, for love for Me and love for it cannot be combined in one heart. O Dawud, whoever has love for Me stands in worship at night while the idle are sleeping, and remembers Me in solitude while others are heedless, and is thankful for My blessings while others are neglectful.”
He ﷺ stated, “Allah does not remove a person from sin except that He wants to forgive him; and He does not incline a person towards a righteous action, except that He wants to accept it from Him.”1
The Prophet ﷺ taught that “when those who have repented leave their graves, the pleasant scent of musk will emanate from them. They will approach a table spread in Paradise and eat from it, sitting in the comforting shade of the Divine Throne, while the rest of the people will have yet to pass the calling to account.” 2
And he ﷺ said, “One teardrop that falls from the eye of a believer out of love and fear for Him is better than this world and everything it contains.”3
Allah says, “How often it is that you disobey Me, and how often I conceal your deeds and I do not expose you. How often you break the door of My commandments, and yet I continue to repair it and overlook it. How often I seek heartfelt tears from you, borne out of fear and awe, and yet, your eyes remain dry. How often I seek you to connect with Me through obedience, yet you turn away and distance yourself. How many blessings have I bestowed upon you, and you have yet to be thankful.”
This world and the acts of your desires have deceived you. You do not see and you do not hear. I have made subject to you the universe, and you continue in belligerence and is obedience, stubbornly requesting residence in a world that was meant only as a bridge to be crossed…
He has deprived you from tasting Divine love and purification
When he saw you persistent in treachery and harshness.
If you let go of the reigns that are keeping you from Him
He will be generous with you from His compassionate nature.
Exalted is He above doing you any injustice-
He has promised deliverance to those who deliver themselves.
What is this slumber when you are fully alert? What is this confusion when you can see things clearly before you? Why such heedlessness when you are fully aware? Why this drunken stupor when you are in the sobriety of reality? This stillness when you are being called? And this stubborn residency when you are departing? Is it not time for those who are sleeping to wake up? Is it not time for the heedless to take heed?
Know that everyone in this world is on a journey, so work to deliver yourself on the Day of Resurrection from the Blaze.
My Lord, if I have drowned in my own sins,
I ask for Your pardon, Most Generous Lord
By the depth of my poverty and my utter need
For You, my Lord, in times of distress.
I ask You by my weakness, inability, and indigence,
I ask You by what Your Books have guaranteed –
I ask you by Your infinite Mercy.
Selections from Bahr ad-Dumū’ (Ocean of Tears) by Imam Ibn al-Jawzī (jazak Allahu khayran to Shaykh Mokhtar Maghroui, who contributed to the translation.)