Prayer With the Divine

The Tawba of Abu Nuwas

The Salah 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 | Part XVI | Part XVII | Part XVIII | Part XIX | Part XX | Part XXI | Part XXII | Part XXIII | Part XXIV | Part XXV | Part XXVI | Part XXVII | Part XXVIII

Abu Nuwas was a person who loved to drink and say obscene things, such that he would even make up verses of poetry and sing about inappropriate things. However, he underwent a change and repented to God. People were surprised—Abu Nuwas, who was a known drunkard? Abu Nuwas the lewd man? In a sense, it was almost as though they believed Allah would not forgive him and that Allah would not have mercy on him. So he wrote verses of poetry, and they found these verses under the bed that he died upon. The lines in the poem said:

O my Lord, if the greatness of my sins increase, then I know that Your forgiveness is greater
If only the righteous called on You, then who would the criminal go to?
I call on You my Lord, as you commanded, with reverence
And if You turn my hands away, then who else will have mercy?

What do you feel?

Last week we talked about having a present heart and understanding what we are saying. This week, we will go deeper insha’Allah (God willing). A lot of people when they pray, they have no feelings, no emotions. Yet if this person were to meet their friend, they would probably feel emotions of joy, and when they depart they would feel a sense of sadness, and if they stay away then they start missing him. This array of emotions comes to a person when they meet a friend; yet when it comes to prayers, and we are meeting Allah, we don’t feel anything. This is why it does not have an effect on our actions when we have finished praying. So what should we be feeling?

The third depth: Rajaa

What is this third depth? Coming to Allah while you desire and hope for His Mercy. And your opinion is that He will insha’Allah accept you and bring you closer to Him. This is the feeling of rajaa. A person who feels this rajaa is higher with Allah, because this has to do with the heart. What is the use of concentrating and understanding when everything is mechanical? The sweetness of the prayer when you come to Him with rajaa is greater.

How can you feel this?

You feel it if you know Allah. The more you know Allah, the more rajaa you have of Allah. Allah has more mercy towards you than your own mother. All you have to do is think well of Allah, and He is as you think of Him. If you think of Him as Merciful and Forgiving, then He will be that to you. It is as simple as that—because Allah has said it of Himself. The Prophet (saw) said, “Allah has said, ‘I am as My servant’s opinion of Me, so let Him think of Me as he pleases.’”

If we contemplate over these meanings before our prayer, then something in us must move and affect the way we think of our prayers. Ibn Al-Qayyim has said, “Allah does not have any grievance against you that it will heal if He punishes you.”

Meaning that Allah has no grievance towards you and He does not want to punish you. How, when He has said that His mercy supersedes His blame, that He has written mercy on Himself? Allah has said:

كَتَبَ رَبُّكُمْ عَلَىٰ نَفْسِهِ الرَّحْمَةَ

“Your Lord has decreed upon Himself mercy” (Qur’an, 6:54).

Subhan’Allah (Glory be to Allah)—for many of us years have passed and we’ve prayed every prayer, but never did we come to Allah with these emotions, even though He loves for us to ask for His Mercy. Allah says in the Qur’an:

وَاللَّهُ يُرِيدُ أَن يَتُوبَ عَلَيْكُمْ وَيُرِيدُ الَّذِينَ يَتَّبِعُونَ الشَّهَوَاتِ أَن تَمِيلُوا مَيْلًا عَظِيمًا
يُرِيدُ اللَّهُ أَن يُخَفِّفَ عَنكُمْ وَخُلِقَ الْإِنسَانُ ضَعِيفًا

“Allah wants to accept your repentance, but those who follow [their] passions want you to digress [into] a great deviation. And Allah wants to lighten for you [your difficulties]; and mankind was created weak.” (Qur’an, 4:27-28).

Try this in your next prayer

Believe with certainty that Allah wants to forgive you, pardon you and have Mercy on you. Believe and have so much hope in Him that He will enter you into Paradise, and not just that, but that you will be the neighbor of the Prophet (sal Allahu `alayhi wa sallam – peace be upon him). These things aren’t made-up, pie-in-the-sky hopes. It is Allah who has said:

وَقَالَ رَبُّكُمُ ادْعُونِي أَسْتَجِبْ لَكُمْ

“And your Lord says, ‘Call upon Me; I will respond to you” (Qur’an, 40:60).

The Prophet (saw) said, “Call on Allah with certainty that He will respond.” If you do that, He will give you MORE than you wanted. But remember that it has to be rajaa and not ‘amany.’ What is the difference?

Rajaa is all of the above feelings that we mentioned, but accompanied with work and striving. ‘Amany’ is those feelings, but without striving on your behalf—hoping for Allah’s Mercy, but deliberately doing things that you know He despises. Allah says in the Qur’an:

وَإِنِّي لَغَفَّارٌ لِّمَن تَابَ وَآمَنَ وَعَمِلَ صَالِحًا ثُمَّ اهْتَدَىٰ

“But indeed, I am the Perpetual Forgiver of whoever repents and believes and does righteousness and then continues in guidance” (Qur’an, 20:82).

And with this He will give you more than you need and deserve.


Subhan’Allah how this lioness took care of this baby antelope. Who put this mercy in her heart, even though it is against her very nature? It was reported that after the pack of lions ate the baby antelope, the lioness in later times adopted five other baby antelopes.

Allah has divided His mercy into 99 parts, and given one part of His mercy to the earth. This one part is so strong that it has transformed the animosity of a lioness towards something that should be her prey, to love. So what would His Mercy, the other 99 parts, be like on the Day of Judgment? If Allah has said that His Mercy encompasses all things, how would it not encompass you? It has encompassed those whose actions are worse than yours, like the man who killed 99 people and then killed one more person making them 100, and Allah has forgiven him. How could He not forgive you and have mercy on you?

So how can you be the recipient of Allah’s Mercy? Ask for it in your prayer.

About the author

Jinan Yousef

Jinan's main interests within the field of Islamic Studies are the Names of Allah, the life and character of the Prophet ﷺ, tazkiya and Muslim personalities.


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