Extract from the book: The Purification of The Soul, compiled from the works of Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali, Ibn al-Qayyim al-Jawziyya, and Abu Hamid al-Ghazali.
This is the peaceful state of a heart that awaits what is dear to it. If the means-by which what the heart awaits may come-are not present, then stupidity and folly would be more accurate descriptions of its state. If, on the other hand, what it awaits is certain to happen, then neither can certain hope be the term to use in describing its state: one cannot say, “I wish the sun would rise at sunrise”, but one can say, “I wish it would rain”.
Those who study the heart have taught that this world is like land which is cultivated for its fruits in the next world: that the heart is like the earth, that belief is like the seeds, and that acts of obedience are like ploughing up the soil and clearing it for planting and digging channels to bring water to it.
The heart which is in love with this world is like barren earth in which seeds cannot sprout. The Day of Resurrection is like the day of the harvest, and no one reaps what he did not sow. No seed other than the seed of belief can grow, and belief rarely brings forth any fruit if the heart is rotten and lacking morality.
In the same way that seeds do not sprout in barren earth, so a servant’s hope for Allah’s forgiveness can be compared to the hope of a farmer.
If anyone searches for fertile soil, sows it with good healthy seeds, supplies it with what it needs when it needs it, pulls out the weeds and anything else that might hinder or ruin the growth of the crop, and then sits waiting for
Allah’s blessings in the form of His keeping unfavourable weather and destructive pests away until the crop has finished growing and is ripe-then his waiting can be described as hope.
If, however, he sows the seeds in hard, barren soil which is too high up for water to reach it, and does nothing to care for the seedlings, and then sits waiting for a harvest-then his waiting can only be described as folly and stupidity, not hope.
So, the term hope only applies to waiting with longing and yearning for something to happen, after all the means which will assist in the realisation of this desire-that is, all those means which are within the servant’s power and choice-have been utilized.
The things which are not within the servant’s control, and which are entirely within the domain of Allah’s generosity, also play a part. Allah, Exalted is He, is able to prevent all harmful phenomena and obstacles, if He so wishes.
If the servant sows the seeds of belief, and waters them with obedience to and worship of Allah, and purifies his heart of bad elements, and then waits for Allah’s blessings in the form of His keeping him steady in that state until his death, and then granting him an excellent end and His forgiveness-then his waiting is truly hoping for the best.
Allah, the Exalted, says:
“Surely those who believe and those who make hijra and struggle in the way of Allah, these are the ones who have hope of the mercy of Allah; and Allah is Forgiving, Compassionate. (2:218)”
This means that such people are worthy of hoping for Allah’s mercy. Allah did not intend to restrict hope in Him to them alone,
for others can also have hope, but He distinguishes them as the only people whose hope is really well-founded.
The one whose hope guides him to obedience of Allah and deters him from rebelling against Him has true hope; whereas the hope which leads a person on to idleness and being immersed in wrong actions is only stupidity in disguise.
It should be pointed out that anyone who hopes for something must satisfy three conditions:
First, he should hold dear what he hopes for.
Second, he should be afraid of missing it.
Third, he should strive to achieve what he hopes for.
If hope is not connected to any one of these prerequisites, then it is only wishful thinking-hope is a different matter all together.
Everyone who is hopeful is fearful. Whoever walks a path, makes haste when he fears that he may miss the goal that he hopes for.
It has been related by Abu Huraira that the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, “Whoever is afraid of being plundered by the enemy sets out in the early part of the night, and whoever sets out early reaches his goal. Be on your guard! The treasures of Allah are dear and precious. Wake up! The treasure of Allah is the Garden.”1 Allah, Glorious and Exalted is he, says that which means:
Say: “O My servants who have wronged their souls, do not despair of the mercy of Allah, for surely Allah forgives all sins; surely He is Forgiving, Compassionate. (39:53)”
“And surely your Lord is full of forgiveness for mankind for their wrongdoing. (13:6)”
It has been transmitted on the authority of Umar ibn al-Khattab, may Allah be pleased with him, that some prisoners were brought before the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace. Amongst them there was a woman who was searching for someone in the crowd. When she found a baby amongst the prisoners, she took it in her arms, cradled it next to her breast, and allowed it to suckle.
Then the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, “Do you think this woman would ever throw her child into the fire?” We said, “By Allah, as long as it was in her power, she would never throw her child into the Fire!”
Then the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, “Allah is more merciful to His servants than this woman is to her child “.2
It has been related on the authority of Abu Huraira that he heard the Messenger of Allah , may Allah bless him and grant him peace, say, “When Allah created the creation, He decreed something for Himself, and a clear record is with Him confirming that, “Truly, My mercy prevails over My wrath “.3
It has been reported on the authority of Anas that he heard the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, say, “Allah, Exalted is He, has said, ‘O son of Adam, as long as you call on Me and ask of Me, I will forgive you for what you have done, and I shall not mind. O son of Adam, were your sins to reach the clouds of the sky and were you then to ask forgiveness of Me, I would forgive you. O son of Adam, were you to come to Me with sins nearly as great as the earth, and were you then to face Me without having associated anything with Me, I would bring you forgiveness nearly as great as it”.4
Yahya ibn Ma’adh said, “In my opinion, the worst kind of self-delusion is for someone to sin excessively and then to hope for forgiveness without feeling any remorse; or it is to expect to draw near to Allah, the Exalted, without obeying or worshipping Him; or it is to hope for the fruits of the Garden after having only planted the seeds for the Fire; or it is to seek the abode of the obedient through committing wrong actions; or it is to expect a reward after having done nothing worthwhile; or it is to place hope in Allah, Glorious and Mighty is He, after having exceeded all the limits”.
Do you hope for forgiveness when you have not trodden its path? A ship does not sail on dry land.5
1. Hasan, at-Tirmidhi. Sifat al-Qiyyama, 7/146, classified as hasan gharib; also al-Hakim, Kitab ar-Raqa’iq, 4/307.
2. Al-Bukhari, Kitab al-Adab, 10/426;Muslim, Kitab at-Tawba, 17/70
3. Al-Bukhari, Kitab Bad’al-Wahiy, 6/287; Muslim, Kitab at-Tawba, 17/68
4. Hasan, at-Tirmidhi, Kitab ad-Da’awat, 9/524; classified as hasan gharib.
5. Ibn Hibban has related in his book, Rawdhat al-‘Uqala’, p.284, that the poet Abu’l-‘Atahiyya said, “I went to see Harun ar-Rashid, the commander of the faithful, and when he saw me, he said, ‘Are you Abu’l-‘Atahiyya, the poet?’ I said, ‘Yes’. Then he said to me. ‘Give me some counsel in a few lines of poetry, and be brief!’ I recited to him:
Do not feel secure from death at any time:
Even if you seek protection
In your advisers and your guards,
Know that the arrows of death
Are always pointing in your direction,
Whatever armour and shields we may have.
Do you hope for forgiveness
When you have not trodden its path?
A ship does not sail on dry land.”