Every person’s life comprises of three phases; the past, the present and the future. Every second that is to come is the future. As it comes, it enters the phase of present, and as it passes, it turns into the past. These three phases represent a person’s life and will determine one’s fate in the Hereafter. If all three phases are good, one will attain success in the Hereafter. We should therefore understand each phase, so that we can strive to make each one a means for success.
Upon careful reflection, one will realise that one’s present condition is either one of happiness or grief. A person is healthy or sick, wealthy or poor, honoured or disgraced. For a believer, every condition, good or bad, is a blessing from Allāh ta‘ālā. The condition of grief is a blessing because adoption of patience during grief makes a person deserving of lofty rewards. Allāh ta‘ālā says,
Indeed, the patient ones shall be granted their reward without measure. (39:10)
Through suffering, Allāh ta‘ālā also forgives sins and raises status in Jannah. It is not against the concept of patience to ask Allāh ta‘ālā to remove the difficulty or calamity. One should turn to Allāh ta‘ālā with humility and ask Him to remove the calamity.
On experiencing happiness or peace, one is rewarded for expressing gratitude to Allāh ta‘ālā. One should keep in mind that true gratitude is when a person accepts in his heart that he was not deserving of the blessing bestowed on him by Allāh ta‘ālā. The method of expressing gratitude is not restricted to verbal utterances only, but practical gratefulness is also included; in fact, that is the true form of expressing gratefulness. Practical gratefulness would mean that a person refrains from using the blessings in disobedience to Allāh ta‘ālā. It is apparent from the above discussion that one’s present is made good by adopting the qualities of sabr (patience) and shukr (gratitude).
In order to safeguard the future, one needs to seek refuge in Allāh the Almighty, as no one knows what the future holds. The pious of today can become the wrongdoers of tomorrow and vice versa.
Nabī sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam has said,
Indeed, one of you performs the deeds of the people of Jannah till there remains only the length of an arm between him and Jannah, then fate overcomes him and he then performs the deeds of the people of Jahannam and (ultimately) enters Jahannam. And indeed, one of you performs the deeds of the people of Jahannam till there remains only the length of an arm between him and Jahannam, then fate overcomes him and he then performs the deeds of the people of Jannah and (ultimately) enters it. (Al-Bukhārī)
An individual who carries out many devotions may be deprived of Īmān moments before his death due to pride or insincerity. Conditions of people can change unexpectedly, and so the only way to safeguard one’s future is through sincere devotion and seeking refuge in Allāh ta‘ālā from all harms that can possibly afflict one.
Plato, a philosopher in the time of Sayyidunā Mūsā ‘alayhis salām, once approached Sayyidunā Mūsā ‘alayhis salām and asked him the following question, ‘If the heavens were to become a bow, and all calamities were to become arrows, and Allāh ta‘ālā Himself was the archer, how would one find protection?’ Sayyidunā Mūsā ‘alayhis salām replied, ‘In such a scenario there is only one way of protection, and that is to run towards the archer, i.e. Allāh, and seek refuge at His Side.’
The Ahādīth are full of supplications wherein Nabī sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam has sought refuge in Allāh ta‘ālā from all kinds of calamities, however small and insignificant they may be. These supplications are comprehensive and include all the needs of human beings, spiritual and physical. I have put together a collection of such supplications in a book called Al-Mu‘awwadhāt. Readers are requested to acquire a copy and include it in their daily practices. (See link at the end of article)
Now finally the past. It may seem odd and surprising how one’s past can be made good, as there is no apparent way of rectifying something that has occurred in the past and become part of history. If a person deeply and honestly reflects on his past, he will acknowledge many occasions wherein he had violated the Commands of Allāh ta‘ālā. A true believer will indeed feel regret and sorrow for disobeying his Creator. However, the question remains, how is it possible to turn the clock back and undo what has already been done? The believers do not need to worry, for Allāh ta‘ālā through His Mercy, has granted us the invaluable bounty of tawbah (repentance). As soon as His servant turns to Him and repents with a sincere feeling of remorse, Allāh’s infinite Mercy releases the floods of forgiveness.
Requisites of Repentance
There are three conditions for repentance to be accepted. The first is the feeling of remorse and regret at having committed the sin. This should stem from the depth of the heart. The second is to immediately cease committing the sin. The third is to make a firm resolve never to commit the sin again. If the sin is related to the rights of the creation i.e. a violation of their rights, a fourth condition will also apply, and that is to make amends for the loss caused, such as asking them for forgiveness or repaying what is owed to them. If these conditions are met, Allāh ta‘ālā will not only forgive the sin but erase it from one’s Book of Deeds.
Nabī sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam has said,
The one who repents from sin is like the one who has no sin.
When a sin is committed, it is witnessed and recorded by all the surrounding creations of Allāh ta‘ālā, such as the angels, the earth, the nearby objects and even the limbs of the sinner himself. They will all testify against him in the Court of Allāh ta‘ālā. Allāh ta‘ālā says,
Today we will close their mouths, their hands will speak to us and their feet will testify as to what they used to do. (36:65)
On the Day when their tongues, their hands and their feet will testify against them as to what they used to do. (24:24)
And on the Day when the enemies of Allāh will be gathered towards the Fire and will be restrained. Until, when they come to it, their ears, eyes and skin will testify against them as to what they used to do. (41:19-20)
However, once all the conditions of repentance are fulfilled, not only is the sin forgiven, but it is removed from the memory of all those who had witnessed the sin. Furthermore, Allāh ta‘ālā, through His Mercy, on many occasions, substitutes the sin with rewards. Allāh ta‘ālā says,
Except him who repents and believes and does righteous work; as for such people, Allāh will change their bad deeds to good deeds. Allāh is Ever-Forgiving, Most-Merciful. (25:70)
When all three phases of one’s life are protected, one will attain peace and contentment in this world and the everlasting success of the Hereafter. One’s past is made good by repentance which comprises of three things: remorse, forsaking wrong and a firm resolution never to return to wrong. One’s present is made good through adopting patience upon sufferings and grief, and being grateful to Allāh ta‘ālā upon happiness and prosperity. It is equally important not to be haughty and arrogant over the blessings provided by Allāh ta‘ālā. And finally, one’s future can be made good by doing good actions with sincerity and continuously seeking refuge in Allāh ta‘ālā from all possible harms of the future.
May Allah ta‘ālā grant us His Protection from all the sufferings of this world and the Hereafter, and may He keep us steadfast on His true Dīn. Āmīn.
Riyādul Jannah, Vol. 29 No. 1, 2020