Abdullah ibn Amr reported that the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “None of you has [true] faith until his desires comply with what I have brought.”
—Al-Sunnah li-Ibn Abī ‘Āṣim 14, Sahih by Al-Nawawi
Are you pleased with Allah as your Lord? This is a question that hit my heart as I was reciting the morning and evening dhikr, which can be translated as, “I am pleased with Allah as a Rabb (Lord), Islam as a deen, and Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) as a prophet.”
As I asked myself this question, I realized that there is deep guidance and soul nourishment in teaching your heart to be pleased with Allah as your Rabb—the Creator, Owner, and Manager of your life; with Islam as your deen—your way of life; and Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) as your prophet—the one who conveys to you directly from Allah Himself what He, your Rabb, requires from you during your brief time on earth.
It is heartbreaking that we live in a time that seeks to remove each one of these points of guidance and soul nourishment from the lives of Muslims. We are taught to view our worldly desires as our Rabb, the ultimate lord and dictator of our lives—whether in seeking wealth and property, in fulfilling a sexual desire, or in securing a specific type of marriage for ourselves.
For many of us, we are so intent on fulfilling these desires that we are willing to alter or deny the teachings of Allah until haraam (forbidden) wealth becomes permissible, until sinful lifestyles and “orientations” define who we are, and until we have genuinely convinced ourselves that the only type of marriage allowed in this world is the one we prefer for ourselves.
Regarding this effective worshipping of our desires, Allah says what has been translated to mean, “Have you seen the one who takes as his ilah (god) his own vain desires?” (Al-Jaathiyah, 45:23).
To make matters worse for our souls, when we are reminded to fear Allah and submit to His timeless guidance instead of our modern innovated, manmade deen, we rush to either point to an imam or scholar who has reinterpreted the Qur’an in a way that allows us to reject the parts we dislike, or we delve into this reinterpretation ourselves. In this, we have no goal except to ensure that the desires of our heart are portrayed as divine truth, thereby effectively rewriting Scripture to fit our own selfish purposes.
Of this Allah says, “So woe to those who write the ‘scripture’ with their own hands, then say, ‘This is from Allah,’ in order to exchange it for a small price. Woe to them for what their hands have written and woe to them for what they earn” (Al–Baqarah, 2:79).
Regarding accepting one part of His guidance and rejecting another part, Allah says, “…So do you believe in part of the Book and disbelieve in [the other] part? Then what is the recompense for those who do that among you except disgrace in worldly life; and on the Day of Resurrection they will be sent back to the severest of punishment. And Allah is not unaware of what you do” (Al-Baqarah, 2:85).
Don’t Take Being Muslim for Granted
What’s so chilling about this form of misguidance is that, most significantly, it puts us at risk of kufr (disbelief) itself—even if we genuinely imagine ourselves to be Muslim. Moreover, in many cases, what we are seeking through changing the religion we could achieve through simply changing our lives.
In other words, while there are some things that we must certainly stay away from due to them always being forbidden (like haraam sexuality), there are other things that we can indeed enjoy and achieve—such as wealth and property, or a type of marriage we prefer—without altering, reinterpreting, or rejecting any part of Allah’s deen.
This reality is obvious to anyone with eyes to see. However, Allah says, “Truly, it is not their eyes that are blind, but their hearts which are in their breasts” (Al-Hajj, 22:46).
Are Prophetic Teachings ‘Tales of the Ancients’?
In seeking to inspire sight in the spiritually blind heart, bi’idhnillaah, sincere believers often remind their fellow Muslim brothers and sisters to adhere to Islam as it was revealed in Qur’an, and as it was lived and taught by the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and his Companions. However, many modern-day Muslims, even ones who imagine themselves to be following the Sunnah, reject this reminder on grounds that we live in a different time period than the earliest Muslims.
They argue that because we live in “modern times,” we don’t have to accept the same rules and restrictions on pursuing wealth and property that the early Muslims did. They further argue that we don’t have to accept certain practices of marriage as valid or praiseworthy, no matter how often the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and his Companions participated in them.
In other words, they are saying that these stories and teachings from prophetic history are effectively “tales of the ancients”—with no bearing on our modern, more evolved (and superior) lifestyle.
Regarding this misguided thinking, Allah says, “When Our verses are recited to him, he says, ‘Tales of the ancients!’ Nay (by no means)! Rather, on their hearts is the stain of the [ill] which they do” (Al-Mutaffifeen, 83:13-14).
In this, Allah is clarifying that differentiating between one time period and another for the purpose of rejecting anything from the Qur’an is due to nothing except a spiritually diseased heart. Our Rabb further exposes the true root of this argument: These people are merely doing so much evil that their hearts have become stained with raan, and it is this raan (stain of illness) that inspires them to reject what Allah has revealed when it contradicts what they do.
Every People Lived in Modern Times
In reflecting on the heartbreaking misguidance in the “We live in modern times!” argument, I wrote this in my personal journal:
“We’re nothing like them!” we say when we speak of the Prophet (sallallaahu’alayhi wa sallam) his Companions, and other righteous believers praised in Qur’an and hadith. But why are we so eager to separate ourselves from them, when Allah Himself points to them as our example? And when Allah commands us in every obligatory Salaah to pray to be on the Straight Path that they adhered to in their lives?
What then do you think is the purpose of their example, and of this prayer?
Do we really imagine that our brothers and sisters who preceded us couldn’t possibly relate to the challenges we face today? Do we really imagine that we can find absolutely nothing in their lives to help us understand our own?
Yet we, like they did before us, face the believers’ timeless struggle of holding on to the truth while nearly everything around us—from our nafs to the oppressive society in which we live—seeks to pull us away from Allah’s Straight Path.
Or do we rush to separate ourselves from their faithful existence because, deep down, we know our dilemmas are no different? Yet the claim of separation allows us to ignore (or deny) our religious obligations, claiming we live in “modern times”? When in fact, every era of people lived in modern times, as there is no other possibility for those who are alive during a period in time.
I wonder then what we think we are supposed to learn—other than history—from reading about the youth of the cave, about the plight of those persecuted by Pharaoh, about the hijrah from Makkah to Abyssinia and then Madinah?
And about every generation calling its people to Allah.
What do you think, dear soul? Are these merely “tales of the ancients”?
Or is possible that, within these stories, there are solutions that our Lord wants us to implement today?
Sick Hearts Make Us Dislike Spiritual Truth
Unfortunately, the spiritually diseased heart is not satisfied with the guidance of Qur’an and prophetic teachings, as Allah so aptly pointed out in discussing the raan (stain of illness) that is on the hearts of those who claim His teachings are just “tales of the ancients.” It is this raan that makes a person’s heart resentful that they should be prevented from pursuing wealth and property in the exact manner they want. It is also this raan that makes a person’s heart resentful and angry that Ar-Rahmaan (the Most Merciful) would permit any type of marriage for anyone if it does not match the one they want for themselves.
In other words, the spiritually diseased heart is displeased with Allah as a Lord, Islam as a deen, and Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) as a prophet. Therefore, this spiritually sick person assigns himself or herself as the dictator of their own life and the lives of others. They assign their own preferred marital lifestyle as the only one divinely approved for all believers. In seeking to justify this, they assign themselves (or the sheikhs who agree with them) as a prophet, thereby relying on their own emotions, desires, and convictions as a form of “divine guidance” instead of what was revealed to and lived by Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) himself.
It was due to fearing this spiritually destructive fate that I found myself asking my nafs (my mind, heart and soul), “Are you pleased with Allah as your Lord?” Each morning and evening I recited with my tongue the dhikr, “I am pleased with Allah as a Rabb (Lord), Islam as a deen, and Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) as a prophet.”
But are you really? I found my heart asking. So I prayed to Allah to make it so.
Because regarding this dhikr, the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “Whoever says when he enters the evening, ‘I am pleased with Allah as a Lord, with Islam as a religion, and with Muhammad as a prophet,’ it will be a duty upon Allah to please him” (Sunan al-Tirmidhī 3389, Hasan according to Ibn Hajar).
And I want to be amongst those honored with this merciful divine duty that Allah, my Lord, has placed on Himself.
Umm Zakiyyah is the internationally acclaimed author of twenty books, including the If I Should Speak trilogy, Muslim Girl, and His Other Wife. In 2019, she launched UZ Soul Gear, a passion project fueled by her love of both art and inspirational reflections. UZSoulGear.com offers apparel, wall décor, and more, aimed at supporting and inspiring the soul-centered lifestyle.
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