“And remind, for indeed, the reminder benefits the believers.”
— Qur’an (Adh-Dhaariyaat, 51:55)
In seeking to teach our hearts true love for the sake of Allah, it is important to remember that ultimately, this is an emaan issue rooted in the spiritual state of a person’s heart more than anything else. This spiritual reality is conveyed in the prophetic hadith: “By the One in Whose Hand is my soul, you will not enter Paradise until you believe, and you will not believe until you love one another” (Tirmidhi). This statement clarifies that emaan (true faith) in Allah Himself is manifested in our sincere love for other believers.
This reality is also conveyed throughout the Qur’an in many places, such as in this well-known ayah from Al-Hujuraat, which has been translated to mean: “The believers are but a single brotherhood…” (49:10).
In this ayah Allah directly attaches the description of a bond of brotherhood to our emaan (i.e. mu’minoon, the believers). Here, our Creator, the Most High, is not saying that the people of emaan—the mu’mimoon (believers)—are supposed to be a single brotherhood; rather, He is saying that they are in fact a single brotherhood in reality. Therefore, this ayah is making it undeniably clear that if our hearts do not view other Muslims as brothers and sisters in faith similar to how we view our close, beloved family, then we are not truly people of emaan.
Look To the State of Your Heart
Allah also points to the state of the human heart when He describes how the Ansaar (the believers of Madinah who granted asylum and protection to the believers of Makkah) treated the Muhaajiroon (the believers of Makkah who migrated to Madinah to escape persecution).
He says what has been translated to mean: “And those who, before them, had homes (in Al-Madinah) and had adopted the Faith, love those who emigrate to them, and have no desire in their breasts for things given to the [latter], and give them (i.e. emigrants) preference over themselves, even though they were in need of that. And whosoever is saved from his own covetousness, such are they who will be the successful” (Al-Hashr, 59:9).
In describing the brotherhood between the believers of Madinah and the believers of Makkah, Allah describes what is happening in the hearts of the Ansaar: They had no desire in their breasts (i.e. their hearts) for what Allah has given the other believers. Moreover, they showed these believers preference over their own selves, even though they were in need of the very things that they were sharing so generously with those who’d emigrated from Makkah.
Then Allah ends the ayah by speaking about humans in general (instead of the Ansaar in particular) by linking every human’s ultimate success in this world and in the Hereafter with being protected from acting on the selfish desires that reside in each and every one of us.
What is so profound about this part of the ayah is that Allah does not describe these successful people as having no shuh (i.e. covetousness or stinginess) in their hearts, but that they are actively protecting themselves from that shuh. And the earlier part of the ayah makes it clear that this protection from selfish desires is due to none other than their emaan (true faith), which is directly manifested in not only a feeling in their hearts or a claim of faith on their tongues, but instead (and more evidently) in their treatment of their brothers and sisters in faith—despite what they themselves battle internally.
It is this manifestation of true emaan that is ultimately rooted in our actual love of Allah, a love which (if genuine) immediately inspires in our hearts and actions sincere love and good treatment of fellow believers.
If You Hate Believers, You Don’t Truly Love Allah
What these divine teachings point to is that our love for each other (or lack thereof) is a direct reflection of our soul’s connection to and love of Allah Himself (or lack thereof). Therefore, this is not a small matter, hence the weighty reality conveyed in the prophetic hadith above: We cannot enter Paradise unless we have emaan, and we cannot have emaan unless we love each other.
Moreover, if we have ill feelings in our heart toward each other, such as hasad (envy) and hatred, these feelings literally remove emaan from our hearts like a razor removes hair from one’s head. Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) taught us this when he said: “There has come upon you the disease of the nations before you: envy and hatred. These are the shavers. I do not mean that they shave hair, but they shave away religious commitment. By the One in Whose Hand is my soul, you will not enter Paradise until you believe, and you will not believe until you love one another” (Tirmidhi).
One might wonder how it is possible that envy and hatred can cause that much damage to someone’s commitment to God Himself. This in itself is a vast topic, but here are two examples of how these feelings directly reflect how our hearts feel toward Allah, and how we practice His deen:
One: Believing That Allah Is Unjust
Firstly, when our hearts harbor envy toward anyone, it is due to a deep frustration and bitterness that we ourselves are being denied something we “deserve.” Meanwhile, we feel that what we deserve is being given to someone else. Or we feel that someone else is being given something that they themselves do not deserve, and thus it should be taken from them.
At the root of each of these feelings is a disagreement with God Himself and the belief that Al-‘Adl (The Most Just), Al-Hakeem (The All Wise) is doing something unfair and/or unwise. Obviously, this perspective (even if unconscious) directly contradicts emaan in a blatant and chilling way.
In discussing the blessings that He grants to some people but not to others, specifically with regards to the blessing of prophethood, Allah says: “That is the Grace of Allah, which He bestows on whom He wills. And Allah is the Owner of Mighty Grace” (Al-Jumu’ah, 62:4).
Moreover, in discussing His decisions in both worldly and spiritual matters, in which some people are given more than others, Allah reminds us over and over again throughout the Qur’an: “…Verily, Allah does what He pleases” (Al-Hajj, 22:14).
Therefore, hasad by nature is showing displeasure with Allah’s description of Himself as conveyed in the Qur’an. It is further viewing Allah’s divine attribute of “unequal generosity” as unjust.
Two: Changing the Religion and Disagreeing with Allah
Secondly, when our hearts envy or hate a believer, particularly if these feelings are incited due to them either making a halaal choice that we dislike or having divine permissions and options that we take issue with, it can lead to making direct changes to Allah’s deen (religion) itself. Additionally, it can lead to expressing outright disagreement with divine revelation.
For example, in my blog “Do We Care What Allah Wants For Us?” I share the story of a fifty-something Muslim man who harbored resentment toward women due to men having the divine responsibility and obligation to spend their wealth on them in marriage. This man stated frankly that he felt that most women don’t deserve this. Yet this same man wanted to have a halaal sexual relationship with a woman in marriage:
“My presence should be enough for her,” he said. “If she wants me to provide for her and pay her bills, then she doesn’t love me for who I am. She loves me for the money I can give her.”
But I told him, “That’s like saying a man wanting to have sex with his wife means he doesn’t love her for who she is, but he only wants her for sex.”
“That’s not true,” he said. “We’re giving each other sex, so that makes us equal. But if I have to give her money too, then that’s not fair.”
Yet he didn’t see it as “unfair” to live off of his wife’s money and effectively have her provide for them both. That represented “true love.”
In his mind, Allah’s requirement for the man to be a qawwaam—a maintainer, protector, and provider for women—was “unjust.”
In this example, we see how the mere feeling of resentment in this man’s heart toward women (based on something that Allah obligated men to do) caused him to have no problems with changing the religion of Islam itself, until women ended up providing for men. We also see how this man was directly disagreeing with divine revelation by viewing it as unjust that Allah obligated the man to be a qawwaam (provider and protector of women) at all. Unfortunately, this type of thinking is spreading amongst many Muslim men.
Similarly, we find this same sort of resentment in some Muslim women toward men due to Allah permitting a man to marry up to four wives. This resentment leads many Muslim women to continuously refer to this allowance as a form of injustice and even oppression of women.
Here, it is important to differentiate between women being angered at actual injustice or oppression happening in the context of Islamic marriage (whether monogamy or polygyny), and women viewing a type of Islamic marriage (whether monogamy or polygyny) as unjust due to the unjust behavior of some men. The former is a sign of emaan, as any believing heart should be disturbed when Allah’s laws are transgressed (by men or women); but the latter is a sign of a spiritual disease that contradicts emaan, as it is inconceivable that any believing heart could ever be disturbed by the guidance of Allah, irrespective of what some men (or women) do in its name.
Other women show resentment toward the allowance of polygyny by saying, “Most of these men don’t deserve another wife.” Meanwhile, like the Muslim man who resented having to provide for his wife but had no problem fully enjoying the benefits of marriage for himself, these women have no problem enjoying their rights in marriage, irrespective of whether or not they “deserve” these blessings, or if they would even be counted as true believers in front of Allah. It was only men who had to pay for their human faults by being denied the mercies of Allah—similar to how the resentful Muslim man felt it was only women who had to pay for their human faults by being denied their rights in marriage.
Naturally, these types of resentment lead to changes in the religion, such as a man believing it is his right to live off of his wife’s provision. In the case of resentment toward polygyny specifically, it has already become socially acceptable for Muslims to claim that this part of the Qur’an and prophetic example is no longer applicable in our times—hence an obvious and blatant change in Allah’s religion.
Furthermore, we also find believers ostracizing, mistreating, and slandering women and men who have chosen polygyny (even if it doesn’t directly affect their own lives in any way). This action is a clear testimony to the hatred they have in their hearts towards not only these believers themselves, but also toward a part of Allah’s religion itself.
In all of these cases, we see a direct connection between ill feelings in the heart toward believers (whether women for what Allah has granted them or men for what Allah has granted them) and the subsequent “shaving” of emaan in the heart. Consequently, Islam is viewed as unjust in these people’s hearts and thus in need of change. This is clearly a perspective that reflects an outright rejection of divine revelation—and a testimony to a lack of love of Allah Himself.
In guarding our hearts against this spiritual tragedy, we need to engage in sincere self-examination instead of assuming that we are not guilty of this. Inherent in our human imperfection is the tendency toward self-deception more than self-honesty, even when we think we are living an upright life. Therefore, each and every one of us can benefit from humbly striving to improve our spiritual health—and a crucial part of spiritual health is having a heart filled with true love for the sake of Allah.
Teaching Your Heart Love for Allah’s Sake
If we desire for ourselves sincere emaan in our hearts and the ultimate ability to enter Paradise after we die, then we have no choice but to strive to have hearts filled with true love for the sake of Allah.
Here are five ways that we can, bi’idhnillaah, begin this journey of teaching our hearts love for the sake of Allah, and thus sincere emaan itself:
- Build your day and life around Sabr and Salaah. In practical spiritual application, Sabr is two things: (1) displaying patience in consistently doing and saying those things that will nourish your soul in this world and in the Hereafter, and (2) displaying patience in staying away from doing and saying those things that will harm your soul in this world and in the Hereafter.
Allah says what has been translated to mean: “And seek help in Sabr and Salaah, and truly it is extremely heavy and hard except for Al-Khaashi’oon (the humbly submissive)” (Al-Baqarah, 2:45).
In seeking help through Salaah (formal prayer), you can build your entire day around the Salaah. This means that your schedule is based on the daily prayer times (i.e. you plan what you’ll do before and after prayer vs. at a specific time on the clock). And you can pray Qiyaam (the night prayer) regularly, even if for only one night each week.
Naturally, in order to benefit most from any Salaah (whether obligatory or Sunnah), you must strive for khushoo’ (sincere humility, reflection and concentration). You do this by asking Allah to make you amongst the khaashi’oon, and by spending extra time in rukoo’ and sujood, while making extra du’aa to Allah while in sujood particularly.
- Attach your heart to the Hereafter. One way to attach our hearts to the Hereafter is by reading Qur’an every day, even if only one ayah or for a few minutes. This helps soften our hard hearts, bi’idhnillaah, and put our life (and the lives of others) into proper perspective.
Allah says what has been translated to mean: “Do they not then think deeply on the Qur’an, or are their hearts locked up?” (Muhammad, 47:24). Naturally, it is impossible to think deeply on the Qur’an (and thus avoid a heart that is “locked up”) if we are not reading Allah’s Book regularly.
Here are some tips for benefiting the most from Qur’an during our daily reading:
If you come across an ayah discussing those with whom Allah is pleased, supplicate to Him and ask to be amongst them. If you come across an ayah discussing right guidance, ask to be amongst the rightly guided. If you come across an ayah discussing those who are disobedient or oppressive, ask for protection from being amongst them (as the oppressor or the oppressed). If you come across an ayah discussing Allah’s forgiveness and mercy, ask Allah for forgiveness and mercy for yourself. If you come across an ayah discussing Paradise, ask to be admitted amongst the companions of Paradise. If you come across an ayah discussing Hellfire, ask for Allah’s protection from it. If you come across an ayah that you do not understand or incites confusion, ask Allah to increase you in beneficial knowledge and understanding.
- Dhikr and du’aa throughout the day. Throughout the Qur’an and prophetic teachings, we are consistently reminded to keep our minds, hearts, and tongues in the remembrance of Allah (dhikr) and supplicating to Him (du’aa).
The practice of dhikr in particular brings calm, rest, and satisfaction to our hearts. Due to the natural trials of life, our hearts are often in a state of pain, confusion, and frustration—which then cause us to use our tongues to complain about our own lives, or about what other people are receiving or doing in theirs.
In this, we use the tongues that Allah has given us to express how unfair it is that some people have such-and-such or get to do such-and-such. We saw this tendency clearly in the examples of the man complaining about men having to provide for women, and some women complaining about men being able to marry more than one wife.
This sort of thinking and speaking is undoubtedly the result of an unsettled, troubled heart. And it is the unsettled, troubled heart that becomes distant from Allah and most prone to harboring ill feelings toward believers, and also taking issue with divine teachings themselves.
Allah says what has been translated to mean, “Those who believe, and whose hearts find rest (and satisfaction) in the dhikr of Allah, for without doubt in the dhikr of Allah do hearts find rest” (Ar-Ra’d, 13:28).
Additionally, Allah lets us know that turning away from this dhikr is a cause for us to take into our company a shaytaan (devil) as an intimate companion. He says: “And whoever turns away (or blinds himself) from dhikr of the Most Merciful, We appoint for him a devil to be an intimate companion” (Az-Zukhruf, 43:36).
It is undoubtedly the result of having this corrupt companionship that so many of us use our tongues to backbite and criticize believers, and to complain about believers enjoying the divine mercies of their Lord.
In this, our misguided intimate companion encourages us to resent believers and to disagree with (or seek to reinterpret or change) divine revelation. Meanwhile, we genuinely imagine that our feelings, complaints, and convictions are based on what we’ve seen from these people in real life or what we’ve experienced and observed in our own lives in general. But in reality, it is all coming from our nafs welcoming into our most intimate space (i.e. our hearts) a devil to urge us toward this thinking.
What will help us overcome this, bi’idhnillaah, is to instead use our tongues for dhikr instead of backbiting, expressing ungratefulness, and criticizing Allah’s teachings.
There are numerous adhkaar and supplications that we are taught in the Qur’an and prophetic teachings that can help calm and purify our hearts throughout the day. Many can be found in the book Hisnul-Muslim or Fortress of the Muslim by Sa’id bin Ali bin Wahf Al-Qahtani (published by Darussalam), which is now available via a downloadable app. And of course, we can find numerous supplications in the Qur’an itself.
Here is one dhikr in particular that (bi’idhnillaah) can help with instilling in our hearts love of our faith and the believers: Radheetu billAllaahi rabban wa bil islaami deenan wa bi muhammadin nabiyyaa (which means): “I am pleased with Allah as a Lord, Islam as a deen (way of life), and Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) as a prophet.” I discuss this dhikr in my blog: “Are You Pleased With Allah As Your Lord?”
Other adhkaar we can say throughout the day include istighfaar (seeking Allah’s forgiveness), or any glorification of Allah such as “SubhaanAllahi wa bi hamdi wa subhaanAllaahi’adheem,” as Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) taught: “Two words are beloved to the Most Merciful. They are light on the tongue but heavy on the scale: SubhaanAllaahi wa bihamdihi, wa subhaanAllahil-‘adheem. (Glory and praise to Allah, and glory to Allah the Almighty)” (Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī 7124, Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 2694).
We can also keep our tongues busy with dhikr by sending prayers of peace and blessings of Allah upon Prophet Muhammad, especially on Friday.
Allah says what has been translated to mean, “Indeed, Allah confers blessing upon the Prophet, and His angels [ask Him to do so]. O you who have believed, ask [Allah to confer] blessing upon him and ask [Allah to grant him] peace” (Al-Ahzaab, 33:56).
It was narrated from Aws ibn Aws (may Allah be pleased with him) that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said: “The best of your days is Friday. On that day Adam (peace be upon him) was created; on that day he died; on that day the Trumpet will be blown and on that day all of creation will swoon. So send a great deal of blessings upon me, for your blessings will be shown to me…” (Abu Dawood, 1047; Sahih by Ibn al-Qayyim and al-Albaani).
We can also set aside time to recite the adhkaar designated for morning and evening, for after each obligatory Salaah, and for entering and exiting the home, and so on. (Many of these prophetic supplications are listed in the Hisnul-Muslim or Fortress of the Muslim book mentioned earlier).
- Be proactive in removing ill feelings from your heart. This includes actively making du’aa and asking Allah to remove from your heart any ill feelings—whether of resentment, envy, or hatred—toward any believer, even if you genuinely don’t perceive that you have any of these ill feelings.
Moreover, being proactive in purifying our hearts from ill feelings also includes making a conscious effort to speak about and to believers in a way that inspires true love and husnu-dhann (the best assumption) in your heart. This is especially beneficial and crucial if you are reacting to a halaal decision someone has made in their lives while you find your heart disliking it or recoiling against it.
Here is du’aa from the Qur’an that can help us in removing unhealthy feelings or resentment from our hearts: “Our Lord, forgive us and our brothers who preceded us in faith and put not in our hearts [any] resentment toward those who have believed. Our Lord, indeed You are Kind and Merciful” (Al–Hashr, 59:10).
Furthermore, in seeking to remove ill feelings from our hearts, applying the rule of thumb, “If Allah says it’s okay, I have no opinion about it” (as mentioned in the blog, “In Search of True Love for Allah’s Sake”) is quite relevant and helpful, especially if we are seeking to act on the sincere love that we are praying for.
- Do not covet what people possess. When we strive to avoid having unhealthy covetousness toward what other people have, this is not only in relation to things like their wealth, lineage, and beauty. It is also in relation to what Allah has granted others with regards to their roles on earth, such as women being granted part of men’s wealth in marriage, and men being granted permission to marry up to four wives.
Allah says what has been translated to mean: “And do not covet (or wish for) that by which Allah has made some of you exceed others. For men is a share of what they have earned, and for women is a share of what they have earned. And ask Allah of his bounty. Indeed Allah is ever, of all things, Knowing” (An-Nisaa, 4:32).
A man came to the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and said, “O Messenger of Allah, guide me to such an action which, if I do, Allah will love me and the people will also love me.” The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “Have no desire for this world, and Allah will love you; and have no desire for what people possess, and the people will love you” (reported by Sahl bin Sa’d As-Sa’idi, may Allah be pleased with him [Ibn Majah]).
O Allah! We ask You to remove from our hearts any ill feelings toward our sisters and brothers in faith, and help us guard our tongues and protect the honor of each other! And we beg You to place in our hearts sincere love for Your sake, such that we sincerely and compassionately support Your believing servants in anything that You are pleased with—even if our hearts struggle to be pleased with it ourselves.
And O Allah, Al-Ghaffaar, At-Tawwaab! We beg of You that You continuously forgive us, cover our faults and sins, accept our repentance, and shower Your Mercy upon us, even though we could never deserve it! And O Allah! Al-Haadee, Ar-Rasheed! We beg of You that You guide us to the right path, and preserve us upon that which is most beloved and pleasing to You—even if in error and ignorance, our hearts seek what we imagine to be right guidance!
And, O Allah, we beg of You to take us as believers in a state of ihsaan, while reciting Your Oneness and Greatness on our tongues!
For more inspiration and advice on this topic, watch this video of the keynote speech by Umm Zakiyyah entitled, “One Ummah, One Body, One Unit”:
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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