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The Essence of Sincere Repentance






How many times has your conscience piped up to you at some time along the day with a “I should not have done that,” followed by a feeling of remorse and guilt; of wanting to undo a damage caused, of wishing for things to have gone along a better route? How many times do images of some of your past actions flash back at you, making you queasy and uncomfortable, wanting to go back to that time and living those moments again, without doing those wrong actions?

The word “taubah” in Arabic (توبة) literally means “to turn”. This word and its renditions have been used at many instances in the Qur’an, but its essence is the same: to turn towards Allah in humility after having disobeyed Him or transgressed His limits.

Allah has ordained regular repentance, or “istighfaar” – the act of seeking forgiveness from Allah – on all believers, because He has created mankind weak; i.e. all humans are innate sinners:

Man was created weak.” [Quran, Surah Al-Nisaa: 28]

The trouble with human beings is that they can never, ever reach a state in which they will not commit sins. Those  whom Allah has blessed with higher ranks of righteousness and “taqwa“, can reach a level, in which the magnanimity and regularity of their sins is greatly reduced, but no believer can ever rest at peace about not committing a sin in the future.

Abdullah bin Masood [رضى الله عنه] said, “The believer regards his sin as if he were sitting beneath a mountain which he fears may fall on him; whereas the sinner regards his sin as if a fly lands on his nose and he wipes it away.” [Mishkat and Sahih Al-Bukhari]

The state of the believer is, therefore, sometimes, that of utter anguish: he hates to disobey His Master; he wishes there was some way to guarantee that he won’t commit a sin in the future; that he won’t ever anger His Lord again – but the intelligent and knowledgeable believer knows that this is not possible. Consequently, he is never at rest about the fact that no matter how much he hates to displease Allah, there will be times when he inadvertently will.

Therefore, the wise believer takes the following proactive steps in order to minimize the regularity and severity of the sins he commits:

  • He strives to gain knowledge of the levels and types of sins. He wants to know which sins anger Allah more and which anger Him less;
  • He focuses on racing forward in good deeds, so that his book of good might outweigh his book of bad on the Day of Account-taking;
  • He tries to convey the message of Islam, commanding what is good and forbidding what is evil, to mankind in general, by any and all means available, in order to ensure that he is constantly reminded of what actions and qualities he has to stay away from;
  • He seeks to stay in the company of pious people as much as possible, so that he is able to realize his sin as soon as he commits it, and so that his chances of falling into graver sins are minimized;
  • Last but not least, he makes repentance an integral and regular part of his life, knowing that, being human, whatever sins he will inevitably commit, can not be washed away except with daily, heartfelt, sincere repentance, or taubah; and by following them up with lofty good deeds that appease Allah’s wrath.

In the Qur’an, a special mention has been in reference to taubah, describing it with a word that is mentioned elsewhere to denote the highest level of purity and sincerity – Nasoohaa.

يايها الذين امنوا توبوا الى الله توبة نصوحا

“O you, who believe, turn towards Allah with sincere repentance…” [Surah Al-Tahreem 66:8]

In the Qur’an, some of the Prophets have used another form of this word to denote their well-wishing for their nations:

“I but fulfill towards you the duties of my Lord’s mission: I am to you a sincere and trustworthy adviser (‘Naasih Ameen’).” [Surah Al-A’raaf 7:68]

The same root is used for the term “Naseehah” – pure, well-intended and sincere advice. The difference between taubah and “taubah nasoohaa“, is therefore, the level of sincerity and truth with which it is enacted. Ali Bin Abi Taalib [رضى الله عنه] describes the following 6 traits of this special kind of taubah

  • 1. Stopping the sin immediately:
    Sincere repentance can not be initiated if the believer is still committing the sin. Cessation of the wrong action is the first, prerequisite step towards repenting from it. So whether it is gheebah, slander, abuse, earning money via unlawful means (e.g. usury, indecency, tabarruj, etc.), leaving obligatory prayers, lying etc. unless the sin is abandoned, repentance can not begin.
  • 2. Feeling intense, all-enveloping regret and remorse for having committed the sin:
    This might be embodied as a state of deep sorrow, brought on by fearing Allah’s wrath and displeasure, at having done wrong. It can perhaps feel as a heavy physical burden on the chest, with an overall sense of foreboding and gloom. The higher the level of the believer’s piety, the sooner he experiences this state of anguish, and the stronger is his regret. He might cry in privacy, with deep sobs shaking his body and hot tears wetting his face, as he regrets what he has done. He can not carry on his day-to-day activities feeling like this, so he hastens to the next step.
  • 3. Confessing the sin to Allah:
    The believer usually falls immediately in prostration, or rushes to perform ablution and stand in nafl prayer. He is teetering between extreme fear of Allah’s anger and undying hope of His Mercy, as he recites the Quran with full concentration, his body humbled and submissive. His bending (rukoo) and prostration (sujood) are long and intense. His eyes are flowing with hot tears of regret. He admits to Allah that he has wronged his soul, that he has disobeyed Him.
    Alternatively, other means can be used to confess one’s sin. The believer might immediately raise his hands in du’aa in privacy, or he might recite the Qur’an, after which he can confess in silent whispers to the One closest to him, that he has committed a sin.
  • 4. Asking Allah to forgive him:
    Reciting any of the masnoon du’aas for repentance narrated from the Prophet Muhammad [صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم], or using his own words, the believer anxiously and sincerely asks Allah to forgive him.
  • 5. Resolving firmly to never commit that sin again:
    In his heart, he resolutely vows to never even go near the action that caused him so much regret and guilt; that made His Lord angry with him, ever again.
  • 6. Returning the dues to the one who was wronged or offering expiation for that sin, if necessary:
    The believer should then apologize to the person he has wronged, or return what he has unlawfully taken, if the sin he committed was one concerned with the rights of other human beings; else, he should offer expiation if it is required, if the sin he committed has a specified expiation ordained in Islam as part of repentance from it. E.g. the sin of having intercourse with one’s wife during the day in Ramadan is that of fasting 2 months consecutively or feeding sixty needy people. The taubah for leaving obligatory Ramadan fasts or Zakaah on assets in the past, for example, necessitates that the Muslim keep the missed fastsin addition togiving an expiation for them;and topay the zakaah left unpaid, during those previous years.

“I’m fine the way I am, thank you!”

Many people do not listen to words of advice or to the message of Islam, nor attend gatherings of knowledge or dhikr, because they do not want to end up feeling guilty for the way of life they are leading. They have their long-term friends, their social activities that involve unlawful things, their chosen professions, which too, have their share of impermissible aspects; they have their die-hard destructive habits and negative personality traits. They disobey Allah with a carefree abandon that they know will vanish if they agree to listen to the Qur’an or ahadith. They want to go on as they are, unbothered and complacent about life in general, without wanting to get into the nitty-gritty of halal and haram; of Islamic restrictions and worries. At times of happiness, they feel a temporary elation and euphoria that passes all too quickly; at times of loss and sorrow, they feel an aching emptiness, an abysmal dead-end that stifles them.

To these people, I say: “Where will you run from Allah? For how long will you escape Him? For how long can you delude yourself about the purpose of your life? You don’t want to give up your life, your pleasures, your desires, your friends and your stylish look for the sake of Allah, but then why do you, at times, feel so empty, so alone? Why do you sometimes ask yourself, “Is this all there is? Isn’t there more to life than just eat, drink and be merry?” Why do you feel pangs of guilt for doing wrong things? Why does the thought of death terrify you? Why do you have a feeling of impending doom, that surely ‘God’ will severely punish you one day?”

If you really feel you are better off than an ‘Islamically-restricted’ believer, with a heart that feels no remorse for disobeying your Creator, and no love for Him, no recognition of who He is and what He wants from you, you are worse off than the person who experiences bouts of regret over his sins that keep him awake at night and make him rush forth with tearful repentance!

Anas Bin Malik [رضى الله عنه] narrated: “I heard the Messenger of Allah [صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم] say, “Allah the Almighty said: O son of Adam, so long as you call upon Me and ask of Me, I shall 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, ascribing no partner to Me, I would bring you forgiveness nearly as great at it”.” [Al-Tirmidhi, no. 3608]

With the recent events in Ghazah leaving all Muslims outraged, aggrieved and confused about what brought them on, and what they can do to alleviate their brothers’ suffering in Palestine, it should be realized that the Muslim ummah must now strive to do ‘collective’ taubah or communal repentance. If each and every Muslim in the ummah today, were to repent with absolute sincerity – taubah nasoohaa – only then can we, as a whole, expect the Ever Merciful One to turn towards us again and forgive us, alleviating us from the destructive antagonistic onslaught of the non-believers and enemies of Islam.

Recommended reading: I Want To Repent, But……

What did you do to endeavor to have your repentance accepted by Allah? Any poignant moment in your life, when you felt overwhelmingly humbled and close to your Creator, convinced that He had accepted your taubah? Share your story with us by leaving a comment below.

Sadaf Farooqi is a postgraduate in Computer Science who has done the Taleem Al-Quran Course from Al-Huda International, Institute of Islamic Education for Women, in Karachi, Pakistan. 11 years on, she is now a homeschooling parent of three children, a blogger, published author and freelance writer. She has written articles regularly for Hiba Magazine, SISTERS Magazine and Saudi Gazette. Sadaf shares her life experiences and insights on her award-winning blog, Sadaf's Space, and intermittently teaches subjects such as Fiqh of Zakah, Aqeedah, Arabic Grammar, and Science of Hadith part-time at a local branch of Al-Huda. She has recently become a published author of a book titled 'Traversing the Highs and Lows of Muslim Marriage'. For most part, her Jihad bil Qalam involves juggling work around persistent power breakdowns and preventing six chubby little hands from her computer! Even though it may not seem so, most of her time is spent not in doing all this, but in what she loves most - reading.



  1. Avatar

    Sister in Islam

    February 6, 2009 at 12:59 AM

    Assalamu alaikum wrb, Jazakallahu khair for this lovely piece of knowledge. Great reading on the day of Jummah!!

  2. Avatar


    February 6, 2009 at 11:22 AM

    Assalamu Alaikum
    this is pritty much it,mashaallah u have described very clearly. and i do beleive that the question we all should
    be asking ourselves is “what we have done wrong?” other than looking for a guilty

  3. Avatar


    February 6, 2009 at 4:36 PM

    Asalamu alaykum.

    MashaAllah. May Allah give us the tawfique to do acts of worship to obtain His Love and Pleasure. I remember when I wasn’t praying salah at all or practicing too much back when I was in high school. Then I read the entire translation of the Qur’an one summer and there were so many instances of feeling fear, hope and love of Allah during that period, alhamdulillah, so ever since then I started to practice. One verse I recall that really touched me (out of the many) was:

    And when it is said to them, “Come to what Allah has revealed and to the Messenger,” you see the hypocrites turning away from you in aversion. [4:61]

    I remember considering where I belonged when reading these verses.. and I knew I needed to make some changes.

  4. Avatar

    Umme Ammaarah

    February 6, 2009 at 6:00 PM

    Assalamu-alaikum and MashaAllah sister. we all need a regular dose of this particular kind of reminder. May Allah make us of those who actually are remorseful enough about their sins to spend the night shedding tears in front of Allah and asking forgiveness.

  5. Avatar


    February 6, 2009 at 6:11 PM

    1. Stopping the sin immediately:
    Sincere repentance can not be initiated if the believer is still committing the sin. Cessation of the wrong action is the first, prerequisite step towards repenting from it.

    I guess, this is what is most difficult to do for a lot of people. Sure, we feel bad about the sin we are engaged in, and ask Allah to forgive us, but don’t stop doing it giving ourselves the justification that ‘we are not going to do it again’, ‘we needed to commit this haram act because this the way it works in my country e.g., bribing,lying to the govt.’, ‘i am comitting this sin for a later greater good’. May Allah stop us from being this person.

    and yeah,’what you don’t know about will not take away your peace of mind’ is a preTTy common defence mechanism, esp rampant in the when it comes to halal food. People don’t want to find out what’s in the food they eat because they’re scared they may have to give it up or atleast live with the feeling that they’re more concerned with pleasing their taste buds than pleasing Allah.

    and yeah, may Allah not make us of those who judge people for their sins while they commit it themselves.

  6. Avatar

    Umme Ammaarah

    February 6, 2009 at 6:51 PM

    Things that work for me:

    1. Reminding myself of the ayah – ‘I have not created men and jinn except to worship Me.’ surah 51 Al Dhariyat . If u really think about this verse, u will feel that everything u do except the time u spend in worship of Allah (ritual/otherwise) is such a loss

    2. Reminding myself of the punishment for a particular sin – i kept reminding myself that the difference between a kafir and a muslim is ‘Salah’, and it made my laziness for Salah go away Alhamdulillah

    3. Using other ppl as an alarm: Me and my sister were trying to banish ‘gheebah’ from our lives and made a pact that if any of us started to so gheebah the other would just say ‘G’ – it was unnoticeable for the most part to others, it stopped you, it wasnt as rude as saying ‘stop that, u’re comitting a sin’ so nobody would get defensive, and u got ajr as an added perk for stopping somebody else from sinning.

    4. watching HudaTV and PeaceTV regularly – ( ;) for those of us not lucky enough to be in the company of these wonderful shuyookh in real time, a lot of the time. links: ,

  7. Avatar

    Umme Ammaarah

    February 6, 2009 at 7:00 PM

    Things that work for me:

    1. reminding myself of the ayah – ‘I have not created men and jinn except to worship Me.’ surah 51 Al Dhariyat . If u sit down and think about this ayah, u will feel like all the time u spend doing stuff other that ibaadah (ritual/otherwise) is such a loss

    2. Reminding myself of the punishment ordained for the particular sin : I was kind of lazy when it came to Salah and when i learnt and then, kept reminding myself that the only thing that separates a believer froma non-believer is Salah, Alhamdulillah, my laziness went away

    3. Using the people around you as alarms – My sister and i wanted to quit gheebah, and so we made a pasct that if any of us started, the other would say aloud ‘G’ – it was mostly unnoticeable to others, it stopped u from going on, it didnt make u defensive like the statement ‘stop that sin’ would make you, and u earned ajr for stopping the pther person from comitting a sin.

    4. watching a lot of HudaTV and Peace TV. – ( ;) for those of us who are not lucky enough to be in the company of these wonderful shuyookh in real time, a lot of the time. MashaAllah, these have really made a difference in my life, they are my anti-depressants, my personal pep-uppers. May Allah reward these efforts and bless us with many more like these. links – ,

  8. Avatar

    Abdul Vakil

    February 6, 2009 at 7:07 PM

    As-salaamu ‘alaikum wa Rahmatullah,

    Tabarak’Allah ta’ala! Jazak’Allah khair and Barak’Allah feek for discoursing on a subject so very critical to our standing with our Rabb, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala. Ma’sha’Allah, every principle touched on here has been sequenced and outlined seamlessly. May all those who set eyes on this article or strive to increase their understanding and intimacy with this topic benefit immensely. Ameen ya Rabb.

    Fi amaani Allah

  9. Avatar

    Mohammad S,

    February 6, 2009 at 10:12 PM

    Alhamdulillah! Just in time!

  10. Avatar

    Abd- Allah

    February 6, 2009 at 11:44 PM

    The prophet Muhammad peace be upon him said: “Fear Allah wherever you are, and follow up a bad deed with a good one and it will wipe it out, and behave well towards people.” (Tirmithi)

  11. Avatar

    nighat shah

    February 7, 2009 at 12:34 AM

    assalam alaykum sister sadaf,mashallah concience gaining article for many ppl,may ALLAH show us the right path and good company so that v can repent and seek his forgiveness on time……..

  12. Avatar

    Sadaf Farooqi

    February 7, 2009 at 10:46 AM

    Wa Alaikumus Salam Wa Rahmatullahi Wa Barakaatuhu,
    Jazaakumullah readers for your input and feedback. Especially to Brother Khalil and Umm Ammarah. We can learn from each other’s experiences so much, especially by knowing what made others like us come towards Allah. Whoever will read this article in the future might get an incentive to turn back to Allah and give up a life of disobedience, if they realize that others have been through the same path before them. We all are, literally, sinners, and we need reassurance from each other that hope is not lost — we can turn back towards Allah in sincerity any time, and will find Him Most Forgiving, insha’Allah. As long as we are sincere in our taubah!

  13. Avatar


    February 8, 2009 at 1:25 AM

    Assalamu alaikum,

    I thought, as Muslims we are supposed to conceal our sins, so as not to propagate them.

    Any way, I am asking for advice here. There is too much fitnah going on at our masjid these days. The sister’s circuit is particularly active in talking about brothers from two opposing parties. People are hurling accusations about good brothers. I realized that if I go to the masjid, it is impossible to avoid getting involved. I too am guilty of saying more than I wanted to. Therefore, I have stopped going to the masjid. This is causing even more guilt.

    I went to the masjid last week after a month. There was only one more sister for Ishaa. I thought “good!” After salah ended, this one sister asked me about 12 questions I did not want to answer. It was very difficult to get out of there politely, without gettin involved in a conversation.
    Yesteray, I went to my first Jumah after a long time. Mashallah, it was like drinking water after being thirsty for a long time. Inevitably, I got involved in 2 conversations I should not have had. This happened even before pryaying sunnah.
    Now I am contemplating what to do. I can’t stay away from the masjid, and can’t go there.

    • Avatar


      May 23, 2010 at 7:56 AM


      masjid is a beautiful place… and acts like these are prohibited… even outside the masjid…

      just tell them u will not take part in the conversation that requires to talk about the negatives of other people. here are some comment

      lets let Allah judge …. i have enough actions of my own to ponder over
      you know that brother has so and so good quality did u know
      sister think about wat ur asking me and what could be wrong with it.
      The prophet pbuh told people not to reports to him others faults and weaknesses… lets follow his sunnah

      sometimes silence with a stern face…. also shuts people up really well

      hope this helps

  14. Avatar


    February 8, 2009 at 2:20 AM

    Wa Alaikumus Salam Sister Shahgul.

    You are right about concealing sins. We are asking readers to share with us their moments of taubah – how they felt when they turned to Allah, what they did to connect to Him (dua at night, long prostration, anything else?) and how they tried to rush forward in good deeds after that. Such stories provide inspiration to others to change their lives and come back towards a life of piety. Many people go through these defining moments in their lives, after which a visible change appears in their persona as Allah guides them to the right path, alhamdulillah.

    As for your problem – it really is the greatest fitnah today that Muslims are disunited. They are the first to hurl verbal attacks at their own brothers – even those who are doing good work by calling others to Islam – than at the enemies of Islam. I mean, who’d need enemies to do anything when we can trust our own fellow Muslims to tear us apart to shreds? The best way of avoiding this fitnah is to not answer these questions when anyone asks you. Please do continue going to the mosque, but when put on the spot, just say, “I’d like to not comment on this.” If you are firm in this stance, people will soon leave you alone, insha’Allah. Also, having unnecessary conversations at the mosque is something that should be avoided, especially at the Jumuah congregation.

    Allah knows best.

  15. Avatar


    February 8, 2009 at 1:14 PM

    JazakAllahu khairan for this inspiring article!

  16. Avatar


    February 8, 2009 at 6:10 PM

    Jazakallah Khair, Sadaf. I will try, inshallah.

  17. Avatar


    February 8, 2009 at 7:38 PM


    “I’m fine the way I am, thank you!”
    that’s one of the biggest evils around :( :(

    great observation and awesome article.. a note of satisfaction for those who really understand what it means to sincerely repent!
    Jak. Ws.

  18. Avatar

    Abd- Allah

    February 8, 2009 at 7:49 PM

    ““I’m fine the way I am, thank you!”
    that’s one of the biggest evils around ”

    I agree. If we think we are perfect then we will never improve..

  19. Avatar


    May 24, 2010 at 1:48 AM


    i was working on a presentation can i take some information in my presentation

  20. Avatar


    July 17, 2015 at 6:31 AM

    V much needed thanks it helped

  21. Pingback: The Way of the Believers after Ramadan – Chapter Three [Part 7] | Verse By Verse Qur'an Study Circle

  22. Avatar

    DR.Fiaz Fazili

    December 4, 2015 at 12:05 AM


  23. Avatar


    March 17, 2016 at 10:22 AM

    Salam everyone. Today, I have knowingly committed one of the highest level of sins, and that is fitnah. Due to having a minor argument with a close friend, I was determined to get her to talk to me again and hence, I made up a story about an acquaintance in order to gain back her attention and to be in my side after not talking to her for a mere 2 days. Even though my intentions for getting to talk to me worked in the end as the sympathized with the tweaked story I had “made up”, i know that this guilt I would have to carry and burden myself with for a long time. I love my best friend dearly and I feel utterly remorseful for what I had done in order to get her attention back. What should I do the next time I am tempted to do so again if I ever do so(Allah swt forbid)? Astaghfirullah. Begging for forgiveness and immersing myself in Quran readings is definitely going to be my utmost priority in order to burden my heart a little less. May we all be forgiven for our sins, Aamin.

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The Day I Die | Imam Omar Suleiman

Imam Omar Suleiman



Janazah, funeral, legacy, Omar Suleiman, Edhi

Imam Ahmad Ibn Hanbal (may Allah be pleased with him) in the midst of the torture he endured at the hands of his oppressors used to say: baynana wa baynahum aljanaa’iz, which means, “the difference between us and them will show in our funerals.” The man who instigated the ideological deviation that led to his torture was an appointed judge named Ahmad Ibn Abi Du’ad. At the moment of Imam Ahmad Ibn Hanbal making those remarks, it appeared Imam Ahmad would die disgraced in a dungeon but Ahmad Ibn Abi Du’ad would have a state funeral with thousands of mourners. Instead, Imam Ahmad persevered through his struggle, was embraced by the people, and honored by Allah with the biggest Janazah ever known to the Arabs with millions of people pouring in from all over. Ahmad Ibn Abu Du’ad was cast aside and buried without anyone attending his janazah out of revulsion.

Now sometimes righteous people do die in isolation, and wicked people are given grand exits. There are people like Uthman Ibn Affan (may Allah be pleased with him) who was murdered by the people of fitnah, then buried at night far away from the people out of fear of the large numbers that would’ve poured out to his janazah and potentially mobilized against his oppressors. But it may be that Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He)  inspired Imam Ahmad with the vision to see his victory in this life before the next. To elaborate a bit on his statement though, allow me to reflect:

A wise man once said to me,

“Always put your funeral in front of you, and work backwards in constructing your life accordingly.” 

With the deaths of righteous people, that advice always advances to the front of my thoughts. When a person passes away, typically only good things will be said of them. But it’s important to pay attention to 2 aspects about those good things being said:

1. Is there congruence in the particular good quality being attested to about the deceased.

2. Are those good qualities being attested to actually truly of the deceased. 

The first one deals with consistency of character, the second one with sincerity of intention which is only known by the Creator and His servant. In regards to the first one, take our sister Hodan Nalayeh (may Allah have mercy on her) who was murdered tragically last week in a terrorist attack in Somalia. Everyone that spoke of her said practically the same thing about how she interacted with them and/or benefitted them. There is complete harmony with all of the testimonies about her. And in that case we all become the witnesses of our sister on the day of judgment, testifying to her good character.

For many that pass away, neither the deceased nor the community fully appreciates the way they benefitted others until that day. It was narrated that when Zainul Abideen Ali Ibn Al Husayn (may Allah be pleased with them), the great grandson of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) passed away, he had marks on his shoulders from the bags he used to carry to the doorsteps of the poor at night when no one else was watching. The narrations state that the people of Madinah used to live off his charity not knowing the source of it until his death.

How many people will miss you when you die because of the joy you brought to their lives? How many of those that you comforted when they were abandoned by others? That you spent on when they were deprived by others? That you advocated for when they were oppressed by others? 

Will your family miss you because of an empty bed in the home or a deep void in their hearts? Will it be the loss of your spending only that grieves them, or the loss of your smile? Will it be the loss of the stability you provided them only, or the loss of your service and sacrifices for them?

But Zainul Abideen didn’t care for the recipients of his charity to know that he was the source of it, because He was fully in tune with it’s true Divine source. He didn’t want to be thanked in this world, but in the next. He didn’t want the eulogy, he wanted Eternity. 

He understood that if you become distracted by the allure of this world, you may merely become of it. Focus on bettering the future which you cannot escape, rather than the present that you cannot dictate. Focus on the interview with the One who needs no resume, rather than the judgments of those who are just as disposable as you. 

اللَّهُمَّ اجْعَلْ خَيْرَ زَمَانِيْ آخِرَهُ، وَخَيْرَ عَمَلِيْ خَوَاتِمَهُ، وَخَيْرَ أَيَّامِيْ يِوْمَ أَلقَاكَ

“O Allah, let the best of my lifetime be its ending, and my best deed be that which I seal [my life with], and the best of my days the day I meet You.”

Which brings us to the second aspect of your funeral, the sincerity of the good you’re being praised for. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “increase your remembrance of the destroyer of pleasures.” Death only destroys the temporary pleasures of this world, not the pleasure of the Most Merciful in the next. Keeping that in perspective will help you work towards that without being distracted. If it is the praise of the people you seek, that is as temporary as the world that occupies both your worldly vehicle ie. your body, and your companions in this world who shall perish soon after you.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) mentioned the one who passes away with the people lavishing praise on him that he is unworthy of. In a narration in Al Tirmidhi, the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “No one dies and they stand over him crying and saying: ‘Oh what a great man he was! Oh how honored he was!’ except that two angels are appointed for him to poke him and say: Is that really you?”

But if it is Allah’s praise that you sought all along, the deeds that you put forth shall await you in your grave in the form of heavenly ornaments. Those that were known to the community, those that were known to only a select few, and those that were known by no one but Allah and you.

May Allah give us all a good ending, and an even better eternity.

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The Spirituality Of Gratitude

Shaykh Tarik Ata




The Quran tells the reader of the importance of gratitude in two ways. First, worship, which is the essence of the relationship between man and the Creator, is conditional to gratitude “and be grateful to Allah if it is [indeed] Him that you worship” (2:172). The verse suggests that in order for an individual to truly worship Allah then they must express gratitude to Allah and that an ungrateful individual cannot be a worshiper of Allah. The second verse states the following “And be grateful to Me and do not deny Me” (2:152). The Arabic word used, translated here as ‘deny,’ is kufr which linguistically means to cover up. The word was adopted by the Quran to refer to someone who rejects Allah after learning of Him. Both the linguistic and Quranic definitions are possibly meant in this verse and both arrive at the same conclusion. That is, the absence of gratitude is an indicator of one’s rejection of Allah; the question is how and why?

What Does Shukr Mean?

Understanding a Quranic concept begins with understanding the word chosen by the Quran. The word shukr is used throughout the Quran and is commonly translated as gratitude. From a purely linguistic definition, shukr is “the effect food has on the body of an animal” (Ibn Qayyim v. 2 p. 200). What is meant here is that when an animal eats food it becomes heavier which has a clear and visible effect on the animal. Therefore, shukr is the manifestation of a blessing or blessings on the entirety of a person. From here, spiritualists understood the goal of shukr and added an extra element to the definition and that is the acknowledgment that those blessings are from Allah. Thus, the definition of shukr as an Islamic spiritual concept is “the manifestation of Allah’s blessings verbally through praise and acknowledgment; emotionally on the heart through witnessing the blessings and loving Allah; and physically through submission and servitude” (Ibid).

Based on this definition, the goal of shukr can be broken into five categories. First, gratitude that brings about the submission of the individual to his benefactor. In order for an act to be worthy of gratitude, the beneficiary must conclude that the benefactor’s action was done for the sake of the beneficiary – thus making the benefactor benevolent. In other words, the benefactor is not benefiting in the least (Emmons et al 2004 p. 62). When the individual recognizes his benefactor, Allah, as being completely independent of the individual and perfect in of himself, one concludes that the actions of the benefactor are purely in the best interest of the beneficiary resulting in the building of trust in Allah. The Quran utilizes this point multiple times explicitly stating that Allah has nothing to gain from the creations servitude nor does he lose anything from because of their disobedience (Q 2:255, 4:133, 35:15, 47:38). Through shukr, a person’s spirituality increases by recognizing Allah’s perfection and their own imperfection thus building the feeling of need for Allah and trust in him (Emmons et al 2002 p. 463).

Gratitude in Knowing That Allah Loves Us

The second category is love for the benefactor. Similar to the previous category, by identifying the motive of the benefactor one can better appreciate their favors. “Gratitude is fundamentally a moral affect with empathy at its foundation: In order to acknowledge the cost of the gift, the recipient must identity with the psychological state of the one who has provided it” (Emmons 2002 p. 461).[1] That is, by recognizing Allah’s perfection one concludes that his blessings are entirely in the best interest of the beneficiary despite not bringing any return to Him. Thus, the Quran utilizes this concept repeatedly and to list a few, the Quran reminds the human reader that he created the human species directly with his two hands (38:75), he created them in the best physical and mental form (95:4), gave him nobility (17:70), commanded the angels to prostrate to him out of reverence (38:72-3), made him unique by giving him knowledge and language (2:31), exiled Satan who refused to revere him (7:13), allowed him into Paradise (7:19), forgave his mistake (2:37), designated angels to protect each individual (13:11) and supplicate Allah to forgive the believers (40:7-9), created an entire world that caters to his needs (2:29), among plenty of other blessings which express Allah’s love, care, and compassion of the human.

The remaining three categories revolve around the individual acting upon their gratitude by acknowledging them, praising Allah for them and using them in a manner acceptable to Allah. In order for gratitude to play a role in spirituality the blessings one enjoys must be utilized in a manner that connects them with Allah. Initially, one must acknowledge that all blessings are from him thus establishing a connection between the self and Allah. This is then elevated to where the individual views these blessings as more than inanimate objects but entities that serve a purpose. By doing this one begins to see and appreciate the wisdoms behind these created entities enlightening the individual to the Creators abilities and qualities. Finally, after recognizing the general and specific wisdoms behind each creation, one feels a greater sense of purpose, responsibility, and loyalty. That is, engaging the previous five categories establishes love for the benefactor (Ibn Qayyim v. 2 p. 203). Observing the care and compassion of the benefactor for his creation establishes the feeling of loyalty towards the one who has cared for us as well as responsibility since He created everything with purpose.

Blessings Even in Hardship

One may interject by referring to the many individuals and societies that are plagued with hardships and do not have blessings to appreciate. No doubt this is a reality and the Quran address this indirectly. Upon analysis, one finds that the blessings which the Quran references and encourages the reader to appreciate are not wealth or health; rather, it is the sun, the moon, trees, and the natural world in general. Perhaps the reason for this is what shukr seeks to drive us towards. There are two things all these objects have in common (1) they are gifts given by Allah to all humans and all individuals enjoy them and (2) humans are dependent upon them. Everyone has access to the sun, no one can take it away, and we are critically dependent upon it. When the Quran draws our attention to these blessings, the reader should begin to appreciate the natural world at a different level and Surah an Nahl does precisely that. This chapter was likely revealed during the time of hijrah (immigration); a time when the companions lost everything – their homes, wealth, and tribes. The chapter works to counsel them by teaching them that the true blessings a person enjoys is all around them and no matter how much was taken from them, no one can take away the greater blessings of Allah.

In sum, these verses bring light to the crucial role shukr plays in faith. It serves as a means to better know Allah which can be achieved through a series of phases. First, the individual must search for the blessings which then leads to a shift in perspective from focusing on the wants to focusing on what is available. This leads to greater appreciation and recognition of the positives in one’s life allowing the person more optimism. Second, the person must link those blessings to the benefactor – Allah – which reveals many elements of who He is and His concern for His creation. Once this is internalized in the person’s hearts, its benefits begin to manifest itself on the person’s heart, mind, and body; it manifests itself in the form of love for Allah and submission to him. Shukr ultimately reveals the extent of Allah’s love and concern for the individual which therein strengthens the trust and love of the individual for Allah and ultimately their submission to Him.

Allah knows best.

Emmons, Robert A., and Charles M. Shelton. “Gratitude and the science of positive psychology.” Handbook of positive psychology 18 (2002): 459-471.

Emmons, Robert A., and Michael E. McCullough, eds. The psychology of gratitude. Oxford University Press, 2004.

Jawziyyah, Ibn Qayyim. madārij al-sālikīn bayn manāzil iyyāka naʿbud wa iyyāka nastaʿīn مدارج السالكين بين منازل إياك نعبد وإياك نستعين [The Levels of Spirituality between the Dynamics of “It is You Alone we Worship and it is You Alone we Seek Help From]. Cario: Hadith Publications, 2005.

[1] Islamically speaking, it is not befitting to claim that Allah has a psyche or that he can be analyzed psychologically.

Download a longer version of this article here: The Sprituality of Gratitude

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When Faith Hurts: Do Good Deeds = Good Life?

Loving Allah and trusting the Wisdom and Purpose in everything He throws your way- even if it hurts. It is a time to learn.

Zeba Khan



hurts, hardship. Allah, test, why Allah is testing me

The Messenger of Allahṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said that the faith in our hearts wears out the way our clothes wear out. Deterioration, maintenance, and renewal are part of the cycle.  That’s life with all that hurts. That’s normal.

But what happens when that’s life, but life is not your normal? What happens when it feels like life isn’t normal, hasn’t been normal, and won’t be normal for a foreseeably long time?  For some of us, refreshing faith becomes secondary to just keeping it.

It’s easier to say Alhamdulillah when you are happy. It’s harder when you’re not. That’s human nature though. There’s nothing wrong with that, but there is something wrong with what we teach about faith that can leave us unprepared for when Allah tests it. I believe that our discussions about faith tend to be overly simplistic. They revolve around a few basic concepts, and are more or less summed up with:

Faith = Happiness

Righteousness = Ease

Prayer = Problem Solved

Good Deeds Equals Good Life?

Basically, the TLDR is Good Deeds = The Good Life. None of these statements are technically untrue. The sweetness of faith is a joy that is beyond any other gratitude, for any other thing in this world. Righteousness in the sight of Allah will put you on the path to the good life in the afterlife. Making dua can be the solution to your problems. But when we say these things to people who have true faith but not happiness, or righteous behavior yet distressing hardship, we’re kind of implying that that either Islam is broken (because their prayers seem unanswered), or they are broken (because their prayers are undeserving of answers.) And neither of those is true either.

Allow me to elaborate. I think it’s safe to say that there is not a single parent who has not begged Allah to make their sick or disabled child well again. Yet, our Ummah still has sick and disabled children. Through history, people have begged Allah for a loved one’s life, and then buried them – so is prayer not equal to problem solved?

Many righteous people stand up, and are then ostracized for their faith. Many people speak truth in the face of a tyrant only to be punished for it. Many of us live with complete conviction, with unshakeable belief in the existence and wisdom and mercy of Allah, and still find ourselves unhappy and afraid of what He has willed for us.

Are We Broken?

No, but our spiritual education is. In order to fix it, we have to be upfront with each other. We have to admit that we can be happy with Allah and still find ourselves devastated by the tests He puts before us, because faith is not a protection from struggle.

Has anyone ever said this to you? Have you ever said this to anyone else?

No one ever told me. It was hard for me to learn that lesson on my own, when I pleaded with Allah to make my son’s autism go away, and it didn’t. Everyone told me –Make dua! The prayer of a mother for her child is special! Allah will never turn you down!

It was hard trying to make sense of what seemed like conflicting messages- that Allah knows best, but a mother’s prayer is always answered. It was even harder facing people who tried to reassure me of that, even when it obviously wasn’t working.

“Just make dua! Allah will respond!”

I’m sure people mean well. But it’s hard not to be offended. Either they assume I have never bothered to pray for my son, or they imply that there must be good reason why Allah’s not granting to my prayers. What they don’t consider is that allowing my test to persist – even if I don’t want it to- is also a valid response from Allah.

I have been told to think back in my life, and try to determine what sin caused my child’s disability, as if the only reason why Allah wouldn’t give me what I asked for was because I was so bad I didn’t deserve it. As if good deeds equaled the good life, and if my life wasn’t good, it’s because I hadn’t been good either.

Bad Things Happen to Good People

You can assume whatever you like about my character, but bad things do happen to good people, even when they pray. You can try your hardest and still fall short. You can pray your whole life for something that will never come to you. And strength of faith in that circumstance doesn’t mean living in a state of unfulfilled hope, it means accepting the wisdom in the test that Allah has decreed for you.

That’s a bit uncomfortable, isn’t it.  When we talk about prayer and hope, we prefer to talk about Zakariyyah 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) – who begged Allah for a child and was gifted with one long after anyone thought it even possible. But we also need to talk about Abu Talib.

The Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) was raised by his uncle Abu Talib, and in his mission to preach Islam he was protected by Abu Talib.  But Abu Talib died without accepting Islam, was there something wrong with the Prophet, that Allah did not give him what he asked for? Was he not good enough? Did he not pray hard enough? Astaghfirullah, no. So if Prophets of God can ask for things and still not get them, why are we assuming otherwise for ourselves?

Making a Bargain with Allah

If we can understand that faith is not a contract for which we trade prayers for services, then maybe we can cope better when fate cannot be bargained with. Maybe it won’t have to hurt so bad – on spiritual level – when Allah withholds what we ask for, even when we asked for the “right” things in the right way and at all the right times.

Life is not simple. Faith is not simple. The will of Allah is not simple, no matter how much we want it to be, and when oversimplify it, we create a Muslim version of Prosperity Gospel without meaning to.

If you’ve never heard of it, prosperity gospel is a religious belief among some Christians that health and wealth and success are the will of God, and therefore faith, good deeds and charity increase one’s wellbeing. Have faith, and God will reward you in this life and the next. That’s nice. But it’s too simple. Because the belief that Good Deeds = The Good Life doesn’t explain how Ibraheem 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him)’s father tried to have him burnt alive.

Yusuf 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him)’s brothers left him for dead in the bottom of a well. He grew up a slave and spent years in prison for a crime he did not commit. Aasiya 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) – the wife of the Pharoah – one of the four best women in the history of womankind – died from her husband’s torture.

Good people are not guaranteed good lives. Islam is what we need, not a system of practices that we use to fulfill our needs.

When we limit our understanding of faith to a simplistic, almost contractual relationship with Allah, then we can’t even explain the things that Allah Tested His own prophets with.

Nor can we understand, or even begin to cope with- what He Tests the rest of us with either. We have to be real in our talk about faith, because otherwise we set each other up for unrealistic expectations and lack of preparation for when we face hardship. Faith is not protection from hardship. Faith is part of hardship. And hardship is part of faith.

Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) asks us in the opening of Surah ‘Ankabut,

Do people think once they say, “We believe,” that they will be left without being put to the test? We certainly tested those before them. And ˹in this way˺ Allah will clearly distinguish between those who are truthful and those who are liars.

Allah says in Surah Baqarah, ayah 155: “And most certainly shall We try you by means of danger, and hunger, and loss of worldly goods, of lives and of the fruits of your labor. But give glad tidings to those who are patient in adversity.

tests, hurts, faith , hardship

Allah Tests Everyone Differently

Allah tests each of us differently, but in every single case – every single time – a test is an invitation to success. Hardship is the process through which we prove ourselves. Experiencing it– and then drawing closer to Allah through it –is how faith is tested as well as strengthened.

If we can change how we perceive hardship, then we can also change how we perceive each other. On our cultural subconscious, we still see worldly failure as being equivalent to spiritual failure. So when we see people who are homeless, we assume fault. When we see people facing depression or divorce, we assume fault. We even look at refugees and victims and special needs children and we look for fault. Because if it’s that bad then it’s has to be someone’s fault, right?

Fault is how we place blame. Blame is how we know whose mistake it is. But the will of Allah is never a mistake, it’s a test.  Instead of faulting each other for what Allah tests us with, we could respect each other for the struggles we all endure. We could see each other with more compassion for our challenges, and less aversion when Allah tests us with dealing each other.

So when you’ve done things the right way, but the right things aren’t happening. Or you’ve been charitable to others, and they’re being evil towards you. Or you’ve earned only halal, but haram- it’s been taken away from you, remember this- your faith is being tested. Allah tests those that He loves. When He raises the difficulty level, Allah is extending a direct invitation for you to climb higher.

So How Do We Succeed When Faced With Failure?

The first thing to do is redefine failure. There is only one true failure in this life, and that is dying on the wrong side of Siraat ul Mustaqeem, because if close your eyes and wake up in Jahannam, no success in this life can compensate for that.

I find that helpful to remember, when I fail to stay fit because I can’t exercise without hurting myself, when I fail to fast in Ramadan because it’s dangerous for me to do so- when I fail to discover a cure for my family’s personal assortment of medical issues through rigorous internet “research,” none of that is my failure either. And I can feel a lot of different ways about these situations, but I do not feel guilty- because it’s not my fault. And I do not feel bitter, because my test is my honor. Even when I do feel scared.

Being scared in not a failure either. Neither is being unemployed. Being unmarried is not a failure. Being childless is not a failure. Being divorced is not a failure. Nothing unpleasant or miserable or unexpected is a failure. It’s all just a test, and seeing it as a test means you have the state of mind to look for the correct answers.

Not even sin is failure, because as long as you are alive, your sin stands as an invitation to forgiveness. The bigger the sin, the greater the blessings of repenting from it.  Everything that goes bad is the opening of the door for good. A major sin can be the first step on a journey that starts with repentance and moves you closer to Allah every day thereafter. Sin only becomes failure when it takes you farther away from Allah, rather than closer to him.

Jahannam is the Only Failure

Addiction is not a failure. Depression is not a failure. Poverty is not a failure. Jahannam is the only failure. Everything else is a gap in expectations.

You assumed you would have something, but it’s not written for you. You assumed you’d ask Allah for something and He’d give it to you, but what is that assumption based on again? That good deeds are the guarantee to the good life, and that prayer equals problem solved?

Allah has all the knowledge, Allah has the wisdom, Allah is the best of Planners – how are you assuming that your wishes supersede His will? Even when you put your wishes in the form of a prayer?

They don’t. It is absolutely true that Allah may choose to rewrite Qadr itself based on your prayers – but that’s still His choice. Allah has always, and will always be in control of this world. And that means your world too. If you still think you’re in control, you will find it really, really hard to cope the first time you realize you’re not.

When we understand that we don’t get to control what happens and what doesn’t, we can then release ourselves from the misplaced guilt of things going wrong.  Lots of special needs parents struggle with guilt. I meet them often – and every single parent has asked the question- directly or indirectly-

What did I do for my child to deserve this?

Can you hear the presumption in there? That the parents were good, so why did something bad happen? They were expecting for good deeds to equal the good life.

There’s a second presumption in there too, that their life choices were a determining factor of what happened to their child. That is a presumption of control. And as long as you try to hold on to that presumption of control, there is the constant feeling of failure when it just doesn’t work the way you think it will.

I am not proposing that we lose hope in Allah and despair of His Mercy. I am in no way insinuating that Allah doesn’t hear every prayer, hasn’t counted every tear, and isn’t intimately aware of your pain and your challenges. Allah hears your prayers, and in His wisdom, sometimes he grants us exactly what we want. In His Wisdom, sometimes he grants us exactly what we need.

Even if we don’t see it.

Even if it scares us.

Even if it hurts us – because Allah has promised that He will never, ever break us.

hurts, hardship, special needs

Allah Tests Us in His Mercy

I am proposing that we put trust in the wisdom of Allah, and understand that when He tests us, that is part of his mercy, not a deviation from it. When He grants something to us, that is part of His mercy, and when he withholds something from us, that too is part of His Mercy, even if we don’t like it. Even when we ask Him to take it away.

The third thing I would like to propose, is that we correct our understanding of – Fa Inna Ma’Al usri yusraa, Inna Ma’al usri yusra.

So verily, definitely, for sure- with hardship there is ease. Again, Inna – for sure, with hardship there is ease.

I’m sure lots of you have said this to people you loved, or to yourself when you’re struggling with something and you’re just trying to get through it. But did you mean that this hardship will end, and then things will be good again? Like as soon as things have been hard for a while, Allah will make them easy again?

Would you believe that’s not really what that means? Ma’a means with, not after. With this hardship, there is ease. And maybe you’re like aww man, but I wanted the ease! I want the hardship to go away and Allah I’m ready for my ease now!

But that hardship, will bring you ease. Allah does not tell us what the ease will be, or when it will be- but He says it’s there, so trust Him. Even if you can’t see it right away, or in this life –it will become apparent.

I can tell you some of the ease I found with mine.

Learning When It Hurts

When my son was diagnosed with autism, my husband and I had to drop everything. We dropped our plans to save, to travel, and to live the charmed life of neurotypical parents whose only fears are that their children may grow up and NOT become Muslim doctors. We spent our earnings and our savings and our time and our nights and our tears and Alhamdulillah, we learned patience. We learned perspective. We learned compassion.

We really learned what we thought we already knew – about unconditional love and acceptance. We learned to be bigger than our fears, and smaller than our own egos. We learned to give and take help. We learn to accept what wisdom our cultures could offer us, and respectfully decline what did not. We learn to set boundaries and make rules that did justice by our children and our family, regardless of whether they were popular. With hardship comes ease.

When we couldn’t afford therapy for my son, my husband and I founded a not for profit organization in the UAE that provided it for my son and dozens of other people’s sons and daughters. Three and a half years ago I left that organization to seek better educational opportunities for my son here in the US, but it’s still running. The seed that our challenges planted has grown into something beyond us. With our hardship came ease for ourselves and others as well.

When I was diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, my health issues were upgraded from challenging to permanent. I had to rethink how I lived, how I planned, how I dressed, and even – my relationship with Allah. But if I had never been sick, I would never have started writing. When it hurt, I wrote. When I was scared, I wrote. When I was lonely, I wrote. And by and by the grindstone of fear and sickness and frustration sharpened my skills. Where I am today both spiritually and professionally – is actually a direct result of both autism and chronic illness. With hardship comes ease.

I don’t like my hardships, but I don’t have to. You don’t have to either. Being a good Muslim doesn’t always mean being a happy Muslim. It just means being Muslim, no matter the circumstances.

That means loving Allah and trusting the Wisdom and Purpose in everything He throws your way – even if not loving everything He throws your way. You may hate your circumstances, and you may not be able to do anything about them, but as long as you trust Allah and use your hardships to come closer to him, you cannot fail, even if this life, you feel as if you never really succeeded.

hurts, depression, faith , hardship

Faith Wears Out In Our hearts, The Way Our Cothes Wear Out on Our Bodies

The hardship that damages and stains us is Allah’s invitation to repair, renew, and refresh ourselves. Our test are an invitation, an opportunity, an obstacle – but not a punishment or divine cruelty. And when we know that those tests will come, and some may even stay, then we can be better prepared for it.

Trust Allah when He says that He does not burden any soul with more than it can bear. He told us so in Surah Baqarah Ayah 286. Remember that when you are afraid, and Allah will never cause your fear to destroy you. Take your fear to Allah, and He will strengthen you, and reward you for your bravery.

Remember that when you are in pain. Allah will never cause your pain to destroy you. Take your pain to Him, and He will soothe you and reward you for your patience. Take it all to Allah – the loneliness, the anxiety, the confusion. Do not assume that the only emotions a “good Muslim” takes to Allah are gratitude and happiness and awe. Take them all to Allah, uncertainty, disappointment, anger — and He will bless you in all of those states, and guide you to what is better for you in this life, and the next, even if it’s not what you expected.

The struggles in your life are a test, and whether you pass or fail is not determined on whether you conquer them, only on whether you endure them. Expect that they will come, because having faith is not protection from struggle. Faith is protection from being broken by the struggle.

I ask Allah to protect us all from hardship, but protect us in our hardships as well. I ask Allah to grant us peace from His peace, and strength from His strength, to patiently endure and grow through our endurance.


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