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Putting Your Desires First: IOK Ramadan Reflections Series #25

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In today’s episode of IOK’s Ramadan Reflections Series, I will be discussing verse number 23 of Sūrah Jāthiyah (45).  

It is a verse Allah reminds us of the consequences of following our desires, not only of the consequences that a person may suffer for eternity in the hereafter, but the consequences that they will start to feel from this world that will have implications for their hereafter. 

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Allah says: “Have you seen [O Prophet], those who have taken their own desires as their god. And so, Allah left them to go astray, knowingly, sealing their hearing and their hearts and placing a cover over their sight. Who can then guide them after Allah, will you not all be mindful?”

The Prophet [SAW], and by extension us, are told to look at the person who takes their desires as their lord. What does that mean? It means a person listens to and acts upon everything that they want to do. Only Allah is worthy of absolute obedience. Even our parents, whom we are told to always treat with the utmost kindness and respect, cannot be obeyed if their directives are in contradiction with the will of Allah. When it comes to our own desires, because of outside influences or a particular tendency that Allah has created us with, we may feel inclined to do certain things. A person might feel addicted to doing certain things, might become habituated to doing certain things. And a person who constantly listens to their own desires, whose only objective in life is to do whatever they want to do to please themselves, Allah tells us what happens to those individuals. When it comes to worship of idols, it is not only stones and statues that a person might worship, but they could be also in worship of their ego, knowledge, wealth, and power. All of this is a manifestation of a person following their own desires as opposed to following Allah.

Allah says that if a person continuously persists in doing so then He lets them go astray knowingly. Allah knows that they are moving away from Him. But Allah shows us the right path and then he gives us the ability to make the right choices or the wrong choices. If a person constantly makes the wrong choices, Allah lets them move away. And that’s not the most devastating consequence.

The most devastating effect of constantly listening to and fulfilling our desires is that Allah places a seal on their ears and their hearts, which means that when a person hears, sees, is advised, and reminded to do the right thing, they will not recognize it as the right thing. They will not give it its due importance and value because Allah had sealed their hearts and their hearing. When they are told to turn back to Allah, when they are told to abstain from that sin, when they are told to not make their desires their sole reason of existence, they will ignore all of it. Allah seals their hearts and they can no longer recognize what is right from what is wrong. Our Fiṭra, which Allah created within us, tells us when we are doing something wrong, and it gradually quiets to the point of silence. When we start committing any act of sin, we are very self-aware, self-conscious. We know we are doing something wrong, and it might be followed by tremendous amounts of shame and guilt. But slowly, as a person continuously commits that sin, as they become used to it, as it becomes routine, as it becomes a habit that turns into an addiction, that “voice of conscience” is no longer there. It has been silenced. And we hope that it is not the seal that Allah is speaking about in this verse. 

Allah places a cover, a metaphorical veiling, over their eyes. They can no longer see what they are doing. They can no longer see the consequences of what they are doing. They can no longer see the right action and recognize it for being a right action. And this is a consequence of making desires the sole reason of one’s existence, the core part of one’s identity. We see many people today in the world who define themselves by their desires, whether those desires are socially engineered, influenced, are part of their natural feelings that Allah had given them–either way, when a person has a want to commit an act of sin, we should not give in to that want. We do not identify ourselves by our desires. That is absurd.

Allah has created every single one of us as human beings for a higher and greater purpose. Allah created us so that we can worship him out of our own will. Allah has the angels to worship Him perfectly, but Allah also created us and has given us the choice to obey Him knowingly, willingly. For a person to ignore the entire reason of their existence and to just live so that they can just fulfill their desires, allow themselves to be defined by their desires, allow their entire identity to revolve around their desires, is simply moving away from the path of Allah. 

There is no way that a person will be allowed to understand what is right and what is wrong if Allah seals their hearts, their ears, and their eyes, and this is what Allah indicates at the conclusion of the verse. And this is a very frightening phrase. “Who can guide a person after Allah?” If Allah has sealed your heart, ears, and eyes, because of you making your desires your god, because of you prioritizing your desires over the will of Allah, and He has let you stray knowingly, who can guide you after that? No one. It is a rhetorical question. Allah is the only one who can guide, and if the source of guidance allows us to go astray because of our own insolence, persistence upon sin, and stubbornness, then we are only the ones who will suffer the consequences. 

Whether we worship Allah or not does not affect Allah in the slightest. Allah is not in need of our worship. Allah is not in need of what we do or what we can offer. What we can offer is nothing. At the end of the day, we are only benefiting ourselves. Our good deeds affect us in a positive way. Our bad deeds affect us in a negative way. At the end of the day, we are the ones whom Allah has given the ability to understand what is right and what is wrong through the Qur’ān. If the Qur’ān is not utilized as a source of guidance, if it is not used as a standard to differentiate between what is right and what is wrong, then whatever we think of as right and wrong may not be in accordance with the will of Allah because we are not using the standard that He has set for us. “Will you not then be mindful?” 

May Allah guide us and protect us, may He give us knowledge that benefits us, may He give us all the ability to constantly repent and turn to Him, may He give us the ability to control our desires and fulfill them in a manner deemed permissible, may He give us all the steadfastness, the courage, and the ability to let go of what is considered sinful, Ameen. 

Tonight’s Ramadan Reflections Series talk on your desires getting priority over Allah’s wishes for you was brought to you by the IOK Seminary Faculty. Catch up on previous videos or catch the next videos on the IOK Ramadan Reflections Series page.

Keep supporting MuslimMatters for the sake of Allah

Alhamdulillah, we're at over 850 supporters. Help us get to 900 supporters this month. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

IOK Seminary Faculty train highly motivated and dedicated Muslim men and women in classical Islam and contemporary scholarship, giving them the tools to grow as individuals, effectively serve those around them, and preserve the Islamic tradition in the West.

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