The Humble I

Knowing, Doing, Becoming

Turning to God After All Else Has Failed Us

image-by-Robert-GoldsteinIsn’t it the height of bad faith if we turn to God only after everyone else, or after everything else, has failed us? Isn’t that trivialising God’s greatness that we’ve put Him last on our list? If so, will He still listen to my plea for help? Should I still turn to Him? Or will it be a case of: ‘The cheek of it!’?

In his celebrated volume of spiritual discourses, entitled: Futuh al-Ghayb, the saintly scholar and sayyid, ‘Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani (d.561H/1166CE) – the leading Hanbali jurist of Baghdad in his age – commences the third of his orations with these words:

إِذَا اُبْتُلِيَ الْعَبْدُ بِبَلِيَّةٍ تَحَرَّكَ أَوَّلًاً فِي نَفْسِهِ بِنَفْسِهِ, فَإِنْ لَمْ يَتَخَلَّصْ مِنْهَا اسْتَعَانَ بِالْخَلْقِ كَالسَّلَاطِينِ وَأَرْبَابِ الْمَنَاصِبِ وَأَرْبَابِ الدُّنْيَا وَأَصْحَابِ الْأَحْوَالِ وَأَهْلِ الطِّبِّ فِي الْأَمْرَاضِ وَالْأَوْجَاعِ، فَإِنْ لَمْ يَجِدْ فِي ذَلِكَ خَلَاصًاً رَجَعَ إِلَى رَبّهِ بِالدُّعَاءِ وَالتَّضَرُّعِ وَالثَّنَاءِ. مَا دَامَ يَجِدُ بِنَفْسِهِ نُصْرَةً لَمْ يَرْجِعْ إِلَى الْخَلْقِ، وَمَا دَامَ يَجِدُ بِهِ نُصْرَةً عِنْدَ الْخَلْقِ لَمْ يَرْجِعْ إِلَى الْخَالِقِ.

‘When the servant is tried with some difficulty, his first impulse is to try and cope with it by himself. If he is unable to extract himself from it, he looks to others for help, such as those in power, important officials, people of means and influence, or medical experts; if disease or physical ailment is involved. If he still finds no relief, he then turns to his Lord with prayers of petition, humble entreatment and offerings of praise. As long as he feels he can cope on his own, he will not turn to others; and so long as he can count on others, he will not turn to the Creator.’1

It seems a poor thing to turn to God as a last resort; to remember Him when all else fails us; to lift our hands to Him only when the ship is going down. If God were proud He would never accept us on such terms. But God is not proud. Instead, Kind, Caring and, Merciful – God will have us even if we have shown that we have preferred others over Him and that we come to Him only because we are now at a dead end. Indeed, it does not really proclaim the glory of God if we chose Him only as an alternative to Hell; and yet even this He accepts. Such is God’s mercy and kindness; such is how He forgives and overlooks His glory’s diminution. In fact, God says in the Holy Qur’an: When My servants ask you concerning Me, I am indeed close, I answer the prayer of the supplicant when he prays to Me. [Q2:186] And God states: Say: ‘O My servants who have transgressed against their own souls! Despair not of God’s mercy. God forgives all sins; for He is the All-Forgiving, All-Merciful. [Q.39:53]

Further on in the very same discourse, Shaykh ‘Abd al-Qadir speaks about how, when the person’s illusions of self-sufficiency are shattered – and for the person’s sake they must be shattered – and as he is made to realise that none can help him or grant him relief except God, God responds to his servant’s humility and brokenness and shades him from distress. For God accepts His servants however they may come to Him – if not in loving submission, then by trials and troubles, or by simple fear of the eternal flames; unmindful, even, of His glory’s diminution.

1. Futuh al-Ghayb (Cairo: Dar al-Maqtam, 2007), 22; start of the third discourse. My translation is based on M. Holland, Revelations of the Unseen (Florida: Al-Baz Publishing, 2007), 11.

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16 thoughts on “Turning to God After All Else Has Failed Us

  1. Abdurrahman on said:

    MashaAllah beautifully put dear sheikh and how painfully true.

    • Jazakallahu khayran Abdurrahman. May Allah grant you and I, and all the Muslims, the grace to do such deeds that extol His glory and not diminish His greatness in our hearts.

  2. Abu Yusuf on said:

    As-salamu ‘alaykum, how do we understand the great shaykh’s words that Allah ta’ala is not proud with His beautiful name of al-Mutakabbir?

    • Wa ‘alaykum al-salam wa rahmatullah. It’s an excellent question, Abu Yusuf. May Allah increase you in fiqh and goodness.

      Let me answer it with the following four points:-

      1. Allah is indeed al-Mutakabbir – “The Proud” – as per the verse of the Qur’an: He is Allah besides whom there is no other god. The Sovereign, the Holy, the Source of Peace and Security, the Guardian, the August, the Compeller, the Proud! Glory be to Him above what they associate with Him. [59:23] This is the only verse to address Allah with the name al-Mutakabbir (sometimes translated as “the Supreme”)

      2. As for its meaning when applied to Allah, Imam al-Tabari and others relate from Qatadah: al-mutakabbir: takabbara ‘an kulli sharr – “supreme above all evil.” Which is to say, Allah has no equal or comparison in His majesticness or greatness; and knows full well that everything else is less than Him and dependant on Him. In that sense Allah is supreme and proud and beyond deficiencies, faults or imperfections.

      3. Of course, all other creatures are deficient and do not deserve the description of being mighty, majestic or supreme in the absolute sense. This is only for Allah. When creatures begin to take on these claims, thinking themselves mighty and supreme in the absolute sense, they fall in to the cardinal sin of arrogance or pride. But since Allah alone is absolute and prefect, He alone has the right to be Proud – not in the human sinful and fallible sense of the term: for Nothing is like unto Him.

      4. In the context I used it in, it was meant to show that Allah’s generosity and magnanimity is such that He accepts our deficient deeds, even when they are spurred on with our deficient understanding of His true greatness.

      I pray that helps makes things clearer.

  3. Salam
    Allah(swt) is truly the Most Merciful though we are not deserving.
    May we always remain in a state of brokenness.
    Dua requested.

    • Barakallahu fikum. You are very right, we are so undeserving. It is His boundless mercy we seek; His unmitigated forgiveness we hope in. And what greater hope can there be than knowing that Allah is with the broken-hearted.

  4. alioxford on said:

    Salam Dear Sheikh! Another beautiful lesson for our time. Puts me in mind of an urdu poet who said,
    “Ay Karam, parwar karam, mere gunahon per na ja! Rehm ke qabil hoon mein, insaaf ke kabil nahin” – i.e. Oh Allah, don’t look at my sins! I am in need of Your Mercy; I cannot stand up to your justice!”
    Thank you again.

  5. Atif Jung on said:

    Truly humbling. Jzk.

  6. Nadeem on said:

    MashAllah tabarakAllah read the beautifully article and translation

    Amazing reminder of AllahSWT mercy and blessings

  7. Subhan Allah 😊 Allah swt is immensely Merciful and unconditionally Loving but We human being are so ungrateful and unappreciative. This article put smile on my face knowing the great love of Allah

  8. Pingback: Turning to God After All Else Has Failed Us – Blogging Theology

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