Some people are catapulted into the limelight; some have a quiet greatness thrust on them; most, though, live simple, ordinary lives. The ordinary believer believes in God and realises he is here through God’s purpose, love and compassion. So he lives each day as God’s blessing and acknowledges what he has he owes to God – and therefore, whatever he can he seeks to share with others. He does good deeds unassumingly and unostentatiously, because that is what believers do. The ordinary believer’s life, then, in its simplicity, radiance and gravitas, is actually quite extraordinary.
In what follows, Ibn al-Qayyim outlines the path of the believer’s life – content, meaningful and blissful – as well as pointing to its opposite. He writes:
مِنْ عَلَامَاتِ السَّعَادَةِ وَالْفَلَاحِ أَنَّ الْعَبْدَ كُلَّمَا زِيدَ فِي عِلْمِهِ زِيدٌ فِي تَوَاضُعِهِ وَرَحْمَتِهِ، وَكُلَّمَا زِيدَ فِي عَمَلِهِ زِيدٌ فِي خَوْفِهِ وَحَذَرِهِ، وَكُلَّمَا زِيدَ فِي عُمْرِهِ نَقَصَ مِنْ حِرْصِهِ، وَكُلَّمَا زِيدَ فِي مَالِهِ زِيدَ فِي سَخَائِهِ وَبَذْلِهِ، وَكُلَّمَا زِيدَ فِي قَدْرِهِ وَجَاهَهُ زَيْدٌ فِي قُرْبِهِ مِنْ النَّاسِ وَقَضَاءِ حَوَائِجِهِمْ وَالتَّوَاضُعِ لَهُمْ.
وَعَلَامَاتُ الشَّقَاوَةِ أَنَّهُ كُلَّمَا زِيدَ فِي عِلْمِهِ زِيدَ فِي كِبَرِهِ وَتِيهِهِ،وَكُلَّمَا زِيدَ فِي عَمَلِهِ زِيدٌ فِي فَخْرِهِ وَاحْتِقَارِهِ لِلنَّاسِ وَحَسْنِ ظَنِّهِ بِنَفْسِهِ،وَكُلَّمَا زِيدَ فِي عُمُرِهِ زِيدٌ فِي حِرْصِهِ،وَكُلَّمَا زِيدَ فِي مَالِهِ زَيدَ بُخْلِّهِ وَإِمْسَاكِهِ،وَكُلَّمَا زِيدَ فِي قَدْرِهِ وَجَاهَهُ زَيْدٌ فِي كِبَرِهِ وَتَيهِهِ.
وَهَذِهِ الْأُمُورُ ابْتِلَاءٌ مِنَ اللَّهِ وَامْتِحَانٌ يَبْتَلِي بِهَا عِبَادَهُ، فَيَسْعَدُ بِهَا أَقْوَامٌ وَيَشْقَى بِهَا أَقْوَامٌ.
‘From the signs of bliss and success is that a person, as he grows in learning, he grows in humbleness and compassion. As he grows in works of faith, he grows in fear and vigilance. As he grows in age, he diminishes in greed. As he grows in wealth, he grows in generosity and giving. And as he grows in strength and status, he grows in drawing closer to others so as to serve them and help fulfill their needs.
‘From the signs of misery is that a person, as he grows in learning, he grows in pride and conceit. As he grows in works of faith, he grows in boasting; belittling others; and having an inflated opinion about himself. As he grows in age, he grows in greed. As he grows in wealth, he grows in stinginess and miserliness. And as he grows in status and standing, he grows in vanity and arrogance.
‘All these matters are trials and tribulation from Allah by which He tries His servants. Through it, He makes some happy and blissful, while others are made wretched and miserable.’1
1. Al-Fawa’id (Makkah: Dar ‘Alam al-Fawa’id, 2009), 28.