Submission versus Obligations

Submission versus Obligations

One day, in one of my assemblies I said to the people that attend, ‘If mountains were to carry the burdens that were placed on me, they would have failed.’ However, after I returned home my ‘self’ questioned me for saying such an anxious statement, so it said to me, ‘How could you make such a statement that may leave people under the impression that you are in a calamity when, in fact, you and your family are all well? Besides, the tasks that you are obliged to do, by religion, is similar to what everyone else is obliged to do—so what is the grounds of such complaint?’ I responded, ‘My statement was neither a complaint nor whining! But rather, a way to ease and relieve myself from the stress and concern I have over [fearing not being able to fulfil] such obligations. Also, there were many companions and tabi’in who said before me, ‘We wish we had never been created,’ which was said only due to the heavy weight of obligations that they strived to fulfil. Needless to add, he who thinks [religious] obligations are easy is indeed unaware of the nature (and implication) of such obligations.

Whoever confines [religious] obligations to washing the bodies with a litre of water or standing in the niche to perform two rak’ah, is indeed far from knowing the truth of such obligations for the said two examples are nothing but the easiest type of obligations!

The serious and difficult type of religious obligation is the kind that even mountains acknowledged to be beyond their capacity and power to bear. To give an example of this, when I see Divine Decrees (al-Qadr) what my intellect cannot comprehend, I compel my mind to submit to the One who decreed it and hence accept it. This is why such types of obligations are the most difficult ones, especially where the mind cannot conclude the wisdom behind some events; such as the suffering of children and the slaughtering of animals etc, which, despite their nature, we should believe that He Who predestined and decreed these events to take place is the Most Merciful and Most Compassionate. This is indeed a matter that confuses people, thus the type of obligation required in such cases is to submit and never object. This reflects the huge difference between the obligations set for the intellect and the obligations set for the body!

If I intend to elaborate on this topic I will take a long time, but nevertheless I apologise for what I have just said, and therefore will only speak about what is relevant to myself and disregard the condition of others.

Since my childhood I have been fond of learning religious knowledge so I busied my time in learning; hence I commenced my studies in all the different sciences and branches. This passion I had, to seek knowledge, made me not only to seek knowledge of all the Islamic sciences, but to also seek minor details and hidden meanings related to each science. But, I know that time is not enough and life is short, and while the passion manifests, weakness appears, therefore leaving some of what I intended unfulfilled is something I grieve!

This religious knowledge that I acquired directed me to know the Worshipped (i.e. Allah) and encouraged me to be at His servitude. Then all the evidences guided me to Him so I stood before Him and perceived Him as per His Own description. I recognised Him through His Attributes while my heart sighted some of His Mercy and Grace. Thereafter I became drowned in His love. This made me devote myself to His service and become so passionate as soon as I remember Him. Therefore my solitude at which I serve Him has become sweeter than all types of sweetness.

Every time I become more apt to solitude to worship Him, knowledge would call me and demand me to come back to it, while blaming me saying, ‘How you ignore me now though I was the reason by which you know Him?’ I respond by saying, ‘You were just my guide [in this journey] but after my arrival to the final destination, there will be no need for a guide.’

However knowledge argued back saying, ‘Far from the truth it is! The more knowledge you have the further you will know the One you love and also understand how to draw near to Him. The proof on what I say is that you know being alive tomorrow means that you are less [in time] today. Have you not heard the verse in which Allah directs His Prophet (ﷺ):

ۖ وَقُل رَّبِّ زِدْنِى عِلْمًا

“And say, ‘O Lord increase me in knowledge.’” [Qur’an 20:114] 

Do you not wish to draw nearer to Him? If so, let it be through directing His slaves to Him because that is the way the Prophets were upon. They devoted themselves to teach people and preferred that over isolating themselves from everyone just to worship Him. This was not to happen if they did not know that directing people to their Lord is more beloved to the One whom they love [i.e. Allah], The Prophet (ﷺ) said to ‘All Ibn Abi Talib (radiyAllahu ‘anhu), “By Allah, even if a single man is led on the right path (of Islam) through you, then that will be better for you than the red camels.”[1] 

Upon realising the truthfulness of what knowledge said, I occupied myself with teaching people, which made me distracted [from devoting myself for His worship]. And whenever I am assured of fulfilling my purpose of benefiting people, in this regard, I became weaker. This made me indecisive as to which leg [i.e. solitude or teaching] to rely on while standing! While being in such confusion, knowledge pronounced, “You should get up and work to earn what can sustain your family, and endeavour to have a child who remembers Allah.” However, whenever I embark upon this path, I realise the breast of this life no longer produces milk [i.e. It is difficult to find a source of income] because I had spent all my time in seeking knowledge, leaving me with no time to learn a profession from which I could earn an income. On the other hand, when I observe how the children of this worldly life live [i.e. people who wholly indulge in worldly affairs], I notice that those who buy their goods often compromise their religion in exchange of receiving a worldly benefit and so they chase it, or worse, become pretentious in the hope of achieving some worldly benefits. As a matter of fact, what often happens is that they compromise their religion yet still receive nothing from what they had hoped for!

Despite the complexity of all that, when boredom tells me to avoid getting involved in worldly affairs [i.e. seeking solitude to devote myself to worshipping Allah], knowledge warns me by quoting me the hadith of the Prophet (ﷺ) , “It is enough of a sin for a person to neglect those whose provision is his responsibility!”[2]

And, when determination encourages me to seclude myself, knowledge reminds me of the ones whom I should look after and am responsible for.

My condition is that I intend to reduce my share of this world [by taking the minimum of what is made lawful and available for me] though I basked in its pleasures in my upbringing and was lavished with a comfy and graceful lifestyle. Thus making my nature and taste robust and unusual. For that reason, if I start to change the garment material I wear and consume less nutritious food, my nature becomes disturbed as it is not used to such rough lifestyle. Therefore, sickness accompanies me and that prevents me from fulfilling my duties and makes me fall into trouble. It is known though that enduring a hard life a person is not used to after enjoying a soft life, may ruin the self. 

So, I kept saying to myself, ‘What should I do to overcome this situation? I seclude myself even when I am in solitude and I weep more for my shortcomings.’ And so I say again to myself, ‘I describe the condition of scholars and the learned while my body is too weak to teach knowledge now. I describe the condition of the ascetics while my body is too weak to endure such a life condition! Being in the company of people and around those who love me keep distracting me from devoting myself to the Hereafter and implant in my heart the pictures of all that my desirous self wants causing the mirror of my heart to rust! The tree of love [i.e. to love Allah] requires good soil, and must be irrigated from the water of solitude that runs in the cognition of thoughts. Yet still, if I decide to take the path of work to earn the money, I could not stand it too! If I decide to integrate with the children of this worldly life [i.e. people whose interest is in achieving worldly benefits] and seek their help, I will not be able to do so as my innate nature stops me from humiliating myself. My religiousness stops me from taking this option! Thus, I am apt not to choose either and so it is has no effect on me. And mixing with people is harmful with every breath a person takes, thus neither realising my repentance is within my capacity, nor is achieving a rank because of knowledge, or a good deed or [Allah’s] love are suitable for me.’

The following lines of poetry explain my situation perfectly: 

“He threw him in the river while being chained, then he said to him *** Beware and beware of becoming wet.”

All this made me confused about myself and so I cried for how my life is spent. During my solitude, I recited some poetry that I heard common people say as I feel it describes my situation: 

“Woe to me as I still cover my tripping, *** For I am like a prisoner in no cell *** I have no solution as I am helpless; *** As soon as my wings grew, you let me go.”

[Captured Thoughts by Ibn al-Jawzi, p. 122-127]


[1] Bukhari, #3701 and Muslim, #2406 on the authority of Sahl Ibn Sa’d (radiyAllahu ‘anhu).

[2] Muslim, #996, Abu Dawud, #1692 and others on the authority of ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Amr (radiyAllahu ‘anhu).

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