In the Name of God, Merciful and Compassionate
On the Paths to Happiness by Ibn al-Qayyimal-Jawziyyah
[This is a treatise written by our teacher, the learned Imam Shams al-Din Abu ‘Abd Allah, Muhammad ibn Abi Bakr ibn Ayyub ibn Sa’id, better known as Ibn al-Qayyim (may God sanctify his soul, illumine his grave and unite us in the Abode of God’s Generosity). He said:]
There is neither strength nor power save in God Almighty. It is God we implore—and whose answer we await—to watch over you in this world and the next, to shower you with His graces, outwardly and inwardly, and to make you among those who, when blessed, give thanks; when tried, persevere; and when sinful, seek forgiveness. For these three conditions are tokens of the servant’s happiness [sa’adat al-abd], and the signs of his success in this world and the next. No servant is without them, but is always shifting from one to the other.
The first condition is the blessings which come to the servant from God (Most High), one after another. What secures them is gratitude [shukr], based on three supports: inward recognition of the blessing; outward mention and thanks for it; and its use in a way that pleases the One to whom it truly belongs and who truly bestows it. Acting thus, the servant shows his gratitude for the blessing—however brief.
The second is the trials from God (Most High) which test the Servant, whose duty therein is patience [sabr]and forbearance: to restrain himself from anger with what is decreed; to restrain his tongue from complaint; to restrain his limbs from offences, such as striking one’s face in grief, rending one’s clothes, tearing one’s hair and like acts. Patience, then, rests on these three supports, and if the servant maintains them as he should, affliction will become benefaction, trial will change to bounty and what he disliked will become what he loves. For God (Exalted and Sublime) does not try the servant in order to destroy him. Rather, He tries him to put his patience and devotion [al-ubudiyyato the test. For the servant owes devotion to God in affliction as in ease. He must have as much devotion in what he hates as in what he loves. And while most people offer devotion in what they love, it is important to do so in the things they hate. It is by this that servants’ ranks are distinguished and their stations determined.
Ablution with cold water in searing heat is devotion. Sexual relations with one’s beautiful and beloved spouse is devotion. Spending money for her, for one’s children and for oneself is devotion. It is devotion no less than ablution with cold water in the bitter cold; giving up vice to which one’s soul is driven without fear of people; and giving charity in hardship. But there is a great difference between the [two kinds] of devotion.
He who is God’s servant in both states, maintaining his duty in both comfort and adversity, is the one to whom His words refer, ‘Is not God sufficient for His servant?’ With complete devotion comes complete sufficiency, and with less comes what is less. Let him who discerns some good give praise to God, but let whoever finds something other than this blame no one but himself.
These are the servants over whom God’s Foe has no control. God said [to the Devil], ‘Lo!As for My servants, you have no power over them.” And when His Foe Iblis learned that He would not let His devoted servants yield to him or give him control over them, he proclaimed, ‘Then by Your Might, I will surely beguile them all save for Your sincere servants among them. And God (Most High) said, ‘And Iblis found his calculation true, for they [all] followed him save a group of true believers. And he had no warrant whatsoever over [any of] them save that We might know the ones who believe in the hereafter from those who doubt it.’ God will not yield to His Foe control over His faithful servants. They are in His protection and His care. If the Devil robs any of them, as the thief robs the heedless man, this cannot be avoided, because by heedlessness, passion and anger is the servant tried. It is by these same three doors that the Devil comes to him. Try as he may to protect himself, the servant is bound to be heedless and given to passion and anger.
Adam, the father of all humanity, was the most discerning of creatures, their superior in wisdom, and the most steadfast. Yet the Foe kept after him until he made him fall into that which he fell. What then of someone with the reason of a moth, whose intelligence compared to that of his father [Adam] is like a spittle in the ocean? Still, the Foe of God obtains nothing from a faithful person except by robbing him in [a moment on inattention and carelessness. And when he causes him to fall, the servant may think that he can never again face his Lord, that this fall has carried him away and destroyed him. Yet behind it all is God’s grace, mercy, clemency and forgiveness.
For if God intends what is good for His servant, He will then open for him the doors of repentance [al-tawba]and remorse, abasement and humility, dependence and need; the doors of the request for God’s help and protection; the doors of perpetual humility, supplication and the approach towards Him by means of whatever good works he can manage—so that his wrong may become a means to God’s mercy. For the Foe says, ‘Alas, I left him without causing him to fall!’
This is what one of the early believers [salaf]meant when he said,
[On the other hand], he may perform a goodly deed and constantly laud it before his Lord, wax proud, boast, become vain and haughty with it, as he says, ‘I did this, I did that.’ His self-importance, pride and arrogance provide him only with the means to his own ruin. If God intends then what is good for this miserable person, He will try him through something that breaks [his pride], abases him and reduces his self-importance. But if He intends otherwise, He will leave him to his self-importance and pride, and this misfortune is what leads to his ruin.’
© The Islamic Texts Society 2002
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