How many times have you found yourself really motivated and excited to do something for Islam but then, slowly and surely, as time passed, you found that your enthusiasm decreased?
Well, if you have ever experienced this up and down, this high and low feeling, then this Prophetic Hadith is for you. If you are very worried and distraught about your faith and unsure of what to do when you are in that ‘down mode’, then pay close attention to these pearls of Prophetic wisdom:
عَنْ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ بْنِ عَمْرٍو رضي الله عنهما قَالَ: قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ: لِكُلِّ عَمَلٍ شِرَّةٌ، وَلِكُلِّ شِرَّةٍ فَتْرَةٌ؛ فَمَنْ كَانَتْ فَتْرَتُهُ إِلَى سُنَّتِي فَقَدْ أَفْلَحَ، وَمَنْ كَانَتْ إِلَى غَيْرِ ذَلِكَ فَقَدْ هَلَكَ
‘Abdullah ibn ‘Amr (Allah be pleased with him) said: The Messenger of Allah (may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him) said: “Every action starts with enthusiasm (i.e. “Shirrah”: excitement, enthusiasm, keenness, energy, fervor, zeal, a spiritual high) and then the enthusiasm wanes. [1. Recorded by Ibn Hibbaan in his Saheeh and by Imam Ahmad (6664) with an authentic chain, which Al-Hafizh Ibn Hajar, Ahmad Shaakir and Al-Albaani have all classed as Sahih (authentic)]
He then goes on to give us the solution:
“So anyone whose enthusiasm wanes but (remains within the limits of) my Sunnah will be successful, but anyone whose enthusiasm wanes and drifts away to something else, will be doomed.”
Essentially, our Prophet (may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him) is giving us a realistic scenario instead of an idealistic and romanticized view that we will always be high on Iman. He is telling us here that there may be times when a person is very energetic and enthusiastic about worship and acts of obedience, but then these energetic times are followed by a ‘lapse’, a decrease in enthusiasm, an increase in laziness, and a drop from the high level that was previously reached. This is something completely natural; none of us are perfect or angels. The Prophet (may Allah’s peace and blessing be upon him) himself even told us that Iman rises and falls.
However, even in this natural state of weakness and reduced enthusiasm, the Prophet (may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him) gives us the hope that an individual can succeed during these times if he makes sure to stay within the guidelines of Islam and does not neglect the obligatory duties that Allah has commanded from the Muslims. He lets us know that during this temporary downtime, we should never leave the limits of his Sunnah (and by Sunnah in this context, it does not mean the optional acts such as the Sunnah prayers, but it means the religion of Islam). The Prophet is instructing us to stay consistent with our good deeds and to keep it up daily and regularly even if we do not think it to be a lot. We are told to hold on to it because without it, we become very susceptible to doom and destruction.
Doom (Halaak) is not caused by merely falling into sin, especially since we are all sinners (as the Prophet said, “All the sons of Adam are sinners, but the best of sinners are those who repent”). Rather, a person is doomed when sins appears in his general behavior and becomes a known characteristic and attribute of him. He just does not care or feel regretful; rather, he persists in that sin, does not repent, and feels at ease with it.
We should take this warning of doom and destruction very seriously, especially as the Prophet (may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him) was even worried about this for his own Companions, the best generation of Islam.
Anas Ibn Maalik narrates a story wherein he asked the Prophet, “O Prophet of Allah, we have believed in you (to be a true Prophet of God) and we have believed what you have come with (i.e. the Revelation), so do you still fear for us? Are you still fearful for us?’ The Prophet replied, “Yes!” Afterwards, he explained to them how all of the hearts of all of mankind are between two fingers from the Fingers of Allah, and He moves/pushes/turns/rotates/flips them as He wills. [2. Collected by At-Tirmidi (2140) which he verified to be Hasan (acceptable)]
You may find a person that is a Muslim in the morning and a disbeliever at night. He is following the Sunnah during the day, but turns to innovation during the night. Today, he’s excited and motivated to do everything for this Deen, but the next day he’s nowhere to be found…
May Allah protect us from taking our obligations lightly and grant us all the Tawfeeq and was ill to stay enthusiastic and firm on Islam. Surely, where there’s a will, there’s a way.
Jazakallah Khair for writing such an insightful article. I really find this useful and comforting as it answered one of the most important questions I had regarding Allah and my Iman. Thank you so much and May Allah (SWT) always keep us on His deen and make us die in a state of righteousness along with Al-Abrar and grant us Jannatul-Firdaus. Ameen.
Wa iyyaak, your very welcome; I’m glad that u liked it. May Allah likewise reward you & may He bless you and grant u success in this world and the next, آميــن
jazakAllah khayr for this awesome piece.
Iman does fluctuate and i can sync with this- forgive me for my ignorance, i want to know if a person with a nafs-al-mutmainnah feels the same way- is it possible for the elite of the elite to become a victim of such lack of enthusiasm? Or does constant zikr and fiqr help such a person counter that completely?
Allahu A’lam – Allah truly knows best, and true knowledge is with Him.
However, it seems that with the situation of those who have the Nafs al-Mutma’innah (the tranquil heart which is at peace/rest; 89:27), this doesn’t imply ultimate perfection or infallibility from sin, because of the general hadith: “Every son of Adam is a constant sinner (or, “constantly makes mistakes”).” And how this is a natural part of our life, and why we were created by Allah (going through the process of falling into an error, repenting, regretting, becoming better, etc).
Only the Anbiyaa` are infallible from committing sins intentionally. They are the “elite of the elite”, but yet, even in their case (subhanAllaah!) – we find such examples of some of them almost reaching the ‘breaking point’, emotionally, right before Allah rescued them from that; Surah Yusuf (12) verse 110: حتى إذا استيئس الرسل وظنوا أنهم قد كذّبوا “Until (even) the Messengers almost despaired and lost hope, and they thought that they had been (completely) rejected…” — Also see, Surah 2 (Al-Baqarah), v. 214 — So this is a natural part of our existence in this life. Although, mind u, the Messengers never allowed such a state of mind or emotion (when it afflicted them), to drag them to the other side (evil, sinning). They patiently stood on the path.
And we have a powerful example in Prophet Jonah (or Yoonus). I’m not gonna quote the whole ayah… it’s in Surah 21, verse 87, 88. But note at the end of this ayah even, Allah says: ونجيناه من الغمّ “And we rescued him from deppression…”. So he almost fell into it. [And he, for example, unquestionaly can be described as someone with a ‘Nafs Mutma’innah’.]
So yes, if this is the case with Prophets, what about the believers? …in my original article I had also mentioned 1 other [authentic] wording of this hadith that goes like this, لكل عابد شرة “Every Worshipper has a period of keenness (excitement, enthusiasm, energy), and every period of keenness has a lapse (or interval)…”.
So generally everyone will experience this. It’s a part of the test of this life.
+ But to get back to answering your question…. What then – cuz, if we’re saying that no one is free of error or sin, and no one is always 100% like an angel – What then is the difference btwn. a person who is at the stage of (having) An-Nafs Al-Mutma’innah, and someone (the majority of people) who has An-Nafs Al-Ammaarah bis-Soo` (12:53; a soul that constantly is inclined towards, or commanding the person to do evil, sins)? Answer: The 1st individual, yes, he is not immune from what I’ve mentioned in the article, however — as u indicated in your question by mentioning “constant dhikr (remembrance of Allah)” and I think the other thing was ‘faqr’ or poverty, meaning not being too attached to worldly things — however his resolve & will to refrain from such things is stronger, due to his closeness to Allah & his stronger connection with Allah. So he will have more ‘will power’, and will not be as affected by sins/evil like the 2nd person.
— Such a person, btw, would be someone who has passed the basic ‘internal-struggle’ stage. Yes, no doubt, life will always be a continuous struggle against Shaytaan & his soldiers till the last breath one takes, however, this person has, to some extent, subdued his Nafs, so now its negative influences have weakened & it is more inclind towards Taa’aat (acts of obedience), etc —
The 2nd individual is more susceptible to such inclinations from his Nafs, however he is fighting. He’s in a deep struggle. He falls, he gets up, he sins, he does it again, he feels bad & repents, but again goes back and does it.
jazakAllah khayr for this amazing reply.
When i said ‘elite of the elite’ i didnt have the Prophets in mind. JazakAllah khayr for reminding me that the Prophets were humans too .By that eliteness I meant those pious people who decide to die before they die. The Prophets are of course the direction the rightly guided take upon themselves.
By fiqr i meant contemplation. JazakAllah khayr for adding ‘faqrzuhd’ to it.
Once again jazakAllah khayr for your time and i’ll be looking forward to reading more of what you write inshaAllah.
May Allah ta’ala bless you with all good in both this world and the Hereafter ameen.
peace be with you.
mashAllah! amazing article! May Allah bless this site.