If we do not fill our thoughts with Allah, then the chasm in our minds will be occupied by Shaitan and everything but Allah. Shaitan will not directly persuade us to ignore Allah, but he will weave different issues and digressions in our heads. He will subtly instil us with desire, temptation, emotion, love or hate, until we are so busy thinking about these matters that Allah completely slips away from the picture.
Shaitan will relentlessly attack us from all directions. He can infiltrate us through our weaknesses and lack of zikrullah and he will not rest until we are dead. The constant preoccupation of dunia affairs will wear down our energy and good qualities. We will surrender to our natural predispositions, lose our qualities and eventually break our communication with Allah. Shaitan wants to sever our attachment to Allah because it is through this attachment that Allah renders us with strength, qualities, values and alertness. Mostly it is our attachment to Him that grants us His guardianship and protection.
Establishing an attachment to Allah calls for discipline and restraint. The early Muslims suggested that we cannot embark a journey of knowledge on a full stomach. We should be moderate in sleeping, eating or talking. We should be in a state of discipline where we are in control of our habits, appetites and longings, and not the other way around. We should train ourselves to break our nafs, because an undisciplined nafs causes us to be irritable when we are hungry or tired.
Information on Islam is widely available. But without humility, we will not gain any knowledge from that information no matter how much we read. Knowledge is a gift from Allah, given to us depending on our humbleness and poverty to Allah and the value we attribute to that knowledge. Each of us, even if given identical information, will gain knowledge at different levels.
Once we have acquired knowledge, Allah will generate a situation to test us on whether we can apply that knowledge in real life. Shaitan will counterbalance that by creating a situation to make us fail that test. If we are sincere, we will follow the knowledge of Allah, even if it is the more difficult choice. If our nafs dominates, then we will follow the footsteps of Shaitan and act on our own desires. Failure to live out the knowledge will make such knowledge act like a fire against us – it is harmful, will injure us, and will extinguish its light of guidance.
The true story of the Boy and the King demonstrates that once we have obtained knowledge of Allah, Allah will subject us to a trial. Our knowledge will be put to the test, where it will hurt, by giving us options where the correct path is not necessarily the easy one. He will test us by what we love, and whether we can remove the object of that love from our hearts for His sake. In the short term, the choices are difficult and involve massive sacrifice, but in the long term, the correct choice will elevate us and grant us ease.
A Muslim once bought a lottery ticket. It was the first and only time in his life. His intention was to support a charitable cause, but against the odds, he struck gold and won three million dollars. Should he accept the money? We all say no, but imagine if this cash was dangling in front of our eyes and it is the only way we can afford to pay for an urgent medical treatment for our mother? Suddenly, we create all these inroads and justifications, and living out the knowledge is no longer that easy.
Each test is acutely personal to one's own circumstances, and a test which may appear easy to you might be impossible for the person who is actually been tested with it.
At every turn, you will have to make choices – dunia or Allah?
Some people possess sound knowledge of Islam but are deficient in quality or goodness. When challenged with a situation generated by Allah, they will struggle to pass the test. No one is exempted from this challenge. Even the most knowledgeable Islamic scholars are given difficult choices where they need to select between the promise of Allah or the fame of dunia (which is essentially the choice to be made in The Boy and The King) and even at that level, with all their knowledge, they stumble and fall. Historically, many eminent scholars who stood their ground and defended the truth died in prison for their belief. Other scholars have sold out and choose to support oppressive and tyrannical rulers in return for a high salary and status.
What about us, whose foundation of knowledge is shaky? Is our faith firm enough to resist the hurricane of dunia temptations?
Everyone can be motivated given the right price. A dangerous job is palatable if it comes with a lucrative salary.
We may dedicate months of our lives for something that we are passionate about. Cameramen photographing nature on the remote parts of the earth are willing to spend years in extreme conditions, because this is something beloved to them. Those in the petroleum and gas industry can spend months on an offshore rig, because of the huge salaries.
What if the price for a difficult job is jannah? The rewards are more significant and everlasting. If we believe this to be the truth, then what is stopping us from allocating the suitable amount of time, commitment and sacrifice to win that reward? If someone offered a multi million dollar pay cheque where all you need to do is to stay up all night for one night, would you refuse? Yet, would the same people be convinced to stay up all night during the nights of lailatul qadr during Ramadan?
We cannot avoid our qadr. It will be a blessing for us if we utilize it as a platform to connect our hearts to Allah and turn to Him. This principle even applies to unpleasant occurrences in our lives and even to our sins. The tests include incidents that we dread or dislike, such as illnesses, ageing and tragedies.
No act can be executed without the knowledge of Allah, but Allah allows things to happen to see if we are going to return to Him. Even Rasulullah SAW was poisoned, subject to black magic, suffered injuries and severe illnesses. Whenever he was ill, the severity of his pain was double that of a normal human being. Allah in His wisdom demonstrated that even His most beloved servant, being a human being like the rest of us, was not exempted from trials, threats and tribulations in life. Remembrance of Allah is what carries us through, dunia and akhirah.
One cannot receive gifts if his hands are full – he has to let go of what he is clutching onto first. When faced with a trial from Allah, remember that the constant cycle of give and take will always continue, and we should be careful to behave in the manner and sequence required by Allah. Otherwise, Shaitan will continue his offensive against us, causing us to view such subtractions and trials as calamities and punishments rather than blessings. This will disrupt our peace of mind, sleep, and even ruin our worship.
One of the most severe warnings in Qur'an is in Surah Al Hashr, verse 19: "And be not like those who forgot Allah, so He made them forget themselves."
Observe the people around us who behave without any self-awareness or even any self-respect, and think that they are successful in life! Consider the matters on which we place importance. Reflect on how much effort we make to be punctual for our jobs, spend for an outfit to just attend a wedding party, and how long we are willing to spend in queues for the latest movie release. Do these match the enthusiasm and willingness to spend for the remembrance of Allah?
Try recording and listening to our daily conversations, or analysing our behaviour on the social media. How frequently do we let our guards down and make ourselves vulnerable to Shaitan? How often do our postings indicate that we are the tools and spokespersons for Shaitan and not for Allah? How frequently do we complain of our conditions, publicly and privately? How frequently does Allah feature in our thoughts? We don't need to indulge in vice to attract evil. Lack of the remembrance of Allah and participation in the vanities of dunia are enough to fling the gateway wide open for Shaitan.