Islam can be likened to a town fortified by five walls. If all the five were intact, then one's Islam is protected. The walls are made of iman and yaqeen, ikhlas (sincerity), fulfilling the obligations of Allah, following the sunnah to the maximum, and observing adab and akhlak (manner).
Shaitan pierces these defences in the reverse order. He tries to make us lose our adab and akhlak first. If he succeeds, our biggest defences are breached and Shaitan will keep penetrating the walls until he destroys our iman (faith) and yaqeen (certainty of faith). This is why we need to guard our manner at all costs. This is our outer wall of defence.
It is reported that once Aishah (RA) mentioned that one night the Prophet (SAW) was relaxing in the house where Aishah (RA) was living. Before having a rest, he suddenly stood up and wore his clothing, made ablution and began praying. He shed tears so much so that it soaked the front of his clothes. After that he bowed down for prostration. When he fell prostrate he wept so much so that the ground became wet. Next morning, when Bilal (RA) came and asked him about the amount of tears, the Prophet (SAW) said: "Last night some verses were revealed to me."
"Who remember Allah while standing or sitting or [lying] on their sides and give thought to the creation of the heavens and the earth, [saying], "Our Lord, You did not create this aimlessly; exalted are You [above such a thing]; then protect us from the punishment of the Fire.
Our Lord, indeed whoever You admit to the Fire - You have disgraced him, and for the wrongdoers there are no helpers.
Our Lord, indeed we have heard a caller calling to faith, [saying], 'Believe in your Lord,' and we have believed.
Our Lord, so forgive us our sins and remove from us our misdeeds and cause us to die with the righteous. Our Lord, and grant us what You promised us through Your messengers and do not disgrace us on the Day of Resurrection. Indeed, You do not fail in [Your] promise." (Ali Imran, verses 191-194)
And then he (SAW) added: "Woe to the one who recites these verses and does not contemplate."
Rasulullah SAW said: Indeed from the people are people who are keys to open the good for the people, and to lock away the evil. And indeed from the people are people who are keys to lock away and block the good, and they open up the evil for the people. So Tooba (glad tidings; scholars have also defined the word Tooba to be a tree in Paradise) is for the one whom Allah SWT places the keys of good at his hands. And woe be to the one whom Allah has placed the keys of evil at his disposal. (Ibn Majah)
We are disallowed from thinking about three things, because they will destroy us:
- Thinking about tomorrow and poverty. This will make us apprehensive, miserable and vulnerable to spiritual disease;
- Thinking about oppressing others;
- Thinking that we will live long and harbouring a hope for the distant future (long hope). This will make us forget our own mortality, become envious of others, and we will keep getting distracted until our lives end without us having accomplished anything.
Thinking is also an indication of one's sincerity. Life is full of distractions, and the dramas, happiness and tragedies in life are on-going. If we desire the straight path, then we should not deviate from the thinking of Allah. We will understand that Allah constantly generates situations (and allows Shaitan to do so) in order to put our sincerity to the test.
All these distractions are on-going trials and will create weaknesses if we concede to the circumstances rather than to the thinking of Allah. We may blame the environment for our digressions, but the environment will always exist to test our sincerity, and is inescapable. The environment, bitter or sweet, forms part of our qadr.
Umar al Khattab (RA) mentioned that the root of a man is his thinking and intellect, his own name is his deen and his own status in life is his manner. Hassan Al Basri mentioned that “Whoever does not find happiness in the zikr of Allah, prayer and reciting the Quran, will not find it anywhere else.”
Intellect is your best friend and ignorance is your worst enemy. The best accumulation in this life is intellect with good manners, and the worst calamity is ignorance coupled with bad manners.
At the same time, guard against becoming conceited because of your knowledge. Arrogance has caused the downfall of prominent scholars, who imagined that their intelligence was unsurpassed. Everything in Islam has limitations, and if one transgresses its bounds, he will end up showing off and committing other mistakes.
The aqeel offers good counsel, invites others to goodness and are praised by the people. The fruit of an aqeel's actions is goodness. The fool is unable to command respect, because he is insincere and causes fitnah. The actions of a fool culminate in failure because of his lack of sincerity.
The arrogance of mankind is continuously demonstrated up to today. A scientist might have made a spectacular discovery, but takes credit as if he was the one who invented the subject matter of that discovery. There are brilliant minds who, having uncovered some secrets of this world and the universe, are unable to make the connection with the fact that all they are researching on are creations of God, not their own invention. Many secular intellects are extremely foolish in the affairs that matter the most, concerning the acknowledgement and relationship with the Creator.
The examples of Allah's signs offered in the Qur'an are not complicated, and many relate to everyday occurrences. Yet, how often do we actually take pause and marvel at all of Allah's creations? How often do we rise to the challenge posed in the Qur'an to ponder and contemplate the numerous signs of Allah? Slow down, and take a look at everything around you in a different light.