My Goal in Life v What Allah Wants
Many jobs now offer retirement plans, or shares in the company or some other plan to assure you of financial security and success for the rest of your lives.
The global economy undergoes regular meltdowns. Many were caught in the last financial crisis, waking up to find that their bonds, lifetime investments, retirement funds and insurance plans had been depleted overnight. Others, during the real estate crash, found that up to one third to half of their equity had been wiped out, even those in prime locations. Banks became bankrupt overnight, bankrupting their depositors with them. For many, this signified a lifetime of savings and investments up in flames. Some people who were ready to retire, found themselves having to continue working for a few more years because all their savings were lost. Most people who had a retirement insurance plan never even enjoy the benefits of such plan.
What happened to all the years of planning, projected rates of returns and savings?
When we have kufr in Allah, we place our hopes in our wealth, savings, assets and bank account. We challenge Him by behaving as if our investments can insulate us from His plan. In reality, we cannot escape the plan of Allah. His qadr will reach us regardless.
Today, there is a worrying increase in the number of suicides amongst Muslims. This is a phenomenon that has only occurred in recent years, because a Muslim knows that suicide is an unforgiveable sin. How is it that Muslims have reached this level of despair that death becomes preferable?
It happens when we forget the basic of iman: iyya kana'budu wa iyya ka nasta'een (only You we worship and only You we ask for help). We recite these words regularly, but this holds little value if in actual fact, our faith lies in our possessions, life plans and health and not with Allah.
We did not choose who we are, the way we look and even to be a Muslim. Even our husbands and wives were ordained for us, and we ended up with them by circumstance. All we have in life has already been chosen for us, and we are living acting out what has been destined for us.
The qadr of Allah will occur whether we desire it or not. If Allah gives us something we like, we should say alhamdulillah. If Allah gives us something we don't like, we should also say alhamdulillah. If Allah gives us a calamity, we should say inna lillahi inna ilaihi raji'un (verily we are from Allah and verily to Allah we will return). Regardless of how we resist, the qadr of Allah will unfold. It is unavoidable, but our reactions can change turn even the worst trial into the most elevated blessing.
The Clash between Plans and Fate
This dunia is a temporary testing ground for all mankind. Rasulullah (SAW) said that he was like a traveller, sitting under the shade of a tree and then left. We have all have sat under a shade and minutes later had to shift our positions because the shade had moved. This is how fast dunia passes by.
When we are anchored to dunia, our tongues profess that we are going to die but in reality, our hopes and ambitions obsess us into thinking we will live forever and that we are the masters of our own destinies. When we fail to achieve our goals we panic and become frantic.
What incidents cause us to get upset nowadays? Is it even worth being upset over? A person of iman would be troubled over things which affect his soul, such as missing a salah or having committed a bad deed. Today, we get distressed over trivial things which are inconsequential to our journey of iman, such as gaining or losing weight, our spouse's cooking or our bosses.
Our life goals become a demand, absolutely compulsory. Our world is destroyed when our laid out plans do not come to fruition. It is as if it is the end of the world!
As Muslims, we cannot command an outcome. We can wish, make plans and supplicate, but we cannot demand because the qadr will always override our careful planning. What happened to the unsinkable Titanic, or the Challenger?
Our goal and our qadr will frequently be at odds. This is inevitable, because what Allah plans for you is always different from what you, in your limited knowledge and vision, have planned for yourself.
The Prophet (SAW) drew a few lines and said, "This is (man's) hope, and this is the instant of his death, and while he is in this state (of hope), the nearer line (death) comes to Him." (Bukhari)
In another hadith, it was reported that Anas (RA) said that the Prophet (SAW) drew some lines and said "This is man and this end of his lifespan. This is how he is when this nearest line comes upon him." (Bukhari)
No son of Adam will fulfill his wishes before he dies. Many people have built a house and never got to live in it. People have died suddenly on vacations, leaving plenty of unfinished business. Someone in the peak of his career may wake up with cancer and find that his days are numbered. How many wanted to be a doctor and ended up as an engineer? How many university graduates ended up as taxi drivers? Do you think that's what they planned when they invested money and time into their education?
We have to make the effort, but realize that the result is in the hands of Allah. The farmer may till the soil in his farm with care, but a single storm or drought can destroy all the crops. Fishing boats are now equipped with sophisticated tracking devices, but fishermen can spend weeks in the ocean without a catch.
Allah is both our "Ila" and our "Rabb". Ila is the One who is deserving of worship, whereas "Rabb" is the controller, governor and provider. If everything is in His hands, what is there in our hands left to control?
Dunia is our ongoing test
As our success increases, so does our arrogance. When we are successful and get well paying jobs, we become demanding and think we can defy fate.
For example, with the existence of sperm banks, we assume that we can custom make a human being to match certain specifications. This may be true to an extent, but do we know the child's future apart from his physical attributes? Do we know if the child will be happy or unhappy, guided or astray? We do not have all this knowledge. It is not even guaranteed that a good man, who marries a good woman, will get good children.
When we play God, we are inviting trouble. Allah will make us so immersed in dunia that our activities become like a cyclone. We are occupied with completing our education, obtaining a second degree, finding a husband or wife, having children, buying a car, then a bigger car, then a house and then another house. Decades later, salah and journey of iman are no longer relevant because of the singular focus on material achievements. Then one day, the person discovers he is unhappy and directionless despite the houses, cars and vacations. Why is that?
The dunia was created as a trial for us. This is not a new knowledge, but when we are swept in the cycle of dunia, with the wrong companions, distant from Allah, zikrullah, reading the Qur'an and remembering death, far away from being united with the Muslim community, Shaitan and our nafs will overpower us. Not only that, we will feed our children with the same cycle.
Most of the Messengers and Prophets were not rich or with immense status. There were a few exceptions, such as Sulaiman AS, but even though he was a king, he was not a tyrant, and fed himself from fruits of his own labour. Daud AS observed the fast every other day and led a frugal lifestyle for himself. Allah made most of the Prophets and Messengers poor, in order to remind us of our goal in life, which is to discard dunia and strive for the hereafter.
The reality of death surrounds us constantly, but we ignore it. Read the news, visit the grave and visit the terminally ill in hospital. This will be a sharp reminder of our own future.
When we forget we are going to die, we start developing a cluster of goals, which breeds greed. Whereas keeping our eye on the hereafter will simplify our lives on this earth, and make us lose the desire for excessive and luxurious lifestyles.
Surah Al Mulk reminds us that the dunia is an ongoing test:
Blessed is He in whose hand is dominion, and He is over all things competent - [He] who created death and life to test you [as to] which of you is best in deed. (Al Qur'an 67:1 – 67:2)
Allah consistently us you under trial to see who is the best in good deeds. In our graves, we will be questioned about our time, money, and devotion to Allah. If you can stand to the questioning by Allah, then you have the real retirement plan in your hands! Who has the best solution for your retirement plan after this life other than Allah? Guaranteed by Allah, and absolutely insulated from bankruptcy or economic collapse.
What we should be concerned about is guidance from Allah, for this is the secret to the ultimate tranquility in life.
So whoever Allah wants to guide - He expands his breast to [contain] Islam; and whoever He wants to misguide - He makes his breast tight and constricted as though he were climbing into the sky. Thus does Allah place defilement upon those who do not believe. (Al Qur'an 6:125)
Whoever Allah chooses, He opens his heart to Islam, and gives him peace and tranquility with hidayah. If Allah wants to lead you astray, your chest becomes tight, akin to someone who is on a high elevation and is lacking oxygen. We have met so many "successful" people – CEOs, businessmen and bankers, but their lives are in disarray. They are stressed, living at the edge and have no time for themselves and their families, much less to nurture and grow their deen.
People now think that their goal is life, and this will cripple them. Their faces are lined with worry, and tension is etched in every part of their body language. Whereas, if you belong Allah, you are calm and relaxed, with harmony that cannot even be possessed by kings. If Allah grants you this serenity, it is in itself a priceless treasure.
The following verse was directed to the disbelievers, but apply to the current ummah.
"O company of jinn and mankind, did there not come to you messengers from among you, relating to you My verses and warning you of the meeting of this Day of yours?" They will say, "We bear witness against ourselves"; and the worldly life had deluded them, and they will bear witness against themselves that they were disbelievers. [Al An'am 6:130]