If we wanted to give a beloved person a present, we would choose what that person likes. If we like strawberries but he likes chocolate, we would buy him chocolate and not strawberries. This is basic.
How many times have we received gifts where it was obvious that the giver did not really take the trouble to find out what we like or dislike? It is not the price of the gift that is important, but the care and consideration that went into its selection. If we truly wanted to please someone, it would befit us to give according to what that person loves.
To please Allah, it is key to understand what He likes and dislikes. Those who are too lazy or disobedient to obey Allah give the justification that Allah would know the contents of their hearts despite making no other effort to please Allah. How can this make sense if we persist in doing things that Allah dislikes and falsely attribute them as something Allah would love?
In wanting to please Allah, we have to learn what He loves. Allah tells us that He loves the following categories of people:
- The Muhsineen, derived from the word ihsan, being the one whose awareness of Allah exceeds the norm. The Muhsineen goes above and beyond what is expected of him. He immediately senses the difficulties of others and rushes to perform good deeds for the sake of Allah. He can also sense evil and immoral elements and stays away from them. His life is driven by the certainty that Allah can see him at all times, even if he cannot see Allah.
And spend in the way of Allah and do not throw [yourselves] with your [own] hands into destruction [by refraining]. And do good; indeed, Allah loves the doers of good. (Al Baqarah, verse 195) Ihsan can also be demonstrated through wealth, character, manners, kindness, forgiveness, generosity and many other actions.
- The Tawabeen: "Indeed, Allah loves those who are constantly repentant and loves those who purify themselves" (Al Baqarah, verse 222). The sinner repents to Allah and refrains from repeating those sins. Allah’s capacity to forgive is staggering, for His mercy transcends His anger. Sincere repentance will absolve even the most enormous sins. Compare Allah's forgiveness to the people in our lives who hold lifelong grudges over petty incidents. The door of forgiveness to Allah is open for as long as one is alive. In addition, Allah can also choose to substitute the sinner's past sins for good deeds. It is evident that while Allah loves those who repent, the true beneficiary of this love, dunia and akhirah is the one who repents.
- The Mutatahireen, the pure or purified one. Beyond physical purity and hygiene, there is also the purity of actions, speech, thoughts and the heart. Spiritual diseases, character flaws, hatred, anger, hypocrisy, greed, selfishness and all other negative attributes dirty our souls and we should all strive to purify ourselves from. "Indeed, Allah loves those who are constantly repentant and loves those who purify themselves." [Al Baqarah, verse 222]
- The Muttaqeen – which is based on the root word taqwa, or God consciousness or fear of Allah. This means having heightened awareness and fear of Allah in your actions, the repercussions of displeasing Allah, and being aware of Allah’s power and might over you. "But yes, whoever fulfils his commitment and fears Allah - then indeed, Allah loves those who fear Him." (Ali Imran, verse 76)
- The Sabireen – which means being patient with the decree of Allah. It includes acceptance to what is destined, and to refrain from rebelling if Allah hands us something we dislike. It calls for suppressing our desires by avoiding actions that Allah loathes. Genuine patience with Allah’s decree will prevent one from becoming angry or despondent if misfortune strikes. We would not feel crushed if Allah takes something away from us or does not grant us what we want. We would also be patient to fulfil Allah's commandments, even if the required action opposes our desires. Patience means having the optimism to accept Allah’s decree whether we love it or detest it, because we trust that Allah is the best of decision makers when it comes to our life affairs. "And Allah loves the steadfast." (Ali Imran, verse 146)
- The Mutawakkileen – "Indeed, Allah loves those who rely [upon Him]." (Ali Imran, verse 159). This is based on tawakkal, or absolute reliance on Allah. One of our greatest mistakes is to place our dependence, trust and belief on others, or worse, on our own abilities and talents, without attributing any of the results to Allah. If we rely on Allah in every endeavour, we are placing our life affairs in the best of Planners. We recognise that it is Allah who determines the results of our efforts. This unconditional trust removes hesitation, apprehension and doubt, because we have assigned our affairs to Allah and relied on Him exclusively. Allah loves the mutawakkileen because it is an indication of an elevated state of faith. It affirms our absolute trust and surrender in Allah to solve our issues and to take care of us to the exclusion of all else, which in turn evidences the supreme amount of respect that we hold for Allah.
These categories sound simple, but it involves changing the way we think, love, and behave. We can't just memorize these, but we have to live out this knowledge to earn Allah's love. All knowledge in Islam is only fruitful to the bearer once put into action.
So what are we going to do with this knowledge? We can either relegate it to the backburner while we continue chasing dunia, or if we could instead earn Allah's love by concentrating on doing what He loves.