By Dr. Jasser Auda
“You risk losing your blessings when you do not thank Him for them, and you tie them to you firmly when you do. And if you do not advance towards Him by doing excellent deeds, He will pull you towards Him with the chains of tests.”
One of the universal laws of God which govern the issue of providence with all its kinds is that if we thank God, He will multiply the blessings or replace them with something better. God says: “If you are grateful (to Me), I shall most certainly give you more and more.” (Ibrahim 14:7)
God declared that we will not be able to count all God’s blessings. God says: “… and should you try to count God’s blessings, you could never compute them.” (Ibrahim 14:34) Every Muslim should do his best to thank God for whatever He gives him.
Then God says: “… but if you are ungrateful, verily, My chastisement will be severe indeed!” (Ibrahim 14:7) The Arabic word “kufr”, in this verse, means being unthankful to God for His blessings. It does not mean disbelief in God. Unthankfulness is another flaw that Ibn `Ata’illah is telling us about in this word of wisdom.
Ibn `Ata’illah says: “You risk losing your blessings when you do not thank Him for them, and you tie them to you firmly when you do.”
The one who thanks God for His blessings, he is tying them to him firmly. God’s promise of rewarding those who thank Him is a true promise. It is like a guarantee, but this guarantee requires that you have to thank God.
Thankfulness is not only limited to saying Alhamdulillah (praise to God). However, thankfulness can be offered through actions. God says: “Labour, O David’s people, in gratitude (towards Me).” (Saba’ 34:13)
Thankfulness through actions requires that everyone should ask himself the following: What am I going to do with this blessing? Am I going to use it in doing a lawful thing? Am I going to contribute with it or part of it in doing a good deed? Or am I going to use it in doing an unlawful thing? If it is last case, the action itself is a form of denying the blessing.
Therefore, if you do not thank God for His blessings with sayings and actions, you will risk losing them. But if you thank God, you are tying His blessings to you firmly.
Then the Sheikh says: “And if you do not advance towards Him by doing excellent deeds, He will pull you towards Him with the chains of tests.”
To the Test
Thus, if you do not thank God for His blessings and advance to Him until you reach the level of excellence, God will put you to tests. By putting you to tests, God is giving you a last chance so that you can reach the level of excellence.
By tests God is elevating you and purifying your heart. If you are afflicted with tests, you will draw closer to God and He will forgive your sins. God says:
And, indeed, We tested them through suffering, but they did not abase themselves before their Sustainer; and they will never humble themselves. (Al-Mu’minun 23:76)
When God puts you to tests, you have to humble yourself, and pray to God. God says about the hypocrites: “Are they, then, not aware that they are being tested year-in, year-out? And yet, they do not repent and do not bethink themselves (of God).” (At-Tawbah 9:126)
God does want to punish you by testing you. But He wants to draw you closer to Him and to count His blessings which He bestowed on you. He wants you to thank Him by your tongue and actions.
When God puts you to a test by losing some blessings, He is testing you by a touch of chastisement. Every one of us has billions of uncountable blessings. When God puts one of us to a test by losing one, two or even five blessings, he feels that he is faced with a severe crisis. While in reality he has billions of blessings which God is bestowing on him every moment.
In every cell in your body, there is a blessing. In every second you live, there is a blessing. In every breath you breathe, there is a blessing. In every glance, there is a blessing. God is the one who is worthy of thankfulness. When God tests you by losing one or two blessings, He, according to Ibn `Ata’illah, is pulling you towards Him.
By losing a blessing, God wants you to return and repent to Him. He also wants you to remember His blessings and reflect on them. If you sincerely repent to God, He will never put you to any test for ever. God says: “And, behold, with every hardship comes ease: verily, with every hardship comes ease!” (Al-Inshirah 95:5-6) We notice that God repeated the verse twice.
In another verse we read: “(and it may well be that) God will grant, after hardship, ease.” (At-Talaq 65:7) Sometimes matters get worse, but God makes a way out and with difficulty comes ease.
When you are faced with a problem or afflicted with a calamity, God brings ease in the middle of the crisis. If this state of ease draws you closer to God, this is in itself a blessing from God.
By testing you, God wants to draw you closer to Him. In such a case, the test is nothing when compared to the benefit you gained from this test, i.e. drawing closer to God. When one loses a blessing, he should remember the other countless blessings bestowed on him by God. In this case, God will elevate his status by testing him. Then, He will relieve the test from you.
If we want to avoid all of this, we have to advance towards God by doing excellent deeds and thanking Him. But this will never happen because we are humans. We cannot maintain thanking God all the time.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Every son of Adam is a sinner.” (At-Tirmidhi)
Therefore, God is purifying us and mending our behavior by putting us to tests which are always accompanied or followed by ease.
I ask God to make us among those who always remember His blessings and repent to Him. I also pray to God to help us maintain mentioning Him, thanking Him, and worshipping Him in the best way.
The article is excerpted from “Some of Al-Hikam Al-Ataiyyah” (The Path to God: A Journey with Ibn `Ata’illah’s Words of Wisdom In the Light of the Quran, the Prophetic Tradition, and Universal Laws of God- By Dr. Jasser Auda