By Dr. Jasser Auda
The twenty third stop of your spiritual journey to God: “If you want the doors of hope opened, recall what He offers you, and if the doors of awe opened, recall what you offer Him.”
Hope & Owe
Sometimes our sins, forgetfulness, and lusts block our ways to God. Therefore, we do not feel an overwhelming longing to Him. The Sheikh here guides us to two doors which can be opened by reason, the tool that God granted us and that can be used at any time. The two doors are that of hope and awe.
The questions that the Sheikh is answering here are: how can the door of hope be opened while I do not feel this hope in my heart? How can the door of awe be opened for me while I do not feel this awe in my heart?
The answer is: try to calculate the bounties that God bestowed on you, and calculate the acts of worship and the good deeds that you offered for Him.
As for God’s bounties, they cannot be counted in any way. God says: “For, should you try to count God’s blessings, you could never compute them!” (An-Nahl 16:18) When you remember one of God’s bounties, you will realize how generous, merciful, and most forbearing He is. When you are preoccupied by these meanings, the door of hope in God’s generosity, forbearing, and mercy will be opened for you.
When you remember your shortcomings to ascend to the level of thankfulness, the level of mentioning God or the level of worship, then the door of awe will be opened in your heart.
A servant’s condition should vary between hope and awe so that he will become, as Ibn Al-Qayyim describes, like a bird with two wings; one wing for hope and the other for awe.
Striking a balance between the opposites is one of the invariable universal laws of God. Here we should strike a balance between hope and awe so that the bird can fly because it cannot fly with one wing.
One should be cautious that his hope does not turn to a feeling of being secured, i.e. one feels that he is saved from God’s punishment:
And they say, ‘The fire will most certainly not touch us for more than a limited number of days.’ (Aal `Imran 3:24)
The verse was revealed regarding some of the previous nations who had a belief that they are God’s chosen people, regardless of their actions. Nowadays, some Muslims think that as long as they are Muslims, they can do whatever they want and they will not be harmed. God says: “But none feels secure from God’s deep devising save people who are (already) lost.” (Al-A`raf 7:99)
Hope should not become a state of being secured or that there is a guarantee that God will bestow His mercy on you. The only guarantee is your actual admission to Paradise.
Awe should not lead one to a feeling of despair. God says: “Say: ‘Thus speaks God:’ ‘O you servants of Mine who have transgressed against your own selves! Despair not of God’s mercy: behold, God forgives all sins – for, verily, He alone is much-forgiving, a dispenser of grace!’” (Az-Zumar 39:53) In another verse, we read, “… and do not lose hope of God’s life-giving mercy: verily, none but people who deny the truth can ever lose hope of God’s life-giving mercy.” (Yusuf 12:87)
What we need is to strike a balance between hope and awe. We have to repent to God and seek His forgiveness. At the same time, we should worry that God may not accept our deeds or that He will not grant us forgiveness because of our sins and shortcomings. Our sins should not turn us away from having hope in God’s mercy. Likewise, hope should not keep us away from fearing Him.
We pray to God to grant us the good understanding and open for us the doors of hope and awe in order that our spiritual status is improved and that we follow the right path and do not go astray.
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