By Dr. Jasser Auda
A sign of success in the end is to refer to God in the beginning. If there is no sunrise in the beginning, there is no sunrise in the end.
A servant journeying to God, who is passing through difficult tests and heading to horizons of peace and tranquility, always thinks of new good deeds that help him along his journey. The word of wisdom under discussion teaches us another universal law. If you master the beginning of any work, there is a guarantee that you get the desired end of that work in the end. This will affect one’s journey to God in that if there is sunrise in the beginning, surely there will be sunrise in the end. But the question is: how should the beginning shine? The answer, according to Ibn `Ata’illah, is by referring to God. And how should one refer to God in the beginning of any work?
Every work should begin with mentioning God according to the remembrance that suits this work. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Every work that does not begin invoking the praise of God is not blessed.”
Therefore, you have to start every work in the name of God. You have to start your speech with sending peace and blessings on the Prophet and with praising God the Almighty. You have to start every act of worship with a pure intention to seek God’s pleasure. You have to start the prayer with this supplication: “I turn my face in complete devotion to One Who is the Originator of the heaven and the earth and I am not of the disbelievers.” When you embark upon big tasks, you have to perform two rak`ahs (units of prayer) of Istikharah (seeking the best course of action). All these things are forms of referring to God in the beginnings.
What is Istikharah?
Istikharah is a supplication that you recite when you want to choose between two permissible actions. The supplication is as follows:
O Allah, I seek Your help in finding out the best course of action (in this matter) by invoking Your knowledge; I ask You to empower me, and I beseech Your favor. You alone have the absolute power, while I have no power. You alone know it all, while I do not. You are the One Who knows the hidden mysteries. O Allah, if You know this thing (I am embarking on) (here mention your case) is good for me in my religion, worldly life, and my ultimate destiny, then facilitate it for me, and then bless me in my action. If, on the other hand, You know this thing is detrimental for me in my religion, worldly life, and ultimate destiny, turn it away from me, and turn me away from it, and decree what is good for me, wherever it may be, and make me content with it.”
The meaning of this supplication is that you wholeheartedly surrender to God and rely on Him alone. Seeking God’s help is a kind of referring to God in the beginnings. Therefore, it is one of the signs and guarantees of success in the ends, no matter what these ends are in our human, worldly calculations of gain or loss. What matters is that you refer to God in the beginnings so that the calculations will be in your favor in the end.
For example, if you running a business to gain some profits, there is a possibility that you might lose that business. But if you think deeply about it, you will find that there are many probabilities for this loss. It is possible that there are huge profits awaiting you in another business in the future. It is also possible that God made you lose so that you reconsider many things in your life. You may find out why your calculations were wrong. You may win a friend who helped you in your troubles. Therefore, the real success lies in making profits in another deal, or reconsidering your calculations, or winning a friend. God says; “… and God knows, whereas you do not know. (Al-Baqarah 2:216)
Seeking God’s Pleasure
The human standards of success and failure are usually based on financial calculations, figures or statistical achievements. However, these calculations, in God’s sight, do not mean anything. What really matters is seeking God’s pleasure. So, if we refer to God in the beginning, the end will shine and Go
d will be pleased with you. Ibn `Ata’illah says: “If there is no sunrise in the beginning, there is no sunrise in the end.”
This rule applies to everything. For example, the Prophet (peace be upon him) said that one of the seven persons whom God would give protection with His Shade on the Day when there would be no shade but that of Him is “a youth who grew up with the worship of God.” This youth perfected the beginning, therefore God granted him success in the end and protected him under His Shade.
There will be sunrise in the beginning when one refrains from committing sins, returns the rights to people, and seeks establishing justice in all the affairs that he handles. On the contrary, if one commits forbidden things in the beginning, surely the end will be a state of failure. This is because doing the things that God made unlawful results in failure and obliterates the blessing. Also the person who does the prohibited things will be at war with God and His messenger.
I pray to God to grant us a happy and good ending of our life. I also pray to God to help us refer to Him in the beginning so that we will achieve success in the end.
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