Sufyaan al-Thawri said,
“Faith is not wishes or pretence, rather it is what settles in the heart and is proven by actions.”
The sincere believer has a heart like a burning coal, hence it was narrated by al-Haakim in his Mustadrak and al-Tabaraani in his Mu’jam with an authentic chain that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said, “Faith wears out in your heart as clothes wear out, so ask Allaah to renew the faith in your hearts.”
The believer’s heart may sometimes feel overwhelmed by clouds of sin. This was portrayed to us by the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) when he said, “There is no heart that does not have clouds like the clouds that cover the moon. When the cloud covers it, it is dark, and when the cloud moves away it shines.” (Narrated by al-Tabaraani in al-Awsat, and classed as saheeh by al-Albaani.)
So the believer’s heart is sometimes covered with a cloud and its light is hidden, and it remains dark and lonely, but if he strives to increase his store of faith and seeks the help of Allaah, that cloud goes away and the light in his heart starts to shine again. Hence one of the Salaf said:
“It is part of a person’s smartness to check on his faith and be aware of what affects it.”
It is also part of a person’s smartness:
“That he recognizes how the Shaytaan whispers to him.”
If you come back to faith and do as it requires, then you will achieve what you want. We will tell you of a basic principle which will let you know when faith is present and when it is not. Imam Ibn al-Jawzi said:
“O you who are turned away, O you who are deprived of meeting your loved ones, if you want to know how you stand before the king, then look at how you are spending your time and what work you are assigned to do. How many people stand at the door of the king, but no one enters except the one whom he cares for. Not every heart is fit to draw close, not every heart can be filled with love, not every wind is like the morning breeze.”
If a person wants to know how he stands before Allaah and how he stands in relation to His commands and prohibitions, let him look at himself and see what he is preoccupied with. If he is busy with da’wah and with saving people from the Fire, striving to attain Paradise, helping the weak and needy, honouring his parents, then let him rejoice in the fact that he is close to the King of kings, for Allaah does not help anyone to do good except those whom He loves.
But if he is has no interest in da’wah, dislikes the daa’iyahs and does not do good things, if he is preoccupied with this world and its gains, and with gossip and asking too many questions, whilst not doing much or following his whims and desires, let him know that he is far from Allaah and has been deprived of that which will bring him closer to Paradise, because Allaah says in His holy Book (interpretation of the meaning):
“Whoever desires the quick-passing (transitory enjoyment of this world), We readily grant him what We will for whom We like. Then, afterwards, We have appointed for him Hell; he will burn therein disgraced and rejected ( far away from Allaah’s Mercy).
And whoever desires the Hereafter and strives for it, with the necessary effort due for it (i.e. does righteous deeds of Allaah’s obedience) while he is a believer (in the Oneness of Allaah Islamic Monotheism) — then such are the ones whose striving shall be appreciated, (thanked and rewarded by Allaah)” [al-Isra’ 17:18-19]
If you want to have a high position in all kinds of good deeds, to be a devoted slave of Allaah and to honour your parents, and you are seeking Paradise, then you have to do the following:
1 – You have to revive the faith in your heart. Faith is what will bring the Muslim everything he seeks in this world and in the Hereafter. Faith is the key to all goodness and locks the door to all evil. The means of reviving and strengthening faith in one’s heart are many and varied, including doing a lot of acts of worship and righteous deeds.
2 – You must turn to your Lord sincerely, as it says in the report: “If My slave turns to me inwardly and outwardly, I will turn the hearts of My slaves to him with love and mercy.” Allaah has made worship the ultimate aim and loftiest purpose of man: “And I (Allaah) created not the jinn and mankind except that they should worship Me (Alone)” [al-Dhaariyaat 51:56 – interpretation of the meaning)]
3 – You should always set your sights on the highest degrees, and make your goal in life to earn the pleasure of Allaah, and strive to attain the victory of Paradise, or to attain the highest Firdaws. You should strive as hard as you can to achieve these lofty aims.
4 – You should follow the example of historical Muslim figures such as the Sahaabah, Taabi’een and righteous forebears (the salaf).
5 – You should make the most of every minute, every moment and every heartbeat to use it in such a way as to increase your faith.
6 – You should try to keep company with righteous people, because the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said, “A man will follow the religion of his close friend, so let each one of you look at whom he befriends.” (Narrated by Abu Dawood and al-Tirmidhi with a hasan isnaad.) Good friends are one of the best means of helping you to obey Allaah and to avoid sin and error.
7 – Doing a lot of righteous deeds which will bring you happiness in this world and in the Hereafter.
8 – Praying qiyaam al-layl (the night prayer), making du’aa’ in the time just before dawn. The feet of the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) used to swell because of his desire to be a thankful slave, even though Allaah had forgiven his previous and future sins. Whoever seeks to achieve great things has to stay up at night (worship).
Hence al-Fudayl said:
“You hearts can never taste the sweetness of faith until they shun worldly pleasures.” And he also said, “If you cannot pray qiyaam at night and fast during the day, then know that you are deprived.”
9 – Persisting in reading a portion of Qur’aan daily, and other dhikr (formulas of remembrance) that helps you to think and ponder the meanings of the Qur’aan.
10 – Striving to spread the word and make da’wah for the sake of Allaah, and working for Islam as much as possible.
If you want to reach the status of devoted slave for which you long, then be as Allaah commanded His Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him):
“Say (O Muhammad): Verily, my Salaah (prayer), my sacrifice, my living, and my dying are for Allaah, the Lord of the ‘Aalameen (mankind, jinn and all that exists).” [al-An’aam 6:162]
Being a devoted slave of Allaah means declaring one’s devotion and belonging to the Lord, which can only be achieved by applying this aayah, so that we are for Allaah, the Lord of the Worlds, in all our affairs.
Being a devoted slave of Allaah can only be fully achieved in this manner; it can only be achieved by worshipping Allaah in the fullest sense of the word, which means making our living and dying, and all our movements, for Him alone. So we only speak that which is pleasing to Allaah; we only do that which is pleasing to Allaah; we focus our intention in these words and deeds only on Allaah. Worship should not be reduced to merely raising and lowering our heads at certain times, or giving a few pennies every once in a while, or fasting a few days each year, or moving our lips to say a few words and dhikrs.
Hence the deeds that lead to this status – of being a devoted slave – are innumerable and may take many shapes in all aspects of our lives and the places where we live. This is by the bounty of Allaah towards us and towards all people.
Just look, in every place where you find yourself and every moment that comes to you, for that which will please Him, and what you think He wants to see you doing, and do it. Then you will be a devoted slave.
Finally, we ask Allaah to accept righteous deeds from us and from you, and to gather us and you in His mercy with the Prophets, siddeeqs, martyrs and righteous, and those surely are the best of companions.