The regret that man feels in the world

Turn to your Lord and submit to Him before punishment comes upon you, for then you cannot be helped. Follow the best that has been sent down to you from your Lord before the punishment comes upon you suddenly when you are not expecting it. (Surat az-Zumar: 54-55)

When one is in mortal danger, his "conscience" starts to swiftly account for his life and appraises his life and actions. If this person did not live by the religion of Allah and did not engage in good deeds in this world, then he will be overwhelmed by grief and great regret. Many things that were neglected throughout his life appear suddenly and with clarity before his eyes. Maybe for the first time in his life, he realizes how close death is. He acknowledges that he did not lead a worldly life that entitles him to Paradise. He becomes aware that he has been ungrateful to Allah and he feels that this will not be left unanswered. A dreadful fear which he never experienced before surrounds him, and he understands that only Allah can save him from the situation he is in. Then, he promises Allah to remain thankful and right and always to remember this situation. He implores to Allah earnestly to be saved from the danger he is in. He asks just to be saved and to be given just one opportunity to stay alive...

However, after surviving such a mortal danger, some people do not remain true to their words and promises that they previously gave to Allah. As soon as Allah saves such a person, he returns to his former ways. The feelings of regret and submission are replaced by feelings of ingratitude. He forgets what he thought and realized at the moment he faced death. With the confidence of having overcome the danger, he turns away from Allah as if he was not the one who experienced regret and earnestly implored to Allah before. He resumes his life with even more attachment to the world, as if he had not been in a vulnerable situation a short while ago. In the Qur'an, several examples depict the psychological state of such people:

It is He who conveys you on both land and sea so that when some of you are on a boat, running before a fair wind, rejoicing at it, and then a violent squall comes upon them and the waves come at them from every side and they realize there is no way of escape, they call on Allah, making their religion sincerely His: "If You rescue us from this, we will truly be among the thankful." But then, when He does rescue them, they become rebellious in the earth without any right to do so. Mankind, your rebelliousness is only against yourselves. There is the enjoyment of the life of the world and then you will return to Us and We will inform you about what you did. (Surah Yunus: 22-23)

When harm occurs to you at sea, those you call on vanish - except for Him alone! But when He delivers you to dry land, you turn away. Man truly is ungrateful. Do you feel secure against Him causing the shore to swallow you up or sending against you a sudden squall of stones? Then you will find no one to be your guardian. (Surat al-Isra: 67-68 )

As emphasized in the verse above, how can one be sure that he will not face a similar or a totally different danger again? Alternatively, how does one feel assured that he will be saved for another time? No doubt one would never guarantee that these things would not happen. Also keep in mind that getting out of danger will not make any difference in one's life. Ultimately, one will die one day, exactly when one exhausts the time determined for him. Then he will feel regret but this will not be of any benefit to him.

Such is the common psychological state of those that live apart from the religion (deen). Allah explains this situation as follows:

When harm touches man, he calls on Us, lying on his side or sitting down or standing up. Then when We remove the harm from him he carries on as if he had never called on Us when the harm first touched him. In that way We make what they have done appear good to the profligate. (Surah Yunus: 12)

When harm touches people they call on their Lord, turning to Him in repentance. But then, when He gives them a taste of mercy from Him, a group of them immediately associate others with their Lord. (Surat ar-Rum: 33)

The people depicted in these verses turn to Allah when they are faced with difficulty. Yet no sooner do they come out of this difficulty than they forget the promises they made to Allah and show ungratefulness. This attitude explains that the regret they felt actually arose from the helplessness one feels in a state of difficulty.

The regret peculiar to believers however is much different from the regret mentioned above for it brings the most benefit to man. True regret is not forgotten at once. It prompts one and even produces fundamental changes in one's character. One who feels sincere regret in his heart lives the rest of his life bestowed to him in compliance with Allah's consent, hoping for Allah's mercy and forgiveness. When circumstances change or a new opportunity is granted, he never dares to return to his former way of life, being aware that such ungratefulness means a loss for him.

Allah in the Qur'an relates the psychological state of the people facing death aboard the ship so that it may give a warning to all people. That is because their disposition exists in every individual's ego. So drawing a lesson from this example described in the verses above, one should seriously avoid this negative aspect of one's soul and take a sincere audit of one's conscience. Then, he should ask the following questions to himself:

"What kind of a psychological state would I be in, had I been in a similar situation? What would make me regret? What radical changes would I promise myself to make in my character, provided I was saved from the danger? What would I give up doing and what decisions would I sincerely put into practice?"

To consider these and act accordingly, being physically in danger is not necessarily essential. It is all possible that someone failing to consider such a possibility might experience it very soon. Or, he may never face such danger for a lifetime. In both cases however, one thing is certain: when the moment of death destined for a person meets him, he will suddenly find the angels of death next to him. At this very moment when he fully acknowledges the fact of death, if he failed to lead his life in the way of Allah, he would definitely have things to regret.

To avoid regret in this world and the Hereafter, the only thing to do is to turn toward Allah, be mindful of one's duties to Allah, and fulfil the commands of Allah as stated in the Qur'an. Death is too close, so man should never delay doing the things that he is held responsible for. He should put his sincere decisions into action with patience and determination. The sincerity and closeness to Allah should be the sincerity one feels in times of danger and helplessness, if not more.

The most important fact to be remembered is the following: the main purpose of man's existence in this world is to serve Allah and be a servant who earns His good pleasure. Everything except this-namely, one's success, possessions, family, career, etc-are only the means whereby one may get closer to Allah. The efforts of those who endeavor solely to attain those means unconsciously, forgetting and ignoring that these favors are granted to them by Allah so that they turn to Him and render their thanks to Him, will be in vain-unless Allah wills otherwise. Temporary benefits attained in this world can be of no help to man in the Hereafter. In one verse, Allah emphasized that these are the sorts of people who will be most overwhelmed with grief:

Say: "Shall I inform you of the greatest losers in their actions? People whose efforts in the life of the world are misguided while they suppose that they are doing good." Those are the people who reject their Lord's Signs and the meeting with Him.

Their actions will come to nothing and, on the Day of Resurrection, We will not assign them any weight. (Surat al-Kahf: 103-105)

Provided that one attains the good pleasure of Allah in this world by way of his attitude and morals, Allah will certainly protect him both in this world and beyond. However if he loses this opportunity in this world, he will regret this terrible error at the moment the angels of death appear to him. This error, unlikely to be compensated for, will be a cause for eternal regret-unless Allah wills otherwise. In the Qur'an, Allah describes the regret that people feel in His presence as follows:

He will say, "Oh! If only I had prepared in advance for this life of mine!" (Surat al-Fajr: 24)

...He said, "Oh, if only I had not associated anyone with my Lord!" (Surat al-Kahf: 42)

.. "Alas for me! If only I had gone the way of the Messenger!" (Surat al-Furqan: 27)

A person who would not like to desperately utter these words should, right at this moment, submit to our Lord and live by the principles laid by his Creator.

2009-04-04 16:07:16
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