A believer is one who has been purified of idolatry and other forms of ignorance, such as placing his hopes on imaginary deities or seeking their approval, thereby becoming subservient to them. He serves Allah alone and seeks the approval of Allah alone. As mentioned earlier, he does this by “striving with all due striving.”
The key to “striving with all due striving” on Allah’s way is to seek what pleases Allah most. In the face of several choices, all of which are legitimate, a believer must choose the one that pleases Allah most.
This can be briefly described as follows:
- A believer must spend his entire life doing what is “lawful.” The Qur’an makes clear which actions are unlawful, and these are indeed very few in number. Anything other than these unlawful deeds is lawful.
- In addition to this, what a believer must do is attend to the deeds and thoughts that please Allah most. In this endeavour, his wisdom and “foresight” guide him.
The example of “spending in the way of Allah” (infaq) will make this concept clearer. A believer is a person who has sold his “property and self” to Allah. He should put whatever he has to use in the way that pleases Allah most. However, he may frequently encounter many choices. Let us assume that he has a considerable amount of money with which he could buy a new suit for himself. This is indeed a legitimate and lawful thing to do; being meticulous about one’s appearance is surely something in conformity with Allah’s will. However, there may be other things to do with this money which would please Allah better. Giving it to a needy person might well please Allah more. However, this is a decision that rests entirely with the person himself. Considering the specific conditions and environment he is in, he must establish his priorities by consulting his conscience.
Another example will lead to a better understanding of this concept: A believer is responsible for “enjoining good and forbidding evil,” communicating Allah’s religion and carrying out a struggle on intellectual grounds against the tyrants in the world. Shouldering this all-important responsibility is one way to earn the good pleasure of Allah. Such a responsibility means that certain duties always take precedence. Since there are so many duties demanded by such an important responsibility, it would be incorrect to give priority to any other deed, albeit a legitimate and lawful one. For instance, a man is responsible for taking care of his family; he is the one who provides security and sustenance for the family members. However, using this as an excuse to avoid the responsibility of “enjoining good and forbidding evil” would be conduct unbecoming to a believer.
Indeed, upon reflection, we can see that the “soul” (an-nafs) is involved when one prefers what is less valuable in the presence of Allah. Preferring the less valuable to the more valuable in the presence of Allah is a consequence of setting aside a “share” for one’s soul. In this sense, what one needs to accomplish is not to be guided by one’s soul, but to go all-out to seek the total approval of Allah. Seeking Allah’s consent by a ninety nine percent effort and setting aside a one percent share for the soul may not be acceptable in the eyes of Allah. That is because the person in question has associated his soul with Allah. A mere one percent of idolatry may render his services unacceptable. The situation of those who ascribe partners to any being other than Allah is described as follows:
They assign to Allah a share of the crops and livestock He has created, saying, “This is for Allah,”—as they allege—“and this is for our idols.” Their idols’ share does not reach Allah, whereas Allah’s share reaches their idols! What an evil judgement they make! (Surat al-An‘am: 136)
As for seeking what most pleases Allah, the attitude of believers in wartime in the days of the Prophet (saas) is related in the Qur’an. In the face of two groups of enemies, believers preferred to fight against the weaker of the two. Yet it was Allah’s will that there should be a fight against the stronger. These events are related in the verses as follows:
When Allah promised you that one of the two parties would be yours, you would have preferred the unarmed one, whereas Allah sought to fulfill His promise and to rout the last remnant of the disbelievers. This was so that the Truth should triumph and falsehood be discomfited, even though the evil-doers hated that. (Surat al-Anfal: 7-8)
Finally, Allah made the believers confront the stronger party and led them to the one thing that would please Him most. Ultimately, they triumphed with the help of Allah.
The example related above is an event shaped within the conditions of that period. Yet the fact remains that in every age Muslims are put to the test through different events. Today, for instance, Muslims must engage in a struggle on intellectual grounds against those who deny the Qur’an and the facts of creation and who strive to sow immorality in society. Muslims should determine the best course to follow in this struggle they take upon themselves and then carry it out with commitment. Yet, even if one has the strength to shoulder this responsibility, if one involves oneself with issues of no great urgency only to satisfy one’s own desires, that will only incur the displeasure of Allah.
Meanwhile, we need to bear in mind that the expression, “doing what is most pleasing to Allah” is used to make the concept more comprehensible. Turning away from what pleases Allah most and involving oneself with tasks of secondary importance is in fact displeasing to Allah. Hence, that one thing that pleases Allah most is, under all circumstances, whatever is in accordance with His will. To put it another way, there is no alternative to what pleases Allah most.
For his salvation, a believer is responsible for seeking “what pleases Allah most.” Failing to do so means being unaware of the danger waiting ahead. In the face of the humiliation one will face in hell and in the presence of Allah, it is surely essential to seek “what pleases Allah most.”
A few examples of the attitude one displays in the face of dangers that one may encounter in this world and the efforts one makes to deal with them will lead to a better understanding of how one seeks what pleases Allah most:
- Assume that you are face to face with a giant torrent and the water level is rising rapidly. In this situation, would you run to the top of a ten-storey building to save yourself, or remain on the fifth-floor and say, “This place is high enough to save me”?
- Let’s assume that there is a lift that can take you to the top floor. This lift is not free of charge and it will operate only once. You have just the right amount of money to take you to the top floor. Would you give all the money you have to go to the top, or remain at a lower storey which is vulnerable to the torrent?
- Again, let’s assume that there is a party being held on the sixth-floor, where you have taken refuge. Would you attend the party or strive to find a way to the top floor?
- As another example, let’s assume that one of your close friends has had a heart attack and he or she should immediately be taken to the emergency room. In this situation, would you drive as fast as you can or not drive so fast and say, “This is fast enough, he or she must bear up.”?
As is apparent from the examples above, in the face of danger, a man becomes vigilant and does his utmost to be saved from it. The biggest threat to man is hell. One of the most important goals of a person who seeks what pleases Allah most, is his inner inclination to avoid this danger.
For a moment, let’s assume that you are on the edge of hell, around which people will be gathered on the Day of Judgement and witness its stunning images. Having seen hell, would you not choose what pleases Allah most out of a number of alternatives?
Disbelievers do their best to “make the most” of their lives, which is nothing but “a brief enjoyment” (Surah Al ‘Imran: 197). While this “brief enjoyment” is doomed to a bitter end, Allah promises His approval, mercy and paradise for believers. A believer, who wishes to avail himself of these promises of Allah, must strive hard to seek what most pleases Him. (For further reading see Harun Yahya “Devoted to Allah”)