إِنَّا جَعَلْنَا مَا عَلَى الْأَرْضِ زِينَةً لَّهَا لِنَبْلُوَهُمْ أَيُّهُمْ أَحْسَنُ عَمَلًا
“Indeed, We have made that which is on the earth an adornment for it, so that We may test them [as to] which of them are best in deeds.”
[Al-Quran – Al-Kahf (The Cave: 7]
In the odd times when I remember that my life is a test, I feel like I’m failing miserably.
There is still a great disparity between my ilm (knowledge) and amal (action) which I am finding difficult to bridge. The more the knowledge, the more the accountability; and sometimes the more complacency also. This is a great attack of the Shaitan. I ask Allah
() to give me hidayah tawfeeq (guidance to act) and not just hidayah irshaad (guidance of knowledge).
Before coming to the Qur’an, when I used to read about how Allah () guides and misguides whomever He wills, I used to think that even if He tries to misguide me, I will not let that happen! Na’oodhubillaah (We seek refuge in Allah), of course, that was foolish thinking on my part, and Allah has taught me a lesson. There are times when I absolutely cannot bring myself to do good deeds, even if I want to do them.
Hence, I realize that Allah () is Always Almighty. We are all helpless beings who cannot even do a single good deed EXCEPT with His tawfeeq.
2 Ways of Assessing Oneself
There are two ways one can give oneself marks on the “test of life.”
- One way is by comparing oneself to disbelievers, criminals and sinners including murderers, adulterers and thieves, etc. When I do this, I feel like I’m doing pretty well.
- The other way is to compare oneself with the Prophets, Sahabah (Companions of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم), Tabi’een (Pious Predecessors who met the Sahabah), Taba Tabi’een (Pious Predecessors who met the Tabi’een), scholars and the believers as described in the Qur’an, etc. When I do this, I feel like the scum of the earth and my sins are suddenly all too clear in front of me.
It is better to judge oneself based on one’s comparison (contrast, rather) to the pious predecessors rather than the sinners. It is better to be safe than sorry!
How Can I do Better?
- I can make my deeds ahsan (best) by doing whatever good deed I do with utmost ikhlaas (sincerity), which is a way of making it at the level of excellence.
- Also, I should do deeds for the pleasure of Allah () instead of doing good deeds merely out of the goodness of my heart (like many non-Muslims also do).
- I should never underestimate small or few acts of goodness if they are done with sincerity, because the key word Allah () has mentioned for the deeds that carry marks is ahsan (best) and not akthar (most). Quality is more important than quantity. For example, a two rakah prayer filled with khushoo(humility) and weeping for fear of Allah () would probably be more beloved to and high-ranking in the sight of Allah () than a dozen rakah offered mindlessly with no understanding of the words uttered in the salah.
May Allah ( ) give us all the tawfeeq to do ahsan amal, Ameen.