Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said:
“There are three qualities that whoever possesses will taste the sweetness of faith: That Allah and His Messenger are dearer to him than all else, that he loves a person only for the sake of Allah, and that he hates to revert to disbelief just as he hates to be thrown into the fire.” (Al-Bukhari)
It was February 2002 when I first read this hadith. It was the last part of the statement that shook me to my core. Hating being thrown in a fire as much as hating to revert to disbelief was a striking comparison. I didn’t know if my faith was truly that strong.
I thought about how it would feel to be thrown into a fire. How it would even feel to be threatened to be thrown in a fire. The panic would consume me before the heat ever would.
I wanted to be that dedicated to Allah. I wanted to be willing to give my life for my faith. But I didn’t know if my fear of losing my faith was comparable to my fear of being thrown in a fire.
The other two qualifiers for tasting the sweetness of faith– loving Allah and His messenger more than all else and loving a person for the sake of Allah– I could not wrap my head around, but felt I could learn.
I had only been Muslim for a few months, and I knew that I was on the right path. I was so in love with my new way of life but my faith was not firm in my heart yet. I had not tasted the sweetness of faith. It wasn’t much longer after that that Allah put me on a path to understanding what it took to taste the sweetness of faith.
Allah and His Messenger are dearer to you than all else
Putting people on pedestals will break your heart. I learned this the hard way just a few weeks after learning the sweetness of faith hadith.
All my life I had learned by example that most men are dishonorable in their treatment of women. My father was an alcoholic whose treatment of my mother, his wife, was less than ideal to say the least. My friends’ fathers either cheated or drank or were abusive. Some of them did all of the above.
But there was one male family member that taught me that not all men had to act this way. He saw the devastation my father created for my family and the way his father’s betrayal of his mother destroyed her and effected his life. He vowed to be different. And he was.
He married a good women and treated her with a lot of respect and kindness. That was until I learned that he went to a strip club from time to time. In my American culture this is not a huge deal to most people. But to me, it was a huge betrayal. How could this man, the only man I had respected up to that point, do something so disrespectful? I was crushed and felt like no one could be trusted.
That was until I spoke with a Muslim friend for advice. She told me that people are flawed and this situation is probably Allah’s way of bringing me closer to loving the perfect character of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him. It was true. I knew that I wasn’t perfect and that I couldn’t expect that from anyone else except the Prophet of Allah, who was truly guided.
People are flawed but Allah and the guidance of His messenger will never let you down. There will never be a time when Allah is unjust. And there will never be a time when the example of Prophet Muhammad will lead you astray.
You love a person only for the sake of Allah
I was on a path back to Allah, and I was learning a lot. A short while after learning not to put anyone else in the place of Allah and His messenger, I learned how painful love for the wrong reasons could be.
There was one person who I sought approval and love from all of my life. I grew up with her always looking up to her, imitating her, and hoping she would validate me and love me. When she learned that I had become a Muslim, she became cold and argumentative and eventually cut off all communication with me. She gave me an ultimatum: If I didn’t give up being a Muslim, she didn’t want anything to do with me.
The loss of this person in my life was devastating. I had never felt so lonely. And I started to realize my admiration and love of this person was not healthy in the first place. If it was a friendship and a love that had to be on her terms and only if I gave up my love for God, it wasn’t worth it.
This love and attachment was an unhealthy addiction like any other drug. I was determined not to let this destroy me because I had not loved her for the right reasons.
I started to realize what it meant to loving for the sake of Allah. It is a love that cannot be tarnished by people because this kind of love helps you understand that all that you and all the one you love is because of the one that created you.
Love for the sake of Allah is recognizing that the person that you love was made from clay and incomparably modeled to have such an impact on you. Love for the sake of Allah is attaching your heart to Allah and being kind and gentle to His creation. It’s loving those who bring you closer to Allah. Love for the sake of Allah means you want the best for your loved one and you want them to be the best they can be.
In my realization of this, I continued to love this person who broke my heart, because if it weren’t for her, if Allah had not put her in my path to learn this lesson, I would still be clinging to unhealthy love. I would never have learned that loving for the sake of Allah protects the heart because Allah will always be there and your love for His creation through Him will never change if it is for the right reasons. I would never have learned that you won’t need reciprocation from the creation if you have the love of the Creator.
You hate to revert to disbelief just as you hate to be thrown into the fire
It wasn’t long into my journey that I could look back on my life before Islam and honestly say that I would NEVER want to go back to it. In those first few years, I was greatly tested. I had lost all my possessions, my home, family members, my status in society. I had little to eat and no means to earn a living. But life before Islam, when I had all that I needed and much of what I wanted, looked a lot more bleak.
As a non-Muslim I was empty. I recall the utter desperation I felt to fill that emptiness. It was a feeling that will lead one to give up everything to not feel it even for one second. And I finally understood what it meant to hate to revert to disbelief just as I would hate to be thrown into the fire. I would rather lose my life and meet Allah than to feel that utter emptiness and desperation for one second.
The three components to the sweetness of faith are like pieces of a puzzle. Feeling fulfilled by faith and not wanting to go back to the emptiness felt without it, loving Allah and His messenger and knowing that it is ok if people let you down, knowing how to love for the right reasons and protect the heart from hurt were all feelings I never wanted to let go of.
Thinking that once these criteria were fulfilled then the sweetness of faith would come was an inaccurate assumption. The criteria themselves were and are truly the sweetness of faith.
Feeling complete, feeling protected and guided, knowing that this is all it takes brings a peace and joy to the heart and nothing can compare to it is a thing so sweet that I now know that I would never want to give it up for anything. Not even the threat of death or torture can sway the one who tastes it from seeking the sweetness of faith.