We’re going to talk today about contentment with Allah’s decree; in Arabic we call this al-rida, being content with what God Almighty has given us and being happy with our lot.
In English there is a saying “Keeping up with the Joneses.”
What it means is that there is an imaginary family, a fictional family called the Jones family, who live next door to us, or they live across the road or down the street, and according to this idea of keeping up with the Joneses, if the Jones family get a new car, we have to get a new car as well.
If the Jones get a swimming pool, we need a swimming pool; if the Jones’ children go to such and such fancy school, our children have to go to such and such fancy school…
This idea of keeping up with the Joneses can eat away at us. We have to be the same, if not better, than all the people around us.
This attitude to life encourages us just to be envious of other people. You know with this attitude of those people have a better car than we have, why? I want a better car. Those people wear nicer clothes than I do, I want better clothes…
This world of things, of material things, encourages us to judge one another compared to other people and to rate ourselves according to our neighbor.
Well, according to that calculation, if I haven’t got very much, and the people walking past me have got a lot, it’s going to make me very envious, unless we are content, unless we see things in a different way, unless we see all things as gifts, unless we see that everything in this life comes as a gift from Allah Almighty.
You know how at a feast time or a birthday, you open the presents and someone gives you a big gift and someone gives you a small gift, and usually you don’t resent the people who’ve given you the small gift because it’s been given with love. Your mother gives you small gift and your uncle gives you a bigger gift, you love them both very much.
The Gift of Life
But if we look at life as gift, we become content with what we have. You know, I was told some years ago, I heard a very beautiful khutbah and the one speaking described this world saying that this world is like a play, this world is like a drama and when this life starts we all put on different clothes.
So some of us put on the clothes of a King, some of us put on the costume of a poor person, some of us put the costume of an engineer, a teacher, or a housewife… and we play that part. But when the drama is over, when life is finished, we take off the costumes that we’ve been wearing, and we all go back to exactly what we were to start with, everyone equal in Allah’s sight.
You know in the mosque, there are no Kings or Presidents and Princes in a mosque. All we have in a mosque are Muslims standing side by side, praying with one another to Allah. One might be a King, one might be a Prince, one might be the road sweeper who cleans the palace and gardens, but we’re all the same in Allah’s sight.
So in this world we have different roles to play. Everyone is the same, everyone is equal in Allah’s sight but people have different roles to play, and Allah has chosen what roles we have.
Before we carry on, we must be very careful when we’re talking about Allah’s plan and His decree, we mustn’t blame Allah for problems that are of our own making.
You know, if there are people in this world starving to death, they have no food, let’s not blame God for that.
There is plenty food in this world, there is plenty food to go around; the fact that some people like to eat beef burgers that require that cows be fed on so much corn and whatever, our choice means that people living in another part of the world don’t have anything to eat. So let’s not blame God for some of the problems that we cause.
But yes, in life, people are different; some people are rich, some people are poor, some people are clever, some people aren’t, some people are handsome, some people are not handsome… people are different, but in Allah’s eyes we are all beautiful.
Remember Allah Almighty doesn’t make mistakes. When He created one person, He didn’t create him and say: “Oh! I made a mistake with that one”.
He makes us all just how He wants us to be, and in fact, He tells us in the Quran:
Indeed we’ve created Man in best of moulds. (Quran 95:4)
He doesn’t say “we created some men, some people in the best of moulds, and others we didn’t, we have classes of people…”
He doesn’t say that. He says:
We’ve created Man in best of moulds.
All people are equal in Allah’s sight but all people are different. So like in that drama, some of us wear the clothes of a King, some of us wear the clothes of a poor man.
Contentment as Part of Faith
Contentment with what we have is for people of faith.
Muslims believe that when this drama is over, the poor man and the King, if they lived a good life, they both go to the same Paradise, and – as the Quran beautifully describes – they’ll both be dressed in garments of green silk and will be wearing bracelets of pearls and gold and will be drinking from goblets of gold and there’ll be water flowing beneath us…
These are beautiful images, but God tells us very clearly that for all people of faith the reward is going to be great.
So for people who are poor in this world, for people who don’t have as much as other people in this world, we do, for a start, have the promise that after this short time of life (50, 60, 70 years, whatever it is) our reward is going to be extraordinary.
There is something that people of faith can do, because contentment with what Allah wants, as Muslims, we say “Qaddarallahu wa ma sha’a fa’al” (Allah has decreed things as He wanted them to be).
Let’s not forget that Allah is in charge, we’re not. Allah is in charge of this world and He decided things in justice: “I want things to be like this, and I want other things to be like this”.
We don’t have the mind of Allah, we don’t know why He did these things, but we do know that He didn’t need to make us, we do know that He didn’t need to make this world or anything that’s in it.
We do know that He doesn’t need the angels to praise Him, He doesn’t need us to worship Him, He needs none of those things. He‘s is infinite in all His Perfection; He’s perfect in every way, and our praise adds nothing to His greatness.
So if He made us, well it sounds to reason if He gets nothing out of making us, He can only either make us out of hatred or make us out of love, and from the Quran and the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), we see that He made us out of love.
So if He made us out of love and our minds are not like His mind, He makes someone in this situation and someone in this situation. We don’t understand why, but we do understand that He knows why. “Qaddarallahu wa ma sha’a fa’al.” He decreed something and He did what He wanted to do, Alhamdulillah.
So what do we, as Muslims, do, what do we as People of faith do to try and come to terms with what we have?
One thing Muslims do for example is in all things we say Alhamdulillah in all things: when something bad happens we say Alhamdulillah (praise be to Allah); when something good happens, we say Alhamdulillah. And because we don’t look at things as Allah looks, you know sometimes a bad thing happens, and we think it’s a disaster.
Think of a time in your life when you’ve lost a job, you’ve lost a loved one… something seemingly terrible has happened and out of it we look back on it years later and we say “well, it wasn’t the end of the world when that thing happened”.
The loss of a loved one is a terrible thing, but losing a job for example, sometimes you can look back and say “It seemed terrible but actually, it was a start of a new period of my life.”
So if we want to be content with what Allah gives us, we say in all things “Alhamdulillah”. We say in all things, as Muslims, “Bismillah Ar-Rahman Ar-Rahim”; In the name of Allah, we do this, in the name of Allah we take a sip of water… we do all things in Allah’s name.
And as well, as Muslims for all things we say Inshallah; if Allah Almighty wills it to be so, it will happen.
If we can keep those three phrases close to our heart: “Alhamdulillah, Inshallah, Bismillah Ar-Rahman Ar-Rahim” we’ll become people of faith and we’ll begin to see things not with an eye on the swimming pool of the people next door, not with an eye on the car of the man who comes to work and parks next to our bicycle, not next to the people with fancy shoes when we’re just wearing little plastic shoes in our feet.
What we do is we thank Allah Almighty because we see things with the eyes of faith and if we see things with the eyes of faith, we come to realize that all things are made and controlled by Allah.
Allah planned from the beginning of time that I’ll be sitting here talking to you today, it is part of His plan. He doesn’t plan that we do bad things.
He doesn’t plan that I would say bad words to the camera, that’s my choice, but He planned that I’ll be here sitting in front of you.
So, as people of faith, we look to Allah and we are always thankful and grateful and we look to our future where we can rest in His pleasure, finding pleasure in Allah is how we find pleasure in our lives.
(From Discovering Islam’s archive.)