How To Understand God’s Giving and Depriving?

(Ibn Ata’s Words of Wisdom: Part 17)

“You might think that He is giving you, while in reality He is depriving you.

And you might think that He is depriving you, while in reality He is giving you.

If through your deprivation He opens the doors of understanding for you, then this deprivation is a gift.

You feel bad about your deprivation because you don’t understand. He might open the door of worship for you but doesn’t open the door of acceptance.

And you might be destined to sin, but this becomes a means to ascension towards Him.

A sin that produces humbleness and need is better than an act of worship that produces arrogance and prejudice.”

When a Blessing is Not a Blessing

In this word of wisdom, that’s rather long, the point here is that to understand Allah Almighty in His giving and His depriving of things.

Not everything that you feel that He is giving you as a blessing is actually a blessing; and not everything that you feel  He is testing your with and difficulty, and so forth is actually a difficulty:

And as for man, when his Lord tries him and [thus] is generous to him and favors him, he says, “My Lord has honored me.”

But when He tries him and restricts his provision, he says, “My Lord has humiliated me.” (89:15-16)

And then Allah said:

Nay! (89:17)

Understanding Giving and Depriving

This means that this is not the right understanding. How can we understand God’s giving and depriving?

It’s not to measure giving and depriving in the material sense; it’s to measure giving and depriving with how much is the giving or depriving taking me closer to Allah.

If the blessing is taking me away from Allah, then it is not a blessing. It’s something I consider a bounty but is not a bounty; it’s something that is harmful to me.

And if the harm is taking me closer to Allah, then it is not a harm, it is actually a gift.

And this is the right understanding of giving and depriving.

If we don’t really put the material sense as the criteria by which we judge what is giving and what is depriving, then we are not really having the right criteria for that.

How To Measure Harm And Good?

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) has something very interesting to say about a believer. He is saying:

How wonderful is the affair of the believer! For his affair is always good, and this applies to nobody but the believer. If something good happens to the believer, then he/she is thankful and this is good. And if something harmful happens to the believer, he/she is patient and this is good. (Sahih Muslim)

So, according to the believer, it’s all good. If it is harmful but it takes me towards Allah Almighty because I am patient, then it is good. And if it is something that I feel is a bounty but I am not using it in the right way, and I am losing my faith because of it, then it’s not really a bounty, it’s something that is harmful.

And this is the right criteria by which we should measure harm and good; and not measuring harm and good in the material sense. The material sense is an illusion, it’s really a false sense of measuring bounties and tests.

If we take this as a criteria, then we are advancing in the way of Allah Almighty by understanding His giving and depriving.

We ask Allah to give us this understanding.


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About Dr. Jasser Auda
Jasser Auda is a Professor and Al-Shatibi Chair of Maqasid Studies at the International Peace College South Africa, the Executive Director of the Maqasid Institute, a global think tank based in London, and a Visiting Professor of Islamic Law at Carleton University in Canada. He is a Founding and Board Member of the International Union of Muslim Scholars, Member of the European Council for Fatwa and Research, Fellow of the Islamic Fiqh Academy of India, and General Secretary of Yaqazat Feker, a popular youth organization in Egypt. He has a PhD in the philosophy of Islamic law from University of Wales in the UK, and a PhD in systems analysis from University of Waterloo in Canada. Early in his life, he memorized the Quran and studied Fiqh, Usul and Hadith in the halaqas of Al-Azhar Mosque in Cairo. He previously worked as: Founding Director of the Maqasid Center in the Philosophy of Islamic Law in London; Founding Deputy Director of the Center for Islamic Ethics in Doha; professor at the University of Waterloo in Canada, Alexandria University in Egypt, Islamic University of Novi Pazar in Sanjaq, Qatar Faculty of Islamic Studies, and the American University of Sharjah. He lectured and trained on Islam, its law, spirituality and ethics in dozens of other universities and organizations around the world. He wrote 25 books in Arabic and English, some of which were translated to 25 languages.