Being Pleased With What Allaah سبحانه و تعالى Has Decreed
Being pleased with what Allaah سبحانه و تعالى has decreed is not easy for everyone. However, there are some factors that can help one overcome this difficulty and become truly pleased with whatever Allaah سبحانه و تعالى has decreed for him. Ibn Rajab رحمه الله has mentioned the following three means:
(1) The individual should have absolute confidence and certainty that Allaah سبحانه و تعالى has not decreed anything for a true believer except what is best for him. The individual should consider himself similar to a patient. When the patient goes to a doctor, the doctor may have to operate or do other procedures that cause a great deal of pain or harm to the individual. But the individual puts up with it because he believes that it is in his best interest and that the doctor only wants what is best for him. If a person takes this same approach toward what Allaah سبحانه و تعالى has decreed for him, he will accept it and be pleased with everything that occurs to him.
(2) The person should think about the reward that Allaah سبحانه و تعالى has promised the one who is pleased with His decree. If a person is completely engrossed in that thought, he will then forget whatever pain or troubles he may be encountering. Instead, he will look forward to his promised reward from Allaah سبحانه و تعالى.
(3) Above and beyond what was described in (2) is for the person to be engrossed in his thoughts about Allaah سبحانه و تعالى and the attributes of Allaah سبحانه و تعالى. If he reaches that level, he will not feel any of the pain or difficulties of this world whatsoever. [Ibn Rajab رحمه الله, Noor, p 95. Ibn Rajab gives the example of the women who cut their hands upon seeing Prophet Yusuf’s beauty (as mentioned in Surah Yusuf, 31). If a person concentrates upon Allaah’s سبحانه و تعالى magnificence, he will become like those women in the sense that he will not notice any of the aspects going on around him. However, one must be careful about such statements. It was never the case that the Prophet or any of his Companions ever lost sight of the world and did not realise what was occuring around them, like the women who cut their hands upon seeing Yusuf.]
(4) A fourth aspect must be added to the three Ibn Rajab mentioned. This is where the person thanks Allaah سبحانه و تعالى concerning what he has been afflicted with by realising what Allaah سبحانه و تعالى can do to him if He so wills. This is captured in the statement of Qadi Shuraih رحمه الله who stated, “If I am afflicted with any affliction, I praise Allaah سبحانه و تعالى four times: I praise Allaah سبحانه و تعالى that the affliction was not greater than it is; I praise Him when He gives me the patience to withstand the affliction; I praise Him for guiding me to the statement, ‘We belong to Allaah and to Him we are returning’; and I praise Him for not making that affliction affect my religion.” [Quoted, without specifically ascribing it to Qadi Shuraih رحمه الله, in Ibn Rajab رحمه الله, Noor, pp. 102-103. The ascription to Qadi Shuraih is found in Muhammad adh-Dhahabi رحمه الله, Siyar A’lam an-Nubala, Beirut: Muassasah al-Risala, 1990, vol. 4, p. 105]
One must distinguish between being pleased with what has occured to oneself in the past, however recent, and working to rectify or change the situation. If, for example, some wrong is being done, then it is obligatory upon the Muslim to change that wrong if he has the ability to do so. A person cannot use being pleased with whatever Allaah سبحانه و تعالى has decreed as an excuse not to fulfill his obligation of ordering good and eradicating evil. He is pleased or accepting of what happened to him in the past but this acceptance of the past does not mean that he will not work to change what is occuring in the present.
Is It Obligatory To Be Pleased With Whatever Allaah سبحانه و تعالى Has Decreed?
There is a difference between being patient with respect to what has been decreed and reaching the level of being pleased with whatever has been decreed. Ibn Rajab رحمه الله concludes that it is not obligatory to be at the stage where one is pleased with what has been decreed. This is like a praiseworthy, non-obligatory state. A person should pray to be of that nature, as the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم used to pray, “O Allah! I ask of You pleasure after what has been decreed.” [This is part of a lengthy supplication recorded by Ahmad رحمه الله and many others. According to al-Ajmi, its chain is sahih]
If one can reach that state, though, he is reaching the state which is described as “the good life“. Allaah سبحانه و تعالى says in the Qur’an,
“Whoever works righteousness, whether male or female, while he is a true believer, to him We shall certainly grant a good life.” (an-Nahl, 97)
It has been narrated from ‘Ali رضي الله عنه and Ibn ‘Abbas رضي الله عنهما that the meaning of “good life” here is being pleased and content with whatever Allaah سبحانه و تعالى has decreed. [Ibn Rajab رحمه الله, Jaami, vol. 1, p. 487. Ibn Rajab رحمه الله simply attributed this statement to some of the early scholars. Al-Arnaout and Bajis, in their footnotes, give the references for it being a statement of ‘Ali رضي الله عنه and Ibn ‘Abbas رضي الله عنهما]
However, if one cannot reach that level, it is obligatory upon him to at least be patient with what has been decreed. If he fulfills the obligation of being patient, there is still a great reward promised for him. [See: az-Zumar, 10; al-Baqara, 155-158; and al-Hajj, 34-35]
Ibn Rajab رحمه الله explains the difference between patience and pleasure with the Decree by saying that the patient person keeps himself from getting angry in the presence of his pain [it should also be added that the patient person also keeps himself from doing something forbidden to counter what has been decreed], while the pleased person actually feels joy and relaxation with the physical pain or hardship he is enduring. In his case, the physical pain or hardship may actually completely leave him due to the pleasure he is feeling. [Ibn Rajab رحمه الله, Noor, p. 98. Obviously, this is not a masochistic type of pleasure that he is getting from pain. Instead, he knows that what is occuring is according to Allaah’s سبحانه و تعالى decree and is best for him. Hence, he feels pleasure and happiness regardless of what may be occuring to him].
A pithy statement that sums up the difference between the two states has been attributed to ‘Umar Ibn ‘Abdil ‘Azeez رحمه الله, al-Fudhail رحمه الله, Ibn al-Mubarak رحمه الله and others. They have been quoted as saying, “The one who is pleased does not wish to be in any other circumstances as opposed to the one who is patient.” In other words, the patient person accepts his situation but wishes it would come to an end as quickly as possible. The pleased person does not care if or when it may come to an end. [Zarabozo, Commentary on the 40 Hadeeth of an-Nawawi رحمه الله]
The pressures and trials of life inevitably test a person’s character, but the beauty of a person’s character should shine through in such situations. Many of us become visibly miserable and agitated at such times, however it is the mark of a believer that he maintains a dignified composure and continues to treat others with adab (etiquettes), akhlaaq (manners) and pleasantness. Even in suffering a believer behaves beautifully to the extent that others cannot tell whether he is suffering or not.