The Believers' Hopeful State
Hopefulness is one of the believers' characteristics
The Qur'an states that hopefulness is an important characteristic of believers and, at the same, an indication of their faith. People place their hope in Allah according to their degree of faith, and will cherish a deep longing to obtain His mercy and infinite bounties because He has promised believers the most beautiful things in this world and in the hereafter. People will hope to secure these according to their degree of trust in Allah, their closeness to Him, and their submission and sincerity. Knowing that everything happens according to His will, believers do not fall into despair or become hopeless and pessimistic. And, since believers know that Allah will accept their prayers, they do not doubt, even for a second, that a seemingly terrible event is simply a part of their test and that eventually it will work out for the best.
Everything that happens comes about through Allah's command of "Be." At every second, every thing and scene that appears before us is created through Allah's will. Nothing is left to its own devices, for everything is created for the destiny that Allah has determined for it.
Believers who are aware of this do not lose hope, even when facing the most negative situations or the most distressing events, in Allah's mercy or help. Those who are patient in hardship, do not lose hope, and never compromise Allah's laws have been given glad tidings in both this world and the Hereafter.
The Qur'an portrays believers as being in a constant spiritual state of hopefulness toward Allah. Sincere believers will know and appreciate our Lord as the Qur'an describes Him and, as a result, will realize the mercy and favors that He has bestowed upon them. They know that He is the believers' friend and helper, that He is infinitely merciful and compassionate toward them, that He has sent glad tidings to His righteous servants of a great reward both in this world and the next, and that He never breaks His word. They see that He wills only what is best and good for them, that He opens the door of mercy and guidance for them, and that He provides endless opportunities to gain rewards.
And so believers who know this are in a constant state of hopefulness toward our Lord, hoping for the best and the good from Him in both this world and the next. Several Qur'anic verses mention how Allah gives believers a good reward and offers them glad tidings of grace, favor, and mercy.
As for those who believe and do right actions, We will erase their bad actions and recompense them for the best of what they did. (Surat al-Ankabut, 7)
He responds to those who believe and do right actions, and gives them increase from His favor. But the unbelievers will have a harsh punishment. (Surat ash-Shura, 26)
Satan promises you poverty and commands you to avarice. Allah promises you forgiveness and abundance. Allah is All-Encompassing, All-Knowing. (Surat al-Baqara, 268)
The believers' prayers and wishes are full of hope. As one verse says, "they call upon their Lord in fear and ardent hope" (Surat as-Sajda, 16). Since prayer itself is both a form of worship and an indication of a hopeful attitude toward Allah, believers pray in the hope that our Lord will answer their prayers.
The Roots Of Hopefulness: Submission To Destiny
Many people frequently fall into despair when faced with an unexpected and sudden event. Take the example of those who have been unsuccessful at work, lost something they love, or failed an important exam. If such things have become their goals, they will be unable to cope with such unexpected results and experience great sadness, for they have placed all of their hopes and goals upon the chain of events happening as they had envisioned.
However, life does not always go according to one's plans, which means that people can face many unexpected events. For example, somebody who really wants to be an architect will study very hard for the entrance exam. All of her future plans are based upon becoming an architect. But something she never expects happens: She is accepted into another program. Having planned to become an architect, she now finds herself studying for an entirely different career.
A young man who is very interested in sports and has planned to dedicate his life to sports may suffer an injury that forces him to abandon his dream. Or, a couple may have furnished their new home with loving care, only to be forced into selling it without ever having lived in it.
Many similar unexpected events may befall people throughout their lives, for, in reality, no one knows what is going to happen even one second from now. The only thing that we know for sure is that everything in a person's life is determined long before he or she is even born. In other words, all events in a person's life are determined in "timelessness." When the appointed day and time arrive, he or she will experience that event, because Allah has made it part of their destiny. Given these facts, it will come to pass.
We can clarify this with a common daily occurrence. Imagine two cars at the exact moment when they crash into each other. Both drivers definitely wanted to be somewhere else seconds before this event. Maybe they wanted to get home to their waiting families or get to work. Both individuals had left their homes at specific times and gotten into their cars. Perhaps they experienced a second of indecisiveness before turning onto that particular street, but then eventually decided to do so. Either one or both of them could have been very cautious people who always drive with the utmost care. But just at that moment, they could have taken their eyes off the road for a second to change the cassette or do something else. Everything had been specially planned for that event, and every little detail led them toward it.
Generally any event, whether cars crashing into each other or any other unexpected event, takes place within a matter of seconds. From the drivers' loss of concentration to the music playing and the clothes worn – Allah had created and planned every detail of that particular event in His destiny. The person who was going to have that accident wore those clothes, left home, and turned onto the street where the accident would occur. Nothing could have prevented it.
This is how Allah preordains events. At this point, people begin to use the following logic: "If only I hadn 't gone into that street" or "If only I hadn't been playing with the tape and had concentrated on the road." But such logic is quite faulty and incorrect and, moreover, leads to unending complaining and regret. Although many causes may be found for the accident, the reality is that the accident and its causes were created in the course of destiny.
A person coming face to face with this truth for the first time might think: "Okay. Well, what could I have done? If everything is already written in my destiny and Allah knows about them, how am I supposed to behave when these situations occur?"
The Qur'an answers the above questions very clearly, and so we turn to it to find the truth for everything. According to the Qur'an, the best way to act and the best attitude to have is to submit to our destiny, look for the best in everything, not to get upset or fall into despair, and to be a grateful servant under all circumstances.
Say: "Nothing can happen to us except what Allah has ordained for us. He is Our Master. It is in Allah that the believers should put their trust." (Surat at-Tawba, 51)
Just as Allah is the Creator of the universe and all of its contents, which include every living and non-living thing, so is He the Creator of every event in all of its minute details. The Qur'an presents this truth in the following verse:
That is Allah, your Lord. There is no god but Him, the Creator of everything. So worship Him. He is responsible for everything. (Surat al-An'am, 102)
Muslims who have faith in Allah, believe in the hereafter's existence, and fear Allah submit to our Lord, Who has created everything. In other words, they submit completely to whatever happens to them and do not despair, because they know that He controls everything and is their best Friend and Protector. Muslims know that panicking or losing hope are very wrong, because Allah, the most perfect Creator, has created every event. Thus, the event in question has been created in the most perfect way. Even though sometimes the events may appear to be negative, each believer knows that good comes out of everything.
Believers and unbelievers have very different reactions to events. For example, a believer may be late for an interview that she assumes will be good for her and thus lose a unique opportunity. However, assured that everything is predestined and that her being late is utterly under Allah's control, she sees a good in this unexpected event, thanks Allah for it, and hopes for a better end. She knows that it would be wrong to attribute this turn of events to such causes as traffic congestion or a flat tire. Indeed, if Allah had so willed, traffic congestion would have reduced or the tire would not have been punctured.
These or similar conditions are surely the apparent reasons for being late. Yet, more important than these apparent reasons is Allah's divine plan, which specially decreed that event long ago, and that destiny was only fulfilling itself as Allah willed.
In the above example, Allah decreed that the person in question would miss the interview. Consequently, there is no way that she could have been there.
All obstacles come into existence because Allah wills a good for believers. If people are to understand this submission fully, they must take Allah as their sole Friend and Protector and turn to Him in complete sincerity. A most telling characteristic of the morality that Allah wills for believers is that they do not become sad or negative or fall into despair, no matter what they may encounter.
Hopelessness indicates disbelief or weak faith, and is a consequence of one's failure to comprehend that everything takes place according to destiny. Allah draws our attention to this error, for under despair lies a mood and rationale opposed to the very values of the Qur'an. Such an attitude is forbidden, because Allah advises people to trust in Him, be hopeful, and see good in all that happens.
When confronted with the most negative events, and even such unexpected ones as being wounded or losing everything, believers display an extremely submissive and patient character, since they know that Allah creates every event. He creates every being, both the visible and the invisible, with a flawless design, and gives life to each of them. Allah, the Creator of everything, also created all human beings, regardless of time or place, and their individual destinies. The minor events experienced by a person living in a distant land also are under Allah's control, for He sees every thing and place, and hears every noise. Moreover, Allah creates the concepts of "space," "sound," and "image."
Given that He controls everything, giving way to despair is always an error, for the event will happen regardless of whether one wants it to or not. Besides, all events occur for some good reason. What is important here is to see the good in events. Those who do so will see how perfectly and flawlessly Allah creates events, and this attitude will enable them to obtain a more profound faith.
Such a line also exists between hope and despair. Hope befits reason and rationale, while despair is utterly against it. For instance, one may fail a test despite studying hard. Let's assume that he has been shaken and fallen into despair, since he worked so hard but still failed. He obviously does not benefit from such a mood, and the ensuing distress and trouble harms both his body and soul.
But in reality, Allah wills another good for him. Rather than attending college that year, it might be better for him to prepare for the entrance exam. Or perhaps his chosen college or profession could have become a source of trouble and hardship in his future life. It may be that he will enter an even better college next year or choose a different profession which will be better for him in the future.
Throughout their lives, people encounter events that seem to serve no clear purpose: They cannot get a job they like, lose some money they desperately need, lose something they cherish, or lose through theft possessions that they could buy only after years of hard work. Such events may happen to everyone. Indeed, Allah makes it clear that people are tested by their souls and possessions. In one of his sayings, our Prophet (saas) made this clear:
"Whatever Allah takes is for Him, and whatever He gives is for Him. Everything with Him has a limited fixed term (in this world), and so people should be patient and hope for Allah's reward." (Sahih Bukhari)
Thus, those who remain patient will attain good, whereas those who rebel and despair will lose.
It is vital to fully comprehend the importance of being hopeful and to be patient in order to gain Paradise. Being positive is obligatory, as the following verse shows:
Do not despair of solace from Allah. No one despairs of solace from Allah except for people who do not believe. (Surah Yusuf, 87)
As Allah commands that we have this attitude, we must realize that He dislikes any type of despair. Thus, we must take Allah as our Friend and try to act according to His will.
Allah's infinite bounties necessitate our trust in Him and our hope for His mercy
Another factor that develops the believers' submission to Allah is reflecting upon His attribute of the Most Loving (al-Wadood). Allah created and provides for humanity; gives people whatever they want; makes them laugh and lets them see, hear, and think; and hears them when they pray and then accepts their prayers and gives them numerous other bounties.
Allah created the most beautiful and tastiest foods and drinks. He created strawberries, bananas, plums, oranges, watermelons, rock melons, tomatoes, carrots, capsicums, corn, varieties of ice cream, chocolate, and thousands of other tastes that give people such pleasure. In addition, He created those animals so loved by people, as well as all plants, trees, oceans, beaches, sports, music, films, cars, and all other things.
However, a majority of people are ungrateful and do not submit to Him completely, and thus fall into despair. This type of attitude is apparent in the following verse:
He has given you everything for which you have asked Him. If you tried to number Allah's blessings, you could never count them. Man is indeed wrongdoing, ungrateful. (Surah Ibrahim, 34)
Allah has given humanity everything that it wants. In the sincere reflection that we carry out within ourselves, we can attest to this truth. In return for this, He asks that we submit to Him; not be spoiled by the favors in our hands or fall into despair when we lose them; stay away from worldly ambitions and turn to Him with a serene spirit; and think about our true and eternal life in the hereafter and to live accordingly.
Through His signs, Allah makes it clear to everyone that this world is a place of trial. As Earth is not our real home, it is only a place to prepare for our true eternal homeland, a place to develop both spiritually and morally. As all people will undergo various ordeals while here, they must, first of all, submit to Allah and be ready for whatever tests will come their way.
Those who submit to their destiny patiently and display the best behavior will succeed in both this world and the hereafter, and will meet with much good. As for those who go along with the flow, who, heedless of destiny's true nature, react to events in a way incompatible with the Qur'an, they only oppress themselves and find themselves far from Allah's mercy.
Allah makes it clear that He is not pleased with those who attach themselves to this world, worry about the future, are ambitious, arrogantly think that they are in control but then despair at the slightest setback, and are ungrateful:
If We let man taste mercy from Us and then take it away from him, he is despairing, ungrateful. But if We let him taste blessings after hardship has afflicted him, he says: "My troubles have gone away" and is overjoyed and boastful, except for those who are steadfast and do right actions. They will receive forgiveness and a large reward. (Surah Hud, 9-11)
The secret behind the believers' trust in Allah in all situations, as well as their continual joy and enthusiasm, lies in their belief in and reliance upon Allah. They understand that Allah is behind every apparently difficult situation, as well as the fact that only He gives and takes.
Allah's beautiful promises to believers necessitate that they remain hopeful
Allah has promised believers great bounties in both this life and the Hereafter, and people may hope to obtain them according to the degree of their faith in and closeness to Allah, as well as their submission and sincerity. They see these bounties as a means to get closer to Allah, to be thankful to Him, and to witness the manifestation of His eternal attributes and beauties. And so for this reason, they hope for great bounty from Allah. Since He gives beauty to those who act beautifully, believers constantly hope that Allah will increase their favors, thereby enabling them to become closer to Him.
The conscience of those who have certain belief in Him and do what He asks is clear. They cherish great hope, for our Lord has promised to reward them with Paradise for their attachment to Him while living in this world. This hope manifests itself at all times, for such people are as happy, joyful, and excited as if they had already entered Paradise. They have befriended our Lord by struggling and trying to please Him, purifying their egos of all evil, and always pursuing good. And in the end, they will return to Him. Believers who carry this excitement are hopeful that, having pleased Him, they will meet our Lord in the hereafter.
Allah gives glad tidings of His support and Paradise to believers, and has proclaimed that He will reward all Muslims who serve in His path. Those Muslims who know that they will recompensed for each good deed, kindness, and good behavior that they do, and for their decision to adhere to the Qur'an, will experience the beauty of submission, trust, patience, and faith.
Therefore, believers who know these facts will constantly be in a positive state about our Lord, hoping for the most beautiful and the best blessings in both this world and the hereafter. In many verses, Allah promises believers a good reward, grace, favor, and mercy:
As for those who believe and do right actions, We will erase their bad actions and recompense them for the best of what they did. (Surat al-Ankabut, 7)
He responds to those who believe and do right actions, and gives them increase from His favor. But the unbelievers will have a harsh punishment. (Surat ash-Shura, 26)
The tests placed upon Muslims may sometimes involve hardship and trouble, such as various types of oppression and plots, or being detained or imprisoned. Throughout history, many Muslims have been killed. However, Muslims who are subjected to oppression in order to frighten, dishearten, or make them swerve from Islam never despair when confronted with such difficulties. In fact, their zeal and enthusiasm never abate, contrary to the unbelievers' expectations. Recalling the verses that remind them that unbelievers will try to oppress believers, they feel a great excitement when experiencing the same, and thus feel grateful to Allah. While unbelievers assume that they frighten them, believers feel the joy of their faith and ponder upon Allah's promises.
In the Qur'an, Allah promises believers an absolute victory over unbelievers, as well as security and peace, provided that they do not ascribe partners to Him:
Allah has promised those of you who believe and do right actions that He will make them successors in the land, as He made those before them successors, and will firmly establish for them their religion with which He is pleased and give them, in place of their fear, security, [for] they worship Me, not associating anything with Me. Any who disbelieve after that, such people are deviators. (Surat an-Nur: 55)
When encountered with the unbelievers' oppression and plots, believers who have an unshakable faith in Allah and the Qur'an remember this promise and show patience with hope and joy. This attitude is indeed a great source of grief for unbelievers, for the believers' trust in Allah makes the unbelievers feel His wrath and the torment awaiting them in both this world and the next. They are seized by an indefinable fear and anxiety.
In the Qur'an, we see that Muslims are in a constant state of hopefulness. Sincere believers appreciate our Lord, as described in the Qur'an, and thus recognize His mercy and bounties upon them. Those who abide by the Qur'an's commands know that Allah is the believers' Friend and Helper, that He has infinite mercy and compassion for them, that He gives His sincere servants the good news of great rewards in both this world and the hereafter, and that His promise is certain. They further see that Allah always wills what is good for them, opens the gates of mercy and guidance to them, and gives them countless opportunities to earn His good pleasure.
The Muslims' zealous and hopeful attitude to our Lord, Who always gives the good news of bliss, is described as follows:
Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah. Those who are with him are fierce to the unbelievers, merciful to one another. You see them bowing and prostrating, seeking Allah's good favor and His pleasure. (Surat al-Fath, 29)
As the verse maintains, in return for Allah's promises the Muslims try to display throughout their lives those attitudes that please Allah: obeying the commands conveyed through His Messengers and books, and striving to display the morality that most pleases Him. Aware that He is pleased with servants who are compassionate, tolerant, just, patient, hopeful, modest, helpful, and self-sacrificing, they compete with one another to display moral excellence. They do so because Allah commands His servants to compete with each other in the hope of obtaining Paradise:
Race each other to forgiveness from your Lord, and a Garden [i.e., Paradise] as wide as the heavens and the earth, prepared for the people who guard against evil: those who give in times of both ease and hardship, who control their rage and pardon other people – Allah loves the good-doers – those who, when they act indecently or wrong themselves, remember Allah and ask forgiveness for their bad actions – and who can forgive bad actions except Allah? – and do not knowingly persist in what they were doing. Their recompense is forgiveness from their Lord, and Gardens with rivers flowing under them, remaining in them timelessly, forever. How excellent is the reward of those who act [righteously]! (Surah Al Imran, 133-136)
Race each other to forgiveness from your Lord and to a Garden, whose breadth is like that of heaven and earth combined, made ready for those who believe in Allah and His Messengers. That is Allah's favor, which He gives to those whom He wills. Allah's Favor is indeed immense. (Surat al- Hadid, 21)
Allah promises His sincere servants a beautiful life in this world, as well as superiority, victory, and an infinite life replete with beauties in the hereafter. Allah commands thus in the Qur'an:
Gardens of Eden that the All-Merciful has promised to His servants in the Unseen. His promise is always kept. (Surah Maryam, 61)
Allah has promised the men and women of the believers Gardens with rivers flowing under them, remaining in them timelessly, forever, and fine dwellings in the Gardens of Eden. And Allah's good pleasure is even greater. That is the great victory. (Surat at-Tawba, 72)
Allah has told believers to give glad tidings to each other with these verses, and has made Paradise a means of joy and hope for them while still in this world. Paradise is a place beyond our wildest imagination, beyond our desires. It is above and beyond all bounties we could ever hope to have, a place that contains all of this and much more as a mercy from Allah, a most beautiful place that words cannot describe.
There, the Muslims will be able to do whatever their hearts desire. They will live with their loved ones, together in happiness, for eternity. Paradise, which contains no flaws, is distant from material and spiritual deficiency. The Qur'an describes it as a place where "rivers flow by underneath", "where, wherever one looks one sees delight and a great kingdom" and where bounties are never "failing, nor unrestricted." In addition, the Qur'an reports that "they [believers] will have there all that their hearts desire and in which their eyes find delight" (Surat az-Zukhruf, 71). Paradise is also a place full of spiritual bounty. Allah informs us that no vain talk will be heard there, that there will be no anger or revenge, but only a happy and joyous endeavor at every instant. Most important of all, there will be Allah's greeting of "Peace" to those who believe. The Qur'an addresses those believers who will enter Paradise in the following manner:
O self at rest and at peace, return to your Lord, well-pleasing and well-pleased! Enter among My servants! Enter My Paradise! (Surat al-Fajr, 27-30)
In other verses, the joy and happiness of the believers who enter Paradise, as well as their gratitude to Allah, is described as follows:
They will say: "Praise be to Allah, Who has fulfilled His promise to us and made us the inheritors of this land, letting us settle in Paradise wherever we want. How excellent is the wage of [righteous] workers!" You will see the angels circling round the Throne, glorifying their Lord with praise. It will be decided between them with truth. And it will be said: "Praise be to Allah, the Lord of all the Worlds." (Surat az-Zumar, 74-75)
To be given the glad tidings of Paradise is the greatest gift one can receive. And so believers pray that this reality will not be removed from their consciousness, and that they will be reminded of it constantly. "The joy of Paradise" is a great favor bestowed upon Muslims in this world. Just as those who hear that they have inherited a large fortune feel great pleasure, those believers who receive tidings of inheriting an eternal Paradise experience an even greater joy. They are aware of how quickly life passes by, and that the time when they will gain Paradise, which has been promised to the sincere ones, is close at hand.
If we consider that a believer's life span is approximately 60 years, a 30-year-old will have 30 years left and a 40-year-old will have 20 years left. In actual fact, even if one lives to be 100 years old, death is inevitable; however, with Allah's permission, he or she will reach Paradise, which is eternal. They will spend eternity with their loved ones, witnessing Allah's manifestations and living a joyous and happy life in untold purity and bounties, the likes of which have never been seen in this world.
Moreover, these eternal bounties can be obtained very easily. The only thing one needs to do is to follow Allah's commands, put one's worship into practice, and live by the Qur'anic morals with the hopeful joy of the possibility of attaining these bounties. Such a lifestyle will result in the most pleasure that a person can experience in this world. What Allah asks from His servants is described in the following verses:
...Truly man is in loss – except for those who believe, do right actions, urge each other to the truth, and urge each other to steadfastness. (Surat al-Asr, 1-3)
As these verses show, people must do good deeds and advise other people to follow Allah's commands in order for humanity, as a whole, to be servants worthy of Paradise. In addition to promising His righteous servants Paradise as a reward, Allah has promised bounties in this world by making it clear that He will bless sincere Muslims with a good life. Some related verses are as follows:
Those who do good will have the best and more! Neither dust nor debasement will darken their faces. They are the Companions of Paradise, remaining in it timelessly, forever. (Surah Yunus, 26)
When those who heed Allah are asked: "What has your Lord sent down?" Their reply is: "Good!" There is good in this world for those who do good, and the abode of the hereafter is even better. How wonderful is the abode of those who guard against evil. (Surat an-Nahl, 30)
These are Allah's promises to believers, both for this world and the hereafter. And many verses clarify that His promise is definite and real: "Allah's promise is true" (Surah Fatir, 5; Surah Luqman, 9; Surah Yunus, 55; Surat ar-Rum, 60).
These most beautiful promises are the most important factor for believers to ensure that they always maintain a positive outlook and never despair or suffer anxiety. Those who have hope in Allah's promises and Paradise will live their religion with the utmost enthusiasm, excitement, and diligence.
To Hope For "The Best" From Allah
Being positive involves submitting to Allah regardless of the conditions or situation, how events unfold, and the direction they take. It also involves meeting all events without anxiety or worry, and without the slightest doubt that for believers, all events eventually turn out for the best.
One of the believers' most important characteristics is that they turn to Allah in all of their affairs and submit to their destiny wholeheartedly. Even if things do not turn out as planned, they do not get what they really wanted or lose something or someone they really loved – in short, in all circumstances – they turn to Allah and see the good and the best in every event. It is not possible to hear believers say: "Why did this happen?" or "If only such and such had not happened," for they are content with Allah from the start and have submitted to their destiny.
Believers pray for the best from Allah, given that they cannot know what is "the best" for them beforehand, for such knowledge is known only to Allah. For instance, believers who are fully committed to Islam may wish for another person to receive guidance, to accept and practice Islam, and may, hoping for this event, pray to Allah. Obviously, they want what is good and legitimate and have a good intention. However, they accept that "Allah knows best after all." As a person can have faith only if Allah wills it so, believers who see that those whom they love do not receive guidance realize that there must be some good in this and thus do not become sad or fall into despair. Allah has made this fact clear in the following verse:
You cannot guide those you would like to, but Allah guides those He wills. He has the best knowledge of the guided. (Surat al-Qasas, 56)
Let's consider another example: Believers naturally would want to spend all of their time with other believers, for they are the protectors of each other and each other's closest friends and brothers and sisters. Each of them has dedicated themselves to Allah and His religion, and so they derive great happiness from being together. But it may not be possible for them to always be together. For example, they may find themselves far from their loved ones while serving Islam, or, as occurred at the time of the Prophet (saas), may be forced to migrate due to the unbelievers' oppression. To be in the believers' company is obviously a very good thing; however, persevering in the face of suffering and oppression in Allah's way may lead to even greater rewards and better things.
We know of prophets and believers who were exiled and imprisoned by those who rejected the Qur'an. In similar situations, believers never lose hope, for they know that such an event is very beneficial for them. Their goal is to display the best morals in all situations and thereby gain reward and Allah's good pleasure. They desire great pleasure from turning wherever they are into a place in which they can worship.
The believers' resigned attitude under all circumstances shows how sincere they are in their faith. Even if they succumb to the most serious disease or if circumstances necessitate their presence in the harshest places, they remain constantly hopeful and submitted, always thinking of the divine reason behind every situation and the good that may come of it.
The Door of Repentance is Always Open
Allah makes clear that people who make a mistake due to ignorance, but then return to Allah in sincerity and ask for forgiveness, will be forgiven. As long as believers are sincerely sorry for what they have done, they must never lose hope in Allah's mercy regardless of the sin's magnitude. This truth is emphasized in the following verse:
Say: "My servants, you who have transgressed against yourselves, do not despair of Allah's mercy. Truly Allah forgives all wrong actions. He is the Ever-Forgiving, the Most Merciful." (Surat az-Zumar, 53)
Our Prophet (saas) also stated that Allah accepts the believers' repentance:
If you are innocent, Allah will soon reveal your innocence. If you have committed a sin, repent to Allah and ask Him to forgive you, for when a person confesses his sin and asks Allah for forgiveness, Allah accepts his repentance. (Bukhari)
This is one of Islam's greatest favors and leniencies. Falling into despair after making a mistake, as well as thinking that one will be unable to get back on one's feet when the religion has made such an allowance, is just gross conjecture. Those who ignore Allah's allowance oppress their souls and, at the same time, fail to apply one of Islam's requirements.
The Qur'an's leniency prevents many of those acts that violate it in many ignorant societies. For example, ridiculing and degrading people who make mistakes in ignorant societies can never flourish where Qur'anic manners predominate. On the contrary, where such manners abide, those people who have returned to Allah and asked His forgiveness as sincere believers will live their lives in peace, happiness, and eagerness.
A person's superiority can be measured only by piety, that is, the degree to which they commit themselves to Allah and the Qur'an. Whereas in ignorant societies the people's faults and mistakes are of the utmost importance, in societies where the Qur'anic ideals prevail, a person's past mistakes and sins are never mentioned. The important thing is to receive Allah's forgiveness. To condemn and censure somebody whom Allah has promised to forgive cannot be valid or legitimate under any circumstances.
To think of oneself as being faultless, sinless, and perfect is no different than claiming divinity, for humanity is prone to making mistakes and committing sins. As human beings are weak creatures, Allah has made it known that He is most forgiving and accepting of repentance. This is why it would be incompatible with the Qur'an for someone to fall into despair after having listened to his or her ego and sinned, either knowingly or unknowingly. After making a mistake, believers learn their lessons, see the truth after regretting their actions, immediately seek refuge in Allah, and do their best not to make that same mistake again.
Undoubtedly, believers take the utmost care in avoiding mistakes and sins, and in observing the limits set by Allah. But despite this fact, believers still may make a mistake or sin. But after doing so, believers characteristically return to Allah and seek forgiveness. As a result, Allah's Names, such as The Acceptor of Repentance (at-Tawwab), The All-Forgiving (al-Ghafur), and The Beneficent (ar-Rahman), become manifest upon those believers who regret their mistakes and turn to Allah.
Just as believers make mistakes and repent, so do they reflect upon their mistakes with the concept of destiny in mind. First of all, such mistakes have been written into their destiny in order to allow them to grow in this world and enable them to move closer to Allah. Once they ask for forgiveness, these mistakes become a way for them to receive rewards, for after vowing to abandon that particular mistake and displaying Qur'anic values by repenting immediately, mistakes actually raise the sincere believers' degree in the afterlife. They cause believers to mature and become more aware of their deficiencies, weaknesses, and servitude, for the important thing is to abandon the sin, repent immediately, and truly regret what one has done.
In other words, believers who sin but then repent and seek Allah's forgiveness should not be seized by grief and hopelessness, for hopelessness displeases Allah. After making a mistake, the enthusiasm, fervor, and joy of believers should not diminish. On the contrary, they increase.
Striking a Balance Between Hope and Fear
Striking a balance between hope and fear is a most important factor when it comes to attaining a good character. While hope enables believers to practice their religion with enthusiasm, effort, fervor, joy, and zeal, their respectful fear of Allah causes them to take the utmost care in observing the limits set by Allah, to strictly avoid those things about which Allah has warned, and to be meticulous when it comes to what is allowed and what is forbidden. The enthusiasm and zeal resulting from being positive, together with the sobriety, fastidiousness, and sensitivity resulting from the fear of Allah, are ways to beautify the believers' character and for them to draw closer to Allah.
The Qur'an shows that just as Allah wills believers not to despair but to always remain hopeful and confident, He also wills them to have awe of His glory and a respectful fear of Him. As a matter of fact, such a fear has an important place in religion and it is one of its central topics.
Those who have a proper fear of Allah do not stray beyond what He has ordered and also have good character. While they hope for His forgiveness and mercy, as well as acceptance into Paradise, at the same time they have a great fear of Him, because nobody is guaranteed a place in Paradise or immunity from His punishment. Believers are only obliged to do their best and hope for Allah's mercy.
In addition to this hope, having an awe of Allah's glory and fearing Him has a positive effect upon one's worship. Those who have such a fear will work harder to gain their afterlife and always try to do good deeds. Those having only a weak fear are likely to assume that they "will get to Paradise anyway" or that "they 'll be forgiven in the long run," and so do not commit themselves to their worship with the same degree of love and enthusiasm as do those who have the proper degree of fear. Those who fear Allah do not consider their good deeds as ever being enough, and so they always seek to please Him to the utmost. However, exerting only a little effort when one has been given ample opportunities, as well as giving into ego's desires, can place a person's other good deeds at risk.
As the Qur'an mentions, a soul can be balanced between hope and fear only if it is sincere toward Allah. Naturally, those who believe in the existence of Allah and the afterlife will want to be among those who please Him here and enter Paradise. Those who turn to Him sincerely will see the superiority and perfection everywhere in His creation, and naturally will feel a respectful and awesome fear of Him. This fear will cause them to take the utmost care by acting according to the Qur'an and, with the peace and confidence that arises from obeying Allah's commands, they can hope for Paradise. Thus sincere believers must maintain a natural balance between hope and fear.
Allah has drawn special attention to the fact that believers possess these two characteristics. Both are necessary requirements of having faith and, when felt strongly in the heart and applied, both will guide believers to the straight way and bring happiness in both this life and the next.
Allah asks those believers who, when they turn and pray to Him, to keep a balance between hope and fear. The related verses are as follows:
Do not corrupt earth after it has been put right. Invoke Him in fear and aspiration. Allah's mercy is close to the good-doers. (Surat al-A'raf, 56)
Their sides eschew their beds as they call upon their Lord in fear and ardent hope. And they give of what We have provided for them. (Surat as-Sajda, 16)
With this advice from Allah, believers pray in the hope that they will obtain Paradise and, at the same, pray with a powerful fear of Allah. A prayer of our Prophet (saas) also indicates this state:
O Allah! I surrender to You, entrust all of my affairs to You, and depend upon You for Your blessings both with hope and fear of You. (Bukhari)