When I began this series, the following passage of the Will is the one I was travelling towards; it is the climax and the core of the entire message for me. It was with the words below in mind, that I began my road towards this current letter, willing myself to believe their message even when it was hard to.
In a previous letter, I mused that these writings ran parallel to the daily happenings around me…how very true that has turned out to be. Despite my best intentions, these letters have been purely selfish in so many ways – I have vented, been bitter, angry and sad…and in the process, I have healed and grown and slowly been guided to the Place I was always meant to reach.
It has taken just over a year to get to here – 14 months, 14 letters – and without any planning on my part, this journey has paced itself to perfectly time with the events in my life. I had no way of knowing that my initial belief would be tried and tested and then gently led to conviction; that by the time I reached this Passage, I would understand its words in a way I never have before, because I would have finally have reached my Goal …in more ways than one.
Realize this truth, my son, that the Lord who owns and holds the treasures of Paradise and the earth has given you permission to ask and beg for them and He has promised to grant your prayers. He has told you to pray for His Favours that they may be granted to you and to ask for His Blessings that they may be bestowed upon you. He has not appointed guards to prevent your prayers reaching Him. Nor is there any need for anybody to intercede before Him on your behalf.
There are two things that stand out for me here. The first is the need for willingness to request. Even when we have been given permission to do so, why do we find it so hard to ask? I often think it’s because asking is based on first accepting that you lack something. It implies a sort of helplessness that requires you to reach out to another for what you need and thus, to humble yourself before that person.
Man was created with a sense of self-respect. It is the foundation of dignity, morality and honour – to know and understand your own worth as a human being, as a designed creation with a purpose, a goal and a responsibility in Life. This is why Islam discourages the habit of asking others unnecessarily. Why reach out to another human who is your equal when there is an Authority above the both of you that can – and does – provide for all?
We may think that others possess what we need, but ownership is an illusion. As human beings we don’t really ever ‘own’ anything. It might be better to say we ‘inherit’, ‘receive’ or are ‘entrusted’ with what already exists in the world, what has been provided by Someone. We are all conduits who receive from somewhere else in order to pass on to others. The main thing is to understand this Flow of Resources, so to speak. Trace it back to its origin and tap the Source.
The Source – God – is Infinite in His Provision. We can exhaust our mines and our oil wells and our bank accounts – even our kindness and service – because when dealing with this earth, we speak in terms of the finite. We can only share and give to others based on the limits of our own external and internal resources. But God – Who created all these things from nothing – where is the limit for Him? How can an Infinite Creator have any sort of boundaries?
The beauty of it all is that He is not only Infinite in His Ability but also in His Attributes, thus there is no greed or selfishness or personal motivation or even mere physical exhaustion to restrict or guide His Generosity. Rather, He is Loving and Merciful and Wants to give you all He can…as long as you are able to – and want to – receive it. The best analogy for this is that of trying to fill a small receptacle with more than it can hold. You can’t expect to put a jug-worth of water in a teacup… just as you can’t expect to receive Unending Blessings if you’re constraining your self to this world.
If you ask from another human being, rely on that person or base your expectations on them then you are already limiting yourself to the extents of their abilities, which can be a humiliating prison for your self-respect. Asking and relying on God means your expectations become limitless, and that in turn frees you from the restrictions of the human dimension. Isn't that worth being humble for?
If you go back upon your promises, if your break your vows, or start doing things that you have repented of, He will not immediately punish you nor does He refuse His Blessings in haste and if you repent once again He neither taunts you nor betrays you though you may fully deserve both, but He accepts your penitence and pardons you. He never grudges His Forgiveness nor refuses His Mercy, on the contrary He has decreed repentance as a virtue and pious deed. The Merciful Lord has ordered that every evil deed of yours will be counted as one and a good deed and pious action will be rewarded tenfold. He has left the door of repentance open.
‘You test my patience!’ How many times have we heard (and used) that line? It is often said to us by those who love us most, because love and patience go hand and hand. When we love someone, we accept their flaws and in order to do that we have to practice a level of patience when the habits or traits we dislike show themselves. Our ability to see the greater good in them allows us to bear with the smaller not-so-good things about them. And they do the same for us.
However, even mothers – the epitomes of selfless love – are tried by the antics of their children and tested in their patience of them. This is human nature…that’s why apologies, forgiveness and second chances exist. When we begin to observe how often it is that we push those around us to their limits, how often tempers flare, how often we say things to each other that we later regret and wish we could take back…how this cycle plays out in our lives on a daily basis, we can then start to realise how unique and different our relationship with God is – and how unequal as well.
Often people think that when God sent down His Punishment on those who disobeyed Him in the past, that it was because they had tested His Patience and hit a Divine ‘limit’ of some sort. We then try to apply the same principle to explain current natural disasters as well. We are then left in confusion and doubt because we can’t reconcile an Infinitely Merciful God with the historical stories of entire clans and cities being annihilated, of innocents suffering along with the guilty. This only happens because we try to explain His Will and Actions with our tendencies and reactions. We try to understand events by fitting them into our flawed interpretation of what the picture is, instead of rising up to a higher level of understanding of how the Bigger Picture works.
It is we – and our own selfish actions – that cause harm to ourselves. Much of our suffering can be traced back to our own careless behaviour in the past. It has nothing to do with Divine Retaliation because there in NO LIMIT to God’s Patience. Even when we do the very things He has warned us will cause us harm, He is still always ready to forgive and give us one more chance.
The only condition is that we should be sincere in our turning back. Just like any true loving relationship, there is place for correction and improvement, but not for manipulation and games.
He hears you whenever you call Him. He accepts your prayer whenever you pray to Him. Invoke Him to grant you your heart's desire, lay before Him the secrets of your heart, tell Him about all the calamities that have befallen you and misfortunes which face you, and beseech His help to overcome them. You may invoke His Help and Support in difficulties and distresses.
You may implore Him to grant you long life and sound health, you may pray to Him for prosperity and you may request Him for such favours and grants that none but He can bestow and award.
Think over it that by simply granting you the privilege of praying for His Favours and Mercies, He has handed over the keys of His treasures to you. Whenever you are in need you should pray and He will confer His Bounties and Blessings. But sometimes you will find that your requests are not immediately granted, then you need not be disappointed because the grant of prayers often rests with the true purpose and intention of the implorer. Sometimes the prayers are delayed because the Merciful Lord wants you to receive further rewards for patiently bearing calamities and sufferings and still believing sincerely in His Help. Thus you may be awarded better favours than you requested for.
What more can I add to this perfect passage? Nothing. I can only emphasize how true every single word in it is. He does indeed hear you when you call, and He accepts your prayers. You only need to believe this with all your heart until you can hear beyond what initially may seem like silence.
When I first began these letters, I kept my requests to Him simple. I wanted you to read these letters. That would be enough. And if possible to gain something from them, to change in some way for the better. I always believed that you would and I still do; oddly more so now than before. Perhaps, because He has given me Proof of His Inevitable Response.
Many a time, Lovers will test each other…just to see how much the claim of the other is true. Even God tests us in our claims of faith and belief in Him although He Already Knows how genuine we are. Does He ask us for blind faith in return? Does He not provide us with proof of His Existence even before we know to ask for it? So who says then that we cannot test His Promises? If He says He Will Respond when we ask, who has prevented us from testing that out?
It was keeping this in mind that I began to change my demands a few letters ago. I laid out the secrets of my heart to Him just as the Will says, and invoked Him (dare I say, challenged Him?) to fulfill them to the letter. I described and listed out and refined my ‘desire’ to my heart’s content. I will admit that I felt extremely silly doing so. It became almost a joke between me and Him…the more I elaborated on my Plan for Myself, the more I was making it impossible and the more I was laying out an open challenge for Him to prove me wrong. After all, nothing was supposed to be too great for Him, right?
If I may say so, I think God also has a Perfect Sense of Humour…which is why He blind sided me so well. My own personal definition of my Question seems like a mere outline compared to the fleshed out version of the Answer He Gave. I often find myself thinking…”OMG! I’d forgotten to add ‘x‘ to my list!” only to discover He’s covered it already for me and then added a few bonuses I hadn’t even considered.
Looking at where I am now, everything make sense, as they always say it does in hindsight. Not just last week, or last month or even last year when I began these letters but going back years and years…every experience I have lived through, every lesson I have ever learnt, every habit I have changed…every moment had a purpose in bringing me to Now.
The delays we go through before our prayers are accepted are often the time God uses to shape and mould us into receptacles who will be able to receive the Answer that He has already given us from the moment we first made our request. The greater our demands, the more we have to prepare to get them. Which is why the more you want. the more you have to be willing to wait.
But you will get, of this there is no doubt.
Sometimes your prayers are turned down, and this is also in your interest; because you often, unknowingly, ask for things that are really harmful to you. If your requests are granted they will do you more harm than good and many of your requests may be such that if they are granted they will result in your eternal damnation. Thus the refusal to accede to your solicitations is a blessing in disguise to you. But very often your requests, if they are not really harmful to you in this life or in the Hereafter, may be delayed but they are granted in quantities much more than you had asked for, bringing in more blessings in their wake than you could ever imagine. So you should be very careful in asking Allah for His Favour. Only pray for such things as are really beneficial to you, and are lasting and in the long run do not end in harm. Remember, my dear son, that wealth and power (if you pray for them) are such things that they will not always be with you and may bring harm to you in the life in the Hereafter.
Much as I am ready to declare, announce from the rooftops, publicize and support my claim that every prayer is answered, and the really important ones are answered in this life, I also know that the unimportant ones are not. And the ones dangerous to your well-being? Forget it. You can beg and beg and beg, but as long as you have the presence of heart to remember that He Knows Best at the end, rest assured He will NOT give you something that will harm you.
And you will be eternally grateful for it when you realise why. You will eat humble pie with thankfulness and not know how to express your relief that He did not give in to your persistent demands. You will feel loved like you never have before.
This is the Real Secret to Happiness, Contentment and Ultimate Success…the very things that seem to evade you so much. In fact, it’s not really a Secret at all…it’s always been there in the open, but sadly, too many of us choose to ignore it and live in our own hand-made hells instead. The Not-Secret is to always be confident in knowing that no matter what happens in your life – whether it brings grief or joy, pain or release – Someone is looking out for you and you are safe, as long as you have placed your Faith in Him.
So today, on the last day of the Islamic Calendar as we are on the brink of a new Season of Sorrow, of Spiritual Revival and of Re-Birth, I pray that you make just one New Year Resolution: to find your faith again, tell Him where you want to go, trust that He Will Take you there…and then sit back and enjoy the ride of a Lifetime!
*All italicized blocks of quotes are from the Will of Ali bin Abi Talib (a) to his son.