Dear Not a Loser…
“Asalaamualaikum please don’t think dat i am belittling your problems but i want to kill myself but i cant as it is prohibited i feel i am accumulating sins day by day isn’t it better for me to die i am not satisfied with my life i don’t want to do engineering but for my parents sake i have to and i am not able to observe completely rules of hijab in the college i wanno cry and shriek dat i cant carry on anymore with this life which i am almost sure will lead me to hell. -Loser”
AssalamuAlaikum Sister, please note that I refuse to call you a Loser. 🙂 Now bear with me as I go off on a bit of a tangent.
Shaitaan is possibly millions of years old and pretty damn sneaky. His goal, at the end of the day, is to get as many of us into hell with him as possible, and one of the ways that he does this is using the myth of what I call “Muslim Perfection.”
The idea is pretty simple. Shaitaan says:
Do it all perfectly or just stop, because you’re embarrassing yourself.
A person as horrible as you are has no chance of getting into Jannah.
In fact, just kill yourself now. At least it will be over sooner.
His message is straightforward and actually very insidious. People all over the world actually give up trying to be better Muslims because they fall short of their own expectations for how effortless, euphoric, and impeccable their Islam should be. Shaitaan wants you to believe that there are naturally religious people, and then there’s everybody else. And the reason why you are having a hard time is because you aren’t one of the beautiful people.
Some people he tricks, others- like Imam Sufyaan ath-Thawri- saw through this cheap trick and insisted on praying at night for twenty years even though he wasn’t “feeling it.”
Imagine if, one day- he had just thrown his hands up and said “You know what? I’m not cut out for this, I’ve been praying for twenty years and I’ve yet to find this whole peace and contentment with my salah. What’s the point. I’m never going to get it right…”
Shaitaan is trying to convince you that because your Islam is less than perfect, you’re a failure who should give up already. In reality, everyone is a sinner and everyone struggles. The best people aren’t those who sin, but those whose sins cause them to try even harder and draw even closer to Allah next time. For some people, major sins can be major set-backs. For others, they are life-changing events that mark the end of heedlessness and the beginning of seeking Allah’s pleasure.
Every Muslim is a combination of successes and failures when it comes to their religious practice. So as a sinner, you’re in great company! Everyone, everywhere, accumulates sin on a daily basis, and if everyone like you just killed themselves, we’d all be dead. 🙂 Join the club sister. We’re over 6 billion strong!
O My servants, you sin by night and by day, and I forgive all sins, so seek forgiveness of Me and I shall forgive you.
-Excerpt from Hadith Qudsi, full hadith here.
Shaitaan wants you to think that the passing grade for this test is 100% and failure is everything else. But if you believe him, then you’re buying into an insult to Allah. How? Allah is The Most Merciful, Most Forgiving- Most Loving, Most Gracious, Most Kind- He alone has attained perfection and as The All-Knowing, He knows how and what we’re made of- so by what crazy logic would He mercilessly penalize us for not reaching a standard that He would best know that we could never attain?
Shaitaan might add at this point: well, ok, Allah is the Best. But you can’t think that your sorry butt will get into Jannah with *that* old sack of a soul. Have you seen the state of your nafs? Brother, it is bad.
If you think you’re too bad for Allah to forgive, then you’re grossly underestimating Allah’s capacity for forgiveness. You’re implying that your capacity to sin is even greater than Allah’s capacity to forgive. Please, don’t insult God. They don’t call Him Al-Rahman for nothing.
Related by at-Tirmidhi (also by Ahmad ibn Hanbal). Its chain of authorities is sound.
So yes, Shaitaan wants you to forget that Allah is the Greatest- even in His capacity to forgive those who sincerely ask it. He wants you to think that you only have two choices; perfection or failure, and since perfection ain’t gonna happen, what option does Shaitaan leave you? Killing yourself and getting it over with already. But, there’s a third option that Shaitaan doesn’t want you to forget about it:
Between perfection and failure lies your only real choice: Fight.
Fight shaitaan’s insistence upon your failure, fight your own soul’s inclination to sin, fight your own weaknesses and no matter how hard you’ve been hit or how long you’ve been laying on the ground- get up and keep fighting. Fight shaitaan as hard as he’s fighting you, as long as he’s fighting you, and don’t stop fighting him until the Angel of Death draws your soul gently away from your body and into the safety of your grave, spacious and fragrant with the winds of Jannah, where you can finally relax a little, reassured and kept company by your good deeds until Allah raises you on Qiyama.
Just because your heart is aching right now, and you’re locked in the seemingly endless cycle of sin, regret, and self-reproach doesn’t mean you’re a lost cause. It’s actually good news, and here’s why. The human heart (or soul, or nafs) has three settings according to the Qur’an.
The Default Setting: Nafs al-Amarra bis Su’
The lowest level is the Nafs al-Amarra bis Su’ or the soul that is inclined to evil, and a majority of humankind lives in this guiltless, no-regrets, live for the moment mode. This seems to be the default setting for the modern nafs as well as most pop music.And I do not free myself from blame. Indeed the human self is inclined to evil, except when my Lord bestows His Mercy (upon whom He wills). Indeed my Lord is Forgiving, Merciful.” (Surah Yusuf: 53)
Knowing that it’s possible to have varying levels of soundness to your heart/nafs- Muslims don’t rely on the soundness of their heart to provide a compass to morality. It is not your heart’s job to point you towards what’s right, it only points you towards what it wants. So in a sense, you don’t follow your heart as much as your heart follows you.
Have you seen the one who takes as god his own desire? Then would you be responsible for him? Surah Al Furqan: 43
The Medium Setting: Nafs al-Lawwama
“I do call to witness the Resurrection Day. And I do call to witness the self-reproaching Soul.” Surah Al-Qiyamah: 1-2
This is a soul that battles with its desires, that commits sin and then reproaches itself and tries harder next time. It has awareness of its shortcomings, but despite its imperfections, it hasn’t given up. Your guilt and self-reproach about the shortcomings in your Islamic practice are evidence of having made progress on your spiritual journey. The bad news is though, is that Shaitaan is trying to knock you down a notch so that instead of trying harder, you just stop trying altogether- whether because you’ve killed yourself, or because you’ve decided that you’re a hypocrite and you’ve written off as Muslim.
Alhamdulillah though, Allah has good news for the Reproaching Soul.
“And hasten to forgiveness from your Lord and a garden as wide as the heavens and earth, prepared for the righteous- Who spend [in the cause of Allah ] during ease and hardship and who restrain anger and who pardon the people – and Allah loves the doers of good; And those who, when they commit an immorality or wrong themselves [by transgression], remember Allah and seek forgiveness for their sins – and who can forgive sins except Allah ? – and [who] do not persist in what they have done while they know.” Qur’an 3:133-135
The very fact that you are aware of your shortcomings, even pained by them- is reassuring proof that you have a Nafs al-Lawwama. If you didn’t care, didn’t want to care, and didn’t even want to hear about why you should try to give a care- well, that would be worse. Sure, you’d probably be happier and more “at peace with your self,” as many modern proponents of self-worship would say, but you’d actually be wallowing in heedlessness.
The Highest setting: Nafs al-Mutma’inna
“O you satisfied soul. Return to your Lord pleased with yourself and pleasing to Him. Enter among My servants. And enter My paradise.” (Surah Al-Fajr: 27-30)
You might not be here yet, but that’s ok. You can still strive to accomplish this. The Contented Soul, or the Satisfied Soul, is the highest setting for your heart. It is a place of happiness, peace, acceptance, and sweetness of faith. It takes hard work to get there, and Allah has good tidings for the Contented Soul but get this- not even the Contented Soul is a perfect soul. It’s just a very happy one, and very close to Allah.
So, in a nutshell:
- No one is perfect except Allah
- You’re not the only one accumulating sin every day that you’re alive
- The difference between a good Muslim and a bad Muslim is not that one sins and one doesn’t- it’s that one seeks forgiveness & tries harder, and one doesn’t.
- Shaitaan’s the one trying to trick you into thinking you’re a failure
- Believing him is the only way to lose
- Fighting him is the only way to win
There’s one more thing that we need to remind you of:
On no soul does Allah place a burden greater than it can bear.
That means that this situation- where you’re stuck in a major you don’t like, being prevented from doing hijab, and being teased by Shaitaan that nothing you do will ever be good enough to get you into Jannah- you can overcome this. You can succeed. You can find a way- either out or through- that is pleasing to Allah and perhaps even terribly frustrating to Shaitaan.
There is nothing coming that you can’t handle, not because you’re great, but because Allah is the Greatest. He knows what you’re capable of, and He promised your challenges would never exceed your strengths. Allah sets us up for growth, not failure. And Allah never, ever breaks His promises.
Shaitaan, on the other hand, has been lying to you. He’s saying that anyone who’s struggling with deen shouldn’t even bother to try, whereas Allah gives double the normal reward to those who have difficulty reading Qu’ran. The Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him said “The magnitude of the reward goes along with the magnitude of the affliction.” (Tirmidhi)
The more you’re afflicted now- whether it be with stress, illness, financial difficulties, emotional turmoil- the more you will be rewarded, and the fact that you’re struggling right now isn’t a sign that you should just give up and kill yourself, it’s an invitation from Allah to come closer to Him.
May Allah make it easy for you to recognise and spiritually drop-kick the suggestions of Shaitaan, even when they come disguised in the form of avoiding hell. May Allah make His religion easy for you, and increase you in faith, and surround you with people who lift you up and help you draw nearer to Allah is this world and the next. Ameen.