Al-Ghawth Abu Madyan: Whosoever clings to the promise of hope
will never be free of indolence
Sheikh al-‘Alawi’s commentary:
People are indolent in two ways: some are too indolent to bother with good deeds, whilst others are too indolent to seek their Lord. This is caused by their lack of yearning for Him; if they yearned for God, He would yearn for them, as the Prophet (God bless him and give him peace) said: ‘Whosoever loves to meet God, God loves to meet them.’ A Sacred Hadith reads: ‘If My slave draws a hand-span nearer to Me, I draw an arm-span nearer to him.’ And He also said (in a Sacred Hadith): ‘I am the companion of he who remembers Me,’ and ‘Wherever My slave seeks Me, he will find Me.’
Is this anything but a pure blessing and a generous favour? Sufficient ignorance be it from you, O disciple, that you seek that which has no inherent existence, ignoring He Who Must Surely Exist! If you knew what was in front of you, you would abandon this heedlessness; for the Real is closer to you than yourself:
If My slaves ask thee of Me, I am surely near. I answer the call of the supplicant when he calls Me. (Qur’an 2:186)
It is an ignominy for the disciple to be characterised with indolence in the matter of seeking God. He is like a procrastinator, who every day says ‘Tomorrow I will get to it’, until he spends his whole life in idleness. The poet said:
They are happy to hope, afflicted by fortune;
They claim to have plunged into the Sea of Love
– Yet they have not been wetted!
They have not yet moved from their places,
Or even set off, yet they are exhausted!
When they chose blindness over guidance
out of pure envy –
They lost the way
The Real yearns for His slave more intensely than the slave yearns for Him. Our master, ‘Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani, said in his Munajat: ‘God said to me: “What a fine Seeker am I, and what a find object is mankind! If man knew the rank he holds in My sight, he would say with every breath: To whom belongs sovereignty on this day?…” ’
And so the only thing preventing us from arriving to God is indolence. As we said, there are those people who are too indolent to do good works, imagining that this is simply what fate has decreed, when really it is nothing more than what their own caprices have decreed. Do you not see that if any of them saw some possible worldly benefit, he would strive with all his might to reach it, saying: ‘Provision is written, but the means to it should be sought’? Yet when it comes to seeking the Real, he does not seek the means, nor does he do good works in order to draw close to Him, nor does he strive to gain His Divine Grace. He behaves as though he is completely secure; yet God says: None feel safe of God’s design save those who are lost. (Qur’an 7:99) If you tell them to fear God, they will say, ‘God is Merciful.’ This is true; but do you not know that He is also All-Providing?
Why, then, do you seek the means to obtaining provision in any way you can, yet you do not seek the means to obtaining His Forgiveness in any way at all? You behave as the denizens of Hell behave, yet you hope for Paradise! How far-fetched this is! Whoever comes forth with a bad deed will only be requited with the like thereof. (Qur’an 6:160) Show yourself some mercy, for you cannot hope to achieve what you are attempting! One of them said:
O ye who works for Hell, your body is soft,
So test yourself with the midday heat,
Or try a hornet’s sting, then add
The venomous bite of a terrible snake.
And if you cannot bear it, alas!
Why seek to anger the Lord of All Being?
Day by day, you reveal your folly,
Whilst wearing the robes of piety and honour!
Your boldness exceeds that of all mankind,
By the ignorance and ill-intent of your soul.
You say, ‘As for sin, my Lord doth forgive it!’
You speak true, yet He forgives those whom He wills.
Just as your Lord forgives, He provides;
Why, then, do you not see these two equally?
You hope for clemency without repentance,
And you plan and scheme to obtain your provision;
Yet He charged himself to provide for His slaves
And did not guarantee Paradise for all men.
Why, then, do you chase what is provided for you,
And abandon what you have been charged to perform?
In every matter, your thoughts of Him waver
Between good and ill, as your caprice dictates.
This is the state of he who has been overcome with hope. Generally, he is content to remain estranged and distant from God as he is. All of this stems from a dearth of love for God. How strange it is that a person could be content to be estranged and veiled; yet were they to know the rank they could hold in their Lord’s sight, they would not stop until they had realised it.
To this end, it has been said:
How far they are from it, and how poorly they have chosen!
Their aims are cheap; their every move a sin.
Give life to our hearts, Lord, and inspire us to seek You; for none can inspire us but You, and we want for nothing but You!