Curious why people do not soar towards their Lord, on the wings of longing, rather than being driven to Him by whips of fear? Ignorance of God and His Religion is surely the cause behind this cold or alienated feeling – although humans will never find one who is kinder and more merciful to them than their Lord.

His kindness and tenderness are completely pure, untainted by any interests or aims, being attributes of His absolute perfection and exalted Self.

The story of mankind shows that God created men and women to honor them, not humiliate them, and to empower them, not overpower them on earth:

{And surely, We gave you authority on the earth and appointed for you therein provisions (for your life). Little thanks do you give. And surely, We created you (your father Adam) and then gave you (human) form, then We said to the angels, “Prostrate to Adam.”} (Al-‘Araf 7: 10-11)

The role of religion in humans’ lives is to steer their course away from evil, towards good, and found their relationships on truth and justice in order for them to live this life without oppression or ignorance. Religion for them is as food is to their body; a necessity for their survival that corresponds to their nature and needs, and brings them true happiness.

The Law of God sides with the oppressed against the oppressor, with parents against the ingratitude of their children, and with any human wronged in their soul, honor, or wealth. Its purposes are mercy and welfare, not rigidity and punishment.

The assigned acts of worship, which are fairly easy to perform, are to keep them connected with their Lord, praising His blessings, and remembering His rights. Eternity in heaven is what God desires for people, but many have refused and many still refuse to respond and follow His Straight Path, thus desires started following them from every path, and the earth became filled with their transgressions and abominations.

Despite the crooked paths they have taken, callers to faith are still calling people to return to their Lord. Truly, His happiness for their return to Him is beyond the description of words. Prophet Muhammad said:

“Allah is happier with the repentance of His slave when he repents to Him than you would be if you were riding in a desert, and your mount carrying all your food and drink escaped from you. You despaired of finding it; you found a tree and lay in its shade, having lost hope of ever finding it, and suddenly found the mount standing in front of you. So you take hold of its reins, and out of your intense joy, you say, ‘O Allah, You are my slave, and I am your lord,’ making this mistake because of intense joy.’” (Muslim)

An amazingly overwhelming welcome! Can be there such sincere happiness?

Even sinless people can hardly ever find a heart that yearns to meet them with such a warm welcome. How about souls stained with sins against themselves and people?

If covering their past sins was what they were met with, this would have been sufficient, filling them with peace and thankfulness. But to be welcomed with open arms and great anticipation, this is really amazing. Truly, God is kinder to people and more ready to forgive than our limited minds can imagine.

Repentance like this brings a complete rebirth and becomes a separator between two different eras in one’s life, the same as dawn is between darkness and light. It is not a transient return after which one relapses into former chaos and negligence, nor is it an unsuccessful attempt that lacks true will, endurance, and perseverance.

The victorious return that pleases God is that in which man triumphs over weakness and laziness, crushes under his feet the germs of sins and vileness, breaks free from the chains of desires and ingratitude, and lifts himself up to higher levels of faith, righteousness, knowledge, and guidance.

About those who achieve it, God says:

{And verily, I am indeed Forgiving to those who repent, believe (in My Oneness, and associate none in worship with Me) and do righteousness, and then continue in guidance.} (Ta-Ha 20: 82)

It is a life renewed after decadence and a decisive move that changes the features of oneself the same way as the dead earth turns fertile when abundantly supplied with water and nutrition.

It is a return, out of the past, that requires renewing oneself and reorganizing one’s life to resume life with a better understanding of and relationship with our Lord, while praying with untiring lips:

“O Allah, You are my Lord. There is no god except You. You created me, and I am but Your slave. I am faithful to my covenant and my promise to You as much as I am able. I seek refuge with You from all the evil I have done. I acknowledge before You all the blessings You have bestowed on me, and I confess to You all my sins. Please forgive me, for no one can forgive sins except You.” (Al Bukhari)

This article is a translated excerpt from Sheikh Muhammad Al-Ghazali’s book: “Renew Your Life”. It is translated and adapted by Haya Muhammad Eid & edited by Emily Katharine Richardson.

First Published: November 2012

Sheikh Mohammed al-Ghazali al-Saqqa (1917–1996) was an Islamic cleric and scholar whose writings “have influenced generations of Egyptians”. The author of 94 books, Sheikh Ghazali attracted a broad following with works that sought to interpret Islam and its holy book, the Quran, in a modern light. He is widely credited with contributing to a revival of Islamic faith in Egypt over the last decade.” Another source called him “one of the most revered sheikhs in the Muslim world.

By Sheikh Mohammed al-Ghazali