A believer’s sole aim is to attain the good pleasure of God (Allah). However, Allah’s good pleasure is not only earned solely by performing certain acts of worship at definite times. Allah’s good pleasure is also earned by conducting oneself correctly throughout one’s lifetime. The following verse informs us that a believer’s entire life must be oriented towards a single goal:
“Say: ‘My prayer and my rites, my living and my dying, are for Allah alone, the Lord of all the worlds.’” (Sura Al-An`am: 162)
This means that in all his words, decisions and actions, man must pay attention to whether Allah is pleased with him or not. If he thinks that something is not pleasing to Allah, then he must totally avoid it. There is no other choice for a man who will be called to account for the life he has led, and whose eternal abode will be decided by the result. Furthermore, someone who is not ungrateful and who thinks and comprehends the truth, will surely not consider anything more important than pleasing his Lord, Who created him out of nothing, gave him life when he was nothing and bestowed upon him the favor to live in the paradise forever.
Allah’s Messenger, the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, also stated in a hadith that Allah’s Pleasure must always be held above man’s pleasure:
“Whoever seeks Allah’s Pleasure at the expense of men’s displeasure, will win Allah’s Pleasure and Allah will cause men to be pleased with him. And whoever seeks to please men at the expense of Allah’s Displeasure, will win the Displeasure of Allah and Allah will cause men to be displeased with him.” (Narrated by Ibn Hibban in his Saheeh)
The greatest honor and gratification man can ever attain is Allah’s good pleasure. Allah makes His servants pleased with Him through the multitude of blessings He bestows on them. In a verse of the Qur’an, the reward for believers who are pleased with Allah, and with whom Allah is pleased, is related as follows:
“Their reward is with their Lord: Gardens of Eden with rivers flowing under them, remaining in them timelessly, forever and ever. Allah is pleased with them and they are pleased with Him. That is for those who fear their Lord.” (Sura al-Bayyinah: 8)
He who reads the Qur’an will see that Allah orders people to carry out certain rites of worship. One of these is to practice regular prayers:
“When you have finished the prayer, remember Allah standing, sitting and lying on your sides. When you are safe again keep up prayer. Prayer is prescribed for the believers at specific times.” (Sura an-Nisa’: 103)
This verse is a reminder that regular prayer is obligatory. The conscience of every one who reads this verse will tell them to stand for prayers. The person may either practice what his conscience and the Qur’an require of him, or he may avoid practicing the commands of the Qur’an by making various excuses. It must, however, never be forgotten that whatever excuse one may find for not keeping up prayer, this excuse will not be accepted in the Hereafter.
It is, however, impossible to live Islam without employing the conscience fully. A truly conscientious person thinks about how he can practice every act of worship in the best manner. He strives to ensure that neither his actions nor his speech will pose a risk on the Day of Account. He knows that he will be repaid in the Hereafter for what he has done. Allah warns people with respect to this:
“Establish regular prayers and regular charity. Any good you send ahead for yourselves, you will find with Allah. Certainly Allah sees what you do.” (Sura al-Baqarah: 110)
In the Qur’an, Allah commands man to live by the principles of the religion voluntarily and devoutly:
“… It is even better for anyone who can volunteer some wealth. But that you should fast is better for you, if you only knew.” (Sura al-Baqarah: 184)
“Safeguard strictly your (habit of) prayers- especially the middle one; and stand up devoutly to (worship) Allah.” (Sura al-Baqarah: 238)
“Abraham (Ibrahim) was a community in himself, exemplary, devoutly obeying Allah’s will, a man of pure natural belief and he joined not deities with Allah.” (Sura an-Nahl: 120)
As seen in the verses above, Allah commands mankind to perform all his prayers devoutly. While performing one’s prayers, fasting, giving alms or showing obedience, what really matters is one’s real intention and the heartfelt thoughts. In the Qur’an, Allah draws our attention to the existence of some people who perform prayers only to show off. It may well be that these people do not reflect on Allah, and consider their feebleness and submissiveness before Allah while praying, but only perform the rituals. However, unless done for the sole purpose of earning the good pleasure of Allah, reflecting on the fact that one is weak and in need before Allah and feeling fear of the Hereafter, these acts may not be acceptable by Allah. Allah tells us that the blood of the sacrificial animals does not reach Him, but the devotion (taqwa) is what reaches Him:
“Their flesh and blood does not reach Allah but your devotion (taqwa) reaches Him. In this way He has subjected them to you so that you might proclaim Allah’s greatness for the way that He has guided you. Give good news to the good-doers.” (Sura al-Hajj: 37)
Among the major erroneous beliefs is that people assume they will be held responsible only for their actions. Yet, Allah informs us that man will account for his intentions, thoughts and even what he conceals deep in his heart.
“Everything in the heavens and everything in the earth belongs to Allah. Whether you divulge what is in yourselves or keep it hidden, Allah will still call you to account for it. He forgives whomever He wills and He punishes whomever He wills. Allah has power over all things.” (Sura al-Baqarah: 284)
Allah has knowledge of one’s heart, subconscious, thoughts and what he keeps hidden from others. Allah intervenes between a man and his heart. Therefore, man cannot possibly keep anything hidden from Allah. Any doubt that crosses his mind, any whispering of Satan, his actual thoughts about believers, his faith in the Qur’an, what crosses his mind while performing the prayers are all known one by one by Allah and recorded by Allah. For example, Allah knows when one performs prayers lethargically, or when he harbors contradictory thoughts.
Man will meet each one of these on the Last Day. Purifying one’s heart, living by the religion, not by observing the rituals only but also by being sincere and committed, are the ways we will attain salvation. It would simply be imprudence to neglect the eternal and real life of the Hereafter for a brief and fleeting life.
Praying to Him only
Prayer is one of the most important acts of worship to draw us nearer to Allah. By their very nature, all people feel the need to perform this act of worship. However, while it is a necessary and desirable part of the believers’ life, a disbeliever resorts to it only in times of distress.
The latter may not be accepted by Allah since what is most commendable is to ask help from Allah both in times of ease as in difficulty, that is, in every moment of our lives. That is because the one who prays to Allah is the person who acknowledges his weakness in Allah’s sight, and his inability of accomplishing anything unless it is by His Will.
Prayer is accompanied by submission to Allah. One who prays attributes all outcomes, whether easy or trying, to the Creator and Ruler of the universe. The acknowledgment that the solution of a problem, or the prevention of an undesirable circumstance, rests with Almighty Allah, is a source of relief and confidence for a believer. For, praying only to Allah, and taking Him as one’s sole friend, instills a sense of security in a believer.
The Prophet Muhammad’s advice to believers as to how to pray to Allah is a very good example of what a believer’s attitude must be:
“When one of you contemplates entering upon an enterprise, let him supplicate: O Allah, I consult You through Your Knowledge, and I seek strength through Your Power, and ask of Your Great Bounty; for You are Capable whereas I am not and, You know and I do not, and You are the Knower of hidden things. O Allah, if You know that this matter is good for me in respect of my Religion, my livelihood and the consequences of my affairs, then ordain it for me, make it easy for me, and bless it for me. But if You know this matter to be bad for my Religion, my livelihood or the consequences of my affairs, then turn it away from me, and turn me away from it, and grant me power to do good whatever it may be, and cause me to be contented with it.” (Bukhari and Muslim)
Indeed, Allah recommends us to be steadfast in prayer:
“Seek help in steadfastness and prayer. But that is a very hard thing, except for the humble.” (Sura al-Baqarah: 45)
Allah is nearer to man than his jugular vein. He knows and hears everything. Prayer is the easiest way to reach Him. Not a single thought that crosses your mind can be kept concealed from His knowledge. Although this is the case, many nevertheless are unaware that Allah has knowledge of everyone’s prayers and wishes. They think that Allah only listens to some of their prayers or, even if He hears, that He does not answer. (Surely Allah is far above what they attribute to him). This reasoning of theirs is flawed. Allah knows our innermost thoughts, every word we may utter, and He answers them all. Allah draws our attention to this fact in the Qur’an as follows:
“If My servants ask you about Me, I am near. I answer the call of the caller when he calls on Me. They should therefore respond to Me and believe in Me so that hopefully they will be rightly guided.” (Sura al-Baqarah: 186)
Therefore, whenever we want something we need only to ask it from Allah. Reaching our Lord is that easy.