Sūrat al- Ḥujurāt, chapter 49 of the Qur’ān, was one of the last bits of revelation that Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) gave to the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) when his mission had almost come to an end. The entire Arabian Peninsula had embraced Islām, whilst others were flooding into Madina to be part of the city of the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam). Amidst these happenings, Sūrat al-Hujurāt was revealed, which laid down the moral and social norms that are to be upheld in any given Islamic society.
I draw to your attention to one of the many miraculous verses from it, one where Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) addresses the companions of Prophet(sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam), with us in mind as well. At a time when so many complain of the phenomena of practicing Islām, without the passion they wish to have for it, such verses could not be more relevant.
Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) said:
وَاعْلَمُوا أَنَّ فِيكُمْ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ لَوْ يُطِيعُكُمْ فِي كَثِيرٍ مِنَ الْأَمْرِ لَعَنِتُّمْ وَلَكِنَّ اللَّهَ حَبَّبَ إِلَيْكُمُ الْإِيمَانَ وَزَيَّنَهُ فِي قُلُوبِكُمْ وَكَرَّهَ إِلَيْكُمُ الْكُفْرَ وَالْفُسُوقَ وَالْعِصْيَانَ أُولَئِكَ هُمُ الرَّاشِدُونَ
“And know that among you is the Messenger of Allāh. If he were to obey you in much of the matter, you would be in difficulty, but Allāh has made faith beloved to you and has beautified it in your hearts; and has made disliked to you, the rejection of faith, defiance, and disobedience. Those are the rightly guided ones.”
Let us start our journey with a brief sentence by sentence explanation:
The verse begins: “And know that among you is the Messenger of Allāh…”
In other words, realise – O companions – that in your midst is the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam), so realise how gifted you are to be nominated from all of humanity to be his contemporaries. Hence, honour him, be well-mannered towards him, obey him, and place his opinions before yours, for he is more aware of what benefits you than you are, and is more concerned about your wellbeing than you are about your own selves.
The verse continues: “If he were to obey you in much of the matter, you would be in difficulty…”
In other words, had he accepted the suggestions which you make to him, things would actually end up much harder for you and the outcome would be one of fatigue and inability, as Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) said in another verse:
وَلَوِ اتَّبَعَ الْحَقُّ أَهْوَاءَهُمْ لَفَسَدَتِ السَّمَوَاتُ وَالأَرْضُ وَمَنْ فِيهِنَّ بَلْ أَتَيْنَاهُمْ بِذِكْرِهِمْ فَهُمْ عَنْ ذِكْرِهِمْ مُعْرِضُونَ
“But if the Truth had followed their inclinations, the Heavens and the Earth and whoever is in them would have been ruined. Rather, We have brought them their message, but they – from their message – are turning away.”
Although your opinions may seem to offer an easier solution, had the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) acted upon them, you would have realised that your knowledge is deficient, and your insight is lacking in comparison to revelation. Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) reinforces this in another verse:
فَعَسَى أَنْ تَكْرَهُوا شَيْئًا وَيَجْعَلَ اللَّهُ فِيهِ خَيْرًا كَثِيرًا
“…for it may be that you dislike a thing and Allāh brings through it a great deal of good.”
The heart-melting verses continue: “…but Allāh has made faith beloved to you, and has beautified it in your hearts…”
In other words, the reason why you find it within you, O companions, to obey the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) in even those matters that contradict what you may feel is best is that Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) has made faith beloved to you and has beautified it in your hearts. Furthermore, this love that has been placed within you is purely a gift from Him – “Allāh has made faith beloved to you” – one that you had no say in at all. Hence, realise just how indebted you are to Him, that He has made your hearts’ disposition upon the love of īmān.
But what is the difference between “Allāh has made faith beloved to you” and “has beautified it in your hearts”? Is this mere repetition, or is there more to it?
One may love a matter due to its outcome, but as for the process, he dislikes it. An ailing person, for example, may queue up for hours for a medicine. The medicine may also be very bitter, however, despite the annoyance of waiting and the bitterness of the medicine, he still takes it because he loves the outcome – health and well-being – even though the process is disliked.
Hence, when Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) told the companions that He had made faith beloved to them and had beautified it in their hearts, it means that they were made to love both the outcome of īmān and the process of being a believer. They loved to give, to pray, to wear the full ḥijāb, to worship Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā).
The verses continue: “…and has made disliked to you, the rejection of faith, defiance, and disobedience.”
This ordering is with respect to severity; the rejection of faith is at the top of the list, then it moves down to defiance, which can be interpreted as major sins, and then disobedience, which can be interpreted as minor sins.
Therefore Allāh’s (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) favour upon the companions wasn’t limited to things he made beloved to them, but things that He made disliked to them as well. The perfection of Allāh’s gift upon them had to include both. According to Him, this is the meaning of success; when one’s heart becomes home to both love for īmān and loss of interest in all that contradicts it. Thus, the verse is concluded with: “Those are the rightly guided ones”.
With this basic understanding, we are now ready to extract some of the medicine found within these verses and apply them to the ailments we see today in our ummah.
1. The companions are the greatest of humanity after the prophets.
Should we quote Sunni-sourced prophetic narrations about the station of the companions to Muslims who speak ill of them, they may not accept it as a source of legislation. They cannot do this, however, when quoting the Qur’ān. As we read above, Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) said to them: “And know that among you is the Messenger of Allāh…”
From all of humanity, “you”—O companions—were nominated to be the hosts of the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam).
As we read above, Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) said to them: “but Allāh has made faith beloved to you, and has beautified it in your hearts, and has made disliked to you, the rejection of faith, defiance and disobedience. Those are the rightly guided ones”
In fact, no generation of people were ever praised in the Qur’ān like the companions were.
Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) said about them:
كُنتُمْ خَيْرَ أُمَّةٍ أُخْرِجَتْ لِلنَّاسِ
“You are the best of mankind ever put forward for humanity” 
رَضِيَ اللَّهُ عَنْهُمْ
“Allāh is pleased with them” 
أُولَئِكَ هُمُ الرَّاشِدُونَ
“Those are the rightly guided ones” 
The very first to be addressed by these verses, and the first to recite them were the companions; hence, those who still harbour ill feelings towards the companions are either to concede that they have an issue with the Qur’ān, or they are to humbly reconsider their views, and to love them as Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) loved them.
2. To what extent can we rely on following our instincts?
To what extent does man know what is best for him? In the verse that we recited above, Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) said to the companions: “And know that among you is the Messenger of Allāh. If he were to obey you in much of the matter, you would be in difficulty…”
In other words, had the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) obeyed you in acting upon what you deem is best, you would have ended up fatiguing and failing. Focus on who is being addressed; the companions, the likes of Abū Bakr, ʿUmar, ʿUthmān, and ʿAlī (raḍiy Allāhu ʿanhum) – these are the most righteous of people and the purest in intention.
Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) has instructed certain matters, but man, by his nature, has his own preferences, thinking that things will be easier and that outcomes will be better. For example, at times, the correct Islamic ḥijāb is compromised in order ‘to help with marriage prospects’. Interest, alcohol, or drugs-based dealings are used ‘in order to secure the future of the family’. Sinful evenings and weekends out are not politely turned down because ‘networking depends upon it’. Weddings are planned in ways that devastate hereafters in terms of what is displayed, served, and played because ‘it is only one night, and imagine what people will say’!
These are our equations. We want what is easier and best, but because we challenge revelation, the outcome is always the stark opposite: inner darkness, misery and loss. The Quranic equation is so different; “If he were to obey you in much of the matter, you would be in difficulty…”
In short, be confident in the revelation. Station yourself upon what is right and resist the whisperings of those who encourage you otherwise. Repent when slipping, and with time, you will see that it is the following of revelation that brings rest, not otherwise.
3. What are the signs of success?
You are not an average individual. You are a Muslim who exerts an unusual amount of time, effort, money, and sweat in order to attain a particular goal; hence, it is only natural that you will want signs that the path you are treading is the correct one. Are there such signs? Yes, and the verses above have given us such a sign.
“Allāh has made faith beloved to you, and has beautified it in your hearts, and has made disliked to you, the rejection of faith, defiance, and disobedience. Those are the rightly guided ones.”
This is a sign of your success in Allāh’s Eyes – a sign that you are where He wants you to be. You love Islām. You love the experience. You genuinely enjoy worshipping Him, as “those are the guided ones.”
The Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said:
ثَلاثٌ مَنْ كُنَّ فِيهِ وَجَدَ بِهِنَّ حَلاوَةَ الإيمانِ: أنْ يَكُونَ اللهُ وَرَسُولُهُ أحَبَّ إِلَيْهِ مِمَّا سَوَاهُمَا، وَأنْ يُحِبّ المَرْءَ لاَ يُحِبُّهُ إلاَّ للهِ، وَأَنْ يَكْرَهَ أنْ يَعُودَ في الكُفْرِ بَعْدَ أنْ أنْقَذَهُ الله مِنْهُ، كَمَا يَكْرَهُ أنْ يُقْذَفَ في النَّار
“There are three characteristics, whoever attains them will taste the sweetness of īmān: when Allāh and His Messenger become dearer to him than everyone else; when he loves a person and loves him only for the sake of Allāh; and when he hates to return to disbelief after Allāh has saved him from it, the same way he would hate to be thrown into fire.”
For this very reason, when Abū Sufyān (raḍiy Allāhu ʿanhu), who was still a Pagan at the time, was asked by Heraclius, the Roman Emperor, whether any of the companions of the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) had left Islām after embracing it, he replied, “No.”
Heraclius, then, said:
وَكَذَلِكَ الْإِيمَانُ حِينَ تُخَالِطُ بَشَاشَتُهُ الْقُلُوبَ
“This is the sign of true īmān when its delight mixes with a person’s heart.”
Similarly, the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) spoke about the seven categories of people who will be shaded by Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) on the Day of Reckoning, when there will be no shade but His, and quoted one of the seven as being:
وَرَجُلٌ قَلْبُهُ مُعَلَّقٌ فِي الْمَسَاجِدِ
“…a person whose heart is attached to the mosque.”
Why is his heart attached to the mosque? It is because Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) has made īmān beloved to him and has beautified it within his heart. Thus, in the house of Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā), he finds the meaning of rest as he bows, prostrates, recites Qur’ān or even falls asleep. These are signs of success: to live īmān and to love the experience involved in being a believer, even if someone laughs at you or makes you feel weird.
Consider the words of the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam):
وجعلت قرة عيني في الصلاة
“The coolness of my eyes has been placed in ṣalāh.”
Consider how he would instruct Bilāl (raḍiy Allāhu ʿanhu) to call the prayer:
أقم الصلاة يا بلال، أرحنا بها
“Make the call to the prayer. Give us relief through it.”
Consider the response of the Prophet Mūsā (ʿalayhi al-Salām) to Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā), when he was asked why he had rushed to depart from his community to make Allāh’s appointment:
وَعَجِلْتُ إِلَيْكَ رَبِّ لِتَرْضَى
“I have rushed to you, my Lord, so that you may be pleased.”
Consider the words of Thābit al-Bunāni (raḍiy Allāhu ʿanhu):
كَابَدْتُ الصَّلاةَ عِشْرِينَ سَنَةً، وَتَنَعَّمْتُ بِهَا عِشْرِينَ سَنَةً
“I forced myself to pray for 20 years, then it became bliss for the next 20 years.”
Consider Abū Muslim al-Khawlānī, a second-generation Muslim, who would speak to himself between his night prayers whenever his body fatigued from worship:
أيظن أصحاب محمد صلى الله عليه وسلم أن يسبقونا عليه والله لأزاحمنهم عليه حتى يعلموا أنهم خلفوا بعدهم رجالا
“Did the companions think that they were going to have the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) all to themselves? By Allāh, I will vigorously compete against them so that they know that people of determination came after them.” 
Consider ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz b. Abī Rawwād who would pass his hand over his bed, saying this before resuming prayer:
ما ألينك ولكن فراش الجنة ألين منك
“You are so soft, but the beddings of paradise are softer.” 
When the sweetness of īmān is experienced, no longer is ṣalāh seen as a chore but rather a meeting that you yearn for. Never again is the correct Islamic ḥijāb seen as shackles, but rather as a pleasure that you cannot do without, and no longer is Ramaḍān viewed as suffering, but instead, as a pleasurable period of sacrifice for He who deserves your life, and the motto of such a person becomes:
إذا عرف الآمر سهلت الأوامر
“When the instructor is recognised, the instructions become easier.”
Writing about this is not sufficient. It really has to be felt on a first hand basis. It is much like a person who opens a shop, and on the very first day, he brings home a profit of £10,000; you can be quite sure that he will not be late for work the next day, but will arrive even earlier and finish even later. Yes, he has tasted the joy of success on a first hand basis and so he amplifies his efforts willingly and lovingly. If, however, he had failed to sell anything during his initial weeks, it will usually be the start of laziness and excuses for absence.
Similarly, it is difficult for us to proceed as committed Muslims if the sweetness of īmān is yet to be experienced, whilst we see the colossal efforts of those who have tasted it. Īmān is truly an unexplainable source of power.
One of our predecessors said:
مساكين أهل الدنيا، خرجوا منها وما ذاقوا أطيب ما فيها
“How pitiful is the state of the people of dunyā. They left this world without tasting the sweetest thing that it has to offer.”
He was asked what that is. He responded:
محبَّة الله تعالى ومعرفته وذكره
“The love of Allāh, knowing Him and remembering Him.” 
With that, we discover the secret behind the relentless chase for paradise that some Muslims exhibit: her ability to wear the full ḥijāb despite the scorching heat or mockery of people; his ability to give in charity fearlessly, her ability to interrupt her sleep at night to bow and prostrate; his willingness to uphold family ties with those who mistreat him; her strength to fast consistently throughout the year; and his ability to even sacrifice his life for the causes of justice if need be.
Īmān was tasted.
The “love of īmān” and the “beautifying” of it within one’s heart is only one part of the blessing. The other component is when its opposites – “disbelief, defiance, and disobedience” – are evicted from their interests. There is no other god that appeals to them. There is no alternative lifestyle that fascinates them. There is no other dress that she aspires for. They are not just ‘restraining’ themselves from the Godless lifestyle, but rather, their hearts have zero aspirations for it in the first place.
They are so obsessed with their way of life that it appears in their discourse and their very choice of words when presenting Islām. It is this dignified presentation of Islām that, today, is arguably lacking.
If it is a context of socialism, our narrative is limited to how Islām is compatible.
If it is one of capitalism, our narrative is limited to how Islām is compatible.
If it is one of feminism, our narrative is limited to how Islām is compatible.
Whilst those who peddle these narratives may mean well, and whilst there may be truth in much of what they say, there is an underlying issue; we are putting Islām on the back foot and dwarfing it from what Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) intended it to be.
As for those who have had faith “made beloved to them” and “beautified within their hearts”, their narrative is not limited to the discussion of compatibility with system X or “ism”-Y because they are so possessed by Islām – seeing it as a solution to the ills of life – and not merely a mirror reflection of people’s ever-changing ideas of “the good life”.
One whose heart has been made to love īmān and has had it beautified within him cannot see anything other than it. The glow of its light is so strong, its meadows are so green, and its airs are so pure that one’s heart finds no space for anything else.
Labīd b. Rabīʿah (raḍiy Allāhu ʿanhu) is the name of a companion who was known for his poetry. When he embraced Islām, he was requested to recite some of his works.
Al-Mughīra (raḍiy Allāhu ʿanhu) said to him:
أَنْشِدْنِي مَا قُلْتَ مِنَ الشِّعْرِ فِي الْجَاهِلِيَّةِ وَالْإِسْلَامِ
“Recite to me from the poetry that you’d said before you became a Muslim and after.”
His response was breath-taking and exemplified the above, saying:
قَدْ أَبْدَلَنِي اللَّهُ بِذَلِكَ سُورَةَ الْبَقَرَةِ وَسُورَةَ آلِ عِمْرَانَ
“Allāh has replaced me with something better; Sūrat al-Baqarah & Sūrat al-ʿImran.” 
In conclusion, this is undoubtedly a position that every Muslim craves to attain – to become absorbed in īmān until it becomes the life of one’s heart, aspiring absolutely nothing beyond it. So, ask Allāh (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) for it and cry your eyes out in desperation for it as well. After all, this is precisely what Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) did.
After the battle of Uhud had ended, a day that was one of the toughest in the lives of Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) and his companions, he said to them:
استووا حتى أُثني على ربي -عز وجل
“Stand in a line so that I may praise my Lord.”
They stood behind him in rows, and part of what he said during his duʿā’ was:
اللهم حبب إلينا الإيمان وزينه في قلوبنا، وكره إلينا الكفر والفسوق والعصيان، واجعلنا من الراشدين
“O Allāh, make faith beloved to us, and beautify it in our hearts, and make us dislike rejection of faith, defiance, and disobedience, and make us from the rightly guided ones.”
In light of the challenges today, be sure to add these words in every duʿā’ of yours in the hope that īmān becomes and remains the unrivalled resident of your heart.
 Al-Qur’ān 49:7
 Al-Qur’ān 23:71
 Al-Qur’ān 4:19
 As was mentioned by Ibn Kathīr
 Al-Qur’ān 3:110
 Al-Qur’ān 9:100
 Al-Qur’ān 49:17
 Al-Bukhārī and Muslim, on the authority of Anas
 Al-Bukhārī, on the authority of Ibn ʿAbbās
 Al-Bukhārī and Muslim, on the authority of Abū Hurairah
 Al-Nasā’i, on the authority of Anas b. Mālik
 Sunan Abī Dāwūd
 Al-Qur’ān 20:84
 Hilyat alAwliyā
 ʿUlūm al-Dīn, al-Ghazāli
 Al-Wābil al-Sayyib, Ibn al-Qayyim
 Tabaqāt Ibn Saʿd
 Aḥmad, on the authority of Rifā’a al-Zuraqī