“I wanna be a billionaire so freakin bad
Buy all of the things I never had
I wanna be on the cover of Forbes magazine
Smiling next to Oprah and the Queen”
And yet what I am about to say next is predictable: the ākhirah, where the true ‘billionaires’ will enjoy themselves, should be our main concern. If we believe this to be true, why do we not yearn for it like we yearn for the riches of this life?
That’s probably a discussion for another day, but I was reminiscing about a Muslim award ceremony I attended before lockdown. Cramped in a corner table adjacent to the restroom, I was under no illusion as to my status with the organisers. As I gazed longingly at the head table filled with the best and brightest of our community, my stomach grumbled as the top table was served drinks first. Fine, I thought, no biggie. After all, I’ve got Diet Coke at home, and it’s not as if they’re drinking virgin mojitos on a beach. Hold on, that looks like a non-alcoholic cocktail and…er…it’s got a tiny umbrella too. Alḥamdulillāh.
Patience, I thought to myself, when they were served the appetisers, each sizzle letting me know that I wasn’t sitting at the top table and was, in fact, right at the back of the hall. As the members of the top table laughed and smiled with their outstanding view of the stage, I wondered – is this what Paradise will be like? Will I look with envy at the honouring and status of others who are brought close to the Throne of Allāh whilst I will be concerned if I will get any food or drink?
There is a moment on the Day of Judgement when we and our deeds are weighed. This critical moment will determine how we will spend an eternity.
“The weighing of deeds that Day will be the truth. So those whose scales are heavy, it is they who will be the successful.”
Barefoot, naked, and uncircumcised. Imagine standing before the Creator. Your Creator. As the scales are brought forth, your heart races, pounding against your chest as sweat drips from your body. Your mouth runs dry. This is it.
You glance at your deeds – that sin you considered inconsequential now becomes magnified; that good deed mixed with self-admiration now becomes a source of regret. Devastated, deflated, and distraught, you wish to return to Earth for another chance. But this isn’t a game – there is no restart button. Your misdeeds are placed on the left scale….
It is as this point you will wish more than anything else that you had paid more attention to the advice of the Prophet Muhammad (sall Allāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) on how to make the scale heavy in your favour. So, here are some examples of how to do so.
Our Prophet (sall Allāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) taught us that certain deeds are more valuable depending on the circumstance. For example, the best act to perform after the dawn prayer is to recite the Qur’ān, which is witnessed by the Angels. Indeed, it is forbidden to offer prayers at this time, even though it is one of the greatest deeds.
Deeds are also multiplied at certain times and locations. Deeds performed in Makkah are multiplied 100,000 times. Deeds performed during the first ten days of Dhul Hijjah are better than performing jihād. Deeds submitted on Laylat al-Qadr are equivalent to performing them for 83 years – an entire lifetime.
Ibn Rajab, a student of Imam Ibn al-Qayyim, said: “O you who has wasted the years of his life, there is nothing that will amend those lost and wasted years except for the night of al- Qadr, for its value is equivalent to that of a lifetime.”
How to make your scales heavy
1. Good manners
It was narrated from Umm al-Dardā’, from Abū al-Dardā’, who said: I heard the Prophet (sall Allāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) say: “There is nothing that is placed in the balance that will weigh more heavily than a good attitude (with people). The one who has a good attitude will attain thereby the status of one who fasts and prays.”
2. Tahlīl, or saying “Lā ilāha illa Allāh” (there is no god but Allāh)
This is the deed that will weigh most heavily in the balance.
It was narrated that ‘Abdullāh b. ‘Amr b. al-‘Āṣ said: The Messenger of Allāh (sall Allāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said: “Allāh will bring forth a man belonging to my Ummah before all creatures and will spread ninety-nine scrolls [containing the record of his bad deeds] for him, each scroll extending as far as the eye can see. Then He will say, ‘Do you object to anything in this? Have my scribes who keep note wronged you?’ [The man] will say, ‘No, my Lord.’ He will ask him, ‘Do you have any excuse?’ [The man] will say, ‘No my Lord.’ Allāh will say, ‘On the contrary, you have with Us a good deed, and you will not be wronged this Day.’ A slip of paper will then be brought out, on which are the words ‘Ashhadu an lā ilāha illa Allāh wa ashhadu anna Muḥammadan ‘abduhū wa rasūluh (I bear witness that there is no god but Allāh, and I bear witness that Muhammad is His slave and His Messenger).’ Allāh will say, ‘Bring your balance.’ The man will say, ‘O Lord, what is this slip of paper in comparison to these scrolls?’ He will reply, ‘You will not be wronged.’ The scrolls will then be put in one side of the Balance and the slip of paper in the other, and the scrolls will become light and the slip of paper heavy, for nothing could compare in weight to the name of Allāh.”
3. Remembrance of Allāh, may He be exalted: tasbīḥ, taḥmīd, tahlīl, and takbīr
It was narrated from Abū Hurayrah (rady Allāhu ‘anhu) that the Prophet (sall Allāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said: “Two words are light on the tongue but will weigh heavily in the balance and are beloved to the Most Merciful: subḥān Allāh al-‘Adhīm, subḥān Allāhi wa bi ḥamdih (Glory be to Allāh the Almighty, Glory and praise be to Allāh).”
It was narrated from Juwayriyyah that the Prophet (sall Allāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) left her house one morning when he prayed Fajr, and she was in her prayer place. Then he came back in the afternoon, and she was still sitting there. He (sall Allāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said: “Are you still as you were when I left you?” She said: “Yes.” The Prophet (sall Allāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said: “After I left you, I said four words three times, which if they were weighed against what you have said today, they would outweigh it: subḥān Allāh wa bi ḥamdih, ‘adada khalqihi, wa riḍā nafsihi, wazīnata ‘arshihi, wa midāda kalimātihi (Glory and praise be to Allāh, as much as the number of His creation, as much as pleases Him, as much as the weight of His Throne, and as much as the ink of His words).”
4. Reciting adhkār regularly after the obligatory prayers
It was narrated from ‘Abdullāh b. ‘Amr that the Prophet (sall Allāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said: “There are two deeds that if a Muslim does regularly, he will enter Paradise. They are easy, but those who do them are few: saying subḥān Allāh ten times after every prayer, and saying alḥamdu Lillāh ten times, and saying Allāhu akbar ten times. That makes one hundred and fifty on the tongue and one thousand and five hundred in the Balance. And saying Allāhu akbar thirty-four times when going to bed, and saying alḥamdu Lillāh thirty-three times, and subḥān Allāh thirty-three times. That is one hundred on the tongue and one thousand in the Balance.”
5. Attending a funeral until the burial is completed
It was narrated from Ubayy that the Prophet (sall Allāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said: “Whoever attends a funeral until the prayer has been offered for the deceased and the (burial) is completed will have two qirāt (of reward), and whoever attends until the prayer has been offered will have one qirāt. By the One in Whose hand is the soul of Muhammad, it will weigh more heavily in his balance than Uhud.”
Atonement: Reducing the losses
There is a formula to the weighting of the scales; a simple profit and loss assessment. Whilst the above can increase the profit aspect of our balance sheet, a wise businessperson will also attempt to reduce his/her losses.
There is a beautiful hadith of our Prophet (sall Allāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) in which he describes how he felt the coolness of Allāh’s fingertips and then was given knowledge of a debate between the Angels. These creatures, who were created for the single purpose of worshipping Allāh without any free will, were discussing how we can attain atonement.
Among the list were: diligently and correctly performing wuḍū’ under difficult circumstances; walking to the mosque; sitting in your place of prayer after giving the taslīm; love of feeding the poor; and the night prayer. All five of these actions are ones we can easily perform. Indeed, some scholars would take smaller strides on their walk towards the mosque in order to increase their steps and therefore removal of their sins. Whilst we sit in our place of prayer after its completion, the Angels make du‘ā for our forgiveness – a passive source of income, if you will. Moreover, we have so many opportunities around us today to feed the poor.
Studying the book Madārij Al-Sālikīn is a life-changing experience. Its effect is similar to first practicing Islam. May Allāh reward Ibn al-Qayyim for his efforts in writing this book, and may Allāh reward those teachers who have relayed its gems to us. How poor, superficial, and transactional our relationship with Allāh seemed before studying this book. I recommend, without reservation, the following free course https://www.tawfiqonline.org/madarij
In Madārij Al-Sālikīn, Ibn al-Qayyim speaks about a spiritual awakening. He explains that a lost soul looking for its Creator must first awaken then have insight into itself to identify how lost it actually is. This is called baṣīra, which can loosely be translated to ‘insight’. After the soul has realised its deficient state, it must then make a plan of action to rectify itself. But all of these states will amount to nothing without ‘azm – determination.
We can visualise this in the form of a muḥāsaba (self-accounting) vehicle that has four wheels: the soul’s awakening, insight, an action plan, and determination. Each wheel must rotate to propel the vehicle forwards, and in order to achieve smooth motion, the wheels must work in tandem. Tawbah is the vehicle’s engine – it gives the vehicle drive. The greater the tawbah, the faster that vehicle will reach its destination. How will it know where to go? Allāh has made the path simple and straight: “Guide us along the straight path” – the signpost is iḥsān. All that the person driving the vehicle needs to do is recognise that Allāh is watching him, start, and keep the wheel straight, with the soundtrack to his journey the Qur’ān and Sunnah of the Messenger (sall Allāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam). Should the vehicle breakdown, as it inevitably will, then the driver should look to the side of the road for the scholars and stories of the Salaf to help him repair his vehicle, so that he can continue until he reaches his final destination: his home, the warm embrace of his Rabb.
Keeping oneself to account is the key to success. It needs to be a life-long habit, but in these remaining final nights of Ramaḍān, take a moment to ask yourself some pertinent questions: am I ready to meet Allāh now? If my soul was not returned to me in the morning, am I confident that my register of deeds will be sufficient to ransom me from the Hellfire? If the answer is no, or you are unsure, then that is a good sign. It’s a sign of hope. Build on it.
Make a list, if you can, of all the blessings Allāh has given you. This is impossible, but the exercise is worthwhile. Don’t just satisfy yourself with the superficial things of your wealth, family, or health – be more expansive and penetrating.
Is there a greater blessing than īmān? Ask those who have reverted to Islam or have left a life of disobedience how precious īmān is to them. Or look deeper – is not the ability to think and reflect a blessing? Is not the desire to eat a blessing? If you’re unsure, ask those on chemotherapy. Even if you were to bring them their favourite meal, they would not even want to look at that food. Is not the ability to relieve yourself on command and with dignity a blessing? Ask those who are in urinary retention or attached to catheter bags if you are unsure. Glory and gratitude to Allāh alone – we have so many blessings to be grateful for.
As you list the innumerable blessings that Allāh has showered us with, your heart will naturally become more inclined to Him. After all, how can a heart not fall in love with someone who gives gift after gift after gift? This is a state called maḥabba, and it is one of the greatest of stations.
Prophet Muhammad (sall Allāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) would often supplicate:
“O Allāh, I ask You for your love and the love of those who love You, and the deeds that will bring me Your love. O Allāh, make Your love more beloved to me than myself and my family and even cold water.”
On commenting on love, Ibn al-Qayyim said:
“The heart in its journey toward Allah, the exalted, is like a bird whose head is love with hope and fear its two wings. When the head and the two wings are in balance, the bird flies well, but when the head is cut off, it immediately dies. When either, or both the wings are absent, the bird soon becomes the victim of any hunter or snare. The Predecessors preferred to lean on the wing of fear during times of good health, but lean on the wing of hope when departing this world.”
After you have compiled your list of blessings and your heart is brimming with appreciation and love for Allāh, it is time to list your sins. How many trees would need to be felled to write this book, you may ask. From the very moment you were given the ability, the choice to disobey Allāh, you did so. The sins of the eyes, the disobedience and anger shown to loving and merciful parents, the misspoken words, the broken promises – the list is as humiliating as it is long.
Then imagine yourself before the Lord of the Worlds as this list is read out. Your parents, spouse, and children are within earshot but not quite able to make out what has been said. Your Lord asks you if they are all true. Barely able to speak, you nod, resigning yourself to the expected doom. Then suddenly, your Lord draws you near and says: “I covered up your sins during your life, and I will forgive your sins today.”
This is our Lord. The Lord of mercy, love, compassion, and kindness. Everything He does for us and to us is for our benefit. Whilst we may struggle to see this at all times, and especially in the midst of a calamity, hindsight reveals the plan of al-Raḥmān.
So, in these final moments as you pray, make du’ā, give sadaqah, and recite the Qur’ān, make sure to also take a moment to conduct a self-audit. Make a plan – maybe even write it down – of where you want to be in five, ten, and 20 years in terms of your Islamic achievements. Dare to dream. Do not settle for mediocrity. Remember that the prize is nothing short of the Firdaus in the company of the Prophets, pious, truthful, and martyrs.
There is a risk when you make plans for the future that you will fool yourself into thinking you are doing something noble or exceptional. Thoughts may creep into your mind of, ‘Look at me, who else has vision like this?’ Don’t fall for this satanic trap. ‘Ujb (self-admiration) is as dangerous and destructive, perhaps even more so, than riyā’ (ostentation). The way to combat this is to consider yourself as lowly – your deeds are deficient and not worthy of a Lord who creates with such majesty and mastery. Imam al-Hawari calls this an ill opinion of the nafs, which is requisite for self-awakening. Our salaf would say that the blemishes in our good deeds are enough to occupy us before even looking at our sins.
If you want an example of this, you need not look any further than the great Imam Aḥmad who, after Allāh, we owe a debt of immense gratitude not only for his madhhab, but for his stance and sacrifice for the Qur’ān.
Imam Aḥmad’s perseverance despite the torture he was subjected to won him praise from Muslims as well as Jews and Christians, who would say they saw the example of Moses and Jesus in him. Yet he would lament at this praise, saying: “Men’s opinion is of no use to a man who knows his worth.”
How can we mention Imam Aḥmad without recalling our scholars and murabbis without whom we would be wandering in the wilderness? As we make du‘ā for ourselves, our parents, spouses, and children, let us also ask Allāh to shower His Blessings on our scholars, teachers, and murabbis. If it were not for their sacrifice in a material sense and in their time with their family to learning this dīn, where would we be now? Individually, and as a community, we owe them an immense debt of gratitude. We ask Allāh to repay this on the Day of Judgement with a copy of our deeds and more.
As you design a grand vision for yourself, do not neglect your prayers, as they are the first thing you will be asked about. Are they at a level at which you are content to meet Allāh? Look at the following levels identified by Ibn al-Qayyim and ask yourself where you are at:
- Negligent: This is the lowest level. The person at this level wrongs himself and is negligent. He neither performs ablution properly, nor prays at the right time, nor ensures that he does all the necessary parts of the prayer.
- Waswasa: The next level is a person who observes the outward functions of prayer, meeting the obligations of the correct time and ablution, but has sadly lost the battle against his own self and is overwhelmed with waswasa (insinuations/distractions) during prayer.
- Struggle in salāh: The next level up is one who observes the outward functions of prayer, prays on time, and does ablution properly. He struggles with waswasa, but he doesn’t give up. Instead, he battles Satan as much as he can so that Satan cannot steal from his prayer. This slave is engaged in salāh and jihād.
- The focussed heart: The fourth level is for a slave who fulfils all the requirements of prayer with a heart that is focussed and alert to any omissions of the condition of prayer. He is diligent in performing all the inward and outward acts of prayer properly and perfectly. His heart is deeply immersed in his prayer and worship of his Lord.
- Complete submission: The final and highest level is for the slave who does everything on the preceding level, but takes his heart and places it before his Lord, looking at his Lord with his heart and focussing solely on Him. This slave’s heart is full of love and adoration for his Lord, as if he is actually seeing Him. Waswasa has little effect over him, as the barrier between him and His Lord are lifted. The difference between the prayer of this person and the prayer of anyone else is greater than the difference between the heaven and the Earth. When this slave prays, he is occupied and content with his Lord.
Imam Ibn al-Qayyim continues by noting the fate of those listed above:
“The first type will be punished, the second type will be held to account, the third will have his sins and shortcomings expiated, the fourth will be rewarded, and the fifth will be close to his Lord, because he will receive the portion of the one who makes his prayer the delight and pleasure of his eye.
Whoever finds their joy in prayer in this life will find their joy in being close to Allāh in the Hereafter. He will also find his joy in Allāh and in this world, being content with Him and all matters. Whoever does not find joy in Allāh will be destroyed by his feelings of grief and regret for worldly matters.”
Finally, wealth is not guaranteed. You may enjoy the trappings of wealth today, but be wary, because there is no guarantee that you will enjoy the same financial privilege next Ramaḍān. You may be tested in your wealth so that your heart breaks every time you see your children wearing torn clothes, or you skip a meal so that you can buy a chocolate treat for your children. You may be brought to tears because the shopping bill this week was too high and you do not have enough money to pay the bills. This is a tragic reality for some – just look at all the dignified people attending food banks. So, whilst you have the blessing of wealth, use it. Be as generous as a cool breeze on a hot summer’s day. Be strategic with your sadaqah by investing in people. Invest in orphans, as well as institutions such as Islam21c. Invest in emergency relief projects such as the famine in Yemen, as well as long-term projects to address fundamental issues in our Ummah.
The graves are full of people who expected to see the next Ramaḍān – people who comforted themselves with the belief that although this Ramaḍān had been wasted, next year would be different. Don’t fool yourself. There is no guarantee that anyone of us will see the next Ramaḍān, especially in a time of pandemic. Instead, make use of the time that is left by following the sage advice of Ibn al-Jawzī in Ṣayd Al-Khāṭir:
“From the elite are those who, since their awakening, they have not slept, and since their standing they have not stopped. They are the ones who are perpetually ascending, for every circuit they complete they analyse, and with any defects they find, they seek forgiveness for.”
May Allāh have mercy on you, our Ummah, and deliver us from darkness to eternal bliss.
 Al-Qur’ān 7:8
 Narrated by al-Tirmidhī (2003); classed as saḥīḥ by al-Albānī (may Allāh have mercy on him) in Saḥīḥ Al-Tirmidhī.
 Narrated by Aḥmad (6699) and al-Tirmidhī (2639); classed as saḥīḥ by al-Albānī (may Allāh have mercy on him).
 Bukhārī (6406) and Muslim (2694).
 Narrated by Muslim (2726).
 Narrated by Aḥmad (6616), Abū Dāwūd (5056), al-Tirmidhī (3410), al-Nasā’i (1331), and Ibn Mājah (926). Classed as saḥīḥ by al-Albānī in Saḥīḥ Al-Targhīb wa Al-Tarhīb.
 Narrated by Imam Ahmad (20256); classed as saḥīḥ by al-Albānī in Saḥīḥ Al-Jāmi‘ Al-Saghīr.
 Al-Qur’ān 1:6
 Ovamir Anjum, Ranks of the Divine Seekers
 Al-Dhahabī, Siyar A‘lām Al-Nubalā’