أنا عند ظن عبدي بي؛ فليظن بي ما شاء
“I will be as my servant expects me to be, so let him expect in me what he wishes.”
Those who expect the best from Allāh in every circumstance have not only exercised an act of worship that is admirable, but one that forms a backbone of belief. As a result, they are never let down, as Allāh has promised to fill their hands with goodness. Consider how Allāh filled the hands of Hājar when she exercised this act of worship.
Prophet Ibrāhīm took Hājar, the mother of his son Ismā’īl, to Mecca. Upon arrival, he left her with a bag of dates and a container of water and then turned around making his way back to al-Shām. Hājar pleaded with him:
يَا إبْرَاهِيمُ ، أَيْنَ تَذْهَبُ وَتَتْرُكُنَا بِهذَا الوَادِي الَّذِي لَيْسَ فِيهِ أنِيسٌ وَلاَ شَيْءٌ ؟
“Ibrāhīm! Where are you going, leaving us in this valley with no one here or anything?” She repeated this several times as he walked away without looking back. She then said:
آللهُ أَمَرَكَ بِهَذَا؟
“Did Allāh instruct you to do this?”. He responded, “Yes”, to which she said:
إذاً لاَ يُضَيِّعُنَا
“Then, He shall not forsake us.”
Hājar thought well of Allāh, so what did He do for her?
1 – The water well of zamzam was made to gush forth from beneath the feet of her baby. The blessed water is a source of life for millions of people who continue to drink from it today.
2 – Fruits would be delivered to her, despite being in the middle of a barren desert.
3 – Allāh would “fill some hearts among men with love towards them” and hence tribes made their way to her. They inhabited the city, granting her much needed companionship, whilst respecting her ownership of the water.
4 – Her city would become the most beloved place to Allāh on earth, causing people to come to them religiously from every corner of the globe.
5 – The Ka’ba would be built next to her
6 – Allāh would decree that parts of Hajj would be made in tribute to Hājar. Presidents, kings, generals, scholars, warriors, and all Muslims are obligated to move from mounts Safā and Marwa as part of their pilgrimage. They all follow the footsteps of a woman who desperately searched for water for her child in a desert. Yes, Hājar was a weak, lonely, and penniless woman, but since she was an example of great expectations in Allāh, the whole of humanity walks in her footsteps until the end of time.
7 – Her story would be eternalised through revelation.
None of the above should come as a surprise. This is simply the product of expecting the best of Him, and such people have been promised to not be disappointed.
When are we most expected to have the best of expectations in Allāh?
(1) During times of financial stress
Every morning as you make your way to work, or send out your CVs or prepare for a particular transaction, ensure that as your body engages in the means and measures, your heart sees none but Allāh.
The Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said:
من نزلت به فاقة فأنزلها بالناس لم تُسَدَّ فاقتُه، ومن نزلت به فاقة فأنزلها بالله فيوشِكُ الله له برزق عاجل أو آجل
“Whoever experiences poverty and relies upon people for relief, he will not be relieved, but whoever experiences poverty and relies upon Allāh for relief, then his provisions are on their way sooner or later.”
(2) During testing times in life
It has happened to us all in the past, and will most likely happen again at some point in our lives. We will experience a challenge that is so intense, dark, fast paced, and suffocating that it becomes clear that no one can alleviate it but Allāh, and this is precisely where relief is found. Just look at how Allāh describes the difficulty of those three companions who were boycotted by the Muslim community for 50 days for a sin they had committed. In one Ayah, Allāh describes their pain and what it was that saved them:
وَعَلَى الثَّلَاثَةِ الَّذِينَ خُلِّفُوا حَتَّى إِذَا ضَاقَتْ عَلَيْهِمُ الْأَرْضُ بِمَا رَحُبَتْ وَضَاقَتْ عَلَيْهِمْ أَنْفُسُهُمْ وَظَنُّوا أَنْ لَا مَلْجَأَ مِنَ اللَّهِ إِلَّا إِلَيْهِ ثُمَّ تَابَ عَلَيْهِمْ لِيَتُوبُوا إِنَّ اللَّهَ هُوَ التَّوَّابُ الرَّحِيمُ
“And [He also forgave] the three who were left behind [and regretted their error] to the point that the earth closed in on them in spite of its vastness and their souls confined them and they were certain that there is no refuge from Allāh except in Him. Then He turned to them so they could repent. Indeed, Allāh is the Accepting of repentance, the Merciful.”
(3) When you are oppressed
Whether your reputation that has been wrongly tarnished, your ex has deprived you from seeing your children, family members or close friends stole from you, you have been displaced from a land, or have been unjustly imprisoned, it is not a dead-end so long as your expectations in Allāh are great. This is because the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said:
اتقوا دعوة المظلوم، فإنها تُحمل على الغمام؛ يقول الله: وعزتي وجلالي لأنصرنك ولو بعد حين
“Beware of the du’ā of the oppressed, as it is carried into the clouds. Allāh says to it, ‘I swear by my glory and honour, I will answer you even if after some time.’”
The gates of the heavens are open for such a du’ā and no barrier stands between it and Allāh, even if the oppressed is a rebellious sinner. The Prophet said:
دعوة المظلوم مستجابة وإن كان فاجرا، ففجوره على نفسه
“The du’ā of the oppressed is answered even if he is a sinner, for his sins only affect him.”
Rather, even if the oppressed a non-believer, Allāh will honour his cries, as the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said:
اتقوا دعوة المظلوم وإن كان كافرا، فإنه ليس دونها حجاب
“Beware of the du’ā of the oppressed even if he is a non-believer, for no barriers stand before it.”
One poet said:
خَفْ دعوةَ المظلوم فهْي سريعةٌ *** طلعَتْ فجاءتْ بالعذابِ النازلِ
“Fear the du’ā of the oppressed as it is quick to ascend into the sky and bring back down with it a descending punishment.”
(4) During du’ā
The moment you raise your hands in complaints to Allāh, realise that you are now in communication with One of unbreakable might, the Sovereign, the King of kings, the owner of existence, the creator of life and death, and Lord of angels, jinn-kind, and mankind.
The Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said:
ادعوا الله وأنتم موقنون بالإجابة
“Make Du’ā whilst you are certain of the response.”
As one poet said:
وإني لأدعو الله حتى كأنني ** أرى بجميل الظن ما الله صانعُه
“I call upon Allāh, and due to my positive thoughts of Him, it is as if I can see the response.”
(5) During Tawba/repentance
As you lower your head in shame and shed that tear of repentance, expect the best in Allāh, realising that the tear is already erasing a mountain’s worth of crimes. Think positively of Allāh as you apologise, and realise that regardless of the size of your sin, Allāh is greater and His forgiveness is vaster.
Sahl al-Qat’i said:
رأيت مالك بن دينار رحمه الله في منامي، فقلت: يا أبا يحيى ليت شعري، ماذا قدمت به على الله عز وجل؟ قال: قدمت بذنوب كثيرة، فمحاها عني حسن الظن بالله
“I saw Mālik b. Dīnār in my dream. I said to him, ‘O Abū Yahyā, what happened when you met Allāh?’ He replied, ‘I came to him with many sins, and He erased them all through my good expectations of Him.’”
Ahmad Ibn Abī al-Hawārī said:
وقفت بجانب أبي سليمان الداراني وهو لا يراني، فسمعته يناجي ربَّه ويقول: “لئن طالبتني بذنوبي لأطالبنك بعفوك، ولئن طالبتني بتوبتي لأطالبنك بسخائك، ولئن أدخلتني النار لأخبرنَّ أهلها أني أحبك”
“I stood besides Abu Sulayman al-Dāraānī whilst he couldn’t see me, and I heard him calling upon Allāh saying, ‘O Allāh, if you ask me about my sins, I will ask you about your forgiveness, and if you ask about my repentance, I will ask you for your generosity, and if you take me to hell, I will still tell its people that I love you.”
The Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said that Allāh said:
يَا ابْنَ آدَمَ إِنَّكَ مَا دَعَوْتَنِي وَرَجَوْتَنِي غَفَرْتُ لَكَ عَلَى مَا كَانَ فِيكَ وَلَا أُبَالِي، يَا ابْنَ آدَمَ لَوْ بَلَغَتْ ذُنُوبُكَ عَنَانَ السَّمَاءِ ثُمَّ اسْتَغْفَرْتَنِي غَفَرْتُ لَكَ وَلَا أُبَالِي، يَا ابْنَ آدَمَ إِنَّكَ لَوْ أَتَيْتَنِي بِقُرَابِ الْأَرْضِ خَطَايَا ثُمَّ لَقِيتَنِي لَا تُشْرِكُ بِي شَيْئًا لَأَتَيْتُكَ بِقُرَابِهَا مَغْفِرَة
“O Son of Adam, so long call upon Me and have hopes in Me, I shall forgive you for what you have done, and I shall not mind. O Son of Adam, were your sins to reach the clouds of the sky and you then asked forgiveness from Me, I would forgive you, and I shall not mind. O Son of Adam, were you to come to Me with sins nearly as great as the earth, but you came to me ascribing no partner to Me, I would bring you forgiveness nearly as great as it.”
(6) During one’s dying moments
سمعت رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم قبل موته بثلاثة أيام يقول: لا يموتَنَّ أحدكم إلا وهو يحسن الظن بالله عز وجل
“I heard the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) say three days before he passed away, ‘None of you should die except while expecting the best from Allāh.’”
After this incident, the spirit of such positive expectations of Allāh during one’s dying moments was passed down from the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) to those after him.
Wāthila Ibn al-Asqa’, a companion of the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam), said to Hayyān,
قد بي إلى يزيد بن الأسود؛ فإنه قد بلغني أنه -يعني نزل به المرض
“Take me to Yazīd Ibn al-Aswad, as I have heard that he is going through the pangs of death.”
They entered upon Yazīd. He had been faced towards the qibla in preparation for death, and at that moment, he fell unconscious. Wāthila said, “Call him.” Wāthila said: “This is Wāthila, your brother.” Yazīd extended his hand and started patting with it. Hayyān said, “I immediately knew what he wanted. He wanted to touch the hand of Wāthila, as it was a hand that touched the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam), so I took his hand and the hand of Wāthila and placed them together. Yazīd started to pass Wāthila’s hand over his own face, chest, and mouth.
Wāthila then said to him,
ألا تخبرني عن أي شيء أسألك عنه: كيف ظنك بالله؟
“I want to ask you one question: how are your expectations of Allāh?”
Yazīd managed to find the energy to answer:
أغرقتني ذنوبي، وأشفأت على هلكة، لكني أرجو رحمة الله
“My sins have drowned me and I am on the verge of ruins, but I have hope in Allāh’s mercy.”
At this point, Wāthila said “Allāhu Akbar” and the every member of those in attendance said “Allāhu Akbar”. Then Wāthila said:
سمعت رسول الله ﷺ يقول: يقول الله عز وجل: أنا عند ظن عبدي بي، فليظن ظان ما شاء
“I heard the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) say that Allāh said ‘I will be just as my servant expects of Me, so let him expect what He wishes.’”
If, however, you struggle to get this act of worship in gear, failing to find that great expectation in Allāh during testing times, remembrance of the following will certainly help:
(a) Remember the book which is placed above Allāh’s Throne
The Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said:
لما قضى الله الخلق كتب في كتابه -فهو عنده فوق العرش-: إن رحمتي غلبت غضبي
“When Allāh completed creation, He wrote in a book which is with Him on top of the Throne, which says: ‘My Mercy prevails over anger.’”
(b) Remember the words of angel Jibrīl
He came to the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) and described to him the final moments before the Pharaoh of Moses was drowned. The Prophet Mohammad (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said:
لَمَّا أَغْرَقَ اللَّهُ فِرْعَوْنَ قَالَ آمَنْتُ أَنَّهُ لاَ إِلَهَ إِلاَّ الَّذِي آمَنَتْ بِهِ بَنُو إِسْرَائِيلَ فَقَالَ جِبْرِيلُ يَا مُحَمَّدُ فَلَوْ رَأَيْتَنِي وَأَنَا آخُذُ مِنْ حَالِ الْبَحْرِ فَأَدُسُّهُ فِي فِيهِ مَخَافَةَ أَنْ تُدْرِكَهُ الرَّحْمَةُ
“When Allāh drowned Fir’awn, he said: ‘I believe that there is no god except the One that the children of Isrā’īl believe in.’ So Jibrīl said: ‘O Muhammad! If only you saw me how I was taking mud from the sea, and filling his mouth out of fear that the mercy would reach him.’”
He was a man who spent a lifetime challenging Allāh, opposing prophets and declaring godhood, but nevertheless, angel Jibrīl was afraid that Allāh’s mercy would encompass him, knowing just how enormous Allāh’s mercy actually is.
(c) Remember the words of Sufyān al-Thawri
ما أحبُّ أن حسابي جُعل إلى والدي؛ فربي خيرٌ لي من والدي
“I would never wish that my accountability on the day of judgement was in the hands of my parents, as my Lord is better for me than them.”
(d) Remember the ordeal of Prophet Yūsuf
The brothers of Yūsuf wanted him dead, but in the end he remained alive. They wanted to erase every trace of him, but his status only rose. They played a role in making him a slave, but he became a king. They wanted to eradicate his love from their father’s heart, but it only deepened, all of which shows beyond doubt that Allāh’s will is above the will of man.
Similarly, according to Yūsuf’s cellmates, he was the best of them, yet they were released before him. However, one of them ended up becoming a servant whilst the other was executed. Then, when Yūsuf was eventually freed, he became a king and was reunited with his family, which shows beyond doubt that Allāh’s planning is greater than that of man’s.
When Yūsuf’s father, Ya’qūb, said: وَأَخَافُ أَن يَأكُلَهُ الذِّئْبُ “I fear that the wolf might eat Yūsuf”, Yūsuf was taken away from him, misery engulfed him, and he lost his eyesight. But when He relied upon Allāh for relief, saying:إِنَّمَا أَشْكُو بَثِّي وَحُزْنِي إِلَى اللَّهِ “I complain of my sorrow and grief to Allāh”, Yūsuf was returned to him, so was his brother and his eyesight was restored.
Think well of Him and realise:
Those who associate partners with Allāh or deny His existence under any pretence, be it natural selection or anything else, have expressed the worst of expectations of Allāh. Those who believe that the companions of Prophet Mohammad (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) had, Allāh forbid, left the religion after his death or competed for worldly positions have shown terrible expectations of Allāh. Those who comprise their hijāb to help with career or marriage prospective have thought badly of Allāh. Those who opt for a business venture whilst knowing that it is prohibited have shown ill thoughts of Allāh.
Similarly, those who believe that happiness can only be achieved through sin have displayed some of the worst of thoughts towards Allāh. Those who think that just because the consequences of their sins haven’t bitten them yet, be it something he sells, injects, inhales, consumes, or does on the weekend, will not eventually meet them have shown horrid expectations of Allāh. Whoever delays repentance because “it can wait” has thought ill of Allāh. Whoever believes that Allāh will punish a person who has dedicated his whole life to Allāh has shown bad expectations of Allāh. Whoever believes that Allāh does not have a plan for Muslim in Syria, China, or anywhere else has displayed the most evil of thought about Allāh.
Think well of Him, and remember that the sea that Prophet Mūsā crossed did not drown him; the whale that consumed Prophet Yūnus did not digest him; the fire that Prophet Ibrāhīm was thrown in did not burn him; the knife that was passed over Prophet Ismā’īl’s neck did not harm him:
فَمَا ظَنُّكُمْ بِرَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ
“So, what are your thoughts about the Lord of the worlds?”
And what is even more fascinating is that the Lord Whom they worshipped is the exact same Lord Whom you prostrate to. Think about the above for a moment, and you will realise soon after how you have every reason to smile and be positive, rather to be ecstatic to live another day as a Muslim.
Finally, we should point out that there is a fine line between good expectations in Allāh and being delusional, and shaytan has an interest in blurring the line between the two. The difference between the two is that, as Imam Ibn al-Qayyim said, if one is encouraged to do more good deeds, then this is good expectation in Allāh, whilst if one is encouraged to relax his religious commitment, find shortcuts and justifies sins, then this is delusional thinking.
Al-Hasan al-Basrī said:
إن المؤمن أحسن الظن بربه فأحسن العمل، وإن الفاجر أساء الظن بربه فأساء العمل
“The believer expects the best in Allāh and so his actions are excellent, whilst the sinner thinks ill of Allāh, and so his actions are just as ill.”
 Ahmad, on the authority of Wāthila Ibn Al-Asqā’
 Al-Bukhāri, on the authority of Ibn ‘Abbās
 Al-Qur’ān, 14:37
 Al-Tirmidhī, on the authority of Ibn Mas’ūd
 Al-Qur’ān, 9:118
 Al-Tabarānī, on the authority of Khuzayma b. Thāabīt
 Al-Tayālisi, on the authority of Abū Huraira
 Ahmad, on the authority of Anas
 Al-Tirmidhī, on the authority of Abū Huraira
 Ibn Abī al-Dunya, Husn al-Thann bi-Allāh
 Shu’ab al-Īmān, Al-Bayhaqi
 Al-Tirmidhī, on the authority of Anas
 Al-Bukhari and Muslim, on the authority of Abū Huraira
 Al-Tirmidhī, on the authority of Ibn ‘Abbās
 Al-Bayhaqi, Shu’ab al-Īmān
 Al-Qur’ān, 37:87
Shaykh Ali Ihsan Hammuda is Islam21c’s Tarbiya Editor. A UK national of Palestinian origin, he gained bachelors and masters’ degrees in Architecture & Planning from the University of the West of England, before achieving a BA in Shari’ah from al-Azhar University in Egypt. He is currently based in Wales and is a visiting Imām at Al-Manar Centre in Cardiff, and also a senior researcher and lecturer for the Muslim Research & Development Foundation in London. Shaykh Ali is the author of several books including ‘The Daily Revivals’, ‘The Ten Lanterns’ and ‘The Friday Reminder’. He delivers sermons, lectures and regular classes across the country.