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Realising our Poverty before Allah Almighty

Islamic Centre Nottingham 

Friday 8th January 2021 

From the Aphorisms of Ibn Ata’illah… 

“Your best moment is the one in which you witness your poverty and  through it, reach the reality of your lowliness before Allah Almighty.” 

A third lockdown?! The normal lives that we knew of doing as we pleased have become  restricted yet again. Many of us have been deeply affected in numerous ways, whether it is  distance from our loved ones who we have not seen for many months, being affected  financially, mentally, or in various other ways. The global lockdown which we are  experiencing and have experienced, is a blatant reminder of the ultimate power and  dominance of Allah Almighty and the weakness of the human. The building of huge  structures, possession of technology which allows us to connect globally at the touch of a  button, and endless stores of food often cause us to forget our reality- that we are utterly  powerless before Allah. An unseen virus swept across the world and completely altered our  way of life and everything which we built and collected to sustain us and help us maintain  our ‘dominion’ came crashing down. This is no mere coincidence and nor is it something to  be dismissed without a second thought and instead of trying to understand what Allah is  teaching us through this event, our attention is misdirected towards other futile objectives  such as theories of who’s responsible and why. Have we forgotten, “To Allah belongs the  kingdom of the heavens and the earth and Allah is has power over all things”? (Surah Ale Imran,  Verse 189). Therefore, we must try and understand what Allah Almighty is teaching us  through this. And whilst a great many of us may not have been affected greatly, our houses  have remained tranquil and our stores have remained full through the kindness of Allah, the  wise one is the one who learns from the actions and happenings of others.  

It is in this context that the words of the great Imam Ibn Ata’illah al Iskandari help us shed  light and this event and all other trials and tribulations which come our way. He says, “Your  best moment is the one in which you witness your poverty and through it, reach the  reality of your lowliness before Allah Almighty”. Poverty for the Muslim in this context  does not refer to the needy and the financially incapacitated, but rather refers to an intrinsic  reality of all humans in terms of our utmost dependence and desperation for Allah  Almighty’s mercy and bestowal. Allah says, “Indeed Allah is Self Sufficient and you are all in  need” (Surah Muhammad, Verse 38). Is there anything we possess that we can truly ascribe  to ourselves and our own efforts? Health, wealth, homes, family, provisions; it is all the  bestowal of Allah. Allah says, “Whatever blessings you have are only from Allah; then when  hardship afflicts you, it is to him that you cry for aid”. (Surah Nahl, Verse 53). When we are  surrounded by these blessings it becomes very easy to forget our poverty before Allah. It is  this forgetting which leads us to disobedience, leads us to extravagance and even to  disbelief, for the one who denies Allah has only done so since they believe themselves and  their own intelligence and efforts to be sufficient. It is this alleged ‘independence’ which  Allah is teaching us to rid ourselves of this by sending trials and tribulations our way. When 

we wake up to this reality of our poverty and dependence before Allah, it is then in which  we are in the best of our moments. Imam Ibn Ajiba explains that this is for 2 reasons:  

  1. “It helps us to materialise true slavery before Allah within ourselves and true  appreciation of his magnificence and it is that slavery before Allah which is our  excellence and honour”.  

A person cannot recognise their weakness until they are put in a situation of  desperation and dependence. And when our dependence is on the greatest and most  generous of Kings, we by association to this most noble of Kings as his servants  become honoured. Hence when Allah addresses his Prophets, who are the most  noble beings in the Qur’an he does so with the word ‘Servant’. Allah says about the  Prophet Muhammad, “Glory be to Him who took His servant on a night journey from Al Masjid al-Haram to Al-Masjid al-Aqsa” (Surah Isra, Verse 1). Allah also says about the  other Prophets, “Remember our servants, Ibrahim, Ishaq and Yaq’ub” (Surah Saad, Verse  45). If Allah has addressed his most beloved prophets with this title, then what a  great honour it is for us to be slaves of Allah, the most generous! Abu Hurairah (May  Allah be pleased with him) narrates that Jibril sat in front of the messenger when an  angel descended and said to the Prophet, “My Lord has sent me to ask you whether  he should make you a king or Prophet-slave?”, and the Prophet responded, “I choose  to be a Prophet-slave” (Musnad Imam Ahmad). Slavery to Allah Almighty is the  very objective for which we have been created, and when we realise this and fulfil  this objective, we have achieved our true purpose and potential. Allah Almighty  says, “I have only created Mankind and Jinn to worship me.” (Surah Dhariyat, Verse 56).  Since the slavery and dependence to Allah is our greatest state and our honour, our  best moment is when we are forced to realise it.  

  1. “It is in moments of desperation and humility before Allah, that Allah Almighty  grants us more assistance and blessings”. 

If you wish for Allah to bestow you with divine blessings of closeness and intimacy  with Him, become truly humble and lowly before him. Allah Almighty has  designated his help and victory for those who remain humble and lowly before Him  and has designated disgrace for those who are arrogant. Ponder over how Allah  Almighty assisted the Prophet and the companions at Badr, when they were small in  number, without adequate provisions for battle such that some companions came  with sticks and stones, faced against a 1000 strong army and yet they were granted  an unbelievable victory. All of this was the result of the humble pleading and duas of  the Messenger during the night before the battle. Hence Allah says, “And surely Allah  granted you victory at Badr whilst you were small in number” (Surah Ale Imran, Verse  123) and Allah says, “Indeed with hardship comes ease” (Surah Sharh, Verse 5). The  Prophet has also explained, “Know that victory comes with patience, and relief from  difficulty comes through struggle and with hardship comes ease”. (Al-Arbai’n al Nawawiya).  

Since it is in these moments of difficulty that we are truly humbled before Allah and  are forced turn to him such that he blesses us even more, our best moment is when  we realise this desperation and turn to him and in doing so, receive his blessings. 

Therefore, whether it is a lockdown, or any other trial or tribulation that Allah sends our  way, it is only there to teach us of our dependence upon Allah and our lowliness before Him  and when we realise that lowliness and humility and turn back to Allah with our hearts,  only then does true victory arrive and only then are we granted the gifts of closeness and  intimacy with Allah Almighty.  

After understanding this, we must understand another reality. If the best of our moments is  the moment in which we realise our lowliness before Allah, the worst of our moments will  be those moments in which we forget our lowliness before Allah and have the illusion of  power and independence. Allah Almighty says, “Indeed, the human transgresses! He sees  himself as independent!” (Surah Alaq, Verse 6-7). The one who forgets their dependence and  humility before Allah, forgets their place as a slave before Him and His kindness. If this  person then chooses to leave the worship of Allah entirely because they believe themselves  to be without any need for Allah’s mercy and that everything is in their control, such a  person is fooling themself. When trials and tribulations come and shake the very earth upon  which they stand, they have no one but themselves to blame, since they forgot their place as  a slave before Allah. Allah says about the nation of ‘Ad, “As for ‘Ad, they were arrogant upon  the earth without any right and said, “Who is mightier than us?”, Did they not realise that Allah,  who created them, is more powerful!” (Surah Fussilat, Verse 15).  

Even if such a person prays and fasts, the worship will be mere actions without a soul, since  the very meaning of ‘ibadah’ is lowliness. If we prostrate, but our hearts are full of arrogance  and we believe that we are all powerful and in control, our worship is futile.  

Furthermore, the one who believes themselves to be independent and self-sufficient,  becomes deprived of feeling any love for Allah Almighty which is the greatest tragedy. The  believers are those who are most firm in their love for Allah, but the one who believes they  are self-sufficient and without need loses this feeling of love. This is because the one who  lives as a slave before Allah, is pleased and happy with their Lord, and loves Him no matter  what just as the one in love, loves the beloved, no matter what the beloved will do. The slave  loves Allah and appreciates his blessings in ease and difficulty, whereas the one who  believes they are independent and self-sufficient loves only themselves and the possessions  they believe are sustaining their acclaimed ‘dominion’.  

Allah Almighty is wise in everything that He does and his ultimate kindness to His creation  dictates that He desires good for them. Whether this lockdown, or any other difficulty, it is  only there to help us realise just how needy we are for the kindness and generosity of our  loving creator. 

“O Mankind! Surely you are all in poverty before Allah, whilst He is Self-Sufficient and  Praiseworthy. If he wished he could do away with you and bring forth a new creation. That  is not difficult for Allah”. (Surah Fatir, Verse 15) 

Praise be to Him who shows us our lowliness before Him and makes manifest for us our  place as slaves before his magnificence.

Issarar Hussain 

Graduate, Jamia al-Karam, Student of Al Azhar.  

Imam and teacher, Islamic Centre Nottingham 

Islamic Centre Nottingham 

3 Curzon street  

NG3 1DG 



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