Putting the brakes on desire and resisting temptation
Anas b. Malik reported:
Paradise is surrounded by hardships and the Hell-Fire is surrounded by temptations. (Muslim)
Abu Hurairah narrated that Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) said:
The (Hell) Fire is surrounded (hujibat) by all kinds of desires and passions, while Paradise is surrounded by all kinds of disliked undesirable things. (Bukhari)
Behind the curtain of the unseen
Allah Almighty in this hadith, out of His mercy opens a window to the unseen for us, telling us what is behind the scenes and what happened when He created Jannah and Jahannam.
When Allah Almighty created Jannah with all its magnificence, pleasures, fruits and rewards, with every delight imaginable, and beyond, He asked Jibril to see it. Jibril was overwhelmed by its beauty and sweetness. He couldn’t imagine that anyone would not enter it.
Yet, we can see from these hadith that Jannah has been surrounded by hardships – makarih, (what you dislike) and Jahannam has been surrounded by temptation shahawat – the mahaab (what you like).
Jannah is not free
Jannah is not free of charge. No one can enter it without being tested. Allah Almighty surrounded it by adversities and tests to see who is committed enough and sincere enough to reach the finish line.
If Allah Almighty wanted it could have been a smooth ride to Jannah; He could have made it easy to access, but He wants us to see our own qualities, work on them and improve them.
Jannah and Jahannam are fenced off
Imam Nawawi in his Al Minhaj Sharh Sahih Muslim, a commentary on Sahih Muslim, noted that while Imam Muslim used the word huffat to describe the fact Jannah and Jahannam had been surrounded accordingly by adversity and temptation, Bukhari used the word hujibat, which is related to hijab, meaning like a shield or fence, conveying the image of a fence around Jannah and jahunum. Simultaneously it conceals Jannah and Jahannam and creates a barrier.
Those who are enticed by temptation penetrate the fence that is obscuring Jahanum and slip into what is beyond.
Overcoming the fence around Jannah
Conversely, you need to overcome the fence surrounding Jannah in order to enter it. If you cannot surmount it then you can’t access it.
The two possible outcomes and one plan
Life is a journey. The end of the line can only be in one of two places, either Jannah or Jahannam. Allah Almighty is encouraging us and warning us at the same time. You choose which path to follow, so you need an action plan.
Break down your goals into small achievable objectives. And remember that the main objective is to be saved. Ensure you do your daily prayers, fasts, zahab, Hajj and top them up when you can with extra umrah or charity.
Prepare internally and externally
Every day we face obstacles to overcome and tests to get through. This is why we have to be prepared on our journey.
Some people prepare in advance for their exams. Others are unprepared. Like the Olympics, it all depends on your mindset how much preparation you need internal and external. A lot depends on your internal and external preparation, as well as your mentors and trainers.
Those who prepare for exams are not equal to those who didn’t. It is obvious they will not pass the exams. This is the dunya exam. The Akhirah exam is much harder. It has obstacles all the way. But with Allah’s support we can overcome them.
Achieving Jannah requires stamina
It is important when facing challenges, not to crumble at the first hurdle.
We have different capacities. Some people can finish a marathon in 3 hours, others drop out at the beginning. Still others end up in hospital. It depends on their preparation and effort.
The final destination is Jannah but the path to Jannah is not smooth; it is filled with obstacles and tests along the way. The tests vary, and through them, they are a system of quality control – laying bare our level of patience, strength, and imagination. They reveal different facets of our self – our ability to communicate with Allah, and others, our level of ibadah, charity, generosity.
Failing and retaking
Quite often we fail the test and have to retake it. We need to analyse where we go wrong and see how to improve. For instance, we might find it difficult to spend, so we have to see figure out why we failed and how we can get over this, become better and be more prepared next time.
We might ask why isn’t it easy to get into Jannah? Why can’t we just go straight there? If that was the case, we wouldn’t be able to see our gaps.
Through the tests, we discover and rejuvenate ourselves and come back to Allah Almighty, and say ‘Ya Allah I am lacking in my patience, salah, supplications, spending, communication..’
The tests differentiate between the one who is sincere and fake, the truthful one and the liar, as well as the faithful one and the hypocrite. Only those who are sincere will go through it and those who aren’t, will not.
Allah tested those who are sincere. (29:69)
One of my teachers – the very well respected shaykh of my shaykh, lived on the top of a steep mountain, which no vehicle could reach. One day someone asked him why he lived in such a remote location, which was hard to access. He said it was a deliberate choice, so that only sincere people who truly wanted to visit him would come to see him, not anyone passing by or wasting his time. Similarly, Jannah is about sincerity. Only those who are sincere will make the effort and overcome all the obstacles to reach it.
Allah Almighty sent the prophets and messengers to train us how to overcome these obstacles. How to control anger, and desire, be clean, be charitable, improve our closeness with Allah Almighty, to improve our communication, and connect our blood ties. They taught us how to deal with transactions in a halal way, avoid haram such as riba, alcohol, drugs and pornography. It is not easy. But it makes you a better human.
Forms of training
Salah is a form of regular training. It provides a direct spiritual connection with Allah Almighty and helps us increase self-control. Waiting up for Fajr is hard. If you break this barrier and fight your desire and do wudu and make dua you will be from people of Jannah.
Ramadan is an annual training course. Zakat is training us to spend for the sake of Allah.
In addition, communicating daily with our spouse, siblings, parents and colleagues is part of our training. Even getting through traffic can be challenging. As well as dealing with difficult people, cunning people, and bullies or oppressors.
The temptations in life are plenty. Yet we have been forewarned. Be aware of all the tricks, traps and temptations of dunya and not to fall into that. Be careful.
Whether it is looking at haram, or drinking, or other haram things, it is a struggle to fight temptation. It’s also difficult for those who convert to Islam or became practicing later, to give up what they used to do, whether it was having relationships with boys/girls, or drinking. Temptations lead to Jahannam. With some training and a lot of Du’a we can overcome the obstacles. The reward will be Jannah. Inshallah.
Not all desire are haram. Desire can be halal or haram. Fulfilling desire in a halal way, ie marriage, is highly recommended. Indulging in desire through zina or fornication is haram.
Fighting the haram leads you to Jannah. Someone who does not fight his desire, will find his desire takes him to hell.
Allah Almighty said in Surah Ankabut:
As for those who strive for Us—We will guide them in Our ways. God is with the doers of good. (29:69)
If you want Allah’s support, you need to make an effort first. If you are relaxed and expect Allah to do everything you will fail. Those who strive and put in effort are the ones who earn Allah’s pleasure.
We need to understand that our effort is required. We need to have a mentality of action, not passivity. As Allah has mentioned this 50 times, when he coupled imaan with action.
Be careful when you have temptation- pause, put on your breaks, change direction and choose a different path. Choose the pleasure of Allah. Not the pleasure of your self.
We ask Allah Almighty to enable us to see the end of the path. To follow what pleases Him. And to be able to overcome the challenges and be successful with His support. And not cave into our desires. Ameen
Delivered by Shaykh Haytham Tamim in his Hadith Qudsi online learning video of 18th February 2020.
July 30, 2021