"I Am as My Slave Expects Me to Be"

18/09/2020| IslamWeb

It was narrated on the authority of Abu Hurayrah, may Allah be pleased with him, that the Prophet  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allah exalt his mention ) said: “Allah, The Exalted, Says, ‘I am as My slave expects Me to be, and I am with him whenever he remembers Me. If he remembers Me to Himself, I remember him to Myself, and if he remembers Me in an assembly, I remember him in a better assembly (i.e., the assembly of angels). If he draws closer to Me by a hand span, I draw closer to him by an arm’s length. If he draws closer to Me by an arm’s length, I draw closer to him by a fathom’s length. And whoever comes to Me walking, I go to him at speed.’” [Al-Bukhari and Muslim]

Status of the Hadeeth

This is one of the great Ahaadeeth of hope that urge Muslims to have good expectations of Allah, The Exalted, and to remember Him abundantly. It also underlines how Allah, The Exalted, draws closer to His Slaves  whenever they draw closer to Him by means of performing various acts of obedience.

Having Good Expectations of Allah

The Hadeeth begins with calling the slave of Allah to have good expectations of his Lord at all times and in all states. In the Hadeeth, Allah, The Exalted, explained that He is as His Slave  expects Him to be, meaning that He treats him in accordance with his own expectation of His Lord and does for him what he expects of Him, be it good or bad. If a person has good expectations of Allah and hopes for His Reward , Allah will not fail him nor cause his deeds to be lost. Whenever he supplicates Allah, he expects Allah to answer his supplications. If he commits a sin and repents and seeks forgiveness, he expects Allah to accept his repentance, pardon his fault, and forgive his sin. If he performs a good deed, he expects Allah to accept his deed and reward him handsomely. These are all examples of having good expectations of Allah, The Exalted. The Prophet  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allah exalt his mention ) said: “Supplicate Allah while certain that your supplication will be answered.” [At-Tirmithi]

Thus, a slave of Allah continues to have good expectations of his Lord and aspire to His Reward  in all situations, as the Arab poet Ibn Waheeb said (translation of meaning):

I supplicate Allah and, verily, by virtue of having good expectations of Him, it is as if I can see His Answer  to my supplications with my own eyes!”

Having good expectations of Allah is thus among the implications and requirements of Tawheed (Islamic monotheism) because it is based on the knowledge of the mercy of Allah, His Might , kindness, omnipotence, and true reliance on Him. When a person attains perfect knowledge of these verities, the fruit that this knowledge yields is having good expectations of his Lord.

In the Quran, Allah, The Exalted, dispraises a group of people who had bad expectations of Him, and He underlines that their ill expectations were actually one of the key signs of their hypocrisy and covert wickedness. He Says about the hypocrites when they fled (the battlefield) and abandoned the Prophet  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allah exalt his mention ) and his Companions during the battle of Uhud (what means): {…while another faction worried about themselves, thinking of Allah other than the truth – the thought of ignorance...} [Quran 3:154] He also Says about the hypocrites and polytheists (what means): {…those who assume about Allah an assumption of evil nature. Upon them is a misfortune of evil nature...} [Quran 48:6]

The Hadeeth urges us to give precedence to having hope in Allah (over having fear of Him), because any sane person who receives this invitation from Allah, The Exalted, would not willingly choose for himself the expectations that will inflict upon him the promised punishment. Rather, he will choose to have good expectations, which is that Allah will bless him with His Reward , pardon, and forgiveness, and that he will receive the promised recompense (i.e. Allah will treat him in accordance with his good expectations of Him). This is the enjoined hope in Allah, The Exalted, (that is required of a Muslim) especially at times of weakness and need for Him like the situation of a dying person. He should have good expectations of Allah more than anyone else with greater reason, and this is why the Prophet  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allah exalt his mention ) said: “Let none of you die without having good expectations of Allah.” [Muslim; as reported from Jaabir, may Allah be pleased with him]

Therefore, one should strive to perform his duties while believing with certainty that Allah, The Exalted, will accept his deeds and forgive him because He promised to do that and He never fails in His Promise . If he expects Allah to turn him down or that his repentance will be of no avail, then this is despair of the mercy of Allah, and it is a major sin. Whoever dies while despairing of His Mercy , Allah will make his bad expectations come true. This is why some versions of the Hadeeth discussed in this article have the following addition at the end: “…so let him expect of Me whatever he wishes.” [Ahmad and others with an authentic chain of narration]

Between Despair and Self-deception

It is noteworthy that having good expectations of Allah, The Exalted, entails good-doing and does not mean at all to give in to idleness, (false) hope for the forgiveness and pardon of Allah or self-deception. Therefore, a slave of Allah should avoid two blameworthy attitudes in this regard: despair of the mercy of Allah, and feeling secure from His Makr (schemes and plans). He should not rely solely on having hope in Allah and having good expectations of Him without duly performing acts of obedience, because this would be foolish, and it also implies feeling safe from His Makr. On the other hand, he should not give predominance to fear of Allah over hope in Him lest it leads him to have bad expectations of his Lord and accordingly fall into despair of His Mercy , and both attitudes are blameworthy. Rather, it is obligatory on him to have good expectations of Allah along with diligently performing acts of obedience. Some of the righteous predecessors used to say: “Your hope for the mercy of the One Whom you disobey indicates disillusion and foolishness!”

Rewards for those Who Remember Allah

In the Hadeeth, Allah, The Exalted, underlined the virtues of remembering Him and the rewards for those who remember Him. He stated that He is with His Slave  whenever he remembers Him. Being “with” Allah is a special kind of “with-ness” that involves having His Protection  and receiving the blessings of steadfastness and success, as indicated in His Saying to Moosa (Moses) and Haaroon (Aaron) (which means): {[Allah] said, Fear not. Indeed, I am with you both; I hear and I see.} [Quran 20:46]

The best manner to remember Allah, The Exalted, is to remember Him with an attentive heart and mind, pondering over the meanings of the Thikr (expressions of remembrance of Allah) being recited, and the best form of remembrance is adhering to His Obligations  and avoiding His Prohibitions .

The Reward of Drawing Close to Allah

Allah, The Exalted, then underlined the vastness of His Grace  and generosity as well as His closeness to His Slave . He stated that the closer His Slave  draws to Him, the closer He draws to him in return. In the Quran, Allah, The Exalted, stated that He is near His Slave , Saying (what means): {And when My servants ask you [O Muhammad] concerning Me – indeed I am near. I respond to the invocation of the supplicant when he calls upon Me. So let them respond to Me [by obedience] and believe in Me that they may be [rightly] guided.} [Quran 2:186] The Prophet  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allah exalt his mention ) said: “A slave of Allah is nearest to his Lord when he is prostrating to Him, so make abundant supplication (while prostrating).” [Muslim]

The last three sentences in the Hadeeth, wherein Allah, The Exalted, Says: “If he draws closer to Me by a hand span, I draw closer to him by an arm’s length. If he draws closer to Me by an arm’s length, I draw closer to him by a fathom’s length. And whoever comes to Me walking, I go to him at speed,” indicate this great meaning; that the grace of Allah and His Reward  are much greater than the good deeds and efforts that His Slave  exerts, and therefore He grants His Slave  more than what His Slave  did for Him. Glorified be Allah! How abundant is His Generosity  and how excellent is His Grace !

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