“Wow this bag is lovely. Where did you get it from?” I overheard the conversation of a lady in a gathering: who enquired of her friend with great interest. She was told that this was the latest Louis Vuitton treasure, bought for several lakh rupees, on her recent trip to the U.K. The dress that this lady wore, the shoes and accessories that she had on, and the diamonds that glittered on her fingers and around her neck, were all beautiful and precious, and spoke of her exorbitant taste and marked her richness. I didn’t care to listen to the remaining conversation though; however, I reckon that it must have revolved around her solitaires and designer dress and hair-do.
When I was young I used to fish for compliments. It is but natural to expect praises and appreciation for beautiful hair, a lovely smile, sparkling eyes and a pretty face. I used to think I had none of these attributes and characteristics that I named above. I therefore became an attention seeker in another way. I would try to impress people with my kindness, generosity, sensitivity, empathy, friendliness, a kind deed, a good act, a humorous joke, just about anything. Sometimes, I would get immediate praises. At others, I would try harder to please people around me. This was so much a need from within that it became second nature to me. After all, who doesn’t like to be praised and appreciated?
At school I was a good athlete and sports player. I was the best language student and both the Urdu and English teachers praised me in front of the class. In college, I continued impressing people with my debating and writing skills. Then I got married and tried to please people around me with my cooking skills and amiable personality. I became a teacher, seeking much love from my students and colleagues and remaining the centre of attention for them all. When university life began I became the top student of my class and got good remarks from almost all my teachers. To cut the long story short, and not bragging anymore about myself, very sadly the purpose of my life had become ‘pleasing’ people.
When I look back and think about all the years of my life that I spent in ignorance, I feel ashamed of myself. Nevertheless, I am so grateful to Allah subhanahu wata’aala, that He put life into perspective, and guided me a few years ago.
My “Mohsina” introduced me to the real essence of deen Alhamdulillah. Allah subhanahu wata’aala made her the means of bringing me closer to Him. May Allah subhanahu wata’aala preserve and bless her and her family, Aameen. Sometimes I feel there is so much I need to say to her. In fact not just her, but the entire circle of friends that I have met because of her, who are so sincere mashaAllah and loving that I love them all from the bottom of my heart, and only for the sake of Allah subhanahu wata’aala. Having never met them, only hearing a few voices or receiving a few text messages, they have been able to guide and mentor me immensely, Alhamdulillah. This heart is full of gratitude for knowing these loving souls around me. This is sisterhood, the purity and sincerity of which no one can ever understand, unless one experiences the same. However, I now only pray for them all sincerely, because I know that this is the best that I can do for them and myself too. Let me explain.
Two years back I remember telling “Mohsina” how good her first article was that she wrote for a joint daawah venture. She told me not to excessively praise her, and that it is from a hadith not to over praise someone. She also told me that she would maintain the same balance as far as my writing goes. This was difficult for me to absorb, at first, to be honest! You may understand that a person who has lead her entire life seeking peoples’ attention and appreciation might find it disheartening, discouraging or heart breaking, if she’s not responded to in the way she expects. However, after the initial shock, the realization struck me hard in my face. It so happened that I started reading about this issue and came across one of the most beautiful du’as I have ever heard. One that I intend to share with you all today, through this piece In sha Allah.
These are some points that I pondered upon and came across while doing my research.
Who Deserves all the Praise?
Indeed the source of all khair and praises is exclusively Ar Rahman. There is nothing in this world that any of us could acquire, if it wasn’t for Allah subhanahu wata’aala to will it for us, and then He paves the path for us or develops such facilitating circumstances, that lead us to success. Hence one must never forget that whatever good that one acquires in this world, be it a physical attribute, a mental capability, a righteous spouse or pious children, a rewarding job or a satisfying daawah opportunity, deeni ilm (knowledge of the deen) or the heights of success in this world, indeed all of it is due to Allah subhanhu wata’aala, who has enabled us to reach that achievement. Therefore, we must realize that anything in existence to which is ascribed praise, thanks, glorification, or gratitude, is only able to achieve it due to Allah the Exalted’s infinite mercy and grace.
Why is Over-Praising Dangerous?
Apart from the fact that all praises are for the Supreme Being, a few other things to be understood are revealed from the following hadith:
Abu Bakr radiallahu anhu reported that a man was mentioned in the presence of Prophet Muhammad salallahu alayhi wasallam and a man praised him heartily. The Prophet salallahu alayhi wasallam said:
“You have severed your brother’s neck.” (Sahih Bukhari)
Intentions May be Corrupted
Praises can corrupt the core of the intention of any good deed, including daawah, because of sudden fame or acknowledgement that one gets from people in the community and friends. Praise acts as poison. It poisons the person’s intentions and the person being praised starts relying upon it, to do a righteous deed. The nafs gets so used to hearing praises that the real reason of the good act is left behind. Constant praise develops our soul to rely upon and covet it. People tend to forget that the real purpose of the deed being done is only to please Allah subhanahu wata’aala, and perform such acts then, to only hear words of praises.
Sincerity May be Affected
Righteous acts such as giving sadaqa, zakaat, and donations also become a means of becoming popular in one’s social circle. One starts being boastful and declares publically whatever good he or she has done, for the poor and needy. The Prophet Muhammad salallahu alayhi wasallam said that one of the seven groups of people that will be granted shade on the Day of Judgment includes the one who gives charity but hides it, so that even his left hand does not know what his right hand has spent. Although, giving charity publically is permissible in cases when one needs to set an example and encourage others to donate as well. However, the element of showing-off must never contaminate your intention. Seeking compliments from people, as to how generous one is, affects the sincerity of the deed.
Arrogance and Pride
A person also becomes arrogant and proud if he or she thinks or is made to feel that he or she is doing something special that no one else is doing. Fame, excessive praise, popularity, acknowledgement can all make you think that you are capable of the best and that you better than the rest. One forgets completely, in such circumstances, that Shaitaan only wants to make you feel that you are special in a way. He doesn’t want you to realize that Allah subhanahu wata’aala is the One who has enabled you to achieve this level of success in life. He wants you to be boastful, self-assertive and self-obsessed. He doesn’t want you to be grateful to the Almighty. He wants you to forget the following saying of the Prophet Muhammad salallahu alayhi wasallam:
“He who has in his heart the weight of an atom of pride shall not enter Paradise.” (Muslim)
Who Makes Us Praiseworthy?
As explained above the only being who makes us praiseworthy is Allah subhanhu wata’aala. If it was not for His mercy, we would not be worthy of even being mentioned anywhere, let alone be praised. Scholars and teachers of the deen always try to keep praises away from them for the fear of their intentions becoming corrupted. We must also try and maintain a balance to not over praise anyone, for whatever good that they have done. We should rather make du’a for them to excel and succeed consistently in the work that they are doing. Asking your Rabb for that help for them is more important and pertinent, if we are their true well-wishers. Understand, that you are not supposed to be impressed by the brands worn by people or show cased by friends. You are only supposed to look up to a friend in matters of deen. Also, do not calculate your worth in terms of praises. If nobody praises you excessively, be grateful to Allah subhanahu wata’aala that your intentions are being secured and that you are being protected from not becoming proud. If you are over praised, know how to deal with it!
How to Respond to Praises?
So how to deal with praises? This question brings me to this beautiful du’a that I have recently heard and learnt to respond with, whenever praised for anything. This du’a holds a lot of meaning to it. It is so deep and beautiful, so reassuring and humbling. This du’a gives me goose bumps and makes me fall in love with my Rabb all over again. For those of you who know it, you will understand exactly what I am talking about. If you are reading this du’a for the first time, I hope that you feel all the sentiments that I feel when I recite this du’a. According to a few narrations this du’a is related back to Aliradiallahu anhuand it is reported that Abu Bakr radiallahu anhu used to recite this du’a, whenever he was praised:
“Allahumma-ja’lni khayran mima yadhunoon wa-ghfirli ma la ya’lamoon wa la tu’akhidhni bima yaquloon.”
“O Allah, make me better than what they think of me, and forgive me for what they do not know about me, and do not take me to account for what they say about me.”
SubhanAllah! Feel the love of Allah subhanahu wata’aala here. How He conceals all our shortcomings in front of this world; how He makes us look good in front of people; how He pardons us with His infinite mercy and guides us, mentors us, leads us to the right path, Alhamdulillah! Sometimes I wonder, if God forbid all my deeds are revealed in front of this world, those sins that I have done on purpose or those that I have committed by mistake, my small and big sins, my conscious and unconscious; would this world ever forgive me? I know the answer to my question, and I want you all to question yourselves too. So the next time that your work is appreciated or you are praised for your beauty or brains, remember to respond with this du’a, the essence of which if understood in the right spirit, shakes you from within and humbles you in front of Allah subhanahu wata’aala.
I am grateful to my “Mohsina” for having introduced me to this beautiful aspect of our deen and I hope that the readers of this insignificant piece can find consolation, hope and promise in this du’a as well, bi’idhnallah!
This article was originally published at Moments of Perfect Clarity.