Perfecting the Beginnings

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SunRise

In his well-known book, Al-Hikam (Words of Wisdom), sheikh Ahmad Ibn `Ataa’illah As-Sakandari says:

“A sign of success in the end is to refer to Allah in the beginning. If there is no sunrise in the beginning, there is no sunrise in the end.”

A servant journeying to Allah, who is passing through difficult tests and heading to horizons of peace and tranquility, always thinks of new good deeds that advance him/her along his/her journey. This word of wisdom teaches us here another universal law: Perfecting the basis and the start of any new project, almost guarantees the desired outcomes in the end. In Ibn `Ataa’s words, if there is sunrise in the beginning, surely there will be sunrise in the end. But the question is: how can I make the sun rise and shine at the beginning? The answer, according to Ibn `Ataa, is by referring to Allah. But, how could one ‘refer to Allah’ in the beginning of any work?

Prophet Muhammad taught humanity something unique, which is how to start every daily action with a way of mentioning Allah that suits that action. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “Every action that does not begin by invoking the praise of Allah is not blessed“. (Al-Bayhaqi) Therefore, we have to start every action in the name of Allah. If you are giving a speech, you have to start it by sending peace and blessings upon the Prophet and praising Allah Almighty. If you are starting an act of worship, you have to start with a remembrance of pure intention. You do not have to start your prayers by ‘mentioning’ that you have an intention to pray, but it is the Prophet’s tradition to start your prayer with this supplication: “I turn my face in complete devotion to The One, The Originator of the heavens and the earth and I am not of the disbelievers“.

And when you embark upon big tasks, you have to perform two rak`at (units of prayer) of istikharah (praying for the best course of action). All these things are forms of referring to Allah in the beginnings. Istikharah is a form of supplication that you recite when you have a choice between two actions. Prophet Muhammad taught us the following supplication:

O Allah, I seek Your help in finding out the best course of action in this matter by invoking Your knowledge; I ask You to empower me, and I beseech Your favor. You alone have the absolute power, while I have no power. You alone know it all, while I do not. You are the One Who knows the hidden mysteries. O Allah, if You know this thing I am embarking on [here mention your case] is good for me in my faith, worldly life, and my ultimate destiny, then facilitate it for me, and then bless me in my action. If, on the other hand, You know this thing is detrimental for me in my faith, worldly life, and ultimate destiny, turn it away from me, and turn me away from it, and decree what is good for me, wherever it may be, and make me content with it.

The purpose of this supplication is to show that you wholeheartedly surrender to Allah and rely on Him alone. Seeking Allah’s help is a kind of ‘referring to Allah in the beginnings’, as Ibn `Ataa asked us to do. Therefore, it is a sign of success in the ends, no matter what these ends are, according to our human and worldly calculations of gain or loss. What matters is that you refer to Allah in the beginnings so that the calculations will be in your favor in the end.

For example, if you are running a business trying to make some profits, there is a possibility that you lose your investment. But if you pray istikharah and lose, think deeply about it, you might find out that you lost some investments now, but then, huge profits follow in a different business in the future, in which you learnt from the lessons of your loss. It is also possible that Allah made you lose so that you reconsider many things, people, and plans in your life, in order to find out why you were losing. You may continue to lose, but win a close friend who helped you during the time of your troubles. Therefore, your real success in the end, is in making profits in another deal, reconsidering your plans, or even winning a friend. {Allah knows, whereas you do not know}.(Al-Baqarah 2:216)

The human standards of success and failure are usually based on financial calculations or figures, or some sort of ‘statistical’ achievements. However, these calculations, in Allah’s sight and in reality, do not mean anything. What really matters is Allah’s pleasure in this life and the afterlife. So, if you refer to Allah in the beginning, the end will shine and Allah will be pleased with you, no matter what the material calculations are.

This rule applies to everything. For example, the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said that one of the seven persons whom Allah would give protection with His Shade on the Day when there would be no shade but that of Him is “a youth who grew up with the worship of Allah”.(Al-Bukhari and Muslim) This young man or woman perfected the beginnings of their life, therefore Allah granted them success in the end and protected them under His Shade.

There will also be sunrise in the beginning when one refrains from committing any sinful acts and seeks to establish justice through all the affairs that he/she handles. On the contrary, if one commits forbidden acts in the beginning, surely the end will be a state of failure. {Allah does not further the works of spreaders of corruption}.(Yunus 10: 81) This is because doing the things that Allah made unlawful results in failure and obliterates the blessings.

I pray to Allah to grant us a happy and good ending of our life. I also pray to Allah to help us refer to Him in every beginning so that we will achieve success in every end.

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