Does self-reliance mean to rely on one's soul? What is the relationship between reliance on Allah and self-reliance?

The Details of the Question

Does self-reliance mean to rely on one’s soul? What is the relationship between reliance on Allah and self-reliance?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

Self-reliance (self-confidence) means to keep one’s will strong and to remain sound and resolute in the face of events, that is, not to fall into despair. When man attains success, he should attribute it to Allah, not to himself. Besides, this is the real self-confidence. If he attributes his achievements to his own soul and feels conceited, it will be dangerous for him.

It is necessary to keep away from despair, arrogance, conceit and having bad thoughts about others, which are spiritual diseases.

If one is deprived of “spiritual armors” in an age when matter is determined to suffocate spirit, his spirits are bound to suffer crises and illnesses though his body is beautiful and strong.

The earth harbors plenty of people who struggle to feed their bodies but who suffer all kinds of “crises of true path” due to spiritual hunger. Believers struggle against some spiritual illness due to the effect of the infectious disorders of this age and they flounder helplessly because they are unaware of the diagnosis of their diseases and ways of treatment. However, the rich resources of Islam, like the Quran, which is the source of miracles, and the Sunnah of the Messenger of Allah, include remedies for those diseases. The biggest illness of the people of this age is to be unaware of the remedy. Let us analyze four important spiritual diseases that are common today:

1. Despair (Hopelessness)

A person who cannot succeed in doing righteous deeds and worshipping as he wishes and who cannot fulfil those duties fear the penalty in the grave and Hell. He falls into despair. Most of the people who cannot fulfill their duties of worshipping by being overcome by their souls due to laziness and the negative effects of their environment and who flounder in the quagmire of debauchery fall into despair. This illness can lead a person to unbelief and denial.

A person who loses hope of getting rid of the bad state he is in is easily defeated by doubts and delusions. Such people want to hold on to the weakest and smallest claims that lead people to the opposite of religious issues and to deny the issues of belief and creed as if they are great and strong evidences. If this state continues, he will rebel and exit Islam. He will join the army of Satan. For instance, the soul of a person who finds it difficult to perform prayers desires that performing prayers not be fard. If a Satan-like person causes a delusion in him that prayer is not fard, his soul wants to hold on to that baseless claim; if he falls into this trap, he will lose his belief. This is the perilous end of the illness of “despair”.

The following verse is the remedy for those who catch the illness of despair and who cannot do righteous deeds:

“Say: "O my Servants who have transgressed against their souls! Despair not of the Mercy of Allah: for Allah forgives all sins: for He is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” (az-Zumar, 39/53)

2. Arrogance (Reliance on deeds):

A person who cannot worship and falls into despair starts to seek points of support since he is afraid of divine penalty. He sees that he has some good deeds and holds on to them. He thinks those deeds will be enough for his salvation and relaxes. However, this state is “ujb”, that is, reliance on deeds; it leads man to unbelief and aberration. For, man has no right on the good deeds, worshipping and favors that he does. They do not belong to him; how can he rely on them? What wishes charity and righteous deeds is “Allah’s mercy” and what creates and grants them to man is “Allah’s power”. Man’s share in charity and righteous deeds is to accept, to pray, to be pleased with and to demand. It is Allah Almighty who gives man his body, health and strength and who gives him life to do righteous deeds.

Hz. Abu Hurayra narrates: the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said,  

‘(O believers!) Do your deeds and worshipping moderately; avoid extremism. For, Deeds will not save any of you from fire.’ The Companions asked, ‘O Messenger of Allah! Will deeds not save you either? The Prophet answered, ‘Not me either.’ He added, ‘If Allah does not forgive my sins with His mercy and grace, my deeds will not save me either.’

Man should give up relying on his deeds and claiming to be the owner of his charity and worshipping. He should know that he could make mistakes only to himself. Whatever good comes to him is from Allah. Whatever bad comes to him is from his own soul. The body and life are among the things entrusted to man. Man should always say, “To Him belongs sovereignty and to Him is praise due. There is neither might nor power except with Allah.”

3. Conceit

Conceit originates from man’s not knowing himself. Conceit is the biggest mistake of a person who is unaware of his weakness, poverty and incompleteness. Man is deprived from all material and spiritual maturity due to conceit. There is only one thing that a conceited person, who likes himself, keeps away from: Prayer mat. The face of the conceited person who does not prostrate is dark. A person who has no trace of prostration on his face is in abasement so much that he kisses the feet of his soul. Even if a conceited person prostrates, his spirit is upright. What matters is to make the spirit prostrate. The only friend of a conceited person is himself. His student and teacher is himself. A conceited person is the meanest idolater. If a person regards his own knowledge sufficient and disdains to consult to others due to his conceit, he is an incomplete person. Such people become deprived of the beauties and ideas of other people and, what is more, from the guidance of the blessed people, that is, “salaf as-salihin” that lived in the past; they will abandon the line of Islam. The only fruit of conceit is deprivation.

4. Having bad thoughts about others

Man should have “good thoughts” about others. He should regard others as superior to him. Having bad thoughts about others will cause man to think that others also have bad characteristics like him. Having bad thoughts about others breaks off the ties of reliance among Muslims and shakes the foundations of the community. A believer should not have bad thoughts about others, especially the beloved slaves of Allah, if he does not know the and reason for their behaviors.

Hz. Abu Hurayra narrates: the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said,

“Beware of suspicion about others, as suspicion is the falsest talk. Do not spy upon others, and do not seek news about others' affairs; do not compete against one another; do not be jealous of one another; do not hate one another; do not turn your backs to one another. O slaves of Allah! Be brothers as Allah ordered you. A Muslim is the brother of another Muslim. He does not oppress, deprive and insult his brother. It is enough as evil for a person to insult his brother. It is haram for a Muslim the wealth, blood and honor of another Muslim. Allah does not look at your shapes and bodies, but your hearts and deeds. Taqwa is here – he pointed at his chest. Never sell something after selling it to another person. O slaves of Allah! Be brothers! It is not halal for a Muslim to be cross with his brother more than three days.” (Bukhari, Nikah 45)

To have the ethics of the Quran and to enter the luminous circle of the Sunnah will keep us away from spiritual diseases. If we do not adhere heartily to the Quran and the Sunnah, which are the only sources of remedy for the spiritual diseases, four of which we have tried to explain above, we may lose our eternal life.

May Allah Almighty save us from all kinds of spiritual diseases and weakness of belief!

Self-reliance that is away from those diseases will lead man to perfection. Otherwise, man cannot get rid of being a slave of his soul.

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