Translation from Ibn Al-Jawzi’s Sayd Al-Khatir (Quarry of the Mind) | Acceptance of Allah’s Wisdom

HE WHO PONDERS upon the greatness of Allah, his mind becomes overwhelmed, because he needs to establish [in his understanding] Him as having been [always] Omnipresent, without there being a beginning to his existence. For this is something which the senses cannot comprehend and the mind is forced, out of necessity, to confirm.

He becomes baffled at this acknowledgement; then he sees that Allah’s actions point towards His existence, and then things happen in his life (by divine decree) –which if they are not taken as evidence of His existence, they will be reasons for denial of it.

For indeed, it was Him who divided the sea for the Children of Israel to pass through safely, and this is something which none other than the Creator was capable of doing, and it was Him who caused Moses’ staff to turn into a snake and then for it to return to its original form, and He caused this snake to swallow the snakes [created through the magic spells] of Pharaoh’s magicians, without changing the form of the snake of Mûsa.

Then is there anything more left to be said?

Furthermore, when the magicians accepted Islam, He (Allah) left them at the mercy of Pharaoh (Fir¢awn), who crucified them –and He did not stop Fir¢awn from doing so. The Messengers were tried with hunger and being killed by their own people: Zakariyyah was sawed into two halves, Yaḥya was murdered by an adulteress, and our Prophet œ cried each year: ‘Is there anyone who can shelter me? Is there anyone who will help me?’

Now, one who is unaware or ignorant about the existence of the Creator could well say: ‘If He were really there, then He would surely have helped His friends.’

It is necessary for the one with proper intellect to whom Allah’s existence has been proven through apparent and clear signs [in the visible universe] that he not allow his mind to make objections regarding His actions or that he demand to know the reasons (for His actions).

Once it has been established that He is the Master and the Wise, then even if the wisdom behind certain actions of His is hidden from us, we should assign this deficiency to our own understanding [and not to His wisdom].

And why wouldn’t this be the case, when even Mûsa was unable to understand the wisdom behind Al-Khaḍir’s scuttling of the ship and his killing of the young boy[1], and when the wisdom behind these outwardly evil actions was made apparent to him, it was only then that he felt at peace.

Therefore, if the wisdom behind the actions of the Creator were apparent, then the mind would not struggle and tire itself, the way Mûsa had struggled during his travel with Al-Khaḍir.

So whenever you heard your mind say ‘why?’ Reduce it to silence by saying: ‘O imbecilic–being deficient and unable to understand the Omnipresence of Allah– you do not (even) know the truth of your own self; then what is wrong with you that you question Him who is the Master!’

If the mind replies saying: ‘What is the purpose of trials, when Allah is able and can simply reward without sending down upon us any tests or trials. And what is the benefit in punishing the people of the Fire when Allah has no intention to avenge Himself.

Then say to it: ‘His wisdom is beyond your ken, thence accept (and submit) to that which you do not know, for indeed, the first who  took exception to Allah’s wisdom on the basis of using his intellect was Iblîs (Satan). Thinking that fire was superior to clay, he refused to prostrate [in obedience to Allah].[2]

Thus, we have seen that a lot of people amongst the creation of Allah find fault with His wisdom, because their minds accept only things whose wisdom they can comprehend, and they forget that the wisdom of the Creator goes beyond their intellects.

So I counsel you to keep your mind clear of giving too much stock to finding the reasoning behind everything, or that you seek for your mind an answer to every objection it raises. Say to it, ‘Submit and you will be safe’, for indeed you shall never know the true depth of the sea until you first know what it is like to drown in it.

This is a great fundamental principle, which if a person loses sight of, he will be vulnerable, through ignorant objections, to falling into kufr (disbelief).

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 [1] The author is referring here to story of prophet Mûsa and Al-Khaḍir as told in Sûrat Al-Kahf.

[2] According to the Quran, Iblîs was created from fire whereas Adam was created from clay, hence Iblîs’ resentment to prostrate himself to Adam.

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