The Ignorant Man’s Complaint

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Imām Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya (RA)

Only an igno­rant per­son will com­plain to peo­ple about Allāh ﷻ. This is due to extreme igno­rance and his mis­un­der­stand­ing the real­i­ty of Allāh ﷻ and the peo­ple. If an indi­vid­ual was to tru­ly recog­nise the real­i­ty of his Cre­ator, he would not com­plain about Him. Sim­i­lar­ly, if he was to know the real­i­ty of the peo­ple, he would not com­plain to them.

One of the Salaf (pre­de­ces­sors) saw a man who was com­plain­ing with regard to his pover­ty and lack of wealth. He said:

By Allāh, you are com­plain­ing about the One Who is full of com­pas­sion for you to a per­son who will have no com­pas­sion on you!”

An Arab poet has said:

تشكو الرحيم إلى الذي لا يرحمُ

وإذا شكوت إلى ابن آدم إنما

When you com­plain to a human, in real­i­ty you are com­plain­ing about the Most-Com­pas­sion­ate, to those whose nature is not to have such compassion.

The ʿārif (one with the recog­ni­tion of Allāh ﷻ) com­plains to Allāh ﷻ alone. The best ʿārif is he who com­plains to Allāh ﷻ regard­ing his own mis­takes rather than about oth­er peo­ple. In real­i­ty, he com­plains about what caus­es peo­ple to over­pow­er him, bear­ing in mind the vers­es of Allāh ﷻ:

وَمَآ أَصَٰبَكُم مِّن مُّصِيبَةٖ فَبِمَا كَسَبَتۡ أَيۡدِيكُمۡ وَيَعۡفُواْ عَن كَثِيرٖ ٣٠

What­ev­er hard­ship befalls you is because of what your own hands have com­mit­ted, while He over­looks many (of your faults).”[1]

مَّآ أَصَابَكَ مِنۡ حَسَنَةٖ فَمِنَ ٱللَّهِۖ وَمَآ أَصَابَكَ مِن سَيِّئَةٖ فَمِن نَّفۡسِكَۚ

What­ev­er good comes to you, it is from Allāh; and what­ev­er evil vis­its you, it is from your own self.”[2]

أَوَلَمَّآ أَصَٰبَتۡكُم مُّصِيبَةٞ قَدۡ أَصَبۡتُم مِّثۡلَيۡهَا قُلۡتُمۡ أَنَّىٰ هَٰذَاۖ قُلۡ هُوَ مِنۡ عِندِ أَنفُسِكُمۡۗ

How is it that when you suf­fered from a hard­ship, the twice of which you had afflict­ed upon them, you say, ‘Where did this come from?’ Say,’ This is from your own selves.’”[3]

As a result, there are three stages of complaint:

  1. The low­est stage is to com­plain to peo­ple about Allāh ﷻ.

  2. The best and high­est stage is to com­plain to Allāh ﷻ regard­ing one’s own self.

  3. The mid­dle stage is to com­plain to Allāh ﷻ regard­ing His creation.[4]

[1] [Al-Shūrā: 42/30].

[2] [Al-Nisāʾ: 4/79].

[3] [Āl ʿIm­rān: 3/165].

[4] Al-Jawziyya, Ibn Qayy­im, Al-Fawāʾid, Dār Ibn al-Jawzī (1427/2006), Cairo, p. 93.