Praise be to Allaah.
The believer who affirms the Oneness of Allaah (Tawheed)
knows that everything happens by the decree of Allaah; what Allaah wills
happens and what He does not will does not happen; there is nothing that can
block the will of Allaah from being executed in His creation. Thus the heart
of the believer who affirms the Oneness of Allaah is at rest, and he knows
that there is no room for regret or grief in his life, because the command
of Allaah preceded (the event) and His will is executed.
Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning):
“No calamity befalls on the earth or in yourselves but it
is inscribed in the Book of Decrees (Al‑Lawh Al‑Mahfooz) before We bring it
into existence. Verily, that is easy for Allaah.
23. In order that you may not grieve at the things over
that you fail to get, nor rejoice over that which has been given to you. And
Allaah likes not prideful boasters”
“Say: ‘Nothing shall ever happen to us except what Allaah
has ordained for us. He is our Mawlaa (Lord, Helper and Protector).’ And in
Allaah let the believers put their trust”
If this is the case for the believer who affirms the Oneness
of Allaah, then there is no room in his life for regret about the past and
there is no room for the words “if only” in his speech. What Allaah has
decreed for His slave must be one of two things:
Either it is because of a sin
that the slave has committed, so Allaah has decreed it for him because of
his sins. Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning): “And whatever of
misfortune befalls you, it is because of what your hands have earned”
Or it is a test from Allaah to
raise him in status and expiate his bad deeds.
What should the believer who affirms the Oneness of Allaah
do, once he knows this and believes firmly in it?
If the calamity is because of a sin that he has committed, or
because of neglecting something that he should have done, what he must do is
hasten to repent and seek forgiveness, and turn back to his Lord, and regret
what he has done, and set things straight between him and His Creator and
Lord. Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning):
“And verily, I am indeed
forgiving to him who repents, believes (in My Oneness, and associates none
in worship with Me) and does righteous good deeds, and then remains constant
in doing them (till his death)”
If the calamity is a test to raise him in status and expiate
his bad deeds, then all that the believer who affirms the Oneness of Allaah
can do is accept the decree of Allaah, and seek reward for what has befallen
him with his Lord, hoping for reward and seeking to expiate his sins.
In both cases, the heart of the believer who affirms the
Oneness of Allaah will only become strong and at peace, and it will never
become weak and feeble [?], rather he will hasten to obey and do good deeds.
If he has sinned then he will give up his sins and become better than he was
before, and if he was obedient to Allaah then he will become even more
obedient to His Creator and Lord.
The shaytaan tries to weaken the heart of the believer and
instil grief and sorrow in his heart, and he strives hard to make him
helpless . He does all of that by means of the words “if only”, referring to
the past and what he did or did not do. Along with all that evil and
corruption he makes him live in a world of illusions and false notions, so
he says, “If only such and such had happened, then such and such would have
happened.” How does he know that that would have been the case?
Look at what the shaytaan causes of regret, sorrow and
conjecture about the decree of Allaah, and alongside that he weakens his
resolve to strive and obey Allaah, and he continues to bemoan his fate and
regret until his life has passed. Allaah tells us that this is the action of
the hypocrites, and our Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allaah
be upon him) warned us against going down that path.
It was narrated that Abu Hurayrah said: The Messenger of
Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “The strong
believer is better and more beloved to Allaah than the weak believer,
although both are good. Strive to do that which will benefit you and seek
the help of Allaah, and do not feel helpless. If anything befalls you, do
not say ‘If only I had done (such and such), the such and such would have
happened,’ rather say: ‘Allaah has decreed and what He wills He does,’ for
‘if only’ opens the door to the work of the shaytaan.”
Narrated by Muslim (2664).
Look at this great hadeeth and ponder it, for it explains the
difference between the strong believer and the weak believer, and it urges
us to strive and not feel helpless. All of that is completely appropriate to
the prohibition on regretting by saying “if only”.
Shaykh Saalih ibn Fawzaan al-Fawzaan (may Allaah preserve
When a person experiences something unpleasant or a calamity
befalls him, he should not say “If only I had done such and such, this would
not have happened to me” or “If only I had not done such and such, this
would not have happened to me,” because that is a sign of not having
patience in accepting what has been missed and cannot be regained, and
because these words are indicative of not believing in the divine will and
decree, and because it causes one pain and allows the shaytaan to gain power
over a person though waswaas and worries.
What one must do when calamity strikes is submit to the
decree of Allaah, and bear with patience that which has befallen one, whilst
striving to achieve the means of bringing good and protecting oneself
against evil and disliked things, without apportioning blame.
Allaah criticized those who said such things when calamity
befell the Muslims at the battle of Uhud. He said (interpretation of the
meaning): “[they said] ‘If we had anything to do with the affair, none of
us would have been killed here’” [Aal ‘Imraan 3:154]. These words were
spoken by some of the hypocrites on the day of Uhud, when calamity struck
the Muslims. They said it in objection to the divine decree, and they
criticized the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) and
the Muslims for going out to fight the enemy. But Allaah refuted what they
said, in the same verse (interpretation of the meaning): “Say: ‘Even if
you had remained in your homes, those for whom death was decreed would
certainly have gone forth to the place of their death’”, i.e., what
Allaah decreed would happen was inevitable and could not have been prevented
by their staying in their homes or worrying.
Saying “if only” after a calamity has struck does not achieve
anything but causing regret, sorrow, pain and weakness, in addition to its
effect on ‘aqeedah (belief), because it is generated by a lack of submission
to the divine decree.
Then Allaah mentioned something else that the hypocrites
said, in the verse (interpretation of the meaning):
“(They are) the ones who said about their killed brethren
while they themselves sat (at home): ‘If only they had listened to us, they
would not have been killed’”
[Aal ‘Imraan 3:168]
This is another thing that the hypocrites said on the day of
Uhud. It is narrated that ‘Abd-Allaah ibn Ubayy objected to the divine
decree and said: If they had listened to our advice to stay home and not go
out to fight, they would not have been killed. Allaah refuted what they
said, in the same verse (interpretation of the meaning): “Say: ‘Avert
death from your ownselves, if you speak the truth’”, i.e., if staying
home and not going out to fight could save a person from being killed or
dying, then you should not die, but death will inevitably come to you in any
place, so ward it off from yourselves if you are telling the truth in your
claim that those who obeyed you would be safe from death.
The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him)
guided us to the actions that will benefit a person in this world and in the
Hereafter, that Allaah has prescribed to His slaves, whether they are
obligatory, mustahabb or permissible. When a person does these actions, he
should seek the help of Allaah to perfect his efforts and benefit him,
because Allaah is the One Who created cause and effect. Combining
appropriate action with putting one’s trust in Allaah is Tawheed. Moreover,
he forbade feeling helpless, which means not doing the things that are the
means of benefit. This is the opposite of keenness to do that which will
benefit one. If a person is keen to do that which will benefit him, and
pursue the means, and then the opposite of what he wanted happens, or what
he doesn’t want happens, he should not say “If only I had done such and
such, such and such would have happened,” because these words do not do any
good, rather they open the door to the shaytaan, and cause regret and make
one blame the divine decree. This is contrary to patience and acceptance of
the divine decree. Patience is obligatory, and belief in the divine decree
is obligatory. Then the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon
him) taught him to say beneficial words which imply belief in the divine
decree: “Qadara Allaah wa ma sha’a fa’ala (Allaah decrees and what He wills
He does”), because what Allaah decrees will inevitably come to pass, and
what is required is to submit and accept what has been decreed. What Allaah
wills He does, because His actions stem only from wisdom.
May Allaah have mercy on Ibn al-Qayyim (may Allaah have mercy
on him) who said: If a person misses out on something, one of two scenarios
must apply. He may have felt helpless, which is the work of the shaytaan,
who prompted him to say “If only”, but there is no benefit in that; rather
it is the key to blame.
The second scenario is studying and pondering the divine
decree; if something is decreed it could never miss him, and no one could
get it before him. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon
him) taught us that which will benefit a person whether he gets what he
wanted or not. He forbade us to say “if only” and told us that this opens
the door to the shaytaan, because it implies regret for what has passed,
grief, sorrow, and blaming the divine decree, and one is sinning thereby. It
is the work of the shaytaan. This does not apply only to the words “if
only”, rather it applies to the feelings in the heart that accompany it,
which are contrary to complete faith and open the door to the shaytaan.
This hadeeth which was narrated by Abu Hurayrah is something
which no one can do without. It implies affirmation of the divine decree,
affirmation of the role of human effort and true submission to Allaah
Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah (may Allaah have mercy on him)
said, concerning the meaning of this hadeeth: Do not be helpless in doing
what is enjoined and do not panic with regard to what is decreed.
Al-Irshaad ila Saheeh al-I’tiqaad wa’l-Radd ‘ala Ahl
al-Shirk wa’l-Ilhaad (p. 130-133).
For one who missed out on being taught when he was young, let
his regret for his negligence motivate him to invest what remains of his
life in learning. He should not feel weak and helpless and give up on
learning. The one who missed out on doing Hajj when he was young should
hasten to do Hajj at the first opportunity; he should not delay it any
longer. The same applies to all other acts of worship and good deeds that he
may have missed out on. He has to believe that this is the decree of Allaah;
he should not feel helpless, rather he should be strong and strive to do
that which will benefit him. If what he missed out on was due to his
sinning, then he should do what we have mentioned above, in addition to
repenting sincerely from sin, and asking his Lord to bless him with sound
faith and to help him to do and say that which He loves and which pleases
But we should point out to you that there is not only one
door to goodness, righteousness, guidance and success in Paradise and the
Hereafter. Rather there are many doors. The one who finds some branches of
knowledge too difficult for him can find other branches of knowledge that he
is able to learn, so he can make up for what he has missed out on with
regard to knowledge. If you are wealthy, then spend for the sake of Allaah
and strive for His sake with your wealth. If you are physically strong then
you can fast, for there is nothing like it. You can pray, for it is the best
thing. You can do Hajj and ‘Umrah. You can enjoin what is good and forbid
what is evil; you can recite dhikr and tasbeeh and read Qur’aan. There are
many ways of doing good, and everyone is guided to that for which he was
created and the one who is doomed has no one to blame but himself.
We ask Allaah to help you, guide you and make you steadfast
in doing good.
For more information please see the answers to questions no.
And Allaah is the source of strength.