A Heartfelt Plea
Reassessing our expectations and hopes
Haji Muhammad Imran Attari
Everyone has expectations of others around them, and examples of this are all around us. For instance, parents have expectations of their children. In the same way, children harbour certain expectations of their parents. Siblings have expectations of one another, as do married couples, managers and employees, students and teachers, Shaykhs and disciples (mureedeen), as well as mentors and mentees. However, the nature and scope of expectations vary in each case. It is more advantageous for us to keep realistic expectations, based on the nature and circumstances of each situation, whilst ensuring these expectations are kept within the parameters of Islam.
A common mistake made by many people, is that they themselves end up being the cause of people not meeting the very expectations they had. Figuratively speaking, it is our character that blows the autumn wind on the orchard of our expectations, causing its leaves to wither and its flowers to fall to the ground, which are then trampled beneath our feet. Children who do not serve their parents and are disobedient to them, somehow expect that when they become parents, their children will serve them and be obedient to them. Similarly, parents lead their children to engage in acts whereby they are disobeying their Lord, but at the same time, they expect their children to obey them and look after them in old age. Another example is how some people swear, lie, backbite, miss Salah and commit indecent acts before their children, but then expect their children to remain distant from all evils and follow the path of righteousness.
Such examples are also observable in the case of spouses. A husband may not fulfil the rights of his wife which he is required to do so in Islam. Despite this, he expects her to fulfil his rights.
The same issue occurs in the case of employees who do not complete the work assigned to them or do so incompetently. They may even take days off continuously and make a habit of arriving late. Despite this, they expect to be treated generously by their boss and receive their full wage.
Likewise, some students do not put in any effort, do not complete their work, arrive late to the madrasah, disrespect their teachers and books. Oblivious to all this, they still expect to succeed in life.
Many disciples also do not follow the instructions of their Shaykh and fall short in fulfilling his rights. However, they still expect to gain spiritual blessings from the him.
Parallel to these examples, is the example of those who do not sympathise with people facing hardships and worries. And yet, when such people encounter similar problems themselves, they expect others to be sympathetic towards them and aid them.
Likewise, some people always sin. Instead of obeying the command of their Lord, they spend their life enslaved by their lower self (nafs). However, they simultaneously expect Allah Almighty to be merciful to them.
The final Prophet of Allah صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم said: ‘The wise person is the one who takes himself to account (in the world) and works for what is to come after death, and the foolish one is he who follows the desires of his lower self (nafs). and yet hopes to attain the blessings of the Hereafter from Allah Almighty.’
Mufti Ahmad Yar Khan رَحْمَةُ الـلّٰـهِ عَـلَيْه states: ‘Hope is where a person performs good deeds and is hopeful of His (Allah Almighty’s) grace; having hope while committing immoral acts is deception, not hope.’
Having realistic expectations
One problem also lies in how people have unrealistic expectations, which usually results in one of two issues. The first is where the individual regarding whom there are great expectations, experiences hardship and worry in meeting them. The second is where expectations are not met, resulting in the one who had high hopes becoming disheartened and stressed. For example, some parents expect their children to gain 100% marks in their exams or attain the highest marks in their class. Similarly, a child desiring to pursue a career in engineering may be pressured into studying medicine and becoming a doctor due to family expectations. Another example would be of someone whose salary is £1,000 per month being left with only £100 after subtracting household expenses, gas and electricity bills and transportation costs; and yet, this individual’s spouse has expectations which are beyond his means, such as saving money in a monthly committee scheme, going out to eat on a weekly basis, or demanding a new set of clothes for every wedding function and family event. Likewise, some employees are given a wage of £1,000 a month, and yet they are expected to produce the same results as someone being paid £2,000.
Just as it is foolish to expect a vehicle to travel for 100 miles when a person has only put in fuel sufficient for travelling 50 miles, it is also unwise to expect things from people which are beyond their means. It is better for us to lower our worldly hopes instead of increasing them. Once, someone had a dream of Sayyiduna Zurarah ibn Abi Awfaa رَحْمَةُ الـلّٰـهِ عَـلَيْه after his passing and asked him: ‘In your opinion, which action has a high status?’ He replied: ‘Having trust (Tawakkul) in your Lord and lowering one’s expectations.’
Have hope in your Lord
Someone spending in the way of Allah Almighty should hope for reward from Him, instead of seeking words of praise from others. An ill person should take medicine but hope for cure from Allah Almighty. Someone locking his shop, car and house and taking other safety measures should still hope for protection being granted by his Lord. People should pursue all avenues for their children to become pious, but hope in Allah Almighty that they become as such. Someone performing good deeds should hope for being granted salvation in the grave and on the Day of Judgement through the grace of Allah Almighty. One benefit of placing your hope in your Lord is observable from the saying of the Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم: ‘Allah Almighty states: ‘Oh, son of Adam! As long as you call upon Me and have hope in Me, I shall continue to forgive your sins, and it does not make a difference to Me.’’
A great example of hope and fear
Here is an example illustrating the hope and fear a person should have in the world regarding his Lord.
The first Caliph of the Muslims Sayyiduna Abu Bakr al-Siddeeq رَضِىَ الـلّٰـهُ عَـنْهُ once said: ‘If someone was to call out from the heavens that only one person will enter Paradise, then I have hope that it will be me. And if a voice was to call out from the heavens that only one person will enter Hell, I fear that it might also be me.’ After narrating this saying, Sayyiduna Mutarrif ibn Abdullah رَحْمَةُ الـلّٰـهِ عَـلَيْه said: ‘By Allah! This is a great example of being fearful of Allah Almighty and having hope in His mercy.’
I have a request for all Muslims: If you want to escape sorrows and worries, reassess your expectations and character. Build realistic expectations. Focus on lowering your worldly expectations and hopes. Expect and hope for great things from your Merciful Lord.
May Allah Almighty grant us the ability to act upon this.
اٰمِیْن بِجَاہِ النَّبِیِّ الْاَمِیْن صَلَّی اللہ تَعَالٰی عَلَیْہِ وَاٰلہٖ وَسَلَّم