In Practical Irfan, in the station of Observance (Ri’aayah), the 3rd stage of this station is Ri’aayatul Awqaat (Observance of Time). The idea of this stage was that: ‘in the back of our minds, we might believe that its true that God gave me the blessing to do a certain good deed, but that is because I must have deserved it. However, this stage teaches us to believe that we do not deserve it’.
How do we reconcile this Ri’aayatul Awqaat teaching with an Ayah such as: ‘And God does not change what is in a people until they change themselves’. It seems that there must be initial effort and action from our part, in order to put ourselves in a position to deserve the change God is referring to in the above Ayah? Please explain this paradox.
Thanks for your thoughtful question.
“To have a right over someone to deserve something one must own something that he/she gives to others and in lieu of that he/she deserves something else. For example, you own a vehicle which is yours and you give it to someone else, and in return, you deserve a payment equal to its value.
But we are all ‘needy’ and we don’t own anything before God to give Him and deserve something in return. No matter what we do before Him, its all from Him. If He didn’t give us life, health and opportunities for worshipping Him, how could we worship Him? Thus, all our capitals are from Him, then He asks us to invest them in His way, so that He rewards us for it. Therefore, although our efforts are required, but we never deserve anything ,because its all from Him.
To this end, Imam Sajjad in his supplication says: يا مبتدأ بالنعم قبل استحقاقها (o You who initiates the blessings before deserving them). Also, please read the supplication of Imam Sajjad (a.s) in Sahifa about Shokr. You’ll find clear insights in it about the topic.
Sheikh Mansour Leghaei