Following Desires

‘Following desires’ is to follow what the ‘self’ desires, Allah, the Most High, said: “And those who follow desires wish that you deviate greatly.” (al-Nisa 4:27) wherein He made repentance (tawbah) the opposite to following desires, meaning He wants to forgive us. In other words, Allah prefers repentance for us, is pleased with it, and commands it. The ones referred to in this part of the ayah are the deviated “… for you to deviate greatly”, meaning they want to deviate us from the Straight Path and take us to the path of following desires. Indeed, deviation is inevitable for those who follow desires, just as the Prophet, may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him, said: “Be on the straight path, although you won’t be able to, and know that the best of your actions is the prayer, one will not persevere in maintaining ritual ablution except the Believer.” (Ibn Majah 277)

Thus the Prophet, may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him, informed us that it is very difficult to uphold the Straight Path or imagine its reward. Allah, the Most High, said: “And you will never be able to be equal between wives even if you desire to. So do not incline completely towards one thus leaving the other suspended.” (al-Nisa 4:129) His statement, “…incline completely” means ‘the utmost of inclination’, ‘swerving from the path’ and ‘deviation from the evenness of the path to the utmost of evil’. Therefore if you ever experience that, then take a middle course and return to the path through repentance.

This is just like the statement of the Prophet, may Allah’s peace and blessing be upon him, “The example of a believer is like a horse in his corral – he wanders then returns to his corral. As such a believer wanders then returns to his Lord.” (Musnad Ahmad 11335)

Allah the Exalted, said: “And hasten to the forgiveness of your Lord and a Paradise as wide as the Heavens and the Earth prepared for those who fear Allah.” (Al-Imran 3:133) to where He said: “And how excellent a reward for those who work.” (Al-Imran 3:136) In these verses, He does not say: ‘those who do not transgress’ or ‘those who do not commit sins’, rather He said: “When they commit lewdness or transgress against themselves.” (Al-Imran 3:135) In other words, he mentioned that there is a sin other than lewdness as he linked the general term to the specific. It is just as Prophet Musa, may Allah’s peace be upon him, said: “My Lord, indeed I have wronged myself.” (al-Qasas 28:16) and Balqis said: “My Lord, indeed I have wronged myself.” (al-Naml 27:44), and He, the Exalted, said in general about the people of the destroyed towns: “And We wronged them not, rather they wronged themselves.” (Hud 11:101) meaning that they wronged themselves by their commission of what they were prohibited from, their disobedience of their Prophets, and their neglect of repentance.

Allah, the Exalted, said: “They remember Allah then seek forgiveness for their sins.” (Al-Imran 3:155) and due to this He said: “And Allah wishes to turn to you in forgiveness.” (al-Nisa 4:27) and He said: “Allah wishes to lighten for you as man was created weak.” (al-Nisa 4:28) Mujahid and others said: ‘They followed the desires of fornication’. Ibn Zayd said: ‘They are the people of falsehood’. Al-Suddi said: ‘They are the Jews, Christians and all other interpretations are correct, for indeed those who follow desires along with disbelief, or do so while recognising that it was a sin’.

Then He mentioned that man was created weak, and the context of the ayah indicates that he is weak to abandon desire, thus it is inevitable for him to have permissible desires to suffice in keeping away from what is prohibited.

Tawus and Muqatil said: ‘Weak in the sense of being unable to overcome his desire for women’.

Al-Zajjaj and Ibn Kaysan said: ‘Weak in resolve regarding subduing own whims’. And it is said: ‘Weak in the root of his creation because he was created from a contemptible liquid’; that is transmitted on authority of al-Hasan, however undoubtedly along with that it is deemed that he is weak in terms of patience in order to confirm with what is mentioned in the ayah: “Allah wished to lighten for you.” (al-Nisa 4:28)

It is the lightening of a commandment in that He permits you what you have a need for and are not able to be patient about. Like He permitted marriage to slave girls, and before that He said: “For whoever fears hardship among you, and to be patient is better for you. And Allah is forgiving, merciful.” (al-Nisa 4:25) Thus along with His permitting marriage to slave girls upon locking the strength and fearing hardship, He glorified is He, said: “And to be patient is better for you.” (al-Nisa 4:25) This demonstrates that one is capable of patience despite fearing hardship and that this marriage is not like the permissibility of carcasses at the point of starvation, for indeed one is not able to be patient at that point.

Gardens of Purification by Ibn Taymiyyah Pages 40-45