“Riza” Or Joyous Submission to His Will

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“Riza” Or Joyous Submission to His Will  (1921) 
by Abu Hamid al-Ghazālī, translated by Syed Nawab Ali
Translated in 1921 as part of Some Religious and Moral Teachings.
“Riza” Or Joyous Submission to His Will[1]

Riza is the quintessence of love and is one of the highest stages of the favoured few. But some doubt its existence, saying, How can man be joyous for what is against his own will. He may submit to God’s will, but it does not follow that he also shares the feeling of joy. We shall discuss the nature of Riza and prove its existence.

Let us first turn to the Quran and the Hadis. “Allah has promised to the believing man and the believing women gardens, beneath which rivers flow, to abide in them, and goodly dwellings in gardens of perpetual abode and best of all is Allah’s goodly pleasure-that is the grand achievement”.[2] In this passage God’s pleasure (Rizwan) is described as best of all blessings. In another passage this blessing is also bestowed on those who joyfully submit to his will. “Allah is well pleased with them and they are well pleased with him; that is for him who fears his Lord.”[3] Who fear the beneficent God in secret and come with a penitent heart, enter it in peace that is the day of abiding. They have therein what they wish and with us is more yet.” Some commentators while commenting on the words in italics say that three gifts will be given in paradise: (i) a rare gift of which “no soul knows (in this world) what is hidden for them of that which will refresh the eyes”.[4] (ii) The salutation as mentioned in the Quran: “Peace (Salam) a word from the merciful Lord”.[5] (iii) His goodly grace and pleasure as mentioned in “wa Rizwanumminallahi akbar” (and best of all is Allah’s goodly pleasure).

The Prophet once asked some of his companions to point out the signs of the faith which they professed. “O apostle of God,” said the companions, “we are patient in tribulations, grateful in felicity and pleased with what is ordained”. “Ye are Muslims” said the Prophet. Again the Prophet said: “Ye who are poor be pleased with what God has put you in and then you shall have your reward”.

Let us discuss the nature of Riza. Those who deny the existence of Riza, saying that man can be patient in sufferings but joyous submission to His will is not possible, really deny the existence of love and its all-absorbing nature. A lover always loves his beloved’s actions. Now this love of actions is of two kinds: (1) Redemption from the experience of pain caused in mental or physical suffering.

Experience shows that many warriors while enraged do not feel the pain of their wounds, and know it only when they see blood gushing from them. Even when a man is engaged in some action which absorbs his attention, the pain of a thorn pricking him will not be felt. If then in such cases-and there are many such-pain is not felt, will it not be possible that a devotee who is absorbed in him does not feel pain, which in his belief is inflicted by his beloved?

Or (2) although pain is felt, he would desire it just as a patient who feels the pain caused by the surgeon’s lancet is glad to be operated upon and is pleased with the surgeon’s action. Similarly he who firmly believes that tribulations are like God-sent curatives will be pleased with them and be thankful to God. Anyone who ponders over the nature of the above mentioned kinds and then in the light of them reads the lives and the sayings of the lovers of God, will, I believe, be convinced of the existence of Riza.

Saint Basher, son of Harith, narrates the story: In the Sharkia Lane of Baghdad, I saw a man who received a thousand stripes, but did not cry in his agony. He was then sent to prison and I followed him. “Why have you been punished so mercilessly?” I asked. “Because they have found out the secret of my love”. “But why were you so strangely quiet while you were punished so severely”, I asked in astonishment. “Because”, answered the poor fellow with a sigh, “She was looking at me from her balcony”. “Oh that you might see the true Beloved”, I murmured. Hearing this, his colour at once changed, and with a loud cry he fell dead.

The same saint tells another story: “While I was a student of Sufiism I went to Jazirai Abbadan,[6] where I saw a blind epileptic leper, lying on the ground while worms were eating his flesh. I sat by his side and placed his head on my lap and spoke gently to him. When he came to his senses, he spoke: ‘Who is this stranger who comes between me and my Lord. Even if each and every limb is severed from my body, I will love Him.’ That scene of Riza, says the saint, I shall never forget; it is a life-long lesson for me.”

It is said that Christ once saw a blind forlorn leper who was praying: “Blessed art thou, O Lord, who hast saved me from such maladies which have overtaken many of us”. “Art thou not in misery” asked Christ, “Tell me which is that malady which has not overtaken thee” “Thank God”, cried the leper, “I am not like him who does not know God”. “You are right”, said Christ, “Give me your hand”. And the breath of Christ instantly healed the leper, and he became one of his followers.

The Prophet’s companion Said bin Wakas,[7] lost his eyesight in old age, and resigning his post returned to Mecca. People flocked to him for blessing as he was known to be one whose prayers were always heard. Says Abdullah bin Said: “I was then a mere boy; I too went to pay my respects to the venerable Said. He spake kindly to me and blessed me. Then I said: ‘Uncle, how is it that you who are praying for everybody would not pray for the restoration of your eyesight?’ ‘My son’, answered Said with a smile, ‘to be pleased with His sweet will is better than eyesight”.

Some people went to see Shibli[8] at Maristan, where he was imprisoned. “Who are you?” asked the saint. “Friends”, they all replied with one voice. Hearing this Shibli fetched some stones and began to throw them at them, and they all fled calling him a madman. “What’s this”, exclaimed Shibli, “You call yourselves my friends but if you are sincere, bear patiently what ye receive from me,” and then he sang: “His love has turned my brain. Have you ever seen a lover who is not intoxicated with love?”

These narratives point out that Riza or joyous submission to God’s will is possible and is one of the highest stages to which the souls of true devotees could aspire. People believe in eccentricities of Cupid’s votaries but give no ear to the ecstasies of the true lovers of God. Perhaps they have no eyes to look at the manifestation of His beauty; no ears to listen to the music of His love, no heart to gaze at and enjoy His sweet presence. Perhaps they are proud of their learning and think too much of their good deeds but they have no idea of humble and broken hearts.

A certain nobleman of Bustam, comely in appearance and lordly in bearing, used to attend the sermons of saint Bayazid of Bustam.[9] One day he said to the saint: “For thirty years I have been keeping fasts waking for the whole night and offering my prayers, but still I do not find in me the animating force of what you teach, although I believe in it and cherish love for you.” “Thirty years”: ejaculated the saint: “Why for three hundred years if you do as you have done till now you will not have a bit of it.” “How is that?” asked the astonished nobleman. “Because” answered the saint “the veil of your egotism has fallen heavily on your mind’s eye” The chief then asked the saint to tell him of some remedy, but he declined saying that the chief would not like to take it. “But do tell me”, entreated the nobleman, “And I will try my best to follow your kind advice”, “Listen then”, calmly answered the saint, “This very moment go to the barber, get your head and beard shaven, take off this apparel, and gird your loins with a piece of blanket; gather children round you and tell them that whosoever gives you a slap with the hand will get a walnut; pass through the throngs in all the bazars, followed by those children and then show yourself to your intimate friends”.

“Subhan Allah” exclaimed the chief “Do you say that to me”. “Hold thy tongue”, retorted the saint, ‘thy Subhan Allah is blasphemy’.” “How is that”, asked the chief. “Because,” replied the saint, “you uttered Subhan Allah not for any reverence for the Holy Being but out of respect for your own vain self”. “Well”, said the chief, “tell me some other remedy, please”. “Try this remedy first”, continued the saint. “I cannot do so,” rejoined the chief. “There you are”, spoke the saint finally, “Did I not tell you that you would not like the remedy.”

Our egoistic tendencies impede the progress of our souls towards higher virtues, and hence some of us go the length of denying the possiblity of their existence. Let the lives of the true lovers of God be our guide.

Original footnotes[edit]

  1. Ihya IV 6.
  2. Quran IX 72.
  3. Quran XCVIII 8.
  4. Quran XXXII 17.
  5. Quran XXXVI 58.
  6. In Tigris.
  7. He conquered Persia the in time of the Khalifa Omar.
  8. The Arabs address elders in this way.
  9. One of the most renowned of the early Sufis. His grandfather was a Magian who accepted Islam. He was born in 777 and died at a great age in 878
This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1923. It may be copyrighted outside the U.S. (see Help:Public domain).