Signposts on the seeker’s highway
If one wants to know whether one is climbing upwards toward success, there are certain signs and indications that can help him to determine his progress.
1. As one becomes more knowledgeable, one becomes more humble and merciful to others. Think of an expensive pearl: the more heavy and valuable it is, the deeper it is in the ocean. A wise person knows that though knowledge is a gift, Allah tests the one whom He gives it to. When one is thankful for the gift of knowledge, one will be raised in ranking.
Allah will exalt in degree those of you who believe and those who have been granted knowledge. (Qur’an 58: 11)
2. The more one performs good deeds; the more one becomes cautious and fearful, in the sense that he does not feel secure from error, such as a slip of the tongue or a change of heart. He is always in a state of watching over himself and of being wary. He is like a careful bird: each time it lands on a tree, it soon leaves it for another, afraid of the skilled hunter and his bullet.
3. The older one gets the less covetous should one be for this world, for he comes to know with certainty that his time is soon finished.
4. The wealthier one becomes the more generous should one be towards others. The wealthy Muslim must understand that his wealth is a trust given to him, and that Allah is testing him in that wealth.
5. The higher one’s status becomes in society, the closer should he be to ordinary people, showing humility and fulfilling their needs.
But there are also signs that indicate wretchedness:
1. The more knowledge one attains the haughtier and arrogant he becomes. Such a person’s knowledge is not beneficial. His heart is empty and his company is heavy to bear.
2. The more he increases in deeds, the more proud he becomes and the more contemptuous he becomes of others. He doesn’t give the benefit of the doubt to anyone except to his own self. Thus, he deems that he is the only one who achieves salvation while all others are bound for destruction.
3. The older he gets, the more avarice and cupidity become part of his character. He gathers, but he never shares. Calamities and misfortune fail to move him into becoming a benefactor to others.
4. The wealthier he becomes, the more miserly he becomes with his money.
5. The higher his position in society, the higher his level of arrogance and haughtiness. The Prophet (Blessings and Peace be upon him) said:
“The arrogant ones will be gathered on the Day of Judgment in the form of small ants. People will trample on them with their feet.”
In each of the points discussed above, I mentioned some of Allah’s favors, favors by which He tests His slaves: some of those slaves will pass the test while others will fail it.