The Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) is reported to have said in a hadith:
ثَلَاثٌ مَن كُنَّ فيه وجَدَ حَلَاوَةَ الإيمَانِ: أنْ يَكونَ اللّهُ ورَسولُهُ أحَبَّ إلَيْهِ ممَّا سِوَاهُمَا، وأَنْ يُحِبَّ المَرْءَ لا يُحِبُّهُ إلَّا لِلَّهِ، وأَنْ يَكْرَهَ أنْ يَعُودَ في الكُفْرِ كما يَكْرَهُ أنْ يُقْذَفَ في النَّارِ
“Whoever possesses the following three qualities will taste the sweetness of faith: (1) The one to whom Allah and His Messenger become most dear than anything else. (2) The one who loves a person only for the sake of Allah. (3)The one who hates to return to disbelief just as he hates to be cast into the fire.”
In this hadith, the Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) directs us towards three qualities, which if we possess, they will make us taste the sweetness of faith. Yes, faith has a particular taste which can be savored by the hearts in the same way the sweetness of foods and drinks can be sensed by the tongues. Just as the body cannot taste the sweetness of foods and drinks when it is sick and unhealthy, the hearts also cannot taste the sweetness of faith when they are afflicted with spiritual diseases, such as, forbidden desires, misguidance, lust, sins, etc. The hearts must be healthy just as the body needs to be healthy to sense taste.
What does it mean to taste the sweetness of faith? It means that whoever finds it will experience the following three things:
- The person will take delight in all acts of obedience to Allah. He/she will no longer feel burdened or bored by Allah’s commands, rather, he/she will look forward to them and actually enjoy engaging in them. This means the person will enjoy going to the mosque, giving charity, praying, making supplication, doing dhikr, fasting, reading Qur’an, avoiding sins, etc.
- The person will prefer his/her faith over low worldly aims. He/she will prefer to find opportunities to chase this sweetness rather than the temporary bitter worldly desires even if they may be sweet in the beginning. The person’s faith will become more important to him/her than anything else in the world.
- The person will be able to bear the hardships that come along the way for the sake of Allah. He/she will not feel defeated nor lose hope. He/she would realize that this world is only a test from Allah and that we are here just for a short while and that any hardship a believer feels in this world, whether physical, emotional, or psychological, it will wipe away some sins from his/her record as the Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) said, “There is nothing (in the form of hardship) that comes to a believer, even if it is the pricking of a thorn, except that Allah writes for him a good deed because of it or removes a sin” (Muslim). As long as such people have their faith by their side, they are strong enough to take on any challenge life throws their way because they realize that it is all coming from Allah, thus, they bear it with patience.
So what are these three qualities? Let’s delve into them a little deeper.
Allah and His Messenger Most Dear
The first quality means that such a person’s love for Allah and His Messenger is more than anything else. Whenever they are given a choice between what Allah and His Messenger want from them vs what others want from them, they will constantly choose to be with Allah and His Messenger over anyone else. For example, a person will refuse to earn his/her income in a prohibited manner, even though it may pay a lot more than their current job, because Allah and His Messenger forbade it.
The love of Allah can emerge in one’s heart by getting to know His Names and Attributes, reflecting over His creation, thinking about His favors and blessings, etc. All of this indicates Allah’s perfection, power, wisdom, and mercy. A person’s love for Allah will drive him/her to His obedience, abiding by His laws, and keeping away from His prohibitions.
The love of the Messenger (ﷺ) is a consequence of loving Allah. Loving the Messenger necessitates following and obeying him. It is obligatory on every Muslim to love the Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) and this love must exceed the love of anything else in their life including their family as the Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) said, “None of you will [truly] believe until I am more beloved to him than his father, child, and all of mankind” (Bukhari). One of the best ways to grow the love for him in the heart is to study his life.
Loving a Fellow Muslim Only for Allah’s Sake
The second quality is about loving one another solely for the sake of Allah. This is a form of love that believers have for each other, because they are all siblings of one another in faith and look out for each other as Allah states in the Qur’an, “The believers are but one brotherhood, so make peace between your brothers” (Qur’an 49:10). It is a type of no strings attached love. It is selfless. There are no expectations of some sort of worldly gains in return for it. It is purely for the sake of Allah.
When someone loves their brother/sister in faith solely for Allah’s sake, then this means that they seek to benefit each other, keep harm away from each other, advise each other, etc. If one of them sees another in trouble or going through something difficult, he/she tries to help and alleviate the difficulty to the best of his/her ability. They assist each other in doing good not just for the success of this life but also the afterlife, similarly, they assist each other in avoiding evil and sins. The Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) said, “A Muslim is a brother of [another] Muslim, he neither wrongs him nor hands him over to one who does him wrong. If anyone fulfills his brother’s needs, Allah will fulfill his needs; if one relieves a Muslim of his troubles, Allah will relieve his troubles on the Day of Resurrection; and if anyone covers up [the faults] of a Muslim, Allah will cover him [i.e. his faults] on the Day of Judgement” (Bukhari).
Hate to Return to Disbelief
The third and final quality is about the believer hating to return to a lifestyle of sin and disbelief just as he/she would hate to be thrown into the fire. When faith firmly takes root in the heart and the believer tastes its sweetness, then he/she cannot imagine being separated from it. The heart of such a believer cannot fathom leaving this sweetness for the bitterness of disbelief, disobedience, and sin that he/she used to engage in his/her previous days. This does not apply just to new Muslims, rather, it could also apply to Muslims who grew up non-practicing but then became close to their faith later on in life.
Some said that this last quality was stated by the Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) as a warning to the companions because they were new to the faith and some among them still had love for their previous lifestyles. Therefore, the Prophet (ﷺ) is making it clear to them that returning to that old lifestyle of disbelief is just like being thrown into the fire because that is the actual consequence in the afterlife for those who disbelieve. Similarly, a Muslim who goes back to a lifestyle of sin and disobedience after having repented is like he threw himself/herself into the fire.