“Do not say, ‘If only…'”: Imam al-Sa’di

Abu Hurayrah narrates that the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said:

ـ … وَإِنْ أَصَابَكَ شَىْءٌ فَلاَ تَقُلْ لَوْ أَنِّي فَعَلْتُ كَانَ كَذَا وَكَذَا ‏.‏ وَلَكِنْ قُلْ قَدَرُ اللَّهِ وَمَا شَاءَ فَعَلَ فَإِنَّ لَوْ تَفْتَحُ عَمَلَ الشَّيْطَانِ

“If something afflicts you, do not say, ‘If only I had done such-and-such…,’ rather say, ‘Allah decreed this and He does what He wishes.’ For the phrase ‘if only…’ opens up the work of the shaytaan.

[Saheeh Muslim #2664]

Commenting of the content matter of this hadeeth in his concise explanation of Kitaab al-Tawheed, Imam ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn Naasir al-Sa’di wrote the following points of clarification:

اعلم أن استعمال العبد للفظة: “لو” تقع على قسمين: مذموم ومحمود . ـ

Know that the slave’s use of the phrase “if only…” can fall into one of two categories: blameworthy or praiseworthy.

أما المذموم فأن يقع منه أو عليه أمر لا يحبه فيقول: لو أني فعلت كذا لكان كذا، فهذا من عمل الشيطان؛ لأن فيه محذورين: ـ

As for the blameworthy usage, it is when the slave does something or when something happens to him which he does not like and so he says, “If only I had done such-and-such then such-and-such would have happened” for this is from the work of the shaytaan, because it contains two things which are warned against:

أحدهما: أنها تفتح عليه باب الندم والسخط والحزن الذي ينبغي له إغلاقه، وليس فيها نفع. ـ

The first of them is that it opens the door of regret, discontentment, and grief upon him – a door which ought to stay shut, and there is no benefit in this.

الثاني: أن في ذلك سوء أدب على الله وعلى قدره، فإن الأمور كلها والحوادث دقيقها وجليلها بقضاء الله وقدره، وما وقع من الأمور فلا بد من وقوعه، ولا يمكن رده، فكان في قوله: لو كان كذا أو لو فعلت كذا كان كذا، نوع اعتراض ونوع ضعف إيمان بقضاء الله وقدره. ولا ريب أن هذين الأمرين المحذورين لا يتم للعبد إيمان ولا توحيد إلا بتركهما. ـ

The second is that this usage contains poor etiquette with Allah and with His divine decree. For all of the affairs and happenings – from the minute of them to the significant of them – occur by the ordainment and decree of Allah. Whatever events happen, then they were supposed to happen and it is not possible to prevent them. So in one’s saying “If only such-and-such had happened…” or “if only I had done such-and-such then such-and-such would have happened…” there is a kind of objection against and a type of weakness of eemaan in the ordainment and decree of Allah. And there is no doubt concerning these two warned against things that the slave does not complete his eemaan nor his tawheed unless and until he abandons both of these.

وأما المحمود من ذلك فأن يقولها العبد تمنيا للخير. كقوله صلى الله عليه وسلم: “لو استقبلت من أمري ما استدبرت ما سقت الهدي ولأهللت بالعمرة” . وقوله في الرجل المتمني للخير: “لو أن لي مثل مال فلان، لعملت فيه مثل عمل فلان”. و”لو صبر أخي موسى لقص الله علينا من نبأهما” أي في قصته مع الخضر. ـ ـ

But as for the praiseworthy usage of this phrase, it is that the slave would say it while wishing for good, such as the statement of the Prophet (ﷺ), “If only I had known what I came to know recently, I would not have driven the Hadi with me and I would have finished the state of Ihram along with the people when they finished it” [Saheeh al-Bukhari #7229]. Or his statement regarding the man who is wishful of doing good, “If only I had the likes of the wealth of so-and-so, then I would do the likes of the deeds of so-and-so with it” [al-Tirmidhi #2325, saheeh]. Or, “If only my brother Moosaa had been patient, that Allah might have told us more of their story” [al-Bukhari #3220 and Muslim #2380] – i.e., in regards to His time with al-Khadr.

وكما أن (لو) إذا قالها متمنيا للخير فهو محمود ، فإذا قالها متمنيا للشر فهو مذموم. فاستعمال (لو) تكون بحسب الحال الحامل عليها. ـ

So just as when the the phrase “if only…” is said while wishing for good is a praiseworthy usage, so then if it is said wishing for ill then it is a blameworthy usage. So the usage of the phrase “if only…” is according to the context in which it is used.

إن حمل عليها الضجر والحزن وضعف الإيمان بالقضاء والقدر أو تمنى الشر كان مذموما وإن حمل عليها الرغبة في الخير والإرشاد والتعليم كان محمودا . ـ

If it is used in the context of annoyance, grief, weakness of eemaan regarding the divine ordainment and decree or while wishing for ill, then it is blameworthy. But if it is used in the context of eagerly hoping for good or direction and instruction, then it is praiseworthy.

[al-Qawl al-Sadeed pg. 268-269, corresponding to chapter 56 of Sheikh Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhaab’s Kitaab al-Tawheed]

See also: The purpose of Allah’s creation: Imam al-Shinqitee

See also: No calamity occurs except that it is written in the Book of Decrees: Tafsir al-Sa’di

See also: A Refutation of Blaming Sins on Qadr: Tafsir al-Sa’di

4 thoughts on ““Do not say, ‘If only…'”: Imam al-Sa’di

  1. Pingback: No calamity occurs except that it is written in the Book of Decrees: Tafsir al-Sa’di | Tulayhah

  2. Pingback: A Refutation of Blaming Sins on Qadr: Tafsir al-Sa’di | Tulayhah

  3. may Allah reward you with jannah, but as for the number of the chapter in this link, arabic link, is in the chapter no 56 and the page is 268, only to be exactly in reference, or maybe you have another edition

    • Ameen, and for you as well! And may Allah reward you for pointing out my mistake on the chapter number. I may have been using a different edition for the page number, but since it has been a few years and I don’t quite remember, I have updated the reference to the edition available via Waqfeya with the page numbers that you provided. BaarakAllaahu feek

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