By Zainab Abaid
صِبْغَةَ اللَّهِ ۖ وَمَنْ أَحْسَنُ مِنَ اللَّهِ صِبْغَةً ۖ وَنَحْنُ لَهُ عَابِدُونَ
There is a bewildering array of lifestyles all around us in this world. Every lifestyle represents a unique set of behaviors, values and beliefs. If we think of each of these lifestyles as representing a different color of the spectrum, then the society we live in is a colorful place indeed. All around us, we see rich, vibrant hues – a million different colors, calling to a million different slogans, and a million different lifestyles. We were born into this dazzling array of color, and as we grow up, we find ourselves blinded by their brilliance, not knowing where to go, which color to follow, and which call to heed. There are the wild, bold colors of western society, calling us to fun and freedom, and to living life unfettered, ruled only by our desires. Then there are the soft, pastel hues of the East, representing a life of modesty, of living a life in the strict bounds of culture, ruled by family traditions and demands of your society, however outdated. There are the fresh, bright colors of childhood, of innocence and discovery, and the colors of youth, the wildest and brightest colors of the spectrum, the hues of dreams and emotions and energies at their very peak. There are the effervescent hues of wealth and prosperity, and the dull grays and browns of poverty. The duniya calls to us – a mirage of sparkling, shimmering color, and above everything, at all times, hangs the shadow of imminent death – the dull white mist threatening to shroud every color of life.
Born into this dazzling variety, it is difficult indeed to tear ourselves away from the shimmer and glitter of the colors of duniya, of the hundred different lifestyles that beckon to us all at once. It is difficult to bleach off the color we have grown up in, and adopt a different color entirely.
But in all the beauty and glow of the world, in all its shining colors, there is not a single one so beautiful, so rich, so vibrant, and so completely mesmerizing, that its beauty cannot be described in words – it can only be experienced, and then only by donning it. That loveliest of colors is what the Quran calls sibghatallah – the Color of Allah.
What is the Color of Allah? The meaning is not literal, of course, but refers to a lifestyle steeped in His obedience, a life lived purely and completely for Him, in which He is the center we revolve around and all others pale in comparison to Him – a life where He alone is the object of all our desires and emotions and our love.
Who does not want to escape the toil and turmoil and the sheer pretentiousness of our lives? Who does not want to replace the constantly shifting, restless hues by one, strong, lovely shade, the Color of Allah? Let us see then, how to accomplish this: how to dye ourselves completely in the Color of Allah.
To understand the concept better, we shall use an analogy – the analogy of a dyer dyeing a piece of cloth. Let us see what the fabric-dyeing process teaches us about coloring our own hearts and souls.
Identifying the Nature of the Fabric:
Sometimes you go to the dyer with a piece of cloth and he tells you with an apology that it cannot be dyed; there is something with the structure of the cloth that prevents it from accepting any dye at all. Such a cloth is rejected outright. When we start to walk the path towards Allah, we need to make sure that we are ready to accept a new color and give up the old ones. We need to be ready to sacrifice everything we have and all we are to become the person Allah wants us to become.
Secondly, the cloth has to be strong enough to withstand the dyeing process, because as we shall see, this process places great strain on the cloth, and we certainly do not want it to disintegrate in the middle of the process. We similarly have to be strong and perseverant when walking on Allah’s path – we cannot give up each time we face a small hurdle; we cannot fall to pieces and refuse to move forward when we face criticism or a teacher’s scolding or any kind of trial. We have to be strong enough to go through the whole process.
The first thing the dyer does is to bleach the fabric to remove the color it was dyed earlier; only then it can be dyed in the required new color. The bleaching process must be a painful one for the cloth, and requires a strong cloth to withstand it. Similarly, when we want to dye ourselves in the Color of Allah, we have to remove all earlier traces of all the other colors of the world – we have to rinse off our old prejudices, ideologies, beliefs and the lingering memories of sins. We have to cleanse our heart completely, repent for the error of our old ways, and hand ourselves completely over to Allah. We submit ourselves, like Ibrahim AS did, when he said:
أَسْلَمْتُ لِرَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ
“I have submitted [in Islam] to the Lord of the worlds.” (2:131)
Now we are Allah’s to mould as He wishes, just as the bleached cloth is now the dyer’s to dye as he wishes.
Identifying and Preparing the New Required Color:
Now the dyer needs to know exactly what color the cloth is required to be, and then prepare the chemical solution to dye the cloth in. Similarly, when adopting the color of Allah, we need knowledge of what He wants from us – knowledge of what it really means to be on Allah’s path. What lifestyle are we required to have? What activities do we have to stop and which ones do we have to adopt?
Immersing and Boiling the Cloth in the Dye:
This is the crucial stage in the fabric dyeing process. The cloth has to be fully immersed in the dye, and not just that, but it also has to be boiled in that solution for some time. The chemical is harsh and strong-smelling, not to mention boiling hot, so this again must be a painful process for the poor cloth. For us, immersing ourselves fully in Allah’s teachings is equally important, for there is nothing such as “partial” Islam – to practice Islam means to submit, and to submit every one of your desires completely to Allah, as we are told in the Quran:
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا ادْخُلُوا فِي السِّلْمِ كَافَّةً
“O you who have believed, enter into Islam completely…” (2:208)
We have to sink completely into a new lifestyle, no resistance to any aspect of it. Further, like the cloth that is boiled for quite some time, we also need to stick to our efforts for sufficient time; otherwise, the color will not last. Attending one talk or studying a couple of surahs is not enough; we have to stick with our commitment for all 114 surahs, and even after that. Most important, we need to remember that the dyeing process requires boiling – we may get praise in this path, but we will also suffer hardship. Trials and tribulations will rain on us, and it will be painful, but if we want the dye to be strong and permanent, we have to persevere.
This point is often hard, and many people give up in this very stage. You have to leave behind desires, favorite pastimes, old routines, and easygoing lifestyles, and enter into a new life altogether. For some, the fear of becoming a social misfit drives them off at this point, for people who adopt the Color of Allah seldom fit in with all the other colors in society, and with family and friends.
At this crucial stage, another thing the dyer needs is total focus – the slightest lapse of concentration can result in a severe, often irreversible mistake. We need similar focus when trying to understand the Word of Allah and when trying to tread His path – we cannot get to the spirit of Islam unless we focus fully on what we are required to do.
Testing the Color:
Now, once the cloth is dyed and ready, the dyer compares it with the ordered color – it needs to be a one hundred percent match to satisfy the customer. If the color is not quite what was required, he will again dip it into the dye and again boil it, until the required result is achieved. Similarly, when we think we have acquired the color of Allah – when we think we have become true, sincere Muslims – then we must prepare ourselves for tests. Hundreds of times along this path our faith will be tested, our priorities will be tested – Allah will send difficulties our way to make sure that the color does not fade when put under strenuous conditions. And if we do fail in our tests, then the dyeing process must be performed again, and again and again, until we truly emerge pure and sincere, and exactly the kind of people Allah wants us to be. And if still we fail, and we cling to our old colors and refuse to accept Allah’s color, then remember that no one has any use for a mismatched garment, and it is either made into a dust cloth or thrown away.
Once the cloth is dyed and ready, and the color is perfect, there are certain precautions you need to take:
You have to protect the cloth from stains of other colors – there are so many other colors being dyed in society, just as there are so many different colors being dyed at the dyer’s. Allah’s color needs to be pure, pristine – no other color must get mixed into it. For us, that means simply that all the other ideals and philosophies and all the warped notions of right and wrong going around in society should not affect our concepts – they must remain clear and based always on the Quran and Sunah.
Secondly, when we dye another color on top of the one that has already been dyed, the cloth usually comes out looking ugly. So we should not keep changing colors like a chameleon, influenced by others around us – stick to one color, the most beautiful of all colors, the color of Allah.
Third, the color should be fast – not like the cloth that looks beautiful when it is dyed, but fades out in one wash – it should remain strong no matter how many time it mixes with cloths of other colors. We need to make sure that once we have adopted the color of Allah, the environment does not make us fade – for faded colors hold no vibrancy, no attraction and no usefulness.
Why be afraid of adopting this honored lifestyle? Why are so many of us afraid to show the color that has seeped into our hearts? Why are we not proud of it? Reason: Shaitan has made this duniya so very appealing to us, that we cannot see anything else as beautiful. Either that, or that we have never opened the Quran to see the true beauty of the colors of Islam – we have never truly let its beauty into our souls, clouded as our minds are by the illusions of duniya. The answer to all those doubts, and every single one of our fears, is given by Allah in this very verse
وَمَنْ أَحْسَنُ مِنَ اللَّهِ صِبْغَةً
When there is no other color even close to the beauty of Allah’s color, then we need to ask ourselves: what is stopping us from immersing ourselves in this beautiful lifestyle? Rush to it, embrace it, immerse yourself in it, and display it to the world!