By Dr. Shadee Elmasry
You wanted something so badly but couldn't have it. For whatever reason. But you left it solely for the sake of Allah. Maybe the means to it was haram. Maybe the thing itself was questionable. Or maybe it was all fine and good except that it had a negative repercussion on someone else, and you couldn't bear harming them, so you abandoned it. Maybe it was none of these things and you were simply robbed of something you loved.
In all of these cases, Allah recognizes the difficulty, a lot of times pain, of losing something or willingly leaving it off because it was the right thing to do.
He rewards it in the following:
"Nobody ever leaves something for the sake of Allah, except that Allah compensates him with something better" (Musnad Ahmad).
What a sweet hadith. This is the elixir that heals hearts. The more you think about this hadith and say it to yourself, it actually converts pain into the wonderful sensation of expectation. "I can't imagine anything better than what I just had to let go of, and yet Allah is telling me something better is on the way. I can't imagine what it is, but I believe His promise."
Nothing is sweeter than expectation.
In most cases, the promise is of the same genus as the thing we sacrificed. For example, if a thief abandoned stealing, then his compensation would also be in the form of wealth. It is said that Prophet Sulayman sacrificed some beautiful horses that were distracting him from his prayers, and so Allah gave him the miracle of the wind to ride on. The Companions sacrificed their homes in Mecca and their security in Madina, and so Allah gave them the world through their various conquests.
When can I expect this compensation? There are no rules here. It could be a long time or a short time. Every case differs. We're left in suspense. All we're told is to expect the best from The Most Generous.
We may not realize it, but we are already being compensated and given. Just the idea that our pain is transformed into expectation is a huge gift. The "uns" or feeling of intimacy with Allah, that He recognizes our sacrifice, and promises something better... through all these thoughts, we are diving into the oceans of iman, belief, remembrance, and having a positive opinion of our Lord, and the fate He's written for us. One's iman increases and your emotional state becomes bright and happy.
An important point: the Prophet ﷺ said "When you experience delay in your request, do not rush it by seeking it sinfully, for Allah's bounty is only gained through obedience" (Tabarani).
And in another, "A servant may be denied some of his rizq due to sins."
Lastly, a believer never forgets the reality of the Akhira or Afterlife. Any discussion of a matter without mention of akhira is deficient. Some people, like the blind or the paralyzed, have to wait until the next life. Thus, while we are encouraged to expect the best from Allah, we have to keep the perspective of dunya (finite) and akhira (eternal).