وَإِذْ يَرْفَعُ إِبْراهِيمُ الْقَواعِدَ مِنَ الْبَيْتِ وَإِسْماعِيلُ رَبَّنا تَقَبَّلْ مِنَّا إِنَّكَ أَنْتَ السَّمِيعُ الْعَلِيمُ
Wa-idh yarfa‘u Ibrāhīmul-qawā‘ida minal bayti wa Ismā‘īlu rabbanā taqabbal minnā innaka antasamī‘ul-‘alīm
As Ibrāhīm raised the foundations of the House with Ismā‘īl [they prayed]: Our Lord, accept it from us! Indeed, You are the All-hearing, the All-knowing.
(Sūrat al-Baqarah, No. 2, Āyat 127)
Seeking acceptance is part of human nature. We see this in infants who repeat certain actions like smiling or specific facial expressions when they receive positive affirmation. It continues as we enter adolescence through doing things that will help us be accepted by our peers and avoiding those actions that earn their disapproval. By the time we enter adulthood we find that seeking acceptance, whether it be of our spouses, bosses or friends, becomes an ingrained faculty that governs many of our actions. As such our emotional and mental happiness becomes dependent upon what others think of us.
There are many issues that arise from constantly seeking acceptance of others. For example, we may change or soften our positions on issues based on someone’s approval or disapproval. We might be insincere by paying fake compliments to others to gain their approval. We may engage in gossip just to fit in. So how do we stop this approval-seeking behavior? The truth of the matter is we can’t stop seeking acceptance as it is part of our pre-programmed creation, it is a quality that is seen from the time of infancy. However, the reason we have been created this way is because Allah ‘azza wajall wants us to seek His acceptance, not the acceptance of His creatures. This truth was understood by Prophets Ibrāhīm and Ismā‘īl (peace be upon them), who after building the Ka‘ba prayed to Allah subhānahu wata‘ālā saying: Our Lord, accept it from us! Indeed, You are the All-hearing, the All-knowing (Q 2:127).
A similar plea of acceptance can also be found in the supplication of Hanna, the mother of Bibi Maryam ‘alayhas-salām, when she dedicates her unborn child to Allah. She prays: Accept it from me; Indeed You are the All-hearing, the All-knowing (Q 3:35). After the baby is born, Allah answers her supplication and accepts her baby. He says: So her Lord accepted her with a gracious acceptance and made her grow up in a worthy fashion, and He charged Zakariyyā with her care (Q 3:37).
Seeking the acceptance of Allah (swt) is essential and fundamental since it is He who has created us, sustains us, and will judge us. It is important that we are accepted by Him. How do we know if our actions are being accepted by Allah ‘azza wajall? We have been provided with certain criteria for acceptance that we should try to live by. They are:
· Become God-conscious. Allah (swt) says in the Holy Quran: Allah accepts only from the God-conscious (Q 5:27). God-consciousness is always to remember Allah, especially when we find ourselves in a crossroads between our desires and the command of Allah. When we prefer Allah over ourselves, one of the results of such a decision is that our actions will be accepted by Allah, even if the outcome may not be what we had intended.
· Be sincere. It is narrated that Imam al-Sādiq (a) said: God the Almighty said, ‘I am the best partner. I do not accept any act in which you take partners besides Me. I only accept deeds which are sincerely done for Me’. (Mishkāt al-Anwār Ch. 2, H 16).
· Be satisfied with the decree of Allah (swt). It has been narrated that Imam al-al-Sādiq (a) said: The one who gets sick for a night and he accepts it with an acceptance, Allah Mighty and Majestic would write for him worship performed for sixty years. He was asked: What is the meaning of ‘an acceptance? ’The Imam said: He does not complain of what has afflicted him during it to anyone (al-Kāfī v. 3 p. 116).
There are many more examples of actions that we can carry out which earn the acceptance of Allah subhānahu wata‘ālā like: being kind to our parents, being beneficial to others, acceptance and reciprocation of Wilāyah, etc. The most important thing to remember however is that we should have the singular focus of seeking only the acceptance of Almighty Allah in all our actions. The result of such an effort will not only be His acceptance but also inner strength and peace. Our emotions will not be tied to the emotions of others and we will not be at the mercy of others emotionally. Ultimately seeking Allah’s happiness will make us happy.
Sources: Āyatullāh Nāsir Makārim Shirāzī, Al-Amthal fí Tafsīr Kitāb Allah al- Munzal