As Muslims we live by a primary goal to worship Allah; by carrying out the commandments He instructed, collecting good deeds and rejecting all other forms of potential gods. This is our greater purpose and leads to being worthy of His love - another primary goal. In this worship therefore we have a linear relationship with Allah, in that the more we progress through action to grow our 'imaan seeds into meadows, the higher (or closer) we become to Him.
However, this all depends on a factor we can very often undermine. Am I in control of my life, future and outcome or is Allah? Shall I plan and attribute my actions as mine or has Allah already planned? My doing 'good' is not a guarantee that I'm worthy of Heaven, nor is the belief that my belief in Allah is enough to get into Heaven. The ultimate Home in the akhirah - the stages after we die and are resurrected - depends on Allah's mercy. Similarly, my survival and patience and gratitude in this life (dunya), depends on Allah's mercy.
The question arises here, what did I do to earn Allah's mercy?
If I do 'good', I expect to receive Allah's mercy: I believe, I try, I do. For those times my worship is insincere, robotic, or, let's be honest here, non-existent, I still rely on Allah to show His mercy towards me. If I recognise my relationship as an 'abidah', a female servant of Allah, I will see my faith for what it is and build on those aspects that are weak. From birth, Allah's mercy has been a gift that has kept me alive, even when I thought I was self-sufficient, thinking I was in charge of pumping oxygen around my bloodstream, commanding my heart to beat and encouraging my lungs to create each breath. Yet, while my 'goodness' and 'imaan is a condition to be worthy of Allah's love, I need to accept that I depend on Allah to rescue me when I'm not as aware or 'good'. At this low point of spirituality, looking up for help, is a greater place of understanding how Allah's mercy functions, albeit much more difficult.
This doesn't mean Allah is arbitrary or changing with His Mercy for His attributes of Ghaffur -forgiveness, Sitteer - absolution (concealment) and Raheem - mercy, while conditional, are unlimited. And that is another siffat (attribute) of Allah we often forget; Allah's 24/7 unlimited on-call response. I do not need to earn Allah's mercy because He is already more merciful than I could comprehend - keeping me alive with each breath I unconsciously take. I need to realise that I depend on Allah to rescue me. That is one of the first steps to turning back to Allah, believing in Him and asking Him to forgive you. I depend only on Allah to rescue me.
Rabbanaa wa la taHmil `alaynaa iss-rankamaa Hamaltahu
rabbanaa wa la tuHammil naama la taaqata lana bihi
wa` fu `anna waghfir lanaa warHamna -
anta mawlaana fansurna `alaal qawmil-kafireen
"...Our Lord, do not impose blame upon us if we have forgotten or erred. Our Lord, and lay not upon us a burden like that which You laid upon those before us. Our Lord, and burden us not with that which we have no ability to bear. And pardon us; and forgive us; and have mercy upon us. You are our protector, so give us victory over the disbelieving people." (Qur'an, 2:286, partial quote)
*Iconic Muslim: Ibn Abi'dunya, the freed slave of Banu Umaiya, b. 208AH.
How To: Perform the Du`a of Istikhirah
Dua: For When In Anguish Or Suffering
How To: Learn & Print Marriage Dua` Cards For Ceremony