Imam Shafi'i is reported to have said that Allah SWT summarized all the messages He revealed to mankind in His own names. Ibn Qayyim Al-Jawziyya’s book, Miftah Dar As-Sa'adah, can be summarized in the following sentence: “You will never be a believer until you have steadfastness with the names of Allah SWT.”
We know the famous hadeeth of RasulAllah SAW where he said:
“To God belong 99 names, 100 minus 1, anyone who memorizes them will enter Paradise.” (Bukhari & Muslim)
In this article, by the will of Allah SWT, we will explore the real meaning of knowing Allah SWT and His attributes; and how this affects the relationship between the Lord and His slaves.
I once came across a quote somewhere that quite accurately describes the situation of the Muslim Ummah today. It read, “One reason so few of us achieve what we truly want is that we never direct our focus; we never concentrate our power. Most people dabble their way through life, never deciding to master anything in particular.”
Both of these extremes are caused by confusion among Muslims which is usually the result of not being focused on the message and what is required of us. Everything in Islam has a purpose; behind this purpose there are regulations; behind regulations there are manners; the implementation of manners needs wisdom; and wisdom needs rahma (mercy). They are interconnected like links in a chain where if any of the links are broken then the entire chain is scattered.
The purpose of knowledge of Islam is to give us manners, character and good behavior to carry the message of Islam to humanity. However, Muslims today are deprived of these qualities on every level, whether it is personal, familial, communal or global. Unfortunately we lack these characteristics even at our most sacred and revered places like masajid or even at the Haram. We have lost a lot of adab (manner), which is a reflection of lack of Iman and proper understanding of the deen.
In this article, we will explore the importance of focusing our faculties and building concentration in order to have a fruitful relationship with Allah SWT.
However, in the middle of cyclone of dunya, religion has become very insignificant and devalued for people—including Muslims. Even, "religious" Muslims are happy with some halal and haram, salah, fasting or some other aspects or rituals of Islam and are content with just this much. Therefore, we are in reality deprived of the actual depth of this religion.
We need to re-learn Islam as a ‘message’ from the Creator for all of humanity. We have to learn that Islam is the status of the heart and a Muslim is required to surrender to the will of Allah SWT at any given time. His thinking, desires, emotions, goals, ambitions—all should be according to Islam. This requires a person to be focused, concentrated, and strong enough to not only differentiate between distractions and rightful interests, but be able to instantly make the correct decisions.
Power of focus and concentration is not a new phenomenon. Yoga and Zen are well known concentration exercises and there are amazing things that can be achieved through that. Martial arts and the almost super human accomplishments of its artists are known examples of this phenomenon. This ability to focus and concentrate is an integral part of our deen. No messenger and prophet received guidance and revelation without first mastering the ability to focus his thinking. Focus of thinking on the Creator.Absence or lack of this focus will result in absence of divine power and energy in a person. In this high speed life, we are unable to have pure and clear thinking. A
Allah SWT tells us about Ibrahim AS’s vision of guidance in the following words:
And thus did We show Abraham the realm of the heavens and the earth that he would be among the certain [in faith]
So when the night covered him [with darkness], he saw a star. He said, "This is my lord." But when it set, he said, "I like not those that disappear."
And when he saw the moon rising, he said, "This is my lord." But when it set, he said, "Unless my Lord guides me, I will surely be among the people gone astray."
And when he saw the sun rising, he said, "This is my lord; this is greater." But when it set, he said, "O my people, indeed I am free from what you associate with Allah.
Indeed, I have turned my face toward He who created the heavens and the earth, inclining toward truth, and I am not of those who associate others with Allah." (6:75—79)
Allah SWT says in Surah TaHa:
And whoever turns away from My remembrance - indeed, he will have a depressed life, and We will gather him on the Day of Resurrection blind." He will say, "My Lord, why have you raised me blind while I was [once] seeing?" [ Allah ] will say, "Thus did Our signs come to you, and you forgot them; and thus will you this Day be forgotten." (20: 124—126)
Here Allah SWT is reminding His slaves that if they forget to remember Him, they will be blinded in this life and the hereafter. Blindness in this world doesn’t need to be physically manifested—rather it is blindness from doing and gaining things of real benefit and value.
Allah SWT says in Surah Ra'd:
“Those who have believed and whose hearts are assured by the remembrance of Allah. Unquestionably, by the remembrance of Allah hearts are assured." (13:28)
In this stressful world, peace of mind and heart is an achievement worth striving for. The more one tastes this peace, the higher the desire for it becomes and the more a person thinks about it. Therefore, our thoughts and remembrance of Allah SWT are actually intertwined.
“No disaster strikes except by permission of Allah. And whoever believes in Allah - He will guide his heart. And Allah is Knowing of all things. (64:11)
This leads us back to the purpose of our creation:
It is He who sent down tranquility into the hearts of the believers that they would increase in faith along with their [present] faith. And to Allah belong the soldiers of the heavens and the earth, and ever is Allah Knowing and Wise. (48:4)
They are the ones who say, "Do not spend on those who are with the Messenger of Allah until they disband." And to Allah belongs the depositories of the heavens and the earth, but the hypocrites do not understand. (63:7)
Everything in creation points towards the existence of the creator. The Qur’an revealed during Prophet Muhammad (SAW)’s time in Makkah (known as the Makki Qur’an) talks mostly about Allah SWT and His signs in His creation.
When you look at the literary structure of the word Allah in Arabic, it starts with 'alif'. If you remove 'alif' it becomes 'lillah' which means ‘towards him’. If you remove the first laam, it becomes lahoo which means ‘for him’. If you remove the next laam, it becomes huwa which means ‘him’. So, at any given time, all states of affairs are pointing towards Him SWT. Thus, the name of Allah in itself is one of the best dhikr to perform as every letter reminds one of Him SWT.
Allah SWT reminds us in Surah Hashr:
He is Allah , other than whom there is no deity, Knower of the unseen and the witnessed. He is the Entirely Merciful, the Especially Merciful. (59:22)
He goes on to remind His creation about who holds the power of everything in Surah Shu'ara:
Who created me, and He [it is who] guides me. (26:78)
And when I am ill, it is He who cures me. (26:80)
All of these verses remind us of the Power of Allah SWT in our lives. Once we really focus and think, we can’t help but thank Allah SWT and praise Him for His graces and bounties upon us. The more we think and ponder over the greatness of Allah SWT the more we get to know Him, and the more we know Him the more we become closer to Him. Hence, we see that focus is the fountainhead of one’s achievement with his Lord SWT.
When Musa AS met Khidr to gain knowledge from him, Khidr reminded him of the power of Allah SWT in beautiful words saying that all human knowledge combined is like a drop of water in the ocean compared to the knowledge of Allah SWT.
And to Thamud [We sent] their brother Salih. He said, "O my people, worship Allah ; you have no deity other than Him. He has produced you from the earth and settled you in it, so ask forgiveness of Him and then repent to Him. Indeed, my Lord is near and responsive." (11:61)
Allah SWT has sent us on this earth with a very clear purpose which is to worship Him and exalt His name. This worship can be divided into three main categories:
Allah SWT has also mentioned the consequence of these diseases of the heart in the following words:
We said, "Go down from it, all of you. And when guidance comes to you from Me, whoever follows My guidance - there will be no fear concerning them, nor will they grieve. (2:38)
By His mercy, Allah SWT not only has informed us of the diseases that can cause such immense destruction, He has provided the cure and protection from them as well. Allah SWT has promised to protect the people who belong to the following categories:
Allah SWT has created us with shortcomings as a trial in life and He has given us means to overcome this incompleteness in our souls. This is part of mujahada (struggle) every human has to perform in life in order to perfect his faith. Below is the list of imperfections in humans:
And Allah wants to lighten for you [your difficulties]; and mankind was created weak. (4:28)
Allah SWT has explained His revelations in the Quran to fit all times and circumstances and has expressed many parables in order to bring people out of darkness of disbelief. But man usually finds frivolous objections about most things and tries to find fault without good reason.
But if We give him a taste of favor after hardship has touched him, he will surely say, "Bad times have left me." Indeed, he is exultant and boastful. (11:10)
Allah SWT says in Surah Fajr:
And as for man, when his Lord tries him and [thus] is generous to him and favors him, he says, "My Lord has honored me." But when He tries him and restricts his provision, he says, "My Lord has humiliated me." (89:15—16)
This attitude shows that the person lacks humbleness and humility to receive the decree of Allah SWT and be content with it. Allah SWT gives whom He wills and takes from whom He wills. A slave has no right to question his Lord.
And when affliction touches man, he calls upon Us, whether lying on his side or sitting or standing; but when We remove from him his affliction, he continues [in disobedience] as if he had never called upon Us to [remove] an affliction that touched him. Thus is made pleasing to the transgressors that which they have been doing. (10:12)
And when adversity touches man, he calls upon his Lord, turning to Him [alone]; then when He bestows on him a favor from Himself, he forgets Him whom he called upon before, and he attributes to Allah equals to mislead [people] from His way. Say, "Enjoy your disbelief for a little; indeed, you are of the companions of the Fire." (39:8)
All of the above mentioned negative characteristics can be overcome with strong Iman in Allah SWT. The stronger the Iman becomes and closer the person gets to Allah SWT, the weaker these tendencies become; and vice versa.
There are two blessed qualities that are granted to people as fruits of the knowledge of Allah SWT that they have acquired.
Imam Ghazali RA is reported to have asked: "What is the value of listening to something when you don't understand the language?"
We can make this question relevant to our topic by rephrasing it thus: What is the value of all the Islamic knowledge such as grammar, tafseer, hadeeth, and fiqh if it doesn't cause us to get closer to Allah?
What good our elaborate Islamic decorations and beautiful masajid are going to do if we don't have the message of Islam in our hearts?
Allah SWT cursed Bani Israel for their knowledge and compared them with donkeys carrying books. It is not the quantity that Allah cares about, it is the quality. Abdullah Ibn Mas'ud once talking to the Taba'een (generation after the companions) said:
"Indeed Allah's Messenger said to us: A people will recite the Qur'an but it will not pass beyond their throats. By Allah! I do not know, but perhaps most of them are from among you." (Majma` al-zawa'id)
If this is what Abdullah Ibn Mas'ud felt about the Taba'een, then what would he say about us?
This in Islam is known as ghafla which can be loosely translated as the absence of thinking, heedlessness, and weakness of Iman. Even if the guidance comes, unless we are fully awake and receptive, we will miss it. We can't afford to rest in our spiritual journey. If we rest, we become prone to shayateen attacks and drift further away from Allah SWT.
This state of heedlessness is also indicative of the next stage which is calamity from Allah SWT in order to wake Muslims from their slumber.
It is time to take our deen seriously and embark on the path of self correction and spiritual awakening. Seclusion, breaking the nafs, abstinence from luxury, and remembrance of Allah SWT are means of waking the human heart and soul.
As we mentioned earlier, our modern lifestyle does not allow us the luxury of remaining focused and calm long enough to even think without interruptions and distractions. At a time like this how badly do we need peace, tranquility, focus, and calmness in order to benefit from our lives? We should do our utmost to gain this peace and tranquility which can only be achieved through the remembrance of Allah SWT:
"Unquestionably, by the remembrance of Allah hearts are assured." (13:28)
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