It was one of those days when a friend of mine was musing over something unpleasant and the discussion took a spiritual turn. We were texting back and forth when she sent me a message which said something along these lines: “God is unhappy with me, He has not forgiven. If I were meant to be on the right path, He would have guided me so, for I feel no conviction.” I noticed there were two things noticeably wrong here. First, her guilty conscience had driven her to believe that Allah had not forgiven her. She had applied human psyche to her relationship with the Almighty. And secondly, she was under an impression that guidance (hidayah) is supposed to come to her. I kept my reply short and sent her a hadith along with it that beautifully addressed her distress, and it is just not applicable in this case, it is for everyone who is seeking to strengthen his ties with the Lord, and especially for new Muslims who have newly embraced the bond and are struggling to overcome their demons.
Abu Huraira reported Allah’s Messenger (May peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) as saying that Allah, the Exalted and Glorious, thus stated:
I am near to the thought of My servant as he thinks about Me, and I am with him as he remembers Me. And if he remembers Me in his heart, I also remember him in My Heart, and if he remembers Me in assembly I remember him in assembly, better than his (remembrance), and if he draws near Me by the span of a palm, I draw near him by the cubit, and if he draws near Me by the cubit I draw near him by the space (covered by) two hands. And if he walks towards Me, I rush towards him. (Muslim)
It’s simple to comprehend how things work with Allah- unlike the people around us with whom it is exhausting to keep things stable. You have to pussy-foot around their sensitivities, remember their big days, keep track of their likes and dislikes, be wary of their mood swings and in some cases with particularly complicated mortals- you have to read between the lines to understand them better. And even then you do not know where you stand with them. It’s just “complicated”, don’t you think?
On the other end, we are in this remarkable relationship with our Creator where nothing is “complicated” because you do not have to “figure” anything out nor bear the brunt of moodiness. In fact, Lord Himself has declared in the above tradition how you are supposed to hold your end of the rope. Yet, time and time again, we erroneously apply human psychology to our ties with Allah (swt). When we wrong ourselves, we further plunge into our miseries sentencing ourselves to doom- guilty as charged. We feel that we have “lost face” and somehow repenting would be like hitting a nerve somewhere and that we stand no chances of forgiveness anyway. And hence, we attribute Him, who is Ar-Rahman and Al-Haleem, towards our own incapability of profound forbearance. And this is exactly what the Almighty says in the beginning of this hadith qudsi that He is compatible with His servant’s opinion of Him. His response to our deeds would be according to our presumptions about Him. So we should expect goodness, always (though lulling ourselves into a false sense of security is another story). For this relationship to thrive, Allah (swt) has disclosed some very important pointers. Point one being that the relationship is to exist on good hope which has been just elaborated upon.
Next comes the part of commitment or “remembrance”. They say, in a relationship, the power lies with the person who cares the least. How true! It is worth noticing here that Allah (swt) has made it pretty clear that it all depends on His slave on how he steers this bond. He has to take the first step and Allah’s response would be according to the magnitude of that initiative. We are indeed the ones who care less in this two-way affair, for He is Al-Wadud, the fount of love, and we are erring humans with many shortcomings. And this is exactly why He (swt) also assures us of His unceasing two-fold support along the way lest we begin to tire out.
We are pretty much aware of what “remembering Allah” entails- it’s about daily prayers, regular Quran, fast, enjoining good and other obligations. But what Allah (swt) narrates here is growing in this relationship. And to grow in this relationship such that Allah comes rushing to you, there are two things that need to be taken care of: consistency in worship, and leaving all that can turn you away from His remembrance. It’s a continuous climb. For a new Muslim, it is undoubtedly a great struggle. In his case, for example, he starts small by keeping his newly found faith a secret from his friends. And then he takes it to the next level by coming out in the open with it. Allah (swt) responds to this by praising him in the gatherings above, among his angels. That is an honor indeed. For when a person obeys Allah on all fronts, he encounters opposition from his own kind and when he chooses Allah over them, they make life harder for him. So to aid this person Allah (swt) sends angels as his allies who bring with them tranquility and glad tidings.
إِنَّ ٱلَّذِينَ قَالُواْ رَبُّنَا ٱللَّهُ ثُمَّ ٱسۡتَقَـٰمُواْ تَتَنَزَّلُ عَلَيۡهِمُ ٱلۡمَلَـٰٓٮِٕڪَةُ أَلَّا تَخَافُواْ وَلَا تَحۡزَنُواْ وَأَبۡشِرُواْ بِٱلۡجَنَّةِ ٱلَّتِى كُنتُمۡ تُوعَدُونَ – نَحۡنُ أَوۡلِيَآؤُكُمۡ فِى ٱلۡحَيَوٰةِ ٱلدُّنۡيَا وَفِى ٱلۡأَخِرَةِۖ
“Verily those who say: our Lord is Allah, and have thereafter stood fast by it, – upon them there shall come down the angels: ‘fear not, nor grieve; and rejoice in the tidings of the Garden which ye have been promised. We are your friends in the life of the world and in the Hereafter…’” (41:30-31)
No wonder we do feel inner peace and serenity whenever we outdo a wrong and our faith grows and gains momentum. We feel this divine intervention in our daily routine and we know that Allah is keeping his end of the rope. At the same time temptations continue to tantalize us. In the beginning, it is easier to ward them off for the rush of devotion is too great. And then, the lagging phase follows, for reasons better known to the person himself. They say old habits die hard. Sometimes it is the murky past that threatens to catch up, and at times it is our inner demons that roar to be unleashed and in a few cases, mere negligence of important matters. At this point, the believer’s grip on the rope slackens. His heart becomes a battlefield. Satan comes armed with all that he had once loved but given up for Allah. He tries to get his guard up but corruption seeks to find an opening, a crack in the armor, to seep in like venom and snub the enlightened spirit. If the person continues to draw his strength from the remembrance of Allah, he remains protected. But if he gives in to his whims and desires, he weakens, his spark wanes and his heart blackens for the devil to dance again.
وَمَن يَعۡشُ عَن ذِكۡرِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ نُقَيِّضۡ لَهُ ۥ شَيۡطَـٰنً۬ا فَهُوَ لَهُ ۥ قَرِينٌ۬
“And whosoever turns away blindly from the remembrance of the Most Gracious (Allâh), We appoint for him Shaitân (Satan devil) to be a Qarîn (an intimate companion) to him.” (43:36)
(For another perspective on this verse, check this post- “Of Angels and Demons“)
To make sure we don’t lose this connection, we have to keep fighting for it. And it can’t be done alone. Company of the righteous is a must. Tough decisions have to be taken, sacrifices be made, desires to be burned, bitterness to be laid to rest and egotism be buried. This is the great jihad that will go on till we breathe our last. But it will be worth it in the end.
وَٱلَّذِينَ جَـٰهَدُواْ فِينَا لَنَہۡدِيَنَّہُمۡ سُبُلَنَاۚ وَإِنَّ ٱللَّهَ لَمَعَ ٱلۡمُحۡسِنِينَ
“And those who strive hard in us, We shall surely guide them in Our paths; verily Allah is with the well doers.” (29:69)
This post was recently published on one of the most expanding islamic portals- ‘Onislam.net’. You can view it here.