MUSLIMS ARE SUPPOSED to feel connected to Allah and experience His closeness more than anyone else of His creation. After all, no one is more privileged and honored than him who is required to stand before his Creator in prayers and praise five times a day. But Salah is only one of the five pillars a Muslim is asked to observe. There is fasting, charity-giving, Hajj, contemplation, to name just a few. Allah desires for us to have a relationship with Him and be close to Him, and to make it easy for us to have that relationship, he provided us with the direction we need, He gave us a plan.
And while we try our best to strengthen our relationship with Allah, many of us may find it hard to maintain or enjoy this bond with the Lord of the worlds. Many of us find themselves hurting the relationship or cannot even feel it existed anymore. So what could be the reasons for not feeling close to Allah? And what can we do about them?
There are many ways to answer these questions.
One of these ways is to contemplate and understand what our Creator says about having a relationship with Him. Much of the troubles we have, as scholars tell us, stem from misunderstanding the nature and requirements of the relationship. But once we appreciate it, all that remains is to struggle with forces within and without ourselves trying to realize it.
Let us begin by asking the following question:
In our relationship with Allah, who is distant? And if we do not yet feel Allah’s presence in our own hearts, whose fault is it?
As to His closeness, Allah says,
It was We Who created man, and We know what dark suggestions his soul makes to him: for We are nearer to him than (his) jugular vein. [Surat Qaf, 50:16]
He also says,
If My servants ask you (O Muhammad) about Me; (tell them that) I am very close, answering the caller (who invokes Me). [Surat Al-Baqarah, 2:186]
The verses above attest that Allah is closer to us than our own selves. He is indeed closer to us than we can imagine. He is so close that He knows what suggestions our soul makes. He is Al-Samee‘ (the Hearer) who hears all we say whether that is in open or private, loudly or within ourselves.
The verses that talk about the closeness of Allah to His servants are numerous. This is also supported by many hadiths, of which I will mention some briefly.
However, let us remember a fact we all know too well. According to Webster Dictionary, the word ‘relationship’ signifies “a state of affairs existing between those having relations or dealings.” Obviously, a relationship involves more than one party. It follows that if we feel Allah to be distant, it is because WE ARE DISTANCING OURSELVES FROM HIM! Allah says in the Quran,
Then He set him right and breathed into him of His spirit and gave you ears, eyes and heart. What a little gratitude you acknowledge? [Surat Al-Sajdah, 32:9]
Also in one qudsi hadith, Allah says,
I and the Jinn and the Humans are involved in a great matter (naba’ adheem). I create them but they worship objects other than me. I shower My bounties on them but they direct their thanks somewhere else. Whereas My blessings keep descending to My servants, their evil-deeds keep rising to me. While I draw close to them with my blessings and bounties they distance themselves from me by their disobedience. (Baihaqi)
Glory be to Allah. He is Al-Raheem (Most Merciful), Al-Ghafour (Most Forgiving), Al-Haleem (Most Forbearing), Al-Barr (source of all goodness), Al-Raouf (Most Compassionate), Al-‘Afou (The Pardoner), Al-Saboor (the Patient), Al-Tawwab (Acceptor of Repentance), Al-Wadood (The Loving), Al-Wali (The Protecting Friend). He is the one with the most wonderful and most beloved attributes.
Allah is in no need of us, yet He gives us all opportunities to get closer to Him. And though we all need Him, yet we are thankless and rebellious. Indeed, if He were not the sabboor (patient), He would have brought His justice upon us much earlier. However, His love and mercy are so great that He gives us one chance after another and keeps blessing us so that we might be thankful. He is waiting for our repentance and our coming back to Him eagerly as the Prophet said,
Indeed, Allah is happier with the repentance of His servant than any one of you is with finding his lost riding camel [the only mean of survival for the people in the dessert at the time.] (Bukhari and Muslim)
Now that we know we are distant, what hope do we have? Surely, a loving, merciful, forgiving Allah always has His door open.
Allah’s Messenger said,
Allah said, ‘He who comes with a goodness, there are in store for him ten like it. And he who comes with a vice, it is only for that that he is called to account. And he who draws close to Me by a span, I draw close to him by a cubit; and he who draws close to Me by a cubit I draw close to him by the space (covered) by two arms. And he who walks towards Me I rush towards him, and he who meets Me with sins that fill the earth, but not associating anything with Me, I would meet Him with the same (vastness) of pardon. (Ahmad and Ibn Majah)
Glory be to You O Allah, all thanks be to You, and all goodness is from You! Indeed, the eyes overflows with tears and the heart jumps of happiness upon hearing these beautiful glad tidings coming from the One who matters most.
As if it is not enough of an honor that Allah rushes towards us, pardons us, and rewards us. He honors us even more. Is it because we deserve it? It is indeed because He is the most generous. Please read the following qudsi hadith and see what it has of wonderful surprises for us. Abu Hurairah narrated that Allah’s Messenger said,
Allah says: ‘I am with My servant as he remembers Me. And if he remembers Me in himself, I remember him in Myself; and if he remembers Me in an assembly, I remember him in an assembly that is better than his…’ (Bukhari and Muslim)
We are most blessed to be servants of Allah! It is the greatest honor! Anyone of us rejoices if an important person remembers our name or our face. Read the hadith again and listen to who is talking. It is Allah! The Creator of the heavens and the earth and everything in between! He is remembering each servant who remembers Him! What have we done to deserve this honor? It is all because of His love and generosity.
My dear beloved brothers and sisters, we claim that we love Allah, but do we really mean it? We say Allahu Akbar (Allah is the greatest), but do we really act according to it? We say that we are servants to Allah and we only seek His pleasure, but do we really practice it? We think and say that we are close to Allah, but do we really feel it?
The aforesaid quotations are just a few of the many hadiths and verses that speak of Allah’s closeness to His servants. Aren’t they enough to encourage us to take care of our part of the relationship? How can we have the honor of being true servants of Allah, the Lord of all worlds? How can we fill our hearts with His presence? How can we truly come to Him? How can we do our part?
An amazingly beautiful and loving God does not leave us without an answer. He tells in the Quran:
Say: ‘If you do love Allah, then follow me, Allah will love you and forgive you your sins for Allah is Oft-Forgiving Most Merciful. [Surat Al ‘Imran,3:31]
He has shown us the way; and He gave us the recipe:
O you who believe! Obey Allah, and obey the Messenger (Muhammad) and render not vain your deeds. [Surat Muhammad, 47:33]
He left the matter in our hands. It is, therefore, up to us to take it upon ourselves to receive and implement His message. Our beloved Prophet said,
All my followers will enter Paradise except those who refuse” The Companions said, “O Allah’s Messenger! Who will refuse?” He said, “Whoever obeys me will enter Paradise, and whoever disobeys me is the one who refuses (to enter it). (Bukhari)
The matter cannot be clearer than this. Our success and salvation is truly in our hands and, more importantly, in our hearts.
But wait, there is more…if you act now, more bonuses are coming your way. Not only will Allah remember you, He goes even further. The Quran and the Sunnah tell us more:
On those who believe and act righteously will (Allah) Most Gracious bestow Love. [Surat Maryam, 19:96]
Allah tells us in another beautiful qudsi hadith,
Never will My servant draw near to Me with anything more beloved to Me than the religious duties I have enjoined upon him. My servant will keep drawing near to Me with supererogatory works until I love him. When I love him, I become his hearing with which he hears, his seeing with which he sees, his hand with which he strikes, and his foot with which he walks. Were he to ask [something] of Me, I would surely give it to him, and were he to ask for refuge in Me, I would surely grant it to him. I do not hesitate about anything as much as I hesitate about [seizing] the soul of My faithful servant: he hates death and I loathe hurting him. (Bukhari and Muslim)
All Praise is truly due to Allah! Allah loves His obedient servants! He does not want to inflict any harm on them. He hates what the servants hate! He becomes their Wali (protecting friend)!
It is indeed more than enough of an honor that Allah loves the servant, but He is always better than we can ever imagine. After all, He is Al-Barr—source of all goodness. So let us read with our heart the following beautiful hadith. Allah’s Messenger said,
When Allah loves a servant, He calls Gabriel and says: Verily, I love so and so and you also should love him. So Gabriel begins to love him. Then Gabriel makes an announcement in the Heaven saying: Allah loves so and so and you also should love him, so the inhabitants of the Heaven (the Angels) also begin to love him, and then honor is conferred upon him in the earth. And when Allah is angry with a servant, He calls Gabriel and says: I am angry with so and so and you also should become angry with him. So Gabriel becomes angry with that person and then makes an announcement among the inhabitants of Heaven: Verily Allah is angry with so and so and you also should become angry with him. So they also become angry with him. Then that person becomes the object of wrath on the Earth. (Muslim)
Indeed, there is always more from an ever generous, loving, merciful and for-giving God. After all, He says,
And He gives you of all that you ask for. But if you count the favors of Allah, never will you be able to number them. Verily, man is given up to injustice and ingratitude. [Surat Ibrahim,14.34]
But we are given to ingratitude and injustice!
Luckily, Allah has provided us with opportunities and seasons to evaluate our relationship with Him and to work to improve it; and to awaken our slumbering souls from what we have transgressed against ourselves. Opportunities to free our hearts from the chains of our sins; to truly act on what we say when we proclaim that Allah is the greatest. It is never too late my beloved brothers and sisters. Let us turn to the One whose door is always open. Let us cry in the hands of the One who “extends His hands during the day so that the sinners of the night may repent, and extends His hands during the night so that the sinners of the day may repent.” Let us answer the call of the One who “descends during the last third of each night to the lower heaven, and says: ‘Is there anyone who calls on Me that I may respond to him? Is there anyone who asks Me that I may give unto him? Is there anyone who requests My Forgiveness that I may forgive him?” (Muslim)
Let us extend our hands and hearts to our Lord repeating the du’a’ of His most beloved Messenger:
Our Lord Allah Who is in heaven, may Your name be sanctified, Your law is in heaven and on earth. As Your Mercy is in heaven, bestow Your Mercy on earth. Forgive our faults and our sins.
O Lord! The Lord of the Seven Heavens, and The Lord of the great Throne, our Lord and The Lord of all, The Creator of plants and trees, The Revealer of the Torah (Old Testament), the Injeel (the Evangel) and the Quran: I seek refuge in You from the evil of myself and from the evil of all creatures. You are The First; Nothing is before You. You are The Last; nothing is after You. You are the Ascendant; nothing is above You. You are the Intimate; man’s physical senses couldn’t realize you. Help me pay my debt and keep poverty off me.