By Dr. M. H. Durrani
"And keep thy soul content with those who call on their Lord morning and evening, seeking His Face; and let not thine eyes pass beyond them, seeking the pomp and glitter of this Life; nor obey any whose heart We have permitted to neglect the remembrance of Us, one who follows his own desires, whose case has gone beyond all bounds." (Al-Qur'an Ch.18 v.28).
The Remembrance of Allah:
Among people everywhere religion seems to be very commonly regarded and practised only as a means to secure blessings and gifts of various kinds from God. This is equally true of men who profess different religions and whose views of the Divine Being and the world run in opposite directions. In some cases the good things thus desired and sought may be of a more material nature, in other cases of more spiritual kind; some of them may be low and trivial, others vital and noble. Yet, may not all such religious phenomena rightly be classed together, with this as their distinguishing characteristic, that men are more concerned about the gifts of God than about God Himself?
But however common this religious attitude may be, it is not the only one with which history and experience acquaint us. We meet also in men a conviction, sometimes more and sometimes less definitely expressed, that religion is first of all a matter of our seeking God's own Self, His Presence and Nearness and not merely a matter of our getting and enjoying the good things Allah my give us.
The Qur'an describes the characteristics of the true Believers in the following words:
"Whom neither traffic nor merchandise can divert from the Remembrance of Allah"
The Holy Prophet, who delivered the Qur'an, was himself a paragon of these virtues. "Every moment of his life", says Hazrat A'ishah, he was thinking of Allah. "Rabiah bin Ka'b Sulaimi kept watch at his house at nights; he reports that the Prophet's Prayers and Supplications knew no end and at long last lulled him to sleep. No matter what he was about, taking his meals or dressing himself, reposing in his bed or up at work, setting out on journey or travelling homeward, within his house or without, stepping into his residence or entering the mosque... in short in all situations and at all times, his thoughts dwelt on Allah and he rehearsed His name.
The Prophet set no store against love for Allah by any worldly love. Five days before his death, he spoke to the Companions:
"I claim in the presence of Allah that I am innocent in the matter of taking any of you as a friend; for Allah chose me as a friend just as He had chosen Abraham. But if I could take any of my followers as a friend, I should have chosen Abu Bakr."
The words which came from his lips in his last moment were: "O Allah, Sublime Friend!" (Bukhari).
If we are to think of God who is full of loving kindness, and to be guided by the best ideas we can form of the relationship suggested by the term "The Great Companion", it is very plain that what we are to attain in relation to God is not merely a position where we may secure enough of gifts from God to make us comfortable in every respect, but a bond of mutual love which all this carries with it.
However, in the light of the above, Lillahiat (godliness) is not extra, or accidental than essential. Take a fish out of water, and whatever you do or give it, as long as it is away from water, its condition is miserable. A child who does not know any better may think the fish is very kindly treated and ought to be very happy if such dainties and comforts are given to it as the child itself likes. But to the fish this makes no difference whatever, so long as it is out of its element. If we belong to Allah and our hearts are turned to Him, then we cannot set to seek worldly gains but Allah's Grace, God's own self, His presence and nearness. We are impelled by search of this pleasure to do His bidding, and to gain favour in His Eyes and not for the attendant worldly benefits which simply follow or come themselves; Objective is desiring His pleasure. Hence remembrance of Allah includes every act of service and goodness, every kind thought and kind deed, for this is the service and sacrifice which Allah requires of us. In other words, it is our co-ordination with such attributes of God's love, help etc., which automatically happen when we are in accord 'with Him'. If we fail in this, the loss is our own, not anyone else's because it stunts our spiritual growth. The Qur'an says:
"O ye who believe! Let not your riches or your children divert your from the remembrance of God. If any act thus, the loss is their own." (Ch.63 v.9).
This Companionship is of a Personal Character:
According to this teaching, then, the relation between man and God is not a matter merely of giving and receiving gifts. If we are to think of God, as full of loving kindness, then to be guided by the best ideas we can form of the relationship suggested by that term, it is very plain that what we are to attain in relation to Allah is not merely a position where we may secure enough of His gifts to make us comfortable in every respect but a bond of mutual love with all that carries with it. The Qur'an defines faith in its highest degree of perfection when it says:
"But those of faith are over-whelming in their love for Allah." (Ch.2 v.165).
A woman who had been missing a child was once taken prisoner in consequence of a battle. Whenever she came across a baby the instinct of motherly love overpowered her so intensely that she would press the infant to her heart and give him suck. The Prophet noticed it and said to the people present there:
"Is it conceivable that this woman should fling her baby into flames?"
They answered that it was not possible.
"Mark then", said the Prophet, "Allah loves His Creatures much more dearly than does this woman love her child." (Bukhari).
A similar incident has already been narrated when a woman with her child in her arms had asked if Allah did not love His Creatures more than a mother loves her child and the Prophet said "He does". The touching remarks of the woman that a mother would never bear to consign her child to flames had brought tears to the eyes of the Prophet, and he made answer that:
"Allah would punish only such as declared One to be Two in a spirit of insurgence." (Ibn Majah).
The Philosophy of Prayer
In this connection we might also consider how Islamic teaching about prayer and thanks-giving are intelligible only in the light of such companionship as the Qur'anic term "Full of loving" leads us to think. If God likes a charitable person who will give something to others only on the condition that his gift is duly acknowledged, whether it is in the paper, or by an inscription on the gift, or in some other way, thereby proves his Charity to be of an inferior order. Ideas of that kind we cannot allow in our conception of God; surely there is no room for them, at any rate in the conception of God which Islam held and taught. But how then are we to understand the place that the Prophet gives in his teaching to Prayer and thanks-giving in our relation to God? It would hardly be possible to give any intelligent answer to this question, if God's love meant only the attitude of a Supremely Beneficent Being, who desires, as far as He wishes, to supply the wants of those who are in need of help.
But it is not so difficult to understand why these two subjects of Prayer and thanks-giving occupy the place they do in Islamic teaching, when we remember that the relationship (Allah asks to be established) between man and Himself is that of two lovers. For there it is not enough that gifts are given and needs are relieved; everything depends on the personal attitude of the two, the One and the other. If this heart-bond is not strengthened by the gifts given and received, the gifts have not served their chief purpose from this point of view the value of Prayer and thanks-giving is not so difficult to comprehend.
It is authentically reported that the Prophet's feet developed a swelling, so long would he keep standing at the Prayers. The Companions wondered why he was subjecting himself to such severity when Allah had already granted him his salvation.
"Should I not try to be a grateful servant?"
was the reply the Prophet made. Those possessed of spiritual insight discard the popular views that his devotional striving was due to the fear of Allah, for innocence had been vouch-saved to him and he did not stand in need of ascetic mortifications, nor these. The Prophet dispels the misunderstanding if any, for he explained that the motivating idea was not the fear but the love of Allah, in thanks-giving. He often declared:
"The Comfort of my eyes I find in prayer." (Bukhari and Muslim, Chapter - Prayer).
A Philosophy of Prayer, which leaves no question unanswered, is beyond the reach of the human mind. In fact God's thoughts are not our thoughts and God's ways are not our ways. Allah not only knows what we have need of but is also ready to give it to us more than a human charitable disposition may give to a needy people around. For, there it is not enough that gifts are given and needs relieved; everything depends on the personal attitude of the two, the one to the other. If this heart-bond is not strengthened by the gift given and received, the first have not served their chief purpose. From this point of view the value of Prayer and thanks-giving is not so difficult to comprehend. Thus, it is not only our duty to thank Allah for what He gives us but Love's duty prevails over flesh and starts on its onward march of spiritual progress reaching ultimately the state of "The Best Attachment".
We do not forget that Allah is not like any human individual being; He is separate from and external to others in every sense of these words. Allah is the cause of our existence, He willed it and here we are, in His pleasure we live and move and have our being. Contact between man and Allah must therefore be for man of a much deeper and closer kind than the company that is possible between two individual souls which are alike and at par in being both created; but with Allah the Creator and man the created, this link creation is basic; we depend on Him, we return to Him, we live in His Presence, attending His sweet will. However, this does not alter the fact, if we are to experience the reality, the presence with Allah which man's soul may aspire and attain; we must think on the lines suggested by what we know from experience about spiritual attendance. This is the highest and truest form of "witnessing" of which we know human souls to be capable of and our thoughts of Allah must follow the basis of all knowledge, His revealed Glorified Names, and their descriptive attributes, and proceed from known to peer at the unknown.
The link between man and Allah is thus maintained through Prayer. Therefore, Prayer is necessary to drink deep from the fountain of Divine Morals. Man can purify himself through 'prayer'. Man's soul contains vast potentialities of refinement just like a tiny seed. This can be attained through prayer. Our senses, power and capacity for thinking are very much limited. We can increase the inner power, Faith, through prayer to Allah. Hence it has been rightly said:
More things are wrought by Prayer than this world dreams of.
The Qur'an therefore teaches us to say:
"Surely my prayer, my sacrifice, my life and my death are all for Allah, the Lord of the universe."(Ch.6 v.163).
When, vice-versa, Allah comes in declared control of our being, even our person, and also becomes our limbs, as Hadith Qudsi has it:
"One who is always thankful of Me, I become his hand with which he feels; his feet, he moves with; his eyes and his ears, with which he sees and hears, etc."
This is the attainment sublime.