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New Muslims Reflections

How It Feels to Be Connected to God

peace_love

We simply cannot give up on ourselves. We must always be hopeful because Allah is with us regardless.

Recently, I got an epiphany of the sort that leaves you a little different than before. One that immediately struck me and that flooded my eyes with tears. As soon as I felt them on my cheeks, I began questioning whether they were tears of joy or tears of agony. Tears of regret or tears of humility.

Whatever they were, I knew at that moment that I had transformed my idea of who I should be as a human being and a servant to Allah. The joy was from the relief of finding truth and an answer. The agony was from the pain of not having known for so long. The regret was from the shame that I felt. And the humility was from the reality of how small I am in comparison to His universe and the Almighty Allah Himself.

I realized something profound. A part of me had been projecting my notions of human relationships onto my relationship with the Creator. Many of my insecurities about people became ones I practiced when I spoke to Allah (Exalted be He). Although, I had been speaking to Allah as a friend and a father figure, there was a flaw in this I could not see.

Feeling the Love

Once I began to compare the way I felt in human relationships with the one I had with my Lord, it became instantly clear how much of myself I had put in Him. I realized how much I was really projecting onto my notion of my relationship with the Lord and this caused me to feel some shame and regret. I came to the conclusion that if I was to redefine my relationship with Allah, I must first decode my projections and learn about Allah’s mercy with his servants first hand – and that is from His hadiths.

People have limitations. Even the ones who claim to be in infinite love have limitations. Their time and energy devoted to caring is dependent on a number of factors that can be clouded by the ego. It is impossible to confidently claim for any human on this earth that they are in a genuine and fully committed relationship; as you are not their creator and you have no access to their deep thoughts and feelings. We mustn’t forget that their very essence of their humanity is built on sin and imperfection.

Thus our expectations from our relationships with people should not be same ones we place on our relationship with the Lord. Your father and your mother or your wife or your husband as well as your siblings and friends can be the best of people on this earth whom you know but they are not Allah. The rules of engagement and the relationship which we practice with them can never be compared with the one with the Al-Mighty. How do we tell the difference? What makes our relationship with Allah special? That was the question I sought to answer.

I’m going to share with you through the following, the thoughts going through my head that struck me into the realization that I had to redefine my relationship with Allah. Here goes:

Relationships with people are those that are human and that are based on a similar background or relative experience. So, by saving up five minutes to speak to Him at the end of my day when it is convenient, I have therefore decided to treat my relationship with Allah like mine with other humans. I am indirectly saying that I can do without Him in the time in between. Or that there is no space or appropriateness for me to connect with Him throughout my day (not including prayers).

Now I’m aware that the fact that He watches me at all times means I can assume He is by my side as well. Somewhat like an imaginary friend that’s not so imaginary, and who lives in my heart and the universe as a whole.

“I am with those whose hearts are broken for My sake.” (Hadith Qudsi)

God’s Unmatched Mercy

My general feelings of mistrust towards people was evident in my belief that as soon as I committed sin, I spent hours begging for forgiveness, never feeling like I have earned or deserved it.

I realized that I was implying that Allah’s mercy is difficult to attain and that I must be a perfect saint to get some of it. Also expressing that Allah loses something by forgiving, similarly to the way humans perceive to lose ego when they forgive others. It is me that has much to lose, not Him.

A servant (of Allah’s) committed a sin and said: O Allah, forgive me my sin. And He (Glorified and Exalted be He) said: My servant has committed a sin and has known that he has a Lord who forgives sins and punishes for them. Then he sinned again and said: O Lord, forgive me my sin. And He said: My servant has committed a sin and has known that he has a Lord who forgives sins and punishes for them. Then he sinned again and said: O Lord, forgive me my sin. And He (glorified and exalted be He) said: My servant has committed a sin and has known that he has a Lord who forgives sins and punishes for sins. Do what you wish, for I have forgiven you. (Hadith Qudsi)

“O My servants, you sin by night and by day, and I forgive all sins, so seek forgiveness of Me and I shall forgive you.” (Hadith Qudsi)

“O My servants, were the first of you and the last of you, the human of you and the jinn of you to rise up in one place and make a request of Me, and were I to give everyone what he requested, that would not decrease what I have, any more that a needle decreases the sea if put into it.” (Hadith Qudsi)

Constant Remembrance

I thought that I could only remember Him when I was in an appropriate state; when for example I was on wudu’ (ablution) and when I am sitting idly. I realized I was insinuating that in order to gain contact to Allah and pay him respect, I had to be in a state similar to one that would be invoked when meeting another human being.

As though Allah cannot see me in all my other states. However, I do continue to prefer to face Allah at a decent time, and preferably to make du`aa’ (supplication) with wudu’ and facing the qiblah (direction of the Ka`bah) if I’m aware of its direction, but I do not limit it the same way I limit human interaction.

The physical reality we live in with other humans forces us to assume that forces other than our own come from outward places. So I used to look up to the sky when I made supplication. Although I believed Allah is aware of the hearts of all his beings, my actions did not reflect my belief.

There is no one to share His dominion, nor does He take an aide or supporter from His creatures. He is nearer to man than man’s own jugular vein. (Qaf 50:16)

“I am as My servant thinks I am. I am with him when he makes mention of Me. If he makes mention of Me to himself, I make mention of him to Myself; and if he makes mention of Me in an assembly, I make mention of him in an assemble better than it. And if he draws near to Me an arm’s length, I draw near to him a fathom’s length. And if he comes to Me walking, I go to him at speed.”

Another possible rendering of the Arabic is: “I am as My servant expects Me to be.” (Hadith Qudsi)

The All-Hearing

Although I could perceive Allah’s presence when I supplicated, the idea of a response was hard to conceptualize. This was further expressing my notion of human relations as one where if a person listens and does not respond, then they do not care. Also untrue.

The prophet (peace be upon him) said “Call upon Allah with conviction in an answer”.

My supplications did not last longer than 10-15 minutes. Similarly to the way I speak to authority figures and acquaintances I respect, in order to not take up from their valuable time. Although I was aware that these laws do not apply to my relationship with Allah, my basic instinct to replicate my relationships with other humans kept this habit in my duas. The fact that Allah does not sleep and that he can be in the hearts of all of his creation at once, is one that struck me. Realizing He is aware of even the times when I am asleep prolonged my supplication.

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He can make even the most insignificant desires come true. His powers are not like human powers, His blessings are endless.

“O My servants, you will not attain harming Me so as to harm Me, and will not attain benefitting Me so as to benefit Me. O My servants, were the first of you and the last of you, the human of you and the jinn of you to be as pious as the most pious heart of any one man of you, that would not increase My kingdom in anything. O My servants, were the first of you and the last of you, the human of you and the jinn of you to be as wicked as the most wicked heart of any one man of you, that would not decrease My kingdom in anything.” (Hadith Qudsi)

Just Ask

My requests were limited. So I would say alhamdoulillah and refrain from asking for material things. But if Allah can permit you into Jannah, He can make even the most insignificant desires come true. His powers are not like human powers, His blessings are endless. You are free to ask for all you desire, in this world and the next.

“O My servants, all of you are hungry except for those I have fed, so seek food of Me and I shall feed you. O My servants, all of you are naked except for those I have clothed, so seek clothing of Me and I shall clothe you.” (Hadith Qudsi)

I needed to stop asking the question of whether Allah loves me. I am one of his delicate creations. My anatomy itself is His gift to me. I am blessed in the good and in the trials. I remember Him and He remembers me. As long as I love Him and fear Him only, I must find ease in knowing that it was Him who loved me long before I perceived his presence. To show gratitude, I must let this love translate into actions. I must show my appreciation for His gifts by using them in things He loves.

Allah (Mighty and Sublime be He) said: “Whosoever shows enmity to someone devoted to Me, I shall be at war with him. My servant draws not near to Me with anything more loved by Me than the religious duties I have enjoined upon him, and My servant continues to draw near to Me with supererogatory works so that I shall love him. When I love him I am 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 Me for refuge, I would surely grant him it. I do not hesitate about anything as much as I hesitate about (seizing) the soul of My faithful servant: he hates death and I hate hurting him. (Al-Bukhari; hadith qudsi)

I thought that if Allah has decreed anything anyway, I must accept it and therefore my duas were limited. But little did I know that it is the combination of acceptance of Allah’s word and His mercy and powers that grant us what we please.

Allah said “Oh Dawud (Prophet David), you desire and I desire. If you are satisfied with what I desire then I will give you what you desire and if you are not satisfied with what I desire I will make you weary with what you desire and then only what I desire will be. Verily, I do what I desire.”

Most Forgiving, Most Merciful

I thought Allah could not help my wrongdoings. The same way that we are expected to abide by rules of human society and to claim responsibility of our actions, I could not attribute my sins to anyone but myself. In this way, I forgot that I could make dua from Allah to guide me to the straight path. If Allah is aware of all places, then he can surely make every condition possible, internal or external, to help me get closer to Him. I choose not to limit my thinking of his abilities to my thinking of human abilities.

“O My servants, all of you are astray except for those I have guided, so seek guidance of Me and I shall guide you.” (Hadith Qudsi)

To be honest, all of these hadiths are overwhelming. They overwhelm my heart and flood me with tears of joy. I can only feel gratefulness now. Islam is a beautiful religion and we are given so many doors of opportunity to fix our deen (religion).

So, if I’ve learned anything from all of this, is that we cannot give up on ourselves. We must always be hopeful because Allah is with us regardless. One last thing; my advice to you is to take these hadiths and let them hit you in the heart. Take them as much more than words or rules of engagement.

Take them with you as a philosophy and a chance to explore a new relationship with Allah. I can promise that your life will never be the same and in sha’ Allah you will be one of those who find light where others find darkness.

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Source: Rants of a Muslima

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Articles of Faith New Muslims

Repentance and Hope: The First Stop of Your Spiritual Journey to God

By Dr. Jasser Auda

(If you find yourself having less hope in God when you make a mistake, then realize you are only relying on your work.)

I have an intention to start a spiritual journey to God (Exalted be He), but the question is: where should I start? What are my necessary supplies and provisions in this journey? Should I recall the good deeds I have done and take them as my provisions in this journey?

The answer given by Ibn `Ata’illah  in this word of wisdom is: No. I should not rely even on my good deeds. I should start my journey to God putting my trust on Him alone, and hoping only for His Mercy and Bounty.

God’s Mercy

One might ask: Is not receiving God’s Mercy a result of my good deeds? Does the Godly Mercy stop? Does the Godly Bounty end?

The answer is: No.  “If God were to take men (immediately) to task for all the evil that they do (on earth), He would not leave a single living creature upon its face.” (An-Nahl 16:61)

Therefore, I should rely on God’s Mercy and Bounties despite my shortcomings. This is the right course for the right start.

The right start has to be accompanied also by offering repentance of sins and errors. According to God’s laws in His Universe, if I want to add something to any place, there should be a space for this addition. If I want to fill my heart with light and God’s remembrance, I should first completely empty my heart of filth, darkness, and sins.

Only then filling my heart with goodness becomes very easy or according to the Sufi expression, (one has to divest his heart of bad characteristics before filling it with good ones, then having peace in his heart deriving from unceasing devotion to God). Therefore, I start the journey with repenting to God of my shortcomings.

And (always), O you believers – all of you – turn unto God in repentance, so that you might attain to a happy state! (An-Nur 24:31)

Hope in God

In addition to repentance, there is another important meaning that Ibn `Ata’illah emphasizes in this word of wisdom, that is of hope. I have to take repentance and hope as my companions in my journey. As for the question on how to relate repentance to hope in this start, this is what Ibn `Ata’illah explains in this word of wisdom.

Ibn `Ata’illah (may God be merciful to him and be pleased with him) says: (If you find yourself having less hope in God when you make a mistake, then realize you are only relying on your work.) This means: among the signs, through which you know that you are relying and putting your trust on you deeds not on God’s Mercy and Bounty, is that your hope in God (Glorified and Exalted be He) decreases when you sin and err, then you start to repent to God.

For Sincere Repentance

There are some conditions attached to repentance. First, you should feel remorseful for the sin you have committed. Second, you should give up that sin. Third, you should have a strong will never to sin again. Fourth, if the sin you have committed has to do with people’s rights, you have to give this right back.

If you want to offer a sincere repentance, you have to meet these conditions.

The first condition is feeling sorry for the sin you have committed. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said; “Repentance means feeling sorry (for having disobeyed God)”. (Ibn Hibban & Ibn Majah)

The second condition is to refrain from committing the sin. You cannot continue committing the sin and at the same time you claim that you are demonstrating repentance. This is clear hypocrisy.

The third condition is to have a strong will never to sin again, i.e. you cannot feel regret about your sin and give it up, while you have an intention to commit the sin again next week or so. If happens that you committed the sin again, you have to renew the repentance, renew your deep feeling of regret and your will not to sin again.

God is Most-Forgiving and Forbearing, Most Merciful and Compassionate. He does not mind accepting one’s repentance again and again. On the contrary, God feels happy when His servant repents to Him every time he sins.

As for the fourth condition, scholars said that if the sin you have committed has to do with people’s rights, you have to give this right back. For example, if you unlawfully take something from someone, you have to give it back. If you do someone an injustice, you have to remedy this injustice. You have also to acknowledge people’s rights and seek their pardon if you take their money or speak ill of them.

Ibn `Ata’illah supposes that you have fulfilled these conditions. But here we are talking about one of the ethics attached to repentance, which is that of hope. Ethics are different from conditions. If you fulfill the conditions, you have also to fulfill the ethics. You should cherish hopes that God will accept your repentance.

These it is who may look forward to God’s grace: for God is much-forgiving, a dispenser of grace. (AL-Baqarah 2:218)

Despite Sins

Sometimes, hope is lost when one asks himself: how should I look forward to God’s grace after committing such sins and how is God going to accept my repentance?

This feeling will affect one’s hope in God’s mercy and eventually may lead him to a state of despair and hopelessness.

And who-other than those who have utterly lost their way-could ever abandon the hope of his Sustainer’s grace? (Al-Hijr 15:65)

In this connection, Ibn `Ata’illah says that, no matter how grave one’s sins are, they should not affect his hope in God’s mercy. If one repents sincerely to God, God, surely, will accept his repentance. The Prophet is reported to have said “One who has repented of a sin (sincerely) is like one who has never sinned at all.” (Ibn Majah)

Rest assured that if you offer a sincere repentance, God will accept it no matter how grave your sins are. These sins are nothing in God’s sight. God says in the Divine Hadith: “O son of Adam, so long as you call upon Me and ask of Me, I shall forgive you for what you have done, and I shall not mind. O son of Adam, were you to come to Me with sins nearly as great as the earth, I would forgive you.” (At-Tirmidhi)

Therefore, hope should not be affected by the gravity of the sin. Rather, one should make a sincere intention to repent to Allah of the sins and look forward to His Mercy. God says in the divine hadith: “I am as My servant expects Me to be. So, let him think of Me as he wishes.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

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The article is excerpted from “Some of Al-Hikam Al-Ataiyyah” (The Path to God: A Journey with Ibn `Ata’illah’s Words of Wisdom In the Light of the Quran, the Prophetic Tradition, and Universal Laws of God- By Dr. Jasser Auda

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Articles of Faith New Muslims

Tawakkul: The Third Stop of Your Spiritual Journey to God

By Dr. Jasser Auda

Relying on God (tawakkul) is one of the important Islamic concepts that may be misunderstood and therefore might lead to undesirable results. This misunderstanding might also lead to some forms of deviation and introducing innovations in religion. Likewise, it might result in a state of failure in both religious affairs and worldly affairs.

When you leave worldly affairs to unreliable people, neglect the means, or quit your work completely, you are deviating from the path of relying on God and practicing apathy (tawaakul) not relying on God (tawakkul).

Ibn `Ata’illah says: (Save yourself from worrying (tadbir). Somebody else already took care of your affairs for you.) What is meant by tadbir here?

Tadbir in Arabic means considering the results and outcomes of a certain action. Therefore, tadbir is closely connected with outcomes. In their turn, the outcomes are connected with the concept of relying on God. God says:

… so that they answered, “God is enough for us; and how excellent a guardian is He! (Aal `Imran 3:173)

Then, when you have decided upon a course of action, place your trust in God: for, verily, God loves those who place their trust in Him. (Aal `Imran 3:159)

In God, then, let the believers place their trust! (Aal `Imran 3:160)

Thus, the virtue of relying on God is mentioned and highly praised in many Qur’anic verses and what is mentioned frequently in the Qur’an is of profound significance and takes high priority.

There is a considerable difference between relying on God and worrying which is the same difference between the means and outcomes. By this I mean that there is a difference between work represented in striving to achieve the goals, exerting efforts and devoting time and the outcome of this work represented in events, figures, and results.

Your role is to strive and rely on God. You do not have to worry about the process of governing such affairs. It is God who governs everything. “And who is it that governs all that exists?” (Yunus 10:31) , this is a clear question raised in the Qur’an.

Take the Means, Leave the Outcomes to God

God governs all that exists. You have to take the means and leave the outcomes to God because taking the means and causes is part of relying on God. When the Prophet (peace be upon him) wanted to give an example of relying on God, he said: “If you had all relied on Allah as you should rely on Him, then He would have provided for you as He provides for the birds, who wake up hungry in the morning and return with full stomachs at dusk.”

You are like the bird. The bird does not stand on one branch of a tree all the time waiting for the grains. But it moves from one branch to another until it gets the grains. The bird has to do its best to get the grains, and providing the bird with the grains is God’s work.

Therefore, you should take the means and leave out the outcomes to God. Some Muslims- even those who are on the path to God- do not take the means, stay at the mosque all the time and ask people for food and clothes. They argue that governing things is not their task. Their argument is correct, but they have to rely on God and relying on God necessities having recourse to the means and the causes of achieving goals.

It is reported that a man used to stay at the mosque all the time arguing that he is devoting himself and his time to worship God. The Prophet asked about the one who takes care of him. The Prophet was told that the man’s brother takes care of him. The Prophet replied: “His brother is better than him.” `Umar ibn al-Khattab advised some people who stayed at the mosque and said “We are relying on God.” He said his common words: “The sky does not rain gold or silver.”

If one cannot attain success after having recourse to every necessary means, this is a proper situation to really rely on God. If the means you have taken fail you, you might say: O God, I have done my best and I left no stone unturned, what should I do? At this point, you are indeed putting your trust in God.

What is not conformable with relying on God is not to do anything or not to have recourse to every kind of means and causes of success. Some ignorant people ignore taking the necessary means intentionally. What is needed from you is to take all the means, and then rely on God.

Sometimes God might withhold form me the causes, the means and take from me my power so that I return to Him and rely on Him. This is a valuable God-given gift.

Relying on God is not inconsistent with what we call nowadays planning, making a feasibility study, studying the market, etc. All this is part of relying on God because by planning, organizing, studying, etc. we are having recourse to the means of success. If you are a trader, you have to make a feasibility study and do your calculations. If you lose, this is God’s decree. If you win, it is also God’s decree. You do not have to worry about the outcomes. To lose or to win, to succeed or to fail, is not your business.

Even in religious issues whether they have to do da`wah (Islamic call) issues, scientific issues, or worship issues, you do the thing and leave the rest to God. For example, you worship God by calling people to do good deeds but guiding those people is left to God. God says:

It is not for you (O Prophet) to make people follow the right path, since it is God (alone) who guides whom He wills. (Al-Baqarah 2:272)

Verily, you cannot guide aright everyone whom you love: but it is God who guides him that wills (to be guided); and He is fully aware of all who would let themselves be guided. (Al-Qasas 28:56)

Ibn `Ataillah says: (Save yourself from worrying. Somebody else already took care of your affairs for you.). What is meant by “somebody else”? Who provides you with the means of living? Who plans for your success? Who decides on the outcomes? It is God the Almighty. Therefore, if somebody else has done something for you, why you go and do it yourself?

This is a very simple rational issue. If there is a specialist in a certain field doing something for you, it is not proper to go and do it yourself. How about if the one who is taking care of this thing is God Himself!

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The article is excerpted from “Some of Al-Hikam Al-Ataiyyah” (The Path to God: A Journey with Ibn `Ata’illah’s Words of Wisdom In the Light of the Quran, the Prophetic Tradition, and Universal Laws of God- By Dr. Jasser Auda

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New Muslims Reflections

Reflection: The Fifth Stop of Your Spiritual Journey to God

By Dr. Jasser Auda

“Bury yourself in the land of anonymity. A seed that is never buried underground will never produce. There is nothing more beneficial to the heart than an isolation that allows it to enter a state of reflection.”

If we want to understand well the meaning of awe, hope, relying on God, and sincerity and want to turn this rational understanding to a heart feeling, then the way, as Ibn `Ata’illah suggests, is to reflect.

Reflection is a marvelous form of worship that pushes people in their path to God. It helps people achieve their spiritual goals. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Reflection for one hour is better than worship for sixty years.”

This is because the one who spends his time reflecting on God, His creation, His universal laws, His religion, and His legislation, is really converting the mere rational information to sincere conditions and spiritual lights.

Verily, in the creation of the heavens and the earth, and in the succession of night and day, there are indeed messages for all who are endowed with insight, (and) who remember God when they stand, and when they sit, and when they lie down to sleep, and (thus) reflect on the creation of the heavens and the earth: “O our Sustainer! You have not created this without meaning and purpose. Limitless are You in Your glory! Keep us safe, then, from suffering through fire! (Aal `Imran 3:190-191)

Those who are endowed with insight reflect on the creation of the heavens and earth and on the day and the night based on the knowledge and information they know about the universe. Many people possess such information in their minds only without reaching their hearts.

On the other hand, those who reflect on the universe calling to their minds the Creator of the universe, or reflect on the heavens and the earth calling to their minds the Maker of the heavens and the earth, their reflection will eventually lead them to admit in their hearts “You have not created this without meaning and purpose.” Reflection will make them stand in awe of God, therefore they pray to God: “Keep us safe, then, from suffering through fire!”. Thus reflection has a significant influence on the heart. God says:

Only such as are endowed with (innate) knowledge stand (truly) in awe of God: (for they alone comprehend that). (Fatir 35:28)

True Isolation

In this word of wisdom Ibn `Ata’illah points to another concept that supports the concept of reflection that is of anonymity and isolation. This concept is one of the concepts that many people misunderstand and take them away from the true objectives of religion and the spirit of Islam.

By the Arabic word khumul, Ibn `Ata’illah does not mean laziness, however he means the state of obscurity from fame. This state is achieved when one isolates himself from people. This isolation is for a limited period, as isolation from the world for a long time without any kind of interaction is against the teachings of Islam. The Prophet is reported to have said: “There is no monasticism in Islam.”; “The Muslim who interacts with people and is patient when they harm him is better than a Muslim who doesn’t mingle and is not patient when people harm him.” (Al-Bayhaqi)

Therefore, a Muslim interacts with people, works, gets married, visits his relatives and his neighbors, enjoins good and forbids evil, befriend people, etc.

Then, what does Ibn `Ata’illah mean by “isolation”? Is there evidence in the prophetic tradition to support it? Or is it an innovation?

The clear origin of isolation, in addition to the Prophet’s isolation in the cave of Hira’ before and after the Revelation, is the Prophet’s staying in the mosque to worship God during the month of Ramadan and during other months.

Abu Hurairah (may Allah be pleased with him) reported that the Prophet used to perform I`tikaf (staying in the mosque to worship God) every year in the month of Ramadan for ten days, and when it was the year of his death, he stayed in the mosque for twenty days.

`A’isha (may Allah be pleased with her) reported that the Prophet used to perform i`tikaf in the last ten days of Ramadan until he died, then his wives continued to do i`tikaf after he died. She also reported that the Prophet performed i`tikaf for twenty days during the month of Shawwal.

Ibn `Ata’illah makes a connection between this prophetic tradition and a divine law which states that every plant or animal or even human being that is expected to grow and produce should be buried in the darkness and grow away from external factors.

Thus, a seed is planted in the darkness of the earth until its roots and branches begin to grow, then it splits the soil and comes to the surface. A fetus grows in the darkness of the mother’s womb until its organs and nerves are formed, then it comes to life.

Likewise, the heart and the mind grow through retreat in the mosque or through isolation from the creation until one gets into the state of spiritual and divine thoughts. When one reaches this state, he can travel from the world of the universe to the world of the Originator, from the word of the Creatures to the world of the Creator, from the world of the sings, rules and rituals to the world of meanings, wisdoms and objectives. How beneficial is this to the heart! How great is this isolation that takes one back to the purity of faith and the truthfulness of the connection with God!

Otherwise “a seed that is never buried underground will never produce”, as Ibn `Ata’illah says. This is a constant universal law that will never be changed.

Benefits of Temporary Isolation

Temporary isolation from the creation has other benefits. One benefit is that it helps one to avoid committing sins. This is because most sins are the result of mingling with people. He who is alone does not commit sins.

Another benefit of isolation is that it trains the servant to protect his tongue against its destructive vices. God says: “However, man is, above all else, always given to contention.” (Al-Kahf 18-54)

Isolation also trains the servant to purify his intention to God because he will not occupy himself with how people look at him and what they will say about him. Though showing off may find its way to one’s heart even if one is alone when one occupies himself with how people think about him.

Therefore, Ibn `Ata’illah says elsewhere: “Perhaps showing off in good works has entered upon you from where people do not see you.” At any rate, isolation involves a kind of training on how to make the intention purely for God and how to forget the people around you and how they think about it positively or negatively.

If the servant looks for what benefits his heart, he will make progress in his spiritual journey to God. Sometimes we forget the work of the heart and focus on the work of the organs. This hardens the heart and leads to forgetfulness, and puts some obstacles and difficulties in the course of one’s journey to God. However, temporary isolation from the people and reflection on God help one reach his destination quickly. There is nothing more beneficial to the heart than an isolation that allows it to enter a state of reflection.

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The article is excerpted from “Some of Al-Hikam Al-Ataiyyah” (The Path to God: A Journey with Ibn `Ata’illah’s Words of Wisdom In the Light of the Quran, the Prophetic Tradition, and Universal Laws of God- By Dr. Jasser Auda

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New Muslims Reflections

Cleaning up before Beautification: The Sixth Stop of Your Spiritual Journey to God

By Dr. Jasser Auda

There are some conditions and etiquette related to isolation and entering the state of reflection as mentioned in the previous stop. If one abides by such conditions, he can attain the Divine spiritual lights and his heart shines as Ibn `At’illah describes it in the word of wisdom under discussion. Before beautifying the heart with lights and virtues, it has to be cleaned up from flaws and shortcomings.

Ibn `At’illah says: “There is nothing more beneficial to the heart than an isolation that allows it to enter a state of reflection. How can the mirror of the heart shine if the material images are covering it? How can the heart journey to God if it is chained by its desires? How can the heart ever hope to enter the Divine Presence if it has not purified itself from its forgetfulness?”

We are going to talk about three meanings.

The first meaning is about the heart’s shininess with spiritual illumination and its relation with the universe and material things. Therefore, Ibn `Ata’illah is asking: how can the mirror of the heart shine if the material images are covering it?

The second meaning is about the desires and how the heart journeys to God despite the existence of such desires. Therefore, Ibn `Ata’illah is asking: How can the heart journey to God if it is chained by its desires?

The third meaning is about the Divine Presence. Ibn `Ata’illah is asking: How can the heart ever hope to enter the Divine Presence if it has not purified itself from its forgetfulness?

God’s Presence means God’s always being with the servant. God says; “… behold, God is (only) with those who believe!” (Al-Anfal 8:19) , “… seeing that God is with you, you are bound to rise high (in the end); and never will He let your (good) deeds go to waste.” (Muhammad 47:35), “… and know that God is with those who are conscious of Him.” (At-Tawbah 9:36), “And be patient in adversity: for, verily, God is with those who are patient in adversity.” (Al-Anfal 8:146), “… for, verily, God is with those who are conscious of Him and are doers of good withal!” (An-Nahl 16:128) All those are in God’s Presence.

The question is how should one attain God’s Presence although the heart is filled with desires?

Material things, earthly life, people, and desires are all imprinted in the heart as the picture is imprinted in the mirror. This is a wonderful simile.

If we suppose that this heart is the mirror, then what is there in this heart? Is it filled with people, the money, the job, the family, the food, the car, the house, etc.? Or is it filled with light?

Here I do not mean that we should not care about our families, our job, and other material things. What I mean is: what is there in the depth of the heart? Do we see light in this heart? God says:

God is the Light of the heavens and the earth. The parable of His light is, as it were, that of a niche containing a lamp; the lamp is (enclosed) in glass, the glass (shining) like a radiant star: (a lamp) lit from a blessed tree – an olive-tree that is neither of the east nor of the west the oil whereof (is so bright that it) would well-nigh give light (of itself) even though fire had not touched it: light upon light! God guides unto His light him that wills (to be guided); and (to this end) God propounds parables unto men, since God (alone) has full knowledge of all things. In the houses (of worship) which God has allowed to be raised… (An-Nur 24:35-36)

God’s house is where you isolate yourself to worship Him alone so that you can attain the Divine Light. In the divine hadith the Prophet reports from God that He said: “Neither My Earth nor My Heavens can contain Me, but the heart of a believing Servant contains Me.”

Therefore, only the heart of a believing servant can contain God as the hadith states. Light eliminates darkness and this is the nature of light.

But how the heart is illuminated with God’s Light while its mirror is imprinted with material images and Aghyar. Aghyar is an expression used by those who are journeying to God which means everything other than God. Is this what is in the heart or is it filled with God’s light and remembrance?

Ibn `Ata’illah is asking: how can the heart journey to God if it is chained by its desires? Not all desires are prohibited. Islam is not against desires and did not prohibit them. However, Islam regulates the issue of desires. God did not create a desire which is prohibited because Universal laws of God and general Islamic rules maintain the instinct and human nature.

God did not prohibit anything that He made a characteristic of our nature such as eating, drinking, sexual desire, speaking, laughing, chanting in a good voice, etc. However, Islam regulates this natural disposition, i.e. eating should be regulated this way, drinking should be regulated that way, etc. Islam prohibited some foods, drinks, and some forms of marriage. Unlike other belief systems, desire, in Islam, is not prohibited in itself and it is not a sin in itself. What is prohibited is some parts of the desire under certain circumstances.

The problem is not desire itself, but how it covers the heart so that it cannot journey to God. God says:

And God wants to turn unto you in His mercy, whereas those who follow (only) their own lusts want you to drift far away from the right path. (An-Nisaa’ 4:27)

Therefore, Ibn `Ata’illah is asking: how can the heart journey to God if it is chained by its desires? These desires make you attached to earthly life. If you always think of your desires, they will take you away from God. Therefore, the isolation should be free from desire even if it is a lawful desire. God says:

… but do not lie with them skin to skin when you are about to abide in meditation in houses of worship. These are the bounds set by God: do not, then, offend against them. (Al-Baqarah 2:187)

This is one of the rulings of i`tikaf and this is the only verse that clearly mentions i`tikaf. However, it is a clear evidence for the topic of isolation.

As for how the Prophet (peace be upon him) applied this sunnah, it is reported that he used to do i`tikaf in the last ten days of Ramadan. In the year in which he died, he did i`tikaf for twenty days. It is reported that he performed i`tikaf in months other than Ramadan. Therefore, i`tikaf is not only confined to Ramadan and it can be observed in other months.

Then Ibn `Ata’illah asks: How can the heart ever hope to enter the Divine Presence if it has not purified itself from its forgetfulness? This is a good expression. Ibn `Ata’illah says forgetfulness is like the state of impurity and the isolation is the washing that will purify you from this state of impurity, the impurity of forgetfulness.

If you neglect remembering God and you remember something else, then you have to seek God’s forgiveness. You have to remember God a lot so that He purifies your heart. This is one of the benefits of isolation.

Every Muslim should devote part of his time to remember God. Do not say that you do not have enough time. This is unacceptable. It is a matter of half an hour or an hour during which you isolate yourself, remember God and reflect on Him. Therefore, Ibn `Ata’illah says in the next word of wisdom: “Postponing good deeds until you have free time is an indication of an immature soul.” Do not say “I do not have time, even half an hour, for this isolation.” This is an unacceptable argument.

We ask God the Almighty to purify us form the impurity of forgetfulness and from being chained by our desires. We ask Him also to grant us His Light. We ask God to place light above us, to place light below us, to place light in front of us, to place light on our right, and to place light on our left. Finally, we ask Him to place light in our hearts.

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The article is excerpted from “Some of Al-Hikam Al-Ataiyyah” (The Path to God: A Journey with Ibn `Ata’illah’s Words of Wisdom In the Light of the Quran, the Prophetic Tradition, and Universal Laws of God- By Dr. Jasser Auda

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New Muslims Reflections

Seizing Time: The Seventh Stop of Your Spiritual Journey to God

By Dr. Jasser Auda

Ibn `Ata’illah says: “Postponing good deeds until you have free time is an indication of an immature soul.”

In other words, there is nothing called “I do not have time.” The deeds we are talking about such as prayers, remembering God, reflection, all need time. However, sometimes one postpones them and says “I will do them tomorrow, next week, next month, next year, or next Ramadan.”

Ibn `Ata’illah describes this attitude as an indication of an immature soul, i.e. this person is demonstrating a folly of the self because you can do everything you want to do if you have a strong will and time will help you a lot.

Make the Best Use of Time

However, it is a matter of priorities. You leave home in the morning and you have a specific number of hours to do a certain number of tasks. You will do what is important first, then what is less important. Then you decide to postpone the remaining tasks until tomorrow saying that “God does not burden any human being with more than he is well able to bear”. (Al-Baqarah 2:286)

If you have ten minutes, for example, and you have many things to do including the prayer, then you have to perform the prayer first. Sometimes worldly affairs take priority today, tomorrow, next week, next month, and religious affairs are always postponed. Even the prescribed acts of worship are not done by some people because they claim that they do not have time.

This procrastination has been mentioned in the hadith in which the Prophet (peace be upon him) says: “Most of the pain of the people of Hell will be because of procrastination.” Therefore, procrastination is unacceptable. Every Muslim should seize time and make the best use of it.

There is enough time to do everything. God will bless your time and work if you seize time and organize it. Seizing the time is not only important for managing worldly affairs, it is also important for managing religious affairs. If you are in the habit of reciting a portion of the Qur’an or some dhikr (remembrance of God) every day at a specific time and you have to go out for work, seize the time while riding the bus or the train and recite the Qur’an and mention God. I know of a number of brothers and sisters who memorized the Qur’an while riding a bus or a train on their way to work or back home.

Set, Manage Priorities

People in developed countries usually read a book or a story while riding a bus or a train. While revising this paragraph I was in the train in London. The train is crowded but it is very quiet. Everybody around me is either reading or writing even if they are standing in the train. If people are making the best use of their time for worldly affairs, the Muslim should be very keen to seize his time for religious affairs.

One has to set his priorities and start with what is more important. God’s right should be carried out in the best way. According to Shari`ah rules, people’s rights and trusts are more emphasized than God’s abstract right.

This does not mean that we care about people’s rights and neglect God’s right. We should seize the time and strike a balance between the two rights. Procrastination is an indication of my immature soul which has been deceived by Satan. God says:

As for those who will not believe in the life to come, they go on lying to themselves) until, when death approaches any of them, he prays: “O my Sustainer! Let me return, let me return (to life), so that I might act righteously in whatever I have failed (aforetime)!’’ Nay. (Al-Mu’minun 23:99,100)

We ask God the Almighty to help us make the best use of our time in what pleases Him.

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The article is excerpted from “Some of Al-Hikam Al-Ataiyyah” (The Path to God: A Journey with Ibn `Ata’illah’s Words of Wisdom In the Light of the Quran, the Prophetic Tradition, and Universal Laws of God- By Dr. Jasser Auda

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New Muslims Reflections

Patience with Tests: The Eighth Stop of Your Spiritual Journey to God

By Dr. Jasser Auda

A basic virtue and a very important stop in one’s journey to God is patience with tests.

Do not be surprised when difficulties happen in this worldly abode. It is only revealing its true character and identity.

Get Closer to Him

If the servant repents to God, relies on Him, purifies his intention to Him, reflects on Him, and seizes the time, the light of faith will fill his heart and he will start his journey to draw closer to God.

Ibn `Ata’illah says elsewhere: “There is no real distance between you and Him so that you embark upon a journey. And the connection between you and Him is not cut so that you seek to mend it.” But the servant is able to embark upon the journey and to strengthen his connection with God if he changes himself to the better.

At this stage, the following divine hadiths will be applicable to him:

“… And My servant continues to draw near to Me with supererogatory works so that I shall love him. When I love him I am 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.” (Al-Bukhari)

“And if he draws near to Me a hand’s span, I draw near to him an arm’s length. And if he draws near to Me an arm’s length, I draw near to him a fathom’s length. And if he comes to Me walking, I go to him at speed.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

According to God’s universal law, if God loves someone, He will put him to an indispensible trial. God says;

Do men think that on their (mere) saying, “We have attained to faith”, they will be left to themselves, and will not be put to a test?” (AL-`Ankabut 29:2)

And most certainly We shall try you all, so that We might mark out those of you who strive hard (in Our cause) and are patient in adversity: for We shall put to a test (the truth of) all your assertions. (Muhammad 47:31)

And most certainly shall We try you by means of danger, and hunger, and loss of worldly goods, of lives and of (labour’s) fruits. But give glad tidings unto those who are patient in adversity. (Al-Baqarah 2:155)

You shall most certainly be tried in your possessions and in your persons; and indeed you shall hear many hurtful things from those to whom revelation was granted before your time, as well as from those who have come to ascribe divinity to other beings beside God. But if you remain patient in adversity and conscious of Him – this, behold, is something to set one’s heart upon. (Aal `Imran 3:186)

Nature of Worldly Life

God announces that this worldly life is nothing. If He deprives a servant of this worldly life or part of it and guides him to repentance and bestows on him His mercy and paradise instead, then what a great deal and reward! Therefore, the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “The most severely tested people are the prophets, then the next best, then the next best. A man will be tested in accordance with his level of religious commitment.” (Ibn Hibban)

For this reason, if life is full of difficulties and challenges, one should not be surprised or asks why. It is as if Ibn `Ata’illah is asking us: what is the name of this dar (abode)? The answer is that its name is “al-dunya, worldly abode” and literally it means inferior or low. Therefore, it is not surprising if bad conditions, unpleasant manners, and fatal consequences reveal themselves, because these things are derived from the word dunya, inferior or low.

Accepting this nature of worldly life helps the servant acquire a basic virtue and cross a very important stop in his journey to God which is that of patience with tests.

Patience is a characteristic that gets the servant into God’s Presence: “God is with those who are patient in adversity” (Al-Baqarah 2:153).  The word “with” has a lot of meanings as we explained above. If one is in God’s Presence, then why would he worry?

Types of Patience

Patience is of three types, namely patience in obeying God, patience in avoiding God’s disobedience and patience with God’s tests. Patience in obeying God means that the Muslim should always be obedient to God by doing lots of good deeds without harming himself or torturing it. God says:

… And He has laid no hardship on you in (anything that pertains to religion.  (Al-Hajj 22:78)

The Prophet (peace be upon him) saw an old man walking, supported by his two sons, and asked about him. The people informed him that he had vowed to go on foot (to the Ka`bah). He said, “Allah is not in need of this old man’s torturing himself, and ordered him to ride.” (An-Nasa’i)

But patience in obeying God is, for example, to do things such as performing the ablution thoroughly despite odds because the Prophet told us that it is one of the things by which God obliterates the sins and elevates the ranks of a man. If one is afflicted with difficulties in these acts of worship, he should not be surprised. However he should have glad tidings of God’s grace and mercy.

As for patience in avoiding God’s disobedience, it means that the Muslim should stay away from committing what God has forbidden. We read in the Qur’an about prophet Yusuf and the test we was put to, “And (it so happened that) she in whose house he was living (conceived a passion for him and) sought to make him yield himself unto her; and she bolted the doors and said, “Come you unto me!” (But Joseph) answered: “May God preserve me!” (Yusuf 12:23)

There is a great reward for this type of patience. The Prophet (peace be upon him) says that one of the seven persons whom God would give protection with His Shade on the Day when there would be no shade but that of Him is “a man whom a beautiful woman of high rank seduces (for illicit relation), but he (rejects this offer by saying): ”I fear Allah.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

Refrainment

Scholars divide patience with God’s tests into some types. All the types bear the meaning of refrainment, i.e. refraining from committing acts of disobedience, refraining from complaining, and refraining from being impatient with God’s Decree.

Refraining from committing sins is a condition for purifying one’s heart. God says about the hypocrites

“And, indeed, We tested them through suffering, but they did not abase themselves before their Sustainer; and they will never humble themselves.” (Al-Mu’minun 23:76)

If you face some problems, then you are at a cross-road. Either you repent to God and humble yourself to Him so that you will pass the test, or you commit sins so that you will fail the test.

Patience with God’s tests requires one to refrain from complaining about the test. This is called the beautiful patience as God tells us in the story of prophet Jacob (peace be upon him) “Patience in adversity is most goodly (in the sight of God)” (Yusuf 12:18) , “He answered: “It is only to God that I complain of my deep grief and my sorrow.” (Yusuf 12:86) The last verse means I complain about my problems only to God not to anyone else.

As for refraining from being impatient with God’s Decree, it is the best type of patience. The servant attains this degree when he does not complain and his heart is always patient. His soul is always at peace even at the peak of crisis. The Prophet said: “Patience is at the first stroke of a calamity.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

If the servant is patient when afflicted with tests, he will reach his destination easily and win God’s Paradise. God says:

Consider the flight of time! Verily, man is bound to lose himself unless he be of those who attain to faith, and do good works, and enjoin upon one another the keeping to truth, and enjoin upon one another patience in adversity. (Al-`Asr 103:1-3)

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The article is excerpted from “Some of Al-Hikam Al-Ataiyyah” (The Path to God: A Journey with Ibn `Ata’illah’s Words of Wisdom In the Light of the Quran, the Prophetic Tradition, and Universal Laws of God- By Dr. Jasser Auda

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New Muslims Reflections

Perfecting the Beginnings: The Ninth Stop of Your Spiritual Journey to God

By Dr. Jasser Auda

A sign of success in the end is to refer to God in the beginning. If there is no sunrise in the beginning, there is no sunrise in the end.

A servant journeying to God, who is passing through difficult tests and heading to horizons of peace and tranquility, always thinks of new good deeds that help him along his journey. The word of wisdom under discussion teaches us another universal law. If you master the beginning of any work, there is a guarantee that you get the desired end of that work in the end. This will affect one’s journey to God in that if there is sunrise in the beginning, surely there will be sunrise in the end. But the question is: how should the beginning shine? The answer, according to Ibn `Ata’illah, is by referring to God. And how should one refer to God in the beginning of any work?

Every work should begin with mentioning God according to the remembrance that suits this work. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Every work that does not begin invoking the praise of God is not blessed.”

Therefore, you have to start every work in the name of God. You have to start your speech with sending peace and blessings on the Prophet and with praising God the Almighty. You have to start every act of worship with a pure intention to seek God’s pleasure. You have to start the prayer with this supplication: “I turn my face in complete devotion to One Who is the Originator of the heaven and the earth and I am not of the disbelievers.” When you embark upon big tasks, you have to perform two rak`ahs (units of prayer) of Istikharah (seeking the best course of action). All these things are forms of referring to God in the beginnings.

What is Istikharah?

Istikharah is a supplication that you recite when you want to choose between two permissible actions. The supplication is as follows:

O Allah, I seek Your help in finding out the best course of action (in this matter) by invoking Your knowledge; I ask You to empower me, and I beseech Your favor. You alone have the absolute power, while I have no power. You alone know it all, while I do not. You are the One Who knows the hidden mysteries. O Allah, if You know this thing (I am embarking on) (here mention your case) is good for me in my religion, worldly life, and my ultimate destiny, then facilitate it for me, and then bless me in my action. If, on the other hand, You know this thing is detrimental for me in my religion, worldly life, and ultimate destiny, turn it away from me, and turn me away from it, and decree what is good for me, wherever it may be, and make me content with it.”

The meaning of this supplication is that you wholeheartedly surrender to God and rely on Him alone. Seeking God’s help is a kind of referring to God in the beginnings. Therefore, it is one of the signs and guarantees of success in the ends, no matter what these ends are in our human, worldly calculations of gain or loss. What matters is that you refer to God in the beginnings so that the calculations will be in your favor in the end.

For example, if you running a business to gain some profits, there is a possibility that you might lose that business. But if you think deeply about it, you will find that there are many probabilities for this loss. It is possible that there are huge profits awaiting you in another business in the future. It is also possible that God made you lose so that you reconsider many things in your life. You may find out why your calculations were wrong. You may win a friend who helped you in your troubles. Therefore, the real success lies in making profits in another deal, or reconsidering your calculations, or winning a friend. God says; “… and God knows, whereas you do not know. (Al-Baqarah 2:216)

Seeking God’s Pleasure

The human standards of success and failure are usually based on financial calculations, figures or statistical achievements. However, these calculations, in God’s sight, do not mean anything. What really matters is seeking God’s pleasure. So, if we refer to God in the beginning, the end will shine and Go

d will be pleased with you. Ibn `Ata’illah says: “If there is no sunrise in the beginning, there is no sunrise in the end.”

This rule applies to everything. For example, the Prophet (peace be upon him) said that one of the seven persons whom God would give protection with His Shade on the Day when there would be no shade but that of Him is “a youth who grew up with the worship of God.”  This youth perfected the beginning, therefore God granted him success in the end and protected him under His Shade.

There will be sunrise in the beginning when one refrains from committing sins, returns the rights to people, and seeks establishing justice in all the affairs that he handles. On the contrary, if one commits forbidden things in the beginning, surely the end will be a state of failure. This is because doing the things that God made unlawful results in failure and obliterates the blessing. Also the person who does the prohibited things will be at war with God and His messenger.

I pray to God to grant us a happy and good ending of our life. I also pray to God to help us refer to Him in the beginning so that we will achieve success in the end.

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The article is excerpted from “Some of Al-Hikam Al-Ataiyyah” (The Path to God: A Journey with Ibn `Ata’illah’s Words of Wisdom In the Light of the Quran, the Prophetic Tradition, and Universal Laws of God- By Dr. Jasser Auda

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Articles of Faith New Muslims

Enjoying God’s Company and Praying to Him: Seventeenth Stop of Your Spiritual Journey to God

By Dr. Jasser Auda

If He takes you away from people, then know that He is opening to you the doors of His Company. And if He allows you to ask, then know that He wants to give you something.

Enjoying-God’s Company

God allows us to ask because He wants to give us something.

This word of wisdom is another example related to understanding God’s giving and deprivation. The Sheikh says: “If He takes you away from people, then know that He is opening to you the doors of His Company.”

Test

Sometimes God may test you by the death of a friend, a spouse, a brother, etc. You might travel to a remote country for one reason or another. You may be put in jail or taken to hospital. In all these cases, you feel loneliness and isolation.

The Sheikh makes it clear that all such trials may be a giving from God in the form of deprivation. This word of wisdom is supported by the hadith in which the Prophet says: “If God wishes to benefit someone, He will take him away from people.”

By the loss of your beloved ones and feeling loneliness, God is opening for you the door of remembrance, meditation and being in His Company which you cannot feel if you are mixing with people day and night. You may think that such trials are a form of deprivation which in reality is the actual giving.

One of my teachers always remembers some stages of his life which he spent in jail or in exile and says: “If it were not for the imprisonment, I would not have written my books or developed my ideas.” Therefore, imprisonment and loneliness were a reason for being in God’s Company and benefiting the people with his knowledge.

Then the Sheikh says: “And if He allows you to ask, then know that He wants to give you something.” This means that God may put you to a test for which there is no solution except praying to God. It is likely that before the trial you did not pray to God. You must have thought that you were not in need of praying to God or that you prayed to God without feeling distressed.

Getting Closer to God

Sometimes one faces a serious crisis and the only way out of this crisis is seeking God’s help. So, one earnestly prays to God and seeks His help and immediately comes God’s answer. God says: “Nay – who is it that responds to the distressed when he calls out to Him…”  (An-Naml 27:62)

Praying to God may continue for days or weeks, and this is considered a giving from God not a deprivation because you are in a continuous worship. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Supplication is an act of worship.” (At-Tirmidhi)

But the Sheikh says: “And if He allows you to ask, then know that He wants to give you something.” God gives abundant rewards just for praying to Him. Not only that but He answers those who pray to Him either in the world or in the next or both in this world and the next.

Therefore, God allows us to ask because He wants to give us something. If you ask a generous person for help, surely he will answer you. What about if you ask God Himself!

In other cases, God may give you very little providence just to offer a sincere repentance to Him.

Are they, then, not aware that they are being tested year-in, year-out? And yet, they do not repent and do not bethink themselves (of God). (At-Tawbah 9:126)

And, indeed, We tested them through suffering, but they did not abase themselves before their Sustainer; and they will never humble themselves. (Al-Mu’minun 23:76)

God tests you by afflictions and hardships so that you repent to Him, humble yourself before Him, and pray to Him. Such difficulties are forms of deprivation which is an actual giving if understood well.

Deprivation and giving should be measured by human standards which are based on material gains. The true standard is your relation with God.

Sometimes God puts you to a test and after God removes the affliction your relation with Him improves. This is in itself the actual giving from God.

At times gifts from God come only through hardships. For example, if I do not thank God for His blessings or do not perform the acts of worship properly, God may test me by depriving me from one or two blessings. I may show some concern for what happened to me, but soon I repent to God.

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The article is excerpted from “Some of Al-Hikam Al-Ataiyyah” (The Path to God: A Journey with Ibn `Ata’illah’s Words of Wisdom In the Light of the Quran, the Prophetic Tradition, and Universal Laws of God- By Dr. Jasser Auda

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New Muslims Reflections

Keeping up with Mentioning God: The Thirteenth Stop of Your Spiritual Journey to God

By Dr. Jasser Auda

Do not stop mentioning God just because your heart is not present. Forgetting Him completely is worse than being inattentive while you are mentioning God; perhaps He will elevate you from being inattentive to being attentive, and from being attentive to being fully present with Him, and from being fully present with Him to being fully absent from anything but Him. “This is not difficult for God.” (Fatir 35:17)

Keeping up with Mentioning God

Sometimes you mention God but you do not reflect on the meaning of saying subhan Allah.

Resist Forgetfulness

We are still passing though the stage of cleaning up in our journey searching for the flaws and attempting to get rid of them. This word of wisdom tackles a serious flaw of the soul which is that of forgetting mentioning God. We often get plagued with this flaw throughout the day. Remembrance is the opposite meaning of forgetfulness. When you mention God, you are not in a state of forgetfulness.

God says “And bethink yourself of thy Sustainer humbly and with awe, and without raising your voice, at morn and at evening; and do not allow yourself to be heedless.” (Al-A`raf 7:205); “… and remember Him as the One who guided you…” (Al-Baqarah 2:198); “… bear God in mind – since it is He who taught you what you did not previously know.” (Aal `Imran 3:239); “And when you have finished your prayer, remember God – standing and sitting and lying down.” (An-Nisaa’ 4:103); “O you who have attained to faith! Remember God with unceasing remembrance. And extol His limitless glory from morn to evening.” (Al-Ahzab 33:41-42); “… so remember Me, and I shall remember you.” (Al-Baqarah 2:152)

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Keep your tongue busy with God’s remembrance.”  (At-Tirmidhi and Ibn Majah)

These are clear and direct instructions to remember God in all our states. The Prophet used to mention God in all his states, and every state has a special supplication which is in itself a form of mentioning God.

Also, we read in the Qur’an: “Those who believe, and whose hearts find their rest in the remembrance of God – for, verily, in the remembrance of God (men’s) hearts do find their rest.” (Ar-Ra`d 13:28)

Mentioning God brings about a state of rest in the heart which draws one closer to God. Mentioning God is the ultimate goal of the rituals. God says: “… and be constant in prayer, so as to remember Me!” (Ta-Ha 20:14)

Therefore, the objective of the prayer is God’s remembrance. God’s remembrance is even greater than prayer in terms of restraining man from committing bad deeds and al that runs counter to reason. God says: “… behold, prayer restrains (man) from loathsome deeds and from all that runs counter to reason; and remembrance of God is indeed the greatest (good).” (Al-`Ankabut 29:45)

God will Elevate You

However, Ibn `Ata’illah is talking here about not feeling God’s remembrance in our hearts. The question is: should we neglect God’s remembrance when we do not feel it in our hearts? Or should we stop God’s remembrance despite not feeling it?

Ibn `Ata’illah says: “Do not stop mentioning God just because your heart is not present. Forgetting Him completely is worse than being inattentive while you are mentioning Him; perhaps He will elevate you from being inattentive to being attentive, and from being attentive to being fully present with Him, and from being fully present with Him to being fully absent from anything but Him. “This is not difficult for God.” (Fatir 35:17)”

This means if your heart is not present when you mention God, do not stop mentioning God. If, for example, you read the Qur’an but you do not reflect on the verses you are reading because you are mind is busy with something else, or that you mention God but you do not reflect on the meaning of saying subhan Allah (Glory be to God), al-hamdullilah (praise be to God), la ilaha illa Allah (there is not god but God), in such cases, do not stop mentioning God.

Therefore, as Ibn `Ata’illah suggests, do not stop mentioning God just because your heart is not present. Forgetting Him completely is worse than being inattentive while you are mentioning Him; perhaps He will elevate you from being inattentive to being attentive, and from being attentive to being fully present with Him.

The least degree of mentioning God is that you mention Him while you are attentive, i.e. you are not sleeping. God says: “O you who have attained to faith! do not attempt to pray while you are in a state of drunkenness, (but wait) until you know what you are saying.” (An-Nisaa’ 4:43)

Perhaps He will elevate you from being inattentive to being attentive, i.e. God will wake you from the state from drunkenness which makes you neglect the real mentioning of God, and He will elevate you to the state of being attentive, then to a higher state of being fully present with him.

Ibn `Ata’illah says: “Perhaps He will elevate you from being attentive to being fully present with Him.” Being fully present with Him is a degree higher than being attentive, i.e. the servant’s heart is present while mentioning God. When you mention Paradise, you call it to your mind. When you mention Hellfire, you call it to your mind. When you mention God, you call to your mind His glory and favors.

This presence of the heart is what `Ali ibn Abi Talib (may God be pleased with him) described in his famous sermon about the characteristics of those who are conscious of God.

Imam `Ali said: “When they come across a verse which contains fear (of Hell) they bend the ears of their hearts towards it, and feel as though the sound of Hell and its cries are reaching their ears. If they come across a verse creating eagerness (for Paradise) they pursue it avidly, and their spirits turn towards it eagerly, and they feel as if it is in front of them.”

Therefore, it is not difficult for God to elevate us from being inattentive to being attentive, and from being attentive to being fully present with Him. If we are elevated to such a level, we will be like the companions who felt and heard the unseen world of Paradise and Hell.

Then Ibn `Ata’illah says: “God will elevate you from being fully present with Him to being fully absent from anything but Him.” One may mention God and do not feel anything around him. This is a Godly favor which, if bestowed on any Muslim once a day or once a week, he will be experiencing a lot of good feelings. One will reflect deeply in the meaning of the different forms of mentioning God. Beyond the meaning, one will be absent from anything but God.

This has nothing to do with those who claim that they do not see anything but God and that they are not part of the world, etc. This is a bit of an exaggeration. But we are talking about a state in which we feel we are absent from anything but God. When you mention God’s Divine Attributes, you remember His favors on you, and that you suffer from shortcomings. You also feel God’s bounty and generosity. This meaning makes you forget the blessing and make you reflect on the Giver of this blessing.

It’s All about God’s Mercy and Favour

Finally, Ibn `Ata’illah quotes the verse “This is not difficult for God.”  This means that all this depends on God’s mercy and bounty as we learned from the first word of wisdom that we do not rely on our deeds and put our trust on Him alone.

We pray to God to make us among those who mention Him in a continuous and complete manner. We also ask God to make us thankful to Him and to worship Him in the best way.

We pray to God to elevate us from being inattentive to being attentive, and from being attentive to being fully present with Him, and from being fully present with Him to being fully absent from anything but Him. ‘This is not difficult for God.’

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The article is excerpted from “Some of Al-Hikam Al-Ataiyyah” (The Path to God: A Journey with Ibn `Ata’illah’s Words of Wisdom In the Light of the Quran, the Prophetic Tradition, and Universal Laws of God- By Dr. Jasser Auda

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