How to know Allah and love Allah
Main principles in Islam: Know Allah (part 3)
What does it mean to know Allah, love Allah, and call on Allah? What does remembering Him entail?
Obligation to know Allah
Knowing Allah is an obligation for every human. We know this but we need to dig deeper for it to impact our lives.
In his poem, Ibn Rislan (may Allah have mercy on him), the Palestinian Shafi scholar who passed away 844 Hijri, said the first obligation on every human being is to know Allah the Almighty with certainty (istiqān). Istiqān comes from yaqeen (certainty).
We know it’s an obligation because Allah the Almighty said to the Prophet (peace be on him) and the ummah:
You should know there is la illaha illallah. (47:19)
He spoke in the command form. Knowing Allah is not merely an instruction it is a divine gate in your life.
Those who know Allah the Almighty are not equal to those who do not know Allah All Mighty. (39:9)
Ibn ‘Ataillah Al-Sakandari, (may Allah be have mercy on him) one of the Maliki scholars, (who is more renowned for his Sufi writing than his fiqh) wrote towards the end of his book Al Hikam, ‘Al Munajatul Ilahiyyah’, The Divine Discourse between him and Allah the Almighty. In it, he said:
My Lord, what did he find who lost You?
And what did he lose who found You? (Al Hikam)
This is very beautiful. Very beautiful. If you know Allah the Almighty you have everything, even if you own nothing literally. However, if you have everything but you don’t know Allah the Almighty, you have nothing, even if you possess everything literally.
This is not just theoretical but from his own direct, personal experience.
How well do you know Allah
Knowing Allah the Almighty is important but sometimes we do not know Him well enough.
We need to improve our knowledge of Him. Just as a fan of a celebrity, or a footballer knows every tiny detail about what they like and what they are doing, what they did yesterday. They read every inch of all the gossip columns to find out everything about them. This is a sign of their commitment.
Do we have the same commitment to know about Allah Almighty? More often than not, the answer is No.
Do you know Allah’s names
To truly know Him, we need to know His attributes, His beautiful names, and the wisdom behind His actions, as Allah the Almighty said:
The most beautiful names belong to Allah: so call on him by them. (7:180)
We need to learn about them and reflect on them. Every single name. Each one has its own sweetness. So if you’ve never tasted this than you need to try it.
Develop your love of Allah
The more you improve your knowledge of Allah the Almighty, the more you will love Him. You cannot love somebody without knowing Him.
We can develop this love and when we love Allah the Almighty of course Allah the Almighty loves us back. In fact His love is much bigger than our love and preceded it.
How do you assess your love of Allah
What are the signs that we love Allah the Almighty? How can we gauge where are we on the scale of loving Allah? Firstly we can test ourselves. The simple test is to think of 2 things – one that pleases Allah the Almighty and one which displeases Him. If the one which displeases Allah the Almighty is the one that you prefer, and it makes your life easier and you enjoy it, then what are you going to do? Which side you are going to take?
When you love Allah the Almighty, you prefer what pleases Him and this takes you to the second level. This level is the true love which can not be without sacrifice.
True love involves sacrifice
Unless your love is a true love, I can assure you, you will not be able to make any sacrifice for it. You will feel always oppressed, depressed and anxious because you don’t like what it prescribes.
When you act from a loving heart, you have contentment. Why? Because you know that this is what you want to do. You feel that it is the right thing to do. Even if it’s against what you like, you are not pressured into complying because it is against your liking, but you understand that though you may not like it, it’s important and you have to do it.
Following Allah’s commands
What are the other signs that you are really committed to Allah the Almighty? The Quran clearly mentions:
Say: If you love Allah, then follow me (Fattabi’uni), Allah will love you and forgive you your sins, and Allah is Forgiving, Merciful (3:31)
Following the Prophet (peace be on him) is a sign of loving Allah the Almighty. Why? Because he was sent by Allah the Almighty.
Fattabi’uni means follow me, so following the footsteps of the Prophet (peace be on him) is a sign of loving Allah the Almighty. When you follow his foosteps it is proof, not just a claim. Anyone can claim they love Allah but what is the proof of that love? It is whether they practice.
Are we following the Prophet (peace be on him)? Are we following his commands? If we are doing so, then yes this is a true reflection of our love for Allah the Almighty and His Messenger (peace be on him).
The Prophet’s dua
How do we improve our love for Allah the Almighty? A very common question. Everyone should ask, ‘How do I improve my love to Allah Almighty?
The Prophet (peace be on him) in the hadith used to say, in a supplication ini asaluka hubbak:
Abud-Darda’ (May Allah be pleased with him) reported:
The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said, One of Prophet Dawud’s supplications was: ‘Allahumma inni as’aluka hubbaka, wa hubba man yuhibbuka, wal-‘amalalladhi yuballighuni hubbaka. Allahumm-aj’al hubbaka ahabba ilayya min nafsi, wa ahli, wa minal-ma’il-baridi.
(O Allah! I ask You for Your Love, the love of those who love You, and deeds which will cause me to attain Your Love. O Allah! Make Your Love dearer to me than myself, my family and the cold water).”‘
We ask Allah to increase our love for Him. We start with our supplication. We make His love the most important thing to us. And this is a sign of sincerity. Always start with sincerity. Ask Allah the Almighty sincerely, ‘Ya Allah increase your love in my heart, in my life, in my practice.’
When we are sincere enough, and Allah the Almighty knows what’s in our hearts, we can’t fake it, then He will open the way for you.
Ask for the company of those who love Allah
The second thing to ask for is ‘Ya Allah make us meet those who really love you to learn from them’. Because sometimes no matter what you supplicate for, you don’t have it unless you see somebody practicing in front of you. That is the best lesson. That is a practical lesson.
So when you see those who are really committed to Allah the Almighty then you can learn from them. You can see true love in their practice. Is it possible for someone to do that? Yes, I’ve witnessed this by my own eyes.
Loving those whom Allah the Almighty loves is part of your love for Allah the Almighty. His awliya’, (those close to Him) are those who are pious, who have pure hearts, and who have a continuous connection to Him – they are people of remembrance and dhikr.
In the hadith, the Prophet (peace be on him) mentioned:
‘Shall I tell you who is the best of you?’ ‘Yes,’ they replied. He said, ‘Those who remind you of Allah when you see them.’ (Bukhari in Al-Adab al-Mufrad).
You may not know them probably, or you might know some of them but the moment you see them they remind you about Allah the Almighty. And there are many of these people around us. Though they do not carry a flag saying ‘Yes, I’m one of them’ but you can see it on their face. You can see it. And subhanallah it’s a very beautiful thing to have.
Always ask Allah the Almighty to make you meet such people. With sincerity Allah the Almighty will make you meet them. And you don’t need to travel that much. It might be your next door neighbour, or your friend, or somebody on the tube. Allah the Almighty will reveal that person to you and they will remind you about Allah the Almighty.
If you are feeling low, being with those who remind you of Allah lifts your spirits. And often you do good things because you are in the company of good people. Being in good company is protection.
Do the actions Allah loves
We can also increase our love to Allah the Almighty by being truthful, and through our good actions, through our salah, and through our Ibadah worship.
Keep Remembering Allah
If somebody loves something, he keeps mentioning it. Somebody in love with somebody, keeps mentioning his or her name. This is a sign of his commitment or her commitment. So if somebody in love with money, he keeps talking about contracts, and deals; he keeps talking about materialistic issues.
Similarly if we love Allah the Almighty, then we have to remember Him as much as possible. Allah mentions this in the Quran fadhkuruni adhkurkum:
Remember me, I remember you (2:151)
And in the hadith, if you remember Allah the Almighty in a group Allah the Almighty mentions your name to the angels, in a group better than your group:
I am with him whenever he remembers Me: If he thinks of Me, I think of him; if he mentions Me in company, I mention him in an even better company. 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 closer by a distance of two outstretched arms nearer to him; and if he comes to Me walking, I go to him running. (Bukhari and Muslim).
Those who remember Allah standing and sitting and lying on their sides and reflect on the creation of the heavens and the earth: Our Lord! Thou hast not created this in vain! (3:191)
When they ask Aisha (May Allah be pleased with her) about the Prophet (peace be on him), she said:
He used to remember Allah the Almighty all the time (peace be on him). (Abu Dawud)
This shows his commitment and the connection in his heart to Allah the Almighty. That’s why we need to follow the sequence of the Prophet’s (peace be on him) adhkār or daily remembrances, in the morning in the afternoon and in the evening, after the salah, after you leave your house, when you drive your car and these are remembrances, forms of remembrances of Allah the Almighty. When you put on your clothes, when you take off your clothes, when you put on your shoes, when you take off your shoes, we have plenty of adhkār, we need to make them a constant part of our lives.
Reaching dhikr of the heart
Dhikr of Allah the Almighty is verbal and the spiritual. The verbal is simply with the movement of our tongue, saying Subhanallah, or Astagfirullah, or La illaha illalah,
The tongue is the beginning. Start with the tongue and then hopefully, inshallah the heart will achieve the status of remembrance. So not only will the tongue say ‘La ilaha illah’, but the heart as well will say ‘La ilaha illah’.
The moment the heart is doing dhikr you have reached the aim of dhikr. Then you are in the position and at the station of ‘adhakireen; those who keep remembering Allah the Almighty all the time.
Men who remember Allah frequently and women who remember—Allah has prepared for them a pardon, and an immense reward. (33:35)
This is what we need and this is the sign of loving Allah the Almighty.
The station Maqam of adhakireen
The reflection of this on your heart is beyond your imagination. Those who are engaged in the dhikr of Allah the Almighty are very different from other people, you can see it in the way they interact, the way they deal with any scenario around them, the way they control their emotions – it is unlike a person who is not in the status of remembering Allah the Almighty. Their productivity increases, their ability to control anger increases, their ability of having anti-depression will increase, their tranquility will increase. Dhikr of Allah the Almighty fills you with this calmness and this control. As Allah the Almighty stated:
Indeed in the remembrance of Allah, hearts find tranquility. (13:28)
Talk delivered to City Circle on 11th October 2019 in London. Transcribed by Rose Swinburn.
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