Major Principles of Islam 3 – Loving Allah
The first obligation of every human being is to know his Creator. Some people accepted this invitation from Allah Almighty to find out about Him and truly knowing Him can only lead to gratitude towards Him. Allah called them to His message through different prophets and messengers, and a variety of means, yet unfortunately some people decide they are not interested to know Him, and ignore His call. This is a personal choice. No one can force faith on anyone, even one’s closest family members – son, daughter, husband, wife or parent.
Allah Almighty says in the Quran you do not have the power to guide anyone:
إِنَّكَ لَا تَهۡدِي مَنۡ أَحۡبَبۡتَ وَلَٰكِنَّ ٱللَّهَ يَهۡدِي مَن يَشَآءُۚ وَهُوَ أَعۡلَمُ بِٱلۡمُهۡتَدِينَ
Indeed, [O Muhammad], you do not guide whom you like, but Allah guides whom He wills. And He is most knowing of the [rightly] guided. [28:56]
Allah Almighty guides those who sincerely seek Him. His will is related to our will. The more we want to know Him, the more He facilitates knowing Him. The more goodness we sow, the more goodness we reap and the more doors for goodness Allah Almighty opens for us.
There are many books on the names of Allah Almighty. Among others, Imam Ghazali and Imam Qushayri wrote beautiful books. More recently, late shakyh (may Allah Almighty be pleased with him), Shaykh Abdur-Rahman Habanaka al-Maydani, wrote a beautiful and very comprehensive book in aqeedah, called Al Aqeeda Islamiyyah, which is nearly 1200 pages. It was a textbook in our Shariah College in Damascuc, and it contains a long section on the beautiful names of Allah Almighty. As I mentioned previously, the book of Imam Sultan al Ulema, Al-Izz bin Abdus Salam (may Allah Almighty be pleased with him), Shajarat al Maarif wal Ahwal also contains a lengthy section on the names of Allah and how to emulate them. There are some names we cannot emulate, these are Al Khaaliq, Al Baari, Al Musawir – the Creator, the Originator, and the One who fashioned us. These abilities belong exclusively to Allah Almighty. And this is why in Islam we are not allowed to make or idols or carve images and paint full length portraits. The reason is that in the past, people went from making pictures and statues to worshipping them.
We touched on Al Wadud previously. It means The Loving One (Allah Almighty), from the origin ‘wudd’ which is love. Allah bestows His love on those who believe and do good deeds:
إِنَّ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ سَيَجْعَلُ لَهُمُ الرَّحْمَٰنُ وُدًّا
Those who believe and do righteous deeds, the Most Merciful will give them love. [19:96]
Nothing is unrewarded by Allah Almighty when the intention is to please Him. People may not realise what you did for them, or forget afterwards or disregard your efforts, but nothing you do for the sake of Allah is forgotten by Him or wasted. It is meticulously recorded in your Book.
We see from the ayah that Allah’s love is conditional according to our behaviour. How do we attain His special love? The answer is straightforward. All you have to do is believe and do good deeds, That’s it. The Quran and Sunnah summarise this in just a few words: ’amanu wa ‘amilus saalihaat’. Yet it is life-long commitment as we all know, because everything we do and say and intend can count as good deeds when we link them to serving Allah.
Ultimately we belong to Allah Almighty and we will return to Him and we will be judged on the extent to which we followed His commands. Part of obeying Allah is out of our love for Him and that is why loving Allah is one of the major principles of Islam.Allah Almighty loves those who love Him and do good and they love Him – it’s mutual. When people fail to love Allah and are disobedient, He replaces them:
يَـٰٓأَيُّهَا ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُوا۟ مَن يَرْتَدَّ مِنكُمْ عَن دِينِهِۦ فَسَوْفَ يَأْتِى ٱللَّهُ بِقَوْمٍۢ يُحِبُّهُمْ وَيُحِبُّونَهُۥٓ أَذِلَّةٍ عَلَى ٱلْمُؤْمِنِينَ أَعِزَّةٍ عَلَى ٱلْكَـٰفِرِينَ يُجَـٰهِدُونَ فِى سَبِيلِ ٱللَّهِ وَلَا يَخَافُونَ لَوْمَةَ لَآئِمٍۢ ۚ ذَٰلِكَ فَضْلُ ٱللَّهِ يُؤْتِيهِ مَن يَشَآءُ ۚ وَٱللَّهُ وَٰسِعٌ عَلِيمٌ ٥٤
O you who have believed, whoever of you should revert from his religion – Allah will bring forth [in place of them] a people He will love and who will love Him [who are] humble toward the believers, powerful against the disbelievers; they strive in the cause of Allah and do not fear the blame of a critic. That is the favour of Allah ; He bestows it upon whom He wills. And Allah is all-Encompassing and Knowing. [5:54]
In this ayah, we see that Allah’s love for us precedes our love for Him, as He loves them, and they love Him back (yuhhibbuhum wa yuhibboona). It is not that they love Him and He reciprocates their love, but His love is of a magnitude that exceeds ours. While we often struggle to look after those in our care, Allah loves each and every one of His creation and looks after all of them, as if each one is the most important – with their various hopes and fears. It is beyond comprehension.
If you don’t want to worship Allah Almighty out of love and you hate being in that position of worshipping Allah Almighty, then it’s your choice. However, Allah Almighty doesn’t need us. It’s us who need Allah Almighty. He is Al Ghani, the One who needs no-one. Fully independent. Self-sufficient. Therefore rejecting His love is wronging their own self.
وَمَنْ أَظْلَمُ مِمَّن ذُكِّرَ بِـَٔايَـٰتِ رَبِّهِۦ فَأَعْرَضَ عَنْهَا وَنَسِىَ مَا قَدَّمَتْ يَدَاهُ ۚ إِنَّا جَعَلْنَا عَلَىٰ قُلُوبِهِمْ أَكِنَّةً أَن يَفْقَهُوهُ وَفِىٓ ءَاذَانِهِمْ وَقْرًۭا ۖ وَإِن تَدْعُهُمْ إِلَى ٱلْهُدَىٰ فَلَن يَهْتَدُوٓا۟ إِذًا أَبَدًۭا ٥٧
And who does more wrong than those who, when reminded of their Lord’s revelations, turn away from them and forget what their own hands have done? We have certainly cast veils over their hearts—leaving them unable to comprehend this ˹Quran˺—and deafness in their ears. And if you ˹O Prophet˺ invite them to ˹true˺ guidance, they will never be ˹rightly˺ guided. [18:57]
Robotic vs passionate
A similar name to Al Ghani is As-Samad, the One who looks after all His creation. He nurtures us and provides for us and is needed by all. Islam is not just about praying and paying zakah, and fasting, lowering your gaze and controlling your tongue, and avoiding the haram – the dos and don’ts. There is another level, which is higher than robotic worship. Imagine a teacher whose students follow his commands mechanically, without any emotion or joy – the class is lifeless. If they are answering yes and no and it is apparent, they just want the lesson to end and go home – they are not engaged, their heart is not in it and the teacher would not like to teach them. They are present but their interest and energy is lacking. Compare this to a class where the students are asking questions, sharing ideas, connecting with what they learnt in other lessons, commenting on what they are learning – they are vibrant and alive. These are two very different scenes! Of course without comparing the teacher to Allah Almighty, we see that they are not equal, even though they are both present.
You benefit when you put your heart in something
Those who do not practice their faith with love for Allah, will not benefit fully from it. They will benefit to a degree, but not fully. For instance, they will avoid the haram and that will save them from harm, but and they will be protected, but Allah Almighty doesn’t just want them to put in the bare minimum. He wants more for us. He wants to elevate our status. It is as if He is saying to us if you want to elevate your status, earn extra reward and gain extra closeness to Him, then practice your faith with love. He confirmed the importance of doing things wholeheartedly, not just on auto pilot, like a zombie, but from your heart.
In previous sessions we mentioned that salah, dhikr (remembrance) of Allah Almighty, and dua (supplications) are only effective when the heart is engaged. The ultimate aim is to awaken the heart, which is where love resides. Allah, Al Wadood, loves us and cares about us, so we should reciprocate His love with love. Our connection should be based on love, not just on a list of halal and haram. We need this list, but it is only the start. In fact, we need to move from level 1 to level 2 and 3 and so on and this progress can’t happen without love.
Your salah, performed robotically, without any heart in it, will not bring the benefit it would have, if you had truly applied your heart and soul. When you do your adkhaar without your heart being the benefit is reduced. from that as much. This is why Allah Almighty says that prayer protects one from engaging in sin:
اُتْلُ مَآ اُوْحِيَ اِلَيْكَ مِنَ الْكِتٰبِ وَاَقِمِ الصَّلٰوةَۗ اِنَّ الصَّلٰوةَ تَنْهٰى عَنِ الْفَحْشَاۤءِ وَالْمُنْكَرِ ۗوَلَذِكْرُ اللّٰهِ اَكْبَرُ ۗوَاللّٰهُ يَعْلَمُ مَا تَصْنَعُوْنَ
Recite (O Prophet) what is revealed to you of the Book, and establish Salāh . Surely Salāh restrains one from shameful and evil acts. Indeed remembrance of Allah is the greatest of all things. Allah knows what you do. [29:45]
If the prayer prevents us from sin, how come we all know people who pray but are engaged in evil, corruption and indecency? The salah that protects you from doing evil is the salah in which the heart was engaged. It is dhikr that engages the heart that protects you and gives you tranquillity and peace.
The remedy for the troubled heart
I come across many troubled people. I tell them there is no magic recipe. The magic recipe, however, is to do your salah properly with your heart. To do your dhikr properly with your heart. To recite Quran properly with your heart. If you just recite to calculate how many letters and rewards you got, then inshallah you will get the reward, but are you only after the reward and not its healing and mercy as well?
وَنُنَزِّلُ مِنَ ٱلْقُرْءَانِ مَا هُوَ شِفَآءٌۭ وَرَحْمَةٌۭ لِّلْمُؤْمِنِينَ ۙ وَلَا يَزِيدُ ٱلظَّـٰلِمِينَ إِلَّا خَسَارًۭا ٨٢
We send down the Quran as a healing and mercy for the believers, but it only increases the wrongdoers in loss. [17:82]
The Quran has the ability to cure us and fill us with tranquility.
ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُوا۟ وَتَطْمَئِنُّ قُلُوبُهُم بِذِكْرِ ٱللَّهِ ۗ أَلَا بِذِكْرِ ٱللَّهِ تَطْمَئِنُّ ٱلْقُلُوبُ ٢٨
those who have faith and whose hearts find peace in the remembrance of God- truly it is in the remembrance of God that hearts find peace- [13:28]
The Quran is the dhikr, remembrance of Allah Almighty, and brings peace and tranquillity to the heart, which we have lost with ongoing atrocities, calamities, earthquakes, the pandemic, financial difficulties, marital issues, social issues, political issues, etc, etc. With all these chaotic elements, you need tranquillity to reside in your heart to be able to overcome all these obstacles and continue your journey.
How to engage the heart
How do you get this? You get it when your heart is engaged. How do you get your heart engaged? Through love. Loving Allah Almighty. We have to learn how to increase our love for Allah Almighty because it’s our default setting. Allah Almighty created us and instilled in our hearts our innate fitrah. That fitrah longs for Allah Almighty, loves Allah Almighty by fitrah, and seeks Allah. Yet, though every human being Allah Almighty created longs for Him, this longing can increase or decrease according to our actions – the more actions we do that please Allah Almighty, the more this love for Him grows in our heart. The more we know about Allah Almighty, the more we love Him. In the Arabic proverb we say, “whoever knows the taste, longs for more”. When you taste it once, you can’t help wanting more. However you need to keep doing the right thing to get more.
If you are genuinely interested in knowing Allah Almighty, Allah Almighty will open the way for you to know Him. If you truly want to love Allah Almighty and want to increase this love, Allah Almighty will facilitate it for you to grow this love. Allah Almighty looks at the heart and knows what’s in the heart. This is why in the hadith narrated by Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him) Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said Allah does not accept the dua of a heedless heart:
عَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ، قَالَ قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم “ ادْعُوا اللَّهَ وَأَنْتُمْ مُوقِنُونَ بِالإِجَابَةِ وَاعْلَمُوا أَنَّ اللَّهَ لاَ يَسْتَجِيبُ دُعَاءً مِنْ قَلْبٍ غَافِلٍ لاَهٍ ”.
“Call upon Allah while being certain of being answered, and know that Allah does not respond to a supplication from the heart of one heedless and occupied by play.” [Tirmidhi]
If your mind is elsewhere, and you are just reciting like a machine, Allah Almighty will not accept this dua. Unless your heart is in your dua your dua will not be accepted.
Love runs in your veins and goes into every single corner in your body. It permeates your actions and intentions. Anything you do without this love, like any limb where blood does not circulate, will die. We know those people who go to Antarctica and lose their fingers in the freezing cold because the blood stops circulating in their fingers and they have to chop them off. Love is like this – it’s like the circulation of blood in the body. Any action that does not have love at its core is lacking. Of course I’m not saying that love is the only thing you need, as you also need to know the proper etiquettes and conditions that make actions valid or invalid, particularly with acts of worship like salah, fasting and zakah. However the core of every righteous action should be your love for Allah Almighty. You pray because you love Allah Almighty and you want to communicate with Him. You want to talk to Allah Almighty.
Anas (may Allah be pleased with him) reported that the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said:
عَنْ أَنَسٍ قَالَ قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ إِنَّ الْمُؤْمِنَ إِذَا كَانَ فِي الصَّلَاةِ فَإِنَّمَا يُنَاجِي رَبَّهُ
“Verily, the believer in prayer is in a private conversation with his Lord.” [Bukhari and Muslim]
Thus prayer is a conversation with our Lord. The adhan is a call of love and we respond with love. It is a conversation of love between us and Allah Almighty: Alhamdulillahi rabbil aalameen is expressing ‘I really praise You and thank You for everything you’ve given to me from the bottom of my heart’.
When you pay charity, even if it is a small amount, when you have financial difficulties, you are still in a better position than those under the rubble, who have lost everything, say ‘Ya Allah Almighty, I really thank You for everything You have given to me. I still have some money, Alhamdulillah from what You have given to me.’ Then give with love and gratitude to Allah Almighty. Similarly when you go to your work, you praise Allah Almighty that He has given you the ability to go to your work, to serve and to do good things. So love is crucial.
Whether you are learning or studying or teaching or working or exercising or doing chores, bear in mind that everything is coming from Allah Almighty. We are only able to carry out our actions because of Allah Almighty’s favours (ni’ma) to us. Being mindful of this fact helps us to be present rather than absent minded which is a very common disease these days. It’s a spiritual disease to be absent minded and to do things with ghaflah (heedlessness).
Imam Al-Izz bin Abdus Salam said we reflect Allah’s love by dealing with the servants of Allah Almighty with love. This was repeated by the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) in numerous narrations, countless narrations.
Anas ibn Malik reported that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said:
عَنْ أَنَسٍ عَنِ النَّبِيِّ صلى الله عليه وسلم قَالَ لا يُؤْمِنُ أَحَدُكُمْ حَتَّى يُحِبَّ لأَخِيهِ مَا يُحِبُّ لِنَفْسِهِ
وفي رواية أخرى قال حَتَّى يُحِبَّ لِجَارِهِ مَا يُحِبُّ لِنَفْسِهِ
“None of you will have faith until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself.” [Bukhari and Muslim]
In another narration, the Prophet said, “Until he loves for his neighbour what he loves for himself.”
“None of you will believe until you love for your brother what you love for yourself.”
Love is at the core of our religion. Love for others what you love for yourself out of your love for Allah. Treat people with love and hope that Allah Almighty will increase His love for you and this will increase your love to Him, because as Allah stated in the first hadith we quoted, He gives a special love to those who believe and do good deeds.
Be those who emulate the quality of wudd, and demonstrate it in your words and actions. And show your love for Allah, by loving those He loved, His messengers and righteous people.
Shaykh Haytham Tamim 14th Feb 2023 Transcribed by S Jawaid
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