In the name of Allah, the Most Merciful, the Especially Merciful
As Muslims, sometimes we have this ‘formal’ relationship with Allah. We fulfill His obligatory commands; we avoid major sins; we call upon him with the same du’as that we’ve been supplicating with since young, and things never really progress from there. However, being Muslim entails a love for Allah that makes us look forward to knowing Him, pleasing Him, and finally meeting Him in the aakhirah. So how do we attain such love and feel near to Allah? How can we taste the sweetness of faith? And how are we able to trust Him no matter what circumstancewe’re in? These happen when, and only when, we have a strong relationship with our Lord.
In our seeking nearness to Allah, it is important to understand that we are not alone in the process. Allah is with us in every step of our journey, answering our call and helping us, facilitating our efforts to be closer to Him. When we remember Allah, Allah reciprocates our remembrance. The Almighty says in Surat al-Baqarah (2:152), “Remember Me and I will remember you.” You, the servant of the Most Generous and Most Merciful, the One who has Power over all things. Does that not make you happy? Is not the best reward of remembering Allah, to be remembered by Allah? Who are we but slaves, we are nothing; but for Allah to remember us, that’s everything. And when we mention Allah in front of people, Allah mentions us to an audience better than ours: the angels.
Allah is All-Knowing, Ever-Appreciative. He watches over us and knows when we try to better ourselves, with the goal of seeking His pleasure. Allah rewards us in many ways, one of which is nearness to Him. For example, when we have good intentions and work hard in the pursuit of knowledge, Allah grants us understanding, strengthens our memory, makes it easy for us to apply our knowledge, and gives us the wisdom to teach it to others. That is Allah drawing closer to us. Not only does Allah facilitate our good deeds, He rewards us for it in abundance. Allah says in Surat al-Muzammil (73:20) “…and whatever good you send before you for yourselves, you will certainly find it with Allah, better and greater in reward.”
In a hadith narrated by Abu Huraira r.a., the Messenger of Allah s.a.w. beautifully illustrates the relationship between Allah and His slave: “Allah the Exalted says: I am as My slave thinks I am, and I am with him when he remembers Me. If he remembers me to himself, I remember him to Myself; if he remembers Me in a gathering, I remember him in a gathering better than it; if he draws near to Me a handspan, I draw near to him an arm’s length; if he draws near to me an arm’s length, I draw near to him a fathom’s length; if he comes to Me walking, I go to him at speed.” (Sahih Muslim 2675, Muttafaqun alayhi)
The prayer is also an integral part in maintaining a relationship with Allah. Our prayers are conversations with our Maker, wherein Allah engages us, such that He answers us just as we are reciting the opening verses of our prayer, the Fatihah. The Prophet s.a.w. said: “Allah the Exalted said: I have divided prayer between Myself and My servant into two halves, and My servant shall have what he has asked for. When the servant says: Praise be to Allah Lord of the Worlds, Allah says: My servant has praised Me. When he says: The Gracious, the Merciful, Allah says: My servant has exalted Me. When he says: Master of the Day of Judgment, Allah says: My servant has glorified Me. When he says: You alone we worship, You alone we ask for help, Allah says: This is between Me and My servant, and My servant will have what he has asked for. When he says: Guide us to the straight path, the path of those whom you have favored, not those who went astray, Allah says: This is for My servant, and My servant will have what he has asked for.” (Sahih Muslim 395)
Not only that, Allah hears our complaints. Just as He knows the longing of Ya’kub a.s. for his son Yusuf a.s. who said, “I only complain of my suffering and my grief to Allah, and I know from Allah that which you do not know.” (Surat Yusuf; 12:86) Allah responds to our supplications. And if we were to ask regarding Allah, His answer is that He is Near: “And when My servants ask you, [O Muhammad], concerning Me – indeed I am near. I respond to the invocation of the supplicant when he calls on Me. So let them respond to Me [by obedience] and believe in Me that they may be [rightly] guided.” (Surat al-Baqarah; 2:186)
Allah communicates with us through His book, the noble Qur’an. In chapter 55 (surat ar-Rahman; 1-4) Allah begins by describing Himself, “The Especially Merciful. (Who) taught the Qur’an. He created man. He taught him eloquent speech.” Reading this, it would seem as though the sentences are reversed, and that the logical order should be “Allah, the Especially Merciful, He created man, then taught him speech and language, then taught the Qur’an.” However, this arrangement of verses teaches us at least two things: (1) that the blessing of the Qur’an exceeds the blessing of life itself, and that (2) if it is Allah Himself who taught the Qur’an, why should we not learn? After all, a wise person once said, if you want to talk to Allah then pray, and if you want Allah to talk to you, read the Qur’an.
Connecting with the Qur’an. In the hope of linking theory to practice, I am including some tips that I personally feel, with the help of Allah, can build and strengthen our relationship with Him: The first tip is to read the Qur’an. The Qur’an is a source of comfort and immense knowledge. Hence, strive to understand its meaning, implement its teaching and witness the change in your life as you do so.
Regarding Prayer and Du’a. Be as conscious as possible in your prayer and eliminate distractions. Understand and internalize the du’as that you make, regardless if it is in Arabic or the language you are most comfortable with. Call upon Allah with His Good Names, be passionate in your du’a, such as to literally feel butterflies in your stomach when you are making the du’a. Seek out the times of supplication that are answered by Allah. Lastly, have high expectations of Allah, and have faith and conviction that He will accept and answer your prayers.
Increasing in Sunnah Acts. Smile! Spread peace. Be punctual i.e. fulfill your promises (this is also more than a Sunnah). Strive for excellence. Treat others kindly. Praise Allah regularly. Pray timely, voluntarily. Et cetera. For Allah says in a Hadith Qudsi: “…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.” (Sahih Bukhari 6502) May Allah grant us His love. Ameen.