The Quest For the Love of Allah
October 19, 2010
The quest for the love of God
By Dr Mohd Sani Badron
Senior Fellow/Director, Centre for Economic and Social Studies, IKIM
Service to God will bring the seeker closer to God’s approval and pleasure. The ascent may appear at first difficult but, gradually, there will be no undue hardship.
THE cornerstone of ethics is the religious exhortation to the soul to engage in relentless search for the love and pleasure of God.
When Archangel Gabriel asked the Prophet what is religious perfection (ihsan), the latter answered, “that you should render your service to God as if you see Him, and if you see Him not, He nevertheless sees you”.
Needless to say, service to God also relates to fair practices directed toward fellow men for the continued well-being of socio-political order, including even opposing injustice with proper and due force when and if there is a necessity.
Indeed, as explained in al-Ghazzali’s Ihya’ ‘Ulum al-Din and Kimiya-i-Sa‘adat, “the objective of all spiritual stations is the love of God …. The farthest point of the servant’s perfection is that the love for God triumphs in his soul, so that his totality is engulfed by that”.
The seeker of truth must first denounce the folly of pining at the loss or unattainability of earthly possessions; secondly, the sorrow occasioned by worldly afflictions; and thirdly, the presumption of invulnerability to the divine decree.
It is a reality of life that God will try man by means of danger, hunger, and loss of worldly goods, of lives and of earnings (al-Baqarah, 2:155).
But it is also true that no kind of calamity can occur, except by the leave of God (al-Taghabun, 64:11).
In a calamitous situation, the servant perceives that what had occurred happens in the hand of He Who preserves his existence; hence, he returns to God, so that He would put an end to his suffering.
Indeed, God praises those who say – when afflicted with calamity – “to God we belong, and to Him is our return” (al-Baqarah, 2:156).
They are profoundly conscious that in such a calamity, they belong to God; parting from the disaster, they return to God.
So much so that the subsequent part of the verse recognises that “they are those on whom blessings and mercy descend from their Lord, and they are the ones that receive guidance”. After that the seeker of truth must inveigh against the fear of death, too.
In fact, the fear of death is born of man’s false conception of his condition in this world and the inevitability of death.
On the contrary, he should dwell constantly on the thought of his ultimate destiny, resign himself to worldly misfortune if any, and cultivate the habits of contentment and repentance.
Such is the preparation of one to meet one’s Lord with perfect joy.
The Messenger of God says: “He who loves to meet God, God loves to meet, and he who hates to meet God, God hates to meet, too.”
In other words, the true seeker after God’s pleasure will not be disturbed by loss or misfortune and will have no thought for anything other than proximity to Him by submitting to His Will.
Nonetheless, the number of genuine seekers after God is very small, while the pretenders are legion.
To borrow from John Ruskin’s Time and Tide: “A knave’s religion is always the rottenest thing about him.”
There are two methods of distinguishing the genuine seekers from the false ones.
First, all of their voluntary actions must be determined by genuine prescriptions or the prohibitions of the religious law (shar‘), including in their socio-political practices and business transactions for example.
Second, God is constantly present (hadir) in the seeker’s heart.
Born of the servant’s awareness of God’s beauty and majesty, being conscious of His presence is a genuine contrition, adoration and submission.
Its mark is never-ending preoccupation with the thought of God and how to attain His approval.
There are three conditions with which the divine march can be achieved: extreme concern, full resolve and constant search. In Islamic ethics they are termed as hirs, iradah and talab, respectively.
The essence of concern is the apprehension of the beauty of the object, necessitating yearning and passion (‘ishq) with submission to His Will.
The essence of apprehending is concentration on the beauty of this object, to the exclusion of any other.
All these will bring the seeker closer to God’s approval and pleasure. The closeness should be understood as a continuous ascent of a perfect spiritual affinity.
The ascent may appear at first difficult but, gradually, there will be no undue hardship. It is the privilege of obeying God’s sacred Law for it to become less hard to follow as life goes on.
Then, the seeker will be able to rise by degrees to the highest level. From the stage of the men of learning, he will be able to rise to that of the saints (awliya’) and soars towards the highest levels of the angelic horizons.
As God says in a holy tradition or hadith qudsi, “My servant ceases not to draw nigh to Me by supererogatory worship (al-nawafil) until I love him; and when I love him I am his hearing, so that he hears by Me, and his vision, so that he sees by Me, and his tongue, so that he speaks by Me, and his hand, so that he takes by Me.”
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