You need to know someone to love them. You need to know about their characteristics, qualities, about who they are, for you to have anything to love about them. Intimacy itself is all about knowing someone, about them sharing themselves with you, and it is how and what people share about themselves which shapes the nature of their relationships with others.
What if however you couldn’t see, touch, hear or feel a person, would that be an impediment to you knowing them and building an intimate relationship with them? Would knowing them through their words, their actions and their characteristics suffice?
This is the situation we find ourselves in when it comes to the most important relationship in our lives, the one with He whom upon which all others ultimately depend and rely.
Our relationship with Allah(swt) is already more intimate than any other in one way.
“Surely Allah is the Knower of what is unseen in the heavens and the earth; surely He is aware of what is in the hearts.” Quran 35:38
“He knows what is in the heavens and on earth; and He knows what you conceal and what you reveal. Allah knows well the (secrets) of (all) hearts.” Quran 64:04
Many verses of the Quran tell mankind that Allah(swt) is well aware of every single thing about us, this is obvious of course, that our Creator should know us better than we know ourselves. Allah(swt) knows every atom of our being, every hidden part of our souls, every secret thought or action, all our strengths, weaknesses, passions, vulnerabilities. The verses tell us that Allah(swt)’s knowledge stretches from the unimaginable vastness of the heavens and the earth to the inner depths of mans heart.
Allah(swt)’s relationship with us is described clearly in the following verse.
“And certainly We created man, and We know what his mind suggests to him, and We are nearer to him than his jugular vein.” Quran 50:16
Allah is the Creator, he knows our minds and hearts and is closer to us than anything or anyone else.
Relationships are all about exchange; they are about what we give and what we take. Our parents give us shelter, food, love, care, attention, they instill in us morals and teach us what they believe. In return, from having us they receive the joy of having a child that is their own, they see our smiling faces as babies and couldn’t feel happier, when we are older we return their love and care as best we can and try in turn to look after them. We give each other advice and support, good company and conversation, a sense of belonging and security. The relationship, like all others, is based on giving and receiving and although at first glance that hints at a materialist way of looking at things, it encompasses the emotional, spiritual, and mental aspects of a relationship too.
Sadly when it comes to the relationship we have with Allah(swt) many of us happily receive but never give in return. There are those who are so deeply in kufr that they do not even acknowledge everything they receive from the Creator or indeed acknowledge the Creator at all and instead attribute it to chance or themselves or other human beings. There are those of us who acknowledge Allah(swt) yet still do not cultivate our relationship with Him by giving instead of only constantly receiving.
Anas(ra) reported that a man asked the Prophet(saw): When does the last hour fall? The Prophet(saw), said: “What have you prepared for it?” The man said: “I love Allah and His messenger.” The Prophet, peace be upon him, said: “Everyone will be with those one loves.” Anas comments: “I have never seen the Muslims more pleased with anything after having embraced Islam than with this Hadith.” [Related by Abu Dawood, An-Nasa’ie', At-Tirmithi and Al-Bukhari].
But what is this love? How can we cultivate our relationship with Allah(swt)? How can we love Allah(swt)?
When asked of what love is many people may respond with things similar to the following: “When you think of someone night and day.” “When you feel you can’t live without the person you love.” “When you put the person you love before yourself and before all others.” “When you have a really strong emotional attachment to someone; so much so that it is overwhelming.”
People are known to stay awake all night in thoughts of their loved ones or to stop eating because they are so lost in love. But do we regularly stand for night prayers due to our love for Allah(swt)? Do we regularly fast, for example on Mondays or Thursdays or any other sunnah fasts outside of Ramadhan? Do we remember Allah(swt) day and night? Do we put Allah(swt) before anyone else? Do our hearts burst forth with a strong emotional attachment to Allah(swt)? Do tears fill our eyes or a deep feeling of thankfulness or contentment fill our hearts because we are so glad to have Allah(swt) in our lives?
We have an opportunity, all of us, to have a very personal and strong relationship with Allah(swt). Sadly for many of us our relationship with Allah(swt) is reduced to cold hard rulings and dos and don’ts; it is something that is all about commands explained to us by other men and nothing about the heart, nothing about our own heart or mind and how we feel towards Allah(swt) or what we think about Him.
The beginning of this piece looked at love and it’s relation to knowing the object of your love and touched upon how we know Allah(swt). We can know Allah(swt) through His words, actions and characteristics.
Words: By this we mean The Quran and hadith al-Qudsi.
Actions: By this we don't mean actions in the sense that we view our own actions, but rather the term simply refers to Allah(swt) creation around us which testifies to His existence. It refers to the blessings He bestows upon us, all that He has given us and done for us. All that is not our doing, but is instead from Allah(swt).
Characteristics: The beautiful and unique Names of Allah(swt).
In order to build a relationship with Allah(swt), we need to “get to know” Allah(swt) and we can only do that by knowing and pondering upon the above three things and all they include.
The prophets Allah(swt) has sent down to guide mankind play an essential role in this, for they were sent down to mankind in order to convey Allah(swt)s Words, in order to make mankind reflect over all Allah(swt) has provided and done for us and to teach mankind about Allah(swt) and His characteristics.
This is reflected in hadith which talk about loving Allah(swt) and loving His Messenger(saw), intrinsically linking the two to faith:
Reported by Anas(ra): "Whoever possesses the following three qualities will have the sweetness of faith: (i) The one to whom Allah and His Messenger (saw) are more loved than anything else; (ii) the one who loves a person purely and solely for Allah's sake; and (iii) the one who hates to return to kufr after Allah has saved him, as he would hate to be thrown into the Fire."
It follows then that in a similar vein, in order to love the Prophet(saw) one must know his words, his actions and his characteristics also and this would be done through getting to know the sunnah and hadiths, and learning about the seerah.
Knowing Allah(swt), developing a relationship with Allah(swt), learning to love Allah(swt) more than all else, requires spending time reading the Quran, pondering over the names and attributes of Allah(swt) and pondering over all the blessings in creation and in our own lives.
Sadly for many the depth, beauty and significance of all these things are greatly overlooked. Lets take a Name of Allah(swt) to demonstrate this.
There we have a name which is to some people unknown, to some just a word, to some a simple phrase meaning The-Appreciative.
But what benefit could we gain by thinking about this simple name, this one attribute from many? How could we better get to know our Creator through this name? How could this name increase our love for Allah(swt)?
“Surely they who recite the Book of Allah and keep up prayer and spend out of what We have given them secretly and openly, they look forward to imperishable gain.
That He may pay them back fully their rewards and give them more out of His grace: surely He is Forgiving, Appreciative.” Quran 30:34-35
Other translations use the term “Multiplier of rewards.”, and to appreciate is to increase the value of or indeed to be fully aware of and sensitive to. This again relates to Allah(swt)’s intimate knowledge of us, but adds the extra dimension of Allah(swt) being the One who appreciates our every deed no matter how small or seemingly insignificant and increases it’s worth or value by rewarding us doubly or more for it.
“Surely Allah does not do injustice to the weight of an atom, and if it is a good deed He multiplies it and gives from Himself a great reward.” Quran 4:40
Abu Dharr said, "The Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, told me, 'Do not consider anything correct insignificant, even meeting your brother with a happy face." [Muslim]
Abu Hurayra reported that the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, "A man passed by a fallen branch in the middle of the road and said, 'By Allah, I will remove this from the path of the Muslims so that it does not inconvenience them' and he was admitted into the Garden." [Muslim]
Subhan Allah, these two hadiths really exemplify the meaning of this Name of Allah and truly show the divine beauty and Mercy of our Creator. He takes our small actions and rewards us immensely for them, no good deed, no good thought, no good intention goes unappreciated, unaccounted for or unrewarded. Allah(swt) recognizes and appreciates every single good thing we think about or do.
It should make us question ourselves and we should ponder upon our relationship with Allah in light of this Attribute. Allah(swt) is self-sufficient, He has absolutely no need of us, He does not depend on us, yet he still appreciates our smallest deeds. We however are utterly dependant on Allah(swt), every aspect of our life is reliant completely upon His blessings, be that in the form of our health, our wealth, our family or anything else in our lives that Allah(swt) has bestowed upon us. We are in need of all these things and dependant on Allah(swt) to provide them, yet how appreciative are we? Are we appreciative of the big things, let alone the small?
Do we ever multiply our worship or remembrance of Allah in thankfulness of these blessings Allah(swt) has given us?
Don’t we in fact OWE it to Allah(swt) to be appreciative, shouldn’t we be the ones who are appreciative and thankful. But even though we are not, Allah(swt) is Ash-Shakoor and lets no small deed of ours go unrewarded.
That was just a brief look at one of the Names of Allah(swt), in an attempt to help us to better get to know Allah(swt) and thus increase in love for him.
If we set ourselves an achievable goal such as reading and pondering over one name or attribute a week, or the translation and tafsir of one page of Quran or even simply one hadith. If we look at one aspect of Allah(swt)’s creation such as water or plants, or one simple blessing from Allah(swt) in our life such as our parents and ponder over these things it will help us to cultivate the most important relationship in our lives.
It will help us to better know Allah(swt) through His revelation, His names or His blessings, and better love Allah(swt).