12 December 2011

Who is God?

This article was originally published here. The author said it is okay to share the article  and personally, I think it is one of the author's best works.-The Chukai Insider

One of the hardest things about faith is often mistaken as being the simplest aspect.

Belief in the Oneness, Greatness and Uniqueness of God, and His right to be worshipped unconditionally and undividedly. Otherwise known as tawheed. 

As a person who was born into a Muslim family I was able to grasp this seemingly simple concept quite naturally, alhamdulillah. To a certain degree there are advantages to this but when something is handed to you on a silver platter you tend to take it for granted. I don’t know what it’s like to not believe in God but I do know what it’s like not to know who He is. I know what it’s like not to understand His importance in our lives.

I have asked myself, “The human mind sees what it wants to see. Does God really exist or do I believe in Him because that’s what I want to believe?” 

The 21st century is a time when agnosticism and atheism are becoming increasingly rampant. Some people say religion is no longer relevant in our lives because they don't address the issues that the human civilisation is facing in this era. Some say religion is the cause of problems and bloodshed in this world. I think once you look past what some of the followers of these religions do you'll realise that all religions encourage mankind to do good deeds in this world. What differs from one religion to another is the concept of God.

Imam Ahmad recorded from Ubay bin Ka'b that the idolaters said to the Prophet, "O Muhammad! Tell us the lineage of your Lord." In response, Allah swt revealed Surah Al-Ikhlas:

"Say: He is Allah, One. Allah, the Eternal, Absolute. He begets not nor was he begotten. And there is none comparable to Him." 

Atheists claim that God doesn’t exist (Na’uzubillah min zalik - May Allah swt protect us from this harm) and that human beings invented the idea of God in their minds to comfort themselves and help them deal with bad experiences. At the same time, they can’t explain the creation of the Universe except in theoretical terms. Logically, it makes no sense to say that a Higher Power didn't create the Universe. It makes no sense that intelligent beings exist on Earth without a true purpose. A lot of people drive themselves crazy trying to figure these things out but the truth is simple.

God has taught us through Islam that He is Al-Hayy (The Eternally Living One), Al-Malik (The One with Complete Dominion), Al-Quddus (The Most Sacred), Al-Qahhar (The All-Prevailing One). He is also Al-Wakeel (The Trustee of all His creations) and unlike any of His creations, He doesn't have a beginning nor an end - Al-Qayyum. So not only is he the God of the 21st Century, he is the God of all Time - the past, present and future. 

I know it’s not easy to love and have faith in something that has no physical representation in this world. When we love a person it is usually for a myriad of reasons. For example, you may love them for their cheerful personality or for their unconditional love. You may love someone simply because they make you feel happy. Your love for these people is a result of an awareness of their physical presence and how they are a source of positivity in your life. Now, try to think of Allah swt as the source of all the blessings in your life. A loving family, a special talent, supportive friends, a kind and patient spouse. We have been blessed because He is Ar-Razzaq (The Provider), Ar-Rauf (The Compassionate), Al-Wadud (The Most Loving) and Al-Wahhab (The Generous). Often times we focus on what we don't have and that's how ingratitude creeps into our hearts. But if we focus too much on what we do have, we become arrogant towards Him and the people around us. The key to avoiding arrogance is to acknowledge God's presence in your life and that He is the Creator, Sustainer, Cherisher and Protector of the Universe and all the worlds (Rab-ul alameen).

The question is: How does one know God? I believe there are many ways to know our Creator but this is how I've personally felt Allah swt in my life.

Step #1. Have an open heart by being humble and sincere. It's no coincidence that purifying one's heart and intentions is a major part of Islam. Allah swt constantly reminds us in the Qur'an that He knows our deepest thoughts and intentions.

"And conceal your word or manifest it; surely He is Cognizant of what is in the hearts. Should He not know,  (as the one) Who created? And He is the Knower of the subtleties, the Aware." 
{Surah Al-Mulk : Ayah 13-14}
"He knows what is in the heavens and the earth, and He knows what you hide and what you manifest; and Allah is Cognizant of what is in the hearts." 
 {Surah At-Taghabun : Ayah 4}

There's nothing wrong with saying, “I have questions… I have doubts…," but you also need to say, "I need and want to find the answers to my questions.”  If you want to understand Him, reflect on His attributes. Yes God is One but He has 99 attributes and the fact that He has revealed them to us is a blessing. To be Muslim is to seek knowledge and put knowledge into practice. It doesn’t stop at praying five times a day. It doesn’t stop at saying the shahadah. It’s the journey of a lifetime and during this journey you will have to think for yourself but He will guide you along the way, inshaAllah. 

Step # 2. Study and reflect on the Qur’an. Make time for this. This is your investment for the Akhirah. Don’t just read it without trying to understand the message of the ayah or surah. I couldn’t relate to the Qur’an when I was younger because I had a teacher who taught me how to recite it but he didn’t teach me how to contemplate on it. Often times I would read the Qur’an by myself and its content wouldn’t resonate with me. This is why Qur’an tafseer lessons exist – to make the Qur’an applicable in our lives. If you have never attended a tafseer class, you owe it to yourself to go at least once and see what it does to your understanding of the Qur’an. Otherwise, there are tafseer articles online and videos on YouTube and HalalTube by knowledgeable scholars of Islam. Personal suggestion: Start with the tafseer of Surah Al-Fatihah (article / audio)
The Prophet (may the blessings and peace of Allah be up on him) said: “Allah (mighty and sublime be He), had 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: ‘Al-hamdu lillahi rabbi l-alamin’ (3), Allah (mighty and sublime be He) says: ‘My servant has praised Me.’ And when he says: ‘Ar-rahmani r-rahim’ (4), Allah (mighty and sublime be He) says: ‘My servant has extolled Me,’ and when he says: ‘Maliki yawmi d-din’ (5), Allah says: ‘My servant has glorified Me’ - and on one occasion He said: ‘My servant has submitted to My power.’ And when he says: ‘Iyyaka na budu wa iyyaka nasta in’ (6), He says: ‘This is between Me and My servant, and My servant shall have what he has asked for.’ And when he says: ‘Ihdina s-sirata l- mustaqim, siratal ladhina an amta alayhim ghayril-maghdubi alayhim wa la d-dallin’ (7), He says: ‘This is for My servant, and My servant shall have what he has asked for.’” 
{Hadith Qudsi, Source: Sacred}

Step # 3. Deepen your knowledge of the concept of tawheed. Did you know the word 'tawheed' stems from the word 'wahad' which means One? Did you know that there are three categories of tawheed: Tawheed al-Ruboobiyah, Tawheed al-Ulooliyah and Tawheed Asma was Sifat? Don't be ashamed if you didn't know these things. I only learned about them today and I've been Muslim all my life (or I just don't recall learning about them in school).

Step # 4. Surround yourself with people who remind you of Him.  It is becoming increasingly challenging to be a Muslim these days. Our faith is constantly tested by our family, friends, classmates and colleagues. The society and culture we live in, basically. No matter how you see yourself - not-so-practicing Muslim, regular Muslim, etc. - if you want to know Allah you have to make sure that you make the conscious decision to be around Muslims who inspire you to become better human beings, better Muslims. Muslims who inspire the feeling of insaf (righteousness) in your heart.  They don't have to be scholars or Imams. They can be "ordinary" Muslims who strive to practice their deen to the best of their ability. Spend time with the righteous but not the self-righteous. Another personal tip: If you don't usually perform your prayers in congregation, break out of this routine one day and visit your local mosque or mussolah so you can can do so. Not only will Allah swt raise your darajah (rank) but He will also elevate your spirits, inshaAllah. A very beautiful feeling of unity, solidarity and serenity will arise in your heart because of the act of praying in congregation. This is the beauty of worshipping Al- Jami' (The Gatherer) with your fellow Muslims. 

Step # 5. Think positively of Allah swt and assume the best of Him.  Syed Qutb (may Allah have Mercy upon him) said: “The believing heart assumes the best of its Lord, and always expects the best from Him. It expects good from Him in times of ease and times of hardship, and it believes that Allah wants good for him in either situation. The secret of this is that his heart is connected to Allah, and the flow of good from Allah is never cut off. So, whenever the heart is connected to Him, it touches upon this fundamental reality and experiences it in a direct and sweet way.” [Fi Dhilal al-Qur’an] {Source:}

Now that I've shared about how I've struggled to acknowledge Allah swt in my life, I'm really interested to know how other people have come to know and understand their Creator. How have you experienced God's Presence in your life? What have you done to open up your heart to Him? Feel free to share your questions and thoughts.

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