Means of attaining nearness to Allah – Part I

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Ataul Mujeeb Rashed, Missionary-in-Charge UK

وَ اِذَا سَاَلَکَ عِبَادِیۡ عَنِّیۡ فَاِنِّیۡ قَرِیۡبٌ

“And when My servants ask thee about Me, say: ‘I am near.’” (Surah al-Baqarah, Ch.2: V.187)

This topic is an enormous ocean of knowledge and wisdom. An utmost certainty in the existence and unity of God is the central point in the life of a believer and love of God is his spiritual food, without which one cannot conceive of real life. Just as the Being of God is limitless, the pathways to His love and nearness are innumerable. How aptly has the Promised Messiahas put it:

ہے عجب جلوہ تِری قدرت کا پیارے ہرطرف

جس طرف دیکھیں وہی رہ ہے تِرےدیدار کا

“What show of Thy splendour is all around, My Dear; Wherever we look, that way leads to Thy View.”

Various means of attaining nearness to Allah

The essence of God is limitless, and His attributes are uncountable. Likewise, the ways and means to nearness of Allah are so multifarious and vast that it is not possible to cover them in a short time. These matters are mentioned frequently in the Holy Quran, Hadith and writings of the Promised Messiahas and his Khalifas. I present to you a few droplets from this vast ocean of knowledge.

The Promised Messiahas on attaining nearness to Allah

The Imam of the Age, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas has elaborated on the fundamental and incomprehensible subject of attaining God’s nearness and thereby highlighted its importance. I present here a few of his insightful writings.

“Allah, the Almighty cannot be deceived. He favours with closeness only those who are innately disposed to swimming in the river of His love like fish are entirely dedicated to Him and lost in His love.” (Sat Bachan, Ruhani Khazain, Vol. 20, p. 158)

“All comfort of man lies in the nearness and love of Allah the Almighty.” (Lecture Lahore, Ruhani Khazain, Vol. 20, p. 158)’

“The important matter that is achieved by prayer is qurb-e-Ilahi [nearness to Allah.” (Malfuzat, Vol. 4, p. 45, [2003] Rabwah)

“Divine help and support are major signs of one who is close to Allah, the Exalted”. (Malfuzat, Vol. 4, p. 106, [2003] Rabwah)

“Man’s honour lies in qurb-e-Ilahi [nearness to Allah] only and that indeed is the greatest fortune and blessing.”  (ibid)

What is qurb-e-Ilahi? It is the real and eternal life. The Promised Messiahas says:

زندہ  وہی ہیں جو کہ خدا کے قریب  ہیں

مقبول بن کے اس کے عزیز وحبیب ہیں

“Only they are alive who are close to God; Being accepted, they are His dear and loved ones.”

1. Basic requirement of nearness to Allah – Love for the Holy Prophetsa

With regard to qurb-e-Ilahi, the high rank and station granted by Allah to the Promised Messiahas during these latter days is unique and unparalleled. He explained that he was granted this closeness because of following Hazrat Khatamun-Nabiyyin Muhammad Mustafa, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, and due to his love for him. He narrated a vision he had during his early days: 

“I saw in a dream that the people were searching for a reviver. A man appeared before my humble self and, pointing towards me, said:

ھٰذَا رَجُلٌ یُّحِبُّ رَسُولَ اللّٰہِ

meaning, ‘This is the man who loves the Messenger of Allah.’”

He added, “The meaning of this statement was that the principal qualification for this mission is the love of the Holy Prophetsa, and this quality was definitely found in me.” (Barahin-e-Ahmadiyya, Ruhani Khazain, Vol. 1, p. 598; English Translation [2016] Part IV, p. 379)

The whole of his life bears testimony to the high station and rank of nearness to Allah granted to him by Allah. Describing the state of this nearness, he submits to Allah:

“They call me a kafir (disbeliever) but can I find someone dearer than You for whom I may desert You. However, I see that when people are oblivious of their surrounds, when my friends and foes are unaware of my condition, You wake me up and tell me most lovingly: do not grieve! I am with you! Then, O my Lord, how is it possible that, notwithstanding this benevolence, I desert You. Never! Never!” (Badr, 11 January 1912, p. 6)

What a lofty status that was granted to him as a result of his love for the Messengersa of Allah!

اے آزمانے والے یہ نسخہ بھی آزما

“O ye who are trying, pray try this formula, too.”

2. Obedience to the Messengersa of Allah

We see the pinnacle of nearness to Allah in the life of the Holy Prophetsa. During the Battle of Badr, he threw a fistful of stones towards the enemies. Allah attributed the action to Himself saying:

وَ مَا رَمَیۡتَ اِذۡ رَمَیۡتَ وَ لٰکِنَّ اللّٰہَ رَمٰی    

“And thou threwest not when thou didst throw, but it was Allah Who threw.” (Surah al-Anfal, Ch.8: V.18) 

Again, on the occasion of Bai‘at-e-Rizwan, when he put his hand over the hands of the Companions, Allah attributed the action to Himself saying:

 یَدُ اللّٰہِ فَوۡقَ اَیۡدِیۡہِمۡ

“The hand of Allah is over their hands.” (Surah al-Fath, Ch.48: V.11)

An absolute and definite means of nearness to Allah is to follow the holy personage who got nearest to Allah and who loved Him the most. Allah established him to be the excellent model worthy of being followed by the whole world and told him to declare to all the ardent lovers desirous of nearness to Allah:

اِنۡ کُنۡتُمۡ تُحِبُّوۡنَ اللّٰہَ فَاتَّبِعُوۡنِیۡ یُحۡبِبۡکُمُ اللّٰہُ

“If you love Allah, follow me: [then] will Allah love you …” (Surah Al-e-Imran, Ch.3: V.32)

That is, “If you are earnest in your claim of love for Allah, prove it by following me and tread the path that has led me to this fortune. I assure you, by Allah’s command, that my beloved God will start loving you and by virtue of following my footsteps you too will be enriched with His nearness.”

The devoted Companionsra of the Holy Prophetsa responded positively to these glad tidings by following him fervently, being at his beck and call in an unprecedented manner.

Once, the Messenger of Allahsa called on his Companionsra to make financial sacrifices. One of them came up with half of his belongings, while the other presented all that he had. 

Before alcohol was banned, a drinking party was in full swing. It was heard that the Holy Prophetsa had declared it Haram [forbidden]. One of them suggested that they should confirm if that indeed was the case. The other got up and smashed the wine pots into pieces and the wine began flowing into the streets.

On one occasion, some people were standing in the mosque. The Messengersa of Allah told them to sit down. One of the Companionsra heard this instruction while he was outside the mosque and sat down there and then, crawling to the mosque. Someone told him that he was not the one being addressed. He replied, “As I have heard the command, it is for me to obey.”

These embodiments of obedience – the Companionsra – attained the spiritual high grounds through obedience to the Messengersa of Allah. They gained such nearness to Allah that He gave them the glad tidings during their lifetime:

رَضِیَ اللَّهُ عَنْهُمْ وَرَضُوا عَنْهُ

“Allah is well pleased with them and they are well pleased with Him.” (Sural al-Fath, Ch.48: V.9)

Remember, this gateway of obedience to Allah is still open. The Divine promise is still there for every seeker of Allah’s nearness.

During this age, the Promised Messiahas achieved nearness to Allah following the same route and the grand titles of “Promised Messiah” and “Imam Mahdi” were bestowed to him. He says:

سب ہم نے اُس سے پایا شاہد ہے تو خدایا

وہ جس نے حق دکھایا، وہ مہ لقا یہی  ہے

“We gained it all from him. Thou art a Witness, O Lord; The one who showed us the truth, he is the handsome one.”

He enjoyed the sweet reward of nearness to Allah by following the Messengersa of Allah and then following the ways and example set by him, many members of the Ahmadiyya Jamaat continue to gain closeness to Allah, by the grace of Allah.

آؤ لوگو کہ یہیں نورِ خدا پاؤ گے

لو تمہیں طور تسلی کا بتایا ہم نے

“Come, O people! ‘Tis here that you shall find the light of God; Behold! We have shown you the way to satisfy yourself.”

3. Pondering over the attributes of Allah

One of the means of achieving God’s nearness is to ponder over the attributes of Allah; not merely uttering those attributes, but pondering over them profoundly. Pondering over the attributes of Allah as they operate in the real world and observing their impact on one’s practical life leads to utmost certainty that enriches the seeker with nearness to Allah.

4. Zikr-e-Ilahi (Remembrance of Allah) – A sure means of God’s nearness

The first and foremost requirement to attain nearness to Allah and His love is to acquire proper cognition about Him. Cognition of something is achieved by proper understanding of its beauty and benevolence. To acquire that, it is essential to recite the attributes of Allah repeatedly and keep oneself occupied with Zikr-e-Ilahi. Allah says:

فَاذۡکُرُوۡنِیۡۤ اَذۡکُرۡکُمۡ

“Therefore remember Me, and I will remember you.” (Surah al-Baqarah, Ch.2: V.153)

O ye seekers of God’s nearness, “Keep remembering Me and I will remember you and will bless you with My nearness generously.” Zikr-e-Ilahi is a sure means of His nearness.

In the Holy Quran, Allah, the Almighty has described the believers as:

ْالَّذِیۡنَ یَذۡکُرُوۡنَ اللّٰہَ قِیٰمًا وَّ قُعُوۡدًا وَّ عَلٰی جُنُوۡبِہِم

“Those who remember Allah while standing, sitting and [lying] on their sides.” (Surah Al-e-Imran, Ch.3: V.192)

یٰۤاَیُّہَا الَّذِیۡنَ اٰمَنُوۡا لَا تُلۡہِکُمۡ اَمۡوَالُکُمۡ وَ لَاۤ اَوۡلَادُکُمۡ عَنۡ ذِکۡرِ اللّٰہِ

 “O ye who believe! Let not your wealth and your children divert you from the remembrance of Allah” (Surah al-Munafiqun, Ch.63: V.10) as a person negligent of Zikr-e-Ilahi certainly fails to get the blessing of God’s nearness.

Talking of the importance and necessity of Zikr, Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra says:

عادتِ ذکر بھی ڈالو کہ یہ ممکن ہی نہیں

دل میں ہو عشقِ صنم لب پہ مگر نام نہ ہو

“Make remembrance a habit, as it is not possible to have love in your heart and not mention the name of the beloved.”

Pleasant reward of Zikr-e-Ilahi and Durood

Hazrat Maulana Ghulam Rasul Rajekira, a devout companion of the Promised Messiahas, had a special position in the fields of qurb-e-Ilahi [Allah’s nearness] and sufism. How did he achieve that? He, once, mentioned one of the means as follows:

“During one sitting with members of the Jamaat, Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IIra instructed the youth that after the obligatory part of every Salat, they should repeat:

سبحان اللّٰہ وبحمدہ، سبحان اللّٰہ العظیم

and Durood [specific wording invoking salutations upon the Prophetsa] 12 times respectively. I started acting on this advice regularly from that very day. I benefited greatly from this practice. With purification of my heart and illumination of my soul, I started having a strange type of spiritual awareness. Just as the eyes perceive the light of sun and moon, my heart is frequently illumined at times like a lightbulb and at times, like a gas lamp during prayers and at times, I feel that from head to toe, my body has become internally luminous. (Hayat-e-Qudsi, Part V, p. 129)

It is a spiritual experience, witnessed by many.

5. Prayer for attaining God’s nearness

Striving persistently and making diligent efforts is required to attain God’s nearness. The truth is that it is not possible to reach God without His help. The routes to Him are unlimited. Without the helping hand of God, it is not possible to achieve this goal.

The Promised Messiahas has stated that prayer is the means for this. He says:

یہی تدبیر ہے پیارو کہ مانگو اُس سے قربت کو

اُسی کے ہاتھ کو ڈھونڈو جلاؤ سب کمندوں کو

“‘Tis the only way, my dear, that you ask Him for nearness; Seek His Hand only and burn all other means.”

6. Means of attaining God’s nearness – The Holy Quran

One of the tested and verified means for attaining God’s nearness is the Holy Quran. This holy book comprises of the word of God from beginning to end. It has such purifying effects that guide the seeker to the Divine Court. Whoever receives the blessings of this book of guidance is enriched with the bounty of His nearness. The beneficence of the Holy Quran is ongoing and continuing and is the foremost, tried and tested means of getting closer to Allah.

The Promised Messiahas says:

“Hundreds of thousands of holy ones testify that by following the Holy Quran … a wonderful relationship is established with the Divine … and a delicious love of God, which is nurtured by the delight of meeting is generated in their hearts”. (Surma Chashm-e-Arya, Ruhani Khazain, Vol. 2, p. 31)

He further says:

“The ways of true and perfect salvation have been opened by the Quran and all else is its reflection. Therefore, study the Quran with deep contemplation and hold it very deer. Love it more than anything else”. (Kishti-e-Nuh, Ruhani Khazain, Vol. 19, p. 26)

The Promised Messiahas once received a revelation:

اَلْخَیْرُ کُّلُّہُ فِي الْقُرْآن

“All good is contained in the Quran.” Recitation of this holy book every morning illumines the human mind. The Holy Quran is the modus operandi for a believer, without which it is not possible to attain the nearness of Allah.

We must remember the following advice of the Promised Messiahas:

“You should not abandon the Holy Quran like a thing forsaken, for therein lies your life. Those who honour the Quran will be honoured in heaven”. (Kishti-e-Nuh, Ruhani Khazain, Vol. 19, p. 13)

7. Supplicating for God’s nearness

Supplicating for love of Allah is a very important and basic means of attaining His nearness. Prayer is the basis on which depends the success of all other means. A believer must adopt the style of prayers adopted by our beloved Master, the Messengersa of Allah. According to a hadith, he used to pray as follows:

اللهم ارزُ قِني حبك، وَحُبَّ مَن اَحَبَّکَ، وَحُبَّ مَا یُقَرِّ بُنِی اِ لَیکَ، وَاجعل حبك أحبُّ إليَّ من الماء البارد

“O God! Grant me your love, and the love of those who love you, and the deeds and high morals and sacrifices and virtues that create your love and take me nearer to you, Oh God! Make your love dearer to me than the love of cold water during a very hot summer.

Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra states that this is how the Messengersa of Allah used to supplicate. Perseverance in this produces love of Allah in one’s heart and leads to God’s nearness. (Ta‘alluq Billah; Vol. 23, pp. 218-219)

8. Basic means of God’s nearness – Five daily prayers, Tahajud and nawafil

Divine worship, according to the commandments of Allah and His Messengersa, are the sure means of attaining His nearness. At the top of the list are the five daily prayers, which must be offered regularly and consistently. The Messengersa of Allah said:

قرۃ عینی فی الصلوٰۃ

“The delight of my eyes is in Salat.”

Again, he also said:

الصلوٰۃ عمادالدین

“Salat is the pillar of Islam.” He also stated that on the Day of Judgement, the first thing we will be called to account for is Salat.

The Promised Messiahas has also emphasised: 

“Whosoever does not observe the five daily prayers is not of my community.” (Kishti-e-Nuh, Ruhani Khazain, Vol. 19, p. 19)

About Salat and God’s nearness, he stated, “As a means for attaning Allah’s nearness, there is nothing superior to Salat as it is the key to being closer to Him.” (Malfuzat, Vol. 2, pp. 347-348)

He further stated, “One can never attain His nearness unless one observes Salat.” (Malfuzat, Vol. 2, p. 346)

Our beloved Master, Hazrat Khalifatul Masih Vaa has instructed us, from the very first day of his Khilafat, to observe Salat; he has done it so many times that it is not possible to count.

Here, I present one of his directives:

“Every person who desires to become a worshipper of Allah, attain His nearness, keep himself and his progeny clean and save himself from the intrigues of Satan has only one way, i.e. to focus on worship. And most essential for that is observing congregational prayers.” (Khutabat-e-Masroor, Vol. 1, p. 24)

In addition to the observation of five daily prayers, Tahajud prayer is also necessary in the quest for attaining His nearness. Tahajud prayer has extraordinary importance in the spiritual journey to nearness to Allah. In the Holy Quran, Allah says:

“O Ye who believe! Offer Tahajud prayer in the latter part of the night. It may be that your Lord will raise you to an exalted station.” (Surah Bani Israil, Ch.17: V.80)

The next stage in this journey are the voluntary nawafil. The importance of nawafil becomes obvious in light of a saying of the Holy Prophetsa that for the seeker of God’s nearness, nawafil facilitate arriving at the journey’s end. The English rendering of the Hadith is as follows:

“On the Day of Judgement, the first thing one will be called to account for will be Salat. If there is any shortfall in such a person’s obligatory prayers, Allah will say, ‘My servant has some nawafil in his account.’ If there are nawafil, the shortfall in obligatory prayers will be made up with nawafil. (Tirmidhi, Kitabul-Salat)

A sure means of attaining His nearness has been outlined in a noble Hadith. Hazrat Abu Hurairahra narrates that the Holy Prophetsa said:

“Allah the Almighty says … ‘My servant can be close to Me through the things that I love and that I made obligatory upon him. By offering nawafil, My servant gets so close to Me that I start loving him. When I make him a friend of Mine, I become the ears with which he hears, the eyes with which he sees, the hands with which he holds and the feet with which he walks. Thus, I fulfil all that he desires. If he begs of Me, I provide for him; if he seeks My protection, I grant him protection. (Sahih al-Bukhari, Kitabul Riqaq, Bab-ul-Tawazu)

9. Conditions of Bai‘at

I submit that the ten conditions of Bai‘at laid down by the Promised Messiahas are in fact ten flights of stairs leading towards God.

Hazrat Amirul Momineen, Khalifatul Masih Vaa started a series of Friday Sermons with reference to these conditions of Bai‘at from the very beginning of his Khilafat. These have been published in book form. These sermons form the permanent modus operandi for an Ahmadi.

This inspiring book (Conditions of Bai‘at and Responsibilities of an Ahmadi) guides towards the means of adopting Allah’s nearness, awakens the neglectful, makes an Ahmadi a true and active Muslim and facilitates the stages of God’s nearness. As a reminder of the ten conditions of Bai‘at, this book is incomparable and should be studied all the time.

10. Various means of God’s nearness

The study of the Promised Messiah’sas books and writings is a certain and sure means of attaining Allah’s nearness. Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra has made an insightful point that angels descend on readers of those books that are authored by one on whom angels used to descend. This way, they are blessed with God’s nearness.

Another means of gaining the nearness of Allah is by visiting the holy places that were once resided by holy and noble servants of God, which include Mecca, Medina, Qadian, Rabwah and every place resided by a Divinely appointed prophet and khalifa. This also includes Islamabad (England) which has become the new centre for the worldwide Ahmadiyya Movement in Islam.

Visiting these places and supplicating there humbly and invoking Allah’s blessings on the Holy Prophetsa repeatedly, illumines one’s heart and produces such a spiritual condition that leads to Allah the Almighty.

(The second and last part of the article will follow in the next issue Insha-Allah)

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