Keeping up with Mentioning God: The Thirteenth Stop of Your Spiritual Journey to God

posted in: New Muslims, Reflections | 0
By Dr. Jasser Auda

Do not stop mentioning God just because your heart is not present. Forgetting Him completely is worse than being inattentive while you are mentioning God; perhaps He will elevate you from being inattentive to being attentive, and from being attentive to being fully present with Him, and from being fully present with Him to being fully absent from anything but Him. “This is not difficult for God.” (Fatir 35:17)

Keeping up with Mentioning God

Sometimes you mention God but you do not reflect on the meaning of saying subhan Allah.

Resist Forgetfulness

We are still passing though the stage of cleaning up in our journey searching for the flaws and attempting to get rid of them. This word of wisdom tackles a serious flaw of the soul which is that of forgetting mentioning God. We often get plagued with this flaw throughout the day. Remembrance is the opposite meaning of forgetfulness. When you mention God, you are not in a state of forgetfulness.

God says “And bethink yourself of thy Sustainer humbly and with awe, and without raising your voice, at morn and at evening; and do not allow yourself to be heedless.” (Al-A`raf 7:205); “… and remember Him as the One who guided you…” (Al-Baqarah 2:198); “… bear God in mind – since it is He who taught you what you did not previously know.” (Aal `Imran 3:239); “And when you have finished your prayer, remember God – standing and sitting and lying down.” (An-Nisaa’ 4:103); “O you who have attained to faith! Remember God with unceasing remembrance. And extol His limitless glory from morn to evening.” (Al-Ahzab 33:41-42); “… so remember Me, and I shall remember you.” (Al-Baqarah 2:152)

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Keep your tongue busy with God’s remembrance.”  (At-Tirmidhi and Ibn Majah)

These are clear and direct instructions to remember God in all our states. The Prophet used to mention God in all his states, and every state has a special supplication which is in itself a form of mentioning God.

Also, we read in the Qur’an: “Those who believe, and whose hearts find their rest in the remembrance of God – for, verily, in the remembrance of God (men’s) hearts do find their rest.” (Ar-Ra`d 13:28)

Mentioning God brings about a state of rest in the heart which draws one closer to God. Mentioning God is the ultimate goal of the rituals. God says: “… and be constant in prayer, so as to remember Me!” (Ta-Ha 20:14)

Therefore, the objective of the prayer is God’s remembrance. God’s remembrance is even greater than prayer in terms of restraining man from committing bad deeds and al that runs counter to reason. God says: “… behold, prayer restrains (man) from loathsome deeds and from all that runs counter to reason; and remembrance of God is indeed the greatest (good).” (Al-`Ankabut 29:45)

God will Elevate You

However, Ibn `Ata’illah is talking here about not feeling God’s remembrance in our hearts. The question is: should we neglect God’s remembrance when we do not feel it in our hearts? Or should we stop God’s remembrance despite not feeling it?

Ibn `Ata’illah says: “Do not stop mentioning God just because your heart is not present. Forgetting Him completely is worse than being inattentive while you are mentioning Him; perhaps He will elevate you from being inattentive to being attentive, and from being attentive to being fully present with Him, and from being fully present with Him to being fully absent from anything but Him. “This is not difficult for God.” (Fatir 35:17)”

This means if your heart is not present when you mention God, do not stop mentioning God. If, for example, you read the Qur’an but you do not reflect on the verses you are reading because you are mind is busy with something else, or that you mention God but you do not reflect on the meaning of saying subhan Allah (Glory be to God), al-hamdullilah (praise be to God), la ilaha illa Allah (there is not god but God), in such cases, do not stop mentioning God.

Therefore, as Ibn `Ata’illah suggests, do not stop mentioning God just because your heart is not present. Forgetting Him completely is worse than being inattentive while you are mentioning Him; perhaps He will elevate you from being inattentive to being attentive, and from being attentive to being fully present with Him.

The least degree of mentioning God is that you mention Him while you are attentive, i.e. you are not sleeping. God says: “O you who have attained to faith! do not attempt to pray while you are in a state of drunkenness, (but wait) until you know what you are saying.” (An-Nisaa’ 4:43)

Perhaps He will elevate you from being inattentive to being attentive, i.e. God will wake you from the state from drunkenness which makes you neglect the real mentioning of God, and He will elevate you to the state of being attentive, then to a higher state of being fully present with him.

Ibn `Ata’illah says: “Perhaps He will elevate you from being attentive to being fully present with Him.” Being fully present with Him is a degree higher than being attentive, i.e. the servant’s heart is present while mentioning God. When you mention Paradise, you call it to your mind. When you mention Hellfire, you call it to your mind. When you mention God, you call to your mind His glory and favors.

This presence of the heart is what `Ali ibn Abi Talib (may God be pleased with him) described in his famous sermon about the characteristics of those who are conscious of God.

Imam `Ali said: “When they come across a verse which contains fear (of Hell) they bend the ears of their hearts towards it, and feel as though the sound of Hell and its cries are reaching their ears. If they come across a verse creating eagerness (for Paradise) they pursue it avidly, and their spirits turn towards it eagerly, and they feel as if it is in front of them.”

Therefore, it is not difficult for God to elevate us from being inattentive to being attentive, and from being attentive to being fully present with Him. If we are elevated to such a level, we will be like the companions who felt and heard the unseen world of Paradise and Hell.

Then Ibn `Ata’illah says: “God will elevate you from being fully present with Him to being fully absent from anything but Him.” One may mention God and do not feel anything around him. This is a Godly favor which, if bestowed on any Muslim once a day or once a week, he will be experiencing a lot of good feelings. One will reflect deeply in the meaning of the different forms of mentioning God. Beyond the meaning, one will be absent from anything but God.

This has nothing to do with those who claim that they do not see anything but God and that they are not part of the world, etc. This is a bit of an exaggeration. But we are talking about a state in which we feel we are absent from anything but God. When you mention God’s Divine Attributes, you remember His favors on you, and that you suffer from shortcomings. You also feel God’s bounty and generosity. This meaning makes you forget the blessing and make you reflect on the Giver of this blessing.

It’s All about God’s Mercy and Favour

Finally, Ibn `Ata’illah quotes the verse “This is not difficult for God.”  This means that all this depends on God’s mercy and bounty as we learned from the first word of wisdom that we do not rely on our deeds and put our trust on Him alone.

We pray to God to make us among those who mention Him in a continuous and complete manner. We also ask God to make us thankful to Him and to worship Him in the best way.

We pray to God to elevate us from being inattentive to being attentive, and from being attentive to being fully present with Him, and from being fully present with Him to being fully absent from anything but Him. ‘This is not difficult for God.’

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The article is excerpted from “Some of Al-Hikam Al-Ataiyyah” (The Path to God: A Journey with Ibn `Ata’illah’s Words of Wisdom In the Light of the Quran, the Prophetic Tradition, and Universal Laws of God- By Dr. Jasser Auda

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