When we compare our lifespans wherein our endeavors unfold to the age of the earth, or to that of the universe which we are told is fifteen thousand million years old, they seem of less significance than a droplet of water in an endless ocean. For today's materialist life holds little significance other than that of consumption and seeking instant gratification. To believers in God and His Divine Unity, however, life is seen as a rich tapestry of signs, and as an arena of tests, that afford us the opportunity of knowing Allah and worshiping Him: “I created men and jinn, avers Allah in the Qur'an, only that they may worship Me.” [1]

Early Qur'anic exegesists have cited Ibn 'Abbås, and his illustrious student, Mujåhid, as saying that Allah's words: 'that they may worship Me' – illå li ya'budun, actually mean: “that they may know Me – illå li ya'rifun.” [2] The reason for this is quite straightforward, which is that we cannot worship Allah without first knowing Him. This is why it has been said:

Awwalu wåjibin 'ala'l-'abidi
Ma'rifatu'Llåhi bi'l-tawhidi

Meaning, “that the first duty upon a person is to know Allah vis-a-via His Oneness and Divinity.” [3]

“THAT YOU MAY KNOW”
In his essay on Divine love and intimacy, Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali wrote: “Allah created creation so that they may worship Him through love, fear and hope of Him. Allah, Exalted is He, strictured: “I created jinn and men only that they may worship Me.” However, Allah can only be worshiped by possessing knowledge (marifah) of Him; which is why He created the heavens and the earth, and all that is between them, as an indicator to His divinity and majesty. About this, Allah proclaims: Allah it is who has created seven heavens, and of the earth a similar number. His command descends through them, so that you may know Allah has power over all things, and that He encompasses all things in knowledge.”[4][5] Here we are told that creation was created li ta'lamu – 'that you may know' Allah, and that His Command courses through the creation, and that His omnipotence and His omniscience envelop all things.

Commenting on the above verse, imam al-Sa'di writes of the creation that, “All of this was [created] in order for people to know and to discern that His knowledge and power circumscribe each and everything. As they come to know Him through His Beautiful Names and Sublime Attributes, they will then adore and worship Him, and also fulfill His rights. This is the greater purpose behind the creation and command: to know Allah and to then worship Him.” [6]

THE OCEAN OF MA'RIFAH: SHALLOW & DEEP
In explaining the hadith: “Know Allah in times of prosperity and He will know you in times of adversity,” [7] Ibn Rajab writes about ma'rifah , or knowing Allah:

“A servant's ma'rifah of his Lord is of two levels: Firstly, a general acquaintance which involves acknowledging, affirming and having faith in Him: this type of ma'rifah is common to all believers. Secondly, a deeper type of ma'rifah, or acquaintance, which leads to hearts being totally inclined to Allah: devoted to Him; intimate with Him; at peace when remembering Him; being shy of Him; and being held in awe of Him. This is the specific type of ma'rifah around which the gnostics, or 'årifun, revolve – as one of them remarked: “The poor people of this world have departed from it without xperiencing the most delightful thing in it.” He was asked: What is the most delightful of things? He said: “The ma'rifah of Allah, Mighty and Majestic is He.” Ahmad ibn 'Asim al-Antaqi said: “I desire not to die until I attain ma'rifah of my Lord. I do not mean ma'rifah in the sense of merely believing in Him; but a ma'rifah so that, when I know Him, I feel shy of Him.” [8]

MA'RIFAH: A METAPHOR
These levels of ma'rifah can be likened to the example of a man and a neighbour who has just recently moved in across the road. [9] At first he becomes acquainted with his new neighbour in a general sense. He may learn of his name, his vocation, whether he is married with kids; he will also learn of his general appearance and be able to recognise him when meeting him on the street. He may well, by asking around, be able to glean other facts about his new neighbour. Yet whatever information he learns about him will be at an indirect, impersonal level; unlikely to stir the heart into having any deep senseof respect or admiration for the neighbour. Indeed, beyond acknowledging the neighbour's existence and presence in the locality, his outlook towards him may possibly be one of polite indifference. This is akin to the first level of ma'rifah spoken of by Ibn Rajab.

Let us now suppose that he decides to know his neighbour directly and introduces himself to him; visits him frequently; socialises with him; and, over time, forms a sincere and faithful friendship with him. He is now able to observe and experience at first hand his neighbour's fine character: his kindness, generosity, knowledge and wisdom, compassion, and other virtues that can only be known through direct contact. This intimate knowledge of his neighbour evokes in the man a profound respect and admiration for his neighbour, and a deep and abiding love for him. What is more, it is probable – guaranteed even – that his neighbour will begin to disclose to him many of his most private thoughts, and share with him many of his most intimate feelings, which could never have been known even in a lifetime's worth of indirect observation or investigation. Instead, such knowledge is only granted to him out of the neighbour's desire to be more intimately known, and out of the man abiding by the rules of propriety (adab) in seeking to know and to draw closer to his neighbour. This reflects the second degree of ma'rifah discussed by Ibn Rajab. No wonder, then, that the ma'rifah of Allah has been described as 'the most delightful of things' on this earth.

A TREASURE UNKNOWN
As for the hadith frequently cited in Sufi literature: “I was a treasure unknown but wanted to be known, so I created creation and made Myself known; they then knew Me,” hadith masters have declared this narration to be a chainless forgery. In his dictionary of fabricated hadiths, Mullå 'Ali al-Qåri states: “Ibn Taymiyyah said: 'This is not a saying of the Prophet, peace be upon him, nor is it known to have a chain of transmission; be it sound or weak.' Al-Zirkashi and al-'Asqalåni said the same. Its meaning, however, is sound, taking its cue from Allah's words: “I created jinn and men only that they may worship Me,” meaning “that they may know Me” – as explained by Ibn 'Abbås, may Allah be pleased with him.” [10]

NURTURING MA'RIFAH
Ibn al-Qayyim has noted: “In the Qur'an, Allah, Exalted is He, invites people to acquire ma'rifah; or knowledge and gnosis [of Him], via two ways: Firstly, by reflecting upon the divine handiwork [in creation]; and secondly, by contemplating over the Qur'an and pondering over its meanings. The former are His signs that are seen and witnessed, the latter are His signs which are heard and understood. “The first type is referred to in His saying: In the creation of the heavens and the earth; in the alternation of the night and day; in the sailing of ships through the ocean for the benefit of mankind; in the water that Allah sends down from the sky and with which He revives the earth after its death; in the animals of all kinds that He has scattered therein; in the ordering of the winds and the clouds that are driven between heaven and earth, are signs for people who can think. [11] And His words: In the creation of the heavens and the earth, and in the alternation of the night and day, are signs for those of understanding. [12] Verses like these occur frequently in the Qur'an.The second is referred to in His saying: Will they not reflect on the Qur'an? [13] As well as: Do they not reflect about what is being said? [14] And: This is a Book that We have sent down to you, full of blessings, that they may reflect over its signs. [15] Such verses also occur frequently.” [16]

Another way by which ma'rifah is nurtured in the heart is by engaging in divine remembrance, or dhikr. Ibn al-Qayyim said of dhikr: “It opens to a person the greatest door to ma'rifah. Hence, as his remembrance [of Allah] increases so does his ma'rifah.” [17] Amidst the dramas of this world, therefore, and amidst its songs of sorrow and joy, the Qur'an asks the human creature to know their Maker and to remember Him, and to live out their lives in conscious awareness of Him.

Allah'S MA'RIFAH OF US
Having dwelt upon the need for, and nature of, seeking ma'rifah of Allah, Ibn Rajab then says: “Allah's ma'rifah of His servants is also of two degrees: A general awareness, which refers to His knowledge of His servants and His awareness of all that they do: whether done openly or secretly. Allah said: We created man, and We know the promptings of his soul, and We are closer to him than his jugular vein. [18] And He informs: He knows you best since He created you from the earth, and when you were embryos your mothers' wombs. [19]

Secondly, a particular type of ma'rifah which leads to His love for His servant; His drawing closer to him; His responding to his prayer; and His delivering him from trials and hardships. This is expressed in the Prophet's words, peace be upon him; who relates from his Lord: “My servant continues to draw closer to Me with superogatory works so that I shall love him. When I love him I am his hearing with which he hears, his seeing with which he sees, his hand with which he strikes, and his foot with which he walks. Were he to ask something of Me, I would surely give it to him; and were he to seek refuge in Me, I would surely grant it to him.” [20] In another wording: “ … Were he to call on Me, I would surely respond to him.” [21]

Thus those who worship Allah upon such ma'rifah, and in accordance with the Sacred Law (shariah), are led by it to an even deeper gnosis or ma'rifah. And so it is that Allah, in His overwhelming grace, raises those who are imperfect and ignorant, yet strive to subdue their lower selves; open their hearts to His light; and seek to know and draw closer to Him.
1 5 – 0 5 – 0 7

END NOTES
1. Qur'an 51:56.
2. Cf. al-Baghawi, Ma'ålim al-Tanzil (Beirut: Dår Ibn Hazm, 2002), 1236. After citing these words, al-Baghawi remarks: “This is the best [of what has been said]; for had He not created them, they would never have known of His existence or divinity.” Also cf. al-Qurtubi, al-Jåmi' li Ahkåm al-Qur'ån (Beirut: Dår al-Kutub al-'Ilmiyyah, 1996) 17:38; and Ibn Kathir, Tafsir Qur'ån al-'AΩim (Beirut: Dår al-Ma'rifah, 1987), 4:255.
3. Cf. al-Safårini, Lawåmi' al-Anwår al-Bahiyyah (Beirut: al-Maktab al-Islåmi, 1991), 1:112.
4. Qur'an 65:12
5. Istinshåq Nasim al-Uns, 60.
6. Al-Sa'di, Taysir al-Karim al-Rahmån fi Tafsir Kalåm al- Mannån (Riyadh: Dår al-Mughni, 1999), 955.
7. Ibn Hanbal, Musnad, 1:293; al-Tirmidhi, Sunan, no.2516. Shu'ayb al-Arnåut declared its chain to be authentic (Sahih) in his verification to Ibn Rajab, Jåmi' al-'Ulum wa'l-Hikam (Beirut: Mu'assasah al-Risålah, 1998), 1:459-60.
8 . Jåmi' al-'Ulum wa'l-Hikam, 1:473.
9. The metaphor is culled from Sayyid Muhammad Naquib Al-Attas, Islam and Secularism (Lahore: Suhail Academy, 1998), 80-81. I am indebted to Shaykh Muhammad al-Afifi for pointing this book out to me.
10. Al-asrår al-Marfu'ah fi'l-Akhbår al-Mawdu'ah (Beirut: al-Maktab al-Islåmi, 1986), no.353. Similar verdicts occur in al-Suyuti, al-Durar al-Muntathirah (Riyadh: Riyadh University, 1983), no.330; al-Sakhåwi, Maqåsid al-Hasanah (Beirut: Dår al-Kutub al-'Ilmiyyah), no.836.
11. Qur'an 2:164.
12. Qur'an 3:190.
13. Qur'an 4:84.
14. Qur'an 23:68.
15. Qur'an 38:29.
16. Al-FawåEid (Riyadh: Maktabah al-Rushd, 2001), 42-3.
17. Al-Wåbil al-Íayyib min al-Kalim al-Tayyib (Cairo: Dår al-Rayyån, 1987), 62.
18. Qur'an 50:16.
19. Qur'an 53: 32.
20. Al-Bukhåri, Ía˙i˙, no.6502. This is the last portion of a famous hadith, which begins: “Allah, Mighty and Majestic is He, said: Whoever shows enmity to a friend of Mine, I shall be at war with him. My servant does not draw closer to Me with anything more beloved to Me than the religious duties I have enjoined on him. My servant continues …”
21. Jåmi' al-'Ulum wa'l-Hikam, 1:473-4

21 Responses

  1. konfused mom

    asalamolaykum, bro abu aliyah what would u recommend for some1 feeling really down spirititually.. i know the deen, ican speak arabic as my native lang., i feel distant from the deen cuz of sins. i cant concentrate in my salah and reading the quran isnt like it used to be… i really need some proper purification for the soul ASAP, sometimes i even get weird wiswaas about the prophet salallahoalayihi wa salam and about Allah, and i know its from shaytaan, i cant even organise my time………im a mom, ive got a baby and lifes just going down the hill. help me bro, wasalam

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  2. Abu Muhammad

    Asalaamu alaikum konfused mom,

    I’m just passing through. I thought I’d try to help you.

    Try the following. In that order:

    1. Make a strong dua asking for forgiveness from Allah. Tell Allah all your problems and then ask for his help. Send blessings upon the Prophets.

    2. Get some good Muslim company and try and see them a few times a week.

    3. Sit down with a piece of paper and write down everything that you want to change. Then break each thing down and start changing it one by one.

    Continue making dua and asking forgiveness all the time.

    I just came out of depression. Trust me, Allah helps his worshippers.

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  3. Amad

    ASA, I found this at Abd alMajeed’s blog:

    Going through Madarijus-Saalikeen, I came across this beautiful hadeeth qudsi that I just had to share, please make du’a for me. Its a bit lengthy, but its a very amazing read.

    The Prophet (PBUH) mentioned that Allah (SWT) said, “Myself, Mankind and Jinn are in a great serious state. I create them, then they worship other gods that they make for themselves; I bless them with my bounties, then they thank someone else for what I sent them; My Mercy descends to them while their evil deeds ascend to Me; I endear them with my gifts even though I have no need to any of them while they alienate themselves from Me with their sins even though they are desperate for my help. Whoever returns to Me, I accept him no matter how far he is; and whoever turns away from Me, I approach him and call on him. Whoever leaves a sin for my sake, I reward him with many gifts and whoever seeks to please Me, I seek to please him. Whoever acknowledges My Will and Power in whatever he does, I make the iron bend for his sake. My dear people are those who are with Me (i.e. whoever would like to be with Me, let him supplicate to Me and remember Me).

    Whoever thanks Me, I grant him more blessings; whoever obeys Me, I raise him and endear him more. Whoever disobeys Me, I keep the doors of My Mercy open for him; if he returns to Me, I bestow him with My Love since I love those who repent and purify themselves for My Sake. If he does not repent, I still treat him by putting them in hardship to purify him. Whoever favors Me over others, I favor them over others. I reward every single good deed ten times over or seven hundred times over to countless times over. I count every single bad deed as one unless the person repents and ask for My Forgiveness in which case I forgive even that one. I take into account any little good deed and I forgive even major sins. My Mercy supersedes My Anger; My Tolerance supersedes My Blame; My Forgiveness supersedes My Punishment as I am more merciful with My slaves than a mother with her child.”

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  4. khawla hurayrah

    Assalamu’alaikum
    br Amad: Jazzakumullahu khairan for this hadith qudsi reference, for I have been looking around for the source of this particular hadith for over a year!!! First time I read it, in one of br Amr Khaleed.org’s articles about the creation of Adam alyaihisalam but there was NO mention of any reference.
    MashaAllah
    Thank you

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  5. konfused mom

    asalamolaykum bros abu muhammad and amad, jazaakumullaah. u know, ive got one main problem, and it’s concentration. i just cant seem to concentrate, and on top of that CONTEMPLATE properly… any tips and help? i tried reading the hadith u quoted bro amad and i started yawning and feeling sleepy! i cant concentrate in my salah properly nor can i contemplate when reading quraan, pls help me in sha Allah, and before that i ask u for ur duas. jazakAllah to both of u!!

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  6. konfused mom

    bros and sisters, pls recommend any good books/lectures/videos that are really good for tazkiyah/heart softening…. i need that badly.

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  7. konfused mom

    bro amad, i just read the whole hadith qudsi, its so beautiful!!

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  8. AnonyMouse

    Sis Konfused Mom – I used to have that problem, too, of not being able to concentrate properly. One thing that helped me in my salaah was reading the tafseer of Surah al-Faatiha – at the very least, read the hadith regarding it. Truly, we’re having a direct conversation with Allah subhanahu wa ta’aalah at the moment of recitation! That’s something that’ll definitely get your attention…

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  9. Umm Layth

    as-Salaamu `alaykum

    This was a very nice piece. Jazaaka Allaahu khairan

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  10. fur

    My warmest wish of the word of Peace to everyone, hosts and readers, As-salaamu ’laykum wrh wrb

    Awwalan, jazakallahu khairan khathera to writer abu aliyah for a mind awakening and soul refreshing dish. i guess a dehydrated soul likens a dried up plant anticipating the coming of rain,,, a ruhi input is always a rejuvenating experience.

    I have a request for therespected writer and dear fellow brothers and sisters, should anyone know or have any ideas how to generate ACTIVITIES for eleven, twelve and thirteen year olds for lessons on the Asma ul-husna, i hope you’d be willing to share with me your effective methodologies, my concern is not just to comprehend each names and their meanings, but how do we ingrain in-depth and long lasting faith about the 99 MostBeautifulNames in the hearts of such young souls? on that note i kindly invite you to share your insights at my humble blog, cerminhidup.wordpress.com >post title: Ideas3

    with regards to the aforementioned hadeeth, i’d like to share another version that i came across;

    Anas reported that the Messenger of Allah said:
    “Allah, the Exalted has declared: ‘Child of Adam! Indeed, I will continue to forgive you as long as you call upon Me and hope for My forgiveness, whatever your sins may be I care not. Child of Adam, even if your sins should pile up as high as the sky and you asked for My forgiveness, I would forgive you. Child of Adam, if you come to Me with an earth full of sins and met Me, not holding anything as my equal, I would come to you with that much forgiveness” Reported by Tirmidhi

    Subhanallah.. talk about endless forgiveness!

    Dearest ukhtuna konfused mom, how are you doing..? :) are you on the way to recovery, or have you recuperated? i came across this article on treatments for the soul..i dont know if it’ll be of any use to you, the link is:
    http://www.al-islam.org/al-tawhid/felicities/4.htm

    what got me concerned me is when you said “i tried reading the hadith u quoted bro amad and i started yawning and feeling sleepy!”, It reminds me of a friend’s experience being possessed (by jinns), she was relating exactly the same account. i hope its not as bad as that, do pray for Allah’s protection because only He can shield us from His other creations

    On khusyuk or concentration; once, i came to know that Khusyuk in our salaah doesn’t really commence with Takbiiratul-ihram, it actually begins right from the time we turn on the tap for our ablution, so, from that point in time we are already building our khusyuk, which is why we must perform the wudhu with concentration, i was just reminding my students that you need not talk and chat with your friends while taking your wudhu, and of course khusyuk is the essence of Solaah. as we all know without it, our prayer would not mean much to Allah

    and one more fact to share about khusyuk, well you know how each steps of the prayer come with hidden wonders for us, well as i understood from what i was taught, the requirement of lowering our gaze and focusing on one spot on the prayer mat actually trains us to be ‘focused’, so that we develop and become focused people in life. mashaAllah. really is wonderful these hidden wisdoms, aren’t they, if only we take the time and trouble to delve into ‘em

    i stand to be corrected for any misinformed data =) was-salaam

    future ummu rumaisa’

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  11. konfused mom

    subhanullah! i just want to say jazaakum Allah to all of you for helping… such a spirit of true brother/sisterhood over here! i am so grateful to Allah seeing how all of u want and are trying to help me mashallah. sis khawla ive got the book by bro jamal al-din, its just a bit too long and i need something a bit more precise but ill try to go through it since u recommended it, keep in mind im a mom with a baby to look after mashallah so i havent got much time always. the islamic shop has nice things but im in the uk and in a part of it where i cant do much things, all the nice talks and 2 day seminars in the weekends are in london or birmingham, and for me to go to any of those, i gota travel :( and a sister cant travel without a mahram.

    bros/sis, id like advice with time management. subhanullah i really need some baraka in my time :(..it just goes like that. i wanted to start up a blog but i just dont have time for anything……

    another thing id request from all of u inshallah, is help with conviction.. i need to get over wiswas of shaytan regarding islam (ive been muslim since end 2004), and more importantly: getting to know ALlah better so that i can fear him more and do more things that please him and stay from that which doesnt please him inshallah. how do i do this?

    make dua for me, i really need it. thank u and jazakmallah for all ur help! so grateful!!

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  12. konfused mom

    pls see my above post^

    u know,sometimes i feel tempted to read things by sufis :S and its wrong i know but alhamdulilah i havent done that. i know abu hamid alghzali has good things on purification but bro jamal al din said that he used over 60% of weak hadith subhanullah, i and we all need authentic quran & sunnah.

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  13. Amad

    ASA konfused mom… at this time, when you are worried about keeping your faith, just being a Muslim… I wouldn’ t pay too much attention on points of contention and trying to figure out who or what’s sufi or not.

    Imam Al-Ghazali has a lot of great stuff for the purification of the heart and soul, so there’s nothing wrong in using it to get closer to Allah. There is a difference of opinion in any case about using weak ahadith in matters not related to Aqeedah, so as I said, I wouldn’t worry about these details and other irrelevant polemics.

    Concentrate on fixing your heart, and use mainstream sources… even if they are not perfect.

    waslaam

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  14. konfused mom

    jazakallah bro amad!!! ill take ur advice! inshallah if i have any questions etc. ill always come here, wallahi this has been the best help ive got, again true brother/sisterhood!

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  15. sadat

    as-Salaamu `alaykum,

    Sister konfused mom…check out http://www.kalamullah.com when you have spare time…there is a wealth of knowledge that you can read and listen to so if your busy doing something play some lectures at least…i put mp3’s on my mp3 player and listen to lectures when i drive and it is a great benefit from Allah having the ease and technology to do this…i recommend lectures by Yasir Qhadi and Imam Anwar Al-Awlaki…both are very easy to understand yet keep you very intrigued and interested MashAllah….InshaAllah you will learn new things little by little which in turn will make things easier for you InshaAllah….knowledge is the key!!! Dont be too hard on yourself…this deen is simple and easy…one step at a time…

    I also recommend writing things down to organize your time. Wake up early and sleep later to give an extra 30 minutes to Allah. Also if you can listen to lectures i recommend taking some notes if you are able.

    May Allah guide as all and make it easy for us, Ameen

    Duniya = 100 years max
    Akhira = infinity
    Ratio of Duniya to Akhira = 100 years / infinity = ZERO!!!!! NO COMPARISON!!!!

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