Muslim dwellings are often decorated with beautiful calligraphy and Islamic art praising the attributes of Allah. When we admire these beautiful phrases, do we appreciate their significance other than objects of beauty?
We may memorize all 99 attributes of Allah, but do we know how to translate that into a deep and rich relationship with Allah? Most of the people we have come across do not go beyond memorizing the names of Allah and converting this knowledge into something profoundly deep and beautiful.
According to one of Islam’s greatest scholars, Ibn Abbas RA, everything has a pillar. The pillar of the deen (Islamic way of life) is “la ila ha ilallah” (there is no god but Allah). The pillar of “la ila ha ilallah” is the Qur’an. The pillar of the Qur’an is the chapter of Al-Fatihah, and the pillar of Al-Fatihah is “bismillah” (in the name of Allah).
Imam Shafi’e RA said that Allah has summarized His divine messages through His characteristics. Ibn Qayyimah al Jawziyah RA mentioned that the key of the door of happiness (jannah) and the way to seek knowledge is to have steadfastness over the name of Allah, failing which one will never be a believer.
The ummah is now polarized. Some have become extremely rigid in the deen of Allah and are too harsh in its implementation. Others completely deny major elements of the message, live lives the way they want, and hover at the fringes of Islam. Both groups are wrong and will lead to destruction. We are a nation that takes the moderate path. In matters of the deen, we should stand midway between the rigidity that shatters the ummah and the laxity that leads it astray.
We are warned to guard our good behaviour, because the root of all Islamic knowledge is to develop our good character and behaviour. The majority of us have lost the beautiful manners of Islam when dealing with each other, in the masjid and even in the Masjid Al Haram. This is the outcome of our ignorance and lack of iman. We know the academic theories of Islam, and perform the physical rituals precisely, but without comprehending the true essence and message of Islam.
Everything has a purpose, and the implementation of that purpose has to be done with manner, wisdom and mercy. Absent any of these elements, other components of Islam would be incomplete. While fulfilling the demands of dunia, we have allowed ourselves to be satisfied with some minimal Islamic rituals, but do we truly grasp the depth and magnitude of what Islam truly is?
If we study the Qur'an in the chronology it was revealed, most of the Makki (or Makkah verses) which were revealed in the first thirteen years of Prophethood, were an introduction to Allah. They did not stress on rulings and restrictions. The Qur'anic verses from Allah in the foundation years of the revelations centred around a consistent theme of introducing Allah to us, and explaining who we are in relation to Him.
Allah tells us: "And I did not create the jinn and mankind except to worship Me." (Al Dhariyat verse 56).
The ayah emphasises the absolute negation of all other functions in our life. If worship is our purpose of existence, then it is fundamental that we should understand what we are worshipping. This is why we were created, and this is our goal in life. Somewhere along the way, the message has been forgotten, and we formulate our life goals in line with dunia goals only – the good education, the good job, and the good house. We have made these dunia benchmarks our goals and have forgotten that these are merely necessities to get by in life and are ancillary to our main goal.
The true goal of worshipping Allah as the primary reason for existence has been diminished and forgotten. But how can we get close to anything whose characteristics are unfamiliar to us and whose qualities we are unable to value?
It has been said if we understand the characteristics and attributes of Allah, then we will truly understand what Islam is about. Worshipping out of blind devotion or imitation, performed without context or due to cultural legacy, is an empty act. We can only develop a relationship with Allah if we know who He is. It is by developing the understanding of Allah that we can get closer to Him.
After all, how can you believe in one you do not know? How can you worship someone you do not know? How can you surrender to the one you do not know? How can you love or trust someone you do not know?
How can you navigate through life without knowing yourself, the Creator, the purpose of your creation and the creation of the earth and its contents, and without knowing where we are going?
The more you know, the more you will believe and the more you will bond with Allah. The more you value, the more you will submit, and the more strength you have to navigate the stormy oceans of this material life to save yourself and your soul for the final destination, Paradise.