The message of Islam is to remind all mankind that we have a Rabb to whom we are directly connected without the need for any intermediaries, agents, intercessors, or facilitators. When we speak, He hears us. When we ask, He gives us. He created us, sustains us, protects us, tests us, helps us, rewards us, and to Him is our return. To Him we turn for all our needs. To Him we tell our story. Before Him we shed our tears. To Him we complain about those who oppress us. And above all, Him, we thank for all that He gave us. Our relationship with Allahﷻ is very close and personal. We know Him, we are in awe of Him, we bask in His Glory, we marvel at His Magnificence, we delight in the variety and complexity of His creation, and we love Him more than we love anyone and anything else. This was the message of all the Prophets and Messengers of Allahﷻ through the ages. A simple message of love, warmth, comfort, and mercy. The message of Islam.
Islam is a Deen of connection. The Purpose of creation is to connect with Allahﷻ. Allahﷻ told us:
وَمَا خَلَقْتُ ٱلْجِنَّ وَٱلْإِنسَ إِلَّا لِيَعْبُدُونِ
Dhariyaat 51: 56 And I (Allah) created not the jinns and humans except they should worship Me (Alone).
We enter Islam by accepting that connection when we declare the Shahada. The Shahada is not a statement of information. It is a statement of a relationship between the Abd and his Rabb. We reiterate this in every Raka’a of every Salah, compulsorily at least 17 times a day in the 5 Fardh Salawaat when we say: Iyyaka na’abudu wa iyyaka nasta’een (We worship only You and we seek help only from You.) That is to reiterate the relationship by saying, ‘O Allahﷻ, I am Yours. I belong to You. I ask only You for help because I am Yours. I am asking, so help me.’
Allahﷻ mentioned the reward for that connection: Faz kuruni az kurkum (You remember me, I will remember you). Just reflect on what it means to have Allahﷻ remember us, which means to mention us on His Arsh (Throne). What does that do to our hearts? Rasoolullahﷺ said about this:
Abu Hurairah (R) narrated that Rasoolullahﷺ said, ‘Allahﷻ says: ‘I am (for my slave) just as My slave thinks I am, (i.e. I am able to do for him what he thinks I can do for him) and I am with him if He remembers Me. If he remembers Me in himself, I too, remember him in Myself; and if he remembers Me in a group of people, I remember him in a group that is better than they; and if he comes one span nearer to Me, I go one cubit nearer to him; and if he comes one cubit nearer to Me, I go a distance of two outstretched arms nearer to him; and if he comes to Me walking, I go to him running.’ May Allahﷻ help us to appreciate the value of Dhikr. It is the basis of building a connection. We can’t claim to have a connection with someone we don’t even remember or mention. Know Allahﷻ. Remember Allahﷻ and mention Allahﷻ often, that is the proof of being connected.
Allahﷻ honored those who are connected with Him and called Himself their Wali. He promised to guide them out of the darkness of ignorance and fear into the light of His knowledge and peace and security. Heﷻ said:
ٱللَّهُ وَلِىُّ ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُوا۟ يُخْرِجُهُم مِّنَ ٱلظُّلُمَـٰتِ إِلَى ٱلنُّورِ وَٱلَّذِينَ كَفَرُوٓا۟ أَوْلِيَآؤُهُمُ ٱلطَّـٰغُوتُ يُخْرِجُونَهُم مِّنَ ٱلنُّورِ إِلَى ٱلظُّلُمَـٰتِ أُو۟لَـٰٓئِكَ أَصْحَـٰبُ ٱلنَّارِ هُمْ فِيهَا خَـٰلِدُونَ
Baqara 2: 257 Allah is the Wali (Protector or Guardian) of those who believe. He brings them out from darkness into light. But as for those who disbelieve, their Auliya (supporters and helpers) are Taghut [false deities and false leaders, etc.], they bring them out from light into darkness. Those are the dwellers of the Fire, and they will abide therein forever.
It is this connection with Allahﷻ that guarantees the Muttaqi (one who is concerned about Allahﷻ’s pleasure) a way out of every difficulty and provision from sources we cannot imagine. The key to the connection with Allahﷻ is to develop Taqwa. To put Allahﷻ first. To decide everything based on whether it pleases Allahﷻ or not. When we put Allahﷻ first, Allahﷻ helps us in ways we cannot imagine. The road to Taqwa starts with Istighfaar and is lighted by the Dhikr of Allahﷻ at all times. Islam means submission to the Will of Allahﷻ in all matters. Not sometimes. Not selectively. But always. Selective obedience is disobedience. Allahﷻ said:
وَمَن يَتَّقِ ٱللَّهَ يَجْعَل لَّهُۥ مَخْرَجًا وَيَرْزُقْهُ مِنْ حَيْثُ لَا يَحْتَسِبُ وَمَن يَتَوَكَّلْ عَلَى ٱللَّهِ فَهُوَ حَسْبُهُۥٓ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ بَـٰلِغُ أَمْرِهِۦ قَدْ جَعَلَ ٱللَّهُ لِكُلِّ شَىْءٍ قَدْرًا
Talaq 2-3 ….And whosoever fears Allah and keeps his duty to Him, He will make a way for him to get out (from every difficulty). And He will provide him from (sources) he never could imagine. And whosoever puts his trust in Allah, then He will suffice him. Verily, Allah will accomplish his purpose. Indeed, Allah has set a measure for all things.
The Muttaqi doesn’t remember Allahﷻ sometimes. He remembers Allahﷻ all the time. Therefore, he is always in the Shade of Allahﷻ’s Mercy and Allahﷻ responds to his dua, when he calls on Allahﷻ. Finally, when we die, the first thing that we will be questioned about is our connection with Allahﷻ. Man Rabbuk? Who is your Rabb? That is not a question asking for information. It is a question about our relationship. It is this connection arising out of his unfailing obedience that Allahﷻ praised and which gave Ibrahim (AS) his special position as the Khaleel of Allahﷻ. Allahﷻ said:
إِذْ قَالَ لَهُۥ رَبُّهُۥٓ أَسْلِمْ قَالَ أَسْلَمْتُ لِرَبِّ ٱلْعَـٰلَمِينَ
Baqara 2: 131 When his Lord said to him, Submit (i.e. be a Muslim)! He said, I have submitted myself (as a Muslim) to the Rabb of the ‘Alamin (all that exists).
Nobody knew or was connected to Allahﷻ more than His Blessed and Honored Prophets and Messengers. My favorite story about this connection is about Ibrahim (AS) as a young boy and his conversation with Allahﷻ.
وَإِذْ قَالَ إِبْرَٰهِـۧمُ رَبِّ أَرِنِى كَيْفَ تُحْىِ ٱلْمَوْتَىٰ قَالَ أَوَلَمْ تُؤْمِن قَالَ بَلَىٰ وَلَـٰكِن لِّيَطْمَئِنَّ قَلْبِى قَالَ فَخُذْ أَرْبَعَةً مِّنَ ٱلطَّيْرِ فَصُرْهُنَّ إِلَيْكَ ثُمَّ ٱجْعَلْ عَلَىٰ كُلِّ جَبَلٍ مِّنْهُنَّ جُزْءًا ثُمَّ ٱدْعُهُنَّ يَأْتِينَكَ سَعْيًا وَٱعْلَمْ أَنَّ ٱللَّهَ عَزِيزٌ حَكِيمٌ
Baqara 2: 260 And (remember) when Ibrahim said, My Rabb! Show me how You give life to the dead. He (Allah) said: Do you not believe? He [Ibrahim] said: Yes (I believe), but to be stronger in Faith. He said: Take four birds, then cause them to incline towards you (then slaughter them, cut them into pieces), and then put a portion of them on every hill, and call them, they will come to you in haste. And know that Allah is All-Mighty, All-Wise.
Just reflect on this beautiful story that Allahﷻ recorded for us to learn from. This is simply a conversation between two – the boy and his Rabb. It is a normal conversation. It is not someone calling on Allahﷻ in a panic. Ibrahim (AS) asks Allahﷻ to show him how he resurrects the dead. Then see Allahﷻ’s response. Heﷻ doesn’t just answer him. First, he asks him in such a loving way, “What! Don’t you believe?” Allahﷻ knows what’s in the heart of Ibrahim (AS). Why does He need to ask?
This shows a very close, informal, relationship of love. Allahﷻ is Ibrahim (AS)’s closest confidant. He talks to Allahﷻ every day. That is clear in his response to Allahﷻ’s question. “O! No. Of course I believe. I am asking so that my faith becomes stronger.” Rasoolullahﷺ said, “Laisal khabaru kal mu’aina” (the report is not the same as inspection). Ibrahim (AS) believes unseen. But he wants to see. Not because he doubts, but for the joy of reinforcing his belief. The greatest joy on the Day of Resurrection, is to see the One we believed in unseen. In the words of St. Augustine, “Faith is to believe what you do not see; the reward of this faith is to see what you believe.”
So, Allahﷻ gives the young Ibrahim (AS) a project in response to his question. Allahﷻ could have answered him by instantly killing something and bringing it back to life. Allahﷻ told us about someone else who asked this question and what happened to him. Allahﷻ said:
أَوْ كَٱلَّذِى مَرَّ عَلَىٰ قَرْيَةٍ وَهِىَ خَاوِيَةٌ عَلَىٰ عُرُوشِهَا قَالَ أَنَّىٰ يُحْىِۦ هَـٰذِهِ ٱللَّهُ بَعْدَ مَوْتِهَا فَأَمَاتَهُ ٱللَّهُ مِا۟ئَةَ عَامٍ ثُمَّ بَعَثَهُۥ قَالَ كَمْ لَبِثْتَ قَالَ لَبِثْتُ يَوْمًا أَوْ بَعْضَ يَوْمٍ قَالَ بَل لَّبِثْتَ مِا۟ئَةَ عَامٍ فَٱنظُرْ إِلَىٰ طَعَامِكَ وَشَرَابِكَ لَمْ يَتَسَنَّهْ وَٱنظُرْ إِلَىٰ حِمَارِكَ وَلِنَجْعَلَكَ ءَايَةً لِّلنَّاسِ وَٱنظُرْ إِلَى ٱلْعِظَامِ كَيْفَ نُنشِزُهَا ثُمَّ نَكْسُوهَا لَحْمًا فَلَمَّا تَبَيَّنَ لَهُۥ قَالَ أَعْلَمُ أَنَّ ٱللَّهَ عَلَىٰ كُلِّ شَىْءٍ قَدِيرٌ
Baqara 2: 259 Or like the one who passed by a town, and it had tumbled over its roofs. He said: Oh! How will Allah ever bring it to life after its death? So, Allah caused him to die for a hundred years, then raised him up (again). He said: How long did you remain (dead)? He (the man) said: (Perhaps) I remained (dead) a day or part of a day. He said: Nay, you have remained (dead) for a hundred years, look at your food and your drink, they show no change; and look at your donkey! And thus, We have made of you a sign for the people. Look at the bones, how We bring them together and clothe them with flesh. When this was clearly shown to him, he said, I know (now) that Allah is Able to do all things.
Stop for a moment and think of that happening to you. When you awake a hundred years from today, you will find a world in which not a single person knows you. Your whole family and all your friends, even to three generations are dead. Your money is probably no good. You have lost your identity. You don’t exist. But you do. It has all the makings of a nightmare. But none of this happened to Ibrahim (AS) when essentially, he asked the same question. Different strokes for different folks. A relationship with the One who has no limits to His Power. Connections come with privileges and responsibilities. If you want to enjoy the privilege, you must fulfill the responsibility. Same rule in life.
So, now young Ibrahim (AS) has a project. Find four different wild birds. He didn’t catch four chickens. He had to find four different wild birds and train them to come to him when he called them. Now, you know that you can never do that with adult birds. So, that means he had to find nests with fledglings. Not too young because they would probably die. And not so old as to be untrainable. He had to know what they eat. He must take one fledgling from each nest, take it home, feed it, raise it, and train it to come to him when he called. Not just keep the bird in a cage. All this takes time, energy, learning new information and skills, and a high degree of complexity. Then when everything is ready and he has four wild birds which are his free flying pets, Allahﷻ tells him to slaughter them, chop them all up, mix up the mincemeat with everything in it – bones, feathers, heads, feet, innards. Then separate that into four parts, each of which will have bits from all the birds. The project is still not over. He must then take each pile to the top of one hill – climb different hills – and when he has done all that, he must stand in the valley and call the birds. Try to imagine how that must feel. That is the payoff from the relationship with Allahﷻ. When we marvel at all the incredible tests that Ibrahim (AS) faced in his life and wonder how he did it, it comes of out this connection he had with His Rabb. A connection that every one of us can build if we wish. Allahﷻ is not some remote, all powerful, but inaccessible power. Allahﷻ is real. He is here. He is with you and me. He sees, He hears, He knows. He responds. He loves us and we love Him. That is Islam. And we are Muslims.