Allahﷻ said in the Hadith Qudsi: On the authority of Abu Hurairah (R) who said that Rasoolullahﷺ said: Allahﷻ said: Whosoever shows enmity to someone devoted to Me, (my Wali) I shall be at war with him. My slave draws not near to Me with anything more loved by Me than the religious duties I have enjoined upon him, and My slave continues to draw near to Me with supererogatory (Nafl) works so that I 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 ask Me for refuge, I would surely grant it to him. I do not hesitate about anything as much as I hesitate about [seizing] the soul of My faithful slave: he hates death and I hate hurting him.
Allahﷻ said in another Hadith Qudsi: Narrated Abu Huraira (R) Rasoolullahﷺ said, “Allahﷻ says: ‘I am just as My slave thinks I am, (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.’
Therefore, if we want Allahﷻ to approach us, we need to approach Him first. So, who has the key to be close to Allahﷻ? We have the key. What is this arrogance that we don’t submit to Allahﷻ? Allahﷻ has relieved us of most of the effort. He is saying, “If you want me to remember you, remember Me. I am at your service. If you want me to approach you an arm’s length, approach me an inch. If you want me to approach you by multiple arm’s lengths, approach me by one arm’s length. If you want me to run to you, I will run. Just walk in my direction and I will come running to you. So, the key is in whose hand? Our’s.
If we want to meet someone powerful to help us in some worldly matter, we must first ask for an appointment, right? You can’t just walk in. Either they accept or reject the request. If they accept, then they decide the following: Boundaries, Time, and Place of the meeting.
1. Boundary: What will be the boundaries of the discussion. You may want to tell them your life story, but they are not interested in listening to it. You may want some monetary or other kind of help, but they, not you, decide how much they will give you. Will you get their full attention? Usually, no.
2. Time – How much time do they have for you? They decide that, not you. They are the ones who will end the meeting. Not you. After 2 minutes, the man of high status will stand up which means your meeting has ended, even if your matter is not resolved or you have not been able to say all that you had planned to say. That doesn’t matter. If he decides it is over, your meeting is over, and you got whatever you got. This is how humans rule over other humans. This is the dynamic of our world. Big fish eat small fish.
3. Place – You must go to wherever they want to you go if you want to meet them. And you must go at the time that is convenient for them. There are plenty of instances of the high and mighty among humans who take pride in having meetings in the middle of the night. One of the billionaires in India, G.D. Birla whenever he traveled, used to have a relay of senior managers from whichever company he was visiting, on call in the lobby of wherever he was staying, 24×7. I asked one of them who considered it a great honor to be on call, the reason for this. He said in a hushed tone, “In case he needs something.” I said to him, “He has a phone next to his bed. He can call.” My friend was not amused. He just shook his head at my obtuse mind.
So once again: the human you go to, accepts, or rejects your request for the appointment. If he rejects, your matter is already over. If he accepts, he decides what to say, where and the time he can give you.
Dealing with Allahﷻ however is nothing like this. As I said before our slavehood – Uboodiyya – to Allahﷻ is honorable, and prestigious. Is it even slavery when I am the slave of my Rabb who welcomes me without any appointment. He is the Most Honored, the Most Prestigious, by His Holiness, His Honor, His Power, and His Majesty, but I can meet Him whenever and wherever I please. Whether you want to meet Him here or there or in the masjid, or your shop, or your home or anywhere, you can meet Him. Just stand and say Allahu Akbar and instantly you are in His Presence. You make Sajda and you are making it before His Arsh (Throne). You can talk to Him about anything you please. You don’t need any intermediaries, agents, facilitators, or advocates. You speak and He listens. And after all that He tells you that He is not tired of your conversation until you get tired of talking to Him. He is not constrained by a schedule of appointments. You can talk to Him in any language. You don’t need an interpreter to be understood by Him. You can laugh or weep, you can say whatever you want to say because He is your closest confidant.
At the end of it all, what is the result? He said:
وَقَالَ رَبُّكُمُ ٱدْعُونِىٓ أَسْتَجِبْ لَكُمْ إِنَّ ٱلَّذِينَ يَسْتَكْبِرُونَ عَنْ عِبَادَتِى سَيَدْخُلُونَ جَهَنَّمَ دَاخِرِينَ
Ghafir 40: 60 And your Rabb said: Invoke Me, [and ask Me for anything) I will respond to your (dua). Verily! Those who scorn My worship they will surely enter Jahannam in humiliation!
How can we thank the One who tells us even before we meet Him that if we ask Him, He will give us what we ask for? There are three things to remember in this context. One, that we are asking the One whose treasures and powers have no boundaries. To Allahﷻ belongs all that we know and all that we don’t. And Allahﷻ can do all that we can imagine and all that we can’t imagine. Second, that Allahﷻ doesn’t need any of that for Himself and so by giving us, He is not diminished in any way. Think of the most generous human being you know. Even the best of them will reach a stage in their giving when they start fearing that maybe they are giving away too much. The Qur’an tells us to be generous but not to the extent that we impoverish ourselves. But with Allahﷻ He needs nothing, and everything belongs to Him and so He loses nothing by giving. Third, that Allahﷻ promised to give and He is true to His promise. The delay we may sometimes experience in getting what we ask for is from His Mercy because He knows the best time to give us. We are in a hurry and despair. Rasoolullahﷺ told us never to stop making dua, never to lose hope because Allahﷻ promised to give and He is true to His promise. Imam al Ghazali said, “As I look back on my life, I realize that every time I thought I was being denied something good; I was actually being re-directed to something better. You must convince your heart that whatever Allahﷻ has decreed is most appropriate and most beneficial for you.” Believe me, if you live as long as I have and reflect on the duas you made, you will thank Allahﷻ for not giving you some things that you begged Him for. This reminds us that Allahﷻ knows and we don’t and Allahﷻ has Mercy and we don’t and Allahﷻ wants the best for us. So, He rewards us for the dua because it is Ibaadah but gives us only what He knows is best for us. Keep asking and keep thanking Allahﷻ.
Allahﷻ taught His Rasool, Muhammadﷺ the highest and best manners. When someone spoke to him, he would turn completely towards that person and give him his full attention. He didn’t speak to people over his shoulder. When someone grasped his hand to greet him, he would not withdraw his hand until that person drew his hand away first. This is Adab Al-Rabbani, Divine manners. Now is this slavery (Uboodiyat) honorable or degrading? It is prestige of the highest level. Therefore, don’t consider slavery to Allahﷻ as subjugation and oppression. This is subordination to a Lord – our Rabb – who wants to give us. Not to take away from us. The more we increase our Uboodiya (slavery to Allahﷻ) the more He will give us.
You hate the word ‘slavery’ because humans have tainted and corrupted it. Because a human master will always suck the blood of his slaves. He will exploit them for his benefit. That is why to make a free person a slave is Haraam in Islam. But in the slavehood (Uboodiyat) of Allahﷻ the slave gets the best from his Master, who created him, sustains, and protects him and to Him is his return.
Final point, the difference between a ‘slave’ and a ‘servant’ is in the implications. I am not talking about the semantics of it. About whether the word ‘Abd’ can be rightfully translated as ‘servant’ or not. Put that aside. I am a Behavioral Scientist and so I am speaking about the effect language has on thoughts, feelings, and attitudes. Our language both reflects what is in our hearts as well as influencing it. Think about the two words, ‘servant’ and ‘slave’, in this context. A servant chooses who he wants to work for. He can resign from that employment at any time. He has an employer whose responsibility is to fulfill the terms of the employment contract. Nothing more. A servant has a will of his own and has the liberty to like or dislike, agree, or disagree with any order of his employer and can choose to obey it or not. A slave has an owner. Not an employer. A slave has no contract with the owner. The owner is responsible for every need of the slave. A slave can’t choose his owner and can’t leave his owner, until his owner decides to free him. The slave has no free will. His will is whatever his owner wills. So, are we employees of Allahﷻ or His slaves? In my view this is the root cause of all our problems. The attitude that we have a choice of obeying Allahﷻ or not. Selective obedience is disobedience.
Those who have not accepted Islam and the Uboodiyat of Allahﷻ have a choice. About them Allahﷻ said:
لَآ إِكْرَاهَ فِى ٱلدِّينِ قَد تَّبَيَّنَ ٱلرُّشْدُ مِنَ ٱلْغَىِّ فَمَن يَكْفُرْ بِٱلطَّـٰغُوتِ وَيُؤْمِنۢ بِٱللَّهِ فَقَدِ ٱسْتَمْسَكَ بِٱلْعُرْوَةِ ٱلْوُثْقَىٰ لَا ٱنفِصَامَ لَهَا وَٱللَّهُ سَمِيعٌ عَلِيمٌ
Baqara 2: 256 There is no compulsion in religion. Verily, the Right Path has become distinct from the wrong path. Whoever disbelieves in Taghut and believes in Allah, then he has grasped the most trustworthy handhold that will never break. And Allah is All-Hearer, All-Knower.
Allahﷻ says that non-Muslims are free to choose between the two paths. The right one or the wrong one. No compulsion. No conversion by the sword or the stick or the computer mouse. Choose freely but understand that every choice has a price tag or a payoff. Choose Allahﷻ and you get to hold a handhold of blessing that will never break. Choose the other path and you get to face Allahﷻ on the Day of Judgment and realize that He is the Truth after all.
About those who have made the choice, those who are Muslim, there is a different standard. Let me tell you the story. When Allahﷻ revealed:
لِّلَّهِ مَا فِى ٱلسَّمَـٰوَٰتِ وَمَا فِى ٱلْأَرْضِ وَإِن تُبْدُوا۟ مَا فِىٓ أَنفُسِكُمْ أَوْ تُخْفُوهُ يُحَاسِبْكُم بِهِ ٱللَّهُ فَيَغْفِرُ لِمَن يَشَآءُ وَيُعَذِّبُ مَن يَشَآءُ وَٱللَّهُ عَلَىٰ كُلِّ شَىْءٍ قَدِيرٌ
Baqara 2: 284 To Allah belongs all that is in the heavens and all that is on the earth, and whether you disclose what is in your ownselves or conceal it, Allah will call you to account for it. Then He forgives whom He wills and punishes whom He wills. And Allah is Able to do all things.
In Wahidi’s Asbaab-un-Nuzool about this and the last two Ayaat of Sura Al Baqara it says: This was narrated in Muslim from Abu Bakr ibn Abi Shaybah from Waki‘. The commentators of the Qur’an said: “When the verse (and whether ye make known what is in your minds or hide, Allah will bring you to account for it) was revealed, Abu Bakr, ‘Umar, ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn ‘Awf, Mu‘adh ibn Jabal and a group from the Ansar all went to Rasoolullahﷺ. They kneeled and then said: Ya Rasoolullahﷺ By Allah no other revealed verse of the Qur’an is harder on us than this one. One of us speaks to himself with things that he does not like to remain in his heart even in exchange for the world and all that it contains. And now we are taken to task for the things that we speak to our own selves. By Allah, we are doomed’. Rasoolullahﷺ said: ‘This is how it was revealed!’ They said: ‘We are ruined; we have been bound by that which we cannot possibly bear’. Rasoolullahﷺ said: ‘Are you going to say as the Children of Israel said to Moses (We hear and we rebel!); say rather: We hear and we obey’. They said: ‘We hear and we obey’. This was extremely hard on them, and they remained in this situation for a year upon which Allahﷻ sent down relief and repose with His saying (Allah tasketh not a soul beyond its scope…) which abrogated the verse before it. Rasoolullahﷺ said: ‘Allah has pardoned my community for the things with which they speak to themselves as long as they do not act upon them or speak about them to others’”. https://quranx.com/tafsir/Wahidi/2.285
Imagine how tough that year must have been for those to whom Allahﷻ and His Kalaam were real. This was Tarbiyya in Uboodiyat – unquestioning obedience which is the essence of Islam. Not blind, but unquestioning because we see and know who Allahﷻ is. And therefore, like someone who looks at a 1000-watt halogen light; after he turns away, he sees that light everywhere he looks. That is Islam. To see the Glory and Majesty of Allahﷻ and make the Pleasure of Allahﷻ our sole guide for all our life’s decisions.