Who are God’s Friends?

Who, then, are God’s friends?

The friends of God are those fortunate ones who have mastered the exoteric and esoteric on the path of Sufism, and who have attained perfection of conduct and behaviour by making progress via the heart.

They are the peaks of Prophetic guidance and perfection of conduct strung out across time.

The Messenger of Allah, upon him be blessings and peace, is an actual and tangible guide for all those people who have not been able to attain the honour of seeing him and his Companions.

Mawlana Jalal al-Din al-Rumi states:

“Remain in the company of the friends of Allah, or the people of spirituality, that you may obtain from them favour and goodness, as well as spiritual strength, and that you may remain young, alive and vigorous with Divine love.”

If, he says, you were a piece of hardened stone or marble, or if you were in other words of a harsh and heedless disposition, and you were able to reach a person of heart, then you would become a jewel, of emerald or diamond. Establish (the love of) the friends of Allah in your heart. Do not set your heart on anything other than the love of the intimate knowers of Allah, he says.

The main characteristics of those seeking to be friends of Allah:

‒ A believer has characteristics pertaining their carnal self.

‒ They have characteristics which concern Allah Almighty.

‒ They have characteristics relating to creation.

‒ The believer has qualities in reference to their attitude towards the world.

The believer’s characteristics pertaining their carnal self:

It was declared in the Qur’anic verse that we just recited:

“Who is better in speech than one who calls to Allah and does good, righteous deeds, and says: ‘Surely I am of the Muslims (wholly submitted to Him)?’” (41:33)

A believer must become aware of their responsibility and examine the state which they are in.

For Allah Almighty declares:

thumma latus’alunna yawma-idhin ‘ani l-na’īm

“…And on that Day, you will most surely be questioned as to all the favors (bestowed on you).”(102:8)

Secondly:

Characteristics which concern Allah Almighty:

What does Allah Almighty demand from His servant?

wa huwa ma’akum ayna mā kuntum

“…And He is with you, wherever you may be….”(57:4)

So, to what extent are we together with Allah Almighty?

We have to exert ourselves in becoming with Allah Almighty.

alā bidhik’ri l-lahi taṭma-innu l-qulūb

“Be aware that it is in the remembrance and of and whole-hearted devotion to Allah that hearts find rest and contentment.” (13:28)

To be able to attain such contentment…

Similarly, Allah Almighty informs us that He is nearer to us than our jugular vein. How close are we to Him?

There is Shibli, one of the friends of Allah. He is once in a particular gathering. In the assembly, there are such discussions as, “Allah will ask this, or ask that…”

Shibli says:

“Allah will ask you first, ‘My servant, I was with you in the world. Who were you with?’

It is Allah Almighty, Who creates, favours, bestows, Who will ask.

So, [we have to consider] our relationship with Allah… How much are we able to draw near to Allah Almighty with our state, our acts of worship, our devotions and our daily dealings?

The believer’s qualities concerning creation:

Again, another verse recited reads:

“Goodness and evil can never be equal. Repel evil with what is better (or best)…” (41:34)

What is to happen to a believer? They are to become clear, become transparent, and be like rain water. They are to become taintless. They are to become forgiving.

“Then see: the one between whom and you there was enmity has become a bosom friend.” (41:34)

A believer’s qualities in reference to their attitude towards the world:

They are to acquire a manner of looking at creation by means of its Creator. They are to abandon carnal desire and strive towards being a good servant of their Lord.

Such spiritual perceptions expressed as renunciation (zuhd), piety (taqwa) and prefect goodness (ihsan) during the time of the Messenger of Allah were later given the name ‘Sufism’. These are different words encompassing the same meaning. In other words, Sufism is the heart’s ability to attain contentment, and for it to find rest. Allah Almighty declares:

alā bidhik’ri l-lahi taṭma-innu l-qulūb

“Be aware that it is in the remembrance and of and whole-hearted devotion to Allah that hearts find rest and contentment.” (13:28)

To be able to find peace with Allah Almighty…

Of course, several definitions have been offered:

“The art of attaining piety.”

“The art of not getting caught up in life’s ebbs and flows.”

“The art of being pleased with Allah under changing conditions.”

“The art of attaining noble character.”

And most importantly:

“The art of forgetting complaint.”

ẓalūman jahūlan The effort to escape ignorance and wronging oneself.

With this wise counsel, we have to measure ourselves up against the Prophetic Tradition of the Messenger of Allah, upon him be blessings and peace.

The Messenger of Allah says:

“Surely there are some people who are keys to goodness and locks to evil. And indeed some people are keys to evil and locks to goodness.

Happy are those in whose hands Allah has placed the keys of good! Woe unto those in whose hands Allah has placed the keys of evil!” (Ibn Maja, Muqaddima, 19; Bayhaqi, Shu’ab al-Iman, I:455)

In that case, then, we need to weigh ourselves up: to what extent do we hold the key to good in our grasp, and to what extent do we hold the key to evil? How much are we going towards good and how much towards evil? We need to gauge this…

Likewise, the Messenger of Allah states:

“Envy is justified in regard to two types of persons only:

A person whom Allah has given knowledge of the Qur’an, and so they recite it during the night and during the day; and a person whom Allah has given wealth [They say, ‘Why did Allah give me this wealth and not to another, and so they know how to use their wealth] and so they spend from it [in the way of Allah] during the night and during the day.”(Muslim, Musafirin, 266, 267)

They do not say the wealth is theirs, but say that it belongs to their Lord.

Similarly, a supplication of the Messenger of Allah… Of course, this begins from the negative. With what will it be made up for? It will be made up for with piety:

“O Allah, “I seek refuge in You from all knowledge that gives no benefit, a heart that does not fear You, an unsatisfied soul and from supplication that is not answered.” (Muslim, Dhikr, 73)

This means that these four things must be avoided:

From useless knowledge: do the things that I know bring me nearer to Allah Almighty or make me incline to earthly interests? How much?

From a heart that does not entertain the fear of Allah: How much is our rapture or profundity of spiritual feeling?

From a soul that is not satisfied: Do we have passion or ambition? What is our situation?

From the supplication that is not answered: The tongue has spoken, but the heart is far from Allah. This means that this is to no avail. It is from this state that the Messenger of Allah says, “O Lord, I take refuge in You!”

A word of wisdom from Abu Bakr, may Allah be well pleased with him. Abu Bakr, may Allah be well pleased with him, reveals the state of an altruistic person:

“Four people are among the righteous servants of Allah [In other words, he describes an altruistic heart. So, to what extent do we share in this?”]

The first: One who rejoices in seeing a penitent person (happy that they have taken the path of deliverance).

The second: one who implores their Lord for the forgiveness of sinners. (Are they imploring Allah for the forgiveness of all the believers as they implore Him for the forgiveness of their own sins?) In other words, what is the extent of their compassion? Is it only for their own selves?)

The third: one who prays for their fellow believer in their absence.

The fourth: the person who helps and serves a person who is more in need than themselves.”

This means that that I am charged with that person. What is this? This is becoming socialised. The prescribed prayer is the most important of individual acts of worship and service (to others) is the most important act of social service. (This means) to be able to offer our brother or sister in faith what we want for ourselves.

Abu Bakr offers a word of advice to ‘Umar:

“O ‘Umar,” he says, “know that for Allah are deeds of the day that He does not accept at night; and deeds of the night that He does not accept during the day.”

So, what are our duties during the day and at night, especially in the hours before dawn? How should we spend these hours? How will our perception and sensibilities increase? How will we be together with Allah Almighty? If we were to do this during the day, it would not be the same. It would not have that freshness, that beauty. Moreover, Allah Almighty invites us during the hours before dawn:

wal-mus’taghfirīna bil-asḥār

“…and who implore Allah’s forgiveness before daybreak.” (3:17)

Similarly, Abu Bakr says:

“If you miss an act of goodness, strive to catch it; when you do, look to surpassing it for that which is better and strive to excel it.”

A believer’s horizon has to be in acts of goodness…

‘Umar, may Allah be well pleased with him, says:

“The most beloved of people to me is the person who points out my flaws.”

Of course, they point these out in the proper manner. It is only when they point their faults out sincerely that it has an effect.

‘Umar, may Allah be well pleased with him, became Caliph and delivered a sermon to the people:

“O people,” he said, “I am not the best of you… But help me in my task. Assist me in enforcing what is good and forbidding what is evil. Advise me regarding the obligations that have been imposed upon me by Allah. When there is any deviation on my part, advise me.”

Meanwhile, a Bedouin stood up, a dweller of the desert, who had maybe only recently accepted Islam, and said:

“O ‘Umar, Don’t you worry.” He unsheathed his sword, brandishing it in the air. “Don’t you worry. Should you wilfully deviate from the truth, we will straighten you with our swords.”

‘Umar, may Allah be well pleased with him, raised his hands and said:

“O Lord, You have bestowed me with a community who will warn me.”

This means that we need to point out the mistakes of our brothers and sisters in seclusion, away from everyone else, with soft, gentle words, qawlan layyinan (see 20:44), and to warn them.

Another issue:

Someone once spoke of another in words of much praise in the presence of ‘Umar. He was expressing admiration of him. ‘Umar asked the man three questions:

“Have you travelled with him?” he said. Travelling of course was difficult at the time, through the desert.

The man said, “No.”

“Have you done business with him?” ‘Umar asked. In other words, have you engaged in social dealings with that person?

The man again said, “No.”

Three:

“Well then, have you lived next to them day and night?”

The man said, “No.”

When the man answered no to all three questions, ‘Umar, may Allah be well pleased with him said:

“By Allah ­– there is no god but He – you do not know him!”

So this is very important. This is because Allah Almighty wants such a prayer, for instance, that it is to produce devoted reverence.

fawaylun lil’muṣallīn, He declares. “And woe to those worshippers.” (107:4)

So, we cannot know the degree of reverence in prayer, fasting, or the like. It is actually during daily dealings that the servant reveals their true character and personality.

Similarly, ‘Umar, may Allah be well pleased with him, has important advice for parents:

“Reform yourself first before reforming others. The most ignorant of people is one who barters their own Hereafter for the worldly life of another.”

This is also very important. We as parents have to be a good example to our children. When parents put this off, to do later, they end up losing their children.

Likewise, ‘Umar, may Allah be well pleased with him, says:

“Whoever speaks much, errs much.

(The Messenger of Allah says, ‘Either speak good, or remain silent.’   [Muslim, Iman, 77])

The one who errs much will have less shame. The person who has less shame will have less piety. And when one has less piety, their heart will die.”

Osman Nuri Topbas

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