Islam Today

It is clear that the ultimate aim of the
spiritual journey is to get as close to Allah SWT as much as possible.
However, the notion of closeness qurb to God may appear to some as abstract,
especially for those who are not trained in philosophy. This paper attempts to
shed light on the notion of closeness to Allah SWT by describing what happens
to those who are undergoing the spiritual journey towards Him. All the ideas
mentioned henceforth are derived from the Qur’an and Sunnah and therefore are
hoped to be welcomed by all Muslims from different schools of Islam. Reflection
on these outcomes can encourage everyone to embark on this journey and, if they
have already done so, to continue following this luminous path. It can also
serve as a test for the wayfarers to assess how much progress they have made.
Insha-Allah, in an upcoming issue, we will study the notion of closeness to God
as a subject on its own and explain what it means to become close to God qarib
and who the muqarrabin the people that are brought even closer are.

Outcomes of the spiritual journey

1. Complete support: One of the
outcomes of living a life of piety and having a pure and pious heart is
that we will be given complete support by Allah SWT . He will listen to us,
will give us what we want, and will be our ears, eyes and hands. In the

well-known divine saying hadith-i qudis
of qurb-i nawāfil, we read:

of My servants can seek proximity to Me by that which is dearer to Me than
things that I have made obligatory on him. Then, with the performance of nawāfil the
recommended acts , he continuously attains proximity to Me, so that I love him.
When I love him, I will be the ear with which he hears, the eyes with which he
sees, and the hand with which he strikes. If he calls Me, I will answer his
call, and if he makes a request, I will grant it.1


2. Perfect knowledge: There are many hadiths
which indicate that one of the results of having attained spiritual
nearness to God is to be endowed with great knowledge of the realities of the
world, including many mysteries that can never be known through ordinary
methods of learning and teaching. On the topic of the servant who has attained
proximity to God, Prophet Muhammad S reports Allah SWT as saying:


will love him when he loves Me and I will make him loved by My creation, and I
will open up his inward eyes to My glory and grandeur, and I will not hide from
him [the knowledge of] the select of My creation. So in the darkness of night
and in the light of day, I will tell him secrets, so that his conversations with
creatures and with his companions will be cut off. I will make him hear My
words and the words of My angels and I will reveal to him the secret I have
hidden from My creation.2


3. Exclusive devotion to God: To be cut off from
everything other than God tabattul or inqitā‘ means to be
free from reliance on anything other than God, and to see everything as His

sign and as a manifestation of His power
and grace. The true servants of God live within society while remaining totally
mindful of God, and they remember Him continuously. The Qur’an praises a group
of people “whom neither business nor trading distract from remembering God,
keeping up prayer, and giving alms” 24:37 . In the well-known Whisper of Sha‘bān
al-Mmunajāt al-Sha‘bāniyyah , Imam Ali A
and other members of the household of the Prophet called upon God,


God! Make me completely cut off from all else but You, and enlighten the vision
of our hearts with the radiance of looking at You, until the vision of our
hearts penetrates the veils of light and reaches the Source of Grandeur and set
our spirit to be suspended at the glory of Your sanctity.3


this supplication, the Imam A is asking Allah SWT to enable him to be
related only to Him and to be detached from anything that stops us from being
in His presence.


there are many actions that can hinder our devotion, which could be apparently
good or bad. Of course, bad actions and sins can keep us away from Allah’s
remembrance, but good actions can also become corrupted, for example, by
arrogance and pride. Therefore, we should not let anything become a barrier or
a veil between us and Allah SWT , the Source of Light and Grandeur, whether it
be our sins and attachment to the material life or our good actions and characteristics.
If we are not careful, even good actions and qualities can preoccupy our mind
and heart, therefore diverting our attention away from God. It is interesting
that Imam Ali A asks to “penetrate the veils of light.” According to
Ayatollah Khomeini, “the veils of light” refers to those veils which are in and
of themselves light, but prevent us from beholding the main

which is God. This is why knowledge, which is so highly regarded in Islam and
everyone is required to seek it, can become “the greatest veil” al-hijāb
al-akbar .
It is like someone who has a pair of glasses to help him read, but instead of
using it to read, he simply holds it in his hand, enjoys looking at it, or
plays with it. Of course, the knowledge which comes after the purification of
one’s soul is different. According to hadiths, this type of knowledge is a
light that God projects into the heart of the one with whom He is pleased a-‘ilm-u
nur-un yaqdhif-uhu’llāh fi qalb-i man
yashā .


following story, narrated in the biography of Allamah Sayyid Mohammad Husayn
Tabataba’i, relates to this point. Once Allamah was given an instruction for a
specific practice by his spiritual teacher, Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Qādi
Tabataba’i, and was advised that “when you are doing this special practice you
may start seeing angels, but you should continue with your practice and should
not be distracted.” Once Allamah was conducting his worship and he saw an angel
coming towards him. He immediately remembered what his teacher had told him and
continued worshipping. Then the angel went around him as if he wanted to start
a conversation with Allamah, but he did not pay any attention, so the angel
sadly left him. Allamah remarked that he would never forget the sadness of that
angel, but this is the way a true servant devotes himself to His Lord. We
should not let anything get in the way of our focused devotion.


4. Entrance into the realm of light.


above hadiths and many others refer to the fact that one of the results of
progress on the spiritual journey is the elimination of darkness and entrance
into the realm of light. The realm of light is a reality mentioned in the
Qur’an and hadith:


is the guardian of those who believe. He brings them out of the darkness into
the light 2:257


it Allah guides him who will follow His pleasure into the ways of safety and
brings them out of utter darkness into light by His will and guides them to the
right path. 5:16


Light is also requested in many
supplications, such as in the prayer which should be recited after the Ziyarah
of Aal-i Yāsin:


Allah, surely I ask You to send blessings upon Muhammad S , the prophet of
Your mercy and the word of Your light.


And fill my
heart with the light of certainty


And my chest with
light of faith.


And my thinking
with the light of intentions.


And my
determination with the light of knowledge.


And my power
with the light of action.


And my tongue
with the light of truthfulness.


my religion with the light of understanding from You.


And my vision
with brightness.


And my hearing
with the light of wisdom.


my love with the light of friendship for Muhammad S and his progeny. Peace be
upon all of them!


I meet You, while certainly I discharged Your promise and Your covenant. So You
cover me with Your mercy, O Master! O Praiseworthy.4


In the realm of light, everything is clear
and the true reality of everything is known. One of the main challenges we face
is to

everything the way it really is, and to treat each thing appropriately.


5. Immense love for God: One of the strongest ways
to strengthen our relationship with Allah SWT is through love for Him.
Once one has tasted this love, there is no other substitute. The Imams A were
consumed with love for Allah SWT . Imam Ali b. Husayn A says:


will cool my burning thirst but reaching You, quench my ardour but meeting You,
damp my yearning but gazing upon Your face, settle my settling place without
closeness to you.5


mystic is not the one who just loves God; rather he is the one who loves God
alone, because his love or dislike for anything else is only for the sake of
God. He wills and desires only what his Beloved wills and desires. He has no
will or desire other than His. The mystic’s love for God permeates his love for
anything else.6 Imam Sadiq A says:


pure heart is the one that meets the Lord while it is free from anyone else.7


6. Witnessing God in everything: The real mystic is the one
who witnesses God in everything. Allah SWT constantly shows Himself to us
in different ways, and if our hearts are pure, we can witness Allah SWT
through all things. In Duā of ‘Arafah, Imam
Husayn A says:


my God! Through the variety of Your signs in the world of being and the
changes in states and conditions, I realised that the purpose is to make
Yourself known to me in everything, so that I would not ignore You in anything.8


Ali A says:


saw nothing except that I saw God before it, with it, and after it.9


It is obvious that the vision in question,
for God, the Almighty, is infinitely exalted beyond the range of the physical
eye. God cannot be seen by the physical eye, neither in this world nor in the


Being busy usually means that we forget
Allah SWT and become consumed with our dealings. However, for Imam Ali A ,
it meant that he remembered Allah SWT all the time: before, during and after
each thing; as Allah SWT is the Creator, Preserver, and the one who will
remain after all things.


One who has reached a high stage in the
spiritual journey will find God in everything. For example, even if someone
tells us something bad or our enemy tells us something, we can still manage to
find a good message inside that which only we are able to de-code and understand.
Other people may listen to the same thing but they do not get any message from
it. However, we will understand the message from Allah SWT even in the words
of our enemy.


7. Internal peace: Whenever a man
gets close to Allah SWT , all other things appear light and small to
him. He feels that he is under Allah’s protection, and nothing can harm him. He
understands that he does not suffer any pain or difficulty except that they are
to his own benefit, and that he will be rewarded by God “without measure”
39:10 .


are many people in the world who have comfortable lives, but they suffer from a
lack of peace and tranquillity, to the extent that some of them resort to
alcoholic drinks or narcotic drugs to

their spiritual pain and self consciousness. However, nothing short of reaching
God can satisfy human beings. The Qur’an says:


With the remembrance of God hearts
come to rest. 13:28


reason why nothing can disturb people who are mindful of God is that they are
not afraid of losing anything. Everything becomes easy for them, since they
have appreciated Allah’s SWT greatness, nothing else is important in their
view. For example, if you are on a beach next to the ocean, you would not pay
any attention to a small glass of water. Describing the pious al-muttaqin ,
Imam Ali A says:


greatness of the Creator is seated in their hearts and so everything else
appears small in their eyes.10




outcomes of the spiritual journey are too many to describe in this short paper.
The journey rewards those who travel on its path with exclusive devotion,
entrance into the realm of light, immense love for Allah SWT , being able to
witness Allah SWT in everything, and internal peace. Once we take a step
towards Allah SWT , He will reward us with these invaluable blessings, which
will make it easier for us to travel farther.

1 Al-Kāfi, vol. 2, pp.
352 & 353.

2 Bihār al-Anwār, vol. 77, pp.
28 & 29.

3 Mafātih al-Jinān.

4 Ibid.

5 The Psalms of Islam, pp. 251 & 252.


6 For a detailed account of love, see Love in
Christianity and Islam 2005, 2nd edition by
Mahnaz Heydarpoor.


Al-Kāfi, vol. 2, p. 16.




Mafātih  al-Jinān.




Sadr al-Din
al-Shirazi, Al-Asfār, vol. 1, p.
117, vol. 4, p. 479 and vol. 5, p.


10 Nahj al-Balāghah, Sermon 191.




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