AL-TANZIL
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Ibn `Attaa’ Words of Wisdom 

Keeping up with Mentioning Allah

By Jasser Auda

In his well-known book, Al-Hikam (Words of Wisdom), sheikh Ahmad Ibn `Ataa'illah As-Sakandari says:

{Do not stop mentioning Allah just because your heart is not present. Forgetting Him completely is worse than being inattentive while you are mentioning Him; perhaps He will elevate you from being inattentive to being attentive, and from being attentive to being fully present with Him, and from being fully present with Him to being fully absent from anything but Him. {This is not difficult for Allah}} (Fatir 35 :17).

Along the path of our journey, we are still going though the stage of clearing up, searching for our flaws and attempting to get rid of them. This word of wisdom tackles a serious flaw of the soul which is ‘forgetfulness’; that is, the lack of the remembrance of Allah. We often fall to this mistake throughout the day, and the way-out is to remember Allah, by tongue or by heart.

Allah says:
{And remember your Sustainer humbly and with awe, and without raising your voice, at morning and at evening; and do not allow yourself to be heedless} (Al-A`raf 7: 205),

{remember Him as the One who guided you} (Aal `Imran 3: 198),

{bear Allah in mind - since it is He who taught you what you did not previously know} (Aal `Imran 3: 239),

{and when you have finished your prayer, remember Allah - standing and sitting and lying down} (An-Nisaa’ 4: 103),

{O you who have attained to faith! Remember Allah with unceasing remembrance. And extol His limitless glory from morn to evening} (Al-Ahzab 33: 41-42),

And

{so remember Me, and I shall remember you} (Al-Baqarah 2: 152).

Also, the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: "Always keep your tongue busy with Allah's remembrance". (Reported by al-Tirmidhi and Ibn Majah)

These are clear and direct advices to remember Allah at all time and in every situation. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) used to mention Allah in all situations, and for every situation, he had a special supplication which is in itself a form of mentioning Allah.
In the light of this, mentioning Allah brings about a state of rest in the heart which draws one closer to Allah. We read in the Qur'an:

{Those who believe, and whose hearts find their rest in the remembrance of Allah - for, verily, in the remembrance of Allah hearts do find their rest.} (Ar-Ra`d 13: 28)

Mentioning Allah is the ultimate goal of any act of worship. Allah says:

{And be constant in prayer, so as to remember Me!} (Ta-Ha 20: 14)

This means that the objective of the prayer itself is Allah's remembrance. And Allah's remembrance is even greater than prayer in terms of restraining ourselves from evil. Allah says:

{behold, prayer restrains people from loathsome deeds and from all that runs counter to reason; but remembrance of Allah is indeed the greatest good.} (Al-`Ankabut 29: 45)

“Do not stop mentioning Allah just because your heart is not present.’’ (Ibn `Ataa')
Furthermore, Ibn `Ataa' assumes that we mention Allah’s name all the time, but is addressing here the problem of not feeling that remembrance in our hearts. The question one might ask is: Should I stop Allah's remembrance when I do not feel it in my heart? Or should I continue with Allah's remembrance despite that?

Ibn `Ataa' says: "Do not stop mentioning Allah just because your heart is not present. Forgetting Him completely is worse than being inattentive while you are mentioning Him; perhaps He will elevate you from being inattentive to being attentive, and from being attentive to being fully present with Him, and from being fully present with Him to being fully absent from anything but Him. ‘This is not difficult for Allah’".

This means that if your heart is not present when you mention Allah, do not stop mentioning Allah. This is the case when, for example, you are reading the Qur'an but cannot reflect on the verses you are reading because your mind is so busy with something else. It is also the case when you mention the regular dhikr, but feeling the meanings of subhana Allah (Glory be to Allah), al-hamdullilah (praise be to Allah), or la illaha illa Allah (there is no god but Allah). The Sheikh says here that in such cases, do not stop mentioning Allah.

Ibn `Ataa' explains: Forgetting Him completely is worse than being inattentive while you are mentioning Him. The least degree of mentioning Allah is when you mention Him while you are inattentive, but at least you know what you are saying. This reminds me of the verse in which Allah says:

{O you who have attained to faith! Do not attempt to pray while you are in a state of drunkenness, but wait until you know what you are saying.} (An-Nisaa’ 4: 43)

Perhaps, and Allah is Most Generous, He will elevate you from being inattentive to being attentive. If you continue, hoping that Allah will change your inattentiveness, He would elevate you to the state of being attentive. Then, if you continue, He might raise you to an even higher state of heart.

Ibn `Ataa' says: "Perhaps He will elevate you from being attentive to being fully present with Him". Being fully present with Him is a degree higher than being attentive, i.e., the servant's heart is present while mentioning Allah. This means that when you mention Paradise, you call it to your mind, and when you mention Allah, you call to your mind His glory and favors, and so on.

It is not difficult for Allah to elevate us from being inattentive to being attentive.
This presence of the heart is what `Ali ibn Abi Talib (may Allah be pleased with him) described in his famous sermon about the characteristics of those who are conscious of Allah. Imam `Ali said: "When they come across a verse which contains awe they bend the ears of their hearts towards it, and feel as though the sound of Hell and its cries are reaching their ears. If they come across a verse creating eagerness for Paradise, they pursue it avidly, and their spirits turn towards it eagerly, and they feel as if it is right there in front of them". This is being attentive.

Therefore, it is not difficult for Allah to elevate us from being inattentive to being attentive, and from being attentive to being fully present with Him. If we are elevated to such a level, we will be like the Companions who felt and heard the unseen world of Paradise and Hell.

Then, Ibn `Ataa' talks about a very special state of heart. He says: "Then Allah will elevate you from being fully present with Him to being fully absent from anything but Him". This is a heart that mentions Allah and does not feel anything around it. This is a Godly favor which, if bestowed on any believer once a day or twice a week, he/she will be most blessed. There is a difference between deep intellectual reflection upon Allah, and being emotionally absent from anything but Allah, for a moment.

To give one example, this is the state that made someone like `Abdullah ibn al-Zubair, the great Companion, not feel the falling of one of his house’s walls while he was praying. In fact, during his prayers, birds were landing on the top of his head thinking that they were landing on a tree! After his prayers, he was asked why he did not leave the prayers and avoid the danger, and his reply was that he did not even hear any sound!

However, this high state has nothing to do with those who claim that they are nothing but Allah himself, and that they are not part of this world, etc. This is too much of an exaggeration.

Finally, Ibn `Ataa' quotes the verse, {this is not difficult for Allah} (Fatir 35: 17). The context of this verse in its chapter is the following:

{O people! It is you, who stand in need of Allah, whereas He alone is self-sufficient, the One to whom all praise is due. If He so wills, He can do away with you and bring forth a new creation: this is not difficult for Allah.} (Fatir 35: 15-17)

Let us hope that, out of Allah's Mercy and Generosity, He would do away with our forgetful selves and bring forth a new creation in us; a creation that mentions Him deeply and fully. We learned from the first word of wisdom that we do not rely on our good actions and put our trust in His Mercy alone.

Edited from:
http://www.onislam.net/english/shariah/refine-your-heart/454566-keeping-up-with-mentioning-allah.html
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