Communicating with Allah
Almighty Allah as the Creator communicates with His creation. He does so in various ways most of which are unknown to man. He informs us through His revealed Word, the Holy Qur’an, for example, that He communicates with the heavens, the earth, mountains, the fire, hellfire, animals, etc.
Allah communicates with man, His vicegerent on earth, too. He said: “It is not fitting for a man that Allah should speak to him except by inspiration or from behind a veil or by the sending of a Messenger to reveal with Allah’s permission what Allah wills, for He is Most High Most Wise” (al-Shura, 51).
Allah communicates with man through the Qur’an. He conveys to him commands, proscriptions, a guidance and an explanation of a great transcendent truth. He does virtually the same through the sunnah, or the life-pattern, of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), which encompasses his teachings, deeds, sayings and silent permissions or disapprovals, for he did not speak “out of his own desire; that (which he conveys to you) is but (a divine) inspiration with which he is being inspired (sent down to you)” (al-Najm, 3-4).
Moreover, Allah communicates with, and conveys various meanings to, man via incalculable signs (ayat) He had embedded in each and every aspect of His creation: from the grandest to the humblest and most ordinary. The signs permeate and dominate not only elements of the multitiered physical creation, but also the whole of man’s existence, his society, civilization and history.
Allah says: “And how many signs in the heavens and the earth do they pass by? Yet they turn (their faces) away from them!” (Yusuf, 105).
The truth contained in revelation is essentially the same truth as contained in the working of Allah’s providence in human history and the history of individual souls, as well as in the physical and metaphysical signs scattered literally throughout creation.
Lastly, Allah communicates, to some extent, with man through his fitrah as well. The fitrah is the natural disposition, inclination and sound human nature that Allah instilled in mankind. According to a verse from the Qur’an (al-A’raf, 172), Allah took from the loins of Adam his progeny like tiny particles, and made them testify concerning themselves that He was their Creator and Master. Every newborn in this world is born with this covenant and affirmation.
That means that everyone is born with the natural inclination towards Islam as the ultimate truth and so, the only religion with Allah; the natural inclination — or pure human nature — which Allah instilled in all people on the day of the covenant. In their capacity as the creation and mere servants, all humans are born with the inclination towards their Creator, Master and Sustainer. Everyone is initially free of any false beliefs, and will always enjoy a disposition towards goodness and sound beliefs — regardless of his adopted behavioural patterns — while at the same time innately disliking evil, deceit and falsehood.
However, communication between man and Allah is not to be a one-way model.
Just like any other communication type, this type of communication, likewise, ought to be a two-way process, in order that it remains productive, meaningful and strong, insofar as man, the recipient of Allah’s communicated Word and Message, is concerned.
Thus, Allah afforded man a number of opportunities to reciprocate both His direct and indirect communication initiatives. Man is asked to pray five times a day, supplicate, remember, praise, glorify and sing praises to Him, at certain appointed and recommended times, or whenever and wherever he feels disposed to do so.
Similarly, man can contemplate about Allah: His Holy Attributes and His creation, acknowledging the Master’s infinite power, supremacy and greatness, as opposed to his own insignificance and smallness, prompting his restive soul to scream out: “Our Lord, not for naught have You created (all) this! Glory to You! Give us salvation from the penalty of the fire” (Al-Imran, 191). Certainly, it is no coincidence that these words are preceded by the following: “Men who celebrate the praises of Allah standing sitting and lying down on their sides and contemplate the (wonders of) creation in the heavens and the earth…” (Al-Imran, 191).
Or, man can open up his heart at anytime and anywhere and simply talk to his Creator and Cherisher about any topic and in any language. Allah says: “And if My servants ask you about Me — behold, I am near; I respond to the call of him who calls, whenever he calls unto Me. Let them, then, respond unto Me, and believe in Me, so that they might follow the right way” (al-Baqarah, 186).
Communicating silently versus communicating loudly
It is in this context that Allah says in the Qur’an that supplications should be made humbly, silently and not loudly: “Invoke your Lord with humility and in secret” (al-A’raf, 55). About Prophet Zakariyya (Zechariah), Allah says: “When he called to his Lord a call in secret” (Maryam, 3).
The Prophet (pbuh) also admonished some people who raised their voices while supplicating: “Be merciful to yourselves (i.e., don’t raise your voices), for you are not calling a deaf or an absent one, but One Who is All-Hearer, All-Seer. The One Whom you call is closer to one of you than the neck of his animal” (Sahih al-Bukhari).
It follows that if a person feels he has to pray or supplicate loudly, lest he might be unheard or misunderstood, he needs to examine his faith, for there are, surely, some serious flaws in it. Life is all about drawing closer to Allah and feeling how near He with His Knowledge, Might, Compassion and Munificence, is. The closer to Allah a person gets, the more overwhelmed, more benevolent, more tranquil and, at times, even more introvert he becomes. His total being becomes engrossed in enjoying and “feasting” on the boons generated by his spiritual triumph. He increasingly loses interest in frivolous and worthless things and pastimes, regarding them as serious distractions and deviations. They tend to rob a person of his most precious moments, experiences and opportunities.
His communication patterns with his beloved Creator and Master then becomes impeccably effective and high-yielding. Most of the time, such patterns do not exceed the softness of the whispers, even though the whole spiritual kingdom resonates with them. Such is the relationship between Allah and His true servants that sometimes the mere vibrations of their hearts, or the reflections of their minds, connote the most potent, most effective and most hearkened supplications. Outward silence is often the best communication mode. Indeed, a believer’s heart is a place that effectively never sleeps, and is always connected with the highest spiritual order of things, meanings and experiences. The closer to Allah he gets, the quieter, more inaudible, more discreet and more tranquil in his worship activities he becomes.
This paradigm applies to any relationship with individuals who genuinely love and care for each other. They are often seen not talking much to one another, and when they do, they do so softly and quietly. They simply whisper, or speak in undertones, to each other. This is so because their hearts are together, and are one. And it is right in their hearts that most of their communication unfolds and mutual understanding takes place. Their united hearts talk, though the separated physical bodies appear still and silent. Regardless, they perfectly understand each other.
On the diametrically opposite side stand relationships with individuals who gravely misunderstand each other. They often, as a rule, quarrel, screaming and shouting at one another. They do so because, even though they are physically side by side, their hearts are worlds apart. They recognise that very well and so, feel they have to scream and shout. They know, no matter what, they will not be heard by the one(s) on the other side. Hence, such squabbles never solve anything. They are simply vain attempts to out-scream and out-shout one another. There is rarely any room for reason and sanity in such situations.
Prophets’ calling to communication with Allah
Owing to this importance of communication with Allah, each and every prophet’s mission paid special attention to it. Communicating with Allah was seen as a logical, plausible and natural process, for Allah is a Personality (Huwa or He) — not a mere abstract conception of philosophy — with a Nature of His so sublime that it is far beyond our limited conceptions; He exists, but in such a way that He is the Ever-Living, Self-Sustaining; He created and sustains the world; and He sent prophets to mend people’s ways and create for them suitable communication patterns with their Creator and Master.
For example, when Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham) confronted his unbelieving and rebellious people, he among other things tried to bring home to them the inappropriateness and danger of polytheism. His focus was the delusion, futility, uselessness and unresponsiveness of their home-grown idols and deities. They simply could not communicate in any way, nor could they benefit or harm anybody. They were but a fragment of dead matter to which only mentally incapacitated and spiritually dead individuals could be devotedly attached: “Deaf, dumb and blind — so they will not return (to the right path)” (al-Baqarah, 18).
Ibrahim said to his father, an idol-maker: “O my father! Why do you worship something that can neither hear, nor see, nor yet profit you in any way?” (Maryam, 42).
This is a segment of Ibrahim’s discussion with his polytheistic people: “Ibrahim, are you he who has done this to our gods?” He answered: “Rather it was this supreme one who has done it. So ask them, if they can speak.” Thereupon they turned to their (inner) selves and said (to themselves): “Surely it is you who are the wrong-doers.” Then their minds were turned upside down, and they said: “You know well that they do not speak.” Ibrahim said: “Do you, then, worship beside Allah a thing that can neither benefit you nor hurt you? Fie upon you and upon all that you worship beside Allah. Do you have no sense?” (al-Anbiya’, 62-67).
Ibrahim also said to his people concerning their fraudulent gods and their inability to communicate: “Do they listen to you when you call (on them)? Or do they profit you or cause you harm?” (al-Shu’ara’, 72-73).
And about Allah, his Almighty Creator and Lord — with Whom Prophet Ibrahim enjoyed such a close relationship that Allah said that He took him for a friend (khalil) (al-Nisa’, 125) – Ibrahim said that it was He: “Who created me, and it is He Who guides me; Who gives me food and drink, and when I am ill, it is He Who cures me; Who will cause me to die, and then will bring me back to life; and Who, I hope, will forgive me my faults on the Day of Judgment” (al-Shu’ara’, 78-82).