In a very well known verse in the Qur’an, Allah Almighty says:

فَأذْكُرُوْنِى أَذْكُرْكُمْ

Remember Me, I remember you (ii: 152).

This verse is quoted quite frequently by scholars when they deal with the relationship between Allah Almighty and His servants.  This relationship has to do with His remembrance.  Of course, the word “remembrance”, covers the whole gambit of religious observations that we perform, and in many cases, it also refers to the general adherence that we as servants have to have to the Divine Law.  This means that the word “remembrance” has a very broad meaning and to confine it to the recital of litanies is not very accurate.  This does not mean, of course, that the recital of litanies is not the foundation stone of remembrance in all the different religious observances.  There is no doubt, and a number of scholars have written on this matter, that major spiritual progress is made by those who recite considerable litanies as part of their working in His Cause, studying His Religion and observing all the other obligations and voluntary ibadat.  It is a combination of all of these, under the guidance of a shaykh, that propels one along a path to piety.  There is no doubt about this.  It appears, even from my personal experience, that the recital of litanies plays a major role in one’s spiritual progress.  I will come back to this later.

In the verse in the beginning of this letter, it is interesting to note that there is no conjunction between the first part of the sentence and the second part.  Under normal circumstances there would have been an “and” or an “and then” or an “and so” between the two parts of the sentence.  To me, Allah Almighty is telling us, if I am correct, that our remembrance of Him and His Remembrance of us are all a single process; a combination of human and Divine remembrance, or rather the participation of His servants in a Divine Remembrance.  You see, we must be careful of this.  The sentence, although separating the two remembrances, indicates very clearly through the lack of a conjunction that the process of remembrance is a single one.

We sometimes say that we exist through Allah’s (ﷻ) existence or to put it in another way, Allah (ﷻ) brought us into existence to give recognition to His existence.  Remembrance is the same.  We remember Him through His Remembrance or we are made to remember Him through His Remembrance, and He has made us remember Him to give recognition to His remembrance.  When and what and who our Lord remembers cause all forms of remembrance by His servants to be reduced almost to a non-entity.  That is why Allah (ﷻ) says in the Qur’an:

وَ لَذِكْرُ اللهِ أَكْبَرُ

The remembrance of Allah is greatest (xxix: 45).

Our Lord’s remembrance overwhelms all remembrances by His servants; and it might even appear in the light of our Lord’s remembrance that all other remembrance by us, although important, pales into insignificance; a strange thing to say, a difficult concept to comprehend.  There is another matter about the sentence at the beginning of this letter.  When we remember our Lord, we do so by reciting His Names or other phrases from the Qur’an or the Prophetic Practice.  This means that the words we use in our remembrance of Him are generally His Words; Words that He has given us.  In a certain sense, when we recite these phrases or names it is a repetition of words or phrases found in the Qur’an or in the Prophetic Practice.  The question that arises is: Are the words of these phrases and Names, are they exactly the same words that Allah Almighty uses when He remembers?  When we are deeply grateful to Him for some or other blessing, we say Alhamdu lillah.  These are His Words found at the beginning of Suratul Fatihah and elsewhere in the Qur’an.  And so He taught us to praise Him by saying Alhamdu lillah.  When He praises Himself, does he say Alhamdu lillah or is Alhamdu lillah only for His servants and not for Him?  I do not know.  When we declare His Glory, we use different versions of Subhanallah found in the Qur’an.  Does He glorify Himself with the same versions?  Allah Almighty speaks in the Qur’an about everything in creation glorifying Him and that we do not know the nature of that glorification:

تُسَبِّحٌ لَهُ السَّمَاوَاتُ السَّبْعُ وَ ألاَرْضُ وَ مَنْ فِيْهِنَّ فَإِنْ مِّنْ شَيْءٍ إِلاَّ يُسَبِّحُ بِحَمْدِهِ وَ لاَكِنْ لاَّ تَفْقَهُوْنَ تَسْبِيْحَهُمْ

 The seven heavens and the earth and all beings therein declare His glory. There is not a thing but celebrates His praise; and yet you understand not how they declare His glory (xvii: 44).

Does this mean that everything other that humankind uses versions of Subhanallah which we do not know about? Does it mean this?  There are definitely two major categories of Subhanallah.  One category used by His servants and another category used by everything else that is in existence.  The different versions of glorification found in the Qur’an, for example, Subhanahu (Glory to Him) or Subhanallah (Glory to Allah) are His uncreated words that we use in glorifying Him.  Does he use the same words when He glorifies Himself?  We do not know or perhaps it is so.

It is very strange that the more we think we come to know about His Names and His Actions, the less we know.  Scholars have written about ma’rifah, coming to know their Lord.  One sometimes thinks that not knowing or not understanding His Names, His Actions and His Attributes might be the fore-runner to one coming to know about Him.  Perhaps it is so.  Perhaps one must go through a long process of knowing less and less until the process is reversed and one comes to know more and more.  Perhaps it is like this.

Most of this letter consists of so many ‘perhapses’.  Is this stage of perhaps knowing something or not knowing it also part of the process of eventually knowing?  I ask myself this.  I think there is a desire in all of us to know something about our Lord.  Our belief system would not be as it is if we were not convinced about His Existence.  But we want to know other things about Him; His Actions and His Attributes.  We have in the course of Islamic History some individuals who, through their hard striving in this Path, have had experiences of their Lord, which most of us have not had.  But the desire is still there.  Sometimes one thinks a little door has been opened but then it is just imagination.  We ask our Lord to open for us doors or windows through which we can experience something about Him, amin.

[Letters to Seekers on the Spiritual Path Vol 2 – Unpublished 2012]

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