The path to sainthood

Quranic Pearls

The path to sainthood

Mufti Muhammad Qasim ‘Attari

Allah Almighty stated:

اَلَاۤ اِنَّ اَوْلِیَآءَ اللّٰهِ لَا خَوْفٌ عَلَیْهِمْ وَ لَا هُمْ یَحْزَنُوْنَۚۖ(۶۲) الَّذِیْنَ اٰمَنُوْا وَ كَانُوْا یَتَّقُوْنَؕ(۶۳)

“Listen! No doubt, upon the friends of Allah there is neither any fear nor any grief. ˹The saintly friends of Allah are only˺ those who have believed and practice piety ˹by strictly following Shari'ah˺.”[1]

Sainthood or Allah’s friendship (wilāya) is a special gift from Allah Almighty which He grants to His chosen servants. Wilāya is therefore, as Imam Ahmad Raza Khan explains, “not acquired ˹through one’s efforts˺ but purely bestowed ˹by Allah˺. Of course, Allah Almighty shows His path to those who strive and undertake spiritual struggles.”[2]

Commonly, the theologians define those given wilāya, i.e. the saints, as Allah’s servants “who have knowledge and gnosis (maʿrifa) of Allah Almighty and His attributes as much as is possible ˹for them˺. The saint consistently obeys Allah, refrains from His disobedience, and is not engrossed in ˹pursuing˺ base pleasures and desires ˹of the carnal self˺.”[3]

However, the gift of wilāya is only given to sincere and pious souls that have ascended the levels of inner perfection. Which acts of piety are recompensed with this matchless gift? Well, it is according to Allah’s will, for He may reward someone with wilāya for a single action of his. We can, however, take the lives of Allah’s saints as compasses, taking inspiration and direction from them. We find that typically, they were steadfast believers who obeyed Allah Almighty and strove to purge their lives of sin even before attaining wilāya. So, emulate them with the hope that through His grace, Allah Almighty will grant extend their blessings to you. The word “wilāya” in Arabic combines several meanings, including loyalty to Allah, loving Him, and turning to Him at all times. These traits are essential if you wish to attain Allah’s wilāya and friendship.

The first requirement is adherence to the Sunnah. This is because wilāya entails being beloved to Allah Almighty and being beloved to Allah Almighty, is only received by he who loves His beloved and loves the practises of His beloved.  Thus, Allah Almighty mentions:

قُلْ اِنْ كُنْتُمْ تُحِبُّوْنَ اللّٰهَ فَاتَّبِعُوْنِیْ یُحْبِبْكُمُ اللّٰهُ

“Say, ˹dear beloved Prophet˺, that '˹O˺ people! If you love Allah, you should therefore obey me, ˹only then˺ Allah will love you.’”[4]

The Sunnah is the only path leading to wilāya.  To follow the Sunnah is to follow the pristine Shari’ah in letter and spirit. Allah Almighty states:

وَ اَنَّ هٰذَا صِرَاطِیْ مُسْتَقِیْمًا فَاتَّبِعُوْهُۚ-وَ لَا تَتَّبِعُوا السُّبُلَ فَتَفَرَّقَ بِكُمْ عَنْ سَبِیْلِهٖؕ

“And ˹know˺ that this ˹the Shariah˺ is My straight path. So follow it, and do not follow other ways; that they will separate you from His Way.”[5]

The second requirement is mindfulness of Allah (taqwā). Mindfulness of Allah means to observe His commands and prohibitions by abandoning sins and foregoing base carnal desires. Allah Almighty lists mindfulness as a defining characteristic of the saints:

اَلَاۤ اِنَّ اَوْلِیَآءَ اللّٰهِ لَا خَوْفٌ عَلَیْهِمْ وَ لَا هُمْ یَحْزَنُوْنَۚۖ(۶۲) الَّذِیْنَ اٰمَنُوْا وَ كَانُوْا یَتَّقُوْنَؕ(۶۳)

“Listen! No doubt, upon the friends of Allah there is neither any fear nor any grief. ˹They are˺ those who have believed and are ˹truly˺ mindful ˹of Allah by observing the His laws˺.”[6]

The third requirement is to free the of heart other than Allah. Allah Almighty is One, and He loves oneness. He grants the sweetness of faith to the one who loves Him more than everything.  Therefore, Allah Almighty says:

وَ الَّذِیْنَ اٰمَنُوْۤا اَشَدُّ حُبًّا لِّلّٰهِؕ-

“For the believers, no one's love is equal to the love of Allah.”[7]

The beloved Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم taught the following supplication:

اَللّٰهُمَّ اَسْاَلُكَ اِيمَانًا ‌يُبَاشِرُ قَلْبِي حَتَّى اَعْلَمَ اَنْ لَنْ يُصِيبَنِي اِلَّا مَا كَتَبْتَ لِي وَرِضًا بِمَا قَدَّرْتَ علّي

“Dear Allah, I ask You for faith which settles in my heart until I know with certainty that nothing befalls me except that which You have decreed for me, and I ask You to make me pleased with that You have ordained for me.”[8]

For this reason, the hearts of the elect servants of Allah Almighty remain attached to Him alone. Heedless people do not reach Allah’s proximity even if they stand before the Kaʿba, because their hearts are engrossed with other than Allah, such as business and other concerns. The saint and friend of Allah though focuses on Allah. Although his hands may be busy with worldly tasks, his heart is busy with the remembrance of Allah. Allah Almighty states:

رِجَالٌۙ-لَّا تُلْهِیْهِمْ تِجَارَةٌ وَّ لَا بَیْعٌ عَنْ ذِكْرِ اللّٰهِ وَ اِقَامِ الصَّلٰوةِ وَ اِیْتَآءِ الزَّكٰوةِ ﭪ

“Those men whom neither any trade nor any sale distracts from the remembrance of Allah and from keeping Salah established and from paying Zakah.”[9]

Those whose hearts are free from love of others attain the pleasure of worship as is mentioned in the hadith:

جعلت قرۃ عینی فی الصلٰوۃ

“The coolness of my eyes has been placed in Prayer.”[10]

 In fact, salah is their spiritual ascension to Allah’s presence:

الصلٰوۃ معراج المومن

“Salah is ascension of the believer.”[11]

The fourth requirement is good character. Allah Almighty is merciful, peace giving and generous. He conceals people’s faults and forgives their sins. Allah Almighty likes for these attributes to be adopted by His servants.  Furthermore, the creation are all dependants of Allah Almighty, and the most beloved of creation to Allah Almighty is the one who treats His dependants the best.[12] Likewise, Allah Almighty mentions about the pious:

وَ الْكٰظِمِیْنَ الْغَیْظَ وَ الْعَافِیْنَ عَنِ النَّاسِؕ-وَ اللّٰهُ یُحِبُّ الْمُحْسِنِیْنَۚ(۱۳۴)

“…and who restrain anger and forgive people. The righteous people are the beloveds of Allah.”[13]

The fifth requirement is humility. Allah Almighty dislikes arrogance:

اِنَّهٗ لَا یُحِبُّ الْمُسْتَكْبِرِیْنَ(۲۳)

“Indeed, He does not like the arrogant.”[14]  

However, He loves those who are humble. He states:

وَعِبَادُ الرَّحْمٰنِ الَّذِیْنَ یَمْشُوْنَ عَلَى الْاَرْضِ هَوْنًا

“Those servants of the Most Gracious who walk upon the earth humbly.”[15]

Furthermore, humbleness is a sunnah of beloved Prophe   صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم , and Allah Almighty loves every aspect, quality, and action of the beloved صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم . During the conquest of Makka, the Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم entered the blessed city with his head lowered.[16] Further to this, the beloved Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم himself stated:

 ما ‌تواضع احد لله الا رفعه الله

“No one humbles himself for the sake of Allah Almighty, except that Allah Almighty raises him.”[17]

The sixth requirement is contentment with Allah’s will. The saints submit to the will of Allah Almighty and defer all matters to Him:

اِنَّ اللّٰهَ اشْتَرٰى مِنَ الْمُؤْمِنِیْنَ اَنْفُسَهُمْ وَ اَمْوَالَهُمْ بِاَنَّ لَهُمُ الْجَنَّةَؕ-

“Indeed, Allah has purchased from the Muslims their wealth and lives in this exchange; that, for them is Paradise.”[18]  

قُلْ اِنَّ صَلَاتِیْ وَ نُسُكِیْ وَ مَحْیَایَ وَ مَمَاتِیْ لِلّٰهِ رَبِّ الْعٰلَمِیْنَۙ(۱۶۲)

“Say, ˹dear beloved Prophet˺, 'My salah, and my sacrifices, and my living and my passing away are all undoubtedly for Allah Who is the Lord of all the worlds.'”[19]

It is regarding the statement and action of such people that Allah Almighty has mentioned that they say:

وَ اُفَوِّضُ اَمْرِیْۤ اِلَى اللّٰهِؕ-اِنَّ اللّٰهَ بَصِیْرٌۢ بِالْعِبَادِ(۴۴)

“I entrust my matters to Allah; indeed, Allah sees ˹His˺ servants.”[20]

Then it is these lofty personalities, who remain pleased and content with the will and decree of Allah, who are addressed at the time of their deaths:

یٰۤاَیَّتُهَا النَّفْسُ الْمُطْمَىٕنَّةُۗۖ(۲۷) ارْجِعِیْۤ اِلٰى رَبِّكِ رَاضِیَةً مَّرْضِیَّةًۚ(۲۸) فَادْخُلِیْ فِیْ عِبٰدِیْۙ(۲۹) وَ ادْخُلِیْ جَنَّتِیْ۠(۳۰)

˹It will be said to the pious˺, 'O satisfied soul.' 'Return towards your Lord, in the state that you are content with Him, and He is content with you.' 'Then enter ˹the ranks of˺ My chosen servants and enter My Paradise.’”[21]

The seventh requirement is to live in Allah’s dhikr. The most notable aspect of the lives of the saints is their constant dhikr of Allah Almighty with their tongues, hearts, and limbs. They attempt to remain in the remembrance of Allah Almighty at all times. Allah Almighty states:

یَذْكُرُوْنَ اللّٰهَ قِیٰمًا وَّ قُعُوْدًا وَّ عَلٰى جُنُوْبِهِمْ

“Those who remember Allah ˹whilst˺ standing, and sitting, and lying on their sides.”[22]

     وَ الذّٰكِرِیْنَ اللّٰهَ كَثِیْرًا وَّ الذّٰكِرٰتِۙ-

“The men who abundantly remember Allah and the women who abundantly remember Allah.”[23]  

فَاذْكُرُوْنِیْۤ اَذْكُرْكُمْ

“So, remember Me, I shall publicise you ˹by giving you true fame and help˺.”[24]

In a divine hadith, Allah declares, “I am with the one who remembers Me.”[25]

May Allah Almighty grant us the blessings of the pure lives of the noble saints.  We ask in the court of Allah Almighty that He grants us love for His saints; that which the Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم taught us to ask for:

اللّٰھم انی اسئلک حبک وحب من یحبک والعمل الذی یبلغنی حبک

“Dear Allah, I ask You for Your love, the love of those that love You, and deeds which lead me to Your love.”[26]

[1] [Kanz-ul-Iman (translation of Quran)] (Part 11, Surah Yunus, verses 62 - 63)

[2] Fatāwā Razawiyyah, vol. 21, p. 606

[3] Sharh al-‘Aqaaid al-Nasafiya, p. 316

[4] [Kanz-ul-Iman (translation of Quran)] (Part 3, Surah Aal-Imran, verse 31)

[5] [Kanz-ul-Iman (translation of Quran)] (Part 8, Surah Al-An’aam, verse 153)

[6] [Kanz-ul-Iman (translation of Quran)] (Part 11, Surah Yunus, verses 62 - 63)

[7] [Kanz-ul-Iman (translation of Quran)] (Part 2, Surah Al-Baqarah, verse 165)

[8] Musnad al-Bazzar, vol. 12, p. 19

[9] [Kanz-ul-Iman (translation of Quran)] (Part 18, Surah Al-Noor, verse 37)

[10] Musannaf Abd. Razzaq, vol. 4, p. 249, Hadith 7969

[11] Mirqāt al-Mafātī, vol. 1, p. 116

[12] Shu’ab al-Īmān, vol. 6, p. 43, Hadith 7444

[13] [Kanz-ul-Iman (translation of Quran)] (Part 4, Surah Aal Imran, verse 134)

[14] [Kanz-ul-Iman (translation of Quran)] (Part 14, Surah Al-Nahl, verse 23)

[15] [Kanz-ul-Iman (translation of Quran)] (Part 19, Surah Al-Furqan, verse 63)

[16] Sharh Sunan Abī Dāwūd li-Ibn Raslan, vol. 6, p. 43

[17] aī Muslim, p. 1071, Hadith 6592

[18] [Kanz-ul-Iman (translation of Quran)] (Part 11, Surah Al-Tawbah, verse 111)

[19] [Kanz-ul-Iman (translation of Quran)] (Part 8, Surah Al-An’aam, verse 162)

[20] [Kanz-ul-Iman (translation of Quran)] (Part 24, Surah Al-Mu’min, verse 44)

[21] [Kanz-ul-Iman (translation of Quran)] (Part 30, Surah Al-Fajr, verses 27 - 30)

[22] [Kanz-ul-Iman (translation of Quran)] (Part 4, Surah Aal Imran, verse 191)

[23] [Kanz-ul-Iman (translation of Quran)] (Part 22, Surah Al-Ahzaab, verse 35)

[24] [Kanz-ul-Iman (translation of Quran)] (Part 2, Surah Al-Baqarah, verse 152)

[25] Mirqāt al-Mafātī, vol. 5, p. 68, Hadith 2285, Musannaf Ibn Abi Shaybah, vol. 2, p. 66, Hadith 1231

[26] Jāmi’ al-Tirmidhi, vol. 5, p. 296,Hadith 3501




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