Last week, I went into great detail about what a life of trust would look like.
But how can we trust something (or Someone) we don't know? Surely God can't ask us to trust in Him, and yet stay hidden and mysterious?
In my experience, God is anything but hidden and mysterious, alhamdulillah. Today, insha'Allah, I want to delve deeper into a discussion of how God is constantly revealing Himself to us every single day, and guiding us again and again to this path of surrender and trust.
Beauty Is Everywhere
Have you ever thought about what a beautiful world it is we are living in? Of course, there are bad things that happen all the time, but if you really look for it, there is so much beauty.
First, just in nature, there are beautiful sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and textures everywhere. One of my favorite things to listen to is the sound of rain, or really water of any kind. It instantly relaxes me and sends me into a place of peace and contentment.
Second, to ponder on the universe as a whole is awe-inspiring. Our planet is a microscopic speck within an incredibly immense, complex universe. Even with the best science can offer today, we can barely penetrate its mysteries. Consider the fact for a moment that the light you see from stars at night has been traveling for potentially thousands of years to reach your eyes.
Finally, consider the man-made technology we have today. The mere fact that I can write a post that can be instantly visible to people all around the world is a testament to human ingenuity and the raw potential of the universe at large.
These are just a few examples of beauty in the universe. I can easily think of several more, as I'm sure you could as well.
Even in your own life, observe how things just work out for the best, even when it doesn't appear so at first. I remember when I was applying for colleges. I had applied to MIT, because I wanted to be a programmer. I had the grades for it, and went through the entire application process, including one of their representatives coming out to interview me. I was sure that this was the school I was supposed to attend.
And yet… I was denied. They had said I hadn't done enough extracurricular activities. I was crushed, to say the least.
After that I attended Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA for two years. Most of that time was spent as a music major. That, too, didn't work, and for stress and health-related reasons, I had to drop out.
All of that led me to Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio, where I finally met my wife Christine. I didn't even complete my studies there, either. I often remark to her that the only good thing I got out of college was meeting her. I had failure after failure, and yet if I hadn't had those failures, there's no way I would have met her.
Certainly if I were given the controls of my own life, I would have had myself going to MIT and getting a high-paying programming job. Would I be happy? Who really knows? But I wouldn't have met my wife, and my journey would have looked very different. Now, I wouldn't change any part of it.
I often think of this experience when I hear people say we have complete control over our own lives. I think, “Well if that were true, my life would just be a mess, wouldn't it?” I have no idea what's right for me. MIT looked right, but it actually wasn't. Duquesne looked right, but it actually wasn't. Completing college looked right, but it actually wasn't. It took what would appear as failure to the outside observer, not once, not even twice, but three times, to get me to where I am today, and which I wouldn't trade for the world.
Now that I look back at that experience, it looks as though it were crafted by some master planner, just to get me to where I am today. And indeed, this brings me perfectly to my next point.
God Is Constantly Guiding Us
I mentioned above that it looked like a master planner had sketched out my life perfectly. If I were asked what I wanted beforehand, and was given that to the letter, I'd be in a much different place, likely not as happy as I am now.
The same thing happened in the months leading up to my conversion to Islam. I was led, through various events in my own life, to seeing the importance of surrender, and even seeing how a personal God was working in my life. So many of the events made much more sense after the fact, once I was able to see them in context.
I mentioned during my previous live session video that God is always calling us to a closer connection with Him. This usually manifests through uncomfortable experiences. I've seen in my clients' lives how God shows them where they are not quite trusting in Him enough, via uncomfortable events happening to them in their lives.
Going back to my dropping out of college, it was a major psychological and spiritual reshaping for me. It was the time when I had to realize that I was taking on this goal only because people told me I should have it as a goal, to graduate college. I realized that the other option, of dropping out and striking out on my own, while scary, felt much more true to me as a person.
That's why I teach not about personal empowerment or controlling your own life, but actually about surrender to and trust in God. He is Al-Khaliq, The Creator, or The Planner. We, on the other hand, are not. Apart from God, we have no power to create, or even to know what would be best for us. However, we can have a relationship with The One who can and does create, and The One who plans our lives in intricate detail, based on what is best for us, and what will make us the happiest.
That's right, not only does God plan our lives, but He does so in such a way that would be best for us. This is so because He is also An-Nafi, The Creator of Good, and Al-Barr, The Doer of Good.
The Attributes of God Are Present in His Creation
Above, I mentioned three names of God:
- Al-Khaliq: The Creator (or Planner)
- An-Nafi: The Creator of Good, and
- Al-Barr: The Doer of Good
The Quran gives us 99 Names of God, and there are some hidden Attributes as well that no one knows. All of these Names are called the asma’ Allah Al-Husna (The Beautiful Names of God).
I know I'm using a lot of Arabic terms here, but it really doesn't require that you believe specifically in this way of expressing God's Attributes. All it requires is that you see that any good quality that exists in the world, must necessarily exist perfectly and fully in God, or else that quality couldn't exist.
Things that are good must have their source in One who is All Good. In essence, the goodness of that thing is a direct manifestation of the Goodness of God (An-Nafi or Al-Barr), a means by which He reveals Himself to us.
That which is beautiful must have its source in God. Indeed God is Al-Musawwir, The Fashioner, or The Shaper of Beauty.
If you are shown mercy or compassion in life, this is a manifestation of God as Ar-Rahim, The Most Compassionate, or The Most Merciful.
These are just a very few examples. There are so many more, but this post would be quite long if I were to enumerate them all.
My point in all this is that whatever good you see in the world, you must trace that back to the One from whom that good came. Why? Because quite literally, nothing could be good, nothing could be beautiful, no one could show compassion, etc., without God.
It's like saying you can get a cup of water by just willing it into existence. If you want a cup of water, you'll have to go get it from the faucet, where water is drawn from its source. Without that, you'd have no hope of getting water.
In the same way, you can't just will yourself to be good, apart from God. You might think it's apart from God, but if you are showing the qualities of good, beauty, compassion, mercy, etc., you are doing so because God has given you these qualities.
That's why the atheistic worldview just doesn't make sense. It's like a plant trying to live after cutting off its roots. It has nothing to draw from. It's totally empty.
Total Reliance on God
This is why reliance on God is so important, as I've been talking about lately. If you want anything good in life, you can only hope to get it if God gives it to you. You have no power whatsoever to achieve anything good apart from God. All good you have already seemed to achieve has only come about because of God. Realizing this is the first step of living a life of full reliance on God.
In Islam, the greatest sin is called shirk, or polytheism. But shirk is not just worshipping some other god. It is to believe anything has power, goodness, beauty, etc., apart from God. If you believe that you've achieved what you have in life thanks to yourself, and not thanks to God, that is shirk.
The opposite of shirk is tawhid (monotheism). Again, it's not just believing there's only one God. Half the world's population believes that (sort of, but long story). It is to believe that all good things come from God, and cannot be obtained other than by the help of God. It is to live your life in such a way that you rely on God as the Source of all good things.
In a sense we all commit shirk every day. Otherwise, we would never be fearful of anything, because we would know that God was in control. We would never rely on money, relationships, or career to make us happy, because we would realize that only God can make us happy.
So tawhid is more of a journey than an all-or-nothing belief. Or, perhaps more accurately, it is a belief, and then it is a principle we strive to apply more and more every day. In other words, you can believe in one God, and then you can really live as though there is one God. These are two completely different things.
Pay Attention to God Revealing Himself
Look around your day-to-day life. What do you have? What can you be grateful for? Did someone smile at you this morning? Did you feel good when you woke up? Did you eat a good meal? Do you have an internet connection? Do you have loving parents, or a loving spouse? Do you have a job that pays your bills and that you enjoy?
Look at all the good things you have. Now, notice how each one of these things has been given to you by God. They could not be in your life if God had not placed them there. If He wished, He could give you more, or take away some of what you have, but all for your highest good.
Can you really say now that you don't know who God is? Can you really say now that you cannot trust in God? Of course these are only questions you can answer. But meditating upon these things can be very useful.
Now, go about your life and approach each good thing not as a good in itself, but as a blessing from God, and more than that, as a manifestation of the Attributes of God in your life. Do you have a good job that pays the bills? God has revealed Himself to you as Al-Mughni, The Enricher, The Bestower of Wealth, The Fulfiller of Needs. To realize that this does indeed come from God, and then to thank Him for what you have, will take you a step closer to tawhid, or acknowledging God as the Source of all good things in your life. And then, very likely, insha'Allah, He will increase what you have already.
When you live in this way, not only will God bless you even more, but you will be reminded of God at every step. When you feel happy, you will thank God, because your happiness has its source in God. When someone is nice to you, you will thank God, because that compassion has its source in God. When you pay the bills, you will thank God, because your wealth has its source in God. Everything in life, no matter how small or how large, will remind you of God.
This remembrance of God is called dhikr in Islam. I found a beautiful quote about dhikr that I think speaks to this topic rather well:
Ibn Taymiyyah, may Allah have mercy on him, said, “The remembrance of Allah for the heart is like water for the fish. What will be the state of the fish if it is taken out of water?”
Source: Muʻjam Aṣḥāb 1/11
So, to have remembrance of God is like being a fish in water: you are nourished, directly from the Source of all good. To forget God, on the other hand, is like being a fish out of water: you are starved for nourishment and will suffer greatly. When you see the Attributes of God in your daily life, and ascribe those Attributes back to Him, then you will be in a constant state of remembrance. Money will remind you of God. Food will remind you of God. Your spouse will remind you of God. This is truly to live a life of complete reliance on God.
Image Copyright: foto4u / 123RF Stock Photo
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