Empty your heart of others
Our future will remain unknown to us, our resources will remain limited, our human nature will remain impatient, and hence Allah assured us that He is undoubtedly aṣ-Ṣamad so that we may lean on Him at every moment. He is not like those whose doors are open in the morning but closed at night. He is not like those who can defend you against smaller oppressors but only sympathize with you when it comes to tyranny’s juggernauts. He is unlike those who are agitated by our incessant requests, or exploit us for asking, or shortchange us upon delivery, or leave us guilt-ridden for taking without returning the favor. We should, therefore, empty our hearts of all others, for belief in aṣ-Ṣamad necessitates clarity on where we should turn when we aspire, how to escape the storms of confusion, and how to vanquish our insecurities with our heads raised high. “So flee to Allah. Indeed, I (Muhammad) am to you from Him a clear warner” (Qur’an 51:50).
Emptying our hearts of other than aṣ-Ṣamad is not about becoming antisocial or disengaging from reality and resigning to apathy. Rather, it is about depending on Allah—the truest Reality—as we engage the physical world; not forgetting from where helpful people get their existence, specialists get their competence, and those who stand with us in solidarity get their courage and kindness. It is about us pursuing scholars for guidance, jobs for income, friends for companionship, and righteousness for salvation, while locking our hearts only upon aṣ-Ṣamad to bring those to fruition. It is about internally recognizing that “the example of those who take allies other than Allah is like that of the spider who takes a home. And indeed, the weakest of homes is the home of the spider, if they only knew” (Qur’an 29:41). The spider’s web is a pathetic shelter on the brink of collapsing when nudged by almost any object or wind. The entire creation is similarly vulnerable in the face of every event, whether we perceive it as such or not, while aṣ-Ṣamad is unshakeable and remains so in even the most turbulent days. Whoever recognizes that within themselves, while engaging whichever physical means Allah has placed at their disposal, has a guarantee to never be disappointed by the One who named Himself aṣ-Ṣamad.
Emptying our hearts of others is also not just about overattachment to people but also to the objects we assume are necessary for our happiness or wellbeing. It is Allah Who made the medicine effective, and so we will search for it, but trust that He can cure us without medicine if we cannot find it. It is Allah who made our homeland dear to us, so we will yearn for it, but are confident that He can make a foreign place just as dear if we cannot return home. When the Prophet ﷺ and his Companions were driven out of Mecca, the relocation to Madinah was grueling. The persecution of the Meccans had torn apart their families, expelling some and holding back others, and forced them to an unfamiliar place. Many of the Companions fell physically ill in the new climate and rumors began to spread that they were cursed. Others stood outside Madinah, reciting sorrowful poetry about the valleys of Mecca they longed for or staring at the horizon in hopes that their detained loved ones would somehow appear in the distance. After a yearlong saga of heartache, the Prophet ﷺ began saying, “O Allah, make Madinah as beloved to us as You made Mecca, or more intensely so.”7 Here, the Prophet ﷺ exhibited great humility by not demanding a return to Mecca, and profound ṣumūd by recognizing that God could afford them the health and happiness they once had in Mecca anywhere. Similarly, the Prophet ﷺ marveled at how Lūṭ عليه السلام fearlessly confronted the hostility of his nation all by himself, and say, “May Allah’s mercy be upon Lūṭ; he would seek refuge in a strong support,”8 meaning with Allah. Lūṭ عليه السلام had no tangible means of support but knew in the depths of his soul that if you have aṣ-Ṣamad, you have all you need. “If Allah should aid you, no one can overcome you; but if He should forsake you, who is there that can aid you after Him? And upon Allah let the believers rely” (Qur’an 3:160).
Worship Allah Alone
Humans are compelled to stop at God’s door for their ambitions, but sincerity lies in also making God their ultimate ambition. The oft-forgotten mission of desiring God, not just desiring from God, is replenished by Sūrat al-Ikhlāṣ through its very title (ikhlāṣ = sincere devotion). Furthermore, its sole theme serves as the justifier for this; Allah’s uniqueness (aḥadiyya) and perfection (ṣamadiyya) necessitate His exclusive right to worship, and singling Him out in worship implies recognizing that about Him. Noncompliance with His exclusive right to worship implies not believing that He is uniquely perfect and that others also deserve a share of one’s devotional acts. As for those who concede to the reality of aṣ-Ṣamad, they see that veneration must be directed to Him Alone. Allah says, “Say, ‘Indeed, my prayer, my rites of sacrifice, my living and my dying are for Allah, Lord of the worlds. No partner has He. And this I have been commanded, and I am the first [among you] of the Muslims.’ Say, ‘Is it other than Allah I should desire as a lord while He is the Lord of all things?’” (Qur’an 6:162-164)
It is reported that when the Prophet ﷺ first met ‘Imrān b. Ḥuṣayn (may Allah be pleased with him), an elderly Bedouin, he said, “How many gods do you worship today?” He said, “Seven; six on earth and one in the heavens.” He said, “Which of them do you depend on for your moments of hope and fear?” He said, “The one in the heavens.”9 ‘Imrān soon embraced Islam, convinced that aṣ-Ṣamad, to Whom we resort in hope and fear, is the only One Who deserves lowering our heads to in prostration.
Worshipping God should never be reduced to only the outward rituals such as prayer and sacrifice; these are the necessary physical manifestations of adoring God within oneself which is what worship is all about. Consider how amidst establishing the necessary qibla (direction) one must physically face for a valid prayer, Allah says, “And to Allah belongs the east and the west. So wherever you [might] turn, there is the Face of Allah. Indeed, Allah is all-Encompassing and Knowing” (Qur’an 2:115). Even outside of prayer, whenever our lives demand we turn our heads or send our limbs in a necessary direction, a believer always perceives aṣ-Ṣamad as the single most valid qibla of his or her heart. Not only is this wise and His due right, but it is also humanity’s greatest need; the need to love the Divine and feel loved by Him, which Allah created within every soul. Imam Ibn al-Qayyim (d. 1350, may Allah bestow mercy on him) says about this,
In the heart, there exists an anxiousness that nothing can calm but drawing nearer to Allah. And over it looms a loneliness that nothing can remove but experiencing His company in private. And in there exists a sadness that nothing can dispel but the joy of knowing Him and genuinely devoting oneself to Him. And in there exists a worry that nothing can reassure but focusing on Him and fleeing from Him to Him. And in there flare the flames of regret, and nothing can extinguish them but becoming content with His commands, prohibitions, destiny, and patiently gripping on to all that until the time it meets Him. And in there exists a pressing demand; it will not stop until He alone becomes its greatest pursuit. And in there is a dire need; nothing will satisfy it except loving Him, constantly remembering Him, and being sincerely devoted to Him. And if a person were given this entire world and all it contains, it would never fulfill that need.10
Finally, there is one particular act of ritual worship that beholders of aṣ-Ṣamad will naturally engage in, and that is du‘ā’ (supplication). The Prophet ﷺ taught us that “Du‘ā’ is the [essence] of devotional worship”11 because du‘ā’ is a testimony of one’s inability and Allah’s ability, and one’s confidence that aṣ-Ṣamad can quench every physical, emotional, and spiritual thirst. Some people wonder why make du‘ā’ when Allah knows the situation, missing that while He knows everything, He loves to hear us whisper to Him in supplication, for it demonstrates our certainty in His presence and our trust in His decision and timing. That is why the Prophet ﷺ said, “Nothing is more honorable with Allah than du‘ā’”12 and that you should call upon Allah in prayer “even for your sandal-strap when it rips.”13 It is not about the object of the request, but the fact that Allah loves to witness your heart and tongue pulsating with ṣumūd, just as He hates the callous person who refuses to admit his needs or who turns to others for them but not to Allah. In one of many prophetic supplications that relegate every last affair of this world and the next to Allah, aṣ-Ṣamad, the Prophet ﷺ would say, “O Allah, rectify for me my religion which is the stronghold of my affairs. And rectify for me my worldly life in which is my living. And rectify for me my hereafter in which is my return. And make life an increase for me in every good, and make death a relief for me from every evil.”14
Illustrating the power of invoking Allah’s name aṣ-Ṣamad in particular, Miḥjan b. al-Adru‘ (may Allah be pleased with him) reports that Prophet ﷺ once heard a man say at the conclusion of his prayer,
“O Allah, I ask You by virtue of You being al-Wāḥid (the One), aṣ-Ṣamad (the Absolute), who does not beget nor is begotten, nor is anyone comparable to Him—that you forgive my sins for me—for certainly, it is You Who are the Most Forgiving, Most Merciful.”
اللَّهُمَّ إِنِّي أَسْأَلُكَ يَا أَللَّهُ بِأَنَّكَ الْوَاحِدُ الصَّمَدُ، الَّذِي لَمْ يَلِدْ وَلَمْ يُولَدْ وَلَمْ يَكُنْ لَهُ كُفُوًا أَحَدٌ، أَنْ تَغْفِرَ لِي ذُنُوبِي، إِنَّكَ أَنْتَ الْغَفُورُ الرَّحِيمُ
Allāhumma inni as’aluka yā Allāhu bi-annak al-wāḥid uṣ-ṣamad, alladhī lam yalid wa lam yūlad wa lam yakun lahu kufuwan ahad, an taghfira ly dhunūbī, innaka antal ghafūr ur-raḥīm.
The Prophet ﷺ said upon hearing this, “He has certainly been forgiven; he has certainly been forgiven; he has certainly been forgiven.”15
People bolstered by aṣ-Ṣamad and desirous of Him above all else become morally incorruptible so long as those two factors remain within them. They transcend the lower appetites which dissuade most humans from their values, such as the appetites for fortune, fame, comfort, and longevity. Carnal desires fail at diverting the people of sumūd from the right path and the threats of tyrants fail at bringing those who take cover with aṣ-Ṣamad to their knees.
When al-Ḥajjāj b. Yūsuf arrested Sa‘īd b. Jubayr (d. 714, may Allah bestow mercy on him) for speaking against his tyranny, he made many attempts to frighten and demoralize the leading scholar of that age. All these attempts failed miserably, though Sa‘īd was ultimately executed, due to his unwavering conviction in Allah being aṣ-Ṣamad. While chastising Sa‘īd for his ‘insolence’ and open rebellion, al-Ḥajjāj said, “You are doomed,” to which Sa‘īd responded, “It is [only] someone else who knows the unseen,” meaning only Allah knows the future. Al-Ḥajjāj then said, “By Allah, I will replace your world with a blazing fire,” meaning you will now be executed and go straight to Hell. Sa‘īd retorted, “If I believed that this was in your control, I would not have worshipped anyone but you” and, “If you do this, you will ruin my worldly life and I will ruin your afterlife,” meaning triumph will still be mine. When the executioner set Sa‘īd b. Jubayr in place for beheading, he faced the qibla (direction of prayer) and recited, “I have turned my face toward He Who created the heavens and the earth” (Qur’an 6:79). This infuriated al-Ḥajjāj, but when he instructed them to turn his back to the qibla, Sa‘īd simply recited, “So wherever you [might] turn, there is the Face of Allah” (Qur’an 2:115). Al-Ḥajjāj finally instructed them to position him face-down, upon which he recited “From it (the earth) We created you, and into it We will return you, and from it We will extract you another time” (Qur’an 20:55). He was then slaughtered from behind. When news of this exchange reached al-Ḥasan al-Baṣri (d. 728, may Allah bestow mercy on him), he said, “O Allah; O Breaker of Tyrants, break al-Ḥajjāj,” and within three days worms had infected al-Ḥajjāj’s abdomen and killed him.16 When enviers of Imam Ibn Taymiya had him summoned before the sultan, he was told, “I have been informed that the masses listen to you and that you harbor a desire to usurp power [from us].” Ibn Taymiya responded to this charge of mutiny in a loud confident voice that could be heard by many of those present, “[You think] I would do that? By Allah, neither your kingdom nor that of all the Mongols is worth filsayn (two pennies) in my eyes.”17 On a different occasion, Maḥmūd Ghāzān, the seventh ruler of the Mongol Empire, offered to rebuild Hiran for Ibn Taymiya and crown him its head of state. The Imam dismissed that proposal and made it clear that he had no interest in appeasing kings made of dust nor in being granted any of the dust beneath their feet.18
Just as a person who kneels to God does not bow before anyone else, they also are never enticed by material gains to be swayed from justice. They feel sufficed by Allah and are transformed by that into greats who can sacrifice in the shade of aṣ-Ṣamad, not pant after worldly offers, nor grovel at the feet of those offering them. Conscientious people see their own moral compromises as disgraceful and only compromise when no viable alternative seems possible. But when someone is acquainted with aṣ-Ṣamad, the dignified option is never absent.
Having strength to spare for bolstering others is another blessed byproduct of submitting to aṣ-Ṣamad. Being there for people physically, financially, emotionally, and intellectually is directly proportionate to the depth of our relationship with aṣ-Ṣamad, for only from Him can we find the resilience and surplus to help ourselves, then march onwards to uplift others around us, whether benefiting them during our lives or through the legacy we leave behind.
Imam al-Ghazāli (d. 1111, may Allah bestow mercy on him) writes, “Whomever Allah (Most High) appoints as the aim of His servants in their worldly and religious concerns, and facilitates on his hands and tongue the needs of His creation, then He has favored him with a share of that [divine] attribute’s meaning. It is [then] upon him to adopt the traits of leadership so that he can be maṣmūd (resorted to), and his door [can be] maqṣūd (sought out). Hishām b. ‘Urwa narrates from his father, that he said, ‘I lived to see Sa‘d b. ‘Ubāda (may Allah be pleased with him) having an announcer who would call people to his home, and later lived to see his son Qays inviting others in a similar fashion.’”19 In other words, the generation of the Companions actualized the divine quality of ṣamadiyya as best as human beings can, by making themselves available for the unconditional service of others each day of their lives and instilling this virtue in their children as well. The Prophet ﷺ also told us that “The most beloved people to Allah are those most beneficial to people”20 and that “if Allah wishes well for a person, He uses him [for good].”21 Therefore, the characteristic of supporting others is not only made possible by our reliance on Allah, but also driven by our desire for the pleasure of Allah, and these two are the essence of ṣumūd as we earlier established. This explains why nobody could match the aid and healing extending by the Prophet Muhammad’s life and legacy: because nobody invoked God for strength like he did, nor was anyone ever as passionate a seeker of God’s pleasure as he was ﷺ.