Faith has a lot to do with the fact that there are many wonderful and trustworthy people around us. We call them Auliya-Allah or the ‘friends of God’, those close to him, people who have dedicated themselves to His service, completely and utterly in submission. They are serious about Allah, they live and die for his sake, they love and hate for this sake; people whose motto is “my prayers, my sacrifices, life and death are all for the Lord of the universe.” These people are hujjat-ullah, living proof of God, evidence of Him. They are Ayat-ullah, signs of God, who display his generosity and make his compassion tangible in the world.
The Quran praises them “Beware, Allah’s friends have no fear nor do they grieve” (Yunus: 62). They are people who have taken Allah seriously, His prophet (peace be upon him) and His religion seriously in contrast to those “who made their religion an amusement, a sport and were deceived by worldly life” (Al-Araf: 51). Muslims trust the auliya, friends of Allah, they love them and for most Muslims love of Allah starts here. By being impressed by them one develops trust in these men of Allah. This trust and love of auliya leads to Divine love. As our relationship with them develops we want to imitate them and live as they live, we want to follow them. These people live holy lives, one of prayer, obedience, submission, ever remembering the lord with love and devotion.
Why are the auliya-Allah important for us?
These people live simple yet effective and impressive lives. Their contribution to Islam is that they have taken on the responsibility for making Islam credible in the world. Their whole life becomes a testimony to the love, mercy and greatness of Allah. They are ‘shaheed’ witnesses of the Divine truth. They not only follow the Prophets and resist the evils of society, but they also possess outstanding characteristics such as being dedicated to the service of others.
We are often cynical of others, mistrusting, why should we believe in someone? Why should we trust someone? Since we believe people have hidden agendas. As we cannot uncover other’s hidden motives, we remain mistrusting of others. However, with auliya-Allah it’s not like that, there is no hidden agenda, there are no self-interests, they do not seek personal glory and praise nor recognition. Their pure and selfless life is as transparent as clean water. You can see through them! They have nothing to hide, all is revealed, so much so that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “when you see them they remind you of Allah”.
Through the lives of these Auliya-Allah, Allah is no longer an abstract thing. He becomes real, the hidden (Batin) is revealed (Zahir), the one who was far becomes near (Qarib). In Islamic cosmos the Prophet of Islam (peace be upon him) occupies the highest station of Divine friendship, this is closely followed by the four ullul-azm Prophets (Ibrahim, Nuh, Musa, Esa) then other Prophets followed by Abu Bakr (the best man after Prophets), then the companions of the Prophets. This is a galaxy of illustrious friends of Allah, shining stars of humanity and great human beings. They are unique, special and peerless.
However, there are other auliya-Allah who are from the masses, yet they have acquired Divine proximity, nearness to Allah so much so they are absorbed in the Divine. They are our guides, they point to Allah, their lives appeal to us. These people have built a personal relationship with Allah, it’s not a formal relationship like that of the employer and the employee but one of an intimate friend. Allah too in the Quran reveals his personal relationship with the auliya and in particular with the Prophets. Take the relationship of Allah with the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). The life of the Prophets is seen as the key to understanding the nature and intentions of Allah. The Prophet (peace be upon him) embodied, lived, practised the beautiful attributes of Allah, the complete beauty and grandeur of Allah shone from his character, similarly the friends of Allah are representatives of Allah on earth.
Quranic description of the friends of Allah
Allah says: “Beware, Allah’s friends have no fear nor do they grieve. They believe and are mindful of Allah, for them are glad tidings in this worldly life and in the Hereafter” (Yunus: 62-64). The Auliya-Allah are not fearful of the dangers here or in the hereafter. Neither do they grieve over the loss of a valuable. They are not fearful of their enemies nor grieving over a worldly loss. Since they trust Allah. They believe in Divine wisdom is being the best, because of this understanding of the creation and reliance on Allah they are free from fear and grief. This does not mean the “friends of Allah” will not face difficulties; on the contrary “they will be tried”. However they will embrace these trials, tribulations and severe tests as challenges, they will stand-up and be patient, steadfast and cope bravely.
This short passage reveals the affection and love that Allah has for this special group of people, the Auliya-Allah. A friend is a person with whom one enjoys mutual affection. The Arabic noun ‘Waliyun’ is derived from the verb ‘Waliya’, which means nearness, beloved, friend, helper and patron. So calling a man “Allah’s friend” or “Allah’s beloved” or “near to Allah” does not offend the reverence due to Allah.
There are two types of nearness:
What does it mean to be near to Allah?
Imam Razi says, “Nearness to Allah in terms of space of direction is impossible, the nearness to Allah is when the heart is engrossed in Divine rays. When he observes, he sees the signs of Allah’s power, when he hears, he hears the Divine verses, when he speaks, he sings the Divine praises, when he moves, he moves in worship, when he struggles and strives, he does so in obeying Allah” (Tafsir Al Kabeer).
The prophet (peace be upon him) said: Allah said “I declare a war on anyone who has enmity against my friend. My servant draws near to me by carrying out obligatory duties and then continues to draw nearer through voluntary activities until I love him. And when I love him I become his ears by which he hears, his eyes by which he sees, hands by which he grasps and feet by which he walks. If he asks I will give him and if he seeks protection I will protect him” (Bukhari).
The signs of the friends of Allah
Here is a beautiful hadith that gives some insight into the lives of these wonderful people, someone asked the Prophet (peace be upon him): “Who are friends of Allah?” He said, “Upon seeing them you are reminded of Allah” (Ibn Majah). Since their hearts are polished they reflect the Divine beauty and goodness, just like a mirror reflects the rays of light. Their humility, devoutness, absorption in worship reminds one of the hereafter.