Nearness to Allah 1

Nearness to Allah 1

Question: What is nearness to Allah (awj)? How many different kinds of nearness are there? How can we gain nearness to Allah (awj)?

In lexicographical terms, “qurb” means the nearness of one thing to another. This can be in space or time. Because of this it is said that something from a spatial point of view is near another thing. Or it is said that yesterday is, from a temporal point of view, closer to today than two days before yesterday. In another common usage, “qurb” means being the centre of attention of someone and to hold a special place near them.

Brief Answer

In lexicographical terms, “qurb” means the nearness of one thing to another. This can be in space or time. Of course in commonplace usage, “qurb” also applies to being the centre of attention and to holding a special place near someone.

In philosophical terms there are three types of nearness: spatio-temporal, essential (i.e. pertaining to quiddity), and existential. Spatio-temporal nearness however is particular to the different parts of the material world. Since Allah (awj) is not matter, this type of nearness does not apply in regards to Him.

Essential nearness, or nearness in quiddity, is like the nearness person a and person b have as humans, as they possess the same quiddity—being of the same species. Allah (awj), however, is unlimited and therefore without quiddity. Without quiddity, this sense of nearness will not pertain to Allah (awj) either.

Since Allah (awj) bestows existence to all beings and separation between a complete cause and its effect is impossible considering the fact that an effect is a mere link and relation to its cause, we can conclude that the nearness of Allah (awj) to His creation is existential nearness.

Allah’s (awj) nearness to things

There are four groups of verses regarding Allah’s (awj) nearness to us:

a. Verses stating His nearness to us in principle;

b. Verses holding that He is nearer to us than any other being;

c. Verses saying that He is nearer to man than his jugular vein;

d. Verses saying that He is nearer to man than man himself.

In explaining the fourth group of verses, we must say that man, like all other contingent beings, is a hollow being—empty of any and all aspects of independent existence. Thus, Allah’s (awj) existential encompassment and comprehension lies between man and himself.

Nearness to Allah (awj) in philosophical terms

It is clear that Allah (awj) is not in any particular place, so that there could be a direction to get near Him by moving in that direction. Nearness to Allah (awj) is achieved through man strengthening his existential aspect to the extent that he begins to self-consciously manifest the Divine Attributes. In the movement towards salvation, the more man’s existential perfects increase, the more the levels of nearness to Allah (awj) increase.

Nearness to Allah (awj) in light of the Islamic tradition

Since Allah (awj) is close to everything, man must try to approach Allah (awj) through righteous deeds. These deeds are divided into two categories: compulsory and advisory. Deeds holding a key position in the first category are understanding and sincerity in actions, while the rest, including humility, good morals, and generosity, fall under the category of advisory deeds.

Detailed Answer

Types of nearness in philosophical terms

In philosophical terms there are three types of nearness: spatio-temporal, essential (i.e. pertaining to quiddity), and existential. Nearness and distance are things whose existence depends on two things. A and B should both exist in order for us to say that A is near B or is far from it. In the metaphysical realm in which immaterial beings exist that are free from motion and time, spatial and temporal nearness cannot apply. This is especially true in regards to the Reality of all realities and the unlimited existence “He is an absolute to whom we cannot point (spatially or temporally or otherwise) nor can He enter our imagination.”(1)

Since Allah (awj) is free from quiddity,(2) He cannot share a quiddity with anything else nor be near to anything in this respect. This is because quiddity here means genus and differentia (when quiddity is opposed to existence). But Allah (awj) admits of no delimitation or definition such that another quiddity be near or far from Him. “He who points to Him has limited Him and he who limits Him counts Him.”(3)

Two things that are partners in or share one quiddity are like one another. Zayd and ‘Amr for instance share the quiddity of Man. Allah (awj) however is above and beyond having a like or an opposite.

In regards to connection in existential terms we can say that: Because Allah (awj) is the source of all existence and because the separation of the cause from the effect is impossible, therefore nearness can be envisioned as nearness in existential terms (although it must be noted that to speak in terms of cause and effects does not adequately convey the relationship here, since all things “other-than-God” are but so many manifestations of His one existence),

“And when my servants ask you concerning me, tell them I am near.”(4)

Things are, in their essence,(5) pure relations to Allah (awj). Until the cause is understood, the effect cannot be understood. Therefore the nearness Allah (awj) has to creatures is an existential nearness. There can be no existence except that Allah (awj) is its cause, and any effect stands by means of its cause. Therefore there cannot be a form of nearness nearer than this nearness.

Continue in the next aricle: ( Nearness to Allah 2 )

NOTES:

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1. Nahj al-Balaghah, Sermon 186

2. Quiddity is defined as “the limits of existence,” thus special only to contingent beings {i.e. dependant beings}. Allah (awj) on the other hand, being a necessary being, has no limit, thus defying quiddity

3. Nahjul Balaghah, Sermon 1

4. Surat al-Baqarah (2), Verse 186

5. That is to say, all contingent beings are dependent and lack any sort of independence. All they have is for their existence is a “shadow” existence. A shadow has no existence of itself. All of its existence depends on the object having the shadow. All existents “other-than-God” are but as shadows of that perfect Being. Of course, the similitude in question here is the dependence of the shadow on the object. Other characteristics of the example, such as the object being material, are not meant.