Nearness to Allah 2

Nearness to Allah 2

Allah’s (awj) nearness to things

In regards to the nearness of Allah (awj) to things, the verses of the Qur`an can be divided into four categories.

a. One group state His nearness per se: that Allah (awj) is near us:

“Verily I am near, I answer the caller.” (1)

b. A second group of verses state that He is relatively nearer to man than others:

We are nearer to him than you but you do not see.”(2)

c. Another type of verse indicates that He is closer to man than his jugular vein:

“Verily we created man and we know what his soul whispers. And We are closer to him than his jugular vein.”(3)

d. A fourth group state that Allah (awj) is closer to man than man himself, like the following verse:

“O you who believe, answer Allah and the Prophet when they call you to what will give you life. Know that Allah stands between man and his heart.”(4)

Discussions about the first three groups are not very difficult but the fourth group cannot be solved so easily. How can Allah (awj) be closer to man than himself? Because of this, some commentaries, in line with some traditions have explained this as the intermediation of Allah’s (awj) power. They say that the meaning of the verse is that sometimes man decides to do something, then Allah (awj) makes him regret it and does not allow him to continue with his plan.(5)

This is an intermediate meaning, one step removed from the apparent meaning, but if we have a rational proof that supports the apparent meaning of the verse, then we have no reason for foregoing the apparent meaning of the verse (that God comes between man and himself). Man is not whole (samad), rather he is like other possible beings “empty”; as Kulayni has related in a tradition, “Verily Allah created man empty.”(6)

Now that man is empty, the comprehensiveness of the existence of Allah (awj) comes between man and himself. Therefore, Allah (awj) is near everything. If Allah (awj) is near, He is near with all of His attributes. This is because the essential attributes(7) of Allah (awj) are one with His essence. Now, if His essential attributes are present, then His attributes of action will also be active following His essential attributes.

The way to get closer to Allah (awj) in a philosophical view

One of the fundamental questions that can be asked in this regard is, “How can we become closer to Allah (awj)?”—that Being, the light of whose existence has illuminated the Heavens and the Earth, an illumination that is the same as creation and the eternal creative act. From what direction should we approach Him and in what direction should we seek to become near to Him? It is clear that Allah (awj) does not have a direction, hence the journey along the path to Allah (awj) actually takes place within the very being of the wayfarer.

In the process of perfecting his essence, when the wayfarer travels from creation to the Real and travels from the material intellect(8) to the active intellect, he communes with the Names and attributes of Allah (awj). In other words he attains his felicity. The depth and faculties of his existence are strengthened and he becomes one of Allah’s (awj) great signs or manifestations. He thus attains the state of sanctity and Divine vicegerency. This spiritual state can be called “nearness to Allah (awj).”

Nearness to Allah from the view point of Qur`an and Hadith

Because Allah (awj) encompasses all things(9), it does not make sense that He be distant from something. Therefore, the nearness of Allah (awj) to His servant is true in all cases and situations. Conversely, it is not always the case that man is always close to Allah and it is a state that man must strive to obtain. Therefore if man wants to become closer to Allah (awj) and to strengthen this relationship, he should obtain the nearness to Allah (awj) by means of good actions and obedience to Allah (awj) as Imam Muhammad b. ‘Ali al-Baqir (ع) has said, “Nearness to Allah can only be found through obedience to Him.”(10) In doing this, he enters the beginning of spiritual vicegerency or the succour of Allah (awj).

It has been related that “Prayer is the nearness of every pious person”(11) and concerning the religious tax it has been related that “the zakat (has been made) with the prayers a means of nearness.”(12) These are things that bring one close to Allah (awj).

When this nearness is achieved, man becomes the friend of Allah (awj) and Allah (awj) becomes the friend of man. Verses such as the following clearly point to this two-way friendship:

“If you love Allah, follow me. It will make Allah love you...”(13)

Performing all those actions that in principle bring you close to Allah (awj) is the means to Allah’s (awj) nearness provided that man performs them for Allah (awj). In other words, these actions must not only be good in themselves, but they must be carried out in the best way and with the proper intentions (i.e. goodness of both act and agent is required).

As to the acts, they are of two kinds: obligatory and recommended. Just as reaching heaven has obligations and recommended acts, so too reaching the highest degrees of humanity (that in itself is a type of heaven) has its obligations and recommended actions. Understanding and sincerity both have great bearing in this regard and can be considered mutually necessary to the extent that when understanding increases sincerity also increases.

On the other hand, the Qur`an considers actions to be a means of reaching understanding.(14) Of course, the understanding and certain knowledge thus obtained is not the certainty with respect to Allah (awj), since the former certainty is the cause of worship and not, as in the case of the latter certainty, the highest effect and product of worship. The latter certainty is the certainty of Allah (awj) and the knowledge of Him in all His unlimited attributes.

The remainder of the moral methods that lead to nearness can be considered as recommended. As Imam Ja’far b. Muhammad as-Sadiq (ع) has said, “Amongst the things that Allah revealed to prophet Dawud was this, ‘O Dawud, just as humble people are the nearest people to Allah, the proud ones are the farthest people from Allah.”(15) 

It is clear, however, that humility and good morals or kindness are recommended or secondary acts in obtaining nearness to Allah (awj) whereas the primary principle remains understanding and the worship of Allah (awj). In the words of the Noble Prophet (ص) “O Abu Dharr, worship Allah as if you see Him, for if you do not see Him, He sees you.”(16) In other words, your knowledge and understanding should be “presential” or intuitive and direct knowledge.



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

2. Surat al-Waqi’ah (56), Verse 85.

3. Surat Qaf (50), Verse 16.

4. Surat al-Anfal (8), Verse 24.

5. Majma’ al-Bayan, vol. 4, pg. 452.

6. al-Kafi, vol. 6, pg. 286.

7. Allah (awj) attributes are of two kinds. Essential Attributes (or Entitative Attributes). Attributes for whose derivation and conceptualization, bringing to mind Allah’s (awj) essence is enough; attributes like knowledge, power, life, etc. Action-Related Attributes (or Operative Attributes). Attributes for whose derivation, bringing to mind Allah’s (awj) essence is not enough. We need to bring to mind His essence in its modality of action and operation within creation; attributes like creativeness, forgivingness, bestowing sustenance, etc.

8. Philosophers divide the intellect into four levels. Material or Passive Intellect (passive intellect or nous pateticos). In this stage, the intellect is at a potential state of understanding. Intellect by Proficiency. In this stage, the intellect understands the self-evident concepts and judgments. Active or Agent Intellect (intellectus agens or nous poietikos). The stage when the intellect understands concepts or judgments needing speculative reasoning through self-evident concepts and judgments. Acquired Intellect. This is the stage when the intellect understands all self-evident concepts and judgments and those needing speculative reasoning corresponding to the metaphysical and physical worlds in such manner that it keeps them present and is actually attentive of them.

9. Surat al-Fussilat (41), Verse 54.

10. al-Kafi, vol. 2, pg. 74.

11. Kitab o Man La Yahdhuruhu al-Faqih, vol. 1, pg. 210.

12. Nahjul Balaghah, Sermon 199.

13. Surat Ali-’Imran (3), Verse 31.

14. Surat al-Hijr (15), Verse 99.

15. Muntakhab Mizan al-Hikmah, no.5212.

16. Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 77, pg. 74.