Where Do We Find God?

Where Do We Find God?

Since everything manifests God in some way or other, God can be found everywhere, if only we learn how to look. May Allah help us to look properly and to find His manifestations in all things, especially in the best of His creatures Muhammad and his Ahlul Bayt, the immaculate and pure, and in all the prophets and guides He has sent to humanity, and may we, too, in our own humble ways, come to manifest Him in our own lives.

Someone wrote to me: “I need to find God. Where can I find God?” And I thought, “I need to find God too. Don’t we all? Where can we find Him?” This is what came to mind – fourteen places to find God. Of course, there are many more, maybe some which are better or more important than those I’ve mentioned here. Maybe some work better for some people than others.

1. Pascal’s Way: Go to congregational worship, associate with believers, visit shrines, etc. Pascal’s idea is that if you want to believe, you can condition yourself by engaging in the appropriate sorts of behavior. Actually, Pascal was giving advice about how to accept God as a Catholic, but the same principle can apply to believing in God as a Muslim. It might seem that it is a way of tricking yourself or brainwashing yourself, and Pascal talks as if going through the motions might just get you believing even when no good reason can be found. But we don’t have to look at it that way. By practicing religious activities, we put ourselves in an environment in which we might notice something that will give us good reason for belief. 

2. Intellectual Way: Read the books of religious philosophers and theologians and see what they say about God and how to prove His existence, etc. This is just preparatory. The real work comes in trying to think. This was Ibn Sina’s way, or one of his ways. Think through the issues and find God through your own holy reason!

3. Yearning: Wake up for sahar, perform the Morning Prayer, and then ask God to help you find Him. Tell God that you are looking and want to find Him so much. Keep on doing this until you find Him. Never give up. Never give up. Never, never ever give up! This is called “importunacy” in English, and is somewhat similar to himmat in Persian/Arabic.

4. Silence: Try to calm yourself and look within. Meditate. Listen. Feel. Many of the scholars say that the hadith is not well supported according to which the Prophet (peace be upon him and his progeny) allegedly said, “He who knows himself knows his Lord.” But it seems to be a very wise saying and has been repeated by Muslims over the centuries.

5. Poetry: Some people find God in listening to religious poetry, especially Hafez, Mawlavi (Rumi), Attar, etc., and especially when it is recited well.

6. Nature: The beauties of nature are also signs of God. God manifests His beauty in natural beauty. I especially find the ocean inspiring, and feel that it manifests God in a special way. Of course, everything is a sign of God in some way, but it isn’t always clear how. 

7. Pilgrimage: Suppose you wanted to set out on a journey to find a treasure. What do you do? First, you need to figure out how you are going to get there – in the company of fellow travelers or alone; by plane or bus or on foot; will you trust others to take you with them or do you have a map? Next, you need to figure out what to pack for the journey. There are guides for this sort of thing, like Fayz Kashani’s Zaad-e Saalek, and even guides for the etiquette of visitation. What kinds of clothes should you wear? How can you find a good traveling companion?

8. Light: I have met some people who find God through light, a kind of inner light. They say that in certain places and people they find a kind of light, halo, aura, and they keep on following the light toward God. We could call this the Ishraqi way, after Sohravardi, known as the Shaikh al-Ishraq, the Master of Illumination.

9. Charity: Some people find God through engaging in charitable work. Helping those in need can get us to stop being so preoccupied with ourselves, and if we give in the name of Islam, we can find God by doing service to Him through service to others.

10. Gratitude: God can be found by reflection on natural feelings of gratitude that we experience when we have a good day, find food and shelter, health, see a flower, etc. We feel thankful, but to whom? Where does the thanking lead? Can we see where it points? Some people think this is silly, and maybe it doesn’t prove anything, but I think that thanks and praise, when it comes from the heart, can open a great channel between a person and God.

11. Suffering: Some people find God when disaster strikes. When everything seems lost and we are suffering most, something happens within ourselves, and we find that a way appears and leads to Him. Consider the following verses of the Holy Qur’an:  “And when harm touches man, he invokes Us, lying on his side, or sitting or standing. But when We have removed his harm from him, he passes on as if he had never invoked Us for a harm that touched him! Thus it is made fair-seeming to the Musrifun that which they used to do.”(10:12) Also, “And when they embark on a ship, they invoke Allah, making their Faith pure for Him Only: but when He brings them safely to land, behold they give a share of their worship to others.” (29:65)

12. Death: Some find God in mediation on death. Visiting cemeteries is recommended, and thinking of those who have passed away and that our lives, too, will end. In thinking, contemplating, and reflecting about these things, one may be drawn to a realization of a reality beyond this life and death. There are many narrations pertaining to this a number of which have been collected by Fayz Kashani in the very last book of his Mahjat al-Bayza, according to which the remembrance of death decreases our attachments to this world and helps us to conquer our passions.

13. Empathy: We can also find God through empathizing with others and finding traces of the divine in them. Of course, these traces are most salient in the Fourteen Immaculate Ones (peace be upon them), but we should look for it in others too. Empathy involves a shift of perspective from “me” to “we”. At its highest stage, one finds oneself on the side of God, so that His will becomes our will.

14. Qur’an: The Qur’an is God’s revelation. Revelation is showing. In the Qur’an God shows Himself. Some people find God in the recitation of the Qur’an, others in meditation on it, others in studying it, discussing it, reading Tafsir, and in the attempt to put its wisdom into practice in our lives.

There are many other places to find God. Since everything manifests God in some way or other, God can be found everywhere, if only we learn how to look. May Allah help us to look properly and to find His manifestations in all things, especially in the best of His creatures Muhammad and his Ahlul Bayt, the immaculate and pure, and in all the prophets and guides He has sent to humanity, and may we, too, in our own humble ways, come to manifest Him in our own lives.

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Huda Jawad

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18 Comments

  1. ZJVHR
    February 13, 08:32
    Mashallah very well written. Allah's proof is EVERYWHERE - nothing exists that didn't originate from HIS creation. Question is whether we can see!
  2. Why would you delete my comment? II clearly cannot handle criticism. I did not insult anyone, nor did I abuse anyone, but you want nothing but praises, so here it goes: this is the best article in the whole wide world and Hajj Legenhausen is the most learned genius in the history of mankind. Happy?
  3. Arsalan.Rizvi
    February 14, 01:23
    Assalam Alaikum<br /><br />As you can see on countless past articles, criticism is more than welcome and appreciated, but we will delete any comments that are rude or offensive towards anyone, and especially scholars such as Hajj Legenhausen.
  4. Zainab
    February 14, 10:26
    Assalam alaikum<br /><br />I sure needed this.<br />Optional list ideas, put together well.<br />Enlightening.<br />Keep up the good work. May Allah bless you brother.
  5. Show me how my first comment was offensive! I merely stated that it is sad that as followers of the Ahlulbayt we are encouraged by Haj Legenhausen to "find God by means of reading the potery" of Sunni Sufis such as Hafez and Rumi. Were Hafez and Rumi not Sunni? Were they not Sufi? Did I offend anyone here?!
  6. also known as .
    February 14, 21:54
    Salaams,<br /><br /> I have no idea what your first comment was, but I have a few observations:<br /><br />1. Hafiz was Shia;<br /><br />2. Even if a person is not Shia, that does not mean we cannot find wisdom in what they say. Imam Ali (peace be upon him) is reported to have said take wisdom, even if it comes from a hypocrite. Also the Quran says in Surah al-Hujjurat that if a bad person comes to you with news, verify it. The Qur'an does not say reject a piece of news simply because it comes from a bad person; <br /><br />3. As for these two poets, I think you should be bringing the views of Qur'an, Ahlul-Bait, and our maraje about such matters rather than getting emotional. Saying "you want nothing but praises" is not just rude, it is an accusation that you need to back up with proof; <br /><br />4. Rather than accuse the II staff, a group of people that volunteers its time week in and week out, maybe you can offer to help out? In my experience volunteering with different causes in North America, people who only care about praise usually do not get past a handful of events since our community is very unforgiving and loves to criticize rather than help. The ones looking for praise are not the ones who can propel a publication like II to its fourth volume.<br /><br />***<br /><br />At any rate, I don't see the issue about the poems, and it was only one thing mentioned from 14. It seems clear that the author wanted people to approach finding God in holistic manner, and this was intent in writing the article. I think rather than saying it is "sad" the author that the author tried pointing out some people find inspiration in poetry, it is more productive to discuss the issue at hand. <br /><br />Allah says in Quran that the people of intellect look at the signs of His existence in the world around them (such as the changing of the seasons, night and day, etc). Thus, being Shia does not preclude looking for inspiration from other than the Quran and Ahlul-Bait, provided such inspiration does not violate the principles of the Quran and Ahlul-Bait. <br /><br />Hassan, if you think what the author said is forbidden or reprehensible, please bring your proof.
  7. "Thus, being Shia does not preclude looking for inspiration from other than the Quran and Ahlul-Bait.."<br /><br />See al-Kafi 1/399 to see the contradiction you have just put yourself in..<br /><br />As for Hafez, suffice to mention just one of his "inspirational" poems to how how he guides you to the "signs" (more like "sins") of Allah:<br /><br />??? ?? ????? ??? ???? ????? . ??? ??? ??? ???? ?? ????????? ?? ???? ?????? ??? ?? . ?? ???? ????? ??? ?? ????? (???276)?<br />?If that sweet boy sheds my blood?…?O?'? my heart?,? make it as permissible as a mother?'?s milk<br />?O?'? God don?'?t wake me up from this dream?…? For I?'?m having an intimate union with his memory<br /><br />?Ghazal 276<br />?I wonder what his supporters conjure up to explain his intimate love <br />?affair with the ?sweet ?young boy?!?<br /><br /><br />"With looks disheveled, flushed in a sweat of drunkenness…His shirt torn open, a song on his lips and wine cup in his hand… With eyes looking for trouble, lips softly complaining / So at midnight last night he came and sat at my pillow…" <br /><br />?<br />Sounds like (and this is just a critique of his work so don't delete the post because you think I'm insulting someone) that Hafez was not just like any Sunni but a Sufi who indulged in homosexual fantasies about young boys (and I actually found 7 similar references in his Divan), making him not just a homosexual but a pedophile (he mentions the "15 year old boy" as well in some of those fantasies).<br /><br />Now you see why it's sad that we have to abandon the Qur'an and Ahlulbayt (Hadith Thaqalayn, anyone? Or is that a Hadith we mention to Sunnis only?!) and resort to such people.. Very sad!
  8. also known as .
    February 17, 00:47
    No. I did not say abandon the Quran and Ahlul-Bait. Don't put words in my mouth. What I said is that if something is not opposed by the Quran and Ahlul-Bait, it may still be useful to us. I have clearly said that the criterion by which we judge right and wrong is the Quran and Ahlul-Bait, so you have again engaged in accusations. For example, you have mentioned "sins" of Allah. Astaghfirrullah, Allah cannot sin, you are not even making sense in your attempt to bring down other people's arguments. Fix your own manners before trying to fix mine.<br /><br />Regarding the proof you have brought, nobody who looks at these from a spiritual perspective reads the gazals from a literal perspective. <br /><br />There is a Sufi poem about a man who is amazed by a woman's beauty and praises her. She tells him that there is an even more beautiful woman behind him. When he turns around, the woman he was just interested in a few moments ago tells him he did not really love her. The point of the story is that many people claim to love Allah and believe in Him, but often times their love is only from their nafs, not pure. If something comes along that makes their nafs happier than the love of Allah, they turn to that instead. <br /><br />Other poems talk about being drunk. These are referring to being intoxicated with the love of Allah and divine grace. They are not talking about getting smashed Friday night! This is what poetry is all about, making an exaggeration to convey a feeling that is not easily explained otherwise.<br /><br />By the way, if you have a reference, post what it says here. Don't just quote numbers of pages at me, bring your proof with web links so we can see what your evidence is.
  9. also known as .
    February 17, 00:54
    And by the way, I'm not even especially fond of these poems myself, but I understand why some people are inspired by them.
  10. OK.. Clearly you want to defend your point of view irrespective of what I say, which makes the conversation futile, but I will provide these clarifications:<br /><br />1. There is no talk of a woman in the poem.. It talks about the love affair and sexual fantasies with a sweat young boy (15 yrs old). This sort of suggestive language means nothing but one: homosexual pedophile. Now let's see how this guy can "inspire" those who are fond of him!<br /><br />2. If you're not fond of Hafiz, then why defend his poetry and somehow try to squeeze some rational meaning from what is clearly a vile message??<br /><br />3. I "throw" page numbers at you assuming you have the research capability to look up the Hadeeth yourself. <br /><br />4. I said "sins of God" and the word "sins" is not an attributive adjective but as in "sins [as defined by] God. Get your grammar straight. Besides, you shouldn't be suprised to know that Jabri Sufis (of whom Hafez was a prominent member) believe that our actions (sins included) are acts of God carried out by man. This makes god "sinful" (their god, of course). Do you want me to show you evidence of that ideology?
  11. also known as .
    February 17, 15:33
    In reply to your points:<br /><br />1. I was just saying that there is sometimes a different meaning behind what seems to be on the surface. If you studied about this even a bit you would understand. I just mentioned some examples I knew about. I don't know what the point is behind the poems mentioned and from a surface perspective I agree that they are not nice, but perhaps my understanding is not complete. I would like information from people who like the poem to explain their point of view before I take a stance on it.<br /><br />2. As for Hafiz's poetry and my "defending it", you have completely missed the point. We are talking about how some people are inspired by the poetry, not whether I like the poetry. As I mentioned, I am not fond of it but I can understand how people approach this with good intentions and gain from it. Again, you are being judgmental. Stop it.<br /><br />3. Dude, go back to your post where you cited stuff. You haven't even said what books or edition of them these poems are in that you are getting your stuff from. You just write gazal xyz. You also quoted text that came out in jibbberish. It looks like you are just copying and pasting from other sites. <br /><br />The onus is on you to bring the proof, not me. <br /><br />4. Balderdash. "Whatever good befalls you is from Allah; and whatever evil befalls you is from yourself" (Surah Nisa, verse 79).<br /><br />I'm a literary professional and still think you made a mistake. Unless you are a Jabri Sufi yourself and believe in that wrong way of thinking, you shouldn't say such things. Anyway, we are Shias, not Sufis, so please do not try to convince me using their logic. Otherwise you will have to accept their explanation for their poetry which I'm sure you do not want to do. ;-) <br /><br />Furthermore, "sins as defined by God" is completely different from "sins of God". It is different from "rewards of God", because rewards are something that Allah gives. He does not give out or make people engage in sins, as you tried to backtrack and explain was actually the thinking of Sufis. <br /><br />---<br /><br />You've read a few sites and consider yourself an expert and a person with the right to question other people's intentions. I am not surprised your first post was deleted. You attacked the author and this site when there were other ways of looking at the situation than your own. Unless you change your tone from talking down to others to one of respect, I don't see the benefit in continuing this conversation.
  12. devotee
    February 18, 03:33
    salam,<br />First I wanna say thanks for great article!<br />second, i wanna say something about Mr. hasan comment. I am sure this site is <br />an open-minded one and i doubt not that his(hasan) comment good or bad by our judgment <br />are his comments! and I dont belive it subjects any offence to Dr. Legenhausen <br />and if you want the truth i think it is Dr. himself who should answer the doubts and <br />commets follow his splendid article.<br />God be with you and us all,
  13. Legenhausen
    March 15, 21:12
    Salam 'alaykum wa Rahmatullah,<br />Thanks for all the comments. The last thing I expected was that my little article would lead to a discussion of poetry! Honestly, it seems rather sad to me that some people think that the way to defend Islam is by insulting its greatest poets. The entire mind-set that would confine religious knowledge to authroized texts presents one of the greatest obstacles to the propagation of Islam. Who would want to enter into a religion where they tell you that everything but the authorized texts is perverted?<br />May Allah grant us all Light, and help us all to lighten up a bit.<br />fi aman Allah,<br />Hajj Muhammad
  14. devotee
    March 31, 06:32
    I draw back! i see offensive words now in Hasan's remarks now that i read them again. <br /> I am wondering why we look at the surface and leave the core to wear away! surface is what is to be seen by all and the core is what a few will see when they try more!<br />and i wish to add we can practice silence and think The Almighty wish us to think then i wish we say prayer for the writer and all who read his lines besides agreeing or disagreeing to be forgiven and to be helped by The All compassionate, The All merciful.

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