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Seeking Closeness to Allāh Beyond the Recognition of People

Imām Ibn Rajab al-Ḥanbalī

A brief reminder to not become enamoured with the praises of the people and instead remain dedicated to gaining closeness with Allāh above all else.

Wahb ibn Manubbih wrote to Makḥūl: “Indeed, you are a man who has attained an honourable standing and repute as a result of your Islamic knowledge that is apparent [to the people]. So seek, by means of your unapparent Islamic knowledge, to attain true love [for Allāh] and to gain closeness to Him.” In another narration, he wrote: “You have reached, by means of your apparent knowledge, a high standing and place of honour before them. So seek, by means of your unapparent knowledge, an honourable standing with Allāh and closeness to Him. And know that one standing may prevent your attainment of the other.”

Imām Ibn Rajab comments:

Wahb brings attention here to the ‘apparent knowledge’ which refers to the issuing of Islamic edicts, rulings, clarification of ḥalāl and ḥarām, narration of stories, and exhortation, all of which are apparent upon the tongue. The dissemination of such knowledge stipulates the love of the people, and that they grant the disseminator an honourable standing before them. Hence, he warns Makḥūl from sufficing with just that, being comfortable with it, and inclining towards the praise of the people and their love. For the one who suffices with just that is cut off from Allāh, blinded from the truth as a result of his gaze being centred on the creation. Instead, he brings attention to the unapparent knowledge—that which affects the heart, causing it to harbour knowledge-based fear of Allāh, while exalting Him and testifying as to His greatness. He orders him to seek, by means of this love, closeness and nearness to Allāh.

Source: Majmūʿ Rasāʾil: 18-19
Translated by: Riyāḍ al-Kanadī

Published: January 1, 2024
Edited: January 1, 2024

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