By: Mufti Ali Gomaa
In our lives we encounter some hard days in which we find ourselves in deep need of resorting back to God and although the invocation of God in all times is the assured path of success and advancement, the human being always forgets about invocation. An Arabic poet once said,
The human was not called (insan) except for his forgetfulness (Nisyehi)…and the first forgetful (Nas) is the first human…
The poet refers to the fact that the linguistic derivative of human or (insan) is forgetfulness or (Nisyan). God says in the Quran, “And We had already taken a promise from Adam before, but he forgot; and We found not in him determination.” 20:115
And the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “Adam forgot and so did his lineage, and he erred and so did his lineage”. (Tirmidhi) We find in the Quran and the Prophetic traditions along with the biography of the righteous people that the path of invocation of God is the assured path which guarantees refinement of souls, recharging spiritual zeal, motivation to do goodness, prevention of evil deeds, fortress from depression and enlightenment of the heart. The invocation of God renews people’s lives and makes them apt to do their mission on earth in terms of worshiping God, refining their souls and developing the world.
The references of the importance of the invocation and the remembrance of God in the Quran are numerous, for example God says, “So remember Me; I will remember you. And be grateful to Me and do not deny Me”.2:152 “the men who remember Allah often and the women who do so – for them Allah has prepared forgiveness and a great reward.” 33:35 and “O you who have believed, when you encounter a company [from the enemy forces], stand firm and remember Allah much that you may be successful.” 8:45 and “Recite, [O Muhammad], what has been revealed to you of the Book and establish prayer. Indeed, prayer prohibits immorality and wrongdoing, and the remembrance of Allah is greater. And Allah knows that which you do.” 29:54
All these verses invite us to the continuous remembrance of God in all our dealings and moves and this aspect is clear through two issues:
The first of which is the issue of ritual worship as all kinds of ritual worship entail the invocation of God in its beginning, middle and end. God says, “And mentions the name of his Lord and prays.” 87:15
The Prophet said, “It is not appropriate in prayers to utter any of people’s words but only praising God and reciting Quran”. About fasting God says, “Allah intends for you ease and does not intend for you hardship and [wants] for you to complete the period and to glorify Allah for that [to] which He has guided you; and perhaps you will be grateful.” 2:185
And about pilgrimage God says, “But when you depart from ‘Arafat, remember Allah at al- Mash’ar al-Haram. And remember Him, as He has guided you, for indeed, you were before that among those astray. 2:198 and “And remember Allah during [specific] numbered days.” 2:203
The second issue has to do with daily habits which were tied closely with the remembrance of God through numerous prophetic traditions. For example, before eating we say, “in the name of God” or Bismillah and after we finish we say “Thank God” or alhamdulilah, when we encounter someone we greet him with “peace be upon you” or al Salam ‘alaykum and with this same greeting the worshipper ends his ritual prayer and with peace he returns back to his worldly life.
When we leave our houses we say, “in the name of God, on God I rely and there is no power or strength except with God”. Also when we enter mosques we say, “O God open the doors of Your mercy for me” and when we leave we say, “O God open the doors of your graciousness”. A lot of scholars have actually collected the invocations that should be uttered day and night in separate books such as al Nawawi in his book “al Adhkar”, al Shawkani in his book “Tuhfat al Dhakirin”, Ibn al Jazari in his book “al Hisn al Hasin”, Ibn Taymiyah in his book “al Kalim al Tayib” and Ibn al Qayyem in his book “al Wabel al Sayyib” along with many other renowned scholars who managed to gather special prayer and invocation for each move we make.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) gave a general advice to the whole ummah when he said, “your tongue is still moist out of the invocation of God”(Ahmed, Tirmidhi, Ibn Majah). But from the practical experience we realize that the tongue does not get wet due to invoking God’s name abundantly as it rather gets dry. This apparent dryness of the tongue is sweet moisture in the sight of God.
This understanding is confirmed through the Prophet’s tradition in which he said, “The smell of the mouth of the one who is fasting is sweeter in the sight of God than the scent of musk” and also the Prophet said, “Whoever gets wounded for the sake of God- and God knows who gets wounded for His sake- will come in the day of Judgment with his wound filled with blood, red in color and with the scent of musk”. (al Bukhari).
It is well known that the smell of the mouth of the one who fasts is foul and he tries his best to conceal it yet the Prophet turns our eyes to an important fact which lies beyond the normal senses and this fact lies in the value of what we usually hate -due to our human nature- in the sight of God. God says, “or if you dislike them – perhaps you dislike a thing and Allah makes therein much good.” 4:19
The Prophet in this regard said, “Do you want me to guide you to what erases sins and elevates degrees in heaven?” so the companions replied, “yes O Messenger of God” so he said, “performing ablution with utmost care during the times of hardship, going to mosques abundantly, and waiting for prayer after prayer…”(Muslim) We by nature could hate performing ablution in cold weather but there is a great reward lies in this hardship and a lot of people say that they obey God’s commands but sometimes can’t find their hearts in them so could this be considered as a sin? The answer is that this is called pure faith which leads the human being to obey God and go against his whims and desires.
Our great scholars advised us not to drink water right after invoking God because of the above mentioned hadith so that the invoker would feel the effect of the dryness of his saliva which is full of blessings. In this way the mouth with the dryness of the saliva would still be moist not with water but with the effect of the invocation of God. Although this meaning was not mentioned explicitly in the hadith and does not entail a direct command from the Prophet, yet Imam al Shafi’i realized this meaning and therefore found it disliked for the one who fasts to remove the smell of his mouth after the noon prayer for him to enjoy the divine musk so to speak.
As for the Muslims’ methodology of invoking God, they thought highly of what they called the ten blessed words which are “Subhan Allah, Alhamdulilah, la Ilaha ila Allah, Allah Akbar,la hawla wa la quwata ila billah, Astaghferullah, MashAllah, Hasbuna Allah wa ni’ma al Wakil, Ina lelah wa ina ilayhi raji’un, tawakaltu ‘ala Allah” –the first five of these words are called “al Baqyat al salihat” or the blessed remaining words and these words were crowned with invoking peace and blessings on Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). God says, “Indeed, Allah confers blessing upon the Prophet, and His angels [ask Him to do so]. O you who have believed, ask [ Allah to confer] blessing upon him and ask [ Allah to grant him] peace.”33:65
With these ten blessed words, the believer ends his ritual prayers as the Prophet said, “Don’t you want to learn something to catch up with those who were before you and get ahead of those who follow you and no one be better than you except those who do the same as you” so the companions said, “yes O Messenger of God” so he said, “you praise God, state his Highness and Eminence after each prayer for thirty three times”.
The five blessed remaining words which are ““Subhan Allah, Alhamdulilah, la Ilaha ila Allah, Allah Akbar,la hawla wa la quwata ila billah” were named after the verse in which God says, “Wealth and children are [but] adornment of the worldly life. But the enduring good deeds are better to your Lord for reward and better for [one’s] hope.” 18:46
Therefore invoking God’s blessed names and attributes is a successful method of refining souls and renewing spiritual ties with God.