I spent my life running after the creation. I have always been what you might call ‘needy’. I needed friends, I needed people. All the time. And I couldn’t handle letdowns.
But at the heart of what makes us run after the creation, is simply love. The need to give and receive love. This need has been put in us by the Creator. And every need created by God, has been created for a purpose. The need to give and receive love was created as a driver. A driver that pushes us back to God. You see, we began with God, and God wants us to come back to Him in this life—even before we come back to Him in the next. So He puts inside us, drivers intended to bring us back. Intended to bring us back Home.
But our problem is we get lost along the way.
We can’t deny the drive; but we get lost because we seek to fulfill it in the wrong way. We look to fulfill that need in the wrong place. The driver was created by God to take us to Him. But instead, that driver takes us towards the creation. And that’s where we get lost.
Why do we run after other people? Why do we run after money? Why do we run after status, or power? We run after these things because we want love and respect. And we believe that by attaining these things, we will succeed at getting both love and respect.
But there is a fascinating formula that governs this world. And it is very, very simple. Unfortunately, we almost always get this formula wrong. Yes, we all have that same driver inside us, but the human being is hasty. We prefer the immediate over the delayed, the seen over the unseen, the physical over the spiritual. We run first to what we can see and feel and touch. We run first to what we *think* is closer. We do this because while the human being is needy and dependent, the human being is also impatient and weak. We go for what seems closest, easiest, quickest.
So we go towards the creation.
See, we think that the more we run after this world (dunya)–the more we run after the love of people, and wealth and beauty and status–the more we will have of it. We think that the more intensely we want something, the more likely we are to get it. And when we don’t get it, we become angry—so angry—at God Himself. As though the *intensity* of my wanting, somehow makes me entitled to having.
But the more we drown in this false equation, the more we fail at reaching our goal, and the more we miss the true–but simple–equation of love and life. That equation is clear: The more intensely we want the creation itself, the less likely we are to attain it. If it is love you need, and you seek it from the creation, you will never *truly* get it. Or get enough. Anything of the creation sought for its own sake will evade you.
And will never fill you.
Even happiness itself: The more you run after it, the more it evades you. But if you run to God instead, happiness will run after you. If you run to God instead, the love of people will run after you. If you run to God instead, success will run after you. True success in this life, and the next. If you run to God instead, provision will run after you. This, brothers and sisters, is the secret formula for which tyrants have burned down cities, and kings have searched the world—but never found.
This is the secret. The only formula you need to know.
In a profound hadith (Prophetic teaching), a man came to the Prophet (pbuh) and said: “O Messenger of God, direct me to an act, which if I do, God will love me and people will love me.” He said: “Detach yourself from the world, and God will love you. Detach yourself from what is with the people, and the people will love you.” [Ibn Majah]
Ironically, the less we chase after the approval and love of the people, the more we gain it. The less needy we are of others, the more people are drawn to us and seek our company. This hadith teaches us a profound Truth. Only by breaking out of the orbit of the creation, can we succeed with both God—and people.
To run to God is a movement of the heart. To run to God is to strive with everything He has given you. Running to God is movement. If you are passive, you are not moving. You are falling. Movement to God, running to God, is to face your heart towards Him in every motion of life. It is to face every goal, every intention, every End towards Him. He becomes the object of your striving. The means of your striving. The ultimate End of your striving. But you keep striving. You keep working to be the best mother you can. The best father. The best neighbor, the best student, daughter, son, employee.
This is the legacy of all our Prophets, peace be upon them all. Their bodies were in dunya. Striving. The Prophet (pbuh) was the best leader, the best father, the best husband, the best friend. His body was working hard in dunya. For a while. But his heart was always with Allah. His heart was already in Akhira (Hereafter), even while his body was still here—for a time. His heart was already Home. His heart saw through the illusions of this life. His limbs worked hard. So hard. He bled, and cried, and strived. His body stood until his feet cracked. His body was abused in Ta’if. His body lost sleep, and felt hunger, and thirst, and fever, and pain. And loss.
But his heart faced only Allah.
And with Allah there is no hunger, thirst, pain, or loss. His body had to strive in different directions; he was a father, a leader, a friend, a husband. But while his body had to strive in all those places, his heart faced only One. Only one direction.
His heart faced only God.
As Ibrahim (AS) said so beautifully:
“Indeed, I have turned my face toward He who created the heavens and the earth, inclining toward truth, and I am not of those who associate others with Allah.” (6:79)
Ibrahim (AS) focused the face of his heart only on Allah. Completely. Haneefan. Completely. You will find that to only partially face your heart to God is to suffer. And that suffering is in proportion to the degree of partial submission.
Allah tells us in the Quran:
“O you who have believed, enter into submission completely [whole-heartedly] and do not follow the footsteps of Satan. Indeed, he is to you a clear enemy.” (2:208)
There is pain in just partial submission. There is a pain in not entering into peace and security—the *only* peace and security—completely. With one’s *whole* heart. There is pain in half a sajdah (prostration). There is a pain in putting your heart (even partially) in anyone else’s hands. And that pain continues until you turn your entire heart *only* in one direction. Until you turn your entire heart *only* towards Him. He becomes the only true aim of your striving.
As we say at least 17 times every single day: “You alone do we worship and You alone do we seek for help.” (1:5). Allah is the only true End, and the only true means to that End. No one gets to Allah without Allah. La hawla wa la quwat illa billah: “There is no change and no strength, except by God.”
The one who turns his heart completely to God in this way, reaches true freedom. And that person can no longer be harmed by the creation. The fire couldn’t burn Prophet Ibrahim (AS). The ‘fires’ of the creation cannot harm the one who’s heart faces only God. The financial, physical, emotional, social, and psychological fires cannot harm the one who’s heart is *only* with God. Externally, the person might look harmed, but in Reality, such a person is never harmed. The haqiqah of the situation is not harm, but good, as we know from the words of our beloved Prophet (pbuh):
“Strange is the case of a believer, there is good for him in everything—and this is only for the believer. If a blessing reaches him, he is grateful to God, which is good for him, and if an adversity reaches him, he is patient which is good for him.” [Muslim]
And this is *only* for the believer. This is only for the one who’s heart is turned completely and *only* in one direction. Remember, Allah says:
“O you who have believed, enter into Islam [submission and peacefulness] completely [whole-heartedly] and do not follow the footsteps of Satan. Indeed, he is to you a clear enemy.” (2:208)
Enter into peace and security completely. Complete security is only for those who enter *completely*. But remember the heart is not a still entity. The heart is by definition that which turns (hence the Arabic word for heart ‘qalb’ comes from the root which means ‘to turn’). The heart by definition is that which turns. So our object in life is to keep bringing the heart back to focus, back to center, back to God. And we consistently seek God’s help, as the Prophet (pbuh) used to supplicate most of all: “Oh turner of hearts, set our hearts firm on Your deen (way).”
This constant reorientation is tawbah. Return. Again and again and again. Until we meet Him. Only the one who gives up this fight, fails. Only the one who—due to complacency or despair—gives up the fight of constantly bringing the heart back to focus, fails in this life and the next.
We all want love. From God, and from the creation. We are all running towards something. Ironically, the more we run after the creation, the more the creation runs away from us! As soon as we stop running after the creation, and reorient, as soon as we start running towards God, the creation runs after us. It’s a simple, simple formula:
Run towards the creation, you lose God and the creation. Run towards God, you gain God *and* the creation.
Allah is Al Wadud (The Source of Love). Therefore, love comes from God—not people. As one author, Charles F. Haanel, put it: “To acquire love… fill yourself up with it until you become a magnet.”
When you fill yourself with the Source of love (Al Wadud), you become a magnet for love. Allah teaches us this in the beautiful hadith Qudsi:
“If Allah has loved a servant [of His], He calls Gabriel (on whom be peace) and says: ‘I love So-and-so, therefore love him.’” He (the Prophet pbuh) said: “So Gabriel loves him. Then he (Gabriel) calls out in heaven, saying: ‘Allah loves So-and-so, therefore love him.’ And the inhabitants of heaven love him.” He (the Prophet pbuh) said: “Then acceptance is established for him on earth. (Muslim Bukhari, Malik, & Tirmidhi)
We’re all running. But so few of us are running in the right direction. We have the same goal. But to get there, we need to stop. And examine if we are running towards the Source–or just a reflection.