Returning to Allah: Muhammad Abdul Latif Finch

Muhammad Abdul Latif Finch speaks to Mspiration about strengthening our attachment to Allah.

In a thought provoking exchange, the Berkley based lecturer and teacher explains how we can return “voluntarily” to our Lord.

Not long ago you posted on Facebook “God doesn’t remove anything from you unless it is harmful.” That resonated with a lot of people. The post seems simple on the surface but there is more to it, isn’t there?

This doesn’t normally occur to people but when you give people the title of being knowledgable or having some kind of position of authority, we tend to objectify them as if they are a finished product already. Allah says: “Inna Lil Lah wa ina Ilaihi Rajioon (Surely we belong to God and to Him shall we return.)” If you notice Rajioon is not a perfect verb, meaning it is not something that is completed. That means it is a toil. Also it is not referring to not one person but the whole jama’aa, this means all the people that are contemplating the book of Allah and all those contemplating anything. The fact is we are returning to Allah as we speak. So if this returning is happening and that includes everyone that belongs to Allah, then the question is are we returning voluntarily or involuntarily? The blessed individual is the one that is returning voluntarily to Allah.

What is an example of us returning involuntarily to Allah?

Well if you look for examples in some of the books of aqeedah, you fill find an interesting scenario where in fact every moment, every nano-second of life, our existence is calling to Allah to give it existence. So we are constantly returning to him.

And how can we return voluntarily?

The voluntary aspect is not only do you see that and believe that but you actually want that and are willing to achieve that in a mental level. So if Allah wants good for someone, he will give them problems and difficulties because it is through the problems and the difficulties that a person realises that they need that process to occur. Like the Prophet PBUH made that dua to make Allah not to leave him to himself even for a blinking of an eye. He wasn’t asking as if it was possible for him to be left to himself for a blinking of an eye, but rather making that dua admitting the reality of the scenario that not only has he never been left to himself for the blinking of an eye involuntarily, it is also that he voluntarily doesn’t want to be left in that state either. Now he wasn’t because he was a prophet but he made that dua anyway so we can understand and realise where we are.

So you are asking me in that first question what made me write that post, the truth is because I am in the same process as everyone else. Allah is testing me, Allah is trying me and elevating me through loss. If Allah loves someone he will remove things from him that caused him to be distracted from his Lord, the attachments that causes the pain, the anxiety and the misgivings that can happen to any human being.

How can Muslims instill the belief that every day we are returning to Allah SWT?

All we have to do is open our eyes and see that things come and leave this world. So if people are born, people also die. You see someone, then you don’t see them. You think a thought and then it leaves you. There is absolutely no permanence in this world. It is constantly influx and is constantly changing. But at the same-time we have this undying understanding no matter what culture, place or religion we are from, that we are constantly looking for permanence yet we never find it. So either humanity is collectively insane or there is something that we all know before entering this world and that there is something that we are trying to get back to. So a person should make dhikr of Allah because it grounds them, it brings them back to what is real and permanent.

Does this process generate a detachment to this life?

Not really. I would call it attachment, and that is attachment to Allah. Being detached from the world is not why we are here. We are not here to pretend that we are not here. We are here to use the world as a means to get attachment to Allah. Allah says “Be patient and your patience is not by other than Allah.” If we didn’t have anything that would cause us to be patient we would not be able to witness that proximity to Allah. If we didn’t have any tension in our lives we wouldn’t have anything to push to find peace. So if we didn’t have problems or difficulties then how will we be able to have a relationship with Allah?

What you said is interesting because you take a different view of this popular notion that Muslims should, as best as they can, disengage from this dunya.

I think that statement should be qualified and that people say it without thinking. It’s like telling a fish to not be in the water. But when people say to detach from the dunya, what they should qualify it with is by saying do not be attached for the dunya’s own sake. In other words, it is a means and not an end. Instead you should rather enjoy the smile on your baby’s face because it reminds you of the one that made him.

So as best as we can we should view each life event or moment as triggers to contemplate the afterlife?

If you look at the Quran it is a book of signs. In English it is translated as verses but that is not true because it is not poetry. These are ayats, these are signs. So if we don’t have signs to indicate God’s presence then how can we know him? Allah says that “verily we are going to show them our signs in the horizons and in themselves until it becomes clear to them that verily He is the truth.” We have to be here to know him, that is why we are put here.

Do you find this concept of retuning to Allah difficult to explain in khutbas or when you are giving classes? Especially in a time where we are told by society to “go for it,” “live life” and “take it to the next level.” I can imagine this would cause some spiritual motion sickness to a lot of people.

Yes and that is why it is a kind of a war of attrition. You win some and you loose some. No one is perfect and no one is constantly “in the zone” so to speak. Even people who are completely divorced of any idea of the Hereafter or God’s existence period, they are struggling also. The nature of life is struggle. If you love the dunya you are struggling to keep the dunya that you have and you want to get more of it. But when you are struggling for Allah that is different. You will find that Allah takes over. Listen to the ayats and you will see it. “And those who strive in us, verily we are the ones that will guide them to our ways.” If you are struggling for Allah that means you are not disobeying Allah because you are his slave. That is the kind of individual that is able to maintain and move forward in their daily lives.

For more information on Muhammad Abdul Latif Finch go to imamabdullatif.com

For those in Singapore, here are Br Finch’s upcoming lecture dates:

January 26 and 27: Letting Go and Letting God at Al Wehdah. Lor 37, Geyland Road. Tickets begin from SGD $40. Sessions on both days are from 10am-2pm. For details click here.
January 27: You’ll Never Walk Alone : Living with God in Times of Suffering at the Chevrons, Level 3, 48 Boon Lay Way (near JE MRT). Tickets from SGD $15. For details click here.

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