The Relationship Between Man and God


Some people assert that the Islamic God is a very impersonal God with whom a believer never gets to develop a close relationship. There is no truth whatever in this assertion.

In Islam a believer’s relationship with God begins with a consciousness of God who is always present. It starts with remembrance of Him (zikr); it is inculcated and maintained by acts of devotion such as the regular daily prayers (salah), pilgrimage to Makka, fasting and reciting on rosary the praises of God (tasbih). When a person becomes conscious of His ever-presence, he turns for His support and help whenever he needs some, which is often. He is fully assured that God hears him when he calls upon Him. It is like a constant and direct connection between the self and the Reality.

In the Qur’an God says:

When My servants ask you concerning Me, I am indeed close to them: I listen to the call of every supplicant when he calls on Me. (2:186)

Just as God listens to his calls, man is expected to, and true believers do, listen to what God has to say to him:

Let them (My servants) also with a will listen to My call, and believe in Me that they may walk in the right way. (2:186)

The believer acknowledges with thankfulness (shukr) the innumerable gifts he receives from his Lord and Supporter whether in answer to his Supplications or otherwise. Likewise God acknowledges with appreciation (shukr) any good that the believer does (2:158, 42:23). This reciprocality of ijabah (heeding the call) and shukr (thanks) in the relationship between man and God is characteristic of the Qur’anic conception of that relationship. Like ijabah and shukr, zikr (remembrance) is also reciprocal. God says to humankind in the Qur’an: “Do remember Me (as) I remember you” (2:152). And, of course, love is also reciprocal. In 5:54 God is said to be looking for a community of men who love Him and whom He loves. These and other passages clearly show that in the Qur’an the relationship between man and God is meant to be a very close and personal one.

In Hadith, where we often find Qur’anic ideas elaborated, the personal character of the relationship between man and God is depicted forcefully in many traditions. For example:


  • The Prophet is reported to have said: “The love of God for His creatures is seventy times greater than that of a mother for her child”. “If one goes one step towards God, God comes two steps towards such a one; if one goes walking towards God, God comes running to him.” [so here we see that it’s the ‘self’ that needs to use its free will to take the initiative. This is part of its development and ascend in this existence.]
  •  When a sinner repents God is overjoyed. One tradition likens God’s joy to that of a man who was traveling alone in a desert on a camel. He sleeps for the night and when he gets up he finds his camel missing. He searches for his beast for hours, during which time the sun warms up the desert and thirst and hunger bring the man close to extinction. Finally, he becomes exhausted and gives up the search; but just then he sees the camel walking towards him with all the water, food and other provisions. The happiness of God when a sinner returns to Him is like the happiness of this traveler at the moment when he sees his lost camel (Muslim sahih reproduced in Mishkat al-Masabih, Book IV, chap. 3).
  •  In another tradition God is represented as saying:

“Nothing brings men near to Me like the performance of that which I made obligatory upon them, and through supererogatory acts. My servant (i.e. man) comes even nearer to Me until I love him. When I have bestowed My love on him, I became (as if) his hearing with which he hears, his sight with which he sees, his tongue with which he speaks, his hand with which he grasps, and his feet with which he walks” (al-Bukhari, Sahih, Riqaq, 38, reproduced in Mishkat al-Masabih, Book 9, chap.2).


The Qur’anic verses and prophetic traditions cited above show — and there are many, many more such verses and traditions — that there is no justification in the criticism that the Muslim God [and there’s only one Reality, Muslims worship the same God that is the God of Adam and Abraham. is a very remote Being, incapable of showing a warm personal love to His creatures.

 At this point we may also mention the Muslim attitude of a slave (‘abd) before God as the Master, to which the some people often refer in a derogatory way. But the relation of a slave can be only derogatory between man and man and not between man and the merciful, kind and loving Lord and Supporter of the Universe.

In his attitude of a slave before God a Muslim finds dignity, not degradation, for this one slavery frees him from all others — the slavery to desires (45:23; 25:43) and to religious leaders (9:31) and the worship of idols and deified human beings (3:78-80). Nor does a Muslim’s slavery to God have anything of the implications read into it by these critics, namely that as a slave the Muslim, or man generally, has no worth before God. Quite the contrary, man is described in the Qur’an as God’s khalifa, representative or vicegerent, in the material universe (2:30) who bears a unique amana (trust) from God, one that nothing else could bear (33:72). In the one concept of khalifa (vicegerency of man) the Qur’an gives an idea of man’s worth upon which it does not seem possible to improve without collapsing the distinction between God and man. [Making man khalifa gives him the highest possible honor that can be bestowed upon a creature of God….


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