In his well-known book, Al-Hikam (Words of Wisdom), sheikh Ahmad Ibn `Ataa’illah As-Sakandari says:
A true companion is the one who accompanies you knowing your faults and shortcomings, and this in none but your Generous Lord. Your best choice for company is He who accompanies you expecting nothing in return from you.
This word of wisdom by Ibn `Ataa’illah comprises two pieces of wisdom that can be understood as follows:
Firstly: Your true companion and friend is the one who accompanies you and grants you from his encompassing benevolence while knowing your faults and shortcomings, and this is none but the Generous Lord.
Secondly: Your best friend and the best choice for company is he who accompanies you and cares for you while expecting nothing in return, and this is none but Allah, the Clement Lord; so, you should depend on Him alone.
Here, Ibn `Ataa’illah urges every one of us to avoid the company of people and to suffice ourselves with the company of the Benevolent and Clement Lord; a matter which needs some sort of explanation as it cannot be generalized or simplified in any way.
According to Ibn `Ataa’illah, no one will ever be sincere to you but the one who accompanies you while knowing your shortcomings and overlooking them for your own sake; this can be none but Allah the Almighty Who created you.
He also says that the best company to be sought is the company of the one who befriends you for nothing but yourself and while expecting nothing in return from you, and – according to Ibn `Ataa’illah – none in the whole universe is accompanying you while expecting nothing in return but Allah the Almighty Who cares about you, helps you, blesses you through drawing you nearer to Him, and gives you out of His limitless Bounty and Benevolence.
Certainly, Ibn `Ataa’illah is telling the truth when he says that it is Allah the Almighty Who accompanies you while knowing your faults and shortcomings which He knows best and better than anyone else. He is also true in saying that it is Allah the Almighty Who accompanies you without anticipating anything in return as He is the Owner of everything in this whole universe and beyond.
However, do all those – other than Allah – who accompany you and declare their love for you do this for a reason? For they expect something in return? Do all those who befriend you become unable to put up with your shortcomings and faults?!
Some would say that no human being will ever accompany another while putting up with his faults and shortcomings and while anticipating nothing in return! They base their judgment on the history of social relationships which attest to the fact that human beings do not communicate with one another save when they are in need of one another, or when they want their needs to be fulfilled in one way or another. Besides, for this communication to be effective – according to them –, they should wrap it with cordiality and complimentary phrases and gestures. Let me put it as, ‘to lubricate it’ a little bit in order to prevent friction of any sort!
They also say, when one finds from his friend who communicates with him in that way a personal fault, shortcoming or mistake, their company becomes corrupt and their relationship may turn into enmity or hostility.
However, though these claims may seem reasonable to many, we should not ignore the fact that man is naturally sociable and that he has a natural propensity for amicability and friendly relations. Basically, these feelings of amicability and cordiality are built in human beings for the purpose of facilitating human interaction and communication that is inevitable for the very existence of the human race.
Besides, though a great deal of the above is correct, we should not ignore the fact that love, doing good deeds, and tolerating troubles caused by fellow humans for the sake of Allah, are all forms of the relationships that do exist among so many people who live among us.
No one can deny the fact that some people may love others for the Countenance of Allah Alone and without anticipating any worldly gain or reward from anyone except Allah the Almighty. If we admit that no one ever loves or deals fairly with another without expecting anything from him, then, we would declare sincerity as gone and faded away from our world; a matter which cannot be supported by any factual proof or material evidence.
Yes, indeed, there are utilitarian people. But, at the same time, there are many others who do good deeds and love others for the Sake of Allah Alone while anticipating nothing from people and awaiting their rewards from Him Alone on the Day of Judgment.
If not, how can we understand the many hadiths by the Prophet (Peace and blessings be upon him) that speak of love for the sake of Allah such as the following:
“None of you has complete faith until he loves for people what he loves for himself, and until he loves a person only for the Sake of Allah the Exalted.” (Musnad Ahmad), and
“There are seven whom Allah will shade in His Shade on the Day when there is no shade except His Shade” among them are, “two men who love each other for Allah’s Sake, meeting for that and parting upon that.” (Al-Bukhari)
Now, let us put the words of Ibn `Ataa’illah in context. What is meant here, as far as I understand, is that while the relationships among humans are based on interests, one can find many humans who do things for the sake of Allah. Though these sincere people are there and can be found among us and elsewhere, the only one who accompanies you absolutely without anticipating anything from you and while overlooking your shortcomings is none but Allah. This can be clarified in the sense that:
- Allah is the One Who always benefits you with His Company while He is in no need of you;
- He accepts you with your faults and defects without being affected by those faults or defects in any way;
- He cares for you and protects you from all evils and dangers while you are always totally vulnerable to both;
- He keeps advising and warning you though you are persistent in committing sinful deeds and shameful acts;
- You always either forget or pretend to have forgotten His Favors and Bounties while He keeps favoring you with His Grace and Grants;
- You always disobey His orders and commit sins in violation of what He commands and commends; and
- Finally, He forgives you when He finds in your heart even the slightest measure of intention for repentance and returning to Him.
Last but not least, it is a fact they those whom you love and care about and those who love and care about you will forget you after you pass away either after hours, days, or even years; while, the Creator and True Friend of yours will never desert you. He will relieve your loneliness and alienation in the grave and will revive your hopes with His eternal Mercy and Compassion.
Yet, there is no other way for you to enjoy all these Divine Graces but through two fundamental steps: to get to know Him, Glory be His, and to take Him as a Friend for real!