Imam Abdallah ibn Alawi al-Haddad (Allah have mercy on him) (d.1132 Hijri) said,
‘The aim and spirit of spiritual routines (awrad) is presence with Allah.
Aim for it; you will reach it only if you travel the road that leads to it, which is performing the external activities and striving to be present with Allah during them. When you persevere in this you become immersed in the lights of Proximity, and the sciences of gnosis emanate upon you, at which your heart becomes wholly intent on God and presence becomes its nature and well-established quality.’ [The Book of Assistance]
Commentary on Imam Haddad’s Saying
A wird (plural: awrad) is any regular routine of worship, such as prayer, remembrance (dhikr), supplication (dua), fasting, and so on. One can also consider regular routines of religious study and reading to be a wird.
It is sunna to be consistent in one’s works; to take on only as much as one can sustain with excellence, without feeling overwhelmed; to focus not only on actions, but on excellence in one’s actions; and to strive for gradual, meaningful increase that is sustainable.
Prophetic Guidance on Consistency and its Consequence
The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “Take from actions that which you can sustain, for verily Allah doesn’t tire until you tire.” [Bukhari & Muslim, from A’isha (Allah be pleased with her)]
This means, as Imam Nawawi explains, that Allah doesn’t tire of rewarding and accepting your works until you tire of performing them; or that it is not Allah who tires (for He is exalted beyond imperfection) but it is you who tires.
And our Beloved Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “Verily, this religion is ease, and none will make the religion difficult except that it will overwhelm them. So remain steadfastly committed; do your best; and be of glad tidings. And seek assistance in the early mornings; the late afternoons; and something of the depths of the night.” [Bukhari and Nasa’i, from Abu Hurayra (Allah be pleased with him)]
Making the religion difficult is to take on more than one can manage. Remaining steadfastly committed entails seeking knowledge of who to seek Allah Most High, how to act according to the Prophetic example of excellence, and to strive to act accordingly. Doing one’s best is to take on what one can sustain; to keep consistent; and to do the best one is able to manage if one can’t do everything completely. Being of glad tidings entails celebrating the favour of Allah Most High having gifted one with the urge to seek His pleasure; the knowledge of how His pleasure is sought; and for inspiring one to act accordingly. “Say, in the bounty of Allah and His blessings, in that let them rejoice…” [Qur’an, 10.58]
The three blessed times that are particularly beneficial for spiritual striving are (1) Fajr time and after sunrise, when there are few distractions (the early mornings); (2) Asr time, or during and after one’s return from work (the late afternoons); and a little of the late night, after having slept (tahajjud time)–the time for true lovers of Allah to stand with their beloved.
The Reality of Sincerity, its Manifestation in Consistency, and its Consequence
Sincerity is to seek Allah Most High alone in one’s actions. This meaning is manifest in consistently–as it affirms that one acts for the sake of Allah whether one have the inclination to or not; and it manifests the trueness of one’s yearning for Allah.
Consistency also strengthens one’s resolve to seek Allah; makes one’s efforts add up; changes the heart, polishes it, and directs it towards Allah. And if one’s seeking becomes consistent, then one will surely find Allah–and attain unto His closeness, love, and presence.
Walking to Allah and Allah Rushing to You
The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) related that Allah Most High says, “I am as My servant thinks of Me. And I am with them when they remember Me. And, by Allah, Allah rejoices more in the repentance of His servant than when one of you finds their lost property in a vast space. Whoever draws close to Me by a handspan, I draw close to them by an arm’s length; and whoever draws close to Me by an arm’s length, I draw close to them by two arm’s lengths; and whoever directs themselves to Me walking, I direct Myself to them running.” [Muslim, from Abu Hurayra (Allah be pleased with him); Bukhari mentions it with similar wording]
This means that anything the one does of the good for the sake of Allah is magnified in its reward and spiritual consequence–and that when one’s directing oneself to Allah becomes consistent and true, then Allah rushes to one by granting His closeness, love, beholding, and concern. [Ayni, Umdat al-Qari Sharh Sahih al-Bukhari, and others]
Imam Ahmad relates that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said that Allah Most High says, “O child of Adam! Stand up for Me, and I will walk towards you. Walk towards Me, and I will rush towards you.” [Ahmad, Musnad, with a rigorously authenticated (sahih) chain of narrators according to Imam Mundhiri, in his Targhib ]
May Allah make us of the people of sincerity, consistency, trueness in turning to Allah–and of those whom Allah accepts, turns to, loves, draws close, and grants His spiritual beholding, such that we worship, submit, and live “as though we behold Him,” with every step and breath expended on the footsteps of His Beloved Messenger Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him and his folk).
And Allah alone gives success.
[Quote of Imam Haddad itself from: Ashrafiyya, with thanks.]