It’s a concept that resonates with every believer, a cognitive station to which the sincere aspire – to have God at the center of everything they do. It’s not merely a principle or a concept but an entire attitude that puts God first, that posits His primacy, where the believer is perpetually engaged with the question: “What does God want here and now?“
Of course, to answer this question effectively requires knowledge, experience and godly intuitions. But these are not necessary to engage the question, they’re necessary to answering them with some cogency. How you address these questions will simply depend on your circumstances, and for the vast majority of believers it’ll be to consult the people of learning – those whom they’ve invested the resources in to provide them with the complex answers required today.
For me, a great example of God centeredness, and one that left a lasting impression on me, was the response of the true Prophet of God, Muhammad, to Musailamah the false prophet (as narrated by Ibn Hisham et al).
Musaylimah had written to the Prophet seeking to make an equal claim to prophethood:
I have been made your partner in the matter of prophethood. Half of the land belongs to us (Hanifah tribe) and the other half belongs to Quraysh. However, Quraysh do not act justly.
It was a move to solidify the power of Musaylimah and the Hanifah tribe over the Najd region, whilst attempting to ensure that the Prophet would restrict his ‘reign’ (as Musaylimah saw it) to the Hijaz.
The spectacularly noble and theocentric response of the Prophet was this:
This is a letter from Muhammad the Prophet of God to Musaylimah the Liar. Peace be upon the followers of guidance. The earth belongs to God, He gives it to whomever He wishes of His pious servants – and the pious shall meet a good end.
The Prophet didn’t engage in a personal war of words, nor reduce His noble mission and the status God gave him to vying with a miscreant over some land. When Musaylimah made a claim over a part of the earth, the Prophet simply reminded him that the affair was bigger than any human being, and that the land which he was attempting to claim belonged to nobody but God, and that He alone decides who shall be invested with earthly authority. In that moment the Prophet wasn’t overcome by emotions, nor personal interests, but broached Musaylimah’s challenge with a godly lens.
After years of contemplating this prophetic event, I’m still in awe of how perfect the response was. A short statement that said so much: it inferred that Musaylimah was using the guise of prophethood for personal gain, that he actually cared little for God, and that in contrast, Muhammad’s mission was not of his own nor to raise his own status but simply to raise high the word of God. Had Muhammad not been a true Prophet of God, he would’ve responded in like, seeking the land for himself and engaging in an egotistical polemic against Musaylamah. But the response centered solely on God, a pure tawhidic rejoinder.
Now considering this response compels us to evaluate how we do faith. Is God at our center? Are we obsessed with what God will say, or more worried about the community and other peers? Do we view orthodoxy as what pleases God, or what merely keeps us as bonafide members of the in-group?
When we speak on matters of the faith, is a debate on fiqh or aqidah issue about pedantic and technical minutae, or an exploration of what God ultimately wants where we’re somewhat confidant in meeting Him with sound justifications? How much of our Islam is actually islam (subservience) and how much a social construct put on show to demonstrate allegiance to a group of people? What are our personal interests and/or allegiances, and where does God come in our ‘religiosity’?