The true Beloved is our Lord, the Merciful and Everlasting. Company with Him is to feel His presence all the time, with our entire being. One thing we should note before we expand on this companionship is that we need to be careful when we speak about God Almighty, for we cannot conceptualize the Divine within our limited mental capacity. Our human standards are not the right measure to make assessments on God and on matters related to Him. This is a matter that calls for extreme sensitivity. The Messenger of God prohibited his followers to think about the “essence” of God. We can only contemplate on the Divine names and attributes, as well as on His creation. Our intellect is not designed with the capacity to comprehend the truth of His essence. Going in that direction may lead us to attribute certain material, human qualities to the Divine. This is not a domain where a person can freely make claims.
Companionship in the world
Companionship with God is when a person can transcend his or her bodily remoteness and the physical veils they are wrapped in, allowing them to reach the Divine with first-hand experience (dhawq) and inner discovery (kashf). This is a spiritual station we always seek in our prayers. Once a familiarity with this companionship is felt, then people always seek Him, think about Him, do everything in His name, begin with Him, and circle only around His good pleasure. Being in the presence of a saintly figure even once, you cannot help but feel their aura having an influence on your feelings, thoughts, and actions. The secret behind the greatness of the Companions of the Prophet is connected with this. They were honored with the company of the Prophet and colored from his paint. Imagine the state of a person honored with the company of God Almighty.
The company of God, even though we always ask for it in our prayers, is not an easy target. The path in this world that leads to this company goes through absolute faith, knowledge of the Divine (marifa), and love of the Divine (mahabba). This means that if you can attain true faith, turn that faith into knowledge, crown it with love and sincere enthusiasm, then God will take you in His company. You will feel this presence in proportion to the vastness of your knowledge. This is something that can be experienced by those who sincerely seek this honor when they turn to God as they bow and prostrate in the joyful moments of the night. They can feel this in the form of a breeze; if that breeze comes when they put their foreheads on the ground, they wish for prostration to never end.
Company in the Afterlife
We do not know the exact nature of company with the Divine in the Afterlife. Things will be very different there as opposed to here—colors and shapes will be different, perhaps non-essentials and essentials will change places. Company with the Divine, then, will also be beyond our imagination. Bediuzzaman says that thousands of years in paradise would not be worth a moment of seeing the Beauty of the Divine. Everything lived in this world is metaphorical compared to Afterlife – the worldly life is “nothing but a pastime and play,” according to the Qur’an (29:64). Life here is like a sleep, and death is when we make up. The real life is in the Afterlife. This means true companionship with the Divine will also take place in the Afterlife. There, you will witness and feel the source of life, all beauties, and Divine manifestations.
All the words and actions in this world, your prayers, commitments, horizons of your Divine knowledge, fervor, and relationship with Him will appear in the Afterlife in the form of different surprises. Some narrations report that God will manifest with His perfect beauty on Fridays—whatever Friday stands for in the calendar of the Afterlife. We do not know how this manifestation will take place, but the Prophet said it will be as if we see the full moon on the horizon, as clear as without any veils in between. (Ibn Abi Shayba, Musannaf 1/477; Tabarani, al-Mu’jamu’l-awsat 2/314).
These are all descriptions to help our minds better connect with the phenomenon. Otherwise, the nature and truth of this manifestation is far from our knowledge. What we only know is that everyone will be enraptured, as it were, with the experience, and that every individual’s experience will be in accordance with the depth of his or her Divine knowledge. It is told in Bad’ul-Amali, a work that narrates the Islamic creed in a poetic form, that those who will see the Divine beauty will forget all the blessings they otherwise enjoy in paradise. Their eyes do not seek any of those gifts in that moment after what they saw as the beauty of God.
The first step, then, is of course to attain Divine companionship in this worldly life. What we will be blessed with in the Afterlife will be based on what we attain in this life. For instance, those who do not believe in this gift of “seeing God,” who are not at ease with this idea and do not feel anything about it deep down, will not be blessed with this honor in the Afterlife. As expressed in the verse, “And that human has only that for which he labors, and his labor will be brought forth to be seen” (53:39-40), what one will find in the Afterlife will be rewards for his or her true belief, sincerity, supplications, prayers, enthusiasm, and efforts.
Conversations on the Beloved
Companionship of the Beloved is an important blessing and honor, and the best road that leads there is conversations on the Beloved. This entails a deep love for God, and for such lovers to orient every thought and conversation back to Him. In a well-known prayer of the Prophet he said, “O God, indeed, I ask You for Your love and the love of those who love You, and for the action that will cause me to attain Your love” (Tirmidhi, Daavat 75).
Conversations on the Beloved may sometimes come about by speaking directly on the All-Merciful, and at other times through indirect means that lead to Him. It is sometimes the holy scripture when you stroll through verses. Other times, it is the Prophet in whose footsteps you reach your goal. At other times, it is the book of the universe which you contemplate on to increase your knowledge. All of this will carry you to the companionship of the Divine.
To conclude, it is important to saturate one’s heart, mind, spirit, intellect, conscience, and all the faculties in his or her possession with contemplation of the Divine so one can reach His companionship. It is God’s right, and our duty, that we free ourselves from all worldly affairs and turn to Him with a sense above all neediness to reach His company.