Getting closer to God therefore means: Emulating in our own characters, as far as possible, the attributes of the perfect Self, which is God. The more we emulate these attributes the closer we get to God. But, emulation of these attributes must occur within society, not alone. Concepts of God that teach personal salvation through individual meditation or prayer are non-Quranic. Quranic salvation can only be possible by restructuring the present political and economic systems so that they reflect the universal and permanent attributes of God given in the Quran.
For example, since God is universally merciful, forgiving, fair and just, so should be the social order operating on behalf of God. Just as God provides sustenance and nourishment to all, so should the economic system established on His behalf. Just as God guarantees universal human rights and freedoms, so should the political system established in His name. Those who establish such a system and direct their daily affairs by it, will gradually start reflecting the attributes of God in their own characters, i.e. they will take on the “color” of the attributes of Allah in their own characters. They will boldly proclaim, “We take our color from Allah, and who is better than Allah at coloring” (2:138). This is what “sibgha-tullah” or “the color of Allah” means in this famous Quranic verse:
صِبْغَةَ اللَّـهِ ۖ وَمَنْ أَحْسَنُ مِنَ اللَّـهِ صِبْغَةً
Under such a system therefore, people—individually, as well as, collectively—will start getting closer to the one true God since they will have the same objective standard of Asmaaul ‘Husnaa, the most balanced attributes of God, as their common goal: وَلِلَّـهِ الْأَسْمَاءُ الْحُسْنَىٰ (7:180) – AND GOD’S [alone] are the attributes of perfection [Asad]. This is bound to lead to universal brotherhood and unity of humankind, the ultimate objective of the Quran (2:213). In this system, individuals colored with the color of Allah’s attributes work and struggle together in a synergistic fashion, helping each other, being driven only by the conviction of this one common goal – closeness to God. This common goal requires that we understand clearly some other facets of our relationship to God as well.
The main characteristics of the “self” are: uniqueness, independence and freedom. When I say, “‘I’ am free,” it really implies that my “self” is unique, it is free and not dependent on any other “self”, and it has the freedom of choice and action. God, being the perfect “Self”, is completely unique (Allahu A‘had); He is absolutely free and is not dependent (Allahus Samad); He begetteth not, nor was begotten; and there is none like unto Him (112:1-4).
Therefore, in this life, human beings must strive to move closer to God by developing these latent characteristics of the “self”. To facilitate this development, the “self” needs some limitations, which must be self-imposed rather than externally imposed. In fact, external imposition destroys the “self”. God says in the Quran that although He has absolute power and control over His creation, He too has put some limitations on Himself, for example, to be merciful and to help the believers: Say (O Prophet): “To whom belongs all that is in the heavens and the earth?” Say: “To Allah.” He has prescribed Mercy for Himself. (6:12). It is Our duty to help the believers (6:54, 7:156).
According to the Quran, this participation between God and believers occurs through a contract. In Islam, Believers must enter into a contract with Allah by selling their lives and property to Him in return for Jannah (9:111). Therefore, in this way, they become helpers of Allah for carrying out His mission in this world (61:14), while Allah makes it His duty to help them. Since Jannah encompasses both this world as well as the Hereafter, believers pray and must strive for a good life on earth as well as in the Hereafter (2:201).
Another example of Allah’s self-imposed limitations in spite of unlimited power is that Allah does not force anyone to accept His message. He has given complete freedom of choice to human beings to accept or reject it (18:29). He could make every human being a believer but He does not (32:13, 10:99).