Allah says in a divine tradition:
I was a hidden treasure; I loved to be known so I created the creation.
That Love is Allah’s love for Himself, and all creation is created from that Love. It is through that Love for Allah that His creation came to know Him. Thus our Creator loves us both for His own sake, and also for our sake. And He created us for Himself.
Allah’s love for us manifests itself by His giving us the ability to know what kind of actions, what kind of life, will lead us to salvation and felicity, and how to save ourselves from things which are against our birthright, our nature, and our reason for being in this world.
The purpose of our creation is revealed in this verse from the Holy Qur’an:
I have not created the Jinn and the men except that they should worship Me.
(Surah Al Dhuriyat: 56)
The Arabic word lita’budun literally means “to worship”. It can also be understood as “to serve”, because the Arabic word “abd” means servant. Thus it is clear that we are created both to praise Allah and to serve Him.
Our obligation to praise Him is a natural phenomenon since Allah says in the Holy Qur’an that:
The seven heavens and the earth and all beings therein, praise Him. And there is not a single thing but glorifies Him with His praise, but you do not understand.
(Surah Bani Israil: 44)
Seest thou not that Allah is He who is glorified by all those who are in the Heavens and Earth, and the birds with wings outspread? Each one knows its prayer and its praise.
(Sural al Nur: 41)
Thus praise, glorification, thankfulness, prayer to Allah, is a natural manifestation of existence from all that is created.
In the first verse, Allah Most High addresses “you” in plural to all mankind, saying “you do not understand”; but in the second, when He says “seest thou not” singularly, He is addressing our master, the Prophet (saws). This means that we cannot see and understand this universal glorification without a great effort. At best we may believe blindly, while when He asks “seest thou not?” He indicates that the Prophet (saws) is able to see clearly.
Therefore, to take our honored place within the creation, having been given the privilege of having a mind, a will, a conscience, and a human soul, delegated by our Lord to be His regent in the universe and to praise Him heedfully, the only path is to try to be like our master, His beloved prophet Hd. Muhammed Mustafa, (saws).
Allah in His Mercy has created His messengers, His prophets, in the shape of other human beings. Their blessed physical bodies are quite similar to ours, and our physical being is not much different from animals. In fact in its molecular structure the human body contains many of the same elements which are in plants and earth, water and air.
If all the visible universe is praising Allah (although man can not hear it), then our physical being: our hands, our feet, our tongues, also are in a state of continuous prayer, but we are not aware of it. Allah says:
On the day (of Last Judgment) when their tongues and their feet and their hands will bear witness against them as to what they did.
(Surah al Nur: 24)
For man, who possesses the human soul which Allah blew into him from His own Soul, intelligence and will, the praise for Allah like that of the mineral or vegetable is not sufficient. These divine gifts are given to man so that he can prove his worthiness of them. Otherwise he will lower his state below that of the animal. The animal, the plant, the rock, will never revolt against their own nature, because they do not know anything else except themselves, and do not do anything except what they were created to do; they submit. They are better Muslims than many men.
Allah says in the Holy Qur’an,
And to Allah makes obeisance every living creature that is in the heavens and on the earth, even the angels, and they are not proud ... They do what they are commanded.
(Surah Al Nahl: 49-50)
But men are proud, and they do not know themselves. They are proud of what they are not, of that which their egos make them believe is real. Until they find out who they really are, their worship, their devotion to Allah will be hypocritical, at best an imitation.
One way to know ourselves is by comparison. We should not compare ourselves to other men, which would be comparing an unknown with an unknown. But we should compare our state, even our imaginary state tainted with pride, to what we are supposed to be, our potential.
Allah, as a clear manifestation of His love for us, has sent His holy books and His prophets – ideal men as examples to humankind – as the embodiment of all His wishes for us. And man kept distorting the messages and reshaping the messengers in his own image. Allah sent His final, unalterable message in the Qur’an, which contains the truth of all the divine messages, and a messenger as the seal of prophethood who contains the essence of all the prophets since Adam (as): Hz. Muhammed Mustafa (saws).
If we measure ourselves against the commands of Allah in the Qur’an, and if we compare our life to the life of the one whom He sent as His mercy upon the universe, we will perhaps be able to see our sad state. Then perhaps our devotion, our worship, will be a little more sincere and true, but it will still be forced, tinted with the pain of self-disappointment, and selfish, expecting a return, even if it is forgiveness.
Hz. Ali (ra), said that there are four kinds of worship. The lowest, one which is totally useless, is to go through the motions of prayer mechanically. When the Messenger of Allah (saws) says, “There are some who fast and all that they get from it is hunger, and who pray and all they get from it is fatigue,” he is describing this kind of prayer. Hz. Mevlana Jelaleddin Rumi, (ks), likens the repeated prostrations to chickens eating corn!
The second kind of prayer is that in which the devotee begs God to give him things: money, fame, health etc. In a sense even the ones who ask for forgiveness of their sins and entrance into paradise are included amongst them. Hz. Ali (as) calls this not worship, but commerce, during which the devotee thinks his prayers can be payment for Allah’s blessings. Allah says in a divine tradition,
There are some who ask from Me this world in their prayers, and I give them the world, but they have no portion of the Hereafter. And some ask for the Hereafter and I give them the Hereafter but they have no portion of this world. And some only love Me and ask for Me alone. And I give Myself to them and the world and the Hereafter.
The third kind of worship is that which is done in thankfulness, not only for the infinite good that Allah pours over His creation, but also for the trials which test our love for Him. Although this is a very high form of praise of Allah’s generosity, love and compassion for His creatures, Hz. Ali (ra) calls it a selfish form of prayer.
The highest form of worship is the praise of the lover for the Beloved, out of pure love of Allah. Allah mentions those who pray like this in the Qur’an,
. . .a people whom He loves and who love Him. . .
(Surah Maidah: 54)
Certainly our love for Him can not possibly be like His love for us. Love which we are capable of is either natural love, which many of us, if not all, are capable of, and spiritual love, which very few can even understand and fewer still are capable of. Spiritual love cannot be acquired; it is a gift, and to receive that gift, we must be worthy of receiving it. The highest form of devotion is when we praise the Beloved with both the natural love given to us and the spiritual love which has to be won. To receive the gift of spiritual love, we have “to know, to find, and to BE”. You can not find a thing when you don’t know what you are looking for, and you can not find it if you don’t know the way. And, you cannot BE it if you do not leave yourself behind. Allah says in a divine tradition:
When my faithful servant comes close to Me with extra worship, I love him and he loves Me. And when I love him, I become his eyes with which he sees, his hands with which he holds, his feet with which he walks. . .
That is when man knows, finds and is with his Lord. But what is this “extra worship” which brings us close to our Lord? It is service.
We believe there are two levels of worship. One is the obligatory worship of five times daily prayer, fasting during the month of Ramadan, paying alms of 1/40th of our liquid assets to poor Muslims, and making pilgrimage once in a lifetime. Although Allah has set specific times for these formal devotions, in His Mercy, He has permitted us, in case of necessity to delay these obligations. If we miss a prayer, fasting, paying our dues, or going to pilgrimage, we are permitted to make up for them later. The blessed Prophet (saws) used to break his fast and make his followers break their fast when they were facing danger. Allah permits us to shorten our prayers and to not fast when we face difficulties of travel and in sickness.
The second level of obligatory worship does not have specific times. The duties are to be done now, always, to be exercised as the occasion presents itself in daily life. Kindness, forgiveness, concern for others, helping, protecting, feeding, advising, building not destroying. . . In Allah’s view, “The best of man is the one who is good to others”; “To stand guard for the safety of others one night is much better than thousand nights of standing in prayer”; “The Muslim is he from whose tongue and hands others are safe”; “The one Allah loves best is the one who does and makes others do good deeds and makes them love Allah and makes Allah love them.”
Allah does not permit this form of obligatory worship to be delayed. You cannot say, “I will save him later, I have to do my prayers first” when someone is drowning, or say, “I will feed him tomorrow” when someone is hungry. This second form of prayer through service is the “extra worship” which will bring us closer to our Lord. In fact, a sign that our formal devotions of daily prayers, fasting, and giving alms are accepted is if we are given the occasions and are able to perform the worship of service. We have to firmly believe that someone who is no good to himself, to his family, to his neighbors, to his nation, to the family of Islam, and to the all of humanity and on the contrary does harm, yet who stands in prayer all night, and fasts during the day, will not enter paradise.
When man has proven himself worthy to be a human being and a faithful servant to his Lord, by serving selflessly in his Lord’s name, he may be given the gift of spiritual love.
Know that the beloved loved with spiritual love does not accept a partner. As Allah has no partner, love for Him also can not be divided. Yet spiritual love combines the love of the Beloved for His sake as well as the lover’s own sake, since it is a combination of the Beloved’s love for the lover and the lover’s love for the Beloved. On the other hand, the “natural love”, which many man know, is always for the sake of the lover alone. Both kinds of love wish to reach out and to unite the lover and the beloved. Natural love, at its best if the love is mutual, is when the lovers meet to create 1+1=2. Each may be enriched but will be two together. But in “spiritual love”, the lover will be one with the Beloved, creating 1x1=1: one times one equals one.
When we are worthy to be in that state of unification, our prayers will become our actions, our entire life, which could then be none other than the manifestation of Allah’s divine attributes, His Beautiful names, which He taught to Adam (as) our father. That is the definition of a perfect man.
Allah knows best.
Shaykh Tosun Bayrak al-Jerrahi
Rajab, 1421 A.H.