Chapter One: The Opening (Al Fatiha)

Verse 5......Part 2

(This session is also available in audio and video)


Session 18

Chapter 1, verse 5, a continuation

Let’s take a moment to consider our goals and the means of achieving these goals.  If you want to succeed in your exams, you must study.  The thought of succeeding (which is your goal) was present in your mind first, and that motivated you to study.  In another example, if you want to spend a weekend in New York City, you may start by buying a plane ticket.  But the motive that made you leave your house, and go to the airport was your desire to travel to New York. 

God created us so that we may worship Him as He clearly states in the following verse:

And I did not create the jinn and the humans except that they may worship Me(51:56)

Therefore, worship is the reason and goal of creation.  But ‘the goal first and actions second’ argument we highlighted earlier does not apply to God Almighty.  The Lord is free of need.  There is no cause, or goal, that rewards Him with benefit, or fulfills a desire.  Goals and achievements, on the other hand, reward and motivate us.  Worship actually pays the worshiper dividends and rewards him or her with vast benefits in this world and the hereafter.  It is the goal that our creator has set for us so we can attain the highest degrees of success.      

So, if you set your goal to be in line with God's guidance, and strive to attain worship at the highest level, you would have fulfilled your mission and reaped the greatest rewards of life.  But what is the true meaning of worship?  Does it mean sitting in a mosque in prayer and praise all day? Or is it a way of life that encompasses all your actions… in your house as you raise your family to be righteous, at your job as you strive for the betterment of life and to serve those around you? If God had intended only prayer and praise, He wouldn’t have given us freedom; rather He would have compelled us to worship Him like all His other creations as stated in the following verse:  

You may perhaps wear out your heart because they do not come to belief; If We wished We could send down a Sign to them from heaven, before which their heads would be bowed low in subjection(Chapter 26: Verses 3 and 4)

If God had wanted us to submit to Him by force, then no one would have the ability to deviate from His command.  Actually, God gave us clues to his power of subjugation within our own bodies and through events that occur in our lives.  For example, the human body is compelled to do certain tasks.  The heart is compelled to beat and to stop as God wills.  The stomach digests food, and the kidneys cleanse our blood while we are completely unaware.  Likewise, every person is compelled by circumstances that befall his or her life.  You cannot stop a sickness that might weaken or disable you, or a car that might crash into you, or many of the things that take place in the world which God has decreed.

In fact, the scope of freedom in your life is limited.  You cannot control the day of your birth or who your parents are.  You have no say regarding your looks, height or skin color.  On the other hand, when it comes to matters of faith and action, God has given you all the freedom.  He has compelled all His creations to worship Him except for humans and jinn because He wants them to turn to Him out of love.   

So, if you make a choice to turn to your creator out of love, and if you choose to exercise your freedom according to his guidance, then you would avoid that which displeases Him, and do what He asks of you.  At that moment you attain worship and became one of God's servants, not God's slaves.  We are all slaves of God, in that we are all compelled to do certain things in life whether we choose to or not.  But God's servants are those who willingly surrender their freedom of choice to God’s will.   Every part of their lives, the parts which they have control over, and the parts that they do not, is according to God’s guidance.  The Quran clearly differentiates between the two as stated in following verses: 

When My servants ask you about Me, I am indeed nearmost. I answer the supplicant’s call when he calls Me. So let them respond to Me, and let them have faith in Me, so that they may fare rightly.(2:186)

And in another verse:

The servants of the All-beneficent are those who walk humbly on the earth, and when the ignorant address them, say, ‘Peace!(25:63)

God described the believers in the previous verse and called them servants.  But when He addresses entire mankind He refers to them as slaves as the following verse illustrates:

That is on account of what you did. and your Lord is not tyrannical to the slaves. (3:182)

As you read the Quran you will come across one verse that seemingly deviates from this rule:

On the day when the unbelievers and whatever they had been worshipping besides God will be resurrected, He will ask the idols, "Did you mislead My servants or did they themselves go astray from the right path?(25:17)

This verse talks about the sinners and the misguided, yet it describes them as servants.  The fact is that this verse relates to the hereafter, where all of mankind will be servants of God because on that Day everyone will be compelled to obey God in all aspects.  Our freedom of choice ends at the time of death, and at that moment we all become servants of God.

Keep in mind that God does not ask anyone, except for the believers, to perform the mandates of faith and worship.  Take a note of the following verses:             

You who believe, fasting is prescribed for you, as it was prescribed for those before you, so that you may be mindful of God. (2:183)

and in another:

O you who believe, deal with the difficulties of life with patience and prayers. Know that God is with the patient ones.(2:153)

The Lord only directs his commands to the believer who willingly turned to Him.  More accurately, it is the believer who obligates him or herself to God’s mandate.  When you declare your faith, and entrust The Lord with all your affairs, you enter into the theistic contract with God, and oblige yourself to follow his path. 

Here we should take a moment to recognize the high honor and status that prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) attained with the Lord.  The prophet perfected worship and mindfulness in all aspects of his life as God desires of all of us.  And when you recall that worship is the reason for creation, you realize that Prophet Muhammad embodied humanity's potential, and you understand why the Prophet attained the highest status and honor in the sight of our creator.

God wants to relieve you from the humiliation of need in this world.  In the verse "You alone we worship and from you alone we seek help”, God paired between His worship and seeking help from him.  Because when you seek support from anyone besides him, you are relying on someone who is limited by human nature regardless of his or her current power and affluence.  We live in a world where circumstances change in a matter of moments.  The powerful can lose power in a day, and wealth vanishes in minutes.  More importantly, always remember that the person you are seeking help and support from can be overtaken by death at anytime.  The only way you can rise above this uncertainty is to seek help from The All-Living who does not die, the All-Powerful who does not weaken, and the all knowing who has your best interest first and foremost.  That is how you can attain honor and strength when you seek help from God. 

Sadly, more often than not, people gain power and influence by exploiting and transgressing over the rights of others.  This often puts the believer in conflict with those who hold power.   In this struggle between right and wrong, where the odds look stacked high against the believer, God wants you to seek him so he can be your protector and your pillar of support.   

Please do not misunderstand relying on God and seeking his help with laziness and inaction.  On the contrary, it means that you should always do you best and exhaust all means available to you.  But if all fails, you do not despair, because you have faith in your heart that The Lord is always there supporting you and rewarding you for your patience and effort.