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Lesson - 15
"O men, serve your Lord Who created you and those before
you, so that you may guard against evil." Ch. 2:21
Message of the Quran is for all nations
This verse contains the first commandment of the Holy Quran. I,
therefore felt obligated to include it in our Quranic study. The
first point to note is that it addresses all of mankind in the words,
"Yaa-ayu-han-naaso (O men)." All religions prior
to this were meant to be for a particular nation, for example, the
Israelites, or the Indo-Aryans etc. Their concept of the Divine
Being was also that of a tribal, or national deity; such as the
God of Israel, or the various Hindu deities whose domain was confined
to India only. As we have already seen in our discussion of the
Al-Fatihah, that in Islam the concept of the Divine Being
is of the Lord of the Worlds, that is Allah is the Lord of all nations
and nationalities, in fact the whole universe, and He nourishes
unto perfection whatever is within it. Science, today accepts that
there is one single Universe, within which prevail the same universal
laws, therefore its Creator, Master, and Sovereign is One. In the
verse I have quoted for this lesson, the Holy Quran addresses the
whole human race. Further on in the Quranic text, the Holy Prophet
Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) is mentioned
as the messenger to all of mankind as in the verse:
"Say: O mankind, surely I am the Messenger of Allah
to you all" (7:158).
This concept of world
prophethood was completely novel, and therefore totally invalidates
the objection of some non-Muslim critics that the Holy Prophet had
copied ideas from previous revealed scriptures. This universal concept
was altogether new and unique, as it was presented at a time when
the human race was divided into nations separated by vast distances.
In fact, it was even new and unacceptable for the Arabs who were
the immediate recipients of the prophetic message. The Arabs of
those days would have been much happier if the religion being revealed
was only for them, and not for all the nations whom they considered
inferior. Today, when the world is becoming rapidly unified, the
birth of such an idea, could be labeled as a result of the social
environment. In those days, however, such a concept could only be
acquired through Divine revelation, and in it was contained the
great prophecy for the future, that the world would one day be united
under the banner of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah
be upon him), by the grace of Allah Almighty.
Service with humility
The first commandment given by the Holy Quran, therefore was to
the whole human race, "O men, serve (na-bu-du, verb
of ibadat) your Lord Who created you." In Al- Fatihah,
commenting on the word Ibadat, I have explained its meaning
as service with humility. The word used for prayer in the Holy Quran
is salaat. This difference has been clearly elaborated in
the verse, "So serve Me (fa-bud-ni), and keep up prayer
for My remembrance (wa-aqimis-salaata li-ziqri)" (20:14).
If we carefully think about it, we reach the undeniable conclusion,
that the whole world is serving the Creator with humility. It is
completely subservient to His laws and follows His command. If and
when He desires, He can bring it to an end. We can observe a graphic
illustration of this exhibited by the instantaneous destruction
of stars in the universe billions of times larger, and more powerful
than our planet earth. The sun, also has explosions with energy
equivalent to millions of hydrogen bombs every minute, and it manifests
fearsome and gigantic flames of flagrant firestorms. Although it
is hundreds and thousands of times larger than the earth, yet it
is bound to serve life on it in such a precise manner that there
is not a seconds delay in its rising, nor does it stray an inch
away from its orbit. Scientific discovery, today has recognized
that this universe, the extent, immensity, and the power of which
is hard to imagine, is made up of the same type of matter, and follows
with complete obedience and humility the same type of laws laid
down by its Creator.
This subject matter is very extensive, and I would now like
to refocus on my original discussion. In the human organism itself,
all the body organs such as the musculoskeletal system, the
liver, stomach, intestines, heart, lungs etc., share a similarity
with other animals in that they follow completely the guidance,
and program laid down by their Creator. Mankind is totally helpless
in this matter, and even a doctor can only intervene by following
the laws laid down by the Creator. When Allahís command of death
comes, both the doctor and the patient are helpless and the human
body gives up its life.
Observe the animals and you will notice that their bodies are
functioning a hundred percent in accordance with the laws laid down
by their Creator. As far as the animals are concerned, their eating
and drinking, locomotion, social interactions etc., are all governed
by their instinct. There is no way an animal can go against its
instincts. A lion for example, will never eat grass, nor a goat
will become carnivorous. Animals are guided by their intrinsic computer,
pre-programmed by the Creator for each animal species individually.
Freedom of Will
If Allah had so desired, He could have bound human beings by a
similar design, however, He chose not to do so. This is such a great
act of benevolence towards mankind that he should be thankful every
moment of his life towards His Great Benefactor. All of nature and
its forces are bound in obedience to the Creator. Man is the only
creation Allah has empowered with the freedom of will. This power
in the whole universe belongs only to Allah, as mentioned in the
"He does what He intends" (2:253).
When Allah created mankind, and appointed him as His vicegerent
on earth (2:30), He also gave him the freedom of will. An emperor
appointing a Viceroy, or a Governor General gives him some executive
powers, but at the same time carefully observes the deployment of
these powers by his appointee, and intervenes, in case of abuse
of such authority. Similarly Allah, by giving mankind some power
through freedom of will, has not Himself become totally powerless.
Whenever He deems appropriate, He uses His power to intervene.
Power to suppress animal instincts
Instinct, in mankind is similar to animals. However unlike like
an animal, it does not tie him down to make him a powerless slave.
Man can thus, suppress his instinctive drive when he so desires.
For example, he can control his anger. In fact, going quite contrary
to his instinct, he can forgive the one who he is angry at, and
thus remove the rancor from his own heart. He can actually go a
step beyond this, and do good to such a person. The Holy Quran teaches
us the method to suppress our animal instincts in the verse:
"And those who restrain (their) anger and pardon
men. And Allah loves the doers of good (to others)" (3:133).
It is easy to suppress minor degree of anger, but very difficult
to control overwhelming anger or rage. A person who can do so is
capable of controlling all his emotional outbursts. The Holy Prophet
(peace and blessings of Allah be upon him ) said it very well, "The
real strong person is the one who can control himself during extreme
anger." In another Hadith it is stated, "Whosoever controls
his rage, Allah will fill his belly with (the sustenance of) tranquillity
and faith." The Quranic verse quoted above enjoins not only
suppression of anger, but also forgiveness. An even higher moral
standard is, that one should not only suppress his anger and forgive,
but in addition do good to the one who is the object of his wrath.
The Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him ) has
sworn by three things: wealth does not decrease by giving away in
charity; those who forgive others, Allah increases their respect
and honor; and whosoever adopts humility and meekness for the sake
of Allah, his spiritual status is elevated in return by the Almighty.
This in reality is teaching man Divine attributes.
Allah is Aware of all the misdeeds committed by humanity; if He
was not the One to suppress His anger, and forgive mankind as indicated
"And He pardons much" (42:30),
this world would be destroyed in a split second. On the contrary,
He continues to give worldly blessings to the non-believers, the
atheists, the evildoers, even those who disrespect Him. The heart
of a man that does not reflect the spirit of Divine tolerance, fails
to recognize the Divine within itself.
We can therefore, conclude that if mankind like other animals
was subject to the control of his instincts, he would seek retribution
immediately when angered. Those who do so are at the level of animals.
Allah wants to raise mankind above this level, so that he is capable
of not only controlling his natural instincts, but also of acting
quite contrary to them when necessary.
Guidance for proper usage
Sometimes, however it is appropriate to utilize the natural instincts.
For example, if one does not get angry, he would be unable to fight
gallantly in war, or on other occasions in self-defense, against
murderers and thieves. He may also become extremely shameless, if
somebody tries to molest his wife, or sister, he acts like a swine,
and instead of showing revulsion and anger he actually encourages
such advances. What then is the proper use of animal emotions? A
man, who gets overwhelmed by his emotions cannot make the appropriate
decision in this regard. One may then ask, why has Allah not tied
down manís nature to follow only the path of goodness? This is because
a task accomplished through force cannot be called a good deed,
or quality. A good deed can only become so when man has the opportunity
to commit evil, but he controls himself, and goes against the evil
suggestion of the devil by suppressing his evil tendencies. Honesty
can only be called a virtue when one has the opportunity to be dishonest,
and despite the need for monetary gain, chooses to be honest. In
short, moral qualities evolve only when man does good while fighting
evil with his own free will, and not under duress.
Angels, are programmed for goodness under Divine command as shown
in the verse, "But do as they are commanded" (66:6), i.e.,
by nature they do as commanded by Allah, not having the freedom
to act even slightly contrary to it, and therefore remain in a static
state of development. Man, on the other hand, in the course of resisting
evil evolves spiritually, and becomes the one to whom angels submit.
Thus, by giving man the freedom of will, Allah has not only given
him a great honor and a portion of His complete omnipotence, but
also created the means of his spiritual development, and the realization
of the Divine within him, provided he uses this freedom appropriately.
I have already illustrated this with the following example. By controlling
his rage, forgiving people, and doing good to them, man partakes
of a Divine attribute; the very same attribute of Allah which is
working every moment in this world. If this was not the case, man
would have been eliminated a long time ago as a result of his misdeeds.
The Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him ) laid
down this very objective before us when he said:
"Create the qualities of Allah within yourself,"
and the Holy Quran states:
"Allahís color, and who is better than Allah at
color meaning the attributes of Allah. The words of this verse that
follow, tell us how these attributes can be developed in mankind,
"And we are His worshippers (aa-bi-doon)" i.e.,
serve Him with humility. Commentary on this will follow shortly.
We now return back to the initial statement made in the verse
under discussion today, "O men serve(with humility) your Lord
(Rabb)." Rabb is the One Who gradually evolves
His creation from the lower to the higher stages of development.
Manís attention is thus drawn to the fact that the command to serve
with humility does not benefit the Creator, but is for his own benefit.
Almighty Allah will evolve him from the lower animal stage to the
level where he will be able to reflect the Divine attributes within
himself. The injunction of service with humility is worth pondering
upon. The individual who serves his Benefactor with humility, stands
to benefit from His nurturing sustenance, unlike the one who is
critical and disrespectful. For example, the pupils who are disrespectful
and insolent, do not fully benefit from the guidance of their teachers
or parents. On the other hand, those who consider their teachers
and parents as their well-wishers and benefactors, and obey them
with respect and humility, are the ones that fully benefit from
their guidance. Who is a greater Benefactor of mankind than Allah?