The Necessity And Fruits Of Worship
Love is the raison d’etre of this universe.
O my selfish soul! O worldly friend! Love is the raison d’etre of this universe. It is also the bond between all things, and the light of existence and its life. Since man is the most comprehensive fruit of existence, a love so overflowing as to invade the whole universe has been included in the heart of that fruit, which is its seed or core. One who deserves such an infinite love may therefore only be one with infinite perfection.
Therefore, O soul and friend, there are in man’s nature two faculties, one being the means of fear, the other, of love. In whichever case, that love and fear is felt for either the created or the Creator. Fear of the created is a painful affliction, and love of the created, a troublesome pain. For you fear such things or persons that they neither have mercy on you nor accept your request. If this is so, fear of the created is a painful trouble. As for love of the created, those you love either do not care for you, or as is the case with your youth and your possessions, leave you without saying farewell. Do you not see that ninety-nine percent of lovers complain of their beloved ones. Because love of the idol-like worldly beloved from the bottom of one’s heart, which is the mirror of the Eternally-Besought-of-All, is unbearable in the view of the beloved ones and therefore rejected. For man naturally rejects and repels what is unnatural and undeserved. (Animal love is out of question here.)
In short, those that you love either do not care for you or belittle you or do not accompany you. Contrary to your desire, they leave you. Since this is so, turn your fear and love toward such a One that your fear will be a pleasant humility and your love, a happiness free of humiliation. Fearing the All-Majestic Creator means finding a way to His Compassion and taking refuge in Him. In fact, fear is a ‘whip’ to stimulate one into the embrace of His Compassion. As is known to everybody, a mother frightens her child away from something or someone and attracts him into her arms. That fear is very pleasurable for the child because it draws him into the arms of care and compassion. However, the care and compassion shared by all the mothers in the world is only a ray from the Compassion of God. That means, there is a very great pleasure in fear of God. If there is such great pleasure in fear of God, you can understand what infinite pleasure there is in love of Him. Furthermore, the one who fears God is freed of the worrying, troublesome fear of others, and his love of created beings in the Name of God does not cause pains and separation.
Man’s first love, before all others, is his self. Then, he loves his family and kin, his nation, living beings, the world, and the universe. He has relations with each of these spheres. He takes pleasure in their satisfaction and happiness, and feels pain at their pain. However, since nothing remains in a fixed state in this tumultuous, ever-changing world, the heart of helpless man is continuously wounded. The things he clings to slip out of his hands, scratching, cutting them. He always remains in pain, or throws himself into the drunkenness of heedlessness. Since this is so, O soul, if you have a sound mind, give all the love you divide among beings to the One Who deserves it truly, and be saved from all those pains and troubles. Only One Who owns infinite perfection and beauty deserves infinite love, and only when you are able to assign that love to its rightful owner, then for His sake and in respect of their being mirrors to Him, you may love all things without suffering any pains and troubles. That is, that love must not directly be assigned to existence for the sake of existence itself. Otherwise, while being a most pleasurable Divine grace, love becomes a most painful ailment.
There is another aspect of the matter, which is this:
O soul! You assign your love to yourself. You idolize yourself and see it as worthy of adoration, which must be assigned to God only. You sacrifice everything for yourself, and revere it as though the Lord. Whereas, something is loved either for its perfection-for perfection is loved because of itself-or for its benefit or the pleasure it gives or the good it brings or something else of a similar nature. Now, O soul! I have convincingly argued in some of the Words that your nature is ‘kneaded together’ out of defect and deficiency, and destitution and impotence, so that in the same way as darkness shows the strength of light proportionally to its density, according to the rule of contrasts, you should act, through those essential elements of your nature, as a mirror to the All-Majestic Creator’s Perfection, Grace, Beauty, Power, and Mercy.
So, O soul! You should cherish not love but enmity for yourself [because it tries all the time to seduce you] or have pity on it, or after it has attained to the rank of being a peaceful self due to its full conviction of the truth of the principles of faith and satisfaction in worship, you should show care and mercy to it.
If you love your (carnal) self, since it is addicted to pleasure and always looks after its own interest, it means you have been captivated by pleasure and self-interest. Do not prefer such pleasures and self-interest, which are quite insignificant, over boundless true pleasures and advantages. Do not be like a firefly! For it drowns all its friends and everything it loves in the fright and solitude of darkness, and contents itself with a tiny glow of its own. You should love the Eternally Beloved One in Whose favor, together with your animal pleasures and interests, the interests of all the beings with whom you have relations and from whom you receive benefits and whose happiness makes you feel happy, originate. By doing that, you may take pleasure in the happiness of all of them, and receive the same infinite pleasure as that which you receive from the Absolutely Perfect One.
Your intense love for your self is, in fact, the innate love for His Essence, which you unconsciously carry in yourself but wrongly appropriate for yourself. That being the truth, tear apart the ‘I’ in yourself and show ‘He’. Also, all the instances of love which you share among the beings in the universe are, in fact, the love implanted in your being for Him, because of the misappropriation of which you suffer pains and troubles. For the return of an ‘illicit’ love cherished for those that are unworthy of it is pitiless ailment. An atom of love for the Eternal, Beloved One, Who through His Names of Most Merciful and Compassionate has created an abode like Paradise full of hour is, where you will be able to satisfy all of your bodily desires, Who through His other Names has prepared for you in that Paradise eternal favors with which to meet all the needs of all of your immaterial faculties including your spirit, heart, intellect and innermost senses; and in each of Whose Names are numerous immaterial treasuries of favor and munificence, may compensate for the whole universe. Rather, the whole universe cannot compensate for a single particular manifestation of His love. If this is so, listen to the following eternal decree which the Eternal, Beloved One made His beloved declare, and follow it:
If you really love God, follow me that God may love you. (3:31)
Worship is the necessary result of a past Divine favor
O soul! Worship of God is not an act through which to demand a Divine reward in the future. Rather, it is the necessary result of a past Divine favor. It is truly so because we have already received our wages, and in return, are charged with serving and worshipping Him. Because, O soul, since the Majestic Creator Who has clothed you in existence, which is purely good, has given you a hungry stomach having appetite and, through His Name the All-Providing, has laid before you all the edible things as a table of favors. He has also given you a sensitive life, which, like the stomach, demands sustenance particular to itself. Before all your senses, like your eyes and ears, He has laid down a particular table of favors as vast as the earth. Further, since He has bestowed on you ‘humanity’, which demands numerous immaterial favors, He has laid before it a peculiar table of favors within the grasp of the reason and as many-dimensional as the material and immaterial worlds. In addition, since He has granted to you faith and Islam, which is the greatest humanity demanding endless favors and nourished by the fruits of infinite Mercy, He has opened up for you a table of favors, happiness and pleasures encompassing, together with the sphere of contingencies, the sphere of the Most Beautiful Names of God and His sacred Attributes. Besides all these, having bestowed on you love, which is a light of faith, He has granted to you still another table of favors, bliss, and pleasures. That is, with regard to your physical aspect, you are a small, insignificant, impotent, wretched, and restricted particular being but, through His grace and favors, you have become a universal, enlightened and enlightening one. For, by endowing you with life, He has promoted you to the rank of a particular kind of universality; by giving to you humanity, the rank of true universality, and by granting to you Islam, the rank of a sublime and luminous universality, and by bestowing on you love and knowledge of God, He has made you attain an all-encompassing light.
Thus, O soul! You have already received these wages, and are therefore charged with worship, which is, in fact, an easy, pleasant and rewarding Diving gift. However, you show laziness in performing it. When you carry it out defectively, as though the wages given to you in advance were not enough, you demand more in an arrogant way. You also put on airs, saying, ‘Why are my prayers not accepted?’ Whereas, your due is not putting on airs, but petition and supplication to God Almighty. He bestows Paradise and eternal happiness purely out of his Grace and Kindness. Therefore, always take refugee in His Mercy and Grace, and in reliance on Him, heed the following Divine declaration:
Say, ‘Out of His Grace and Mercy’, and at that let them rejoice. It is better than what they have been accumulating. (10:58)
How can we respond to God’s universal, infinite favors through our restricted, particular thankfulness?’
Through a universal intention and infinitely profound belief and devotion. Suppose a poor man enters the presence of the king with a present of a few dollars and sees that gifts worthy of millions each have come from the king’s favorite men and been arranged there. He thinks:
‘My present means nothing, but this is what I can afford.’
Then he says to the king:
‘O lord! I offer you all those precious gifts in my own name, for you deserve them. If I were able to, I would give you the double as my gift!’ The king, who though in need of nothing accepts the gifts of his subjects as a token of the degree of their respect and loyalty, accepts the universal intention and desire of that poor man and his deep feelings of devotion as though it were the greatest gift.
In exactly the same way, a poor servant says in his daily prescribed prayers:
‘All veneration and reverence is for God’,
by which he means:
‘I offer You in my name all the gifts of worship which all beings present to you through their lives. You deserve all of it, rather, much more than it.’ This belief and intention is a most comprehensive and universal thankfulness.
The seeds and stones of plants are their intentions to grow and become each an elaborate plant. For example, with its hundreds of seeds, a melon intends:
‘O my Creator! I want to exhibit the inscriptions of Your Beautiful Names in many places of the earth.’ Having full knowledge of the future of things, Almighty God accepts their intentions as worship in deeds. The Prophetic saying, The intention of the believer is better than his action, (Munawi, Fayd al-Qadir, 6.291) is to express this reality.
That is also why we glorify and praise Him with phrases expressing infinitude, like the following:
Glory be to You and praise be to You to the number of Your creatures and the things pleasing to You and the decorations of Your Supreme Throne and to the amount of the ink of Your words; and we glorify You with the sum of all the glorifications of Your Prophets and Your saints and Your angels.
Also, in the same way as a commander offers the king in his name all the services rendered by his soldiers, so man, being the commander of all the earthly creatures including plants and animals, and acting in his own private world in the name of everyone, says, You alone do we worship and from You alone do we seek help, and offers the Worshipped One of Majesty in his name all the worship of all human beings and their entreaties for help.
Also, by saying,
Glory be to You with the sum of all the glorifications of all of Your creatures and with the tongues of all of the things You have made,
he makes all of the creatures speak in his own name.
Also, he says,
O God! Bestow blessings on Muhammad to the number of the particles of the universe and the compounds of it,
and calls God’s blessing on the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, in the name of everything. For everything is connected with the light of Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings. Understand from all this the wisdom in glorifying God and calling His blessings on Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, to the extent of infinitude.
Following the Sunnah of the Prophet
O soul! If you want endless accomplishments with regard to your afterlife in a short lifespan, if you want to see each minute of your life as fruitful as a whole life, and if you want to transform your ordinary daily deeds into acts of worship and your heedlessness into peace and constant awareness of always being in the Presence of God, follow the elevated Sunna of the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings. For when you act according to the rules of the Shari‘a, it gives some sort of peace, and becomes a kind of worship, which yields many fruits for the Hereafter. For example, at the moment you utter the phrase, I bought it, which the Shari‘a requires you to utter in a buy-and-sell transaction, that ordinary transaction of yours becomes an act of worship. Such remembrance of a rule of the Shari‘a reminds you of Divine Revelation, which, in turn, causes you to think of the Revealer of the Shari‘a and to turn your attention to Him. This produces some sort of peace. That means, by acting according to the elevated Sunna of the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, one can make one’s transient life produce eternal fruits to be the means of an eternal life. Therefore, heed the following Divine decree,
So, believe in God and His Messenger, the unlettered Prophet who believes in God and His words, and follow him so that you may be guided. (7:158)
and try to be a comprehensive object to be enlightened by each of the Divine Beautiful Names manifested in the rules of the Shari‘a and the elevated Sunna of the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings.
O soul! Do not be deluded by the apparent glitter and illicit pleasure of the worldly people, particularly those leading a dissipated life, more particularly, the unbelievers, and be deceived into imitating them. For, even if you were to imitate them, you would not be able to be like them. You will fall too low. You cannot be like animals, either. For your intellect will be an inauspicious ‘tool’ and give you endless trouble.
Suppose there is a palace in the central room of which is a big electric light. In all the other rooms, there are small lights connected to the big, central light in the central room. If someone turns off the big light, the whole palace will be left in darkness. There is another palace where the small electric lights in its rooms are not connected to the big, central light in the central room. If the owner of the palace turns off the central light, the other rooms will still remain illuminated, He will be able to do his work in the palace, and no thief will attempt to rob the palace.
Thus, O soul! The first palace represents a Muslim. The Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, is the big, central light in his heart. If he forgets him, if-God forbid- he discards him from his heart, then he will no longer be able to believe in any other Prophet. Moreover, there will be left no room in his spirit for any kind of perfection. He will not recognize his Lord, even. All his inner senses and faculties will be left in darkness and his heart will be terribly ruined and invaded by despair and gloom. I wonder what, in the face of such ruin and desolation, you can build up familiarity with and seek consolation in, what beneficial thing you can find to compensate for the harm caused by that ruin! Whereas the Christians and Jews are like the other palace. Even if they are not illuminated by the light of the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, they can manage with the light they suppose they have. Their belief in the Creator and the Prophets Moses or Jesus, upon them be peace, however deficient it is and tainted with associating partners with God, can still be the means of some sort of moral perfection for them.
O evil-commanding soul! You can never be like an animal! For the intellect in your head will continuously trouble you with the pains of the past and anxieties for the future. It blends a single pleasure with a thousand pains. But an animal enjoys itself with no pains. So if you want to live like an animal, first discard your intellect, and then be an animal! Also, be attentive to the Divine blow of warning and instruction: They are like cattle, rather, more misguided than them. (7:158)
Worship of God is a line of union which turns the worshipper from mortality to permanence, from the created to the Creator, from multiplicity to unity, or it is a point of juncture between the beginning and the end.
O soul! As I repeatedly state, since man is the fruit of the tree of creation, he is a most comprehensive being related with the whole of the creation, who carries in him a heart which, like the stone of the fruit, is the center in which all parts end and join together. He is inclined toward multiple things which are worldly and mortal. But worship of God is a line of union which turns him from mortality to permanence, from the created to the Creator, from multiplicity to unity, or it is a point of juncture between the beginning and the end.
If a fruit carrying a seed looks down at the tree and, priding itself on its beauty, leaves itself to its own support or leaps off the tree in heedlessness, it will quickly be lost. If that fruit, by contrast, finds its point of support, then the seed or stone in it, in which the whole life of the tree is included, will be the means for the tree to perpetuate its meaning, and in itself will gain a comprehensive reality in a perpetual life. In exactly the same way, if, drowned in the multiplicity of things and intoxicated with the love of the world, a man deludes himself with the smiles of mortals and leaves himself in their arms, for sure he will be lost to an infinite degree, with nothing to gain pertaining to eternal existence. He will also die in spirituality. If, by contrast, hearing the lessons of faith from the tongue of the Qur’an with the ear of his heart, he comes to his senses and is inclined toward unity, he will be able to reach the summit of perfections by the stairway of worship and servanthood to God, and gain eternal existence.
O soul! Since this is the truth, and since you are from the nation of Abraham, upon him be peace, like Abraham, say, ‘I do not love those that set’, and turn your face to the Eternal Beloved One, and weep, saying:
A beloved who disappears by declining or setting is not beautiful, for one that is doomed to decline cannot be truly beautiful. It is not-it should not be-loved in the heart for the heart is created for eternal love and is the mirror of the Eternally-Besought-of-All.
A desired one who is doomed to disappear below the horizon is not worthy of the heart’s attachment or the mind’s preoccupation. It cannot be the object of desires, and is not worthy of being regretted after. So why should the heart adore such a one and be attached to it?
I neither seek nor desire anything mortal. For I am myself mortal, and I do not desire one who is mortal. What have I do with any such?
A worshipped one buried in decay-I do not invoke such a one, nor seek refuge with it. For I am infinitely needy and impotent. One that is itself powerless can offer no cure for my endless pains, nor can it solve my infinitely deep wounds. How can one who cannot save himself from decay be an object of worship?
The mind that is obsessed with appearances wails despairingly on seeing the decay of the things it adores in this universe of upheavals, while the spirit, which seeks an eternal beloved, also wails, saying: I love not the things that set.
I do not want, I do not desire, separation, and I cannot endure it.
Meetings followed immediately by separation are not worth troubling about; they are not worthy of being longed for especially. For just as the disappearance of pleasures is pain, imagining it is pain also. The works of the lovers, that is, the works of poetry on metaphorical love-love for the opposite sex-are all lamentations caused by the pain arising from imagining this disappearance. If you were to condense the spirit of all the works of such poetry, from each would flow this lament.
It is because of the pain and tribulations coming from those meetings doomed to end and those painful metaphorical loves, that my heart cries out and, like Abraham, says:
I love not the things that set!
If you desire permanence in this transient world, permanence is born out of transience. Annihilate yourself with regard to your evil-commanding soul, so that you may gain permanence.
Free yourself of bad morals, which are the basis of worldly adoration, and realize self-annihilation. Sacrifice the goods and property that are in your disposal in the way of the True Beloved. See the end of beings, which marks extinction. The way leading from this world to permanence passes through self-annihilation.
The human mind, which is absorbed in causality, laments despairingly in bewilderment over the upheavals caused by the decay of the world. The conscience, which desires true existence, like Abraham, wails, I love not the things that set. It severs the connection with metaphorical beloveds and decaying beings, and is attached to the Truly Existent One, the Eternal Beloved.
O my mean soul! Know that the world and all beings are certainly mortal, but you may find a way leading to the Permanent Being in each mortal thing, and may discern two gleams, two mysteries, of the manifestations of the Undying Beloved’s Grace, on condition that you succeed in sacrificing your mortal being.
In each bounty the act of bestowing is discerned and the favor of the Most Merciful perceived. If you succeed in discerning the act of bestowing through the thing bestowed, you will find the Bestower. Also, each work of the Eternally-Besought-of-All points out the All-Majestic Maker’s Names like a missive. If you succeed in understanding the meaning through the inscription, you will find by means of the Names the One called by those Names. Since you can find out the kernel, the essence, of these transient things, obtain it. You can throw away without pity their meaningless shells, their outer coverings, into the flood of mortality.
Indeed, in the universe there is not a single thing which is not a word of embodied meaning and does not show many of the All-Majestic Maker’s Names. Since beings are words, words of Divine Power, understand their meanings and place them in your heart. Fearlessly cast the letters left without meaning into the wind of transience. After they are gone, do not concern and occupy yourself with them any more.
The worldly mind, which is preoccupied in appearances and whose capital consists of only the knowledge of the material world, cries out despairingly in bewilderment and frustration, as its chains of thought finally end in nothingness and non-existence. It seeks a true way leading to truth. Since the heart has withdrawn from those that set and are mortal, since the heart has abandoned the deceiving beloveds, and since the conscience has turned away from transitory beings, you too, my wretched soul, seek help in ‘I love not the things that set’, and be saved.
See how well Mawlana Jami expressed it, who was intoxicated with the ‘wine’ of love as if he was created from love:
Want only One (the rest are not worth wanting);
Call One (the others will not come to your help);
Seek One (the others are not worth seeking);
See and follow One (the others are not seen all the time; they become invisible behind the veil of mortality);
Know One (knowledge other than that which adds to your knowledge of Him is of no benefit).
Mention One (words not concerning Him may be considered without benefit and useless).
I admit that, O Jami, you spoke the truth absolutely. The True Beloved, the True Sought One, the True Desired One, and the True Object of Worship is He alone.
For, in the mighty circle for the remembrance and recitation of God’s Names, this universe, together with all its beings, in various tongues and different tunes declares, There is no deity but God, and testifies to Divine Oneness. It salves the wound caused by those that set, and, in place of all the deceiving beloveds, points to the Undying Beloved.
By Bediuzzaman Said Nursi