The Ways Beings Worship God
Have you not seen that before God prostrate all that are in the heavens and all that are in the earth, and the sun, and the moon, and the stars, and the mountains, and the trees, and the beasts, and a great number among mankind? There are still a great number unto whom the punishment is justly due. He whom God scorns, there is none to give him honor. Surely God does what He wills. (22:18)
The wise Quran states clearly that everything, from the heavens to the earth, from the stars to flies, from angels to fishes, and from planets to particles, prostrates, worships, praises and glorifies Almighty God. However, their worship varies according to their capacities and the Divine Names with which they have been endowed. The following is to explain one of the varieties of their worship:
For example—God’s is the highest comparison—in building a big city or a magnificent palace, a mighty lord employs four classes of workers.
- The first class are his slaves. The workers in this class have no wages, no salaries. They are content with the indescribable enthusiasm and thrills of joy coming from every item of work they do to please their lord by carrying out his orders. As they praise their lord and enumerate his virtues, they derive more and more pleasure and grow in enthusiasm. They have no further demand than their connection with their noble lord which they know to be a great honor for them. Also they receive spiritual pleasure from supervising in the name of their lord all that is done in his dominion, and watching it from his viewpoint. They feel no need for wages or ranks or promotion.
- The second class consists of ordinary servants. They are also unaware of what kind of universal purposes their employment is for and what sort of significant results it yields. Some of them even imagine that they are employed for the small wage that the lord has determined for them as appropriate and gives them regularly.
- The third class comprises the animals belonging to the lord. He employs them in various works in the construction of that city or palace, and gives them fodder. Also, since they work at jobs fitted to their abilities, they too derive some sort of pleasure. This is why there is a certain pleasure in all activities. The servants in this class are content with their fodder and that pleasure they receive as wages.
- The fourth class are those workers who know what they are doing, and why and for whom they are working, and why the other workers are working, and what purpose the lord pursues in employing them. Workers of this class also have the duties of supervision over the other workers. They get wages in accordance with their ranks.
How Do The Four Classes Of Beings Worship God?
Thus, in exactly the same way, the Lord of the Worlds, Who is the All-Majestic Lord of the heavens and the earth and the All-Gracious Builder of this world and the next, employs—not out of need, for the Creator of everything is He, but for certain instances of wisdom like the requirements of His Might and Honor, and Greatness and Lordship—both angels, and animals, and inanimate objects and plants, and human beings in this palace of the universe, in this realm of causality. He has charged these four classes with different duties of worship particular to each.
The angels and they ways they worship God
The first class are the angels, who are represented in the analogy by the slaves. The angels do not gain promotion by endeavoring; each of them has a fixed, determined rank, but receives a particular pleasure from the work itself and a radiance from worship. That is, the reward of these servants is found in their service. Just as man is nourished by air, water, light, and food, and derives pleasure from them, so are the angels nourished by the lights of remembrance, glorification, worship, knowledge, and love of God, and receive pleasure from them. For, since they are created out of light, light is suficient for their sustenance. Fragrant scents even, which are close to light, are a sort of nourishment for them which they enjoy. Indeed, pure spirits take pleasure in sweet scents.
In the jobs which the angels perform at the command of the One Whom they worship, in the actions they do for His sake, in the service they render in His Name, in the supervision they exercise through His view, in the honor they gain through connection with Him, in the ‘refreshment’ they find in studying both the material and immaterial dimensions of His Kingdom, and in the satisfaction they have in observing the manifestations of His Grace and Majesty, there is such elevated bliss that the human mind cannot comprehend it, and one who is not an angel does not perceive it.
One class of angels are worshippers, and the worship of another class consists in working. The working division of the angels of the earth have a kind of human occupation. If one may say so, one type are like shepherds and another type are like farmers. That is, the face of the earth is like a general farm and an appointed angel superintends all the species of animals on it by the command of the All-Majestic Creator, and by His leave, power and strength, and for His sake. For each species of animal there is a lesser angel who is appointed to act as a kind of shepherd.
The face of the earth is also an arable field where all plants are sown. There is an angel appointed for the supervision of all of them in the Name of Almighty God and by His power. There are also angels of the lower rank who worship and glorify Almighty God by supervising particular species of plants. The Archangel Michael, upon him be peace, who is one of the bearers of God’s Throne of Sustenance—an official of the highest rank whom God employs to veil His acts in the administration of His providing for all His creatures—is the overseer of these of the highest rank.
The angels who are in the position of shepherds and farmers bear no resemblance to human beings, for their supervision is purely for God’s sake, and in His Name and by His Power and command. Their supervision only consists in observing the manifestations of God’s Lordship in the species the supervision of which each is charged with, studying the manifestations of Divine Power and Mercy in it; communicating to that species the Divine commands through some sort of inspiration, and in some way arranging the voluntary actions of the species. Their supervision of the plants in the field of the earth in particular consists in representing in angelic tongue the glorification the plants do in the tongue of their being; proclaiming in the angelic tongue the praises and exaltations the plants offer to the Majestic Creator through their lives, and regulating and employing the faculties given to the plants correctly and directing them towards certain ends. Such services of the angels are actions they do through their partial will-power and a kind of worship and adoration. The angels are not the originators or creators of their actions for on everything is a stamp particular to the Creator of all things. No one else has the smallest part in creation. In short, whatever the angels do forms their worship; it is not of the same sort as the ordinary acts of human beings.
Animals and the ways they worship
The second class of workers in this palace of the universe are animals. Since animals also have an appetitive soul and faculty of partial will, their work is not ‘purely for the sake of God’; to some extent, they take a share for their selves. Therefore, since the Majestic and Munificent Lord of the (Universal) Kingdom is All-Kind and Generous, He grants a wage to them in their work in order to give a share to their selves. For example, the All-Wise Creator employs the nightingale, 24 renowned for the love of the rose, for five aims:
- The nightingale is employed to proclaim in the name of the animal species the intense relationship between them and the plant species.
- The nightingale is an orator of the Lord among the animals, which may be regarded as guests of the All-Merciful One, needy of sustenance, employed to acclaim the gifts sent by the All-Munificent Provider and to announce their joy.
- It is employed to announce on each of the plants the welcome offered to them [by the animals], in return for the help the plants offer to its fellow animals.
- The nightingale announces in the beautiful faces of plants, the intense need of the animal species for plants, which is a need in the degree of love and passion.
- It offers with a most pleasant yearning, a most graceful glorification in a most delicate form like a rose, to the Court of Mercy of the All-Majestic and Gracious and Munificent Lord of All Kingdom.
Like these aims, there are further aims and meanings in God’s employment of the nightingale. The nightingale acts to achieve these aims and meanings for the sake of God. It speaks in its own tongue; we understand these meanings from its touching songs. If, unlike the angels and spirit beings, it does not know exactly the meaning of its songs, this does not harm our understanding. For, it is a widespread saying that ‘one who listens may understand better than the one who speaks’. Like the clock telling you the time although it is unaware of it, that the nightingale does not know these aims in detail does not mean that it is not employed for these aims. As for the nightingale’s wage, it is the delight it derives from looking on the smiling, beautiful roses, and the pleasure it receives from conversing with them and unburdening itself to them. That means, its touching songs are not complaints arising from animal grief, they are rather thanks for the gifts of the All-Merciful One.
You can compare the nightingale with other small animals or insects (such as the bee and the ant), and see that the deeds of each are for certain purposes. For each of them, also, a particular pleasure as wages has been included in their duties. Through that pleasure, they serve certain important aims contained in the creation of the Lord. Like an ordinary seaman getting a small wage for working as a steersman on an imperial vessel, each of the animals employed in the duties which God has assigned to them receives a particular wage.
Every species has a “nightingale” proclaiming their glorification
Never think that singing the praise and glorification of God in this way is particular to the nightingale. Rather, in most species there is a certain individual or individuals like the nightingale that represents the finest feelings of that species with the finest glorification in the finest verse. The ‘nightingales’ of flies and insects, in particular, are both numerous and various. They sing their glorifications in fine poetry to the other members of their species and give them pleasure.
Some of them are nocturnal. The poetry-reciting friends of all small animals sing their praises and glorifications of God when all beings go into the peaceful silence of the night. Each is the leader whom their circle of silent invocation of God’s Names follow in reciting and glorifying by heart their Majestic Creator.
Another group of those animals are diurnal. During daytime in spring and summer, they proclaim the mercy of the Most Merciful and Compassionate One to all living beings from the ‘pulpits’ of trees with their ringing voices, pleasant tunes, and poetic glorifications. As though each were the leader of a circle of loud recitation of God’s Names, they arouse those hearing them to ecstasies and then all those hearers set out to sing the Names of the All-Majestic Creator each in its own particular tongue and tone.
The greatest, most noble and glorious of “nightingales”
That means, every species of beings, and even the stars, have a leading reciter and light-diffusing nightingale. But the most excellent, the noblest, the most illustrious, the most profound, the greatest, and the most honorable nightingale, whose voice is the most lyrical, whose attributes are the most brilliant, whose recitation of God’s Names is the most perfect and comprehensive, whose thanks are the most universal, one with a most perfect identity and most beautiful form, and who brings all the beings of the heavens and the earth in the garden of the universe to ecstasy through his most rhythmic and most pleasant tunes and most exalted glorification, is the Prophet Muhammad, who is the glorious nightingale of humankind, the nightingale with the Koran, upon him, his family, and his peers—the other Prophets—be the best of blessings and peace.
The glorifications and other acts of worship which the animals do in the palace of the universe by carrying out, in utmost obedience to God’s laws of the creation and operation of the universe, the duties required by their existence in an amazing way through the power of God Almighty, are gifts of praise which they offer to the Court of the All-Majestic Creator, the Giver of Life.
Plants and inanimate objects and the ways they worship
The third class of workers are plants and inanimate objects. Since they have no free will, they are not paid certain wages. They do everything they do purely for God’s sake, and by His will and power, and in His Name. However, as is understood from their life cycles, the plants desire some sort of pleasure from carrying out the duty of pollination and producing fruits and seeds. But they suffer no pains at all, while the animals experience pain as well as pleasure owing to enjoying some sort of choice. The work of plants and inanimate objects is more perfect than that of animals because they have no will. Among animal creatures which have some sort of choice, the work of those like the bee which are equipped with a kind of inspiration is more perfect than that of the others which rely on their own will.
The vegetable species in the field of the earth pray and ask of the All-Wise Creator each in the tongue of their beings and potentiality: ‘O Lord! Give us strength so that, by raising the ‘flag’ of our species in every part of the earth, we may proclaim the sovereignty of Your Lordship, and grant us success so that we may worship You in every corner of the mosque of the earth, and enable us to grow in every suitable region of the earth, so that we may display the works of Your Most Beautiful Names and Your Wonderful, invaluable arts.’
Answering the prayer they offer in the tongue of their being, the All-Wise Creator equips the seeds of certain species—like those of the most of thorny plants and some yellow flowers— with tiny ‘wings of hair’, so that they fly away and show the manifestations of Divine Names on behalf of their species. He gives some species beautiful, delicious flesh that is either necessary or pleasure-giving for human beings. He causes man to serve them and plant them everywhere. And to some He gives flesh, hard and indigestible like ‘bone‘, so that animals eat and they then disperse their seeds over a wide area. He equips some with small claws that grip onto all that touch them. They spread around and raise the ‘flag’ of their species, exhibiting the most precious artistry of the Majestic Maker. Still to some species like the bitter melon, He gives the force of a ‘shotgun’ so that, when the time is due, their small melons fall and fire and their seeds are shot to a distance of several meters, and sown. They work so that, together with recitation of His Names, the All-Merciful Maker may be glorified in numerous tongues.
The All-Wise Creator, Who is the All-Powerful and All-Knowing, has created everything beautiful and with perfect orderliness. Also, He has equipped all beings with whatever is necessary for them, and directs them towards agreeable aims and employs them in the most proper duties. He causes them to worship and glorify Him in the best manner. So, O man! If you are truly human, do not mar these beautiful things by such groundless assertions as attributing them to nature or chance and necessity and thereby ‘fouling’ them with absurdity and purposelessness. Do not act in an ugly fashion! Do not be ugly!
Human beings and the ways they worship
The fourth class are human beings. Forming a class among the servants in this palace of the universe, they resemble the angels in their extensive supervision and comprehensive knowledge, and in being the heralds of Divine Lordship. Indeed, man is more comprehensive in nature. Since he has an appetitive soul that is disposed towards evil, contrary to angels, he has a capacity for almost boundless advance or decline. With respect to seeking pleasure for himself in his work and a share for himself, man resembles animals. Since this is so, there are two kinds of wages for man: one is insignificant, animal, and immediate, the other, angelic, universal, and postponed. Without going further in discussing man’s duty and his wages, and his advance or decline, since they were explained in the previous twenty-three Words, particularly in The Eleventh and Twenty-third Words, I ask the Most Merciful of the Merciful to open the doors of Mercy, and enabling me to complete this Word, to forgive me for my shortcomings.
This article has been adapted from Risale- i Nur Collection.