THE FIFTH WORD
The Right Training for Believers
In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate.
Surely God is with those Who refrain from disobeying Him in awe of Him and who do good deeds (as if they saw Him). (16:128)
The allegory below shows how necessary it is to pray and avoid major sins, and that both tasks are directly related to our own nature:
During a war, one private is well-trained and conscientious while another is a recruit and a slave to his self. The first one attends training exercises and struggles against the enemy. He never worries about rations and allowances, because he knows the government will supply the necessary military equipment, food, and medical care. All he has to do is train for war and fight for the country. He helps out by supplying food and working in the kitchen. When asked what he is doing, he responds: “Some of the state’s chores.” He does not say he is working for his living. But the other soldier does not train or fight, for: “It’s none of my business. It’s a government matter.” He cares only about his livelihood, and so deserts the battlefront and goes to the marketplace.
The first soldier advises him: “Brother, you’re supposed to be training to fight for the country. That’s why you’re here. The king will meet your needs, because that’s his duty. You can’t meet all your needs regardless of time or place. As we’re in a state of war, you might be accused of desertion or rebellion and be punished. We have our duty, and the king has his. We prepare to fight, and the king meets our needs.” Imagine what trouble the second soldier will be in if he ignores his friend’s words.
O my indolent soul! The battlefield represents the tumult of worldly life. The army divided into regiments represents humanity divided into nations. That particular battalion stands for an Islamic society. One soldier is a devout and pious Muslim who knows what he is asked to do and so struggles against his self and Satan. The other soldier is a sinner who ignores his duties as a servant, commits many sins, and is so obsessed with his rations and allowances that he even accuses the true Sustainer.
Training represents the daily prayers and other duties required of believers. The war stands for the process through which the spirit achieves everlasting salvation—fighting carnal passions. These two duties are easily understood: The first (the creation and maintenance of life) is the Creator’s responsibility, while the second (beseeching from the Creator and Sustainer and relying on Him totally) is ours.
Only He Who gives life, a most brilliant miracle of the Eternally Besought’s art and a wonder of the Master’s Wisdom, sustains life with provision. Do you need convincing? The weakest and simplest animals are the best fed. The least capable and most vulnerable creatures, such as babies or newborn animals, get the best food. Obtaining food has nothing to do with strength or free will, but of being in need and suffering shortages. See how trees and animals, fish and foxes, as well as babies and young animals and adults and beasts are fed. This should convince you.
Those who ignore their daily prayers to pursue their livelihood are like the soldier who neglects his exercises, deserts the front for fear of hunger, and wanders around the marketplace. In contrast, seeking one’s rations from Earth—the kitchen of the All-Generous Provider’s Mercy—after praying and not burdening others is fine and proper. This too is a kind of worship.
Furthermore, our nature and spiritual being show that we are created to worship God. As for our physical powers and ability to live here, we are in worse shape than sparrows. But in respect to our knowledge, understanding our need, and supplication and worship, which are necessary for our spiritual life and the life of the Hereafter, we are the king and commander of all animate creatures.
O my soul. If you consider this world your major goal and work for it, you will remain only a soldier with no more control over your affairs than a sparrow. But if you move toward the Hereafter, consider this world a field to be sown, a preparation for the other world, and act accordingly, you become the ruler of the animal kingdom, a supplicant of Almighty God, and His favored or indulged guest in this world. You can choose either option. So ask for guidance and success in His way from the Most Compassionate of the Compassionate.