THE ELEVENTH WORD
Creation and Prayer
In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate.
By the sun and its brightness, the moon when it follows it, the day when it reveals it, the night when it enshrouds it, heaven and He Who built it, Earth and He Who spread it, and the soul and Him Who perfected it. (91:1-7)
If you want to understand something of His purposes for creating humanity and the universe, and why the five daily prayers are obligatory, listen to this parable: A king had a vast treasury of precious stones and buried treasuries known only to him. He was well-versed in all industries, and had a vast knowledge of all artistic and scientific disciplines. As anyone who has beauty and perfection naturally tends to show them to others,20 he wanted to build a palace that would show his kingdom’s magnificence, his wealth’s splendor and extent, and the wonderful products of his artistry and skill. He also desired to behold his beauty and perfection with his own discerning eye and through the eyes of others.
And so he began to build a very large, magnificent palace. Dividing it into many apartments and rooms, he decorated it with his finest and most beautiful works of art, and embellished it with his precious stones. Designing it according to artistic and scientific principles and disciplines, he furnished it with the miraculous products of his knowledge. Finally, he prepared delicious specific foods and drinks for each family that would live therein, and provided them so elaborately, generously, and artistically that each food seem to be derived from at least 100 separate skills.
Then, the king settled some of his subjects in the palace. He sent his aide-de-camp to explain why he had built it, the rules they had to obey, what kind of being the king was, and about the palace’s architecture, decorations, furniture, and ornaments. The king told his aide-de-camp to explain how the palace’s structures, designs, and contents demonstrate his artistry and perfections, and how those dwelling in it can please him.
The aide-de-camp had many students, and each of his numerous assistants was deputed for a certain apartment. Standing among his students, he addressed the audience:
O people! Our master, who owns this palace, built it to make himself known to you. In return, know and recognize him properly. He wants to make himself lovable to you through these ornaments. In return, appreciate his artistry and commend him for his works, thereby making yourselves loved by him. His favors demonstrate his love for you, so love him by obeying him. His offerings display his care and compassion for you, so thank him by showing your respect for him. Through the works of his perfection, the master wants to show his beauty and grace. In return, exhibit a great desire to see him and secure his attention. By setting his special stamp, which cannot be copied, on everything you see, he demonstrates that he is unique, absolutely independent and without partner, that this palace and its contents are his work and belong to him exclusively. So, acknowledge his uniqueness, absolute independence, and having no partner.
The aide-de-camp continued his address. The palace’s inhabitants were of two types. People in the first group, sensible and aware of themselves, saw the palace’s wonders and concluded that everything had a purpose. While thinking about this, they listened to the aide-de-camp and learned what those purposes were. They did what the king wanted, and so pleased him. In return, the king invited them to a far larger and indescribably more beautiful palace, wherein he gave them all kinds of eternal bounties and blessings.
People in the second group were morally corrupt, unaware, and lacked sound reasoning. They only saw delicious food and did not understand the meaning behind the decorations and embellishments. Ignoring the address and directives of the aide-de-camp and his assistants, they focused on eating and sleeping. After drinking forbidden beverages, they became drunk, bothered the servants and guests, and broke the rules. So, the king imprisoned them.
In short, the glorious king built the palace for the purposes explained by his aide-de-camp. Realizing these purposes depends on two things. First, if the aide-de-camp did not exist, those purposes would be as nothing, for a book without a teacher to explain it is only a pack of sheets. Second, the aid-de-camp must be obeyed, for his existence is the reason for creating the palace, and its inhabitants’ obedience is the reason for maintaining it. Without an aide-decamp to make the palace known to its inhabitants and tell them of the king’s will, the latter would not have built it. Also, if they ignore the king’s instructions, the palace will be destroyed.
If you understand this, reflect upon its meaning. The palace is this world, whose roof is the heavens illuminated with smiling stars, whose floor is Earth’s surface embellished with many kinds of flowers. The king is the Most Holy One, the Eternal King, Whom the seven firmaments and Earth, along with all their contents, glorify and extol in tongues specific to each. He is such a Powerful King that He created the heavens and Earth in 6 days.21 Seated on His Throne of Lordship (that is, through His Lordship’s continuous manifestations),22 He alternates day and night like a white and a black thread, to inscribe His signs on the vast sheet of the universe. He is One, All-Majestic and Powerful, to Whom the sun, the moon, and the stars are all subjugated.
The palace’s rooms are the thousands of worlds, each designed, furnished, and decorated in a specific way. The finest and most beautiful works of art are what we see here, each of which is a miracle of Divine Power; the foods are the wonderful fruits of Divine Mercy that we see here, especially in summer; and the kitchen is the fire in Earth’s center and the sun’s heat. The precious stones are manifestations of the Divine Sacred Names, and the embellishments are the well-ordered, finely made beings and perfectly proportioned inscriptions of the Pen of the Power that adorn this world and point to the Names of the Majestic All-Powerful One.
The aide-de-camp is our master Prophet Muhammad. His assistants are all other Prophets, and his students are all saints and purified scholars. The servants are angels, the palace’s inhabitants are jinn and humanity, and the invited guests are those animals created to serve humanity. The first group of people are believers, students of the Qur’an that interprets the verses of the Book of the Universe. The second group are the unbelievers and rebels, “deaf and dumb” misguided people who, obeying their carnal selves and Satan, accept only the worldly life and so place themselves below animals.
The first group, the good and spiritually prosperous people, listened to the master’s message of intellectual enlightenment and spiritual well-being, the path of prosperity in both worlds. That master is a worshipping servant in regard to servanthood, who describes his Master and makes Him known to people; his community’s envoy in Almighty God’s court; and a Messenger in regard to Messengership, who communicates his Master’s commandments to humanity and jinn via the Qur’an.
These people found themselves in elevated stations and invested with many subtle and pleasing duties of the prescribed prayer, the index of all varieties of worship:
- FIRST: They saw the Divine works and, seeing themselves in the station of objective observers of the Kingdom of Divine Lordship’s wonders, said “God is the Greatest” while glorifying and extolling Him.
- SECOND: Seeing themselves in the station of announcing the Divine Sacred Names’ precious manifestations, they praised and esteemed Him as the All-Holy via these words: “Glory be to God. All praise be to God.”
- THIRD: In the station of tasting and perceiving (with their outer and inner senses) the bounties stored in Divine Mercy’s treasuries, they gave thanks and praised Him.
- FOURTH: In the station of weighing the jewels in the Divine Names’ treasuries with the scales of their mental and spiritual faculties, they praised and declared God to be without fault.
- FIFTH: In the station of studying the Master’s Messages written on the lines of Destiny by the Pen of His Power, they contemplated and commended Him.
- SIXTH: In the station of observing the subtle beauties and delicacies in the creation of things, as well as in the art of creation and declaring God to be without fault, they set out to fulfill their duty of loving and yearning for their Majestic Originator and Gracious Maker.
Therefore, while observing the universe and its contents, they addressed God indirectly and did all duties of worship in the stations mentioned above. Then, seeing the Wise Maker’s actions and the way He acts, they were amazed by the realization of how the Majestic Creator makes Himself known to conscious beings through the miracles of His art.
In direct response, they proclaimed in His presence: “Glory be to You. We cannot know You as required by Your knowledge—as the duty of knowing You requires. What makes You known are Your miracles displayed in Your creatures.” In response to the All-Merciful making Himself loved through the lovely fruits of His Mercy, they proclaimed in love and ecstasy: You alone do we worship, and from You alone do we seek help (1:5). In response to the Real Giver of Bounties exhibiting His Care and Compassion through His decorous gifts, they thanked and praised Him, saying: “Glory be to You, and all praise be to You.” In other words:
You are so worthy of thanks and praise that all Your favors in the universe praise You in the tongue of their disposition. All Your bounties arranged and exhibited in the world’s market and on Earth’s face declare Your praise and commendation. The beautiful, well-proportioned fruits and produce of Your Mercy and Graciousness on Earth in due measure and quantity bear witness to Your Generosity and Magnificence, and thereby thank You before the eyes of all creatures.
In response to His displaying His Grace, Majesty, Perfection, and Grandeur in the “mirrors” of creatures constantly recruited and renewed, they stated:
“God is the Greatest,” and bowed before Him in due perception of their own impotence. Afterward, they prostrated in humility and with wonder and love. Then, before the All-Wealthy One’s display of His Wealth’s abundance and His Mercy’s comprehensiveness, they showed their poverty and need by praying: From You alone do we seek help (1:5).
In response to the Majestic Maker’s exhibition of His art’s subtlety and wonder through animate beings, they showed their appreciation by saying: “What (wonders) God has willed,” and their commendation by saying: “How beautifully they have been made.” Continuing to observe, they said: “God bless them. How wonderfully they have been made,” and testified to Him by proclaiming their belief. In full admiration, they called everyone to witness the same: “Come and see! Attach yourselves to the way to prosperity!”
In response to the Eternal King’s declaration of His Lordship’s Kingdom and His Oneness’ manifestation throughout the universe, they believed in and confirmed His Unity, and showed their obedience and submission by saying: “We have heard and obeyed.” To the manifestation of the Lord of the Worlds’ Divinity, they responded with worship by declaring their impotence embedded in weakness, their poverty embedded in need, and the prescribed prayer (the essence of worship).
While in that huge mosque of the world, they devoted themselves to these and similar duties of worship and so assumed the best pattern of creation. Above all other creatures, they became God’s trustworthy vicegerents, equipped with the blessing of belief and trustworthiness.23 After this trial and testing, and to recompense their devotion to Islam, their Munificent Lord rewarded their belief with eternal happiness and invited them to the Abode of Peace.
There, out of His Mercy, He bestowed on them dazzling bounties beyond description and imagination, and eternity and everlasting life. The observing and reflecting lovers of an eternal, abiding beauty will go to eternity. Such is the end and final station of the Qur’an’s students. May Almighty God include us among them. Amen!
Members of the second group, all of them sinners and wicked people, entered the palace of this world at the age of discretion.24 Disbelieving the evidence of Divine Oneness and ungrateful for the bounties, they insulted all creatures by accusing them of being worthless, and rejected and denied the Divine Names’ manifestations. In sum, they committed an infinite error in a short time and deserved eternal punishment.
We have been given this capital of life and human faculties to spend on the duties mentioned above. Given this, our duty is not restricted to living an easy life (according to the requisites of modern corrupt civilization) and gratifying our carnal desires. Nor are our delicate senses and abilities, sensitive faculties and organs, well-ordered members and systems, and inquisitive senses and feelings included in the “machine” of our life (our body) to satisfy the base, carnal self’s low desires.
Rather, they were included therein and made a part of our nature for two reasons: First, to make us feel all varieties of the bounties bestowed by the Real Giver of Bounties, and to urge us to be grateful. So, feel them and be grateful to Him. Second, to make known and urge us to experience all manifestations of each Divine Sacred Name seen in the universe. So experience and know them, and believe. If we can realize these aims, we can gain human perfection and become true human beings.
As shown in the following parable, we were not given our human faculties only to earn our worldly sustenance: A master gave a servant 20 gold coins and told him to buy a suit of a particular cloth. The servant bought and then wore a fine suit made from the best quality of cloth. The master gave another servant 1,000 gold coins, put a written list in his pocket, and sent him to do some trade. Obviously the money was not to be used for clothes. So if the second servant did not read the list, but rather chose to imitate the other servant by buying a suit with the money given to him, and, moreover, received a suit of the worst possible quality, would not his master reprimand and punish him severely for his stupidity?
O my carnal self and my friend! You are not sent here to spend your life’s capital and your vital potentials on material pleasures and this transient life. If you do, you will fall to the lowest ranks, although you are far superior with regard to “capital” than the most developed animal.
O my heedless self! If you want some understanding of your life’s aim and nature, apparent form and meaning, and the perfect happiness in your life, weigh on the scales of your body’s senses the bounties stored in Divine Mercy’s treasuries and offer thanks on your body’s behalf. Through the feelings, tendencies, and faculties embedded in your nature, discover the hidden treasuries—the works and manifestations—of the Divine Sacred Names and then recognize the Most Holy One through those Names.
In this place of exhibition, consciously display through your life the Divine Names’ subtle manifestations in your being [such as your senses, faculties, and abilities] before all creation. Proclaim your worship and servanthood to the Court of the Creator’s Lordship, verbally and through the tongue of your disposition. In the manner of a soldier who, appearing before the king with the decorations received from him, displays the marks of the king’s favor, consciously adorn yourself with the “jewels” of subtle human senses and faculties embedded in your being through the Divine Names’ manifestations and present yourself before the Eternal Witness.
Other living beings worship and glorify their Creator by consciously or unconsciously obeying the laws He established for their lives. This is the main purpose for their creation and life. Thus you should consciously observe their obedience to Him, their worship and glorification of Him, and reflect on and testify to these deeds.
Using your defective attributes (e.g., partial knowledge, power, and will) as units of measurement, recognize the Majestic Creator’s absolute Attributes and sacred Qualities. For example, you can build a beautiful and well-ordered house by using your limited attributes, so understand that the Maker of this palace of the universe is far more powerful, wise, and capable. As for the Creator’s Oneness and the Maker’s Lordship, you can and should perceive how each being proclaims them in its own language. From your impotence and weakness, poverty and need, infer the degrees of the Divine Power’s manifestations and the Master’s Richness. Just as food’s pleasures and varieties are understood or distinguished according to your hunger and need, understand the degrees of infinite Divine Power and Richness through your infinite impotence and poverty.
Briefly, those are the aims of your life, the nature of which can be summarized as follows: It is an index of wonders originating in the Divine Names, a measure to consider the Divine Attributes, a unit to know the worlds in the universe, a catalogue of the macrocosm, a map of the universe and its fruit or compressed form, a set of keys with which to open Divine Power’s hidden treasuries, and a most excellent pattern of the Divine perfections reflected in creatures and manifested through time.
The following describes the apparent, observable form of your life and its meaning: Your life is an inscribed word, a wisdom-displaying word written by the Pen of Power. Observed and sensed, it points to the Divine Beautiful Names. Your life’s meaning is to be a mirror to reflect the Divine manifestation of Divine Oneness and the Divine manifestation as the Eternally-Besought-of-All. Through its comprehensiveness as the focal point for all Divine Names shown in the world, it functions as a mirror to reflect the Single and Eternally Besought One.
As for the perfection of your life in happiness, it is to perceive and love the lights of the Eternal Sun pictured in the mirror of your life, to display ardor for Him as a conscious being, to be enraptured with love of Him, and to establish His Light’s reflection in the center of your heart. As a result of all this, a hadith qudsi expresses your rank among the highest ranks by saying: “(God said): I am not contained in the heavens and Earth, but I am contained in the believer’s heart.”
So, my selfhood! Your life was given to you so that you could realize such sublime aims. As you have the potential to acquire such priceless treasures, how can you even think of wasting it on gratifying fleeting carnal desires and seeking transient worldly pleasures? So as not to waste it, reflect on the oaths and the following truths in the verses below and act accordingly:
By the sun and its morning brightness; by the moon when it follows it; by the day when it reveals it; by the night when it enshrouds it; by heaven and He Who built it; by Earth and He Who spread it; by the soul and Him Who perfected it, and inspired it (with conscience) of what is wrong for it and what is right for it. He is indeed prosperous who purifies it, and he has indeed failed who corrupts it. (91:1-10)
O God! Bestow blessings and peace on the sun of the sky of Messengership, on the moon of the constellation of Prophethood, and on his Family and Companions, who are the stars of guidance. Have mercy upon us and all believers. Amen! Amen! Amen!
20 Especially beauty and perfection that is admired by all and beneficial to others. (Tr.)
21 Like the Bible, the Qur’an mentions that God created the universe in 6 days. However, the Qur’an never mentions mornings and evenings, and presents “day” as a relative period whose measure is unknown. See 22:47, 32:5, and 70:4: (Tr.)
22 The original word translated as “Lord” is Rabb. It denotes God as One Who brings up, trains, educates, sustains, and administers His creatures. Note: It must not be confused with the Christian understanding of “Lord,” namely, Jesus Christ as the “Son of God.” (Tr.)
23 God’s vicegerency is defined as humanity being the “means” used by God to execute His commands on Earth and ruling on it according to His laws. (Tr.)
24 Islam considers a person to have reached the “age of discretion” when he or she becomes physically mature.