How Beings Worship God*
Have you not seen that before God prostrate all that is in the heavens and in Earth, and the sun, the moon, the stars, the mountains, the trees, the beasts, and a great number among humanity? There are still a great number unto whom the punishment is justly due. Those whom God scorns, there is none to give them honor. Surely God does what He wills. (22:18)
From the treasure of this comprehensive verse, I will discuss only one jewel: The Qur’an states that everything in creation prostrates, worships, praises, and glorifies Almighty God according to their capacities and the Divine Names that have been bestowed upon them. I explain one type of this worship below.
A mighty lord employs four classes of workers to build a large city or a magnificent palace. The first class, consisting of his slaves, receives no wages or salaries and is content with the indescribable enthusiasm and joy coming from every action, all of which are done to please their lord by carrying out his orders. As these slaves praise him and enumerate his virtues, they derive more pleasure and enthusiasm. They have no further demand than their connection with their lord, which they know to be a great honor. They also receive spiritual pleasure from supervising in their lord’s name all that is done in his dominion and watching it from his viewpoint. They feel no need for wages, rank, or promotion.
The second class consists of ordinary servants who are unaware of the universal purposes behind their employment and what significant results it will yield. Some imagine that they are working for the small wage that the lord pays them regularly. The third class comprises animals used for certain construction-related tasks and deeds. Since their jobs correspond to their abilities, they get some sort of pleasure. This is why there is a certain pleasure in all activities. Members of this class are content with their food and the pleasure they receive as wages. The fourth class consists of those who know what they are doing, why and for whom they are working, why the others are working, and what the lord’s overall purpose is. They supervise other workers and are paid according to their rank.
In exactly the same way, the Lord of the Worlds, the All-Majestic Lord of the heavens and Earth, the All-Gracious Builder of this world and the next, uses angels, animals, inanimate objects, plants, and people in this palace of the universe, in this Realm of Causality. He does this not out of need, as He is the Creator of everything, but for certain instances of wisdom like the requirements of His Might and Honor, Greatness and Lordship. He has charged these four classes with unique duties of worship.
THE FIRST CLASS ARE ANGELS. They are never promoted, for their ranks are fixed and determined. They receive a specific pleasure from the work itself and a radiance from worship. In short, their reward is found in their service. Humanity is nourished by and derives pleasure from air, water, light, and food; angels are nourished by and receive pleasure from the lights of remembrance, glorification, worship, knowledge, and love of God. They are created from light, and so light is sufficient for their sustenance. Even fragrant scents, which are close to light, are a sort of enjoyable nourishment for them, for pure spirits take pleasure in sweet scents.
Working at the command of the One Whom they worship and for His sake, serving in His name and supervising through His view, gaining honor through connection with Him and being “refreshed” by studying His Kingdom’s material and immaterial dimensions, and being satisfied by seeing the manifestations of His Grace and Majesty give them an elevated bliss that the human mind cannot comprehended or perceive.
One class of angels worships and another class works (another form of worship). Working angels have a kind of human occupation. If one may say so, some are like shepherds or farmers. Earth is like a farm, and an appointed angel supervises its animal species by the All-Majestic Creator’s command, leave, power, and strength, and for His sake. Each animal species has a lesser angel appointed as a kind of shepherd.
Earth is an arable field for sowing plants. An angel is appointed to supervise all of them in Almighty God’s name and by His Power. Angels of lower rank worship and glorify Almighty God by supervising specific plant species. Michael, one of the bearers of God’s Throne of Sustenance—an official of the highest rank whom God employs to veil His acts related to providing for all His creatures—superintends these angels.
These angelic shepherds and farmers do not resemble human beings, for they supervise purely for God’s sake, in His name, and by His Power and Command. They only observe the manifestations of God’s Lordship in the species entrusted to them, study the manifestations of Divine Power and Mercy in it, communicate to it the Divine commands through some sort of inspiration, and somehow arrange its voluntary actions.
Their supervision of plants in particular consists of representing, in their angelic tongue, the plants’ glorification made in the tongue of their being. They proclaim in their angelic tongue the praises and exaltations that plants offer to the Majestic Creator through their lives, regulate and use the plants’ faculties correctly, and direct them toward certain ends. Such services are actions done through their partial willpower and a kind of worship and adoration. Angels do not originate or create their actions, for everything bears a stamp particular to the Creator of all things, Who has no co-creators. In short, whatever angels do is their worship and so differs from ordinary human acts.
THE SECOND CLASS ARE ANIMALS. Since animals also have an appetitive soul and a partial will, their work is not “purely for the sake of God” in the sense that, 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 gives them a wage as their share. For example, the All-Wise Creator employs the nightingale, renowned for its love of roses, for five aims:
- To proclaim, in the name of animal species, the intense relationship between them and plant species.
- To be an orator of the Lord among animals, which may be considered guests of the All-Merciful One, in need sustenance, used to acclaiming the gifts sent by the All-Munificent Provider and to announcing their joy.
- To announce on each plant the welcome offered to them [by animals] in return for the help plants offer animals.
- To announce, in plants’ beautiful faces, animals’ intense need for plants, a need in the degree of love and passion.
- To offer, with a most pleasant yearning, a most graceful glorification and in a most delicate rose like form, to the Court of Mercy of the All-Majestic and Gracious and Munificent Lord of All Kingdom.
God uses the nightingale for other aims and meanings. The nightingale acts to achieve these aims and meanings for His sake. It speaks in its own tongue, and we understand these meanings from its touching songs. If, unlike angels and spirit beings, it does not know exactly what its songs mean, this does not harm our understanding, for “one who listens may understand better than one who speaks.” A clock tells the time although it is unaware of it; a nightingale’s lack of detailed knowledge about these aims does not mean that it is not used for these aims. Its wage is the delight it derives from looking on smiling, beautiful roses, as well as the pleasure it receives from talking with them and unburdening itself to them. In other words, its touching songs are not complaints arising from animal grief, but rather are thanks for the All-Merciful One’s gifts.
Compare the nightingale with other small animals or insects, and you will see that each works for certain purposes. Through a particular pleasure, included in their duties as wages, they serve certain important aims contained in the Lord’s creation. Like an ordinary sailor receiving a small wage for working as a steersman on an imperial vessel, each animal employed in its God-assigned duty receives a particular wage.
A complementary note: Singing God’s praise and glorification in this way is not unique to the nightingale. Most species contain one or more members that, like the nightingale, represent its species’ finest feelings with the finest glorification in the finest verse. The numerous and various “nightingales” of flies and insects, in particular, sing their glorifications in fine poetry to other members of their species and give them pleasure.
Some are nocturnal. The poetry-reciting friends of all small animals sing their praises and glorifications of God when all beings enter night’s peaceful silence. Each leads and is followed by their circle of silent invocation of God’s Names in reciting and glorifying their Majestic Creator with their hearts. Another group is diurnal. During daytime in spring and summer, they proclaim the Most Merciful and Compassionate One’s mercy of the all living beings from the “pulpits” of trees with their ringing voices, pleasant tunes, and poetic glorifications. As though each led a circle of loud recitation of God’s Names, they arouse their audiences to ecstasy. This causes each species to begin singing the Names of the All-Majestic Creator in its own particular tongue and tone.
Thus every species of beings, even stars, has a leading reciter and light-diffusing nightingale. The most excellent, noble, illustrious, and profound, as well as the greatest and most honorable nightingale, is Prophet Muhammad. His voice is the most lyrical, his attributes are the most brilliant, his recitation of God’s Names is the most perfect and comprehensive, and his thanks are the most universal. He has a most perfect identity and a most beautiful form, and brings all the beings in creation to ecstasy through his most rhythmic and most pleasant tunes and most exalted glorification. He is the glorious nightingale of humanity, the nightingale with the Qur’an. May the best of blessings and peace upon him, his Family, and his peers—the other Prophets.
Thus the glorifications and other acts of worship done by animals, in utmost obedience to God’s laws of the universe’s creation and operation, as well as the duties required by their existence in an amazing way through God Almighty’s power, are gifts of praise offered to the Court of the All-Majestic Creator, the Giver of Life.
THE THIRD CLASS OF WORKERS are plants and inanimate objects that receive no wages, for they have no free will. Whatever they do is done purely for God’s sake, by His Will and Power, and in His Name. However, as understood from their life cycles, they desire some sort of pleasure from carrying out the duty of pollination and producing fruits and seeds. But they suffer no pain, while animals experience both pain and pleasure because they have some degree of choice. The fact that plants and inanimate objects have no will makes their work more perfect than that of animals. Among animal creatures possessing some sort of choice, the work of those like the bee, which are equipped with a kind of inspiration, is more perfect than those that rely on their own will.
Vegetable species 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 throughout Earth, we may proclaim Your Lordship’s sovereignty. Grant us success so that we may worship You in every corner of the mosque of Earth. Enable us to grow in every suitable region, so that we may display the works of Your Most Beautiful Names and Your Wonderful, invaluable arts.” In response, the All-Wise Creator equips the seeds of certain species (e.g., many thorny plants and some yellow flowers) with tiny “wings of hair” so they can fly away and manifest the 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 us to serve them and plant them everywhere.
Others receive a hard and indigestible “bone” like flesh so that animals can eat them and then disperse their seeds over a wide area. He equips some with small claws that grip onto whatever touches them. They spread around and raise the “flag” of their species, exhibiting the most precious artistry of the Majestic Maker. To still other species, such as the bitter melon, He gives the force of a “shotgun” so that when the time is due, small melons fall and “shoot” their seeds to a distance of several meters so that they may be 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. He has equipped all beings with whatever they need, directs them toward agreeable aims, and uses them in the most proper duties. He causes them to worship and glorify Him in the best manner. So if you are truly human, do not deform these beautiful things by asserting that they were created by nature, chance, or necessity. Do not foul them thereby with absurdity and purposelessness. Do not act in an ugly fashion, and do not be ugly.
THE FOURTH CLASS ARE HUMAN BEINGS. Forming a class among the servants, they resemble angels in their extensive supervision and comprehensive knowledge, and in being the heralds of Divine Lordship. Indeed, we are more comprehensive in nature. Since we have an appetitive soul disposed toward evil (angels do not), we have the potential for almost boundless advance or decline. As we seek pleasure and a share for ourselves in our work, we resemble animals. Given this, we can receive two kinds of wages: one is insignificant, animal, and immediate; the other is angelic, universal, and postponed. Such matters have been discussed elsewhere, particularly in the Eleventh and Twenty-third words.
* The Twenty-fourth Word / Fourth Branch