O Lord! I am determined that I will not sacrifice my freedom to anyone but You and I will not fall in humiliation before anyone or anything. I turn to You fully intent on servanthood and worship; my eyes are fixed upon You and no other. I am filled with a desire for submission and prayer. Resolute to distance myself from anything other than You, I wish to always stand opposed to all that You do not like or want.

How would you comment on the Qur’anic verses "You alone do we worship . . .” (Fatiha 1:5) and "This is the Book: there is no doubt about it. A perfect guidance for the God-revering, pious, who keep their duty to God” (Baqara 2:2).?

In this phrase, the object pronoun “You alone” (iyyaka) is placed before the predicate. This implies a very subtle point: “O God, we wholeheartedly proclaim, acknowledge, and confess that it is only You, and none but You that we turn to, bow before, and seek comfort in. We believe that by Your side alone we can attain serenity and peace.” Another point to note here is the tense; instead of abada, which is the past tense, in this verse na’budu is used for “worship”, the same root in the present. In the past, abada connotes “we did, we made, we performed, etc.” Such a tone, however, would in a way be contrary to the nature of worship, for it sounds like an accomplishment, which implies pride, as if the worshipper fulfilled something all by himself or herself.

The present tense form of na’budu implies that the task is not yet finished, which renders such a misinterpretation impossible. Meaning “we worship,” na’budu refers to the intention and determination to acknowledge the eternal impotence and poverty of humankind before His Presence. This can also be paraphrased as follows, “O Lord! I am determined that I will not sacrifice my freedom to anyone but You and I will not fall in humiliation before anyone or anything. I turn to You fully intent on servanthood and worship; my eyes are fixed upon You and no other. I am filled with a desire for submission and prayer. Resolute to distance myself from anything other than You, I wish to always stand opposed to all that You do not like or want. My intention is my greatest worship; I hope that You will accept my intention as my worship. I plead for Your favor, not in proportion to the number of things that I have done, but to those I have intended to do.”

In this phrase, na’budu, “we worship,” also emphasizes that the worshipper is not alone with such thoughts. Hoping that all others are thinking in the same vein, the worshipper proclaims, “In making this request, I am in full concord with all my fellow worshippers.” Through such an indisputable alliance, the worshipper is empowered with confirmation and testimony, and thus he or she turns to the presence of the Almighty Lord Who meets all needs. In this manner, they can relieve themselves of evil involuntary thoughts, and they can enact a complete form of worship toward the Perfect Divinity.

Perfect guidance

This is the Book: there is no doubt about it. A perfect guidance for the God-revering, pious, who keep their duty to God. (Baqara 2:2)

“Guidance,” in this verse is in the infinitive form. Since the infinitive is a verb form, like in other languages, in Arabic it expresses action and engagement; therefore, it implies that individuals cannot find guidance, or, ultimately, the main goal to which it leads, without having exerted any effort. The word also ends with a tanween (indefinite noun-ending with letter nun); a rule in Arabic grammar suggests that if a concept is used in the indefinite/unconditional form, then its perfect meaning is intended. Therefore, there is no doubt that this book is a transcending divine guidance for the pious. It is perfect guidance for the pious, as it is they who are free from the slightest skepticism, and it is they who are ready to comply with both the injunctions of faith (sharia al-garra) and the principles that are in effect in nature (sharia al-fitriyya). The pious are disposed to acknowledge the truth, and since they are not prejudiced, such perfect guidance can be viable for them alone (with the above-mentioned condition that they have to exert effort).

Nevertheless, there is another use of “guidance” at the end of the same page in the Qur’an in the following verse: “Those (illustrious ones) stand on the true guidance from their Lord” (2:5). Here “guidance” is in the form of a verbal noun (while the infinitive form implies human responsibility, the verbal noun is God’s creation). That is, it is a kind of actual guidance God bestows upon His servants, whomever He will, without the intervention of any cause-effect relationship. As far as we can deduce from the conditional in “for the God-revering, pious,” how one attains such guidance is by attaining a true level of piety. Faith and knowledge of God are the first level of ascending on this path, the last being the pleasure of God Almighty. Finally, as clearly expressed in the verse, only those who can live up to such guidance will attain salvation.

It can be derived from the context of this last verse that guidance is dependent upon God’s having created it. However, the behavior and preferences adopted through the exercise of free will are necessary if such guidance is to ensure safety and comfort in this world and if it is to become a means of salvation in the hereafter for humankind.

To conclude, the first “guidance” is a cause and the second is a blissfully granted result. Both are an answer to the prayer of “Guide us to the straight path” in Fatiha (1:7), while serving as guidelines for those on the road.

Note: See Nursi, The Words, Twenty-Sixth word, Sixth Way, for an explanation on verbal noun and infinitive in Arabic grammar.

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