Human beings resemble tender children. Our strength originates in our weakness, and our power in our impotence. All creation has been subjugated to us because of our lack of strength and power. If, therefore, we perceive our weakness and become humble servants to God through verbal and active prayer, if we recognize our impotence and seek God's help, we will have fulfilled our obligation of gratitude for the subjugation of nature to us. In addition, God will enable us to reach our goal and achieve our aims in a way that we could not possibly achieve on our own. Sometimes we wrongly attribute to his own power and ability the attainment of a wish that was obtained through the prayer offered by the tongue of our disposition.
Consider how great a source of power is a chick's weakness, on account of which a mother hen will attack even a lion. Or how the weakness of a lion cub subjugates to itself so great a beast as a lioness, which suffers hunger to feed her baby. How remarkable is the powerful appeal inherent in weakness, and what a spectacular manifestation of Compassion for importunate beings.
In the same way, loved children obtain their goals through weeping, wishing, or making a sad face, all of which can cause mighty people to serve them. If they relied on their own strength, they would never realize any of this. On account of their weakness and powerlessness, in fact, feelings of affection and protection are so motivated in their favor that a single gesture may allow them to subjugate powerful people.
If such children become so arrogant as to deny the care and affection shown to them and say, in accusation of the protection over him: 'I do all this with my own power, they deserve to be punished. We also will deserve to be punished if we deny our Creator's mercy to us by attributing all that we achieve to our own power and knowledge, thereby accusing God's wisdom in ingratitude for what Divine Mercy has bestowed upon us. We will be like Korah, who said: I have been given it [my possessions] on account of my knowledge (28:78).
This shows that our observed dominion in nature, as well as our advancement and progress in civilization and technology, have not been realized solely through our own power, effort, and success. Rather, we largely owe them to our essential weakness and helplessness, which attract Divine aid. Our poverty is the source of Divine provision, our ignorance is made up for by Divine inspiration, and our need draws Divine favors. Also, it is Divine Mercy and Affection, and Divine Wisdom, not our own power and knowledge, that have empowered us with dominion over creation and have put things at our disposal. Only Divine Authority and Compassion enable us, who are so weak that we can be defeated by a blind scorpion and a footless snake, to dress in silk made by a silkworm and to eat the honey produced by a bee.
Since this is the truth, renounce your arrogance and do not put your trust in yourself. Rather, affirm your impotence and weakness in the high presence of God by asking for His help, and by praying and entreating Him. Declare your poverty and insufficiency, and show that you are His true servant. Then say: God is sufficient for us. Most sublime is He in Whom we trust (3:173), and ascend to the higher ranks.
Do not say: 'I am nothing. What significance do I have that the All-Wise Creator should intentionally put creation at my disposal and demand from me universal gratitude? You are almost nothing with respect to your physical being, but your duty or rank makes you are an attentive observer of this magnificent universe, an eloquent tongue of beings declaring the Divine Wisdom, a perceptive student of this book of creation, an admiring overseer of the creatures that glorify God's praise, and a respected master of worshipping beings.
You are an insignificant particle, a poor creature and a weak animal as far as your physical being and soul are counted, and so are carried away by the huge waves of creation. But if you are perfected through the light of belief, which comprises the radiance of Divine love, and through the training of Islam, you will find a kingliness in your being a slave, a comprehensiveness in your particularity, a world in your small entity, and a very high rank in your insignificance. The realm of your supervision of creation will be so broad that you can say: 'My Compassionate Lord has made the world a home for me. He has given me the sun and the moon as lamps, spring as a bunch of roses, summer as a banquet of favors, and the animals as obedient servants. He has put the plants and vegetation at my disposal also, as ornaments and provisions for my home.
In conclusion, if you obey your evil-commanding selfhood and Satan, you will fall to the lowest level. But if you follow the truth and the Qur'an, you will ascend to the highest level and become the most excellent pattern of creation.
We have been sent to this world as guests with a special responsibility and endowed with important potentials. We have been assigned important duties in accordance with these potentials, strongly urged to carry out those duties, and are gravely threatened if we do not. To make the mystery of 'being the best pattern of creation more comprehensible, we summarize the essentials of the worship and duties required of us.
Our worship consists of two aspects. One is implicit and concerns reflection and consciousness. The other is visible prayer, done in direct supplication in God's presence.
The first aspect is that we submissively confirms the Sovereignty of His Lordship over creation, and observe in amazement the works of His Beauty and Perfection. We then draw the attention of our fellow beings to the intricate, ornamented works of art that are manifestations of the sacred Divine Names. We also measure in 'units of due perception and discernment the gems of the Lord's Names, each of which is a hidden spiritual treasure, and evaluate them with grateful hearts.
After this, we make a close study of the pages of creation, the sheets of the Heavens and the Earth, each of which is a missive of Divine Power, and contemplate them in great admiration. As we gaze in amazement and admiration at the subtle ornamentation and refined skills in creation, we ardently desire to know their Beautiful Creator and yearn to enter His Presence, where we hopes to be received into His favor.
The second aspect is that we turn toward our Majestic Creator, Who wants Himself to be known through the miracles of His artistry. We unburden ourselves to Him in sincere belief and try to acquire knowledge of Him. By doing so, we discern that a Compassionate Lord wants Himself to be loved through the beautiful fruits of His Compassion. In response, we makes ourselves loved by Him by devoting our love and adoration to Him.
Seeing that a Generous Provider nourishes us with the best and dearest of His material and spiritual favors, we respond to Him with gratitude and praise, expressed through our works, deeds, lifestyle and, if possible, all our senses and faculties. We then observe that a Lord of Beauty and Majesty manifests Himself in the mirror of beings, and draws attention to His Glory and Perfection, and His Majesty and Beauty. In response, we proclaim: 'God is the Greatest! Glory be to God! and prostrates before Him in wonder and adoration.
He also notices that One of Absolute Riches displays His limitless wealth and treasuries in an infinitely generous fashion. In response, we glorify and praise Him and, displaying our need, ask Him for His favors. Then, observing that the Majestic Creator has arranged the Earth like an exhibition that displays His matchless works, we appreciates them and say: 'What wonders God has willed and created! Confirming their beauty, we say: 'God bless them! Showing our wonder, we say: 'Glory be to God! Expressing our admiration, we say: 'God is the Greatest!
Also, we see that the Unique One demonstrates His Oneness in creation through His particular signs and His unique decrees, and through His inimitable stamps and seals, which He has places on each creature. He inscribes the signs of His Oneness on everything, and raises the flag of His Unity throughout the world, thus proclaiming His Lordship. We respond to this with belief and affirmation, admission of and testimony to His Unity, and with devotion and sincere worship.
We may attain true humanity by all such types of worship and reflection. We may demonstrate that we are the best pattern of creation and, through the grace of faith, become a trustworthy vicegerent of God on this Earth.
Now, those of you who heedlessly go toward the lowest level by misusing your will although you were created as the best pattern of creation, listen to me! To see how ugly is the face of the world that turns toward passions and desires, and, by contrast, how extraordinarily beautiful is its other face that turns toward the Hereafter, look at the 'tables given below.
The First Table
(This table depicts the true spirit of the world of the heedless.)
Do not invite me to the world; I came and found it evil and mortal. Heedlessness was a veil; I saw the light of Truth concealed. All things, the whole of creation, I saw were mortal and full of harm. Existence, indeed I put it on. Alas! It was non-existence and I suffered much. As to life, I experienced it; I saw it was torment within torment. Intellect became pure retribution; I saw permanence to be tribulation. Life was like a wind that passed in whims; I saw perfection to be pure loss. Deeds were only for show; I saw ambitions to be pure pain. Union was in fact separation; I saw the cure to be the ailment. These lights became darkness; I saw these friends to be orphans. These voices were announcements of death; I saw the living to be dead. Knowledge changed into whims; I saw in science thousands of ailments. Pleasures became unmixed pain; I saw existence to be compounded non-existence. I have found the True Beloved; Ah! I suffered much pain because of separation.
The Second Table
(This table describes the true spirit of the world of the people of guidance and peace.)
Heedlessness has disappeared; I have seen the light of Truth to be manifest. Existence is a proof of Divine Being. Life is the mirror reflecting Truth. Intellect has become the key to treasuries. Mortality is the door to eternity. The spark of self-attainment has died. There is the Sun of Grace and Beauty. Life has become pure action. Eternity is pure life. Darkness is a thin membrane enclosing light. There is true life in death. All things have become familiar. All sounds are the recitation of Divine Names. All the particles in creation: Each recites God's Names and glorifies Him. I have found poverty to be a treasury of wealth. In impotence lies perfect power. If you have found God,all things are yours. If you are a slave of the Owner of All Things,His property is yours. If you are egotist and claim self-ownership,it is endless trial and tribulation. It is infinite torment you are to experience,it is an unbearable calamity. If you are truly a slave of God,devoted to Him,it is an infinite delight. Taste its uncountable rewards,experience its boundless bliss... Glory be to You! We know nothing but what you teach us. You are the All-Knowing, the All-Wise. O my Lord, relieve my mind and ease my task. Loosen a knot from my tongue so that they may understand my speech. O God, bestow peace and blessings on Muhammad, his pure, unique essence, who is the light revealing all the mysteries, the manifestation of light, the point upon which manifestations of God's Majesty are centered, the pivot around which the world of His Grace and Beauty revolves. O God, for the mystery of him in his relation to You, and for his journeying toward You, secure me from my fears, protect me from falling, diminish my sorrows, and purify me of my passions. Be with me, take me away from myself unto You, favor me with effacement from myself. Do not leave me obsessed with my self and veiled by my feelings. Unveil to me every mystery. O Eternally Living and Self-Sustaining, O Eternally Living and Self-Sustaining, O Eternally Living and Self-Sustaining! Have mercy upon me, upon my companions, upon all believers, and upon all the people of the Qur'an. Amen. O Most Compassionate of the compassionate, O Most Generous of the generous! The conclusion of their call will be: All praise is due to God, the Lord of all the worlds.
Adapted from Bediuzzaman's Twenty-third Word, Second Chapter.