Fourth Branch: The explanation of the following verse: Everything prostrates before Almighty Allah. The specific worship of beings.
Are you not aware that before Allah prostrate themselves all that are in the heavens and all that are on earth - the sun, and the moon, and the stars, and the mountains, and the trees, and the beasts, and a great number among mankind? But a great number are such as are fit for punishment; and such as Allah shall disgrace, none can raise to honour; for, verily, Allah does what He wills. (Qur’an, 22:18.)
We shall point out only a single jewel from the treasure of this extensive and sublime verse. It is as follows:
The All-Wise Qur’an states clearly that everything, from the heavens to the earth, from the stars to flies, from angels to fishes, and from planets to particles, prostrates, worships, praises and glorifies Almighty Allah. But their worship varies according to their capacities and the Divine Names that they manifest; it is all different. We shall explain one of the varieties of their worship with a comparison.
For example, And Allah’s is the highest similitude, when a mighty lord of all dominion builds a city or splendid palace, he employs four categories of workers.
THE FIRST CATEGORY are his slaves and bondsmen. This sort receive no wage or remuneration, but for each item of work that they carry out through their lord’s command, they experience a subtle pleasure and pleasant eagerness. Whatever they utter by way of praise and description of their lord increases their pleasure and eagerness. Knowing their connection with their holy lord to be a great honour, they content themselves with that. Also they find pleasure from looking to their work with the view of their lord, and for his sake and in his name. They are not in need of any wage, rank, or remuneration.
THE SECOND CATEGORY are ordinary servants. They do not know why they are working or that they are being employed by the glorious lord. He causes them to work through his own ideas and knowledge and gives them an appropriately small wage. These servants are unaware of what various and comprehensive aims and exalted matters result as a consequence of their work. Some of them even imagine that their work concerns themselves alone and has no aim besides their wage.
THE THIRD CATEGORY: The lord of all dominion has some animals which he employs in various jobs in the construction of the city and palace. He only gives them fodder, but their working at tasks suitable for their abilities gives them pleasure. For, if a potentiality or ability is realized in action and work, there is a breathing in and expansion and this results in pleasure. The pleasure to be had from all activity stems from this. The wage and remuneration of this sort of servant, then, is only fodder and that pleasure.
THE FOURTH CATEGORY are workers who know what they are doing, and why and for whom they are working, and why the other workers are working, and what the purpose of the lord of all dominion is, and why he is causing them to work. Workers of this category are therefore bosses and supervisors over the other workers. They receive remuneration that is graded according to their rank and degree.
In exactly the same way, the Sustainer of All the Worlds, Who is the All-Glorious Lord of the heavens and the earth and the All-Beauteous Builder of this world and the hereafter, employs both angels, and animals, and inanimate beings and plants, and human beings in the palace of this world, in this realm of causality. He employs them not out of need, for the Creator of everything is He, but for certain instances of wisdom, like the functioning of His might, sublimity, and dominicality. He causes them to worship and has charged these four categories with different duties of worship.
The First Category is the angels, who are represented in the comparison by the slaves. For the angels there is no endeavour and progress; they all have their fixed station and determined rank, and receive a particular pleasure from the work itself and an emanation from their worship. That is to say, the reward of these servants is found within their duties. Just as man is nourished by air, water, light, and food, and receives pleasure from them, so are the angels nourished by the varieties of remembrance, glorification, praise, worship, knowledge, and love of Allah, and take pleasure in them. For, since they are created out of light, light is sufficient for their sustenance. Fragrant scents, even, which are close to light, are a sort of nourishment for them which they enjoy. Indeed, good spirits take pleasure in sweet smells.
Furthermore, there is in the tasks that the angels perform at the command of the One Whom they worship, in the work they accomplish for His sake, in the service they discharge in His name, in the supervision they execute through His favour, in the honour they gain through their connection with Him, in the immaculateness they attain through studying His dominion in both its outer face and its face which looks to Him, and in the ease they find through beholding the manifestations of His beauty and glory, such sublime bliss that the human mind cannot comprehend it, and one who is not an angel cannot perceive it.
One sort of the angels are worshippers, and the worship of another sort is in work. Of the angels of the earth, the sort that are workers have a kind of human occupation. If one may say so, one type are like shepherds and another like farmers. That is to say, the face of the earth is like a general farm and an appointed angel supervises all the species of animals within it through the command of the All-Glorious Creator, and with His permission, for His sake and through His power and strength. And for each species of animal there is a lesser angel who is is appointed to act as a special shepherd.
The face of the earth is also a place of cultivation; the plants are all sown in it. There is an angel charged with supervising them in the name of Allah Almighty and through His power, and there are angels who are lesser than him and who worship and glorify Allah by supervising particular species. The Archangel Michael (Peace be upon him), who is one of the bearers of the throne of sustenance, is the most important overseer of these.
The angels who are in the position of shepherd and farmer do not bear any resemblance to human beings, for their supervision is purely for the sake of Almighty Allah, and in His name and through His power and command. Their supervision of animals consists only of beholding the manifestations of dominicality in the species where they are employed; studying the manifestations of power and mercy in it; making known to that species the Divine commands by way of a sort of inspiration; and in some way ordering the voluntary actions of the species.
Their supervision of the plants in the field of the earth in particular consists of representing the plants’ glorification in the angelic tongue; proclaiming in the angelic tongue the salutations the plants offer to the All-Glorious Creator through their lives; and employing the faculties given to plants correctly and directing them towards certain aims and ordering them to some extent. These duties of the angels are meritorious actions of a sort by reason of the angels’ faculty of will. Indeed, they are a kind of worship and adoration. But the angels have no real power of disposal, for on everything is a stamp peculiar to the Creator of all things. Another’s hand cannot interfere in creation. That is to say, this sort of work of the angels forms their worship. It is not a custom like with human beings.
The Second Category of workers in this palace of the universe are animals. Since animals also have an appetitive soul and faculty of will, their work is not ‘purely for the sake of Allah;’ to some extent, they take a share for their souls. Therefore, since the Glorious and Munificent Lord of All Dominion is all-generous, He bestows a wage on them during their work so that their souls receive a share. For example, the All-Wise Creator employs the famous nightingale,1 renowned for his love of the rose, for five aims.
First Aim: It is the official employed to proclaim in the name of the animal species the intense relationship that exists between them and the plant species.
Second Aim: It is a dominical orator from among the animals, who are like guests of the All-Merciful One needy for sustenance, employed to acclaim the gifts sent by the All-Generous Provider, and to announce their joy.
Third Aim: It is to announce to everyone the welcome offered to plants, which are sent for the assistance of his fellow animals.
Fourth Aim: It is to announce, over the blessed heads and to the beautiful faces of plants, the intense need of the animal species for them, which reaches the degree of love and passion.
Fifth Aim: It is to present with acute yearning at the Court of Mercy of the All-Glorious and Beauteous and Munificent Lord of All Dominion a most graceful glorification inspired by the truly delicate face of the rose.
There are further meanings similar to these five aims, and they are the purpose of the deeds the nightingale performs for the sake of Truth (All glory be unto Him and may He be exalted). The nightingale speaks in his own tongue, but we understand these meanings from his plaintive words. If he himself does not altogether know the meaning of his own song like the angels do, it does not impair our understanding. The saying, “One who listens understands better than the one who speaks” is well-known. Also, the nightingale does not show that he does not know these aims in detail, but this does not mean that they do not exist. At least he informs you of them like a clock informs you of the time. What difference does it make if he does not know? It does not prevent you from knowing.
However, the nightingale’s small wage is the delight he experiences from gazing on the smiling, beautiful roses, and the pleasure he receives from conversing with them and pouring out his woes. That is to say, his sorrowful song is not a complaint arising from animal grief, it is thanks in return for the gifts of the Most Merciful. Compare the bee, the spider, the ant, creeping insects, the male animals that are the means of reproduction, and the nightingales of all small creatures, with the nightingale: the deeds of all of them have numerous aims. For them, too, a particular pleasure, like a small wage, has been included in their duties. Through that pleasure, they serve the important aims contained in dominical art. Just as an ordinary seaman acts as helmsman on an imperial ship and receives a small wage, so do the animals employed in duties of glorification each receive a small wage.
An Addendum to the Discussion on the Nightingale: However, do not suppose this proclaiming and heralding and these songs of glorification are peculiar to the nightingale. In most species there is a class similar to the nightingale that consists of a fine individual or individuals which represent the finest feelings of that species with the finest glorification and finest poetry. The nightingales of flies and insects, in particular, are both numerous and various. Through their humming poetry they make all animals with ears, from the largest to the smallest, hear their glorifications, and give them pleasure.
Some of them are nocturnal. These poetry-declaiming friends of all small animals are their sweet-voiced orators when all beings are plunged into the silence and tranquillity of the night. Each is the centre of a circle of silent recollection, an assembly in solitude, to which all the others listen, and, in a fashion, recollect and extol the All-Glorious Creator in their own hearts.
Another sort are diurnal. By day, in spring and summer, they proclaim the mercy of the Most Merciful and Compassionate One to all animate beings from the pulpits of the trees with their ringing voices, subtle songs, and poetic glorifications. It is as if, like the leader of a gathering for the recitation of Allah’s Names induces the ecstasy of those participating, all the creatures listening start to praise the All-Glorious Creator each in its own special tongue and with a particular chant.
That is to say, every sort of being, and even the stars, have a chief-reciter and light-scattering nightingale. But the most excellent, the most noble, the most luminous, the most dazzling, the greatest and the most honourable nightingale, whose voice was the most ringing, whose attributes the most brilliant, whose recitation the most complete, whose thanks the most universal, whose essence was the most perfect, and whose form the most beautiful, who brought all the beings of the heavens and the earth in the garden of the universe to ecstasy and rapture through his subtle poetry, his sweet song, his exalted glorification, was the glorious nightingale of human kind, the nightingale of the Qur’an: Muhammad the Arabian, Upon whom and upon whose Family and those who resemble him be the best of blessings and peace.
To Conclude: The animals, who serve in the palace of the universe, conform with complete obedience to the creational commands and display perfectly in the name of Almighty Allah the aims included in their natures. The glorification and worship they perform by carrying out the duties related to their lives in this wonderful fashion through the power of Allah Almighty, are gifts and salutations which they present to the Court of the All-Glorious Creator, the Bestower of Life.
The Third Category of Workers are plants and inanimate creatures. Since they have no faculty of will, they receive no wage. Their work is ‘purely for the sake of Allah,’ and in His name, on His account, and through His will, power and strength. However, it may be perceived from their growth and development that they receive a sort of pleasure from their duties of pollination and producing seeds and fruits. But they experience no pain at all. Due to their will, animals experience pain as well as pleasure. Since will does not enter into the work of plants and inanimate beings, their work is more perfect than that of animals, who have will. Among those who possess will, the work of creatures like the bee which are enlightened by revelation and inspiration is more perfect than the work of those animals which rely on their faculty of will.
All the species of plants in the field of the face of the earth pray and ask of the All-Wise Creator through their tongues of disposition and potentiality: “O our Sustainer! Give us strength so that by raising the flag of our species in every part of the earth, we may proclaim the splendour of Your dominicality; and grant us prosperity so that we may worship You in every corner of the mosque of the earth; and bestow on us the power to spread and travel in order to exhibit through our particular tongue the embroideries of Your Most Beautiful Names and Your wonderful, antique arts.”
The All-Wise Creator answers their silent prayer and bestows on the seeds of one species tiny wings made of hair: they fly away spreading everywhere. They cause the Divine Names to be read in the name of their species. (Like the seeds of most thorned plants and some yellow flowers.) He gives to some species beautiful flesh that is either necessary or pleasant for human beings; He causes man to serve them and plant them everywhere. To some He gives, covering a hard and indigestible bone, flesh that animals eat so that they disperse the seeds over a wide area. On some He bestows small claws that grip onto all who touch them; moving on to other places, they raise the flag of the species and exhibit the antique art of the All-Glorious Maker. And to some species, like to the bitter melon, He gives the force of a buckshot rifle so that, when the time is ripe, the small melons which are its fruits, fall and fire out their seeds like shot to a distance of several metres, and sow them. They work so that numerous tongues will glorify the All-Glorious Creator and recite His Beautiful Names. You may think of other examples in the same way.
The All-Wise Creator, Who is All-Powerful and All-Knowing, has created everything beautifully and with perfect order. He has fitted them out beautifully, turned their faces towards beautiful aims, employed them in beautiful duties, caused them to utter beautiful glorifications and to worship beautifully. O man! If indeed you are a human being, do not confuse nature, chance, futility, and misguidance with these beautiful matters. Do not make them ugly. Do not act in an ugly fashion. Do not be ugly!
The Fourth Category are human beings. Human beings, who are servants of a sort in the palace of the universe, resemble both angels and animals. They resemble angels in universality of worship, extensiveness of supervision, comprehensiveness of knowledge, and in being heralds of Divine dominicality. However, man is more comprehensive in his worship, but since he has an appetitive soul that is disposed towards evil, contrary to the angels, he is subject to progress and decline, which is of great importance. Also, since in his work man seeks pleasure for his soul and a share for himself, he resembles an animal. Since this is so, man receives two wages: the first is insignificant, animal, and immediate; the second, angelic, universal, and postponed.
Now, man’s duty and his wages, and his progress and decline, have been discussed in part in all thirty-three of the Words, and have been explained in greater detail in the Eleventh and Twenty-Third Words in particular. We shall therefore cut short the discussion here and close the door. And beseeching the Most Merciful to open to us the gates of His mercy, and seeking forgiveness for our faults and errors, we conclude it here.
1. Since the nightingale speaks poetically, our discussion also becomes poetic for a bit. But it is not imaginary, it is the truth.
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