Understanding "Iyyaka Na'budu wa Iyyaka Nasta'in"

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

Regarding the direct object pronoun “ka” which is mentioned twice in Surah al-Fatihah, there is no question from before the Creation of Adam (a.s.) to beyond the Day of Resurrection, it refers to Allah (s.w.t.).  That is the message of all prophets and awliya’ and the reason for Creation: to know Allah (s.w.t.) and to serve Him Alone.

Thee do we worship, and Thine Aid we seek. (Surah al-Fatihah:5)

Allah (s.w.t.) Said:

I have only Created jinn and men, that they may serve Me. (Surah adz-Dzariyat:56)

Allah (s.w.t.) is not seen in this life but in the next, yet Surah al-Fatihah shifts from oblique discourse, Mentioning Allah (s.w.t.) as the third person in the first half of Surah al-Fatihah, to direct discourse, addressing Him directly from the middle onwards.  It has moved from the Absent to the Present.  But if He is invisible then how can He be addressed as literally present?  It is because His Khalifatullah is present, and embodies the Manifestation of the Light of His Names and Attributes.

We have to consider this together with the fact that the Ka’bah was built by human hands, Ibrahim (a.s.) and Isma’il (a.s.), but that Allah (s.w.t.) Himself Created His caliph on earth, Adam (a.s.) with His Hand.  He Put in him the Light of Muhammad (s.a.w.) and Ordered the angels to prostrate to him.  More, He Created the human heart to contain what the Ka’bah itself, for all its glory, cannot contain, namely Himself.  This is why the Prophet (s.a.w.) addressed the Ka’bah and said, “How great and holy you are!  Yet the devoted servant of Allah has greater honour than you in His sight yet.”  The Prophet (s.a.w.) himself was that servant.  Hence the real House of Allah (s.w.t.) in spiritual terms is the human heart, and the most perfect human heart is that of the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.).

And that is why we recite in Dala’il al-Khayrah, “O Allah Bless the heart of Sayyidina Muhammad among all hearts!  And then the hearts of his inheritors in every time.  This is the reason why the awliya’ said that it is the Ka’bah itself that makes thawaf around the wali, and why many muridun in history could not help but make thawaf around their shaykh, and prostrate to him in a spiritual and metaphorical sense.  However, to express these realities at the most high, awliya’ do not accept from their murid anything other than the most perfect adab with Allah (s.w.t.), with the Prophet (s.a.w.) and with themselves.  The definition of justice is that everything be put in its right place.  Hence they insist that the respective attributes of Divinity and creatures not be mixed nor interchanged.  We keep to the limits and do not transgress.

The whole point of taswawwuf is to understand the Haqiqah Muhammadiyyah, the second part of the shahadah, which leads to the true understanding of the first part, Laa ilaha illa Allah.  And just as the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.) is the ultimate manifestation or appearance of the Divine Names and Attributes in visible form in this world, similarly his inheritors carry that visible spiritual dress.  However, their full light is not shown, only a small part.  One wali said that if their full light were shown people would stop worshipping Allah (s.w.t.) and would have worshipped the anbiya and awliya’ instead.  Another wali said that if their full light were shown, the seven earths and seven heavens would have been burnt.

So, while appreciating these special points we need to keep together all the firm realities of religion and thariqa’ without canceling out any one of these realities, least of all the overarching reality of Divine Oneness which is the foundation of religion.  Just as the Qur’an and the sunnah through sheer repetition and emphasis put it in a way that is easy to understand so did the awliya and so must we in their wake.  That is the way of all spiritual poetry also as Imam al-Buswiri (q.s.) said, “Praise the Prophet all you like as long as you do not say of him what the Christians said of ‘Isa (a.s.).”

When some people came to ‘Ali (k.w.) and said to him: “You are Hu, you are our Lord!” he never accepted this from them and punished them with the utmost severity.

These secrets are rarely addressed and most of swuhbah are about purifying our egos from their bad traits.  The fact that some of us are happy to enter the second half of Ramadhan with Jahiliyyah dripping from our lips shows how justified he is in focusing on the ills of donkeyhood.  Yet we claim to follow our shuyukh and to have rabitha with them when, as Malik ibn Dinar (q.s.) said whenever he woke up after fainting from reciting “Iyyaka na`budu wa iyyaka nasta`in,” “We worship ourselves and we seek the help of everyone but Him.”


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