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Lesson - 16
"O men, serve your Lord Who created you, and those before
you, so that you may guard against evil." Ch. 2:21
Guidance for all Nations
In my previous lesson, I discussed the first portion of this verse,
"O men, serve your Lord." As pointed out this first commandment
of the Holy Quran addresses not only the Muslims, or the believers,
but all of mankind. Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of
Allah be upon him) was the messenger of Allah to all of mankind,
and the Holy Quran was revealed to him for the guidance of all nations;
the Divine objective being unification of the human race in peace
and harmony within Islam. Due to deterioration of previous religious
orders, people had gone astray and were involved in religious conflict
and warfare. The human race was, therefore given the same commandment
that applies to the creation in general, that is to serve their
Lord with humility. All of creation observes this Divine command
in the form of natural laws, and serves with humility to the fullest
Purpose of Divine Guidance
The Ďbody,í which is the physical part of man, follows the command,
or law of his Lord without the slightest deviation. On the other
hand, the Ďspirit,í which Allah has breathed into man, and which
forms the basis of his personality has been given the freedom of
will by Divine wisdom. This leads to the development of moral and
spiritual values in mankind. Without the freedom of will, and the
ability to do good or evil, these qualities would fail to evolve.
Only by having the freedom to lie, and choosing not to do so, can
one nurture the quality of telling the truth. If there was no opportunity
to be dishonest, honesty would not be a virtue. The command to serve
oneís Lord was, therefore given; Lord (Rabb) being the One
Who nurtures gradually, from the lower to the higher stage of development.
Manís ability for action is motivated by the animal desires and
emotions generated in his body. This is something that he shares
in common with other animals, that is why doctors test medicines
in animals before using them on human beings. Without Divine guidance
man would continue to follow his low desires, and fail to rise above
the animal state. We commonly see this today, in the western oriented
materialistic culture. In fact, man falls even below the animal
level, because animals do not commit acts that are against their
nature. Such unnatural behavior is commonly observed in our civilized
western societies, at times with the sanction of the law. In addition,
drug usage which is detrimental to our health has become rampant.
Animals on the other hand, would never consume anything that is
harmful to their health. This is because they are fully controlled
by their instinct, unlike mankind, which has been given the freedom
of will. By proper utilization of this privilege, spiritual and
moral values can be nurtured, as I just pointed out. Guidance to
man for proper utilization of his desires and emotions, could only
have been given by the Creator. This is the reason why in this verse
man has been given the injunction to serve his Lord (Rabb)
The Creator, alone knows best, the purpose of manís creation,
the appropriate use of the faculties and capabilities He has given
him to achieve this goal, and the course of action to avoid. It
is essential to follow His commandments, for He is not only the
Creator, but also the One Who nourishes unto perfection (Rabb).
He has not deserted His creation after bringing it into existence.
He is nurturing it continuously to evolve it from a lower to a higher
stage of existence. The rest of His creation, by manifesting unquestionable
loyalty to His guidance, benefits from His nurturing (Rabubiyat),
and continues to evolve and fulfill the purpose of its creation.
Man, as already mentioned was given the freedom of will in order
to evolve spiritual and moral qualities. This evolution would be
impossible without being given the opportunity and freedom to commit
good or evil. Man, therefore should also serve and obey his Creator
and Lord (Rabb One Who nourishes unto perfection)
with humility, so that he can benefit from His guidance and reach
the goal of his creation, which is recognition of the Divine Being.
This purpose can obviously not be accomplished without perpetual
nurturing and guidance by Allah Almighty. I have repeatedly mentioned
the word Ibadat or Abudiyat, which means service with
humility. Only the one who follows guidance with humility benefits
from it, and not the one who submits only with reluctance and disrespect.
We see an example of this in the nurturing provided by parents,
or the education given by a teacher. The child who considers his
parents and teachers as well-wishers and benefactors, accepts their
guidance with humility, and derives the proper and complete benefit
from it. On the contrary, the reluctant and disrespectful pupil
fails to take advantage of these opportunities. The question one
may ask is, who is a greater benefactor, and well-wisher of mankind
Uniqueness of manís physical and spiritual
We need to contemplate further on the words:
"Who created you."
Manís creation is both physical and spiritual as stated in the verse:
"He is Allah; the Creator, the Maker, the Fashioner"
If we observe the physical creation of mankind, no two individuals
would be found alike. From the top of the head, to the bottom of
the feet, each individual human being is a distinct entity. Modern
scientific research has determined that even the hair of each person
has unique characteristics. In London for example, a thief got convicted
on the basis of evidence provided by a strand of his hair in his
cap which he forgot at the scene of crime. The forensic expert in
this case, by microscopically analyzing the hair, provided the testimony
that the hair belonged to the person who was eventually convicted
for the crime. The footprints of individuals are also distinct,
which accounts for the success of experts in tracking people down.
Fingerprints and thumbprints are also unique to each human being,
that is why such evidence is accepted in court. Even the body odor
of every individual is unique, thus making it possible for blood
hounds to hunt down criminals. Scientists, today have also confirmed
that the DNA pattern of each human cell is also distinctly individualized.
In short the Creator, Who is incomparable in greatness, has for
this temporary worldly abode, bestowed upon each individual member
of the human species, a distinct physical identity. How could the
human spirit which is everlasting, not be blessed with such a distinction?
The human spirit is, therefore also truly individualized in its
capabilities and other characteristics.
The nurturing unto perfection (Rabubiyat), which is
specific for every human body, is also uniquely designed for the
human spirit. This spirit, within its abode in the human body is
called the Nafs, and with its separate upbringing, an individual
forms a distinct personality. For this spiritual advancement it
is absolutely essential that the human spirit should obey its Creator
and Lord (Rabb), and thus achieve the objective for which
it was created. This is the reason why man is enjoined in this verse
to serve his Lord with humility, Who not only created him but, is
the only One Who can nurture, and evolve him into the unique being
he is meant to be.
Manís tendency to follow the religion of
The verse then goes on to say, "And those before you,"
i.e., Allah Who has created you, also created your forefathers.
Man has a strange weakness; in matters of religion he blindly obeys
and follows his forefathers, without using his own reasoning to
make the appropriate decision for himself. A Christian today, is
a Christian because his parents and grandparents were Christians.
For the same reason a Hindu professes Hinduism, even though the
religion may not appeal to him, and this applies to all people of
different national origin. In our society today, much is made of
the generation gap, and it is put forward as an excuse frequently
to disobey the parents. Strangely enough, in matters of religion,
people blindly hold on to the faith of their forefathers, even though
they may not practically follow it; hence the Divine word that He
not only created you, but also your ancestors, and guided them likewise.
It was their own fault that they formed associates with God, and
became involved in all kinds of wrong beliefs, as indicated in this
"Mankind is a single nation. So Allah raised prophets
as bearers of good news and as warners, and He revealed with them
the Book with truth, that it might judge between people concerning
that in which they differed" (2:213).
Allah gave all prophets similar type of teachings so that He may
decide between the people, regarding that which they differed in.
In spite of Divine guidance, disagreements arose between them again.
The fact that all prophets were sent with similar teachings,
is further elaborated in the verse:
"And We sent no messenger before thee but We revealed
to him that there is no God but Me, so serve Me" (21:25).
In the verse under discussion today, it is therefore clearly stated
that Allah created your forefathers and ordained upon them the same
teachings He has given you. They got involved in religious strife,
and did not follow Divine guidance; why then are you embarked upon
a similar self destructive course?
The consequences of following and ignoring
The verse concludes with the statement:
"So that you may guard against evil."
The purpose of Divine guidance in other words is that mankind may
guard against evil. Those who do not follow the Divine Guidance
revealed in His Book, the Holy Quran, would then submit to their
low desires and emotions. This in turn tends to cloud their judgment,
and leads them to all kinds of loss and suffering in the form of
evil. We see an example of this in our western societies today.
If these Christian nations followed the edicts of the Bible, however
faulty they may be; would those evils and cardinal sins that are
being openly committed today in these societies be existent? Every
act of man can have either a good, or evil form. On the basis of
his emotional involvement and desires, man is unable to decide when
a good action becomes evil. For example, the search for and acquisition
of wealth is in itself not a bad deed. Allah has called it His blessing,
and enjoined that one should pursue it, but man on account of his
lust and greed, fails to perceive when such an acquisition becomes
detrimental to him. Wealth, after it is earned can be spent on good
and evil deeds. The wealthy man cannot distinguish between the good
and evil course of such an action on his own. This is to be determined
by the Greatest Being Allah, Who is Free of all Faults (Subhan).
One meaning of taqwa is the keeping of ones duty. The
duty of each individual towards another is a matter which cannot
be decided upon by the parties involved. For example, there is always
a disagreement between men and women regarding their individual
rights, and a consensus has never been reached. The Holy Quran has,
therefore discussed the rights of men and women in detail. To recognize
these rights, and fulfill them is also keeping oneís duty (taqwa),
and no one can decide upon them other than Allah, the Best of judges.
He created both men and women so that they could live together,
and He ordained upon them their rights towards each other.
Before closing this lesson, I would like to point out that
in both these lessons stress was laid on serving Allah with humility.
The natural question that arises in oneís mind is; how should he
serve Allah? The answer to this question is given in the subsequent
verses which tell us that the obedience of Allah lies in following
the Quranic injunctions.