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“You alone do we worship...” (Al-Fātihah 1:5)

by Fethullah Gülen on . Posted in Sūratu’l-Fātihah (The Opening)

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إِيَّاكَ نَعْبُدُ
You alone do we worship... (Al-Fātihah 1:5)

Our attention here is directed to the beginning of the verse where the object pronoun “You” is placed before the finite verb of “we worship.” The effect of placing the object pronoun in the initial position implies exclusivi-ty: “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 very subtle point to note here is the tense; instead of the use of ‘abadnā (we worshipped) in the past tense, in this verse God Al-mighty uses na’budu in the present. ‘Abadnā, which is the past tense form of the verb ‘A-Ba-Da, connotes “We did it!” or “We made it!” Such a use, however, would violate and in a way be contrary to the very spirit of worship, for it sounds like an accomplishment on the personal side, which implies pride in a completed success, as if we already fulfilled something and succeeded at what we wanted to accomplish all by ourselves. In other words, it would mean that the worshipper has already arrived to the intended point by fulfilling his or her duty of worship all by himself or herself.

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

The finite form of the verb, na’budu, or “we worship,” (which is in-flected not only for tense but also for the first person plural) also emphasiz-es 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 concordance with all my fellow worshippers.” Through such an irrefutable alliance and agreement, the worshipper is empowered with the same intention, confirmation and testimony of all worshippers, and thus he or she turns to the presence of the Almighty Lord Who meets all needs. In this manner, they can relieve themselves from evil involuntary thoughts that Satan may cause to appear in them, and they can portray a complete form of worship toward the Perfect Divinity.