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(God is) He Who sees you when you rise... (Ash-Shu‘arā’ 26:218-219)

by Fethullah Gülen on . Posted in Sūratu’sh-Shu‘arā’ (The Poets)

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اَلَّذ۪ي يَرٰيكَ ح۪ينَ تَقُومُۙ۝وَتَقَلُّبَكَ فِي السَّاجِد۪ينَ
(God is) He Who sees you when you rise (in the Prayer, and in readiness to carry out Our commands), as well as your strenuous efforts in prostration among those who prostrate. (Ash-Shu‘arā’ 26:218–219)

The word “taqallub,” translated here as “strenuous efforts,” is an infinitive in the mood of tafa‘‘ul in Arabic. The word “taqallub” in this mood denotes “takalluf,” i.e., self-exertion or exerting sustained/determined strenuous effort to do something. God Almighty describes His Messenger’s “prostration” in Prayer with an infinitive of a verb in this mood. This means that God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, was so doubled over in his Prayers, trying his hardest in order to carry out his duty of devotion and servanthood to God Almighty even when he was “in the prostration position” where one is nearest to God. This horizon or level of devotion can never be attained without a deep spirituality. The similar manner of those who have not been able to rise to this level is nothing but ostentation.

A deep spirituality is very important in devotion and servitude to God. It must be the sole goal of a believer to try to attain the maximum level of asceticism, piety, and sincerity and thus to seek God in everything and everywhere and to turn to Him. However, this should not be taken as renouncing the world. While believers improve the world and transform it into a Paradisiacal garden, on one hand, they should turn and direct others to God from the bottom of their hearts with a deep love of Him and make faith their life, on the other. In other words, while improving and reforming the world, on one hand, God’s approval and good pleasure should be sought and the doors of relationship with Him be kept open, on the other.

In fact, the Qur’anic statement, “To whatever direction you turn, there is the ‘Face’ of God” (Al-Baqarah 2:115), implies this same meaning. This verse is extremely meaningful as it reflects the general position and character of a perfect believer as well as his or her relationship with God. According to the outward meaning of this statement which relates to the qiblah direction in which Muslims must turn in the Prayer, a Muslim must try his best to find this direction in a situation in which he or she cannot determine it. Even if he or she turns in a wrong direction after he or she has done his or her best to find the right direction, this does not harm the Prayer. However, the meaning of the statement under consideration is not restricted to the matter of turning in the right direction in the Prayer. It also means that a believer must turn his or her heart to Him and pursue His good pleasure in every moment of his or her life—while eating, drinking, working, lying, walking, and sleeping with one’s spouse.

Believers should always renew and refresh themselves in their relationship with their Lord. God is absolutely exempt from change, alteration, and renewal, but we can and should always renew ourselves in order to feel Him anew at every moment. This is a renewal on the part of those who search, seek, and pursue, not on the part of the One Who is sought and Whose approval is pursued. This is a renewal in the meaning of meeting and being familiar with a new manifestation of Him Who has the exclusive right to be worshipped and absolutely deserves being sought each and every day, thus attaining new depths in the name of our faith. We have to realize this; otherwise, our faith and spirituality will easily rot away.

Returning to the verse, “strenuous efforts in prostration,” is directly related to feeling God at heart. It is highly difficult, even though not impossible, to be able to do such a “prostration” even once in their lives for those who do not feel God in their hearts and consciences through the numerous manifestations of His numerous Names and who are far from gratitude and fidelity although they are provided with unlimited bounties. The strenuous efforts God’s Messenger exerts in prostration in a deep consciousness of servanthood is also the result of his “rising and standing firmly” in fulfilling God’s commands. The verse refers to the profound devotion and determination of God’s Messenger, saying, “(God is) He Who sees you when you rise,” which means that even though God’s Messenger is in prostration before God in deep devotion, he is perfectly firm, unyielding, and resolute in fulfilling God’s commands and carrying out his duty of Messengership. Just like he rises at night and stands before God in Prayer in utmost humility and submission, he stands before God in utter submission and humility in order for the material and spiritual needs of Muslims to be met. While he is ever ready to fulfill any Divine command he will receive, he deepens more and more in his devotion to God in the prostration position by bringing his head and feet together at the same point on the ground. As he said, “[t]he closest a person comes to his Lord is when he prostrates,”[1] he rises to the highest point of nearness to God and servanthood to Him in this prostration position.

[1] Muslim, Salāh, 215; Abū Dāwūd, Salāh, 147–148; Nasāī, Tatbiq, 78.