In awe of God
When we see amazing displays of skill by one of our sporting heroes, or when we observe great feats of courage, or when we listen to a motivational speech—we are compelled to praise what we have experienced. We stand. We clap. We give an ovation. We are moved, inspired, encouraged, elated and overwhelmed by what we have experienced. We never forget these moments in our lives. Just think back to the last time you experienced such a moment and how your reaction to praise was the only just and necessary reaction.
Now let’s draw our attention to our universe; we live in this amazing universe. We hope, love, seek justice and believe in the ultimate value of human life. We reason, feel, reflect and discover. We live in a vast universe with billions of stars, galaxies and planets. The universe contains sentient beings that have a unique stream of awareness. We have an immaterial mind that interacts with the physical world. The universe has laws and a precise arrangement that, if different, would have prevented the emergence of conscious life. We feel—deep down inside—the wrongness of evil and the rightness of good.
In our universe, we have animals and insects, such as the ant that can withstand their own body weight many times over, and seeds that can germinate from the heat of a fire. We live on a planet with thousands of languages and millions of species. We live in a universe where the human mind can discover weapons that can wipe out the Earth, and produce ideas that can prevent those weapons from firing. We live in a universe that if one of its innumerable atoms is split, it can release an immense amount of energy. We live on a planet which, if hearts are united, can bring peace to the world.
Yet some of us are not compelled to give God—who created the entire universe and everything within it—a standing ovation; to stand, glorify and praise Him.[i] We cannot give thanks to the creator of every moment, every situation and interaction? We are deluded, deceived and forgetful of God, the one who created us:
O mankind, what has deceived you concerning your Lord, the Generous?
God is truly great, He is the greatest. He is worthy of our love, obedience, and acts of worship. If you haven’t already understood why here are three key reasons.
1. God’s right to be worshipped is a necessary fact of His existence
The best place to start is to understand who God is. God by definition is the One who is entitled to our worship; it is a necessary fact of His own existence. The Qur’an repeatedly highlights this fact about God,
Indeed, I am God. There is no deity except Me, so worship Me and establish prayer for My remembrance.
Since God, by definition, is the only Being that whose right is our worship, then all of our acts of worship should be directed to Him alone.
God is uniquely one without any partners. In the Islamic tradition, we are made aware that he is perfect, as perfect as perfect can be. He possesses all the perfect names and attributes to the highest degree possible. God is described as the The-Loving, and this means that His love is the most perfect love and His love is the greatest love possible. It is because of these names and attributes that God must be worshipped.
We always praise people for their kindness, knowledge and wisdom. However, God’s kindness, knowledge and wisdom are to the highest degree possible with no deficiency or flaw. Therefore, He is worthy of the most extensive form of praise and praising God is a form of worship. God is also the only One entitled to our supplications and prayers. He knows best what is good for us, and He also wants what is good for us. Such a Being with these attributes must be prayed to, and to be asked the assistance of. God is worthy of our worship because there is something about God that makes Him so. He is the Being with the most perfect names and attributes.
An important point regarding worshipping God is that it is His right even if we are not recipients of any type of comfort. If we were to live a life full of suffering, God is still to be worshipped. Worshipping God is not dependent on some kind of reciprocal relationship; He gives us life, and we worship Him in return. Do not misunderstand what is being said here, God showers us with many blessings (as is discussed below); however, He is worshipped because of who He is and not necessarily because of how He decides—via His boundless wisdom—to distribute His bounty.
2. God has created and sustains everything
God has created everything; He continually sustains the entire cosmos and provides for us out of His bounty. The Qur’an continually repeats this reality in many ways, which evokes a sense of gratitude and awe in the heart of the listener or reader:
It is He who created for you all of that which is on the Earth.
Do they indeed ascribe to Him as partners things that can create nothing but are themselves created?
O mankind, remember the favour of God upon you. Is there any creator other than God who provides for you from the heaven and Earth? There is no deity except Him, so how are you deluded?
Therefore, everything we use in our daily lives, and all of the essential things that we require to survive, are all due to God. It follows then that all thanks belong to him. Since God created everything that exists, He is the owner and master of everything, including us. Hence, we must be in a sense of awe and gratitude towards Him. Since God is our Master, we must be His servants. To deny this is not only rejecting reality, but it is the height of ingratitude, arrogance and thanklessness.
Since God created us, our very existence is solely dependent on Him.
How can you disbelieve in God when you were lifeless and He brought you to life; then He will cause you to die, then He will bring you [back] to life, and then to Him, you will be returned.
We are not self-sufficient, even if some of us are deluded into thinking that we are. Whether we live a life of luxury and ease or poverty and hardship, we are ultimately dependent on God. Nothing in this universe is possible without Him and whatever happens is due to His will. Our success in life and the great things that we may have achieved are ultimate because of God. He created the causes in the universe that we use to achieve success, and if He does not will our success, it will never of happened. Understanding our ultimate dependence on God should evoke an immense sense of gratitude and humility in our hearts. Humbling ourselves before God and thanking Him is a form of worship. One of the biggest barriers to Divine guidance and mercy is the delusion of self-sufficiency, which is ultimately based on ego and arrogance. The Qur’an makes this point clear:
But man exceeds all bounds when he thinks he is self-sufficient.
There is the one who is miserly, and is self-satisfied, who denies goodness—We shall smooth his way towards hardship and his wealth will not help him as he falls. Our part is to provide guidance.
3. God provides us with innumerable favours
And if you should [try to] count the favours of God, you could not enumerate them. Indeed mankind is [generally] most unjust and ungrateful.
We should be eternally grateful to God because we could never thank Him for His blessings. Take the heart for example. The human heart beats around 100,000 times a day, which is approximately 35,000,000 times a year. If we were to live up to the age of 75, the number of heartbeats would reach 2,625,000,000. How many of us have even counted that number of heartbeats? No one ever has. To be able to count that many times, you would have had to start counting each heartbeat from the day you were born. It would also mean not being able to live a normal life, as you would always be counting every time your heart started a new beat. However, every heartbeat is precious to us. Anyone of us would sacrifice a mountain of gold to ensure that our hearts would function properly to keep us alive. Yet we forget and deny the One who created our hearts and enables them to function. This example forces us to conclude that we must be grateful to God, and gratitude is a form of worship. The above discussion just refers to heartbeats, so imagine the gratitude we must express for all the other blessings God has given us. From this perspective, anything other than a heartbeat is a bonus. God has given us favours we cannot enumerate, and if we could count them we would have to thank Him for being able to do that too.