Submission to Allah is a Common Trait in the Whole Creation|
By Mushfiqur Rahman Posted 04/11/2001
Recently, a new Muslima, Ms. Kaia Petin, sent me a note regarding an interesting observation that she made with her husband while they were watching a storm: "We were watching the lightning crack across the sky, and listening the boom and rumble of the thunder while we talked. We made the observation that although the lightning was so much more powerful than we were, it was a slave to Allah SWT, just as we are and as everything is. We were marveling, however, that thought there are so many things in the universe that are awesome and gigantically powerful, it was a wonder that only man, small little special animal that he is, is given the option of choosing to worship God. What a crazy realization that Allah SWT hears every crack of thunder and sees every flash of lightning, he knows the plan for the arms of the spiral galaxy in your picture, and he even knows what will happen with dark matter and the acceleration of the universe towards infinity - yet only man, choosing to make salah and choosing to be a conscious and willing slave, is given the choice - though of course Allah SWT already knows what we will do - to consciously worship the Lord of the Al Amin".
Though Ms. Petin has accepted Islam not long ago, her realization that everything in the universe submits to Allah (swt) and the difference, when it comes to human, is that he is given a choice of submitting to Allah conscientiously, is indeed a reflection of her correct understanding of Islam. Although a very basic concept in Islam, it creates a profound worldview in the mind of a Muslim. Hence, it would be worthwhile to write a few words on this concept.
Yes, everything in the universe - whether we see it or not - is in submission to Allah (swt). Human activities and understandings are limited to those entities that we are able to physically sense. Anything beyond sense perception - we are not able to discern and, therefore, tend to dismiss. For example, we cannot scientifically prove that the boulder that we just drove by has any ability of thought or a feeling of existence. To us, it is a lifeless piece of rock. But we know - guided by divine knowledge - that every object is in submission to Allah (swt):
We can also look at it in a different and equally valid way. Allah (swt) is the Creator of everything, such as all living creatures and objects. But He is also the Creator of all the natural laws that are at work in the universe. Objects as complex and large as stars and galaxies or as minute and invisible as cells and molecules are all bound by a set of natural laws - we call these laws of physics, chemistry, biology, astronomy, etc. They cannot move or act in violation of these laws. And thus they expend their lifetime in total compliance of their mission. And, therefore, they are in submission to Allah (swt) - whether they like it or not.
And, thus willingly or unwillingly, everything in the creation is in submission to Allah (swt).
The single most important difference, when it comes to humans (and jinns), is that he is given conscience and choice. Whether he wants to recognize his Lord and submit to Him or not is his choice. And it is because of this unique faculty that he is given an elevated position among all other creatures, a position that is even higher than that of the angels. Question is: will he use his conscience and recognize his Lord? Will he observe all the signs around him, reflect upon them, and say, "I am only a small creature and I submit to the One Who created me"?.
If he does not submit willingly, then eventually he does so unwillingly. For he never has the freedom to escape from the laws that Allah (swt) has set for him. His vigor of youth will one day wither away, and his downward trend will soon begin. Wrinkles will develop on his arms and face, replacing his smooth skin that he always nurtured and took care of. His memory will start fading, and his body will be in a loosing battle to push away all the diseases that he was able to successfully fight when he was young. And eventually, no doctor on earth will be able to save him and he will return to his Lord and be captured. And Allah's words, that he never heeded to, will be fulfilled on him.
If that is the case, then submission to Allah (swt) should be a conscious decision, for everyone eventually does it, willing or willingly. But there is always the difference between one who submits through a pair of handcuff and one who is not only a law-abiding peaceful citizen, but also makes a positive contribution towards the society that he is part of. These two are never equal.
This understanding that Allah (swt) is the Single Supreme Lord of the universe and everything else - whether it is the world of galaxies or the world of ants - is under his direct control and submits to Him is the basic concept of Tawhid (Oneness of Allah), which contains the whole of Islam. And such an understanding of a believer is highly fulfilling for him form an intellectual perspective. For example, he knows that he is not alone in worshipping Allah (swt). The house where he just stepped in worships Allah (one may remember the prophetic instruction to say salam to the house when entering it). The air that he breaths in, the tree that he just walked under, the boulder that he just passed by, the sun that provides him with warmth as he takes his afternoon strides, the line of ants that he did not see moving along his path, the birds that are busy providing for their youngs, the bugs that just swung by his ears, and even the creatures that he is not able to see (such as jinns) - all of them recognize Allah (swt), glorify Him and submit to Him just like he does. He is not alone, but a member of a very large family unified together with a common bond. This is how a believer comes to be in peace with himself and with everything that is around him.
True submission to Allah (swt) is not just an intellectual position of man in relation to his Creator, nor is it a mere manifestation of a few ritual observations. It goes further beyond and is reflected in his practical life and modes. He understands that Allah (swt) is in full control of all affairs. Nothing escapes his notice, nor even the withered leaf that quietly falls of the tree. He knows what is expressed as well as what is in everyone's heart. And thus he is relieved for being under the protective care of such a powerful Guardian ("Allah is the Protector of those who have faith" (Qur'an: 2:257)). He knows Allah (swt) is Wise and Just, whereas his worldview is small and his knowledge finite and limited. And so, after he does his best, he rests in Allah and takes everything easy - whether it is a fortune or a calamity. He does not complain, nor does he lose hope. He is content with himself, and he is happy with his Lord. It is in this regard that the Prophet said,
Such is the highest level of the true believer. He is in peace with Allah, he is in peace with himself, and he is in peace with all that is around him (It is no coincidence that a second meaning of the word "Islam" after "submission to the will of Allah" is "peace"). He is a part of a global family of all animated and unanimated beings with a common goal of worshipping Allah (swt). He stands firmly for justice, and yet he is kind and merciful to the rest of the members of that global family. He uses the resources of the earth wisely, and he returns positive contribution for the society he is part of. Nothing but goodness emanates from him. And when he dies, everyone sheds tear for him - even the earth he walked on.