Due Reverence for God

Due Reverence for God
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Question: Could you elucidate the messages conveyed by the verse, “They have no true judgment of God, such as His being God requires, and (such is His Power and Sovereignty that) the whole earth will be in His Grasp on the Day of Resurrection, and the heavens will be rolled up in His Right Hand. All-Glorified is He, and absolutely exalted above what they associate with Him” (az-Zumar 39:67).

Answer: The expression at the beginning of the verse means a lot of things: That they failed to know and recognize God with His attributes of Majesty and Mercy as they should; that they failed to see His absolute Almighty power, as well as the graces and blessings He showers His servants with, His infinite mercy and compassion; and that they failed to have an appropriate judgment about and due reverence for Him. Thus, they lacked appreciation and committed ingratitude.

From the expression meaning “such as His being God requires,” we understand that although some of those people did have the appropriate judgment and appreciation, they failed to revere God thoroughly as becomes His glory; “true” judgment, or appreciation, is different from ordinary appreciation. For example, our Exalted Lord is the one who creates us, honors us with the best pattern of creation, calls us to the right path through His Prophets, and grants us guidance. He spurs our zeal by promising us good things and opening our eyes to the next world. He never leaves us on our own. Thus, knowing all of these, and having reverence and gratitude in accordance with this knowledge, is a kind of appreciation. The opposite signifies blindness, inappreciation, and ungratefulness.

The Divine word continues with an example to express His greatness and states that “the whole earth will be in His Grasp on the Day of Resurrection…” Namely, no matter how great it is in your sight, the world is like a little dot or like a particle with respect to the power of God Almighty. Pointing out His power over the world conveys to those who live therein that, “so you also bow before His overwhelming power and absolute will; act within the sphere of obedience to His commandments.”

As for the expression meaning, “and the heavens will be rolled up in His Right Hand,” it points out that He will roll up the heavens like a sheet and virtually turn it into a scroll. The verse ends as, “All-Glorified is He, and absolutely exalted above what they associate with Him.”

Awe of God, as It Relates to Knowledge of God and Conscience

There are different degrees of true judgment and appreciation of God, and they depend upon how deeply one feels the Divine power and grandeur reflected in this universe, and the graces and bestowals we are showered with. At this point, the following question may come to mind: “Does this appreciation involve only some knowledge in mind, or does it also include all of the human organs and spiritual faculties?” Note that love germinates in the bosom of knowledge and flourishes. Love depends on knowing. In the same way, if the heart is in awe of God, with a mixture of reverence and fear, this feeling also primarily depends on knowing. Then we come to the process of transforming this knowledge into internalized knowledge of God and a culture of the conscience. Once this is done, we must attain our knowledge as a deeply ingrained character trait. The acts of worship a believer will fulfill after this phase will become spontaneous – that is, such a person will not say words of glorification merely for the sake of complying with commandments or counsels.

On the contrary, while scrutinizing phenomena, while beholding the Overwhelming Power and the Evident Supreme Will, the following phrases of appreciation will spontaneously come out, overflowing from the heart’s enthusiasm, which goes far beyond the feeling of mere obedience to orders: “Glory be to God and to Him be praise! Glory be to God the Almighty! God is great, all praise exclusively belongs to God, So glorify God when you enter the night and when you enter the morning. To Him belongs all praise in the heavens and the earth, at the close of day and at noontide…”

In this respect it is possible to say that a believer can express the Overwhelming power, Supreme Will, and Divine Works with feelings of appreciation. But what really matters is internalizing this appreciation as an ingrained character trait. Otherwise, the person will express feelings of acknowledging His greatness and praise Him only in times and places that require it, out of being commanded to do so.

It is only those with believing hearts who have formed a web of knowledge of God in their conscience through reflection in every phase of their life: they fill with feelings of acknowledging God’s greatness and of appreciation for His works. Some of them do this every moment of their lives. For example, when they encounter something that lets them behold a manifestation of Divine Power and Greatness, it makes them glorify God, who is absolutely beyond all defects. A time comes when the person virtually sees being showered with blessings and cannot help but declare infinite praises for Him. On visualizing God’s splendid works that point to His greatness and supremacy, the person breathes with the remembrance, “God is great!”

As the author Recaizade Mahmud Ekrem once said, “The entire universe is a great book of God: whichever letter you study, its meaning will point to God.” That is, as the meaning of any letter that appears before a believer points to God, that person’s expressions will respond accordingly. This is the essence of the matter; this is the actual meaning of “true” judgment mentioned in the verse. What really matters here is making the feeling of appreciation for God into a property of one’s conscience.

The Influence of Awe upon a Person and His Surroundings

The following case about the Pride of Humanity can shed light on our subject. When he saw someone playing with his beard during Prayer, he stated, “Had his heart been in awe, his organs would be in awe too.”[1] If there is awe of God and deep reverence for Him in the heart, it will be reflected in a person’s attitude and behaviors, down to his gestures.

In the gestures, attitude, and behaviors of figures of great standing whose hearts are awakened, signs of awe of God are seen and felt. This way, one seriously feels being imbued with the atmosphere of their presence and finds a form of spiritual tranquility. When I was in the presence of Muhammed Lütfi Effendi in my childhood, I would experience feelings that filled a person with relief. When such personages mention the name of God and the Prophet, or when they reveal their respectful caution on different issues, they inspire you with faith and insight that cannot be expressed in books.

A memory about Muhammed Lütfi Effendi is a good example for this. One day, someone came to his presence and said, “O master! I went to Hajj, but—maybe out of neglect or some other reason—the dogs in Medina had the mange.”

Upon hearing this, the master boomed, “Hush! Let me be a sacrifice even for Medina’s dogs with the mange!”

What made him utter these words was nothing but the deep love and respect rooted in his heart for the Pride of Humanity. That blessed master instantly revealed his reverent care on the issue. What really matters is a person’s letting oneself go to a waterfall of awe and reverence, with a deep concern for sacred values, and following wherever that waterfall takes him.

An Important Value We Have Lost

Unfortunately, one of the most important values we have lost is making the conscience internalize these values. We, the victims of formalism with respect to Islam, have lost our hearts; we have forgotten our inner depths. Although we may have learned some matters of religion—may God eternally be pleased with those who taught them to us—we are left alone with theoretical knowledge based on imitation. We have not actually learned the actual points about the heart, and thus have not experienced them.

As it is stated in the following verses however, what will serve as a means of salvation in the next world is having a sound heart, and a person revering and standing in awe of their Lord: “The Day when neither wealth will be of any use, nor offspring…” (ash-Shuara 26:89). “Their reward is with their Lord: Gardens of perpetual bliss through which rivers flow, abiding therein forever. God is well-pleased with them, and they are well pleased with Him. That is for him who stands in awe of his Lord” (al-Bayyina 98:8).

Another indication of our piteous condition is the fact that a verse, which makes even a stone minbar (pulpit) shake, does not make our hearts shake. The Messenger of God once recited the verse mentioned in our question on the minbar of the mosque, and it shook so much that he nearly fell down.[2] Had we not lost our hearts, that Divine verse would shake our hearts as well, and lead us to awe.

Let us supplicate to our Lord, so that He enables us to rid ourselves of formalism and get to the essence; so that we are freed from mere forms and attain the meaning! May He fill our hearts with feelings of awe, every moment of our lives. May these feelings be reflected in all our attitudes and actions.

[1] Abdurrrazzaq, Al-Musannaf, 2/266; Tirmidhi, Nawadiru’l-Usul, 2/172.

[2] Sahih Muslim, Sifatu’l-Munafiqin, 25; Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Al-Musnad, 2:72.

This text is the translation of “Allah’ı Hakkıyla Tâzim ve Takdir.”