Question: Weakness in worship is emphasized as one of the most important factors that causes arrogance and the ego to gain strength. What kind of a relationship exists between weakness in worship and gaining strength in arrogance and the ego?
Answer: Ubudiyyah (deep worship) comes from the Arabic root a-ba-da and refers to individuals’ observing their responsibilities toward God Almighty and being in a consciousness of servanthood. It’s similar to ibadah (worship), which comes from the same root, but there are some differences in meanings between these two words. Ibadah is the name and title for the act of putting theoretical knowledge on faith into practice within a certain discipline and system. Ubudiyyah means leading one’s life with a consciousness of servanthood. In other words, ibadah is observing the responsibilities of servanthood as commanded, whereas ubudiyyah means deepening in servanthood and leading one’s life with a consideration of perfect goodness, always with a constant consciousness of being seen by the Omnipresent One.
A servant who observes acts of worship by deeply feeling them in his or her conscious, who deepens in servanthood by exercising in this way, and who is fixed on the consideration of ubudiyyah will be freed from other kinds of servanthood. The sole way of ridding oneself of being a servant to others is being a servant to God, the true sense of the word anyway. Those who do not become a servant to Him become a servant and slave to different power-holders, totems, and idols.
Indeed, God is the only One deserving of being worshipped. To put it in Sufi terms, He is “The Absolute One to be worshipped and the True Desired One.” That is, our worshipping Him and acting with a consciousness of worshipping Him in every moment of our life is His right over us, and it is a duty and responsibility on our part. In other words, He is the Desired One, the Beloved One, and the Worshipped One, for He is God. Therefore, things such as totems, myths, and idols worshipped as a consequence of different deviations, in spite of their not having any such right and eligibility whatsoever, are evident marks of unbelief and misguidance. There is only One who deserves worship and that is God Almighty. Individuals fixed on such a consideration of worship, who do not think of bowing before anybody but God, never see themselves as superior to and different from other people; they do not assume a special status for themselves other than being a servant. They are always in recognition of being like a slave in shackles vis-à-vis God Almighty. As such persons eliminate their ego and arrogance in the melting pot of servanthood, they always attribute all good things they are blessed with and all achievements they have attained to God only. Maybe, with the deceiving of their carnal self, they may occasionally experience some dizziness or blurring of vision before accomplishments far beyond their capability… however, with the feeling of ubudiyyah, which always exists as an ingrained character in their soul, they curb such feelings that might arise within.
There is an inverse proportion between deepening in worship on the one hand and gaining strength in arrogance and the ego on the other. That is, as much as a person deepens in servanthood to God, that person can manage in the same degree to maintain self-possession against the carnal soul, arrogance, and egotism and take under his or her control the negative feelings within. As for one who keeps away from worshiping God, that person becomes egotistic and even egocentric in accordance with the degree of his or her remoteness from worship. As such people are distanced from the duty of servanthood, which is reminder for people of their true identity, they forget in time who they actually are and ascribe to themselves all achievements they have made. They even wish good works done by others to be somehow related to themselves—therefore, achievements, applause, and appreciations continuously draw them like a whirlpool into themselves.
However, individuals who take a mannerly stance before God, who pass every frame of their life with such consciousness, never forget their true identity. They always act with the consciousness that they are powerless, weak, and mortal beings in shackles before God. This feeling of impotence and poverty urges them to constantly ask for more of worship. No matter how much they worship, even if they offer a thousand units of prayer every day, they keep saying, “My God, I failed to worship You as I should! O the One who is known more evidently and clearly than everything! I failed to know You as I should. If I had, I would already have melted away. O my God the rightful owner of thanksgiving! I failed to express my gratitude to You as I should.”
Such servants know that the acts of worship that they carry out are nothing in compared to the favors that they are blessed with, including the blessing of their acts of worship.
Unlimited Blessings Call for Unlimited Gratitude
A person’s not remaining as a lifeless being but blessed with life, not being a plant or animal but having the honor of being a conscious being, and further than that knowing and recognizing God, obtaining the opportunity to open the doors of eternity with the mysterious key of faith, and taking the path to becoming eligible for Paradise are such great blessings that they have no equivalents in this world. The Bestower of these infinite blessings is God Almighty.
If a person becomes aware of all of these blessings, becomes fully oriented to God, deepens in servanthood, becomes a hero of “is there more?” and constantly tries to increase one’s knowledge of God, love, zeal, and enthusiasm, God will then save that person from the whirlpool of arrogance and egotism through His favors and graces. In the words of Muhammed Lütfi Effendi:
“If you truly love the Lord, do you think He will not love you?
If you seek His good pleasure, will He not let you have it?
If you go near His door, ready to offer all you have,
And serve as He ordered, Will He not give its reward?”
Indeed, God Almighty is expressing Himself to us with some thousand happenings every moment. And in response, if we try to monitor phenomena with a systematic and disciplined deliberation, with caution and vigilance, and try to make sense of the whole by juxtaposing separate frames, and make an endeavor for always walking to Him by searching different ways, He will not let us down halfway, because He has never let down those who walked to Him that far.
The Elixir of Ubudiyyah in the Era of Arrogance
Days and nights keep chasing one another throughout history. Since the earth insisted to ignore the heavens, and the heavens commanded the eyes to become tearless, the ground has become a desert throughout. Sometimes, however, showers of mercy pour from the sky, and the earth serves as ground for stalks that yield seven, and even seven hundred, fold more. Sometimes light gains over darkness, which thoroughly shrinks. The atmosphere of spirit beings and angels is victorious to that of devils…in other words, the spiritual establishes dominion over the material. The time of the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, is the prime example of those bright periods. In that era, there was virtually no suitable ground and atmosphere for devils to move around and live comfortably. There were similar bright periods in later times.
Today as well there are many who feel and sense that they are a servant to God with all the particles of their body, who live with the constant consciousness of togetherness with God thanks to the Divinely bestowed inner sensations far beyond their perceptions. If it were not so, this earth would not remain in its orbit. God Almighty looks to the earth through the eyes of those who offer sincere servanthood to Him. He forgives guilty, sinful, and unsteady servants like us for the sake of those pure and faithful servants. He gives some more term to the universe, and He does not destroy it for their sake.
Although our time is an age of arrogance, God willing, a beautiful era has started with respect to worship and ubudiyyah. As is well known, the ultimate point of darkness marks the beginning of light. The horizon darkens before the coming of dawn. But this is the final darkening, and the characteristics of the night will make a surge for one last time. One more time, darkness will cover the entire horizon with a final vengeance, but then you will see the twilight of a false dawn following. Although this initial phase is not the dawn, it is the most truthful herald of the real dawn. It has never proved to be wrong: whenever an initial false dawn emerges, it is followed by a real dawn after a short time.
In short, even if in this age of arrogance, as much as a person deepens in worship and devotions, egotism will forsake that person in the same degree, and the zone of egotism will gradually narrow down. Just as the sphere of darkness narrows down with the expansion of the sphere of light, there exists a similar contrast between ubudiyyah and arrogance. One develops to the disadvantage of the other. As much as a person deepens in worship, his or her egotism diminishes to the same degree. In time, such persons ascribe everything to Divine power, assessing the worth of the achievements they have made only by considering whether God’s good pleasure and approval are there. As a result, they completely melt away in terms of their arrogance and egotism; they do not even recognize themselves, always speaking about Him and proclaiming His name everywhere they go.
This text is the translation of “Kulluktaki Zaafiyet ve Kabaran Enaniyet.”
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