The story of creation as we find in the Qur’an and the Prophetic Traditions, provides us with so many lessons about ourselves. After Allah Almighty had created Nabi Adam (a.s.), He instructed the angels to perform a prostration of respect for this new creation. Iblis, who was the head of the jinn, was also told to prostrate. There is no clarity as to whether all the jinn and whatever else existed of heavenly creatures, if there are any, were also asked to prostrate. One may conclude that the call on Iblis to prostrate was part of the call to all of the jinn. But this is only what one can conclude. There is no clarity on these matters.
In this call by Allah Almighty for the heavenly creations to prostrate to Nabi Adam (a.s.) lies a major lesson with regard to obedience to, and respect for Allah Almighty. Iblis refused to prostrate and in his words of refusal there are so many lessons for us. He said that he refused to prostrate because: “I am better than him”. His first word of gross disobedience to his Lord was the word “I”, and his arrogance was displayed by the rest of the statement “better than him”. Because of his arrogance, Allah Almighty cursed him, declared him an unbeliever and ejected him from Paradise. You must know that he was considered one of the greatest performers of ibadat for his Lord. And despite this, one small sentence of arrogance brought his Lord’s punishment upon him. Just one small sentence of arrogance caused him to be cursed.
You see, the personal pronouns “I” and “me” are two of those pronouns that appear to be major pillars of the ego. The more it is used, the more the ego is strengthened or becomes inflated. It is the most amazing thing that two of the smallest words in language can have this kind of impact. Our Lord acts in different ways with regard to many matters.
One of the important teachings that comes out of Islam is the danger posed by the use of these two words to boost the ego. It will give its owner an attitude of his importance to himself and to others. One shivers when one thinks of how these two small words tell us about the personality of the one using them; not using them as simple pronouns but using them to give expression to a highly inflated ego. It was the inflation of the ego of Iblis as expressed in that little sentence that caused his rejection by his Lord.
Perhaps the greatest danger in the over-use of these personal pronouns in order to express pride and one’s self-importance, is that in their use we push Allah Almighty out of our reckoning and, in the process, we do not see the operation of His Decree and His Will in our lives. This is a strange kind of shirk; not the shirk of believing in more than one god or a shirk of deliberately and knowingly giving human beings Divine Attributes but a shirk in which one places the Decree and Will of Allah Almighty outside one’s activities. One then sees oneself as the primary cause and the primary agent; attributes which belong to Allah Almighty, and one considers oneself as the sole agent in one’s behaviour; a behaviour in which Allah Almighty has nothing to do or say. It is strange that we think like atheists when we see ourselves as sole agents. This kind of shirk is highly dangerous because it is so subtle and because of this it is highly damaging to any spiritual growth.
I thought considerably about this during the last few days and there has come into my mind that we must say less of “I” and more of “Ya Rabbi: O my Lord”. In a certain sense we have to recapture or rather to re-access those understandings of Islam that give total priority to our Lord in our lives. We have to understand that it is His Decree that operates in our lives and it is His Will that He imposes. And our obedience to Him involves the acceptance of that Decree and the subordination of what we want and desire to His Will. The more we say “Ya Rabbi” the more there will grow in us an understanding that our Lord is the primary cause and the primary reason. The more we place our dependence on Him and recognise that dependence and call on Him through that dependence, the more the words “Ya Rabbi” will reduce the status and the importance of our egos, and the more it will reduce the “I’s” and the “me’s” into simple personal pronouns. The access to spiritual humility away from satanic arrogance lies through the words “O my Lord” and its repetition in our hearts and on our tongues will become not only the guardians of our spirituality but also its inspiration.
You see, Allah Almighty is there for us. Our mistake and the mistake of millions of others from the beginning of time and most probably till the end of time, is that we have lost access to Him. Such access can be attained by appealing through “Ya Rabbi” or His many other Beautiful Names. Through these calls of reaching out to Him in supplication or in sujud are the means to give our Lord His rightful place in our lives. This must be from our side. We must recognise Him as Lord, although He is Lord. We must move swiftly away from all those discourses and attitudes that make us believe that He is not Lord in our lives. We must be careful. On the Day of Promises we had testified to Him being Lord in our lives. We must not forget this and we should be careful of using ideas and parts of speech in language to deny what we had testified. He is Lord, always and eternally, and it is His Decree and His Will that operate in all of His creation. This does not mean that we do not act. In fact, we act all the time but we have to remember Who has placed His Decree on all our actions. If we want to develop spiritually, we have to start with this, and not escape into discourses or language, which, in fact, deny His existence. We ask Almighty Allah to grant us the best of humility and the best understanding of His Lordship and the best of this world and the Hereafter, amin.