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(Sura 10: verse 104) - Honoring the Prophet

 Added May 16, 2005

Sura 10, verse 104 reads as follows:

"Say (O Muhammad): O mankind! if you are in doubt about my religion, then (know that) I do not worship those whom you worship besides Allah but I worship Allah, Who causes you to die, and I am commanded that I should be of the believers." (Qur'an 10:104)

This verse can be regarded in two ways - in it's basic meaning and a possible deeper meaning. One meaning is that this verse is a simple statement of clarification about the Prophet - that his religion (his "din") is to not worship any but Allah and to be a believer.

This verse opens with a command - God commands the Prophet to state a truth about himself - to reveal to the people information about his state and condition and his relation to God. This truth can be understood at different levels. One level is the simple statement of a fact - that the Prophet does not worship any but Allah - the other level is a statement about the uniqueness of the Prophet - his unparalleled stature and the high nature which he has infused in him. Let's take a look at this verse with this in mind.

First - the Prophet does not state this information about himself (that he worships only Allah) of his own volition - there is no self-glorification or pride in his statement as he does not make it from his own desire to proclaim his status. If that were the case then it would be like Shaitan saying about his nature compared to Adam's nature, "I am better than he - you created me of fire and him of clay." It would be a statement of self-superiority.

Rather, the Prophet (s.a.) remains silent about his nature until he is commanded to speak - this silence and reticence in the absence of a direct command is a sign of his true servanthood. The Prophet is "abd" (a servant) to God and so he only speaks when Allah issues a command, telling the Prophet to reveal something about his own nature and status and the nature of his religion. The Prophet is a servant who has been taught by a great Master - he has vast knowledge and ability but in the presence of his Master he remains silent about his own stature following the etiquette of respect and the natural inclination of loving deference to his Master. Till the Master commands him to speak, he says nothing about his own self. So the word "Say" at the beginning of this verse issues forth as an imperative command, a Divine order to the Prophet to speak about something which might otherwise have remained concealed.

The Prophet states three simple facts:

- that he does not worship anything that others might worship besides Allah - he worships only Allah

- that everyone will become aware of the true state of affairs after death (as Allah causes everyone to die and this death is a removing of veils and a return to Allah)

- that the Prophet is commanded to be a believer

Now these three simple statements are indicators of the astonishing stature of Muhammad (s.a.).

He is commanded to make these statements to all of mankind - to humans in general. The statements he makes are reminiscent of Sura Kafirun - but one strong distinction is that Sura Kafirun was addressed specifically to the disbelievers. This statement is addressed to all mankind ("nas"). In Kafirun, a distinction is drawn between the disbelievers and the Prophet. But here an amazing distinction is made between the Prophet and "nas" - between the Prophet and humankind in general. Through this technique the qur'an subtly honors the Prophet elevating him and distinguishing him above all mankind.

But what kind of an elevation is it? It is an elevation tied to his unique relation to Allah, to an intimate connection, an attachment of true servanthood that makes the Prophet a perfect bondsman of Allah. God makes the Prophet say: "O mankind, if you are in doubt about my "din", about the path, the way upon which I walk - if you are in doubt that every aspect of my life, my "din" is devoted entirely to Allah, then know this: "I do not worship those whom you worship alongside Allah...."

Mankind's worship while it may include the worship of God, is lacking the purity and exclusivity of worship that is signified in the Prophet's relationship to God. The Prophet's worship does not turn or deviate in the slightest from Allah, while the worship of others may include the worship of Allah but may also encompass a broader arc so that their worship is not free of the taint of shirk (associating worldly things with God), whether that shirk is a major or minor shirk, and whether it includes the worship of other gods or simply links an aspect of their own ego or a favored ideology to their worship of Allah. There are many levels and forms of shirk and most of mankind are not free from some form of it, however mild that form may be. The Prophet's spirit, his worship, is like a true compass that points only to God without wavering. For others, they have a compass which points to Allah but which deviates and wavers and is pulled in different directions dpending on their environment, the presence of distracting metals and local magnetic fields (worldly involvements and attractions).

But here, in this verse (verse 104), the Prophet is commanded to reveal the purity of his worship - he does not associate - he does not commit shirk at any level. "O mankind! if you are in doubt about my religion, then (know that) I do not worship any whom you worship besides Allah, but I worship only Allah."

So there is first a negation - 'I do not worship anything of what you worship in addition to Allah.' This a complete negation of any of the kinds and types of shirk practised consciously or unconsciously by any among mankind. Then there is the positive statement - "I worship only Allah." Before a pure tauhid can exist, there must be the total negation of shirk. So he begins with the negation of shirk and ends with the affirmation of an untainted, pure tauhid.

Then he reveals his knowledge of the realities that are beyond this world. The verse implies (esp. in the context of the earlier verses of this sura) that after Allah causes people to die they will become aware of the truth and will realize that devotion to anything but God is self-deception. The Prophet is already well acquainted with these realities. His perception and his being are awake in this world and the next - his consciousness, his understanding, penetrates this world and the next. So he knows the truth of what awaits us. Allah commands him to say that which he knows through direct experience - that the entire system of existence is under God's dominion - He causes to die and to Him is the return. Death rather than some other aspect of God's power or His signs is used to focus in on the root of the matter - the connection between man and God, between life and afterlife and the barrier of death which veils and separates the one from the other.

Finally, the Prophet's belief, his status as a mumin (believer) is by the command of Allah. This is an exalted status. He is the complete and perfect servant, even his belief emanating and linked to the command of his Master. His trust is entirely in God, his iman is from the command of God - the elevation of his spirit, his worship, his belief is from God. He has placed his being entirely in the care of God and movements of his ego are non-existent.

Most of mankind wander distracted and aimless through their lives, or are driven by compulsions of the ego or ambition, or are driven by myriad fears, or by the compulsions of society, or by the compulsion of their appetites and desires, or by the compulsion for power and control, moving step by step under the illusion of progress - under the illusion that they are walking of their own volition. So in this verse Allah commands the Prophet to reveal his inner state, the quality of his worship and his way of life - displaying the unique status of the Prophet, a status elevated above all of mankind.

God commands the Prophet to be a believer - one interpretation is that the command issues forth, but people can turn away or follow according to the dictates of free will. So God commands the Prophet and being a true servant, he follows freely and willingly with perfection the command of His Master. The other interpretation is that Allah commands his belief and there is no choice in the matter, so the Prophet's iman, like his infallibility, is Divinely ordained.

There is a verse in the qur'an that describes the variance in quality of the plants of the earth and the fruits produced by them. "And some plants We have ranked in exellence of produce above others, even though they are watered with one water...." (Qur'an 13:4)

Though all of mankind are watered with the same water - the water of the Spirit - yet some are ranked higher in exellence than others. In this verse (v. 104) God is commanding the Prophet to display some small and subtle hint of his unique excellence, and his elevated stature. An elevated stature which arises out of his inner humility and his absolute servanthood.

-Irshaad Hussain

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