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Friday, November 16, 2012

1. Intermediation through Allah’s names and attributes

1. Intermediation through Allah’s names and attributes

Just as the acts of a petitioner serve as a form of mediation for the redress of his ills and problems, similarly a reference to Allah’s various names becomes a means for the acceptance of his supplication. The theme of the initial verses of surah al-Fātihah, for instance, is focused on the praise and glorification of the Lord:
All praise is for Allah Who is the Lord of all the worlds, (and) is infinitely Kind and Merciful, (and) is the Master of the Day of Judgement.[12]
After enumerating the praises of Allah, the petitioner places before Him his request:
(O Allah,) we worship only You and we seek only Your help.[13]
This is the relationship of service, the bond of servitude. The servant affirms not only his own low status, but also the highest status of Allah Who is Unique and Unrivalled, and in his prayer based on humility and self-negation, he seeks His help.
Here the question arises why worship has been given precedence over help? An act of worship can be performed only with Allah’s blessing. Without His help, it remains unrealised. Therefore, the order of priority should have been reversed. First of all, Allah’s help should have been sought and then with His help the servant should have engaged himself in worship, so the request for help should have preceded the request for worship. But Allah’s commands have logic of their own and this is inherently built in the divine statements. Sometimes they appear to defy human expectation, which is invariably superficial and scratches only surfaces. But the divine logic is deep, and in order to realize its depth, one has to shed this casual sense of expectation. This is in fact the privilege of those human beings who are deeply impressed by divine logic and who staunchly believe that all divine utterances are logically justified as they appeal to our deeper sense of wisdom. Thus the answer to this question has been furnished by Imam Baydāwī while interpreting the verse. He says that the act of worship precedes the act of help to facilitate the acceptance of prayer. This also shows Allah’s concern for His creatures; it is, in addition, the expression of His pervasive and extensive sympathy for His servants that He Himself is showing them the light to make their prayers effective:
And worship has been given precedence over the request for help so that a sense of compatibility is created between the last letters of the verses. Besides, it also suggests that the means (of worship) is given precedence over the request (for help) so that it may be granted.[14]
Then the prayer is followed by another request:
Show us the right path.[15]
The servant, through his mediation as a servant of Allah, implores Him for guidance. Thus a reference to Allah’s names, to the words that describe his own status as His servant, and to his request for guidance, serve as a source of intermediation for the acceptance of his prayer. The servant, by referring to the names of Allah and by lowering his own status to the trough of the wave and confessing his own faults and weakness, prays to Allah and this prayer acts as a form of mediation for the immediate fulfilment of his need or the elimination of his problem.

[12]. Qur’ān (al-Fātihah) 1:1-3.
[13]. Qur’ān (al-Fātihah) 1:4.
[14]. Baydāwī, Tafsīr (1:14).
[15]. Qur’ān (al-Fātihah) 1:5.