Tafseer of ‘You (Alone) we worship and You (Alone) we ask for help’

You Alone We Worship

Explanation of Shaykh ‘Abdur Rahmaan bin Naasir as-Sa’dee (1376H)

His statement, “You Alone do we worship and in You Alone we seek aid.” i.e. we specify You alone in worship and seeking aid since preceding the one who the action is performed on restricts it. It (i.e. this restriction) is affirming the mentioned characteristic and negating it for others. It is as if He is saying, ‘We worship You, and we do do not worship other than You. We seek aid in You, and we do not seek aid in other than You.’

Worship is mentioned before seeking aid from the angle of preceding the general before the specific, and giving precedence to the right of Allaah over the right of the servant. Worship is a comprehensive term that includes everything that Allaah loves and is pleased with of statements and actions, whether they are apparent or hidden. Isti’aanah (seeking aid) is dependance on Allaah, The Exalted, in obtaining benefit and deflecting harm while firmly believing that He is capable of that.

Carrying out the worship of Allaah and seeking aid in Him is the corridor to eternal bliss and salvation from all evil. There is no path to salvation except that both are upheld. Worship is only considered worship when taken from the Messenger of Allaah (صلى الله عليه وسلم) and the intent with it is seeking the Face of Allaah. So only by these two affairs is something considered worship. Isti’aanah (seeking aid) is mentioned after worship, even though it is included in it, because the servant is in need of Isti’aanah (seeking aid) in Allaah, The Exalted, during all of his acts of worship. If Allaah does not aid him; he will not be able to attain what he desires of enacting His commands and abstaining from His prohibitions.

Explanation of Shaykh Muhammad ibn Saalih Al-‘Uthaimeen (1421H)

إِيَّاكَ (Iyyaaka) “You alone” :

This is the direct object, which comes before the verb na’budu “we worship.” In Arabic grammar, when the direct object precedes the verb, it gives a sense of restriction so the meaning would be, “We don’t worship anyone or anything except You alone.”

نَعۡبُدُ (na’budu) “we worship” :

We humble ourselves to you in complete humbleness. In this way, you find the believers placing the most honorable part of their bodies (their faces) at the level of their feet in humility to Allaah (azza wa jal). They prostrate on the ground, covering their foreheads with dirt. This is from their humbleness before Allaah. In addition, if another person were to say, “I will give you the whole world and what it contains, just prostrate to me once,” you will never find the true believers accepting this because this type of humility is worship specifically for Allaah alone.

The word “worship” includes doing everything Allaah commands and avoiding everything He prohibits. Whoever is not in accordance with this, not carrying out what he is commanded and avoiding what he is forbidden, then he is not a true worshipper and servant. A worshipper is one who obeys the One he worships in what He legislates. So worship requires that mankind carry out everything they are commanded with and avoid everything they are forbidden. However, it is not possible to carry out all of this without the help and assistance of Allaah. For this, Allaah (Subhaanahu wa Ta’ala) then says:

وَإِيَّاكَ نَسۡتَعِينُ (wa Iyyaaka nasta’een) “and from You alone we seek help” :

Meaning, “We do not seek the help of anyone else in worship and otherwise.” This “seeking of help” is to request the help, assistance, and Allaah (Subhaanahu wa Ta’ala) combines between worship and the seeking of assistance or reliance in many places within the Noble Qur’aan. This is because worship could not be completely established except with the help of Allaah, trusting the affairs to Him and relying upon Him.

Points of benefit of al-Faatihah, Verse 4:

1. From the virtues of this verse is the sincerity in worship, which is due to Allaah alone as He says, “You alone we worship.” It shows that this worship is due only to Allaah alone by the direct object (You) coming before the verb (we worship) according to the rules of Arabic grammar.

2. Another point is that the seeking of help is also sincerely and solely for Allaah based upon the statement, “and from You alone we seek help.” Likewise, the direct object preceded the verb indicating this restriction as in the first part of the verse.

These points being said, what if someone asks: How is it that seeking help is exclusively for Allaah alone when there has come in another one of His statements:

وَتَعَاوَنُواْ عَلَى ٱلۡبِرِّ وَٱلتَّقۡوَىٰ

“And Help one another in righteousness and piety.”
[Sooratul-Maaidah, 5:2]

So how do we understand these two statements when, here in this verse, Allaah is confirming the seeking of help from other than himself? In addition, the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) said:

“Helping a man onto his riding animal, carrying him upon it, or lifting his belongins up to him while he is upon it – all of these are (considered) acts of charity.”[Recorded by al-Bukhaaree (no. 2891) and Muslim (no. 1009)]

The answer to this question is that the act of seeking help and assistance is of two types: seeking help and entrusting all affairs to the one asked from. You rely completely upon Allaah and you realize the result does not come from your own power or capability – this type is seeking help is specific to only Allaah (azza wa jal).

The second type is seeking help by cooperation in something you want to accomplish. This type is permissible as long as the one being requested is living and capable of doing what is asked of him. This is not considered a form of worship. This is the type that Allaah refers to when saying:

وَتَعَاوَنُواْ عَلَى ٱلۡبِرِّ وَٱلتَّقۡوَىٰ

“And Help one another in righteousness and piety.”
[Sooratul-Maaidah, 5:2]

If it is further asked, “Is seeking help from the creation permissible at all times and in all situations?”

The answer is no. Requesting help from the creation is only allowed when the one being asked is fully capable of what he is being asked for, otherwise seeking his help is not permissible. An example would be asking help from someone dead in the grave; this is prohibited, rather it is major Shirk (the associating of partners with Allaah in worship)! This is because the person in his grave does not even possess the ability to help himself so how could he help someone else? Similarly, if someone seeks the help of another person who is not present with him such as a person believing that someone else in the far eastern part of the world could help him with something in his (the one seeking help) land. This is also major Shirk because the other person is not capable of helping him while he is there in another land.

So if it is now asked, “So is it permissible to seek help from the creation if these conditions are met?”

The answer is that it is better not to ask anyone for any help unless it is absolutely necessary or if it is known that providing such help would please that person. In this case, one could request his assistance in order to make him happy. The act which you seek another’s help in fulfilling must also not be something sinful and prohibited.

[Source: The Fundamentals of Tafseer & Tafseer of Soorahs: al-Faatihah, al-Ikhlaas, al-Falaq and an-Naas by Shaykh Muhammad ibn Saalih al-‘Uthaymeen, Tarbiyyah Bookstore Publishing]

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The Qur'an and Sunnah upon the understanding of the Salafus-Saalih (Righteous Predecessors).
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