Excerpt from the book “The Secrets of the Opening Chapter”
A short look at the Arabic expression “Iyyaaka” (إِيَّاكَ)
by Shaykh Muhammad Al-Akili
Verse V: Iyyaaka Na’abudu (إِيَّاكَ نَعْبُدُ)
The first word of the fifth verse of the Opening Chapter of the Holy Quran (arb. Al-Fatiha – الفاتِحَة) is “Iyyaaka” (إِيَّاكَ) which literally means in English ‘Alone You, or only You’. The verse may be interpreted in English as “Your reality alone we worship and adore.” My Lord and the Lord of all creations. We learned about You from You and we only know what You taught us and such was greatly clarified through Your Sacred Revelations. That is, there is no truth except You and no reality but You. The Arabic word ‘Yaa’ (يَا) is a Vocative Particle (arb. harfu Nidaa – حَرْف النِّدَاء) which must be followed by a Direct Calling Object (arb. munaada – مُنَادَى), and in this case it is the ending Arabic letter ‘ka’ which is diagrammed in Arabic as a Personal Pronoun second Person, being the Holy Almighty Allah سبحانه وتعالى the Most Supreme. “Iyyaaka” (إِيَّاكَ) may also be diagrammed in Arabic as a Demonstrative Pronoun (arb. ismu-l-ishara – إسمُ الإشارَة) which is a substitute for the Subject of the sentence (arb. al-faa’il – الفاعِل) who does the action and who is previously specified or understood from the context of the sentence. The Demonstrative Pronoun here also indicates the Active Voice in the Present tense. Applying the Demonstrative Pronoun in this context indicates the rising from the state of having the rational proof according to one’s knowledge or understanding, such as in saying “Only Him do we worship”, to the station of concrete specification of the Object of the Sentence in the Present tense as in “Only You do we worship”. Using the Active Voice (arb. al-mabni lil-ma’loum –المَبْنِي لِلْمَعْلُوم ) in the Arabic sentence also indicates the testament of the beholder who is witnessing the action at the time of speaking. That is called ‘telling the truth’ freely with one’s hearing, sight, tongue, clarity, innermost being, and soul. One who witnesses the evidence at the moment when the action is taking place addresses the Subject with the Demonstrative Pronoun in the 2nd person. Here ‘Only’ is an adverb (arb. zarf – ظَرف ) used to emphasize the exclusive relationship between the servant and his Lord سبحانه وتعالى, the created being and his Divine Creator, and “Only You” excludes anyone else besides Almighty Allah عَزَّ وَجَلَّ the Most Supreme by proclaiming His undivided sovereignty, such as in “Those who say: Our Lord is Allah, and then, they straighten up their act” devoutly with honesty, faithfulness and the correct adherence to the Divine commands of their Lord and Creator. Those who ‘Straighten up their act’ also means “To establish regular prayers, and to spend privately and openly from what We provide them.” That is in charity, and they “Give alms bowing to their Lord,” meaning being attentive and observant of His commands. The word ‘observant’, (ob*serve, pronounced with a closed ‘a’ sound as in aob-) also means ‘to celebrate’, ‘to see to’, ‘to comply with’, ‘to carry out’, or ‘to be true to’ the Master by focusing and returning to serve His Will. The Arabic verb ‘ab’ or ‘aab’ also means ‘to return to,’ which is related to the attribute of Allah’s Prophets Dawoud (David) عليه السلام and Ayoub (Job) عليه السلام upon both of whom be peace, among others, ‘awwaab’ (أوَّاب), or the oft-returning, – (إِنَّهُ كَانَ أوَّاباً) “innahu kaana awwaab”, (lit. he always comes back to his Lord), with feeling of melancholy, desolation, and sorrow, as in “O mountains and birds rehearse the praises of Allah with him!”, or as in: ‘I have no one else to turn to but You’, which is a natural characteristic of the true believer. As to the English word ‘Serve’, (arb. sarf, صَرْف v. sarafa صَرَفَ) looking at it from the point of view of the meaning and the root of the Arabic word ‘insiraaf’ (إِنْصِرَاف) which means to dedicate oneself to someone or something, to go to, or to leave someone or something in favor of another, as in His saying: (تَصْرِيفِ الرِّيَاحِ) – “tasSreef-ir-riyaah”  , (lit. managing, dedicating and directing the course of winds and clouds). Allah knows best.
Since the Creator, the Kingdom, and the Causal Being is the addressed One in ‘Only You’ – “Iyyaaka” (إِيَّاكَ), this recognition is the most logical, for only Allah سبحانه وتعالى the Most Supreme can bring about such major undertakings, and only He can sustain and provide for the needs of the entirety of His creations. In ‘Only You’ – “Iyyaaka,” the praises of the servant “al-Hamdu Lillah” becomes the natural synonym of “Iyyaaka,” for the intelligent creations can only recognize its absolute dependency on the sole Sustainer of all creations. ‘Only You’ – “Iyyaaka,” also refutes polytheism or the attribution of what is good to other than Allah عَزَّ وَجَلَّ the Most Supreme, and yet, it recognizes that what is good is only possible by His guidance and for its own benefits. Our Lord says: “And whoever believes in the Absolute Supreme Lord, He guides his heart, for surely Allah knows everything;” and “We surely do not let go to waste the reward of someone who does good.” Otherwise, what is bad is solely caused by one’s own actions, and as a result of one’s own disobedience, but yet, it is Allah سبحانه وتعالى the Most Supreme that controls its effect, and no adversity can ever take place except by His permission. Thus, ‘Only You’ – “Iyyaaka” is the proof of Him, and the specification of the dependent’s inner declaration (arb. baatTin – بَاطِن) of Allah’s Supremacy عَزَّ وَجَلَّ, while recognizing His favors with gratitude in the expression “al-Hamdu Lillah” is a manifest act of awareness which is an outer testimony (arb. shahada – شَهَادَة), or a declaration and a proof of the servant’s awareness of his Lord, going from inner to outer, and rising in stations from witnessing to testifying. Ultimately being one, uniting the innermost being with the outer form, his body, mind and soul, and it is to sharpen one’s focus in total and continual awareness of the Divine Omnipresence of Allah عَزَّ وَجَلَّ the Most Supreme with ‘Only You’ – “Iyyaaka.” The all-Hearing, the All-Seeing and the Divine Monitor of everything.
Thus, we learn from our Lord how to address His Supreme Holy Being reverently. Together, The Arabic expression “iyyaaka” becomes the infinite Ocean of Mercy, and the ever flowing stream of Divine Grace which is recognized by the servant through the guidance of his Lord; meaning that without You we would not know You, for only You are Allah عَزَّ وَجَلَّ. You are our sole focus. You are our only occupation. You are the Supreme Reality that preoccupies any intelligent being You alone can create and guide to experience Your Divine Holy Presence. The prophets, the messengers and the savants know You. They point your creation towards You. They seek only You and they love only to be with You. There is no Presence that is more overwhelming except Your Holy Presence. There is no attraction which is more impossible to resist pondering upon except You. You are the Magnificent Divine causal being Whose Attributes are the ever operating powers of His Holy Manifestations. Since the time when You spread Your Divine Mercy of ‘ar-Rahman’ over the Throne (arb.الرَّحْمَن عَلى العَرشِ استَوَى), Your Divine Luminous Lights reflected only You. They were immersed in the sheer honor and exaltedness of bowing and prostrating before You, to be in Your nearness. Our Lord! If it were not for You, we would not have seen the light, nor would we have ever experienced being Your creation, or met with the life of Your creation. Only You can awaken the wisdom in your creation to worship its Creator and Lord. Only You can place love in our hearts to aspire for Yours. For us to love You is normal, for You are the Lord and we are Your subjects, but for You to love us is an extreme Divine compassion of immense magnitude. For us to call upon You is normal, for we have no one except You to call upon for all our needs, but for You to call us to come to You is an awesome Divine kindness only the Lord of Divine Grace can show. You created us, then fashioned us, and breathed into our father Adam in paradise from Your own Soul, and You placed Your Divine Magnificent Light on his forehead to resplend as Your most blissful effulgence, and the source of his knowledge and Divine Luminous Wisdom. You are Allah سبحانه وتعالى, and surely there is no one worthy of worship except You our Lord. It is the “ka” of Your Holy address “iyyaaka” (إيَّاكَ) that we always address. It is the ‘nuqta’ (نُقْطَة) dot over the ‘na’ of “na’abudu” (نَعْبُدُ) which emphasizes Your Divine Oneness and brings together Your creation in one proclamation to call upon You, and to humbly bow before Your Majesty, our Lord! Forgive us for even thinking, or pronouncing the Vocative particle “Ya” in “iyyaaka” (إِيَّاكَ) to address Your Holy Majesty our Lord. We are not sure as to how our innate silent recognition of Your Majesty has evolved into a sound to identify Your address our Lord! Even the possibility to consider to recognize what is obvious is an impolite way of thinking. We beseech You to forgive us for attempting to explore that. Even the tears of regret cannot erase the guilt from our shattered hearts to even ponder for one second upon Your magnificent Omni-Presence. Our Lord! Forgive us for our recurring failure in bringing ourselves together to stand before Your Holy Majesty. Forgive us for asking for forgiveness from the Most Compassionate Lord Who forgives all sins and Who has knowledge of all things.
Forgive us for trying to hide our failures from the One before Whom nothing is hidden! Forgive us for failing to love what You love, and pardon us for indulging in what You warned us not to fall into! Here we stand at the door of the Most Gracious and Generous One, with the hope and confidence that He will show His All-Encompassing Mercy together with His kind and subtle exclusive compassion to those who feel ashamed of themselves for having strayed away from where He commanded them to remain. So forgive us, our Lord! Forgive us for neglecting our duties, pardon our procrastination and our desperation to reach You far from where You placed us. Our Lord! “Iyyaaka” alone we humbly solicit and beg with the silent voice of a beggar whose condition You alone know. Our Lord, do not despise us for even thinking that we have merits to beg. You are most sufficient, and indeed, we acknowledge that You have given each one of Your creation their needed sustenance. You made the water inside a deep well to gush forth as a fountain, and the spring to flow into the river, and the rivers to reach the oceans, so accept our recourse to You, for Your magnificence has left us no options except seeking Your Mercy and Divine Benevolence. Our Lord! Forgive us for attempting to climb the steps of the ladder of “Iyyaaka” to address Your Holy Majesty with our trivial requests, rather than accepting to be content with what You have destined for us. Our gratitude in ‘al-Hamd’ (الحَمْدُ) will certainly fall short of Your approval, and yet, Your acceptance is beyond any expectation. Our understanding of the limitlessness of Your overflowing Holy Grace is even less than a drop in the Divine ocean of Your knowledge of our limitations. You hear, see and know everything. You sustain everything, and although You have given us eyes to see in one direction, and a neck to turn our heads, and a body to move towards other directions, and yet we still fail to fully identify even the weight of an atom of the All-Encompassing Holy Attributes of the unfathomable Lord of Divine Grace. So please forgive us our Lord. Our dependency on You is total, and yet our recognition of Your incessant support is surely inadequate. Forgive us our Lord. Our need for You is the driving force which You have embedded in us as our innate spirits to seek and to receive only from You, and to find only in You, our Holy One.
Our Lord! When we claim to serve You, we in fact serve our own needs to be sustained by You. Our Lord! When we remember You, we in fact solicit the One Who does not forget to consider us among the near ones, so forgive our ignorance. You are indeed the Omni-Present Lord of the universes. Our Lord! When we fall into sin, we feel ashamed of ourselves, and we seek your cover of forgiveness. Our Lord! Although You cover our shame with the cloak of Your forgiveness, yet, in Your subtle Mercy, You guard and guide us with the whip of regret to prevent recurrences. “Surely there is no safeguard from Allah except in Him.” Our Lord! You have informed us that “Sufficient for each human being to realize what he has done.” “And whosoever transgresses the limits that Allah has established (for humanity by which to abide) will only harm himself.” You also revealed to us that “Whoever follows the (Divine) guidance, it will be for his own good, and whoever strays from it, that will be his loss,” and “Whoever earns himself a misdeed, it adds up to his reckonable records.” Our Lord! You’ve also informed us that whatever adversities one suffers in this life, it is the consequence of his own doing.
Our Lord! You alone ‘Iyyaaka’ we humbly beseech and pray for Your Mercy and Compassion. To You alone ‘Iyyaaka’ we submit. Before You alone ‘Iyyaaka’ we stand, and to You ‘Iyyaaka’ we bow and prostrate. Surely there is none worthy of worship except You our Lord, ‘Iyyaaka’. With the first vowel ‘iy’ of the first letter of ‘iyyaaka’ we respond as Your favor upon us to Your call, for You warned us: “Fulfill your covenant with Me, I will fulfill My covenant with you.” Our Lord! You warned us “Do not sell My Revelations for a cheap price,” but some were tempted by the accursed deceiver to do so. Forgive us our Lord, and strengthen our faith in You. Increase us in knowledge and wisdom, and guard us not to fail our promised covenant. Our Lord! With Your help alone, ‘Iyyaaka’, when the ‘iy’ vowel turned ‘ay’, it became Your most solemn assurance of the miracle, ‘aaya’ (آيَة) of Your love for those You alone can guide on the Straight Path. As Your Holy Utterance stated when You addressed Your blessed Prophet Moses عليه السلام upon whom be peace saying: “Had it been you who created him, you would have answered his plea!” No wonder Your creation turn to You our Lord for all their needs, for only Your All-Encompassing Mercy, Your ‘Rahma’ (رَحْمَة) alone encompasses everything. Our Lord! Cure our sick. Heal the wounds of our shame. Answer the prayers of Your own Prophet, Messengers, angels, and the pious ones on our behalf. Accept their intercession, for only You ‘iyyaaka’ accepts the compassionate intersession of Your creation on behalf of the penitent ones. Our Lord! You said: “Whoever presents a well deserved intercession will receive an added share to it.” Our Lord! Reward them eternally, and multiply Your blessings upon them with every breath and in every second, to equal the number of Your creations. Our Lord, and add Your Most lofty blessings especially upon our beloved Prophet Muhammad صَلى اللهُ عَلَيهِ وَسَلَّم upon whom and upon his most honorable family be peace, shower them with Your ever effulgent eternal blessings.
Our Lord! Bless us to keep Your praises constant in our intentions, thoughts, hearts and focus. Fill our hearts with Your Holy Presence, and guard them against becoming engrossed with anyone but You. Make ‘Iyyaaka’ alone our eternal and sole preoccupation. Teach us the realities ‘Haqaa’iq’ (حَقَائِق – حَقِيقَةَ) of ‘Iyyaaka’. Make us understand the prayers of ‘Iyyaaka’. We are in fact subjugated by no one except ‘Iyyaaka’. We have recourse to no one except ‘Iyyaaka’. When the clouds of images and shadows dissipate and nothing remains but ‘Iyyaaka’, and when the veils of blindness fall, where no reality remains but ‘Iyyaaka’, “When the inevitable event takes place;” (arb. إذا وَقَعَتِ الوَاقِعَة) “When the earth will be shaken up, and the mountains burst up into suspended dust;” “Scattered like carded wool;” “When the stars are dimmed to become invisible, and when the skies are rent asunder;“ “When the sun is folded up,” when time is suspended and “When the oceans burst aflame;” “When each soul knows what it brought forth for this day;” “When the graves burst open,” “when the earth is flattened out, and when it spills over its contents to step back,” having fulfilled its required duties, and “Each soul realizes what it put forth, and what awaits it;” “On the day when man will say, is there a way to escape this?” On that sure coming Day, we have no one to solicit forgiveness, Mercy and Compassion except ‘Iyyaaka’ (إِيَّاكَ). Our Lord, have mercy on us. We find no Savior except ‘Iyyaaka’, You alone are our Lord and the Lord of all creations. Who else but You ‘Iyyaaka’ (إِيَّاكَ) can bring the soil back to life after it died?
“He brings out the living from the dead, and brings the dead out of the living, and He also brings the earth back to life after it has died, and like that you will be resurrected.”
يُخْرِجُ الْحَيَّ مِنَ الْمَيِّتِ وَيُخْرِجُ الْمَيِّتَ مِنَ الْحَيِّ وَيُحْيِي الْأَرْضَ بَعْدَ مَوْتِهَا ۚ وَكَذَٰلِكَ تُخْرَجُونَ
Surely there is no Supreme Sovereign Lord besides ‘Iyyaaka’, the Ever Living; the Sovereign Controller is ‘Iyyaaka’ indeed. Neither slumber nor sleep can take over ‘Iyyaaka’. Whatever the heavens and the earth hold belongs solely to ‘Iyyaaka’, and no one can ever intercede before Your Holy Majesty except as You permit? You alone know what is awaiting Your creation, and what they leave behind them. No one can ever encompass a thing of Your knowledge except as You will. Your Holy Throne encompasses the heavens and the earth, and it does not weary You to preserve them, for You are the Most Exalted and the Magnificent One. ‘Iyyaaka na’abudu’ – (إِيَّاكَ نَعْبُدُ) –, Your Divine Reality alone we adore, You alone do we worship and Your Help alone do we seek.
Allah سبحانه وتعالى knows best.
Al-faqir ila Rahmati Rabbihi
October 6, 2013
 (Quran 9:118)
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 Arb. gram. (arb. harf jawaab), Particle of Reply which comes before a solemn oath.
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