Thee (alone) We Worship

dua

إِيَّاكَ نَعْبُدُ وَإِيَّاكَ نَسْتَعِينُ

Thee (alone) we worship; Thee (alone) we ask for help.

(al-Fatihah : 5)

The most fundamental aspect of Islam is that of Tawhid – the oneness of Allah (swt). Nothing else is as important as this one concept – it was ever the message of all the Prophets of Allah. It is thus one of the main themes of the Qur’an and this ayah makes an indirect reference to it.

A normal Arabic sentence might be: “Kataba Muhammad al-darsa – Muhammad wrote the lesson”. In this sentence the first word is the verb (to write) the second one is the doer (Muhammad) and the last word is the object (the lesson). So in normal Arabic sentence structure the verb comes first and then the object. But in the ayah above the positions of the two are reversed: the object (Iyyaaka – You) is mentioned first and then the verb (Na’budu – we worship). And there is profound wisdom in this subtle difference. For in the normal sentence structure it is possible to add on more objects after the first. For example one could say: We worship the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost. But when the object is placed first, then such a sentence is not possible. There can only be one object and more cannot be added on. That is why the translation is given as “Thee (alone) do we worship” even though the word “alone” is nowhere mentioned in the Arabic. So even the simple matter of the phrasing of the sentence has an effect on the meaning and it is here an allusion to the supreme Oneness of Allah (swt).

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