There are many verses in the Quran that guide us to choose our friends and allies. There is a clear emphasis on the company of true believers and how it significantly influences the growth of our souls. Therefore, there is a straightforward command from God to ally with them and to strive with them to worship Him and uphold His truth, united like bricks in one wall. One of the many verses that deliver this message is 18:28 where God is commanding us to force ourselves to be with those who worship Him day & night seeking Him alone. This verse is often used as a reminder when any kind of satanic energy creeps in to divide the believers. However, it is perceived as a command to attend all believers' group activities such as Quranic studies.
This reminder is an attempt to give an insight about this verse (18:28) based on its context and wording, and to shed the light on its relevance to certain verses that are also often used to invite the believers to unite and be allies to one another.
The Arabic words that Dr. Khalifa translated as "force yourself to be with" are: " asber nafsaka maa". "asber" is the verb command for the noun "sabr" which means perseverance. There are 89 verses in the Quran that remind the believers of this important quality through many derivatives of the word "sabr" . Another way to rephrase such command would be "strive or steadfastly persevere to be with".
"force yourself to be with", somehow, has lead to a very common misconception that 18:28 means we should attend ANY Submitters' event. However, a careful analysis of the whole verse (18:28), doesn't reveal that. Let’s have a closer look at the verse and carefully analyze its wording:
[18:28] You shall force yourself to be with those who worship their Lord day and night, SEEKING HIM ALONE. Do not turn your eyes away from them, seeking the vanities of this world. Nor shall you obey one whose heart we rendered oblivious to our message; one who pursues his own desires, and whose priorities are confused.
In that verse, the statement "seeking Him alone" is often ignored despite its crucial value. It is what God has chosen to characterize the day & night worship of those who we are to force ourselves with - a specification and condition that He deliberately emphasized. Seeking God alone is the one detail that would enlighten us to understand the real context and application of this verse: true believers should prioritize their affairs and choose their company based on that principal, seeking God alone. An explanation is given to us after that statement (seeking Him alone) to indicate the alternative of failing to implement that crucial principal He has detailed: we would be seeking the vanities of this world and associate ourselves with those whose priorities are confused which will weaken our souls. It is important to note that:
- The verse sets the perfect scale for us to know who the ones we shall persevere to be with from among those who worship God day and night.
- The verse commands us to persevere or strive or make an effort or try hard to be with those who seek Him alone in their worship. God left it as that to be up to our judgment and life circumstances. It is not by any mean an obligation to attend every single Quranic study or submitters' event. That would be a stretch beyond what it says and a burden that God has never imposed.
Along the same lines, we can fully comprehend and appreciate the context behind 6:52 which is often used to remind the believers with unity. Again, in that verse, 6:52, the scale is set perfectly: devotion to God alone is what God deliberately specifying to validate the worship of those who we should not dismiss, even if it was done day and night. 6:52 doesn't go beyond that to make it an obligation to be associated with just about anyone who claims to worship and implore God day and night.
[6:52] And do not dismiss those who implore their Lord day and night, DEVOTING THEMSELVES TO HIM ALONE. You are not responsible for their reckoning, nor are they responsible for your reckoning. If you dismiss them, you will be a transgressor.
Using the same exact principal He has used above, seeking Him alone, God has guided us to choose the mosque we worship at. When God alone is not the foundation for that mosque and His Quran is not acknowledged as the ultimate truth and reference, we must make the right decision based on Quranic teachings irrespective of any calls for unity through the abuse of 18:28 and 6:52. It is always the absolute devotion to God alone that would matter and would guide true believers to judge situations and quote and apply the right verses :
[9:107] There are those who abuse the masjid by practicing idol worship, dividing the believers, and providing comfort to those who oppose GOD and His messenger. They solemnly swear: "Our intentions are honorable!" GOD bears witness that they are liars.
[9:108] You shall never pray in such a masjid. A masjid that is established on the basis of righteousness from the first day is more worthy of your praying therein. In it, there are people who love to be purified. GOD loves those who purify themselves.
The Same golden rule is used by God in 49:9-10 to achieve the real meaning of peace within the family of submitters. Seeking God alone is the one basic principal and the only perfect scale set by God to establish justice as His path for peace within a community of believers. No other approach besides the submission to His commands is recommended by God to end disputes equitably in pursue of peace. Once man-made approaches and wishes become more preferable, we end up wronging our souls. 49:10 is often abused to blindly invite to peace and harmony in an attempt to unite the believers neglecting God's call to establish justice based on His commands to attain such peace.
[49:9] If two groups of believers fought with each other, you shall reconcile them. If one group aggresses against the other, you shall fight the aggressing group until they submit to GOD's command. Once they submit, you shall reconcile the two groups equitably. You shall maintain justice; GOD loves those who are just.
[49:10] The believers are members of one family; you shall keep the peace within your family and reverence GOD, that you may attain mercy.
The above analysis is not intended to undermine the value of being united as a righteous community of true believers. In fact, such analysis emphasizes and defines the crucial elements of unity as expressed by God almighty in various verses. The same exact crucial specification of seeking Him alone as a condition to achieve unity is expressed as holding fast to the rope of God, observing Him alone, and steadfastly persevering in HIS cause. Believers can only succeed to unite with each other when they first strive to unite with God by holding fast to His rope - His guidance - His commands.
[3:103] You shall hold fast to the rope of GOD, all of you, and do not be divided. Recall GOD's blessings upon you - you used to be enemies and He reconciled your hearts. By His grace, you became brethren. You were at the brink of a pit of fire, and He saved you therefrom. GOD thus explains His revelations for you, that you may be guided.
[3:104] Let there be a community of you who invite to what is good, advocate righteousness, and forbid evil. These are the winners.
[61:4] GOD loves those who fight in His cause united in one column, like the bricks in one wall.
[3:200] O you who believe, you shall be steadfast, you shall persevere, you shall be united, you shall observe GOD, that you may succeed.
In conclusion, seeking God alone is the very basic principal set by God to arrange our priorities and choose our company from among those who seem to be worshiping and imploring God day and night. This crucial principal is spelled out in 18:28, 6:52. 18:28 does not mandate the attendance of every submitters' meeting, event, or Quranic study as wrongly perceived by some. It commands us to strive or do our best to be with those who seek Him alone. 6:52 doesn't command us to be associated with anyone who implores and worships - only those who are devoting themselves to Him alone. Moreover, the same divine rule is used by God to guide us when we choose our places of worship and when we attempt to mediate to end disputes between fighting parties from among the believers. Praying with wrong parties or seeking peace without justice are invalid calls for unity. Persevering to adhere to such crucial principal is what ultimately unites us together as one party of God.
Peaceful Friday, salaam, and God bless.