Why Follow the Sunnah
If you love God, follow the Guide, and God will love you
“Say: ‘If you love God, follow me, [and] God will love you…’ ” (Koran 3:31)
When we look at the verse above, we recognize that it is different from what we generally think; that when we love our creator, He loves us back. Yet, this verse suggests that to say “I love God” by itself is not enough to receive God’s love back. There’s a condition, it posits: “follow me (the guide/messenger).” But, why do we need to follow a guide?
My life is not transformed when I claim that I love God
When we look at our lives as people who claim to love God, we see that we are generally not transformed by this love. We don’t feel that we receive the love back. Our lives can still be miserable, our thoughts distracted, and our feelings hurt. We cannot comprehend many things happening in our lives and in the universe, and we become angry at the One behind all this. In summary, there is something missing with our claim.
The verse states that we won’t be able to feel the love of our creator in our daily life, except when we follow the guide. In fact, this love becomes a curse for us. Things, people, and moments that we love depart from us, leaving us with pain. We see things we don’t understand in the universe, and we become angry at the God we claim to love.
The verse starts by saying: “If you love God…” and pushes us to ponder that we are given the ability to love the creator of all good and brings us to this crucial point: “We witness that God creates everything with love, why don’t we feel it?” The answer is in the verse: “Follow me.” We are aware that we have freedom to choose many things in my life and my thoughts. So, in order to feel the love and close the loop, that is to recognize the meaning of my life and everything around us, we need to use our free will to follow the teachings of the guide on the meaning of the creation of the universe.
The verse above declares that loving the creator is not enough to receive and feel the divine love in every part of our lives. It pushes us to look for a guide. But what kind of guide do we need to follow, and why?
The beauty I witness necessitates an appointed guide
Here is the fast answer: We see that there is beauty everywhere in the universe, and this necessitates guides appointed by the creator. But why?
Let’s give an example to understand this necessity. Now think of any meaningful piece of technology, like a laptop for instance. Thousands of engineers are working constantly to design it for specific purposes. Every activity of designing the laptop is specifically for it to be used. Now, would it make sense to spend millions of dollars to design and manufacture a laptop and then sell it to be used as a coffee tray? Or even destroy it after it is manufactured? If that was the case, wouldn’t you conclude that these engineers have no wisdom at all? Why would they spend all this time and money to manufacture such a high-tech tool and then not use any of its functionalities? This won’t make any sense.
Now, let’s look at everything in the universe. There is magnificent well-ordered manifestation of art, from atoms to galaxies. Science is a proof that there is an undeniable order, since all what we do in science is trying to discover this order and show it in formulas. Formulas show that nothing is haphazard; it is ordered. Even things we don’t like such as bacteria function orderly. This order shows that there must be someone who puts these in order.
In fact, we witness not only a perfect order, but an artistic beauty. Every creature is not only designed to do a specific job, but it is complexly artfully adorned. This artistry shows that whoever forms everything in the universe wills to adorn them. It further shows me that these perfect adornments and arts must come from the love of the one forming them. Thus, He must love what He is doing.
Using the same thought process we used in the laptop example, would it make sense that the maker of the universe to adorn and create everything with such magnificent design and artistry and then not inform us what it means and what its purpose is? Then, the creator would be not wise at all, which is contrary to what I witness in the universe. Everything is being designed and sustained in a perfect manner pointing to the fact that their Maker is indeed absolutely wise. So, there has to be an explanation from Him regarding what He means by this magnificent artistry surrounding us.
An explanation is especially necessary for us; human beings. We are not only conscious of our existence, but we are also conscious of the existence everything around us, from atoms to galaxies. We are connected to everything in the universe. Not only that, but we are created in such a way that we love the beauty we witness in creation. We are created in such a way that we are able to ask the very questions I am writing about now.
Would it make sense that our maker would create us with the ability to see and inquire about the beauty around us, yet not provide an explanation? No. The engineers would design a laptop to be able to do calculations, but not tell any user about it. So, why did they design it in the first place? Are they insane? No. Then, the same illogic is not possible about the creator of this miraculously ordered universe.
When we reach this conclusion, we can cry out that there must be a guide appointed by the creator, i.e. a manual by Him for all this to make sense. This is the result of our witnessing.
The guide closes the loop
The engineers close the loop between the engineers and the users by preparing sophisticated manuals and online tutorials (prepared by appointed guides who have mastered the manual.) As a result of this, the users become happy and thankful of using that particular laptop. More importantly, the sophisticated design of the laptop is an important indication that there are users who will use all its functions. Maybe not every user will use all of them, but the fact that these functions exist is a proof that there are “super users” who utilize all these functions. These “super users” are the best guides and trainers that the laptop producer would appoint to train others. They are the ones who directly communicate with the engineers and understand the wisdom of each function of the laptop.
The same way, the fashioner of this universe closes the loop between Him and us (his conscious creation) by sending a clear manual and exemplary human guides that live and explain the manual. In fact, the very fact that there is this perfect order and art in the universe is an indication that there must be conscious creatures that understand and appreciate all this art. These human beings reflect deeply on every art of the creator, admire it, get excited by it, thank the Creator for it, know the wisdom of its creation, and love the one behind it all. Wouldn’t they be the best guides for all other conscious beings? As a result of following the way of these “super users” that are appointed by the creator to explain the wisdom of everything in creation, other conscious creatures start to make sense of everything in this universe and of how to use their feelings, like the love of beauty. They recognize that the guides must be connected to the creator and His creation and explain us its meanings.
Going back to the example, although we say we love to use the laptop, we may not even be aware that it is a laptop and think that it is a coffee tray. We become angry at using it as a coffee tray, since it is heavy and bulky, and not the best tool to use to serve coffee. So, our love of it is not sufficient to receive the benefits from the laptop. Only when we learn from the guides we recognize the purposes of the laptop. We start to admire it more and we recognize the necessity of learning from the guides. And then we start receiving our love back from it.
This is similar to closing our eyes and thinking that the room and everything in it is dark, but when we open our eyes, everything that we thought to be in darkness turns out to be lively and bright. The guide reminds us that we are “users” too, and tells us how great it is to use the laptop. Similarly, when we use our free will to open our eyes, we realize the beauty of life and recognize that the one who gave us this life loves us. We receive the love back.
We need to look for the guides who comprehensively respond to the creator’s artistry by conscious reflection, admiration, thankfulness, and who explain to us with certainty that all this art that we witness must be fashioned by the absolute artist who is capable of doing so. Only when we use our free will to follow these guides, we start to feel the love of the artist and we recognize the meaning of this life. We start to feel the love, since we start to understand how to use our love of beauty and how to make sense of everything in life.
Like the laptop user who becomes ecstatic when he discovers how to use the laptop other than as a coffee tray, we become delighted at every insight we gain from these “super users.” And we recognize the significance of the verse above, which urges us to look for the guides appointed by the one who has created this universe full of art and meaning.
I cannot but thank my creator for guiding me to find Him through this verse. My next journey would be to look for these appointed guides and their specific attributes.