Reflection No. 56 on Q 2:21– The First Command in the Quran

O Mankind! Worship your Lord Who created you, and those before you, so that you may acquire Taqwa.
(Holy Qur’an, al-Baqarah, 2:21)


The majority of Muslims believe that the present arrangement of the Holy Qur’an was done under the guidance of the Holy Prophet (s). The above verse is the first command in the Qur’an, telling the human being to worship the One who created him and those before him. This command comes after passages that depict believers, disbelievers, and hypocrites. Allah describes how the believers move towards God with the Quran as their guide. The disbelievers have seals on their hearts as a result of their evil deeds, and are heedless of their state. The hypocrites suffer from the disease of the heart, and their actions only increase the disease.

True worship however, is that which is done with a spirit of enthusiasm and love, not just in obedience to a command. The Holy Prophet says: The best of mankind is he who adores worship and embraces it; he loves it with the heart, performs it with the body, and makes time for it. Then he is not greatly concerned about the world, whether he is in difficulty or in ease.

Worship has been described by scholars to be of three stages:

  1. Worship that is correct. This is when the believer looks after the necessary pre-requisites and conditions such as purity, method, time etc.
  2. Worship that is accepted. This is worship that is done with Taqwa – God consciousness, or piety.
  3. Worship that achieves perfection. This is worship that is done with the qualities of awareness, awe, love and in privacy.

Points to Ponder:
1) The address is to all human beings. This type of general address is found twenty times in the Qur’an, showing that the message of the Qur’an is an invitation for all people to reflect on. It is interesting to note that the verses of Qur’an do not only give rules and guidance. Sometimes it directly addresses people, inviting them by calling upon certain groups. This makes it more personalized and imbues it with a streak of respect and warmth.

2) Why should human beings worship God? The answer lies in the verse. He is the Lord who created them. It encourages awareness of a Creator whose might, knowledge, and wisdom are evident in the functionality of creation. Such a Lord deserves to be adored. The responsibility to worship also stems from gratitude for the blessing of creation and all that comes with it. Rububiyyah, or the accepting of the Lordship of Allah, is considered the kernel of worship.  Imam as-Sadiq (a) says: Worship is a jewel, and its core is Rububiyyah.

3) He is also the God of those before us. People tend to follow others. Thus idol worshippers used the practice of the fore-fathers as their excuse. Now Quran tells people that the God who created them also created those before them. Worship of God is not a unique command for them only. As human beings, it is reassuring to know that all humanity share the same responsibilities of worship.

4) Taqwa is the goal of worship. Worship does not add anything to Allah, nor does the lack of it decrease Him in anything. He is the Lord of all glory, with or without the worship of Creation. The benefits of Taqwa revert back to the human being. The effects of Taqwa raise him in status, endow him with noble and perfect qualities and help him realize his true potential and the goal of creation.
This is success for the human being. The Quran says in Surah al-Baqarah; and have Taqwa of Allah so that you may prosper. (2:189)

Ayatullah Nasir Makarim Shirazi (ed.), Tafsire Namune
Agha Muhsin Qara’ati Kashani, Tafsire Noor
Muhammad al-Ray Shahree, Mizanul Hikmah