Do you remember a song performed by Aretha Franklin entitled “Respect”? It begins with “What you want… baby, I got. What you need, you know I’ve got it. All I’m askin’ is for a little respect…R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Find out what it means to me!” The song is generally interpreted as a being about respect between genders and especially for women, but considering that it was written in the United States in 1965, composed by black artist Otis Redding, and sung by a black performer, the piece could be about race relations as well. Whatever the case, the powerful song that asks for a little respect has become a classic.
Respect as a concept is highly valued in today’s world. It is comprised of both an attitude of appreciation toward another as well as specific conduct that honors the other. Respect is politically correct, and anyone would agree that upright citizens respect each other. Because some people need reminders and a little help, there is a group to advocate respect for just about every sector of society there is. We are told to respect the opposite sex, the unborn child, the homosexual, the handicapped, the mentally ill. We are reminded that everyone has rights, including children, the dying, people of every race and creed, and even animals. We are expected to respect the environment, the dead, and the right of others to eat and shop in a smoke-free environment. Respect is so important, that we have learned to respect the mere concept of respect.
We would be exemplary citizens if we respected all the things we are expected to respect. And we would know what to do because we know the universal adage “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” But how would we express the ultimate respect – respect for God? Unfortunately, applying the “do unto others” rule doesn’t apply to our relationship with God because He is unlike us – He is God.
It is my guess that many people who practice respect for all others have overlooked God, perhaps because He doesn’t publicize others’ poor treatment of Him in the media or file lawsuits. If there was a group that promoted and protected the rights of God for our respect, what would they teach us? First, they would have to expose the reality of how we treat God in order to bring attention to the severity of the problem. They would show us that we overlook, trivialize, marginalize, ignore and even deny the very existence of God. They would probably bring to light some of God’s positive qualities so that we can appreciate Him more: His omniscience, omnipotence, generosity, forbearance and forgiveness. They would show proof of His goodness, such as the presence of so much beauty on earth, how He provides water and grows food for seven billion people and countless animals, and how He protects the inhabitants of this fragile planet in innumerable ways. And they would expose the fact that in spite of all that, many people mistrust Him, bad-mouth Him, and offend Him regularly, showing gross disrespect.
Perhaps after being educated by this group, we would be more inclined to respect God. But if we really want to respect God we should try to know how He wants to be respected – which attitudes and conduct does he expect from us? We can find many clues in the Quran.
Those who respect God show gratitude: “God brought you out of your mothers’ wombs knowing nothing at all, and gave you hearing, sight and hearts so that perhaps you would show thanks.” (16:78) “We have established you firmly on the earth and granted you your livelihood in it. What little thanks you give!” (7:10) “Eat of the good things We have provided for you and give thanks to God…” (2:172) “God shows favor to mankind but most of them are not thankful.” (10:60) “Why should God punish you if you are thankful and believe?…” (4:147)
Those who respect God remember Him: “Mankind! Remember God’s blessing to you. Is there any creator other than God providing for you from heaven and earth?…” (35:3). “Remember your Lord in yourself humbly and fearfully… Do not be one of the unaware” (7:205). “(Believers are those) who remember God, standing, sitting and lying on their sides, and reflect on the creation of the heavens and the earth…” (3:191). “Remember the Name of your Lord, and devote yourself to Him completely” (73:8). “O you who believe! Remember God much!” (33:41).
Those who respect God pray to Him: “Perform prayer and give alms and bow with those who bow.” (2:43) “Seek help in steadfastness and prayer. But that is a very hard thing, except for the humble.” (2:45) “The prayer is prescribed for the believers at specific times.” (4:103) “Believers are those who safeguard their prayers.” (23:9)
Those who respect God worship none but Him: “Worship God and do not associate anything with Him…” (4:36). “We sent no messenger before you without revealing to him: ‘There is no god but Me, so worship Me.’” (21:25) “The Jews say, ‘Ezra is the son of God’ and the Christians say, ‘Jesus is the son of God’… they have taken their rabbis and priests as lords besides God, and also the Messiah, son of Mary. Yet they were commanded to worship only one God. There is no god but Him! Glory be to Him above anything they associate with Him!” (9:30-31)
Why is it so easy for some people to respect every person, regardless of his worthiness of respect, yet it is so hard to respect their Creator who asks for so little in return for so much?. Respect isn’t something we offer to God, but rather something that belongs to Him already. So will we give Him what is rightfully His? Or will we overlook, trivialize, marginalize, ignore and deny Him? What is the respect we owe God? He told us: “I am Allah. There is no god but Me, so worship Me and perform prayer to remember Me.” (20:14)
So sing along with me: What you want… baby, He’s got. What you need… you know He’s got it. All He’s askin’ is for a little respect … R-E-S-P-E-C-T… Find out what it means to Him!