The Holy Qur'an

Key Word Analysis of Iyyāka Na‘budu wa Iyyāka Nasta’īn

{إِيَّاكَ نَعْبُدُ وَإِيَّاكَ نَسْتَعِينُ}

Thee alone do we worship and Thee alone do we implore for help.  (6)

(6) Key Word Analysis

 إياك (Iyyāka)  

According to the general rules of Arabic grammar, instead of  إياك (iyyāka)  the phrase نعبدك na‘buduka [we worship You] ought to have been used; however, here the ك (thee) [object pronoun that denotes the second person]  in na‘budu [we worship]نَعْبُدُ has been brought forward in order to signify the exclusivity of the one being addressed.  And since the pronoun ك cannot appear on its own, إِيَّا (iyyā), the accusative pronoun, has been attached before it. Thus, iyyāka na‘budu means ‘We worship Thee exclusively.’    

نَعْبُدُ (Na‘Budu

Na‘Budu means ‘we worship’. The past tense of it is: عبَد (‘abada) and it has the following meanings:

Abadallaha – عبَد اللهَ means he obeyed Allah (أطاعَه); submitted before His command with humility (خضَع؛ ذلّ); he served Him (خدَمه); he consistently acted upon His commandments (التزمَ شرائعَ دينِه) and he declared His unity (وحَّده). [1]

عبَد also means to bear the imprint of another.  Thus, there is an expression طريق معبَّد (Tariqun Mu‘bbadun) i.e. مذلَّل Mudhallalun when referring to a path which has become so well-worn from constant traffic that it easily displays the imprints of the travellers’ footsteps.[2]

Therefore, He alone Who is perfect in His entity and unique in His excellences is worthy of worship; the one without any partner, and the one to whom it is possible for man to show obedience and submission, as it would be meaningless to worship a being who could not be obeyed.

It is evident that this [perfect] being can only be Allah the Exalted because besides Him, there is no other being Who can be obeyed in the true sense of the word. By man realising that Allah is the only Being worthy of worship, he can become solely and entirely His. If a man obeys anyone aside from Him, his obedience will be limited and in addition there would also be other persons and laws he would be bound to obey. 

نستعين  (Nasta’īnu)

Nasta’īnu is derived from الاستعانة (Al-Isti’ānatu) which means to acquire or to seek help. Therefore, إِيَّاكَ نَسْتَعِينُ (iyyāka Nasta’īnu) means: We seek help exclusively from Thee. In other words, we do not consider any other Being that is worthy of seeking help from besides Allah. 

[1] Aqrab-ul-mawārid fi Fusah al-‘Arabiyyah wa-al-shawārid.

[2] Mufradāt, Imam Raghib.