Devotional: The divine nature of cooperation

Published 5:59 pm Thursday, September 21, 2023

We seldom think of our social interactions mathematically. But, within the universe, there are phenomena that can be studied and applied to human behavior. Take, for example, the creation and the ever-expanding nature of the universe. 

Let us start our discussion with spiritual insights. “In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and darkness was upon the face of the deep.” (Genesis 1:1-2). Also, we have another verse: “We built the universe with great might and We are certainly expanding it.” (Qur’an 51:47).

The first verse describes the creation of our universe. Mathematically we can think of this as a starting point or a zero state. The second, the expanding universe, focuses on the idea of infinity, an always-growing, never-ending condition. Our lives fall within these limits.

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Within this Divine domain, the Almighty permits us to choose right over wrong, good over evil, and honesty over dishonesty. Our successes or failures are determined by the choices that we make and the activities in which we engage.

If we are in a spiritually dark place, the characteristics of our social interactions reflect sullenness, loneliness, and self-pity. This is a metaphorical zero condition. 

From a mathematical perspective, we know that zero times any number equals zero. If we represent any activity or initiative as a number, the product of zero and that effort will yield no positive results. That is to say, we maintain the social characteristics of sullenness, loneliness, and self-pity.

On the other hand, if we have a task to complete and we ask for assistance, it can be accomplished in half the time. Thinking of this mathematically, we can represent one task that two people perform as 1/2. If we had more help, three of us could finish the task in 1/3 the time; and so on.

As the number of helpers increases toward infinity, we are able to accomplish a goal more rapidly. This metaphor speaks to the Divine nature of cooperation. The more positively we interact with others the easier it is to face challenges in our lives. 

As time passes, our mood changes from sullenness, loneliness, and self-pity to cheerfulness, connectedness, and increased self-esteem. Engaging with others moves us from a zero state to one that is Divinely inspired. Wouldn’t our lives be more rewarding if we learned to work cooperatively with one another?

Qadir Abdus-Sabur, Ph.D. is an Imam at the Islamic Center of Prince Edward. His email address is