“God created humans, then required humans to praise Him? Why is He a self-serving being?”, an atheist questions in his line of mocks.
I call these kinds of questions “Snapshot Questions”. Questions that are based on snapshots of events, facts, or time where the complete picture is not taken into consideration.
A child not knowing how the food chain works may consider a lion attacking a wildebeest to be committing an act of indecency. The child would make the case that this killing machine needs to be removed from the face of the earth and those advocating to preserve the species are a bunch of crazies.
Imagine how judgmental one can become if he bases his decisions on snapshots of events. This is exactly what most atheists do.
Allah created man, then instructed man that his sole purpose on earth be to worship only Him. Is that a self-serving mandate?
Just as the child needs to understand how the food chain works, an atheist needs to understand the definition of worship. Worship in Islam is defined to mean “all that is loving and pleasing to God”. God’s underlying principle for what is “loving and pleasing” is directly related to what benefits man. If it is beneficial to man it is considered pleasing to Him and becomes prescribed for mankind. Naturally, what harms man is then disliked by God and becomes prohibited.
For example, injustice is disliked by God, thus it is forbidden in all dealings and not considered an act of worship due to its harm which is self-evident. Caring for one’s neighbors is beneficial for man therefore it is liked by God and considered an act of worship.
But what about praising God, thanking Him, glorifying Him, etc.?
God likes that we praise Him, not because He is a self-serving God. Allah negates the idea that our worship to Him is in any way something that benefits Him. He says:
“O My servants, you will not attain harming Me so as to harm Me, and you will not attain benefiting Me so as to benefit Me. O My servants, if the first of you and the last of you, and the humans of you and the jinn of you, were all as pious as the most pious heart of any individual amongst you, then this would not increase My kingdom an iota. O My servants, if the first of you and the last of you, and the humans of you and the jinn of you, were all as wicked as the most wicked heart of any individual amongst you, then this would not decrease My kingdom an iota.” [Muslim]
After seeing my doctor for a checkup, the doctor required me to see him again after some time. Why was he asking me to see him again? Was the doctor self-serving? It would be incorrect to accuse the doctor of being self-serving in this snapshot simply because he wants people to see him repeatedly . My going back to the doctor was the right thing to do for me.
God likes that we praise and thank Him because it is the right thing for us to do. Doing the opposite would be injustice.
Would you not thank the person who gave you a ride home? Would you not thank the surgeon who did a great job? Would you not love your parents who took care of you for years? Not thanking or loving in these cases would be a wrong.
Allah has given us all the necessities of life for free plus more. Water for free to drink and use, the sun for free which provides light and heat, animals and vegetation as sources for food, and the list can get more detailed and go on with no end.
“And if you should count the favors of Allah, you could not enumerate them. Indeed, Allah is Forgiving and Merciful. [Quran 16:18]
A full life’s worth of non-stop gratitude would not suffice as appreciation for what man has received of favors from God.
Praising, thanking, and worshipping the One who made us is the right thing for us to do. It’s opposite would be injustice. Worship is mandated not because it is self-serving to God, but because it serves mankind.