In the Name of Allah (God Almighty), Most Gracious, Most Merciful

Concept of WORSHIP IN ISLAM

 

The concept of worship in Islam is misunderstood by many people. Worship is commonly taken to mean only performing ritualistic acts such as prayers, fasting, charity, etc. This limited understanding of worship is. only one part of the meaning of worship in Islam. Therefore, the traditional definition of worship in Islam is a comprehensive definition that includes almost everything in any individual's activities. An acceptable definition would be: "Worship is an all inclusive term for all that Allah (God Almighty) loves of external and internal sayings and actions of a person." In other words, worship is everything one says or does for the pleasure of Allah (God Almighty). This, of course, includes rituals as well as beliefs, social activities, and personal contributions to the welfare of one's fellow human-beings.

Islam looks at the individual as a whole. He is required to submit himself completely to Allah (God Almighty), as the Holy Qur'an instructed the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) to do:

"Say (O Muhammad): 'My prayer, my sacrifice, my life and my death belong to Allah (God Almighty); He has no partner and I am ordered to be among those who submit (to God Almighty).'"
(English Translation, Holy Qur'an 6.162-163).

The natural result of this submission is that all one's activities should conform to the instructions of the One to Whom the person is submitting. Islam, being a way of life, requires that its followers model their lives according to its teachings in every aspect, religious or otherwise. This might sound strange to some people who think of religion only as a personal relationship between the individual and God Almighty and having no impact on one's activities outside rituals.

As a matter of fact Islam does not attach much value to mere rituals when they are performed mechanically and have no influence on one's inner life. The Holy Qur'an addresses the Believers and their neighbours from among the People of the Book who were arguing with them about the change of the direction of Qibla in the following verse:

"It is not righteousness that ye turn your faces towards East or West, but it is righteousness to believe in Allah, but it
is righteousness to believe in Allah (God Almighty) and the Last Day, and the Angels, and the Book, and the Prophets; to spend of your wealth; out of love for Him, for your kin, for orphans, for the needy, for the wayfarer,
for those who ask and for the ransom of those in bondage; to be steadfast in prayer, and to practise regular
charity; to fulfil the contracts which ye have made and to be firm and patient, in pain (or suffering) and
adversity, and throughout all periods of panic. Such are the people of truth, the God-fearing."
(English Translation, Holy Qur'an 2:177).

The deeds in the above verse are the deeds of righteousness and they are only a part of worship. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) told us about faith, which is the basis of worship, that it "is made up of more than sixty branches: the highest of which is the belief in the Oneness of Allah, i.e., there is no god but Allah (God Almighty), and the lowest in the scale of worship is removing obstacles and dirt from people's way."

Decent work is considered in Islam as a type of worship. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: "Whoever finds himself at the nightfall tired of his work, Allah (God Almighty) will forgive him his sins." Seeking knowledge is one of the highest types of worship. The Prophet told his companions that "seeking knowledge is a (religious) duty on every Muslim." In another Hadeeth, he said: "Seeking knowledge for one hour is better than praying for seventy years." Social courtesy and co-operation are part of worship when done for the sake of Allah (God Almighty) as the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) told us: "Receiving your friend with a smile is a type of charity, helping a person to load his animal is a charity, and, putting, some water in your neighbour's bucket is a charity."

It is worth noting, that even performing one's duties is considered a sort of worship. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) told us that whatever one spends for one's family is a type of charity; one will be rewarded for it if one acquires it through legal means. Kindness to the members of one's family is an act of worship, as when one puts a morsel of food in one's spouse's mouth, as the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) informed us. Not only this, but even the acts that bring one joy, when they are performed according to the instructions of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), they are considered as acts of worship. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) told his companions that they will be rewarded even for having sexual intercourse with their wives. The companions were astonished and asked: "How are we going to be rewarded for doing something we enjoy very much?" The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) asked them: "Suppose you satisfy your desires illegally, don't you think that you will be punished for that?" They replied, "Yes." "So," he said, "by satisfying it legally with your wives you are rewarded for it." This means they are acts of worship.

Thus Islam does not consider sex to be a dirty thing that one should avoid. It is dirty and sinful only when it is satisfied outside marital life.

It is, therefore, clear that the concept of worship in Islam is a comprehensive concept that includes all the positive activities of the individual. This, of course, is in agreement with the all-inclusive nature of Islam as a way of life. It regulates the human life on all levels: the individual, the social, the economic, the political and the spiritual. Therefore, Islam provides guidance to the smallest details of one's life on all these levels. Thus, following these details means following Islamic instructions in that specific area. It is a very encouraging element when one realises that all of one's activities are considered by Allah (God Almighty) as acts of worship. This should lead one to seek Allah's (God Almighty's) pleasure in one's actions, and, to always try to do them in the best possible manner, whether one is being watched by one's superiors or whether one is alone. There is always the Permanent Supervisor, Who knows everything, namely, Allah (God Almighty).

Discussing the non-ritual worship in Islam first, does not mean under-evaluating the importance of the ritual ones. Actually ritual worships, if performed in the true spirit, elevate one morally and spiritually, and, enable one to carry on one's activities in all walks of life according to the Guidance of Allah (God Almighty). Among ritual worships, Salaah (ritual prayer) occupies the key position for two reasons. Firstly, it is the distinctive mark of a Believer. Secondly, it prevents one from all sorts of abominations and vices, by providing one the opportunities of direct communion with one's Creator at least five times a day, wherein one renews one's covenant with Allah (God Almighty), and, seeks His guidance again and again:

"You alone we worship, and to You alone we turn for help. Guide us to and in the Straight Path."
(English Translation, Holy Qur'an. 1:4-5).

Salaah is the first practical manifestation of Faith, and also the foremost of the basic conditions for the success of the Believers:

"Successful indeed are the Believers who are humble in their prayers."
(English Translation, Holy Qur'an 23:1-2).

The same fact has been emphasized by the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) in a different way. He says: "Those who offer their Salaah with great care and punctuality will find it a light, a proof of their Faith, and, the cause of their salvation on the Day of Judgement."

After Salaah, Zakaah is an important pillar of Islam. In the Holy Qur'an, Salaah and Zakaah have been mostly mentioned together. Like Salaah, Zakaah is a manifestation of Faith that affirms that Allah (God Almighty) is the sole owner of everything in the universe, and what people hold is a trust in their hands over which Allah (God Almighty) made them trustees to discharge it as He has laid down:

"Believe in Allah (God Almighty) and His Messenger, and spend of that over which He made you trustees."
(English Translation, Holy Qur'an 57:7).

In this respect, Zakaah is an act of devotion which, like prayer, brings the Believer nearer to His Lord, Creator and Sustainer.

Apart from this, Zakaah is a means of redistribution of wealth in a way that reduces differences between classes and groups. It makes a fair contribution to social stability. By purging the soul of the rich from selfishness, and the soul of the poor from envy and resentment against society. Zakaah helps to eliminate the channels leading to class hatred, and, makes it possible for the springs of brotherhood and solidarity to gush forth. Such stability is not merely based on the personal feelings of the rich; it stands on a firmly established right, which, if the rich denied it, would be exacted by enforcement of that right, if necessary.

Siyaam (fasting during the daytime of the mouth of Ramadhaan) is another pillar of Islam. The main function of fasting is to make the Muslim pure from within as other aspects of Shariah make him pure from without. By such purity, one responds to what is true and good, and, shuns what is false and evil. This is what we can perceive in the Qur'anic verse:

"O ye who believe, fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that ye may learn self-restraint."
(English Translation, Holy Qur'an 2:183).

In a Hadeeth, the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) reported Allah (God Almighty) as saying: "He (i.e. the person fasting) suspends eating, drinking, and gratification of his sexual passion for My (Allah's) sake." Thus his reward is going to be according to Allah's (God Almighty's) great bounty.

Fasting then, awakens the conscience of the individual and, gives it scope for exercise in a joint experience with all society at the same time, thus, adding further strength to each individual. Moreover, fasting offers, a compulsory rest to the over-worked human machine for the duration of one full month. Similarly, fasting reminds an individual of those who are deprived of life's necessities throughout the year or throughout life. It makes one realise the suffering of others, the less fortunate and, thus, promotes in one a sense of sympathy and kindness to them.

Lastly, we come to Al-Hajj (pilgrimage to Makkah). This very important pillar of Islam, manifests a unique unity, dispelling all kinds of differences. Muslims from all parts of the world, wearing the same dress, respond to the call of Hajj in one voice and language. LABBAIK ALI LA HUMMA LABBAIK (Here I am at your service, O Allah! Here I am at your service). In Hajj there is an exercise of strict-discipline and control:

"And he that venerates the sacred things of Allah (God Almighty): it should be better for him with his Lord."
(English Translation, Holy Qur'an 22:30).

"And he that venerates the waymarks of Allah (God Almighty): it surely is from devotion of the heart."
(English Translation, Holy Qur'an 22:32).

Pilgrimage gives an opportunity to all Muslims from all groups, classes, organizations, and governments from all over the Muslim world to meet annually in a great congress. The time and venue of this congress has been set by their One True God. Invitation to attend is open to every Muslim. No one has the power to bar anyone. Every Muslim who attends is guaranteed full safety and freedom as long as he/she does not violate its safety.

Thus, worship in Islam, whether ritual or non-ritual, trains one in such a way that one loves one's Creator most, and, thereby gains an unyielding will and spirit to wipe out all evil and oppression from the human society, and, to make the Word of Allah (God Almighty) dominant in the world.


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