Concept of worship in Islam
[ April 10, 2015 ]
In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful The traditional definition of worship in Islam is a comprehensive definition that includes almost everything in any individual"s activities. The definition goes something like this: "Worship is an all inclusive term for all that God 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 Almighty Allah.
This of course, includes rituals as well as beliefs, social activities, and personal contributions to the welfare of society. Islam looks at the individual as a whole. One is required to submit oneself completely to Allah. The natural result of this submission is that all one"s activities should conform to the instructions of the One God to whom the person is submitting. Islam being a complete way of life requires that its followers model every aspect of their life according to its teaching, religious or otherwise. This might sound strange to some people who think of religion as a personal relation between the individual and God, having no impact on one"s daily activities. As a matter of fact, Islam does not think much of mere rituals when they are performed mechanically and have no influence on one"s inner self. It is worth noting that even performing one"s duties is considered an act of worship. The Prophet Muhammad (SAW) told us that whatever one spends for his family is a type of charity. Kindness to the members of one"s family is an act of worship as is putting a piece of food lovingly in the mouth of one"s spouse, as the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) informed us. Not only is this, but even the acts that we enjoy, when performed according to divine instructions considered acts of worship. It is clear that the concept of worship in Islam is comprehensive. It includes all 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. All activities are considered by Allah as acts of worship, if done in conformance to his guidance. This should lead us to seek Allah"s pleasure in our actions and always try to do them in the best possible manner, whether we are being watched or we are alone. 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 true spirit, elevate the individual morally and spiritually and enable one to perform one"s activities in all walks of life according to the guidance of Almighty. Among ritual worships, Salah (prayer) occupies the key position for two reasons. Firstly, it is the distinctive mark of a believer. Secondly, it prevents an individual from all sorts of abominations and vices by providing him chances of direct communication with his Creator five times a day, wherein he renews his covenant with God and seeks His guidance again and again. Salah is the first practical manifestation of Faith and also the foremost of the basic conditions for the success of the believers. After Salah, Zakah (obligatory annual charity) is an important pillar of Islam. In the holy Qur"an, Salah and Zakah have mostly been mentioned together. Like Salah, Zakah is a manifestation of faith that affirms that God is the sole owner of everything in the universe and what men hold is a trust in their hand that God expects them to discharge. In this respect Zakah is an act of devotion that, like prayer, brings the believer nearer to his Lord. Apart from this, Zakah 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. It closes down 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. Siyam (fasting during the day time of the month of Ramadan) is another pillar of Islam. The main function of fasting is to make a muslim pure from "within". By such purity, one promotes what is good, and shuns what is evil. Fasting awakens one"s conscience, and reminds an individual of the suffering of the less fortunate, and thus promotes a sense of sympathy and kindness to them. Lastly, we come to Al-Hajj (pilgrimage to the House of God in Makka). This very important pillar of Islam manifests a unique unity, dispelling all kinds of differences. Muslims from all corners of the world, wearing the same dress, respond to the call of Hajj in one voice and language: Labbaik Alla humma Labbaik (Here I am at your service O Lord!). During Hajj there is a strict exercise of self-discipline, where not only sacred things are revered, but even the lives of plants and birds are made inviolable so that everything lives in safety. 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 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 himself does not violate its safety. Thus the concept of worship in Islam, encompasses every aspect of human life, and is central to the goal of freeing the individual as well as society, from the worship of created things to the worship of the creator of all things.