The concept of worship in Islam is misunderstood by many people including some Muslims. Worship is commonly taken to mean 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. That is why 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 Allah. 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 individuals as a whole. He is required to submit himself completely to Allah, as the Quran instructed the prophet Muhammad (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) to do: “Say (O Muhammad) my prayers, my sacrifice, my life and my death belong to Allah; He has no partner and l am ordered to be among those who submit, i.e.; Muslims.”(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 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 activities outside rituals.
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 life. The Quran addresses the believers and their neighbors 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 and the Last Day, and the Angels, and the Book, and the Messengers; to spend of your substance, 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 slaves; to be steadfast in prayer, and give Zakat, to fulfil the contract 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” (2:177)
The deeds in the above verse are the deeds of righteousness and they are only a part of worship. The prophet told us about faith, which is the basis of worship, that it “is made up of seventy and some branches: the highest of which is the belief in the Oneness of Allah, (i.e., there is no God but Allah) and the lowest in the scale of worship is removing obstacles and dirt from people’s way..”
Decent work is considered in Islam a type of worship. The prophet said: “Whoever finds himself at the night-fall tired of his work, God will forgive 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.” Social courtesy and cooperation are part of worship when done for the sake of Allah as the prophet told us: “Receiving your friend with a smile is a type of charity and putting some water in your neighbor’s bucket is a charity”
It is worth nothing that even performing one’s duties is considered a sort of worship. The prophet told us that whatever one spends for his family is a type of charity; he will be rewarded for it if he acquires it through legal means. Kindness to the members of one’s family is an act of worship as when one puts a piece of food in his spouse’s mouth as the prophet informed us. Not only this but even the acts we enjoy doing very much, when they are performed according to the instructions of the prophet, they are considered as acts of worship. The prophet 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 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 as worship. Thus Islam does not consider sex a dirty thing that one should avoid. It is dirty and sin only when it is satisfied outside marital life.
It is clear, from the previous discussion 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. ISLAM regulates the human life on all levels: the individual, the social, the economic, the political and the spiritual; That is why Islam provides guidance to the smallest details of one’s life on all these levels. Thus following these details is following Islamic instructions in that specific area. It is a very encouraging element when one realizes that all his activities are considered by God as acts of worship. This should lead the individual to seek Allah’s pleasure in his actions and always try to do them in the best possible manner whether he is watched by his superiors or he is alone. There is always the permanent supervisor, Who knows, hears and sees everything namely, Allah.
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 man morally and spiritually and enable him to carry on his activities in all walks of life according to the Guidance of God. Among ritual worships, Salah (ritual 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 seek His guidance again and again:”In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful, Praise be to Allah the Cherisher and Sustainer of the Worlds; Most Gracious, Most Merciful; Master of the Day of Judgment Thee do we worship, and Thine aid we sect ” (1:4-5)
Actually Salah 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, those who humble themselves in their prayers.” (23:1-2) The same fact has been emphasized by the prophet (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) in a different way. He says:”Those who offer their Salah with great care ‘and punctuality will find it a light, a proof of their faith and cause of their salvation on the Day of Judgment.”
Zakah (poor-due) is an important pillar of Islam. In the Quran Salah and Zakah mostly have been mentioned together. Like Salah, Zakah is manifestation of faith which affirms that God is the sole owner of everything in the universe, and what men hold is a trust in their hand over which God made them trustees to discharge it as He has laid down: “Believe in Allah and His Messenger, and spend (in charity) out of the (substance) whereof He has made you heirs “(57:7)
In this respect Zakah is an act of devotion which, 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 which, if the rich denied it, would be exacted by force, if necessary.
Siyam (fasting during the day time of the month of Ramadan) is another pillar of Islam. The main function of fasting is to make the Muslim pure from “within” as other aspects of Islam make him pure from “without”. By such purity he responds to what is true and good and shuns what is false and evil. This is what we can perceive in the Quranic Verse: “O ye who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that ye may (leant) self-restraint” (2:183).
In an authentic tradition, the prophet reported Allah as saying: “”He suspends eating, drinking, and gratification of his sexual passion for My sake.” Thus his reward is going to be according to ‘God’s great bounty.
Fasting, then, awakens the conscience of the individual and gives it scope for exercise in a joint experience for all societies at the same time, thus adding further strength to each individual. Moreover, fasting offers a compulsory rest to the duration of one full month. Similarly, fasting reminds an individual of those who are deprived of life necessities throughout the year or throughout life. It makes him realize the suffering of others, the less fortunate brothers in Islam, and thus promotes in him a sense of sympathy and kindness to them.
Lastly, we come to The Hajj (pilgrimage to the House of God in Makkah). 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 ALLAHUMMA LABBAIK (Here I am at your service O Lord!). In Hajj there is an exercise of-strict self-discipline and control where not only sacred things are revered, but even the life of plants and birds is made inviolable so that everything lives in safety: “Whoever honors the sacred Rites of Allah, for him it is good in the sight of his Lord…’ (22:30), ” And whoever holds in honor the Rites of Allah, (in the sacrifice of animals), such (honor) should come truly from piety of heart “(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 God. Invitation to attend is open toevery 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 worship in Islam, whether ritual or non-ritual, trains the individual in such a way that he loves his Creator most and thereby gains an unyielding will and spirit to wipe out all evil and oppression from the human society and make the word of God dominant in the world.
Let’s share as alms …