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Meaning of Worship

And I have not created invisible beings and humankind
except that they should worship/serve me
(consciously and willingly live by My Laws)
no sustenance do I ever demand of them,
nor do I demand that they feed Me
for, verily, Allâh is the Provider of all sustenance,
the Lord of all might, the Eternal!

Adh-Dhâriyât (51):56

Thus, the innermost purpose of the creation of all rational beings is their cognition (ma’rifah) of the existence of God and, hence, their conscious willingness to conform their own existence to whatever they may perceive of His will and plan: and it is this twofold concept of cognition and willingness that gives the deepest meaning to what the Qur’ân describes as “worship” (ibâdah). As verse shows, this spiritual call does not arise from any supposed “need” on the part of the Creator, who is self-sufficient and infinite in His power, but is designed as an instrument for the inner development of the worshipper, who, by the act of his conscious self-surrender to the all-pervading Creative Will, may hope to come closer to an understanding of that Will and, thus, closer to God Himself

Worship (Ibâdah) is an all inclusive term for all that Allâh ج 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 Allâh. This, of course, includes rituals as well as beliefs, social activities, and personal contributions to the welfare of one’s fellow human-beings. Islâm looks at the individual as a whole. He is required to submit himself completely to Allâh ج, as the Qur’an instructed the Prophet Muhammad ص to do:

Say (O Muĥammad) my prayer, my sacrifice, my life and my death belong to Allâh;
He has no partner and I am ordered to be among those who submit (Muslims)

Al-An’âm (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. Islâm, being a way of life, requires that its followers model their life according to its teachings in every aspect, religious or other wise. 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 Islâm does not think much of mere rituals when they are performed mechanically and have no influence on one’s inner life. The Qur’an 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 (direction of prayer, Kâba in Mecca or Bacca) in the following verse:

It is not righteousness that you turn your faces toward the East or the West,
but righteous is he who believes in Allâh and the Last Day and the Angels
and the Book and the Prophets,
and gives his beloved money to his relatives and the orphans and the needy
and for the ransoming of captives and who observes prayer and pays the poor-due;
and those who fulfill their promises when they have made one,
and the patient in poverty and affliction and the steadfast in time of war;
it is those who have proved truthful
and it is those who have taqwa (God-conscious, God-wary, piety)

Al-Baqara (2):177

…No laden soul bears another soul’s burden (sins)…

Al-Isrâ (17):15

The deeds in the above verses 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 sixty and some branches; the highest of which is the belief in the Oneness of Allâh, i.e., there is no god but Allâh and the lowest in the scale of worship is removing obstacles and dirt from people’s way.” Decent work is considered in Islâm a type of worship. The Prophet ص said: “Whoever finds himself at the nightfall tired of his work, God will forgive his sins.” Seeking knowledge is one of the highest types of worship, and once attained practice of it is obligatory, to put it into action. This seeking needs to be done with humility and modesty and not arrogance and selfishness. The Prophet told his companions that “seeking knowledge is a (religious) duty on every Muslim.” In another saying he said: “Seeking knowledge for one hour is better than praying for seventy years” Social courtesy and cooperation are part of worship when done for the sake of Allâh ج as the Prophet ص 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 neighbor’s bucket is a charity”

It is worth noting that even performing one’s duties is considered a sort of worship. The Prophet ص 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 members of one’s family is an act of worship as when one puts a piece of food in his spouse’s mouth. Not only this but even the acts we enjoy doing very much, when they are performed according to the instructions of the Prophet ص, are considered as acts of worship.

The Prophet ص told his companions that they will be rewarded even for having marital relations 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 ص 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 Islâm does not consider intimate gender relations a dirty thing that one should avoid. It is dirty and sinful only when it is satisfied outside marital life.

It is clear, from the previous discussion that the concept of worship in Islâm 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 Islâm as a way of life. It regulates human life on all levels: individual, social, economic, political and spiritual. That is why Islâm provides guidance to the smallest details of one’s life on all these levels. Thus following these details is following Islâmic 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 Allâh’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 everything, namely, Allâh [1] ج.

Worship means sincere acknowledgment of oneself as a servant of Allâh as the sole and true Object of Worship. It consists in a servant designating his or her life in accordance with the relations between a true servant and the True Object of Worship, in the light of these fact that the created is the former and the Creator is the latter. The most meritorious act or benefit of worship is recognition and love of Allâh ج and serving humanity. If there is something more meritorious and commendable, it is seeking Allâh’s approval and pleasure in whatever one does and, to “stand firm uprightly on the straight path as you have been commanded” Yûsuf (12):112 by always pursuing the truest and highest ideal in life


Heart to Heart Part 8


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  1. By Heart to Heart Part 6 on 09 Sep 2008 at 2:40 pm

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