The Meaning of Worship (‛Ibaadah)

The Meaning of Worship (‛Ibaadah)

The Arabic term ‛ibaadah comprises all the words and deeds which Allah ﷻ loves and approves of and which He has commanded or recommended, whether such words and deeds are apparent, such as the prayer, zakaat or pilgrimage; or hidden, such as love for Allah and His Messenger ﷺ, fear of Allah, reliance upon Him and seeking His assistance.

Worship Encompasses all Aspects of Life

Worship (‛ibaadah) embraces all the believer’s acts if he intends to do them with the intention of getting closer to Allah ﷻ. Therefore, the concept of worship in Islam is not confined to the common rituals, such as the prayer and fasting; rather, it includes all beneficial acts that are done with good intentions. In this way, all the good acts a Muslim does are considered acts of worship for which he will be rewarded in the hereafter. If he eats, drinks or sleeps, for instance, with the intention of getting strength to be able to obey Allah, he will be rewarded for this intention. A Muslim, therefore, lives all his life for Allah. His eating to get strength to obey Allah, his marriage to keep away from unlawful sexual acts, seeking knowledge, getting a university degree, making discoveries, and a woman’s care for her husband, children and home are all acts of worship as long as they are coupled with a good intention.

The Reason behind the Creation of the Jinn and Mankind

Allah says, “I have only created the jinn and man to worship Me. I do not require any provision from them and I do not require them to nourish Me. Truly, Allah is the Provider, the Lord of Power, the Ever Mighty.” (Soorat Adh-Dhaariyaat, 51:56-8)

Allah ﷻ informs us in this verse that the reason behind creating the jinn and mankind is to worship Him. In fact, He is not in need of their worship; rather, it is they who need to worship Him because of their total dependence upon Him.

Allah ﷻ informs us in this verse that the reason behind creating the jinn and mankind is to worship Him. In fact, He is not in need of their worship; rather, it is they who need to worship Him because of their total dependence upon Him. If man neglects a duty towards his creator and gives free rein to the worldly pleasures without contemplating the divine reason behind his existence, he becomes just like any other creature without any privileges whatsoever over other creatures. Animals, too, eat and enjoy themselves but they will not be brought into account on the Day of Judgement, as man will be: “Those who reject Allah will enjoy this world and eat as cattle eat; and the Fire will be their abode.” (Soorat Muhammad, 47:12) By neglecting their duty towards their Lord, they are just like animals, but contrary to animals, they will be punished for their disobedience because, unlike animals, they have been endowed with the faculty of reason.

Pillars of Worship

The kind of worship Allah has legislated is based on two important pillars: The First Pillar: Total humility and fear The Second Pillar: Complete love for Allah ﷻ Therefore, worship (‛ibaadah), which Allah has commanded His slaves to observe must be accompanied with (1) total submission to, and humility before Allah while fearing Him, and (2) complete love for Him, asking, invoking and imploring none but Him. Love that is not accompanied with fear and humility, such as love for food and wealth, cannot be considered worship. By the same token, fear that is not accompanied with love, such as fear of a ferocious beast or a tyrant ruler, cannot be considered worship. For worship to be realised when doing an act, both love and fear must be realised, and this can only be directed to Allah alone. .

Conditions of Worship

For worship, or ‛ibaadah, to be valid and accepted, two conditions must be met:

Following the guidance of Allah’s Messenger ﷺ.

Sincerity: It has to be directed sincerely to Allah alone.

Highlighting this point, the Qur’an states, “Indeed, those who submit themselves to Allah and act righteously will be rewarded by their Lord: They will have no fear, nor will they grieve.” (Soorat Al-Baqarah, 2:112)

The clause ‘those who submit themselves to Allah’ means that they realise the essence of monotheism by sincerely worshipping Allah alone.

The words ‘act righteously’ means that they follow Allah’s law and the guidance (Sunnah) of Allah’s Messenger ﷺ.

It is worth noting here, however, that following the Prophet’s guidance relates only to pure acts of worship, such as the prayer, fasting and remembrance of Allah; it does not relate to those acts which fall under the general meaning of worship (‛ibaadah ), that is, those acts and practices which one does with a good intention in order to receive reward from Allah, such as exercising with the intention of getting strength to worship Allah better and engaging in trade to support one’s family. Engaging in such activities only requires avoidance of acting against the Prophet’s teachings or committing a forbidden act.

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