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Concept of worship in Islam

Publishing Date : 03 September, 2018


The concept of worship in virtually every faith including Islam is misunderstood by many followers including Muslims. Generally worship is commonly translated by many of us to mean performing ritual acts such as going for prayers, fasting, charity, etc. 

However this limited view and understanding of worship is only one part of the meaning of worship in Islam.  The traditional definition of worship in Islam is a wider ranging definition that includes almost everything in any individual’s daily lives and activities. In the wider scope of things it means: “Worship is an inclusive term for all that The Creator (God Almighty) loves of external and internal thoughts and deeds, 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 and all creation. ‘Only those are believers who have believed in Allah and his Messenger, and have never since doubted, but have striven with their belongings and their persons in the cause of Allah: such are the sincere ones.’ (Quran 49: 15)

Islam looks at the individual as a whole.  We are required to submit ourselves completely to Allah Almighty, as the 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; He has no partner and I am ordered to be among those who submit.” (Quran 6 :162 ). This means that all our activities should conform to the instructions of the one to whom the he is submitting, that is the Almighty Lord.

As referred to on many occasions, Islam is a way of life it requires that its followers model their life according to its teachings in every aspect, “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 the normal 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 Qur’an addresses this important issue when highlighting the need to engage in greater good in community and society : “It is not righteousness that you turn your faces to the East or the West (in prayer), but righteous is he who believes in God and the Last Day and the Angels and the Book and the Prophets, and gives of his wealth for love of Him to kinsfolk, orphans, the needy, the wayfarer, those who ask and to set slaves free; and observes (daily) prayer and pays the charity due.  And those who keep their pledge/promise when they make one, and the patient in tribulation and adversity and time of stress; such are those who are sincere, such are the God-fearing.”  (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 Muhammed (pbuh) told us about faith, which is the basis of worship, that it “is made up of about sixty branches: the highest of which is the belief in the Oneness of Allah: (there is no God but Allah and he has no partners) and the lowest in the scale of worship is removing obstacles and dirt from people’s way.

Even doing decent work is considered, in Islam, a type of worship.  The Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) said: “Whoever finds himself at the nightfall tired of his work (honest search of livelihood), God will forgive his sins.” Seeking knowledge is one of the highest types of worship.  The Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) told his companions that “seeking knowledge is a (religious) duty on every Believer.”  In yet another teaching, he said: “Seeking knowledge for one hour is better than praying for seventy years.”  

Social courtesy and co-operation are also part of worship when done for the sake of Allah as the Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) told us.  “Receiving your friend with a smile is a type of charity, helping a person to load his mount (any mode of transport) 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 Muhammed (pbuh) 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/ permissible means.  Kindness to the members of one’s family is also classed as an act of worship! In fact, all that one has to do, when done according to the commands of God Almighty and the practice of Prophet Muhammed (peace be upon him), is considered as worship.

Even the fulfilment of one’s lower desire can be rendered as an act of worship - for the Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) told his companions that they will be rewarded even for being intimate with their wives.  The companions were astonished and asked: “How are we going to be rewarded for fulfilling our base desire?”  He asked them, “suppose you satisfy your desires in a forbidden/illegal manner, 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.”  

It is clear from the above examples 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. 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 realises 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 everything - Allah.

When stressing on the non-ritual acts of worship does not mean under evaluating the importance of the ritual ones. Actual ritual worships, such as performing our five times daily prayers should be performed in the true spirit, they elevate us morally and spiritually and enable us to carry on his activities in all walks of life according to guidance of God.

Nowadays some Muslims think that going for the ‘congregational’ prayer on Friday has fulfilled their obligation – forgetting that they should be offering their prayers five times a day, be it at the Mosque or at home. We have to review our lifestyle and also our behaviour if we are to be in the true path of Islam. Therefore we the bottom line is that all our thoughts, deeds and actions should be done in a sincere manner



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