Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Islamic perspective of worship

16 September 2008

By Dr Syed Bashir Ahmad

THE exigency of human worship to Allah alone is that you submit all your affairs to the Will of Allah and to His approval, whether it be beliefs, words or deeds. You must customise your life and behaviour according to the requirements of the divine guidance and specifications.

When Allah commands you to do something or prohibits you from doing something, when He legitimises something for you or forbids something for you, your stance should be: “… We hear, and we obey: (We seek) Thy forgiveness, our Lord, and to Thee is the end of all journeys…” (Al-Quran: Al-Baqarah: 285)

The distinction between a believer and an infidel is that the believer sets himself free from the bondage of his own self and from the slavery of the created beings for the bondage of his Creator alone; he moves out of the obedience of his whims and fancies to the obedience of Allah.

A believer is not like a stray animal, so that he can follow his own vagary or someone else can set the course for him. A believer is not a slave to society. A believer is, rather, obligated by an agreement that he must honour, by a sacred covenant that he must conform to. The covenant of faith implies that the faithful handover the reins of his life to Allah, so that His genuine and truthful Messenger can lead it on the right track and he be guided by the impeccable divine revelation. The covenant of faith makes it imperative that when the Lord says, “I order and I forbid”, the slave must say, “I heard and I obeyed”. The covenant of faith requires that the human being set himself free from the bondage of vagaries of his own self to the law of his Master.

Hence, he does not worship Allah, who says, “I worship, fast and perform Hajj, but I am at liberty to eat pork, drink intoxicants, deal in usury; I am free to reject those statutes of the Shariah that don't appeal to me, and to adopt thereupon norms other than the norms of Shariah”. Similarly he does not worship Allah, who assumes that the servitude to Allah does not go beyond the walls of the mosque, and that when he enters the diverse fields of life outside the mosque, he is the slave of his own self; in other words, he considers himself free to follow his own lusts or the lusts of other created beings like him.

Islam has broadened the scope of worship and expanded its compass to accommodate a multitude of deeds that no one could imagine to be recognised by religion as deeds of worship and means of endearing oneself to Allah. Every beneficial social work is acknowledged by Islam as being amongst the best acts of worship, as long as the intention of the doer is benevolence rather than hunting for praise and admiration.

Every sincere deed wherein a human being wipes a drop of tears of a grief-stricken fellow human being, or lightens the agony of an agonised, or swathes in bandages the wounds of the afflicted, or allays the hunger of a destitute, or supports an oppressed, or raises a powerless from a fall, or pays off the debt of an impoverished person, or lends a helping hand to a modest needy breadwinner, or guides a bewildered, or teaches an unlearned, or provides shelter to a stranger, or wards off ordeal from a living being, or removes a harmful thing from a passageway, or provides succour to a needy, is essentially a feat of worship and a vehicle for achieving closeness to Allah.

Islam effectively rendered a whole host of such deeds to the status of worship of the Gracious Allah, to being the ramifications of faith and means of achieving remuneration from Allah. So prayers or fasting or remembrance or invocation and supplications alone are not logged as deeds of worship that qualify for reward, certainly not! During the course of a day one can append his balance sheet with many deeds of worship and virtue — whatsoever insignificant those may appear according to the worldly standards - that carry their credence and worth in the rating scale of Allah, the Exalted.

In this perspective the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) mentioned about those who strive for reconciliation between adversaries, “Shall I reveal to you something more substantial than fasting, prayers and charity? The companions (may Allah be pleased with them) said, for sure, please reveal to us. He said, It is reconciliation between adversaries.

Emphasising upon the significance of visiting the ailing and sick, and explaining its importance in the form of alleviation and consolation, the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) says, “He who visits a sick person, an angle calls out to him from the heavens: be delighted, may your walking bring delight to you, and may you be granted an abode in paradise”. (Narrated by Tirmizi). In fact, Islam deems these social works as daily obligation upon every Muslim.

Breadwinning too is worship

The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) regarded the worldly deeds carried out by the human being for his own livelihood and his endeavours for himself and for his family as worship. A farmer in his farm, a worker in his factory, a trader in his store, an employee in his office and every person in the field of his profession can turn his toil for his own livelihood into prayers and into struggle for the cause of Allah, if the work done is legitimate according to Islam. Those deeds that are disapproved by Islam, like working in usury, pubs and ball rooms are not and shall never be treated as worship.

Allah is good and accepts nothing but good. The work should be anchored in righteous intention: the intention of safeguarding himself, providing sufficiently for his family, benefiting his nation and making the earth flourish, as ordained by Allah. The job is done with perfection and excellence. In this context, the Hadeeth says: “Allah has prescribed excellence in every regard”and “Allah likes that whenever anyone of you does any job, that he does it with perfection.” (Narrated by Muslim from Shaddad bin Auws)

Fulfilment of sexual appetite: Even more wonderful than all that preceded above, is the fact that worship includes even the basic needs fulfilled by a Muslim in response to the human instinct. Eating, drinking, sexual interaction of husband and wife, and all such things are enfolded by Islam in the broad spectrum of worship if the “intention” is righteous. The “intention” is the wondrous magical substance that when added to unforbidden deeds and habits, turns them into acts of piety and devotion.

The most unequivocal witness to this effect is the following explanation of the Messenger of Allah to his companions: “Even your having intercourse is (an act of) charity”. The companions asked: “Does it mean that when one of us fulfils his carnal appetite, he will deserve a reward for that?” The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) replied: “do you realise that if one would indulge in an illegitimate sexual intercourse, he would carry a sin?” The companions said: “of course”. He said, “Exactly the same way, when he has sex through the legitimate ways i.e. with his wife. he deserves a reward!”
(To be continued)


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