Praise be to Allaah.
Praise be to Allaah and blessings and peace be upon the
Messenger of Allaah.
‘Ibaadah (worship) in Arabic means submission and humbling
oneself. The Arabs use the phrase tareeq mu’abbad to describe a
smooth path which has been become smooth because so many feet have walked on
In Islamic terminology the word ‘ibaadah is used in two
1 – The actions of a person, such as praying or paying
zakaah, which are described as ‘ibaadah. The scholars defined it as
It means obeying Allaah by doing that which He has commanded
and avoiding that which He has forbidden, whilst loving Allaah, fearing Him
and putting one’s hopes in Him.
2 – It also refers to the action itself in abstract terms,
such as prayer, zakaah, etc. The scholars defined it as follows:
This is a comprehensive word which includes all word and
deeds that Allaah loves and is pleased with, both outward and inward.
These enjoined actions are called ‘ibaadaat (acts of worship)
because people do them in humility and with love for their Lord. In
worshipping Allaah there has to be complete love as well as complete
submission to Him.
Our Lord has told us that the ultimate purpose behind the
creation of the jinn and mankind is so that they will worship Him alone with
no partner or associate. Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning):
“And I (Allaah) created not the jinn and mankind except
that they should worship Me (Alone)”
How can we achieve this purpose and fulfil this goal?
Many people think that ‘ibaadah only refers to a number of
rituals that Allaah has commanded should be done at certain times – such as
prayer, fasting and Hajj – and that this is the end of the matter. But it is
not as these people think.
How long does it take to do these rituals of worship every
day and night. Indeed how long does it take in a person’s lifetime? What
about the rest of his life then? What about the rest of his energy? What
about the rest of his time? How should it be spent and where does it go?
Should he spend it in worship or something else? If he is going to spend it
in something other than worship, then how can he fulfil the purpose for
which mankind was created, which the verse limited completely to worship of
Allaah? How can he fulfil the words of Allaah (interpretation of the
“Say (O Muhammad): Verily, my Salaah (prayer), my
sacrifice, my living, and my dying are for Allaah, the Lord of the ‘Aalameen
(mankind, jinn and all that exists)”
‘Uboodiyyah is a holistic matter that encompasses the life of
the Muslim. When he strives in the land seeking provision he is worshipping
Allaah, because Allaah has commanded him to do that, as He says
(interpretation of the meaning):
“so walk in the path thereof and eat of His provision. And
to Him will be the Resurrection”
When he sleeps, he sleeps so as to gather strength to worship
Allaah, as Mu’aadh ibn Jabal (may Allaah be pleased with him) said: “I seek
reward for my sleep just as I seek reward for praying qiyaam” (narrated by
al-Bukhaari, 4342). Indeed the Muslim is not content unless his pleasure in
eating, drinking and marital relations is counted in the scale of his good
deeds, as the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be
upon him) said: “In the intimacy of one of you there is sadaqah (charity, a
good deed).” They said: “O Messenger of Allaah, if one of us satisfies his
desires will he be rewarded for that?” He said: “What do you think, if you
were to do it in a haraam way, would you not have a burden of sin?” They
said, “Yes.” He said: “Similarly if he does it in a halaal way he will have
a reward.” Narrated by Muslim, 1006.
The way to attain this great status is for a person always to
remember his Lord whatever he is doing in all spheres of life, and to ask
himself whether he is in a situation where his Lord will be pleased with him
or angry with him. If he is in a situation where Allaah will be pleased with
him, then let him praise Allaah and do more good. If it is otherwise then
let him seek Allaah’s forgiveness and repent to Him, as Allaah describes His
pious slaves as doing when He says (interpretation of the meaning):
“And those who, when they have committed Faahishah (illegal
sexual intercourse) or wronged themselves with evil, remember Allaah and ask
forgiveness for their sins; — and none can forgive sins but Allaah — and do
not persist in what (wrong) they have done, while they know.
136. For such, the reward is forgiveness from their Lord, and
Gardens with rivers flowing underneath (Paradise), wherein they shall abide
forever. How excellent is this reward for the doers (who do righteous deeds
according to Allaah’s Orders)”
[Aal ‘Imraan 3:135-136]
This is how our righteous forebears, the Salaf and those who
followed them, understood ‘ibaadah. They did not limit it just to rituals
and the times when they performed those rituals, and make the rest of their
lives “outside worship”. Rather any one of them would have felt that his
entire life was worship and that the rituals were moments when he could
focus and renew his spiritual energy to help him do all the other acts of
worship that were required of him. Hence they used to pay a great deal of
attention to it just as a traveller acquires pays a great deal of attention
to the supplies that will help him on his way.
They were as their Lord described them (interpretation of the
“Those who remember Allaah (always, and in prayers) standing,
sitting, and lying down on their sides”
[Aal ‘Imraan 3:191]
In all circumstances they used to remember Allaah verbally
and in their hearts. The idea of Allaah’s greatness and fear of Allaah were
constantly present in their hearts in everything that they did or said. If
one of them made a mistake or slipped, he would correct himself as described
in the verse quoted above from Soorat Aal ‘Imraan.
And you should note that man is a worshipper by nature;
worship is instilled in him. So either he will worship Allaah alone, with no
partner or associate, or he will worship something other than Allaah,
alongside Him or instead of Him – it makes no difference. This kind of
worship is that which Allaah called “the worship of the Shaytaan” because it
is a response to the call of the Shaytaan. And Allaah says (interpretation
of the meaning):
“Did I not command you, O Children of Adam, that you should
not worship Shaytaan (Satan). Verily, he is a plain enemy to you”
[Yaa-Seen 36:60 ].
Man cannot worship both Allaah and the Shaytaan:
“Is he who walks prone (without seeing) on his face, more
rightly guided, or he who (sees and) walks upright on the Straight Way (i.e.
“Say: Is the blind equal to the one who sees? Or darkness
equal to light?”
The Shaytaan tries to lead man away from the worship of
Allaah gradually. Sometimes he succeeds on a temporary basis, as in the case
of sin, as the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him)
said, “No one who commits zina is a believer at the moment of committing
zina, and no thief is a believer at the moment of stealing…” Narrated by
al-Bukhaari, 2475; Muslim, 57. And sometimes he succeeds completely and
severs the connection between a person and his Lord, so that he commits
shirk or kufr or heresy – we seek refuge with Allaah.
This worship of the Shaytaan sometimes consists of
worshipping whims and desires, as Allaah says (interpretation of the
“Have you (O Muhammad) seen him who has taken as his ilaah
(god) his own vain desire? Would you then be a Wakeel (a disposer of his
affairs or a watcher) over him?”
This person who follows the dictates of his whims and desires
– doing whatever he thinks is good and abstaining from whatever he thinks is
bad – is obeying the whims and desires of his own self, which calls to him,
so it is as if he is worshipping it as a man worships his god. And sometimes
it takes the form of worshipping money, as the Prophet (peace and
blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Perish the slave of the dinar and
the slave of the dirham and the slave of fine clothing; if he is given he is
pleased and if he is not given he is angry. Let him perish and relapse, and
if he is pierced by a thorn let him not find anyone to remove it for him…”
Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 2887.
This applies to everyone whose heart is attached to something
other than Allaah of his own whims and desires. If he gets what he wants he
is happy and if he does not then he is angry. So he is a slave to whatever
he desires, for slavery in fact refers to the enslavement of the heart. The
more he is enslaved to these desires, the weaker his submission to his Lord,
so if his enslavement to these whims and desires is so strong that it
prevents him from adhering to religion completely, then he will become a
mushrik and a kaafir. If these whims and desires keep him from doing some of
the things that he is obliged to do or they make the idea of doing some of
the things that he is forbidden to do, but which do not put a person beyond
the pale of Islam, seem attractive to him, then that affects his submission
to his Lord and his faith, to the extent to which they keep him from
fulfilling his religious commitment.
We ask Allaah to bless us by enabling us to submit completely
to Him, and to make us among His sincere slaves and close friends, for He is
All-hearing, Ever-Near and Ever-Responsive. And Allaah knows best.
May Allaah send blessings and peace upon His slave and
Prophet Muhammad and upon his family and companions.
See Mafaaheem yanbaghi an tusahhah by Shaykh Muhammad
Qutub, 20-23, 174-182; al-‘Uboodiyyah by Shaykh al-Islam Ibn
(The latter book is available in English translation under the title ‘Uboodiyyah – Being A True Slave of Allaah, published by Ta-Ha, London, UK).