Saturday, July 15, 2006

The meaning of 'Ibadah (worship)

All praise is due to Allah, and peace be upon our master Muhammed, the seal of the prophets and messengers and the best of all creation, and peace be upon his family and companions, and upon those who followed their guidance and followed their path.

Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala, stated in His Book: “And I have not created Jinn and man except to worship Me”; a verse recited by all Muslims, but many Muslims restrict the meaning of “worship” to rites and individualistic rituals, such as Salat, fasting, Zakat, Hajj, Du’a, and other acts to come closer to Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala. Their understanding of “‘Ibadah” (worship) does not go beyond these things, even in the slightest. In their view, the economic system, politics, ruling and transactions are all totally unrelated to ‘Ibadah. Truly it is a narrow, limited and impotent understanding of the meaning of ‘Ibadah, far from the vast and comprehensive meaning that Allah has given it, and from what our scholars, from amongst Al-Salaf Al-Saalih, had understood it to mean.

Al-Fayrooz Abaadi said in his dictionary, Al-Qamoos Al-MuHeeT: “Al-‘Ibadah: Obedience”. Al-Tabari said in the Tafseer of the verse in Surat Al-Faatiha “Iyyaka Na’budoo” (You [alone] we worship): “Oh Allah, it is to You alone that we have Kushoo’, that we submit to, and that we depend on, acknowledging your Lordship over us, you alone and none other that you”.

The original meaning of ‘Ibadah with all the Arabs is “to lower one’s self”. It is also called “the path that is lowered due to feet stamping it down”, and “the travelers lowered it”. From this, a mule that is lowered for riding is called “Mu’abbad”, and from this a person who is enslaved is called a “’Abd”, due to his being lowered before his master.

Al-Zajaj said: “The meaning of Al-‘Ibadah: Obedience with submission”. And Al-Zamakhshari said: “Al-‘Ibadah: The most extreme level of submission and lowering one’s self”. And Al-Baghawi said: “Al-‘Ibadah: Obedience with lowering one’s self and submission, and the slave was called ‘Abd due to his submission and his obedience”.

Therefore, ‘Ibadah, with its vast and comprehensive implications, means: Obedience with submission, and lowering one’s self, and accepting being led by Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala, in everything that He has ordered and everything that He has forbidden.

This is what the Messenger of Allah, sallAllahu ‘alayhi wasallam, taught ‘Uday Ibnu Haatim, may Allah be pleased with him, as narrated by Imam Ahmed, Al-Tirmithi, and Ibn Jareer: When ‘Uday Ibnu Haatim heard of the call of the Messenger of Allah, sallAllahu ‘alayhi wasallam, he ran away to Al-Shaam – as he was a Christian before Islam. On the way, his sister, as well as a number of other members of his tribe, was taken captive. The Messenger of Allah then had mercy on her and let her go. When she returned to her brother, she persuaded him to consider Islam and meet the Messenger of Allah, sallAllahu ‘alayhi wasallam. ‘Uday was one of the leaders of his tribe, and his father, Haatim Al-Taa’i, was famous for his generosity. ‘Uday then proceeded to Madina and the people there began talking about his coming. When he entered upon the Messenger of Allah, sallAllahu ‘alayhi wasallam, he was wearing a silver cross around his neck; the Messenger of Allah, sallAllahu ‘alayhi wasallam, was reciting the verse “They took their Rabbis and Priests as lords besides Allah”. When he heard this ‘Uday said: “They did not worship them”. He (the Prophet) replied: “Yes they did. They (the Rabbis and Priests) made what was Halal into Haram for them, and what was Haram into Halal for them, and they (the people) followed them; that was their worshipping them”.

It is clear in the Hadith that ‘Uday Ibnu Haatim, may Allah be pleased with him, understood ‘Ibadah in the exact same way that most Muslims today understand it; an understanding that limits it to individual rituals. It is as if he is saying: “By Allah, oh Messenger of Allah, we did not pray Salat to the Rabbis and Priests, nor did we slaughter animals for them or to come near them, nor did we take them as Gods that we directly worshipped besides Allah”. But the Messenger of Allah, sallAllahu ‘alayhi wasallam, wanted to teach him, as well as us today, the complete meaning of ‘Ibadah of Allah, and said to him: “They made what was Halal into Haram for them, and what was Haram into Halal for them, and they (the people) followed them, and that was their worshipping them”. Therefore, the Christians and Jews worshipped their Rabbis and Priests by obeying them in everything that they said, to the extent that they made the Halal into Haram and the Haram into Halal, and the people accepted it all.

Therefore, oh Muslims, worshipping (‘Ibadah) of Allah is not limited to a small section of what Islam has come with, such as personal rituals like Salat, fasting, Zakat, and Hajj; rather ‘Ibadah of Allah means to implement all of what Islam has come with, without abandoning even a single ruling and without differentiating between one command and another.

Thus, just like Salat and fasting are ‘Ibadah, equally Jihad and ruling with what Allah has revealed are ‘Ibadah as well. And just like Hajj and Zakat are ‘Ibadah, equally removing harm from the path and undertaking economic transactions according to the Shari’ah are also ‘Ibadah. And just like Tasbeeh, Tahleel and Takbeer are all ‘Ibadah, equally working to re-establish the Khilafah according to the method of the Messenger of Allah, sallAllahu ‘alayhi wasallam, is also ‘Ibadah.

So why, oh Believers in Allah, is there this differentiation between the laws of Allah that has lead to the abandonment of some of His laws? The statement of Allah “And I have not created Jinn and man except to worship Me” means: “And I have not created Jinn and man except to obey Me”.

In conclusion, the true, untainted ‘Ibadah of Allah is genuine obedience to Him. In other words, ‘Ibadah means implementing Allah’s commands and abstaining from His prohibitions, and applying everything that He legislated.

We ask Allah that we are of those who worship Him as He should be worshipped by obeying all His commands and abstaining from all His prohibitions, and we ask Him that He makes us from those who listen to what is said and follow the best of it.

And the last of our words is Alhamdulillahi Rabb Al-‘Alameen.

Wal Salamu Alaykum wa Rahmat Allah wa Barakatuh

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