Worship in Islam

Worship in Islam

The dictionary meaning of worship is submission, obedience and expression of humility. Raghib says: Servitude is in the meaning of humility, but worship is higher than that; because it is in the meaning of extreme expression of humility. From this aspect, no one other than Allah is worthy of worship.[61]

The word of ‘servant’ (a’bd) is also derived from the same root and it is in the meaning of a slave. Slaves are those who submit to the authority of the master and the latter has the right to intervene in all their affairs.

On the basis of this, every human being can be called as a slave and a servant, because they are all subjects of Allah. But the ownership of Allah, the Mighty and the High with regard to people as compared to the ownership of people with regard to slaves is having a fundamental difference, because the ownership of human beings is suppositional, but the ownership of Allah, the Mighty and Sublime is real and original. Beings depend on God for their existence and survival and are at His discretion and disposal. Poverty and needfulness is a part of their being and none of it belongs to God.


يَآ أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ أَنتُمُ الْفُقَرَآءُ إِلَى اللَّهِ وَاللَّهُ هُوَ الْغَنِىُّ الْحَمِيدُ

O men! you are they who stand in need of Allah, and Allah is He Who is the Self-sufficient, the Praised One.” (35:15)


From this it became clear that all human beings and existing beings of the world are truly servants and subjects of Almighty Allah, because they submit to the laws of the ruler over the world and will of the powerful God and they cannot oppose it.


The Holy Quran says:

إِن كُلُّ مَن فِى السَّمَوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ إِلَّا  آتِى الرَّحْمَنِ عَبْداً

There is no one in the heavens and the earth but will come to the Beneficent God as a servant.” (19:93)


That which was mentioned was in the literal meaning of worship and natural worship. But worship in legal terminology is: Expression of servitude and extreme humility and submission before divine commands; it consists of some special rituals, which are called worship acts. His followers perform those acts as an expression of servitude and seek the proximity of their deity.

In Islam also, such rituals are legislated, like prayers, fast and Hajj.

All the beings of the world are in need of Almighty Allah and except for Almighty Allah no one can fulfill those needs. On the basis of this, except for Allah no one is able to become a deity. Man is duty bound to worship Allah alone.

Prophets called human beings to the worship of one God and warned them against worship of anything or anyone other than Him.

The Messenger of Allah also called people to belief in the unity of Godhead and to negate polytheism. He prohibited them from the worship of anything or anyone other than Him and this was the greatest aim of His Eminence.

Quran is also a book of monotheism and it calls people to the worship of One God:


الر كِتَبٌ أُحْكِمَتْ ءَايَتُهُ ثُمَّ فُصِّلَتْ مِن لَّدُنْ حَكِيمٍ خَبِيرٍ * أَلَّا تَعْبُدُواْ إِلَّا اللَّهَ إِنَّنِى لَكُمْ مِنْهُ نَذِيرٌ وَبَشِيرٌ

(This is) a Book, whose verses are made decisive, then are they made plain, from the Wise, All-aware: That you shall not serve (any) but Allah; surely I am a warner for you from Him and a giver of good news.” (11:1-2)


On the basis of this, every act, which is performed with intention of worship, divine rewards and proximity, should be only for Almighty Allah; otherwise it would be counted as polytheism.

One of the conditions of acceptance of worship is sincerity and intention of proximity.

On the basis of this, if one performs a worship act for show off, his act is invalid and not only would it not earn rewards, it also debases the soul of man and makes him eligible for divine chastisement. That is why show off has been condemned and is considered to be a type of polytheism. Imam Ja’far Sadiq (a) said:

Every kind of show off is polytheism, one who does something to show off to people should take its rewards from the people and one who performs an act for Almighty Allah, He gives it reward.[62]

Ali bin Saalim says: I heard Imam Ja’far Sadiq (a) say: Allah, the Mighty and Sublime says: I am the best partner; one who makes someone other than Me as a partner in his act, I don’t accept that deed.[63]

On the basis of this, man should make efforts to make his worship sincere and solely for the sake of Almighty Allah and His proximity and he should at ant cost avoid show off and flamboyance. As much a deed is sincere as much divine reward is there for it.

However, it should be only through rituals of worship and devotions commanded by Allah, and specified by the Prophet and the Holy Imams (a) and not anyone else. No one has the right to invent a worship act on his own, without supporting reliable legal evidence. Evidences of worship acts, whether obligatory or recommended require reliable legal proof. Acts, which are ordered to be performed in Quran and authentic and correct traditions, can be performed as worship acts with intention of proximity. Muslims must be obedient to laws of Shariah.

Innovation in religion is one of the divinely prohibited acts and it is obligatory on scholars of religion to confront it.

Imam Ja’far Sadiq (a) has narrated that the Messenger of Allah (s) said: Innovation is deviation and deviation is the cause of entry into Hell.[64]

Yunus bin Abdur Rahman says: I asked Imam Musa bin Ja’far (a): How can I become a monotheist? He replied: O Yunus do not be an innovator in religion. One, who acts according to his personal opinion, is destroyed. One, who abandons the Ahle Bayt of the Prophet, becomes misguided and one who deserts the Quran and sayings of the Prophet, becomes a disbeliever.[65]

Zurarah says: I asked Imam Ja’far Sadiq (a) about the lawful and the prohibited in Islam. He replied: The lawful of Muhammad would remain lawful till Judgment Day and his unlawful would be unlawful till Judgment Day. There is nothing else and neither would it come into being. He also said: Imam Ali (a) said: No one creates an innovation in religion, except one who leaves a practice of the Prophet.[66]

The Messenger of Allah (s) said: When an innovation appears in my Ummah it is obligatory for the scholar to express his knowledge and to confront that heresy. If he does not do this, the curse of Allah would be on him.[67]

Worship in Islam is of two kinds: Obligatory and recommended: Obligatory worship acts are deeds, which the legislator of the holy religion of Islam (Allah) has made obligatory on human beings to be performed with intention of proximity and in the right manner and if he leaves them without a valid excuse, he would be liable for punishment in the hereafter like in case of obligatory prayers, obligatory fasts and obligatory Hajj, etc.

Recommended worship acts are deeds, which the duty bound are supposed to perform with intention of proximity. If they perform them, they would be rewarded for it, but if they leave it, they would not become eligible for any punishment; like recommended prayers, Ziyarats, recitation of Quran, supplications etc. However, except in case of existence of reliable legal proof, its validity and reward is dependant on intention of proximity and any kind of show off invalidates it.

[61] Al-Mufradat, Pg. 319
[62] Al-Kafi, Vol. 2, Pg. 293
[63] Al-Kafi, Vol. 2, Pg. 295
[64] Al-Kafi, Vol. 1, Pg. 57
[65] Al-Kafi, Vol. 1, Pg. 56
[66] Al-Kafi, Vol. 1, Pg. 58
[67] Al-Kafi, Vol. 1, Pg. 54