Basic Information About The Acts of Worship (Shafii)

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What is basic information about ibadat?

The meaning of the word ‘ibadah is submission, obedience, worship and bowing to a will or an authority. In terminology, ‘ibadah means the acts of worship or fulfilling Allah’s commands and orders for His sake, and avoiding his restrictions for His sake.

In terms of how they are performed, ‘ibadat (the plural form of the word ‘ibadah or the acts of worship) are divided into three groups:

  1. Physically performed ‘ibadat: Such as fasting, prayer and reciting the Qur’an etc.
  2. Financially performed ‘ibadat: Such as zakat, charity, alms paid in the month of Ramadan (fitra) etc.
  3. Both physically and financially performed ‘ibadat: Such as major and minor pilgrimage or conveying the message of Allah (jihad).

I. The Purpose of Performing Acts of Worship

  1. ‘Ibadah is performed in order to follow Allah’s commands: The first aim of worship is to carry out Allah’s command. Therefore, the main reason for their performance is that they are the commands of Allah, the Almighty. This is because obedience to the orders of the Creator is the requirement of being His servant.[1] Moreover, this is the reason for the creation of the human being as stated in the Qur’an.
  2. Ibadat are performed with the hope of gaining Paradise: A Muslim hopes to be rewarded with Paradise in return for his ‘ibadat and good deeds, and be saved from the Hellfire. To achieve this goal, a Muslim carries out the ‘ibadat commanded by Allah.
  3. ‘Ibadat are performed with the hope of gaining Allah’s pleasure: The real aim of ‘ibadah should be to gain Allah’s pleasure. The following verse of the Qur’an expresses this point: “Say, “Indeed, my prayer, my rites of sacrifice, my living and my dying are for Allah, Lord of the worlds.”[2] Gaining contentedness of Allah can be achieved by performing the acts of worship for His sake only. Performing the acts of worship to attract the attention of other people, to boast, or for other purposes is, in fact, a form of shirk (associating partners with Allah). A person must perform ‘ibadat solely to gain Allah’s contentedness and be rewarded in the Hereafter, thus he must perform all acts of worship in their proper time and manners.

II. The Benefits of the Acts of Worship

  1. Ibadah strengthens one’s faith: ‘Ibadah protects, strengthens and enhances a person’s faith (iman). It is a constant reminder for the person who worships the existence and oneness of Allah. Thus, a person who is frequently reminded of Allah will maintain stronger faith in Him. Furthermore, one proves his faith in Allah by worshipping Him.
  2. ‘Ibadah beautifies a person’s character and enhances his nobility: human beings are the most superior beings created by Allah. However, for humans to maintain their great value and nobility, they are required to believe in Allah and worship Him. The Prophet (pbuh) states in the following hadith the fact that worship enhances the believer’s spiritual merit: “Make frequent prostrations before Allah, for you will not make one prostration without raising you a degree because of it, and removing a sin from you, because of it.”[3]

A worshipper’s value does not only increase in the presence of Allah, but it also enhances among the people. A person who fulfills his religious obligations becomes a respected person in society. This is because such a person will not harm others, will treat others with love, mercy and respect; and act with justice towards everybody. Thus, all others will respect him. Even people who do not carry out their religious obligations will respect and value such a person.

  1. Ibadah has a positive impact on the human psychology: Worshipping God makes a human experience internal serenity. Every act of worship has a positive impact on our psychology. For example; prayer (salat) calms and soothes the soul. After completion; it gives the feeling of satisfaction and comfort that the obligation has been fulfilled. Prayer instills righteousness and goodness in a person; it teaches discipline and self-restraint.
  2. Physical sides of ‘ibadat help maintain a healthy body: For example, wudu’ and ghusl help maintain a clean and hygienic body. By praying five times a day, whereby the praying person move his/her body, a believer keeps his/her body robust. The Prophet (pbuh) has said: “Observe the fast, so that you may be healthy.”[4] Thus, we know that fasting provides benefits to the human health. With fasting, the organs such as the stomach and liver take a respite. The fasting body rests and acquires the opportunity to burn the extra fat it has stored.
  3. ‘Ibadah makes a person punctual and organized: The time, manner and conditions of the acts of worship have all been specified in the Qur’an and Sunnah. For example, the five daily prayers are to be performed not randomly but at their prescribed times. A person who prays becomes more organized with his daily tasks and programs. He makes plans accordingly, whereby he fits prayer and his tasks into his schedule, thus he or she becomes a focused person who plans his life very well. The obligatory siyam (fasting) is performed only in the month of Ramadan. Likewise, the season for Hajj is preordained. Thus, these examples have shown us that ‘ibadat is carried out in specific times and based on certain principles, whereby they teach the worshipper many skills such as discipline, punctuality and how to be organized.
  4. ‘Ibadah distances a Muslim from evil: Worshipping Allah leads to acquiring a good character and enhances the ability of self-control. The verse “… Indeed, prayer prohibits immorality and wrongdoing .. ?”[5] highlights this very point. A person who stands before the presence of Allah frequently will indeed become more God-conscious and God-fearing during the day, and will distance himself from sin.

Like prayer, fasting also protects a person from evil. As the Prophet (pbuh) said: “Fasting is a shield ( against sins and wrongdoing).” This is because fasting not only means refraining from food and drink, but also includes refraining from bad conduct and evil. Additionally, the Prophet (pbuh) expressed: “Whoever does not quit lying and dealing with lies, Allah does not need his refraining from eating or drinking.” This hadith shows us that fasting in lslam is not just about avoiding food and drinks but it is in fact avoiding bad behavior. A person who acknowledges the real aim of fasting will certainly avoid bad habits and evil actions.

A believer is aware of the fact that every action on this earth will be accounted for in the next world, so he lives by this principle and aims to please Allah.

[1] Al-Dhariyat, 51: 56

[2] Al-An’am, 6: 162

[3] Sahih al-Muslim, Kitab al-Salat, 225; Sunan al-Tirmidhi, Bab al-Salat, 388.

[4] Sunan al-Tabarani, Bab al-Sawm, 5.

[5] Al-Ankabut, 29: 45

Source: Fiqh1 (According To The Shafi’i School Of Islamic Law), Erkam Publications

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