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Concept of worship in Islam

IQBAL EBRAHIM
UNDERSTANDING ISLAM

The concept of worship in virtually every faith including Islam is misunderstood by many followers including Muslims. Generally worship is commonly translated by many of us to mean performing ritual acts such as going for prayers, fasting, charity, etc. 

However this limited view and understanding of worship is only one part of the meaning of worship in Islam.  The traditional definition of worship in Islam is a wider ranging definition that includes almost everything in any individual’s daily lives and activities. In the wider scope of things it means: “Worship is an inclusive term for all that The Creator (God Almighty) loves of external and internal thoughts and deeds, sayings and actions of a person.” 

In other words, worship is everything one says or does for the pleasure of Allah.  This, of course, includes rituals as well as beliefs, social activities, and personal contributions to the welfare of one’s fellow human beings and all creation. ‘Only those are believers who have believed in Allah and his Messenger, and have never since doubted, but have striven with their belongings and their persons in the cause of Allah: such are the sincere ones.’ (Quran 49: 15)

Islam looks at the individual as a whole.  We are required to submit ourselves completely to Allah Almighty, as the Qur’an instructed the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) to do.  “Say (O Muhammad) my prayer, my sacrifice, my life and my death belong to Allah; He has no partner and I am ordered to be among those who submit.” (Quran 6 :162 ). This means that all our activities should conform to the instructions of the one to whom the he is submitting, that is the Almighty Lord.

As referred to on many occasions, Islam is a way of life it requires that its followers model their life according to its teachings in every aspect, “religious” or otherwise.  This might sound strange to some people who think of religion as a personal relation between the individual and God, having no impact on one’s activities outside the normal rituals.

As a matter of fact Islam does not think much of mere rituals when they are performed mechanically and have no influence on one’s inner life.  The Qur’an addresses this important issue when highlighting the need to engage in greater good in community and society : “It is not righteousness that you turn your faces to the East or the West (in prayer), but righteous is he who believes in God and the Last Day and the Angels and the Book and the Prophets, and gives of his wealth for love of Him to kinsfolk, orphans, the needy, the wayfarer, those who ask and to set slaves free; and observes (daily) prayer and pays the charity due.  And those who keep their pledge/promise when they make one, and the patient in tribulation and adversity and time of stress; such are those who are sincere, such are the God-fearing.”  (Qur’an 2 : 177)

The deeds in the above verse are the deeds of righteousness and they are only a part of worship.  The Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) told us about faith, which is the basis of worship, that it “is made up of about sixty branches: the highest of which is the belief in the Oneness of Allah: (there is no God but Allah and he has no partners) and the lowest in the scale of worship is removing obstacles and dirt from people’s way.

Even doing decent work is considered, in Islam, a type of worship.  The Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) said: “Whoever finds himself at the nightfall tired of his work (honest search of livelihood), God will forgive his sins.” Seeking knowledge is one of the highest types of worship.  The Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) told his companions that “seeking knowledge is a (religious) duty on every Believer.”  In yet another teaching, he said: “Seeking knowledge for one hour is better than praying for seventy years.”  

Social courtesy and co-operation are also part of worship when done for the sake of Allah as the Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) told us.  “Receiving your friend with a smile is a type of charity, helping a person to load his mount (any mode of transport) is a charity and putting some water in your neighbour’s bucket is a charity.”

It is worth noting that even performing one’s duties is considered a sort of worship.  The Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) told us that whatever one spends for his family is a type of charity; he will be rewarded for it if he acquires it through legal/ permissible means.  Kindness to the members of one’s family is also classed as an act of worship! In fact, all that one has to do, when done according to the commands of God Almighty and the practice of Prophet Muhammed (peace be upon him), is considered as worship.

Even the fulfilment of one’s lower desire can be rendered as an act of worship – for the Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) told his companions that they will be rewarded even for being intimate with their wives.  The companions were astonished and asked: “How are we going to be rewarded for fulfilling our base desire?”  He asked them, “suppose you satisfy your desires in a forbidden/illegal manner, don’t you think that you will be punished for that?”  They replied, “yes”.  So he said, “by satisfying it legally with your wives you are rewarded for it.”  

It is clear from the above examples that the concept of worship in Islam is a comprehensive concept that includes all the positive activities of the individual.  This of course is in agreement with the all-inclusive nature of Islam as a way of life.  It regulates the human life on all levels: the individual, the social, the economic, the political and the spiritual. That is why Islam provides guidance to the smallest details of one’s life on all these levels. Thus following these details is following Islamic instructions in that specific area.

It is a very encouraging element when one realises that all his activities are considered by God as acts of worship.  This should lead the individual to seek Allah’s pleasure in his actions and always try to do them in the best possible manner whether he is watched by his superiors or he is alone.  There is always the permanent supervisor, who knows everything – Allah.

When stressing on the non-ritual acts of worship does not mean under evaluating the importance of the ritual ones. Actual ritual worships, such as performing our five times daily prayers should be performed in the true spirit, they elevate us morally and spiritually and enable us to carry on his activities in all walks of life according to guidance of God.

Nowadays some Muslims think that going for the ‘congregational’ prayer on Friday has fulfilled their obligation – forgetting that they should be offering their prayers five times a day, be it at the Mosque or at home. We have to review our lifestyle and also our behaviour if we are to be in the true path of Islam. Therefore we the bottom line is that all our thoughts, deeds and actions should be done in a sincere manner

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The Daring Dozen at Bari

8th December 2020
JEFF---Batswana-smoke-unit

Seventy-seven years ago, on the evening of December 2, 1943, the Germans launched a surprise air raid on allied shipping in the Italian port of Bari, which was then the key supply centre for the British 8th army’s advance in Italy.

The attack was spearheaded by 105 Junkers JU88 bombers under the overall command of the infamous Air Marshal Wolfram von Richthofen (who had initially achieved international notoriety during the Spanish Civil War for his aerial bombardment of Guernica). In a little over an hour the German aircraft succeeded in sinking 28 transport and cargo ships, while further inflicting massive damage to the harbour’s facilities, resulting in the port being effectively put out of action for two months.

Over two thousand ground personnel were killed during the raid, with the release of a secret supply of mustard gas aboard one of the destroyed ships contributing to the death toll, as well as subsequent military and civilian casualties. The extent of the later is a controversy due to the fact that the American and British governments subsequently covered up the presence of the gas for decades.

At least five Batswana were killed and seven critically wounded during the raid, with one of the wounded being miraculously rescued floating unconscious out to sea with a head wound. He had been given up for dead when he returned to his unit fourteen days later. The fatalities and casualties all occurred when the enemy hit an ammunition ship adjacent to where 24 Batswana members of the African Pioneer Corps (APC) 1979 Smoke Company where posted.

Thereafter, the dozen surviving members of the unit distinguished themselves for their efficiency in putting up and maintaining smokescreens in their sector, which was credited with saving additional shipping. For his personal heroism in rallying his men following the initial explosions Company Corporal Chitu Bakombi was awarded the British Empire Medal, while his superior officer, Lieutenant N.F. Moor was later given an M.B.E.

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A Strong Marriage Bond Needs Two

8th December 2020

Remember: bricks and cement are used to build a house, but mutual love, respect and companionship are used to build a HOME. And amongst His signs is this: He creates for you mates out of your own kind, so that you may find contentment (Sukoon) with them, and He engenders love and tenderness between you; in this behold, there are signs (messages) indeed for people who reflect and think (Quran 30:21).

This verse talks about contentment; this implies companionship, of their being together, sharing together, supporting one another and creating a home of peace. This verse also talks about love between them; this love is both physical and emotional. For love to exist it must be built on the foundation of a mutually supportive relationship guided by respect and tenderness. As the Quran says; ‘they are like garments for you, and you are garments for them (Quran 2:187)’. That means spouses should provide each other with comfort, intimacy and protection just as clothing protects, warms and dignifies the body.

In Islam marriage is considered an ‘ibaadah’, (an act of pleasing Allah) because it is about a commitment made to each other, that is built on mutual love, interdependence, integrity, trust, respect, companionship and harmony towards each other. It is about building of a home on an Islamic foundation in which peace and tranquillity reigns wherein your offspring are raised in an atmosphere conducive to a moral and upright upbringing so that when we all stand before Him (Allah) on that Promised Day, He will be pleased with them all.

Most marriages start out with great hopes and rosy dreams; spouses are truly committed to making their marriages work. However, as the pressures of life mount, many marriages change over time and it is quite common for some of them to run into problems and start to flounder as the reality of living with a spouse that does not meet with one’s pre-conceived ‘expectations’. However, with hard work and dedication, couples can keep their marriages strong and enjoyable. How is it done? What does it take to create a long-lasting, satisfying marriage?

Below are some of the points that have been taken from a marriage guidance article I read recently and adapted for this purposes.

POSITIVITY
Spouses should have far more positive than negative interactions. If there is too much negativity — criticizing, demanding, name-calling, holding grudges, etc. — the relationship will suffer. However, if there is never any negativity, it probably means that frustrations and grievances are not getting ‘air time’ and unresolved tension is accumulating inside one or both partners waiting to ‘explode’ one day.

“Let not some men among you laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor let some women laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor defame nor be sarcastic to each other, nor call each other by (offensive) nicknames.” (49:11)

We all have our individual faults though we may not see them nor want to admit to them but we will easily identify them in others. The key is balance between the two extremes and being supportive of one another. To foster positivity in a marriage that help make them stable and happy, being affectionate, truly listening to each other, taking joy in each other’s achievements and being playful are just a few examples of positive interactions.
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “The believers who show the most perfect faith are those who have the best character and the best of you are those who are best to their wives”

UNDERSTANDING

Another characteristic of happy marriages is empathy; understanding your spouses’ perspective by putting oneself in his or her shoes. By showing that understanding and identifying with your spouse is important for relationship satisfaction. Spouses are more likely to feel good about their marriage and if their partner expresses empathy towards them. Husbands and wives are more content in their relationships when they feel that their partners understand their thoughts and feelings.

Successful married couples grow with each other; it simply isn’t wise to put any person in charge of your happiness. You must be happy with yourself before anyone else can be.  You are responsible for your actions, your attitudes and your happiness. Your spouse just enhances those things in your life. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “Treat your women well and be kind to them for they are your partners and committed helpers.”

COMMITMENT

Successful marriages involve both spouses’ commitment to the relationship. The married couple should learn the art of compromise and this usually takes years. The largest parts of compromise are openness to the other’s point of view and good communication when differences arise.

When two people are truly dedicated to making their marriage work, despite the unavoidable challenges and obstacles that come, they are much more likely to have a relationship that lasts. Husbands and wives who only focus on themselves and their own desires are not as likely to find joy and satisfaction in their relationships.

ACCEPTANCE

Another basic need in a relationship is each partner wants to feel valued and respected. When people feel that their spouses truly accept them for who they are, they are usually more secure and confident in their relationships. Often, there is conflict in marriage because partners cannot accept the individual preferences of their spouses and try to demand change from one another. When one person tries to force change from another, he or she is usually met with resistance.

However, change is much more likely to occur when spouses respect differences and accept each other unconditionally. Basic acceptance is vital to a happy marriage. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “It is the generous (in character) who is good to women, and it is the wicked who insults them.”
“Overlook (any human faults) with gracious forgiveness.” (Quran 15:85)

COMPASSION, MUTUAL LOVE AND RESPECT

Other important components of successful marriages are love, compassion and respect for each other. The fact is, as time passes and life becomes increasingly complicated, the marriage is often stressed and suffers as a result. A happy and successful marriage is based on equality. When one or the other dominates strongly, intimacy is replaced by fear of displeasing.

It is all too easy for spouses to lose touch with each other and neglect the love and romance that once came so easily. It is vital that husbands and wives continue to cultivate love and respect for each other throughout their lives. If they do, it is highly likely that their relationships will remain happy and satisfying. Move beyond the fantasy and unrealistic expectations and realize that marriage is about making a conscious choice to love and care for your spouse-even when you do not feel like it.

Seldom can one love someone for whom we have no respect. This also means that we have to learn to overlook and forgive the mistakes of one’s partner. In other words write the good about your partner in stone and the bad in dust, so that when the wind comes it blows away the bad and only the good remains.

Paramount of all, marriage must be based on the teachings of the Noble Qur’an and the teachings and guidance of our Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). To grow spiritually in your marriage requires that you learn to be less selfish and more loving, even during times of conflict. A marriage needs love, support, tolerance, honesty, respect, humility, realistic expectations and a sense of humour to be successful.

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Chronic Joblessness: How to Help Curtail it

30th November 2020
Motswana woman

The past week or two has been a mixed grill of briefs in so far as the national employment picture is concerned. BDC just injected a further P64 million in Kromberg & Schubert, the automotive cable manufacturer and exporter, to help keep it afloat in the face of the COVID-19-engendered global economic apocalypse. The financial lifeline, which follows an earlier P36 million way back in 2017, hopefully guarantees the jobs of 2500, maybe for another year or two.

It was also reported that a bulb manufacturing company, which is two years old and is youth-led, is making waves in Selibe Phikwe. Called Bulb Word, it is the only bulb manufacturing operation in Botswana and employs 60 people. The figure is not insignificant in a town that had 5000 jobs offloaded in one fell swoop when BCL closed shop in 2016 under seemingly contrived circumstances, so that as I write, two or three buyers have submitted bids to acquire and exhume it from its stage-managed grave.

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