Acts to Worship
In the name of Allah, all thanks are due to Allah, may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon His Prophet Muhammad –the granted mercy, the rendered grace and the luminescent lantern– and upon his follower till Judgment Day.
Allah says, “We sent all messengers before you with this revelation, ‘There is no deity save Me, so worship Me alone.’” (TMQ, 21:25), and, “I created the jinn and mankind only so that they might worship Me. I seek no sustenance from them, nor do I want them to feed Me.” (TMQ, 51:56-57). He also says, “We raised among every people a messenger who enjoined, ‘Worship Allah alone and shun the evil one...” (TMQ, 16:36). As we can see from the above verses, the ultimate goal behind the creation of this whole universe and behind sending all the messengers is after all; Worship! In Islam, worship is educating and training the self to fear Allah. Allah says, “People, worship your Lord, who created you and those before you, so that you may become righteous,” (TMQ, 2:21). Much talk is said about ‘worship’ but most of it is focused on juristic provisions and rulings and only so little is provided about its educational content, its spiritual impact and its main purpose which is, ‘getting close to Allah’.
The concept of worship:
The word ‘worship’ encompasses all the words and all the explicit and implicit actions that Allah loves like; praying, alms-giving, fasting, Hajj, honest words, fulfilling trusts, being dutiful to parents, joining ties of kinship, fulfilling covenants, promoting virtue, preventing vice, struggling against the infidels and hypocrites, being charitable to the neighbors, the needy or any owned animals, making invocations and remembrance, and reciting the Qur’an. In addition to all this and above them comes; loving Allah, loving His Prophets, fearing Allah, turning to Allah, being sincere in His worship, being patient on His commandments, being thankful for His blessings, accepting His decree, depending on Him, aspiring for His mercy and fearing His punishment. All of these are examples for acts of worship to Allah. Worship to Allah is, after all, the mostly beloved purpose to Him, the mostly satisfactory to Him and the very purpose for which He created mankind, “I created the jinn and mankind only so that they might worship Me.” (TMQ, 51:56).
True religion achieves bondage to Allah in every possible way through achieving the love of Allah in every possible degree. The more comprehensive our bondage is the more comprehensive our love for our Lord will be and the more comprehensive His love for us will be, and vice versa. The more our heart lodges love for others beside Allah the more it will lodge bondage for those others, and the more it lodges bondage for others beside Allah the more it will lodge love for others beside Him. But at the end we must bear in mind that any love that is not for Allah is void and any action that does not seek the satisfaction of Allah is also void.
Worship has two meanings:
A special meaning: This includes the rituals, actions and duties commanded by Allah for the purpose of sheer worship like; praying, fasting, zakat, Hajj… etc.
A general meaning: This includes every good and wholesome act (even such acts were mundane) that seeks the satisfaction of Allah and that does not infringe His laws. This also includes doing all the permissible things with the intent of pleasing Allah. Hence we become in a state of constant worship every time we intend to do something that Allah loves or something that is sincerely for Him. Allah says, “Say, ‘My prayer and my sacrifice and my life and my death are all for Allah, the Lord of the worlds;” (TMQ, 6:162).
This way Islam bestows the quality of “worship” on any action that seeks the satisfaction of Allah, so long as this action does not conflict with any legal aspects and so long as it seeks to achieve its intended and legal purposes. Hence the farmer, the manufacturer, the trader, the doctor, the engineer, the teacher and the student are all in a state of worship if their actions are directed to the benefit of mankind, aiming for self-sufficiency and gaining proper sustenance for ones family… etc.
For this very same reason ‘worship’ in Islam cannot be separated from the walks of life, its ordeals or its prospects, but it is rather inherent to it, reforms it, and guides it to the right destination. Worship is hence not a way to recline or escape from the different battles of life! We can see this clearly from the Prophet’s position when a recluse worshiper passed by and the companions commended him. The Prophet (SAWS) asked, “Which one of you is serving him?” They said, “We all do, Prophet of Allah!” So he said, “You are all better than him.” He even prohibited his companions from being closed on worship to the extent of abandoning social life in the narration by Anas in which he said, “…By Allah, I am more submissive to Allah and more afraid of Him than you; yet I fast and break my fast, I do sleep and I also marry women. So he who does not follow my tradition in religion, is not from me (not one of my followers).” In another narration by Saad Ibn Abu-Waqqas he say, “…You will get a reward for whatever you spend for Allah's sake, even for what you put in your wife's mouth…”
Allah says, “Righteousness is not that you turn your faces toward the east or the west, but [true] righteousness is [in] one who believes in Allah , the Last Day, the angels, the Book, and the prophets and gives wealth, in spite of love for it, to relatives, orphans, the needy, the traveler, those who ask [for help], and for freeing slaves; [and who] establishes prayer and gives zakat; [those who] fulfill their promise when they promise; and [those who] are patient in poverty and hardship and during battle. Those are the ones who have been true, and it is those who are the righteous.” (TMQ, 2:177).
From the above narrations and verses we can see clearly that individual acts of virtue like praying and fasting are surely not enough for making virtuous men. In other words; the difference between someone struggling for the sake of establishing a virtuous society as aspired by Islam, or defending it, and between individual acts of worship is so vast. The former has a much higher stature and is much closer to Allah.
Worship has two origins: 1) Not to worship anyone beside Allah, 2) To worship according to the commands and laws of Allah.
Acts of worship and obedience to Allah have one single objective and two origins:
1) Not to worship anyone beside Allah.
2) To worship Allah according to His commandments and laws without following any whims or inventing. Allah says, “Say, ‘I am only a human being like yourselves. It is revealed to me that your God is One God. So let him who hopes to meet his Lord do good deeds and let him associate no one else in the worship of his Lord.’” (TMQ, 18:110), and He says, “Who is better in faith than one who submits himself wholly to Allah, acts righteously, and follows the religion of Abraham, the upright in faith, whom Allah chose for a friend?” (TMQ, 4:125). Omar Ibnul-Khattab also used to say, “O Allah, let all my deeds be sincere, sincerely seeking your satisfaction and do not let any part of them be for the sake of anyone.”
Commenting on the verse, “…in order to test which of you is best in conduct.” (TMQ, 11:7), Al-Fudayl Ibn-Ayyad used to say, “Its sincerest and most upright!” They asked him, “Abu-Ali, what do you mean by this?” He said, “If the deed is sincere but not upright, it won’t be accepted. If it is upright but not sincere it won’t be accepted. So it has to be both sincere and upright to be accepted. Sincerity is achieved by making it only for the sake of Allah. Uprightness is achieved by making it in accordance with the Sunnah (Prophet Muhammad’s teachings).”
The characteristics of worship in Islam:
1) Moderation and inclusiveness:
From the above we can deduce that the foremost feature of worship in Islam is moderation and inclusiveness without any excessiveness or negligence. Islam never requested its followers to devote themselves full-time for worship or to abandon the adornments of life like in case of monasticism (in Christianity) where the concept of worship in their case hinges fully on spiritualities and monastic life that ordains abandoning social life, curbing desires, celibacy, abandoning all the ornaments of life and livelihood. The monastic system even regards all of this as abominations of the devil. They have exaggerated “worship” so much by getting it out of its concepts and purposes till it was totally deformed.
As for the Jews they submerged themselves in excessive materialism and they totally forgot the need for spiritual nourishment. You only read in their books things that are directly connected to this material life. So they don’t worship God except to gain an immediate profit or to avoid some approaching punishment. Material values are the focal point of their lives.
So worship in Islam is distinguished by that which other faiths do not have. Islam unleashes worship from the bonds of the churches and monasteries, from the priests in the temples and places it directly in all the walks of life and its peoples. All Muslim scholars, past and contemporary, have agreed that the circle of worship in Islam is so vast; not just limited to the prescribed acts of worship like praying, fasting, zakat, Hajj and Jihad but also encompassing all the actions provided that these actions are sincerely directed to Allah and provided that we are vigilant to the rules of lawful and unlawful.
Look, for instance, at Ragheb Al-Isfahani and see how he made every vigilant act a worship whether this act was a duty, a recommendation or permissible. This way he expanded the circle of permissibility because (according to his opinion) whatever permissible deed done in accordance with the laws of Allah is an act of worship. He derives this from the Prophet’s narration that was related by Omar Ibn-Saad’s father who said, “The Prophet (SAWS) said, ‘A believer is rewarded for everything even the bite he puts in his wife’s mouth.” In another narration related by Qatada on behalf of Anas he said, “The Prophet (SAWS) says, ‘Never does a Muslim plant a tree or cultivate a land and birds or man or beast eat out of them but that it will be a charity for him.”
One of the basic features of worship in Islam is its diversity and the fact that it intertwines with all the aspects of life. Whenever human beings interact in righteousness and beneficence this is called worship. Worship also focuses on believing in Allah and His Messenger where the ‘intention’ is taken as the line that separates what we will be rewarded for from what we won’t. Allah says, “They were commanded only to worship God, offering Him sincere devotion, to be sincere in their faith, to pray regularly; and to give alms, for that is the right religion.” (TMQ, 98:5).
Dr. Qaradawi in his book (Worship in Islam) says, “Worship is not just limited to praying, fasting, Hajj and all the ensuing recitation, remembrance, invocation and asking forgiveness as many Muslims might think when they call others to worship Allah, or as many dutiful Muslims think when they assume that by performing the prescribed acts of worship they have done their worship duty towards their Lord duly.
“These great rituals and these basic tenets in the Islamic edifice –with all their status and importance– are but a part of worship and not the wholesome worship that Allah seeks from His bondmen. As a matter of fact, the circle of worship for which Allah created mankind and made it as their prime purpose and mission on earth, is such a vast circle; it encompasses all the affairs of man and his whole life at large.”
2) It hinges on ease and alleviating pressure:
Worship in Islam is inclusive; it hinges on ease rather than pressure. Allah says, “…Allah intends for you ease and does not intend for you hardship…” (TMQ, 2:185), and He says, “Allah wishes to lighten your burdens, for, man has been created weak.” (TMQ, 4:28). Anas also narrated that the Prophet (SAWS) said, “Make things easy, not difficult. Bring glad tidings and do not drive people away.” Omar Ibnul-Khattab also related that the Prophet (SAWS) said, “Do not make things difficult for yourselves lest Allah makes things difficult for you. Some people have made things so difficult on themselves that Allah made things more difficult for them and here are their remains in the hermitages and ruins, ‘But We did not prescribe monasticism for them: that was their own innovation by which they sought to please Allah.’”
From this concept came the rulings for ‘dry ablution’ instead of usual ablution or washing in case water would pose a threat, rulings for the fasting of the sick or the travelers, rulings for shortening prayers for the travelers or combining the two mid prayers or the two final prayers, also rulings for praying in a sitting position for causes of illness or incapacitation. Along with a whole big list of rulings that show how accommodating worship can be in Islam.
The big scholar Soliman Al-Nadawi says, “No religion came without prescribed acts of worship but followers of old religions thought that they had to harm their bodies and torture themselves as part of worship. They thought that the prime purpose of worship is to inflict pain on the body organs and that the more painful it gets the more purgatorial and self-elevating it will be!
“From this doctrine originated the concept of celibacy in Hinduism and monasticism in Christianity. They invented and innovated strange forms of body sports; the harder they were for the body the more they believed it would get them close to God. One vowed never to take a bath his whole life; another confined himself to a cave his whole life; some of them secluded themselves [u1] for as long as they could thinking that this is a form of worship. In India, some people hold to a tree tilting their heads down thinking they are in worship. This was how people worshiped till the advent of Prophet Muhammad (SAWS). This was how they thought they were getting closer to Allah and purging their souls till Allah saved them from this agonizing torture with the Perfect Muhammadan Message. He guided them to the fact that all these absurd acts that they practice under the premise of worship are but distractions for the estranged souls who think wrongly of Allah.
The Muhammadan Message announced this to mankind in but a few words, “Allah does not look at your pictures; He looks at those hearts that you carry inside your chests.” Allah would do nothing with torturing your bodies and organs, “Allah does not charge a soul with more than it can bear…” Anything other than that is but an invention, “But We did not prescribe monasticism for them: that was their own innovation by which they sought to please Allah.” The Prophet (SAWS) says, “Restricting oneself and celibacy is not of Islam.” The Prophet (SAWS) prohibited Muslims from forbidding the goodies of life and Allah says, “Say, “Who has forbidden the adornment of Allah, which He has brought forth for His servants…” (TMQ, 7:32). The Prophet (SAWS) also reproved those who forbade themselves from honey as Allah says, “O Prophet, why do you prohibit [yourself from] what Allah has made lawful for you…” (TMQ, 66:1).
The Muhammadan Message taught people, for the first time, that the wisdom beyond worship is that the believer acknowledges to His Lord that he is His servant and that he obeys His orders, “But those who are too arrogant to worship Me will certainly enter Hell, in disgrace." (TMQ, 40:60).”
One of the characteristics of worship in Islam is its multiplicity which addresses all the practical and intellectual events of mankind. One type comes in a verbal shape like; invocation, remembering Allah, promoting virtue and preventing vice. Another type comes in the form of physical actions (praying), financial actions (zakat), and all-inclusive actions (Hajj). Other types are neither verbal nor actions but are rather an abstention from some actions like; fasting.
Worship in Islam is a gradual elevation of the human being within the stairway of spiritual sophistication starting with the minimum imposed rituals up to the unlimited horizons of voluntary worships that are left to everybody’s ability provided that they do not conflict with the various jobs and duties either related to himself or to his family and people. The Prophet (SAWS) prohibited Abdullah Ibn Amr from fasting daily in the narration that was reported by Abdullah Ibn Amr Ibnul-Aas who said, “The news of my daily fasting and praying every night reached the Prophet. So he sent for me and he said, ‘I have been informed that you fast everyday and pray every night (all the night). Fast (for some days) and give up fasting (for some days); pray and sleep, for your eyes have a right on you, and your body and your family (i.e. wife) has a right on you.”
It is based on revelation (revelatory):
One of the characteristics of worship in Islam is that it was already predetermined by revelation and set by the legislator the way it was practiced and reported by the Prophet (SAWS) without any room for addition, deduction, restricting the generalized, generalizing the restricted, switching or changing.
The way we pray, the number of prayer-units, the form of praying, the types of prayers, the recitations… etc., all of this cannot be tampered with or changed or increased or decreased. The Prophet (SAWS) says, “Pray the way you saw me praying.” He also says, “Take your rituals and rites after me.” As for the differences that arose between the jurists in some of the details, these differences only arose due to differences in interpretations, differences in narrations, or differences in deductions.
Being revelatory, worship needs not to be justified by any reasons; so ablution needs not to be justified by cleanliness, praying needs not to be justified by exercising, fasting needs not to be justified by health benefits. All these ‘benefits’ even though they are true but still they are not the cause behind the worships; they are just considered among the benefits of worship that we basically do because we are ordered to do it by Allah and because we submit to His command.
For this reason the jurists never investigated the reason beyond giving a particular number of units for each prayer, or beyond limiting fasting to a number of days, or beyond the order in which we pray, or the days… etc.
The essential meaning of worship is that we practice it from a firm belief that the One who orders is Allah (SWT) and that the Prophet (SAWS) delivered its method to us in every detail. Hence, practicing it embodies the concept of absolute submission to the dominant Creator; Allah.
Ibn-Taymeyya, may Allah have mercy on him, says, “The ordained worship is inclusive of the concepts of humiliation and love. It includes utmost humiliation to Allah through utmost love to Him.”
So the basic principle in worship is that it is done in compliance with Allah’s command, in fulfillment to His right over His bondmen, in gratitude for His undeniable blessings without the necessity of yielding any fruits or benefits on the material life of man. So it is not a must that worship must have a wisdom that we can perceive using our limited mind because the basic concept beyond it is that it is a test for the servitude of man to his Lord.
Imam Al-Ghazali, may Allah have mercy on him, says, “The same way body-medicines affect the body by making it gain health through a special particularity in them, and while this particularity can never be realized using the common reasoning but it must be applied according to the tradition of the doctors who took it from the prophets, who in turn were able (through the features of prophethood) to realize the properties of things; it was made clear to me that the effect of worship-medicines with their limitations, amounts and forms (that were prescribed by the prophets) can never be realized using the common reasoning but have to be applied according to the tradition of the prophets who realized these properties through the enlightenment of prophethood, not through their reasoning. The same way these medicines are composed from different types and amounts of components (some of which are double the amounts of others) and the same way this very particular composition gives the medicines the very secret of their particularity, same goes for the worship which is the medicine that cures the ailments of hearts. They are composed from different amounts of components like in prostrating double the amount of bowing, or praying at fajr half of what we pray at asr; all of this is part of the divine secret that Allah placed in it which calls for practicing it in this particular way. The same way medicines have sources and branches; and whereas each branch affects the source in some way, the same goes for the voluntary acts of worship which complement the basic acts of worship.”
The relation between worship and behavior:
By extrapolating evidences from the Qur’an and Sunnah we realize that worship must have an impact on the person performing it, on his manners and on his behavior. Praying (which is the basic tenet of Islam after monotheism, and which has a special status in Islam) is depicted by Allah in the Qur’an as having many wisdoms beyond it one of which is the fact that it restrains indecency and evil as in Allah’s saying, “Recite what has been revealed to you of the book, and pray regularly. Surely prayer restrains one from indecency and evil and remembrance of God is greater. God has knowledge of all your actions.” (TMQ, 29:45).
Fasting also has an ultimate purpose beyond it which is achieving righteousness as in Allah’s saying, “O you who have believed, decreed upon you is fasting as it was decreed upon those before you that you may become righteous.” (TMQ, 2:183). The Prophet (SAWS) also directed those who fast to the necessity of forbearance and good manners when he said, “…The person observing fasting should avoid sexual relation with his wife and should not behave foolishly and impudently, and if somebody fights with him or abuses him, he should tell him twice, ‘I am fasting.’”
If you look closely at the “zakat” you will find that in concept it is all about the purification of the self from the ailments of stinginess and miserliness, and training it on the habits of generosity, munificence and helping people who are in need or those who are going through a crisis. That’s why Allah says about it, “Take alms out of their wealth to cleanse them and purify them…” (TMQ, 9:103). In this sense ‘zakat’ can no longer be seen as a tax taken from people by force; it is rather a tool that instills the feelings of compassion, mercy, and consolidates relations and mutual understanding between members of the same society.
As for Hajj, the fifth tenet of Islam, we find that it has an amazing effect on reforming the manners and disciplining the behavior. Allah says about it, “The pilgrimage is in the appointed months. Whoever intends to perform it during them must abstain from indecent speech, from all wicked conduct, and from quarrelling while on the pilgrimage. Whatever good you may do, Allah is aware of it. Make provision for yourselves-but surely, the best of all provision is fearing Allah. Always be mindful of Me, you that are endowed with understanding.” (TMQ, 2:197). Also in the narration reported by Jabir Ibn Abdullah in which he said, “The Prophet (SAWS) was asked, “What is the righteous performance of Hajj?” He said, “The righteous performance of Hajj is crowned by feeding the needy and speaking kind words to men.” So when the Prophet (SAWS) announces that ‘feeding the needy and speaking kind words to men’ is in fact the most righteous form of Hajj this will surely impact many pilgrims visiting the House of Allah who will be keen on achieving a successful and accepted Hajj. You will find them speaking kindly to their brothers, bearing many behaviors, actions and words that they would never tolerate outside Hajj. We see many pilgrims (in the state of ihram) so keen on curbing their desire to argue or retort that they do not even answer abusive words. Whereas in their usual life attire (outside the state if ihram) they answer abuses and they even have a fiery temper. So this change is actually the effect of ‘worship’ on them.
Acts of worship vary in essence and appearance but they all meet at the final destination that was designated by Prophet Muhammad (SAWS) in saying, “I was but sent to compliment the noblest of manner.”
Al-Sheikh Al-Ghazali, may Allah have mercy on him, says, “Praying, fasting, zakat, Hajj and all these acts of obedience from the teachings of Islam are the epitome of aspired perfection and the streams of purification that maintain life and elevate its status. Through these blessed qualities that are connected to them they were given a high status by Allah. So if we don’t make use of worship to purify our hearts and cores and to discipline our connection with Allah and the people around us, then we have surely perished.”
The importance of worship for the Muslim individual:
In the Islamic system, worship is an imperative component that has to be performed and implemented properly. Worship is the act that keeps the Islamic creed alive in the soul and moves it from the abstract domain of ‘thinking’ into the domain of the ‘heart’ that feels and senses. This way, worship becomes a propelling strength that has its own heat and light. There is a huge a difference between the one who knows mentally and is convinced intellectually about the existence of Allah, and between the one who senses and feels the dominance of His light on him and the fact that He knows him overtly and covertly. Worship in Islam moves the human being from the former state to the latter by igniting the flame of faith; feeding it and feeding on it, reviving it and being revived by it.
The role of worship is to preserve the disposition upon which mankind was created as in Allah’s words, “…And follow the nature [disposition] as made by Allah, that nature in which He has created mankind. There is no altering the creation of Allah. That is the right religion. But most people do not realize it.” (TMQ, 30:30), and His saying, “[And say, ‘Ours is] the religion of Allah. And who is better than Allah in [ordaining] religion? And we are worshippers of Him.’” (TMQ, 2:138). The question in this verse is used for denial because no other religion is better than the religion of Allah. Al-Isfahani says, “And how can it be otherwise when we confirm it through our worship that slues the rust from the hearts so they would accept the imprint of guidance.”
Among the functions of worship is that it promotes the spiritual side of human beings since we are all made of several components, namely; physical, mental and spiritual. So if we only take care of our body (through proper food and exercising) we become physically fit; same as animals -maybe animals even outdo us in this area-. If we take care of our mental side through sciences and knowledge that promote our minds and thinking in every possible way; still we could end up with the most horrible manners! Knowledge combined with bad manners is an explosive concoction that can give way to intelligent thieves, spies or criminals as we see a lot all through history.
The ongoing Western civilization, in all its doctrines, cares a lot for promoting these two particular side (the physical and the mental) giving way of human beings who are characterized with fit and strong bodies combined with active thinking and intellectual knowledge; but there is a lack of effort in promoting spiritual zeal and moral values such as goodness, or altruism and excellence in the general domain of humanity[u2] .
As for the Islamic civilization, it produced different models in the various domains of life; political, economic and social, and these models are unmatched in the history of other civilizations. By looking deep into the Islamic history and watching how it got spread we find that worship had a great impact in this area and that the worshipers who were mostly traders (whether companions or followers and no matter what their professions were) were the actual and effective heralds of Islam. We will also see that those who had the highest credit in spreading Islam in Asia and Africa were not the theorists but they were rather the worshipers who got known for their incomparable piety which filled their souls with the love of Allah and calling people to His path.
It is narrated on the authority of Ibn Omar that the Prophet (SAWS) said, “Islam is based on the five following principles: 1. Testifying that none has the right to be worshipped but Allah and Muhammad is Allah's Apostle. 2. Offering the (compulsory congregational) prayers dutifully and perfectly. 3. Paying zakat (i.e. obligatory charity). 4. Performing Hajj. (i.e. Pilgrimage to Makkah) 5. Fasting during the month of Ramadan.” So these are the five basic tenets upon which Islam is built.
The foremost unvarying tenet of Islam and the Muslim’s safest haven; the mainstay of faith and the first practical manifestation of it! Abdullah Ibn Amr reported on behalf of the Prophet (SAWS) that he said about prayer, “For those who observe it, prayer will be their light, their beacon and their life-buoy on Judgment Day. Those who do not observe it will neither have a light, a beacon or a life-buoy.”
Because of its honor and virtues it was described as preventing the believer from all sorts of abominations and vices, elevating the believer’s status, expiating the sins and the utmost purpose which is renewing the covenant with Allah, “Recite what has been revealed to you of the book, and pray regularly. Surely prayer restrains one from indecency and evil and remembrance of God is greater. God has knowledge of all your actions.” (TMQ, 29:45)
It involves actions of the heart, the tongue, and the rest of the organs, as an obligation not a recommendation. So unlike all other worships prayer involves obligatory actions that are not found in any other worship and it involves abstaining from certain actions and words that are not otherwise forbidden in other acts of worship. All of this is done with purpose of making it easy on everyone and because it involves renewing the covenant with Allah. For this reason prayer is divided over moderately close timings throughout the day so as to keep the believer in a constant link with the Lord. Allah says, “…and say your prayers in My remembrance.” (TMQ, 20:14).
Prayer in Islam has all the elements of unity and harmony; you find all the Muslims performing the very same acts in full harmony with the spirituality of prayer and its reverence, so they are never distracted by side conversations or any such things. In taking the direction of the Qibla, where Makkah presents the primary cradle of Islam, this has a mostly revered wisdom because this particular spot will always keep attracting the souls and feelings till Judgment Day.
“The prayer requested by Islam is not just some void words uttered by the tongue or some void movements performed by the body without any conception or submission of the heart. It is not the type of prayer that we perform quickly while we are distracted from side to side. This is definitely not the accepted type of prayer that involves meditation and fear and invokes the grandeur of the Great Creator!
The first objective for prayer, or rather all the other acts of worship, is to remind man of his Almighty Creator who created and proportioned, then destined and guided. Allah says, “…and say your prayers in My remembrance.” (TMQ, 20:14). The Prophet (SAWS) also says, “Prayer was made obligatory, Hajj was ordained and rituals were prescribed only to establish the remembrance of Allah Almighty.”
A temporary abandonment of the desires of the body during the day; from dawn to sunset! Fasting embodies the state of absolute submission to the orders of Allah through the act of stopping oneself from pursuing his/her lawful body desires. Fasting, is by this, an exit from the habitual and a temporary commitment to hunger, thirst mingled with austerity to rear oneself and discipline it.
Fasting was made obligatory during the month of Shaaban on the second year of Hijra and Allah chose for it the month of Ramadan because of its honorable status in the hearts of the Muslims being the month in which the Qur’an was first revealed. Allah says, “The month of Ramadan is the month when the Quran was sent down as guidance for mankind with clear proofs of guidance and the criterion by which to distinguish right from wrong. Therefore, whoever of you is present in that month, let him fast…” (TMQ, 2:185). The Prophet (SAWS) also says, “Do not fast unless you see the crescent (of Ramadan), and do not break the fasting till you see the crescent (of Shawwal), but if the sky is overcast (if you cannot see it), then act on estimation (i.e. count Shaaban as 30 days).”
Fasting has many benefits; raising the status, expiating the sins, overcoming the desires, multiplying charity, doing acts of obedience, thanking Allah for what is hidden, chiding oneself from the notions of disobedience and transgression.
As for raising the status the Prophet (SAWS) says, “When the month of Ramadan starts, the gates of the heaven are opened and the gates of Hell are closed and the devils are chained.” He also says, “Allah said, ‘All the deeds of Adam’s sons (people) are for them, except fasting which is for Me, and I will give the reward for it.’ … There are two pleasures for the fasting person, one at the time of breaking his fast, and the other at the time when he will meet his Lord; then he will be pleased because of his fasting.”
The gates of heaven are opened because of the numerous acts of obedience that are done; whereas the gates of hell are closed because of the fewer sins that are committed. As for chaining the devils this is achieved with the discontinuing of their insinuations throughout the month of Ramadan since they despair from being followed.
As for the atonement of sins, the Prophet (SAWS) says as reported by Abu-Hurayra, “The five prayers, Friday to Friday, and Ramadan to Ramadan; all of these expiate the sins committed in between them as long as no major sins are committed.”
Overcoming the desires is achieved through hunger and thirst that both break the desire to sin. It was narrated that the Prophet (SAWS) said, “O young people! Whoever among you is able to marry, should marry, and whoever is not able to marry, is recommended to fast, as fasting diminishes the sexual desire.”
As for multiplying the acts of charity this is achieved because the Muslim is reminded, during his hunger, of the hungry people and this in turn urges him to increase his acts of charity to feed others. As for the acts of obedience the Muslim is reminded of the hunger and thirst of the hellfire and this spurs him to increase his acts of obedience so as to save himself from hellfire. Finally, we speak about thanking Allah for the hidden blessings because the Muslim realizes the blessings of Allah in granting him satiation so he thanks Him because blessings are never realized unless they are lost.
Obligatory Charity (zakat):
Zakat is the name given to the ‘charity’ that a Muslim must give (from Allah’s right) to the needy. This name in Arabic means purification; and it was given this name because it purifies the souls and disciplines them on doing good things.
It is also said that, “zakat is a purification from the vice of stinginess and a purification from sins. This impact was proven by the legislator to include both the giver and the taker; as for the giver it purifies him and multiplies his rewards and as for the taker it answers his need.” That’s why Allah says about it, “Take of their riches a charity to purify them and to cleanse them thereby…” (TMQ, 9:103).
Zakat was made obligatory on the second year of Hijra (according to the popular stories) and it is one of the tenets of Islam and one of the pillars of faith. Allah says about the believers, “And they who are observant of zakat.” (TMQ, 23:4) It was connected with prayer in ten locations in the Qur’an which proves its status and importance. Allah says, “Attend to your prayers and pay the zakat and obey the Messenger, so that you may be shown mercy.” (TMQ, 24:56), and, “…then observe your prayers and pay the prescribed zakat and obey Allah and His Messenger. Allah is aware of all that you do.” (TMQ, 58:13).
Zakat channels in Islam are limited to the eight types mentioned in the Qur’an in this verse of Surat At-Tawbah, “Zakat expenditures are only for the poor and for the needy and for those employed to collect [zakat] and for bringing hearts together [for Islam] and for freeing captives [or slaves] and for those in debt and for the cause of Allah and for the [stranded] traveler - an obligation [imposed] by Allah. And Allah is Knowing and Wise.” (TMQ, 9:60). Allah made the giving of zakat as one of the purposes of establishing authority on earth, “[And they are] those who, if We give them authority in the land, establish prayer and give zakah and enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong. And to Allah belongs the outcome of [all] matters.” (TMQ, 22:41).
To organize zakat collection, the legislator assigned this mission to the State as Allah says, “Take of their riches a charity to purify them and to cleanse them thereby…” (TMQ, 9:103), and the purpose from this is to preserve it from any loss and also to respect the dignity of the poor and deprived people by relieving them from the need to ‘ask’ for it.
Zakat in Islam is not exactly a charity that the rich give as a favor to the poor out of pity; it goes far beyond that meaning into a much wider and vaster concept. Zakat is part of a whole Islamic economic system; this unique system that addressed the problem of poverty, or finance in general, before the whole world ever realized any system that could address this grave side of life.
Islam estimates the types of fortunes for which zakat is due, the minimum amount of due zakat, the timing for giving it, and the amount that needs to be given for each type of these fortunes.
In one type (plantation) the estimated zakat is one tenth of what man can reap from any land without exerting any significant effort. If this land is irrigated by machines then he must give half of the tenth. This zakat is due on all types of plantations.
In another type (gold and silver) the due zakat estimated is the quarter of the tenth (2.5%) since all trade offers are estimated in gold and silver. This zakat is due whenever a whole year (12 lunar months) elapses on them.
Another type (in animals like; camels, cows, cattle) has a very special system in zakat.
The wisdom beyond the variation in quantities is that whenever the effort exerted to earn the money is less (and hence the Divine ability is more), the more this calls for a higher zakat and vice versa.
Among all the tenets of Islam Hajj comes as the worship of the lifetime, the conclusion of all things and the completion of Islam and perfection of faith. Hajj was made obligatory on the sixth year of Hijra after this verse got revealed, “And complete the Hajj and minor pilgrimage (umrah) for Allah’s sake…” (TMQ, 2:196). In some stories it is said that the Hajj was made obligatory on the ninth year of Hijra. Abu-Hurayra narrated, “Allah's Messenger addressed us and said: O people, Allah has made Hajj obligatory for you; so perform Hajj. Thereupon a person said: Messenger of Allah, (is it to be performed) every year? The Prophet kept quiet, and he repeated (these words) thrice, whereupon Allah's Messenger said: If I were to say ‘Yes,’ it would become obligatory (for you to perform it every year) and you would not be able to do it. Then he said: Leave me with what I have left to you, for those who were before you were destroyed because of excessive questioning, and their differences on their apostles. So when I command you to do anything, do it as much as it lies in your power and when I forbid you to do anything, then abandon it.”
Many narrations were reported about the virtues of Hajj and Umrah and among them this one reported by Abu-Hurayra who said, “Allah's Apostle said, ‘Whoever performs Hajj to this House (Kaaba) and does not approach his wife for sexual relations nor commits sins (while performing Hajj), he will come out as sinless as a newly-born child.”
Abu-Hurayra also reported, “The Prophet was asked, ‘Which is the best deed?’ He said, ‘To believe in Allah and His Apostle.’ He was then asked, ‘Which is the next (in goodness)?’ He said, ‘To participate in Jihad in Allah's Cause.’ He was then asked, ‘Which is the next?’ He said, ‘To perform Hajj-Mabrur (i.e. accepted Hajj).” Abdullah Ibn-Masud also reported that the Prophet (SAWS) said, “Alternate between Hajj and Umrah (regularly), for these two remove poverty and sins just as the blacksmith’s bellows removes all impurities from metals like iron, gold and silver. The reward for Hajj Mabrur is nothing short of Paradise.”
Omar (RA) also said, “I heard the Prophet saying, ‘He who visits my grave (or he could have said ‘he who visits me.’) I will intercede for him and be his witness. He who dies in any of the two sanctified houses will be resurrected by Allah (on Judgment Day) among the secure people.”
Hajj reflects many special meanings that are not found in other worships because it is a temporary abandonment of one’s family, fortunes, children, home to go to the first house that was built on the foundation of monotheism. Allah says, “The first House to be built for mankind was the one at Bakkah [Makkah]. It is a blessed place; a source of guidance for the whole world.” (TMQ, 3:96). Hajj also involves abandoning the usual adornments of dress and appearance and a temporary state of austerity where the human being senses the eternity of his connection with Allah (SWT) and the demise of any other connection thereof.
“In Hajj we see the meaning of ‘unity’ as clear as broad daylight; unity of feelings, unity of rituals, unity of purpose, unity of actions, unity of words. There is no more regionalism, no more racism because of color or race. They are all Muslims, believing in one God, heading to one House to perform their rituals. What unity can be more profound than that?”
Complete detachment for the sole purpose of worship is so clear in Hajj, in addition to the social aspect of this ‘international conference’ that combines all its members in one single duty, namely; worshiping the One God. Still this completely detached worship is not segregated from life but connected to it as Allah says, “That they may witness benefits for themselves and mention the name of Allah on known days…” (TMQ, 22:28). Witnessing ‘benefit’ is a broad meaning that could encompass all sorts of interests that benefit the Muslims.
So Hajj is about detaching oneself for the worship of Allah, enduring hardships, giving up the comforts we got accustomed to and achieving the concept of a ‘single humanity’ in this huge crowd that is made up of different races and colors so as to achieve the purpose of ‘acquaintance’ that Islam calls for in, “Mankind! We have created you from a male and female, and made you into peoples and tribes, so that you might come to know each other. The noblest of you in Allah’s sight is the one who fears Allah most. Allah is all knowing and all-aware.” (TMQ, 49:13).
 TMQ=Translation of the Meaning of the Qur'an. This translation is for the realized meaning, so far, of the stated (Surah:Ayah) of the Qur'an. Reading the translated meaning of the Qur'an can never replace reading it in Arabic, the language in which it was revealed.
 Al-Ubudiyah by Ibn-Taymeyya, page 3.
 SAWS=Sala-llahu Alaihi Wa-Sallam = All Prayers and Peace of Allah be Upon Him.
 Al-Bukhary, Book of Wedlock, 5063. Ahmad, 13882.
 Al-Bukhary, Book of Faith, 56. Muslim, 4296. Abu-Dawood, 2866.
 Al-Aqida Wal-Ibada, by Muhammad Mubarak, page 169.
 Resalat Al-Ubudiya, by Ibn Taymeyya.
 Moderation in Qur’an by Dr. Ali Muhammad Al-Salahi, page 382.
 Islam and other Faiths (comparative study), by Mustafa Helmy, page 41.
 Musnad Ahmad, Musnad Saad Ibn Abu-Waqqas, no. 1504.
 Al-Bukhary, no. 2320. Muslim, no. 4050.
 Worship in Islam, Dr. Yusuf Qaradawi, page 52, 53.
 Al-Bukhary, Book of Science, no. 69. Muslim, Book of Jihad, no. 4626. Abu-Dawood, Book of Ethics, no. 4837.
 Abu-Dawood, Book of Ethics, no. 4906.
 The Muhammadan Message by Soliman Al-Nadawy, 8th lecture.
 Muslim, Book of Fasting, no. 2787.
 Al-Bukhary, no. 631. Sunan Al-Daremei, no. 1327.
 Related by Ahmad in his Musnad, no. 14793.
 SWT=Suhanahu wa Ta'ala = Glorified and Exalted Be He.
 Resalat Al-Ubudiya, Ibn-Taymeyya.
 Al-Munqidh Minal-Dalaal, Imam Al-Ghazali, page 17.
 Al-Bukhary, Book of Fasting, no. 1904. Muslim, Book of Fasting, no. 2762.
 Al-Bayhakei in his Sunan, from the book ‘Al-Shahadat’, no. 21301.
 The Tafseer of Al-Qasimi, part 2, page 74.
 Al-Bukhary, Book of Faith, no. 8. Muslim, Book of Faith, 122.
 Musnad Ahmad, no. 6733. Sunan of Al-Daremei, no. 2777.
 Maqasid Al-Salah, Al-Ezz Ibn Abdul-Salam, page 13, Darul-Fikr.
 Worship in Islam, Dr. Yusuf Qaradawi, page 224.
 Al-Aqeeda Wal-Ibada, by Muhammad Mubarak, pages 180-181. Darul-Fikr – Beirut.
 Al-Bukhary, Book of Fasting, no. 1909. Muslim, no. 2551.
 Al-Bukhary, Book of Fasting, no. 3277. Muslim, Book of Fasting, no. 2547.
 Al-Bukhary, Book of Fasting, no. 1904.
 Sunan of Al-Bayhakei, Kitab Al-Shahadat, no. 21278.
 Al-Bukhary, no. 5066. Muslim, no. 3464.
 Maqasid Al-Sawm, by Al-Ezz Ibn Abdul-Salam, abridged.
 Fiqh Al-Sunna.
 Umdat Al-Qari’ Sharh Sahih Al-Bukhary, by Badrul-Deen Al-Aini Al-Hanafi.
 Worship in Islam, Yusuf Qaradawi, page 253.
 Muslim, Book of Hajj, no. 3321. Musnad Ahmad, no. 10887.
 Al-Bukhary, no. 1521. Muslim, no. 3375.
 Al-Bukhary, no. 26. Muslim, no. 285.
 Sunan of Al-Tirmidhi, no. 815. Sunan of Al-Nasaei, no. 2643
 RA=Radya Allah anhu/anha = May Allah be pleased with him/her.
 Sunan of Al-Bayhakei, Book of Hajj, no. 10572.
 Worship in Islam, Yusuf Qaradawi.
[u1]Translator’s comment: I could have misunderstood the Arabic!
[u2]Translator’s comment: Maybe this part needs to be rephrased because the Western Civilization is not free from people who love humanity and goodness and are distinguished altruists.