Worship in Islam: Between Mind & Heart
The message of Islam is centered on the oneness of God to whom we submit in worship. Some people deal with the concept of worship from a physical materialistic standpoint and they miss out on the deep spiritual meaning of worship which transcends the concept of worship from the mere submission of the body to the real surrender of the heart. Limiting the concept of worship to the confinement of only praying five times a day or fasting for one month a year is a distorted reductionism which is totally aberrant from the core meaning of worship. Worship in Islam aims at seeking close relationship with God through building an intimate spiritual connection based on love and mercy.
The testimony of faith in which Muslims testify that there is no god worthy of worship except God (la ilaha illa Allah) needs not only to be uttered with our lips but more importantly to become a divine creed which reaches its full potential through manifesting this testimony in all our lives' activities day in and day out and keep it close in our heart and remember it with every breath we take.
When our daily actions are imbued with conscious awareness of divine intent, a new meaning of submission will spring which will not be confined to the submission of bodies but more importantly the submission of intellects, hearts, minds, and most important our souls to the awareness of God's intimacy and closeness to us.
With the awareness and submission to God's supreme power, we too become empowered. With the kinds of problems we face in our lives, we not only need an intellect we need a submitted intellect together with a heart and soul which seek an intimate divine relationship with their Creator.
For us to build an intimate relationship with our Creator, we need to take an up close look at God and to get to know Him in terms of His divine characteristics, attributes and names. God introduced Himself in the Quran, which represents His final divine message from heaven to earth, with the opening introductory verse with which almost all the quranic chapters start. The verse says, "In the name of God, the Most Compassionate, the Most Merciful". God chose to introduce Himself to his Creation with two of his gentle and beautiful divine names entailing compassion and mercy marking that these two divine attributes are the main headlines under which the rest of God's attributes and characteristics follow suit.
Worship & self development
The concept of worship in Islam helps the person to be in a state of constant self development through perfecting his manners, refining his personality, taking charge of responsibilities and obligations. With God's promise of immense reward for those who adhere to their faith and warning against those who deviate from God's path. In Islam, the individual is seen as the main player in the overall action and therefore the Islamic message appeals to an individual's reason and emotions as they both work together in harmony to the path of worshipping God. Reaching the full blossoming of the individual's potentials and growth of character have great effect on the well being of the society as a whole.
One of the encouraging elements on one's path of self development is the element of optimism where despair has no place in Islam. Therefore, even if one broke his vows with God one thousand times, he can always renew his vows again. The power of repentance is therefore essential in the path to God and for this reason Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said, "All the sons of Adam err, and the best among those who err are those who repent". Repentance is an empowering concept as it paves the way to the one who repents to start anew without looking back on his past and without carrying the burden of his wrongful actions to the future. Repentance enables the individual to walk through God's path in a light weight without being hijacked or imprisoned in his sinful past life which actually hinders his potential progress and growth in life and in his relationship to God.
Self development starts with the heart as it acts like a commander and the rest of the body works as soldiers who obey the orders of the heart. Therefore, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said, that there is a part in one's body, if it is fixed then the whole body is fixed and if it is corrupted, the whole body follow suit. Thus refining our hearts and purifying our intentions are essential factors in developing one's self to reach his full potential which enables him to worship God, develop the world and purify himself.