The acts of worship prescribed by God

The Concept of Worship in Islam

The concept and purpose of worship in Islam is unparalleled to any other religion in existence. It combines the mundane with the spiritual, the individual with the society, and the internal soul with the external body. Worship has a unique role in Islam, and through worship, a person is regarded as a true Muslim who accords his entire life to the Will of God. The importance of worship may be seen in the fact that it has been prescribed by God in all religions before Islam. Allah says:

وَلَقَدْ بَعَثْنَا فِي كُلِّ أُمَّةٍ رَّسُولًا أَنِ اعْبُدُوا اللَّهَ وَاجْتَنِبُوا الطَّاغُوتَ فَمِنْهُم مَّنْ هَدَى اللَّهُ وَمِنْهُم مَّنْ حَقَّتْ عَلَيْهِ الضَّلَالَةُ فَسِيرُوا فِي الْأَرْضِ فَانظُرُوا كَيْفَ كَانَ عَاقِبَةُ الْمُكَذِّبِينَ

“And certainly, We sent into every nation a Messenger, that, “Worship Allah, and avoid the false deities.” Then among them (were some) whom Allah guided, and among them (were) some was justified on them the straying. So travel in the earth and see how was the end (of) the deniers.” (Surah An-Nahl 16:36)

The Islamic understanding of worship allows the whole of one’s life to be an act of worship, as long as the objective of that life is the pleasure of God, which is achieved by doing good and refraining from evil. A person can turn everyday activities into acts of worship by purifying his or her intention and sincerely seeking God’s pleasure through these activities. Allah says:

قُلْ أَتَعْبُدُونَ مِن دُونِ اللَّهِ مَا لَا يَمْلِكُ لَكُمْ ضَرًّا وَلَا نَفْعًا وَاللَّهُ هُوَ السَّمِيعُ الْعَلِيمُ

Say, “Do you worship besides Allah what not has power to (cause) you any harm and not any benefit, while Allah, He (is) the All-Hearing, the All-Knowing?” (Surah Al-Ma`idah 5:76)

Worship in Islam has so many facets that it is difficult to describe them all in words. The most general meaning of worship in Islam is inclusive of everything pleasing to God, whether they deal with issues of belief, or deeds of the body. It may include everything a person perceives, thinks, intends, feels, says and does. Allah says:

أُولَٰئِكَ الَّذِينَ هَدَى اللَّهُ فَبِهُدَاهُمُ اقْتَدِهْ قُل لَّا أَسْأَلُكُمْ عَلَيْهِ أَجْرًا إِنْ هُوَ إِلَّا ذِكْرَىٰ لِلْعَالَمِينَ

Those (are) ones whom Allah has guided, so of their guidance, you follow. Say, “Not I ask you for it any reward. It (is) not but a reminder for the worlds.” (Surah Al-An’am 6:90)

It also refers to everything that God requires, external, internal or interactive. This includes rituals as well as beliefs, work, social activities, and personal behaviour, as a human being is a whole, such that every part affects every other.

Worship may be classified into two types:
  1. Specific Beliefs, feelings and visible acts of devotion paid in homage to God which He has commanded
  2. All other acts of goodness generally encouraged in the life of a Muslim
Devotion to God

This facet of worship entails that one fulfils certain deeds which God has commanded in His religion, whether they deal with the inner self or the outer body, and whether they be obligatory or voluntary. This facet of worship is not only limited to following His commandments, however, but it is also inclusive of leaving those things which He has forbidden. Worship in this sense may be defined as anything believed, felt, or done as an act of obedience to God. Allah says:

“He is irresistible, (watching) from above over His worshippers, and He sets guardians over you. At length, when death approaches one of you, Our angels take his soul, and they never fail in their duty.” (Surah Al-Anam, 61)

In this respect, worship may also be called servitude, as it is, in essence, living one’s life in complete servitude to God, doing what He commands, and avoiding what he forbids, as a slave lives within the will of his master. In essence, all creations are slaves of God, whether they like it or not, for they are all subject to the laws He has placed within His creation: Allah says:

“There is none in the heavens and the earth but comes unto the Most Beneficent (God) as an obedient slave.” (Quran 19:93)

In Islam, the performing of one’s duties is also considered an act of worship. But worship differs from servitude in that it must be coupled with love, awe, and reverence. No act of obedience is regarded as worship unless it is coupled with these feelings; one must love the action and love, hold in awe and have reverence for the One the action is being performed.

Acts of worship deserving of divine reward, the following conditions must be met:

For this reason, in discussing this topic, it must be emphasized that worship is a right that is solely for God. Islam adheres to the strictest form of monotheism and does not tolerate that any act of worship is directed towards other than God. It is God alone who demands our obedience, and it is God alone who deserves our love. Allah says:

“That is Allah, your Lord! there is no god but He, the Creator of all things: then worship ye Him: and He hath power to dispose of all affairs.” (Surah Al-Anam, 102)

The concept of worship in Islam is all-encompassing and incorporates ritual worship as well as common daily tasks:

  1. Worship is understood as the Majesty of Allah
  2. Worship teaches that God is the Most Justice
  3. Worship emphasizes both evidence and faith
  4. Worship allows a person to truly God’s love
  5. Worship understand the reality of this life
  6. Worship understand the majesty of Allah
  7. Worship teaches us about good and bad
  8. Worship promote all human resources
  9. Worship develop a peaceful society
  10. Worship  is the Source of all peace
  11. Worship encourages God’s mercy
  12. Worship will help go to Heaven 
  13. Worship make our life better
  14. Worship the true way of life
  15. Worship make our life better
  16. Worship bend to mutual caring
  17. Worship bend to mutual caring
  18. Worship trend to a believer in God 
  19. Worship rules being a good Muslim
  20. Worship itself is an inherently inner peace 
  21. Worship gives a person a clear perspective
  22. Worship has a message for people at all times
  23. Worship Commitment means striving for peace 
  24. Worship has a close relationship with the Creator
  25. Worship emancipates the mind from superstitions 

Any veneration of other deities besides God, whether they be demigods, prophets, angels, saints or martyrs, or their relics, statues or pictures, is considered as a breach in this monotheism, and a person is rendered out of the fold of Islam if committed. Allah says:

“Comest thou to us, that we may worship Allah alone, and give up the cult of our fathers? bring us what thou threatenest us with if so be that thou tellest the truth!” (Surah Al-Araf, 70)

Even though one may justify that they venerate saints due to their service to God, or their relics as a remembrance of them, Islam does not differentiate between direct and indirect, or subordinate and superior worship. All worship and acts of veneration, homage, and obedience must be offered for God alone.

The Inner Forms of Worship

The acts of worship prescribed by God either deal with the inner self or the outer body. Those who deal with the inner self do so with belief and feelings. Humans are commanded to believe in certain ultimate truths, discussed in the articles of faith, and this is the most important aspect of worship. Belief is the basis for what a person feels and does – actions and feelings are a reflection of belief. Allah says:

“O, my people! worship Allah. Ye have no other god but Him|. Now hath come unto you a clear (Sign) from your Lord! Give just measure and weight, nor withhold from the people the things that are their due, and do no mischief on the earth after it has been set in order: that will be best for you if ye have Faith.” (Surah Al-Araf, 85)

If a person’s belief is incorrect or weak, it will never produce the desired results in regards to their feelings or actions. For example, if a person incorrectly believes that God has forgiven them their sins due to their mere faith, their belief will not produce the desired feeling of fear which should be present in their heart, nor will this belief cause a person to cease sinning and perform deeds of righteousness. Allah says:

“The people of Moses made, in his absence, out of their ornaments, the image of a calf, (for worship): it seemed to low: did they not see that it could neither speak to them nor show them the way? They took it for worship and they did wrong.” (Surah Al-Araf, 148)

Muslims must love God, fear him, have awe in Him, place their trust in Him, and revere Him. Muslims have also been commanded to love their fellow Muslims, to have mercy and compassion towards them, to love righteousness and to hate sin. These are all considered acts of worship of the inner self because they are in essence a fulfilment of the commandments of God; Muslims will be rewarded for fulfilling them. Allah says:

“Those who took the calf (for worship) will indeed be overwhelmed with wrath from their Lord, and with shame in this life: thus do We recompense those who invent (falsehoods).” (Surah Al-Araf, 152)

Visible acts of worship offered to God are fruits of the Muslim’s belief. For this reason, not only does Islam demand that a person believes in the ultimate truths laid out in its doctrine, but it also demands that belief in God produce visible action. It is not enough for one to maintain certain beliefs for salvation, but rather deeds are essential for one to be successful in this life and the next. Allah says:

“O, my people! worship Allah. ye have no other god but Him. (Your other gods) ye do nothing but invent!” (Surah Hud, 50)

God has commanded that Muslims fulfil certain commandments throughout their lives, exemplified in the five pillars of Islam. These have been prescribed daily, such as the prayer, and annually, such as the compulsory charity and the fast of Ramadan, or as little as once in a person’s life, such as the Hajj. Allah says:

“They take their priests and their anchorites to be their lords in derogation of Allah, and (they take as their Lord) Christ the son of Mary; yet they were commanded to worship but One Allah. there is no god but He. Praise and glory to Him: (Far is He) from having the partners they associate (with Him).” (Surah At-Tawba, 31)

There are many other acts of worship prescribed in Islam other than the five pillars, some of which are obligatory and others of which are voluntary, their performance left to a Muslim’s discretion. Islam looks at the individual as a whole. He is required to submit completely to Allah, as the Quran instructed Prophet Muhammad (SAW) to do; Allah Says:

“Say: ‘Indeed, my prayer, my rites of sacrifice, my living and my dying are for Allah, Lord of the worlds. No partner has Him. And this I have been commanded, and I am the first [among you] of the Muslims.” (Quran: 6:162-163)

The Purpose and Benefit of Worship

God does not need our worship. Worship has been legislated in Islam and all other previous religions for the benefit of humanity, both in the individual and societal sense. Worship is essential for the maintenance of spirituality in the life of Muslims and its growth. Formal worship trains the individual to love his Creator and to develop a constant awareness of God. Allah says:

“O, people! Worship your Lord Who has created you and those before you so that you may be of the God-conscious.” (Quran 2:21)

Acts of worship serve as a means through which one remembers God and maintains a relationship with Him. Muslims perform prayer a minimum of five times daily to maintain this relationship. When one supplicates, implores, praises God, recites verses from His revelation, which has been called “the Reminder”, along with other forms of worship throughout the day, they will gain the sense that the Power and Knowledge of God are present with them at all times, leading them to this sense of God-consciousness. Allah says:

“Behold! verily to Allah belong all creatures, in the heavens and on earth. What do they follow who worship as His “partners” other than Allah? They follow nothing but fancy, and they do nothing but lie.” (Surah Yunus, 66)

Worship also creates a strong sense within a Muslim to remove the evil within himself and in the community and environment and to establish the word of God throughout the world. Allah says:

“…Indeed the prayer prevents one from committing licentious and evil deeds…” (Quran 29:45)

Again, when a person spends his day performing specific acts of worship, they are constantly reminded of the purpose of life and their end, and this, in turn, helps them to accord their lives to the Will of God, doing what He is pleased with and avoiding what He dislikes. Allah says:

“Provide dwellings for your people in Egypt, make your dwellings into places of worship, and establish regular prayers: and give glad tidings to those who believe!” (Surah Yunus, 87)

One can see the impact worship has on a collective level. Society is merely a conglomeration of individuals, and when individuals are spiritually and morally upright, society itself will also be upright. Ideally, the society will be one that feels that God is ever-watching over them; one to which beneficent acts of kindness will be an inseparable adjective, and sin and vice will be confined and limited. Allah says:

“Your (real) friends are (no less than) Allah, His Messenger, and the (fellowship of) believers,- those who establish regular prayers and regular charity, and they bow down humbly (in worship).” (Surah Al-Maida, 55)

Although it may seem to some that worship and obedience to God are similar to imprisonment and slavery, the worship of God and servitude to Him liberates humans from all types of subjugation. A person breaks free from the chains of society, peers, and family, and liberates him to please His One True Lord. This is true freedom that brings about security and contentment. Servitude to God is the ultimate source of freedom.

“Verily I am (sent) unto you from Him to warn and to bring glad tidings.” (Surah Hud, 2)
Worship In Islam
  1. Testimony of Faith (Shahadah): The first of the five basic foundations is knowingly and voluntarily asserting that.  “There is nothing worthy of worship except God, and Muhammad is the Messenger of God.”
  2. Prayer (Salah): Muslims are required to pray five times a day to maintain a spiritual connection with God and remind themselves of their ultimate purpose in life.
  3. Charity (Zakah)This is an annual charity given to the poor. Muslims must give 2.5% of their yearly savings to help the poor, the needy, and the oppressed. Charity is one of the vital sources of social welfare in Islam, encouraging a just society where everyone’s basic needs are provided for.
  4. Fasting (Sawm): Muslims fast during the month of Ramadan, the ninth month of the Muslim lunar calendar, by refraining from eating, drinking, and sexual interaction from dawn to sunset. It is an act of self-restraint and spiritual cleansing that increases one’s empathy for the less fortunate.
  5. Pilgrimage (Hajj): The pilgrimage (journey) to Mecca is an act that every Muslim must perform once in their life if they are physically and financially able.

“O, ye men! If ye are in doubt as to my religion, (behold!) I worship not what ye worship, other than Allah. But I worship Allah – Who will take your souls (at death): I am commanded to be (in the ranks) of the Believers. (Surah Yunus, 104)

Islam blurs the line between ‘religious’ and ‘worldly,’ because practically any action can become spiritual and is rewarded by God – whether it is seeking knowledge or maintaining good neighbourly ties. When someone keeps this comprehensive approach in mind, they naturally steer clear of cheating, lying and exploiting others. Instead, they strive to be honest, compassionate and tolerant in their dealings.

Allah Almighty says in The Holy Quran:

  • “So woe to the worshippers (Surah Al-Maun, 4)
  • “I worship not that which ye worship, (Surah Al-Kafirun, 2)
  • “Nor will ye worship that which I worship.” (Surah Al-Kafirun, 3)
  • “Nor will ye worship that which I worship.” (Surah Al-Kafirun, 5)
  • “Thee do we worship, and Thine aid we seek.” (Surah Al-Fatiha, 4)
  • “For, verily, neither ye nor those ye worship.” (Surah As-Saffat, 161)
  • “…And establish the prayer to remember Me.” (Quran 20:14)
  • “That ye should worship Allah, fear Him and obey me.” (Surah Nuh, 3)
  • “Do ye then see whom ye have been worshipping.” (Surah Ash-Shura, 75)
  • “Nay, but worship Allah, and be of those who give thanks.” (Surah Az-Zumar, 66)
  • “… ..Truly it is in the remembrance of God that hearts find peace.” (Quran, 13:28)
  • “And I will not worship that which ye have been wont to worship.” (Surah Al-Kafirun, 4)
  • “And that ye should worship Me, (for that) this was the Straight Way?” (Surah Ya-Sin, 61)
  • “Then came (the worshippers) with hurried steps, and faced (him).” (Surah As-Saffat, 94)
  • “And it shall be said to them: ‘Where are the (gods) ye worshipped.” (Surah Ash-Shura, 92)
  • “(I worship) only Him Who made me, and He will certainly guide me.” (Surah Az-Zukhruf, 27)
  • “We worship idols, and we remain constantly in attendance on them.” (Surah Ash-Shura, 71)
  • Say: “If ((Allah)) Most Gracious had a son, I would be the first to worship.” (Surah Az-Zukhruf, 81)
  • “To Him submitted all creatures in the heavens and the earth, willingly or unwillingly.” (Quran 3:83)
  • “And remember We appointed forty nights for Moses, and in his absence, ye took the calf (for worship), and ye did grievous wrong.” (Surah Al-Baqara, 51)
  • “The first House (of worship) appointed for men was that at Bakka: Full of blessing and guidance for all kinds of beings.” (Surah Al-Imran, 96)

The concept of worship in Islam is not restricted to mere monasticism, meditation, or acknowledging the reality in which God has created us, nor is it one based upon mere ritualism and performance of certain actions with no apparent meanings. Allah says:

“O, my people! worship Allah. Ye have no other god but Him. And give not short measure or weight: I see you in prosperity, but I fear for you the penalty of a day that will compass (you) all around.” (Surah Hud, 84)

Rather Islam has combined the inner and the outer and has defined righteousness and placed for it a reward. It is this comprehensiveness of the concept of worship through which humans may fulfil the purpose for which they have been created. Allah says:

“And I have neither created jinn nor humans, except for My worship.” (Quran 51:56)

Worship in Islam, whether ritual or non-ritual, trains the individual in such a way that he loves his Creator even more, which causes him to gain an unyielding will and a means to wipe out all evil and oppression from his society and to make the word of Allah triumphant. Allah says:

“So set your face towards the straight religion, nature (framed by) God with which He has created humankind. No change let there be in the creation of God, that is the straight religion, but most people do not know.” (Quran 30:30)

Islam enjoins Muslims to lead balanced lives in this world while striving for success in the hereafter by living righteously. When one lives their life fulfilling those aspects which God has commanded, leaving those things which God has forbidden, and according to each of their actions to the Will of God, their life, from morning until evening, from the time of birth until death, is turned into worship for which they will be rewarded. This was the state of the Prophets, as Allah says:

“Indeed, my prayer, my sacrifice, my living, and my dying are for God, the Lord of the all that exists.” (Quran 6:162)

Worship in Islam is as broad as life itself. It could be removing an obstacle from the road, helping someone in need, being good to your family, doing an honest day’s work, sharing food with your neighbour, visiting a sick person, attending a funeral and so on. Of course, the above-mentioned criteria apply here as well: to be considered worship, the act must be done earnestly to please God and should be consistent with divine guidance. Allah says:

“Do you not see that unto God bow down in worship (or submit in service and adoration) whosoever is in the heavens and whosoever is in the earth, and the sun, and the moon, and the stars, and the mountains, and the trees, and the beasts, and many among mankind…” (Quran 22:18)

In the end, worship in Islam extends to all aspects of life, transforming mundane tasks into spiritual ones. Muslims balance their religious duties and everyday responsibilities, aware of their accountability to God in the hereafter. When people fulfil their true purpose of worshipping God, it enables them to attain a profound sense of peace that results from submitting to the Creator, the only One worthy of worship. Allah says:

“O, my people! worship have no other god but Him. It is He Who hath produced you from the earth and settled you therein: then ask forgiveness of Him, and turn to Him (in repentance): for my Lord is (always) near, ready to answer.” (Surah Hud, 61)

Thus the concept of worship in Islam encompasses every aspect of human life and is central to the goal of freeing the individual as well as society, from the worship of created things to the worship of the Creator of all things. It is this concept of worship that humanity needs so desperately, and wherein lies the key to our collective salvation. Allah says:

“O, Salih! thou hast been of us! a centre of our hopes hitherto! dost thou (now) forbid us the worship of what our fathers worshipped? But we are really in suspicious (disquieting) doubt as to that to which thou invitest us.” (Surah Hud, 62)

Therefore, the concept of worship in Islam encompasses not only the outward religious duties, but also the development of a strong moral character, good relations with people, and striving for just and harmonious societies. Humans are required to live not according to their subjective desires, automatisms, mental conditioning or according to the dictates of social, political or academic authorities, but by their cosmic purpose inherent in us: the worship of God.