Concept of Worship
Worship is motivated by different beliefs and principles in different religions. In Islam the motivation for worshiping is governed by two principles. First, man is a servant of God, created to serve Him. Allah tells us in the Qur’an:
I have only created Jinns and men, that they may serve Me. (Qur’an 51:56)
The Arabic word Ibadah used in this verse is translated as ‘serving or worshiping Allah’, but in its broader sense, it means ‘being subservient to Allah and obedient to His Will’. All our living must conform to the Will of God – all our life’s activities must comply to the directives of Allah. Thus, worship in Islam is not only confined to rituals; prayers, fasting and so on, but it encompasses all the activities of life, which have to conform to the directives of God as given to us in the Qur’an and in the traditions of the prophet. In fact, any lawful act in Islam constitutes ibadah, even eating lawful food, engaging in lawful sport and so on.
So, the first principle which motivates Islamic worship is the fulfillment of the purpose of our creation, which is Ibadah or obedience to the Will of God. All legitimate life’s activities are forms of worship. Islam offers a complete code of life which does not segregate the secular life from religious diktat.
The second principle which motivates Islamic worship is the conviction that faith, sound belief and good conduct are the basis of good, wholesome and happy life in this world and the hereafter. Allah says in the Qur’an:
For those who respond to their Lord, are (all) good things (Qur’an 13:18)
And He also says:
Whoever works righteousness, man or woman, and has Faith, verily, to him will We give a new Life, a life that is good and pure, and We will bestow on such their reward according to the best of their actions. (Qur’an 16:97)
Thus, the second motivation for Islamic worship is the attainment of good life in this world and in the hereafter. Islamic worship seeks to cultivate this basis of good life, for the society at large and the individual, through its characteristics and built-in spiritual values.
God has set for us a way of life which ensures justice in society, love and kindness to our parents, family and all creatures, consideration and support for the needy. Man can only constantly conform to this Islamic way of life, if he is constantly conscious of God. God consciousness is the root of righteousness and righteousness is the root of good conduct and behavior. Islamic worship seeks to develop this constant God consciousness through regular prayers and through other forms of worship. Thus, for instant Allah says in the Qur’an:
And keep regular prayers for my remembrance. (Qur’an 20:14)
Constant remembrance of God means perpetual fear of going contrary to His Will. Fear of God ensures a life of harmony with our Lord and a life of harmony with our fellow creatures. Thus, Allah says:
…. and establish regular Prayer: for Prayer restrains from shameful and unjust deeds … (Qur’an29:45)
God consciousness is a safeguard against evil inclination. It fosters purification of motives and good intentions, all leading towards good.
Looking at another dimension, Islamic worship is a direct interaction with God, with no intermediaries. In Islam God is not a distant being who can not be reached. He says in the Qur’an:
It was We Who created man, and We know what dark suggestions his soul makes to him: for We are nearer to him than (his) jugular vein. (Qur’an 50:16)
And also, He says:
And your Lord says: "Call on Me; I will answer your (Prayer). (Qur’an 40:60)
That is, man is commanded to talk to Him directly, not through anybody else. Thus, God is very close to us. And this direct interaction strengthens our bond and attachment to God and enforces our belief and faith. This intimate bond with God is important because when we feel the presence of the Creator who holds all the powers, it instills in us the sense of security and spiritual strength which we need in this life of ups and downs. This in turn fosters fear of offending the Creator who provides us with this security. The consequence is harmony and peace with yourself and with your Creator and this is what Islam is all about – Peace.
We see in many societies outside Islam that faith in God and religiousness are lacking and this is because the bond with God is weak. There is no regular and constant communication with God and thus his presence is marginalized and, in many cases, even lost. The lack of bond with God creates rebellion and in turn creates fear and turmoil in individuals and the society. This is the exact opposite of peace.
In summary, Islamic worship is a school in reforming and shaping human life into a life of faith, good intentions, patience and love of God and fellow creatures.