A Muslim should go on in life remembering the purpose of his creation and the objective for which he exists in this life. Allah clarifies to us this objective saying (what means): “And I created not the jinn and humans except that they should worship Me (alone).” [Quran 51:56].
This verse plainly explains the purpose of our creation; that our lives should not be spent except in worshipping Allah. Prayer, fasting, alms giving, Hajj, truthfulness, trustworthiness, being dutiful to parents, supplication, reading the Quran, hoping for Allah’s mercy and being afraid of His punishment are all acts of worship.
The best deed to perform: The greatest type of worship is to perform that which Allah makes obligatory on His servants and to refrain from all that He forbids. Abu Hurayrah narrated that Prophet said: “Allah says: ‘The most beloved deeds with which my slave comes nearer to me are what I have enjoined on him.’” (Al-Bukhari).
Ibn Al-Qayyim may Allah have mercy upon him said: “Since the Salaf lived their whole life in worship, it is then necessary for us to know with which type of worship they started, and which one have they given priority.” He then answered: "The best acts of worship are the most pleasing to Allah in that particular time. The best act of worship during the presence of a guest is to take care of him and not to be distracted from that by other recommended acts of worship. This is also in performing one’s duties towards one’s wife and family. The best act of worship in the night is to be occupied with prayer, reciting the Quran, supplication and Thikr. The best thing during the time of the Athaan (i.e. the call for prayer) is to leave whatever worship one is doing and answer the Mu`aththin (i.e. the one calling the Athaan) by repeating what he says. The best thing during the time of the five obligatory prayers is to exert one's efforts in their prompt performance. The best thing when the poor is in dire need of assistance is to assist him and give that preference over supererogatory Thikr. The best thing to do when your brother is sick or dead is to visit him, attend his funeral, and give that priority over your supererogatory Thikr. And the best thing to do when you are afflicted and suffer people’s harm is to be patient and not to run away from them." [End of quote]
The Muslim should be moving in between stations of servitude. If you see the scholars you see him with them; if you see those who are devotedly performing acts of worship, you see him with them, and if you see those giving generously in charity, you see him with them!
The conditions of accepting an act of worship: Indeed what has afflicted Muslims in the course of their long history and what is afflicting them today is a consequence of their deviation from the real concept of worship and application of the two conditions for acts of worship to be accepted, which are: sincerity and following the path of the messenger of Allah. While abandoning sincerity leads to directing acts of worship that are solely Allah’s to others besides Him; lack of following the path of the Prophet leads to the appearance of various kinds of worship for which there is no permission from Allah nor recommendation from His Prophet.
However, some people restrict the concept of worship to rituals only. Whenever this set of people works, they abstain completely from worship and whenever they worship, they keep away completely from work. This is unfortunately the most common belief. It is the people who hold this concept who say, “What does religion have to do with a woman’s dressing and her work?" "What does religion have to do with our personal behaviour?" Their purpose is to remove religion from one’s life and confine it only to the mosque. That is why you see someone who prays, fasts, and reads Quran, yet he cheats, bribes, takes bribes and wrongs others. You also see a woman who prays yet she disobeys laws of Allah by dressing immodestly and mingling with men.
Deeds which one performs habitually become acts of worship through good intentions. The farmer in his farm, the labourer, the trader, or the practitioner of any other profession is capable of turning his occupation into an act of worship, provided that he does not tarnish it with cheating, lying, tricking etc. This is the concept of worship in its wider sense. To have a full imagination of acts of obedience makes a Muslim full of good, mercy, and benefits for his fellow human beings, thereby encouraging him to do more acts of worship and assist his nation.
It is possible for you to add a viable brick into the structure of this nation and add to your scale of good deeds weighty works, which may appear insignificant to you. Listen to what the Prophet said: “Do you want me to tell you of what is better than the rank of fasting, prayer and charity?” The Companions said: “Yes, O Messenger of Allah.” He said: “Conciliating between people among whom there is discord.” (Abu Daawood) He also said: “Whoever visits a sick person or a brother of his for Allah’s sake, a caller will call him thus, ‘You are good and your passage is good. May you take Paradise for an abode.’ ” (At-Tirmithi).
Abu Hurayrah, reported that the Messenger of Allah said: “While a man was walking along the road, he saw a branch of a tree with thorns lying on the road and he removed it, so Allah appreciated his deed (and thus rewarded him) for that and forgave his sins.” (Muslim). It is also reported that the Messenger of Allah said: “Deeds of my nation – both the good and evil – were shown to me and I found that among their good deeds is the removal of harmful things from the pathway.” (Muslim).
Restricting righteous deeds to special acts of worship makes seekers of piety spend all their time in repetition of limited deeds as if they do not see that other ways lead to the pleasure of Allah.
Worship covers all aspects of life: Worshipping Allah does indeed necessitate using all one’s limbs in the obedience of Allah and carrying out His orders. One can worship Allah by preventing his eyes from gazing at unlawful things and using them to look at what Allah loves, like a copy of the Quran, books of knowledge etc. He can also worship Him by preventing his ears, hands and feet from all that Allah forbids and using them in things that He enjoins and loves. Allah says (what means): “Say (O Mohammad); Verily my prayer, my sacrifice, my living and my dying are for Allah, the Lord of the ‘Aalameen (mankind, jinns and all that exists). He has no partner. And of this I have been commanded, and I am the first of the Muslims.” [Quran 6:162-163].
As for the Prophet love of worship has penetrated deep into his heart and the greatest manifestation of his worship is that he submitted his whole life to Allah in all his conditions. Allah says (what means): “And who can be better in religion than one who submits his face (himself) to Allah and he is a Muhsin (a doer of good).” [Quran 4:125].
The Prophet used to fear Allah and always seek for His forgiveness. He said: “By Allah! I indeed invoke Allah for forgiveness and repent to Him more than seventy times a day.” (Al-Bukhari) He used to worship Allah in the night and would keep on standing until his legs became swollen and when he was asked, “O Messenger of Allah! You do this when your former and latter sins have been forgiven?” He would reply: “Should I not then be a grateful slave?” (Al-Bukhari & Muslim)
However, the most wonderful aspect of the Prophet’s worship is that astonishing combination of the highest level of worship and performance of his role as the head of his nation. He said: “By Allah! I am the most fearful of Allah among you, but I fast, and eat; I pray and I sleep and I marry women. Whoever differs from my way is not of me.” (Al-Bukhari)
Ibn Taymiyyah him said: “The heart cannot be good, prosper, have felicity and easiness, enjoy and have tranquillity except through the worship of its Lord alone. Even if it attains all pleasures of this world it will not get peace and tranquillity, for it has a natural spontaneous need to its Lord because He is its Lord…”
Nullifiers of worship, and reasons for rejecting it: Not fulfilling the two conditions of accepting a deed (namely, sincerely and coinciding with the way of the Prophet, are the foremost reasons one's deed may be rejected as we have mentioned before. One of the Salaf (the righteous predecessors) may Allah have mercy upon him said: “Indeed, Allah has bestowed His favour upon His servants and commanded them to be grateful as much as they can, for gratitude, however little it may be, is a price for the favour, however big it may be. If one is not grateful, he has exposed the favour to extinction…”
The effort exerted by the Salaf in worship: Our Salaf… people who’s hearts were full of love for Allah in all their conditions … they then became delighted … their souls became tranquil … peace ruled over their limbs … then, thoughts of love replaced those of disobedience … the will to move nearer to Him replaced that of displeasing Him … movements of the tongue became that of obedience or contrary to disobedience.
When Naafi’ was asked about the activities of Ibn ‘Umar at home, he replied: “He used to perform ablution for every prayer and recite Quran in between them [i.e. in between ablution and prayer.]” [End of quote].
Al-Hasan Al-Basri said – while describing efforts of Salaf in worship, “I have met people and I have accompanied groups. They (i.e. the people I have met and accompanied) did not use to rejoice at whatever came their way of the beauties of this world; nor did they use to get sad over whatever departed from them of this world. Rather, the world was less significant to them than the soil over which they walked. They would act by the book of their Lord and the Sunnah of the Prophet. During the night they stood up in prayer, prostrated their faces and wept out of fear of Allah.” [End of quote].
Whenever Ibn ‘Umar, missed a congregational prayer, he would atone for that by a day of fasting, a night vigil (in prayer) and manumission of a slave.
The wife of ‘Umar ibn Abdul-‘Azeez said: “I have never seen anyone who prayed fasted and feared Allah more than him (meaning her husband). He would pray ‘Ishaa’ prayer and then sit mentioning Allah until he was overcome by slumber. He would remember some of the issues of the Last Day while he was on his bed and tremble like a sparrow and then sit down weeping. I would then cover him with a sheet.” [End of quote].
Wakee’ said: “Al-A’mash never missed the opening Takbeer (in a congregational prayer) for almost seventy years and I visited him for more than six years, and I have never seen him performing a missed Raka’ah.” [End of quote].
Sulaymaan Ibn Hamzah also said: “I have never prayed an obligatory prayer alone except twice and even then I felt as if I had not prayed it at all.” [End of quote]. It should be noted that he was almost ninety years old when he died.
Through worship, a believer’s soul becomes tranquil, that tranquillity energises it and tells it, “O soul! Be happy, for the home is near and reunion is imminent”. Therefore, do not terminate your journey and thus be denied reaching the home of the loved ones.
This is how our Salaf were… and this how we should be.
In the second part of this topic the word Muhsin (a doer of good) was mentioned in one of the quoted verses of the Quran which is derived from Al-Ihsaan which is the performance of good; but what then is Al-Ihsaan (good deed) that attracts such a high position before Allah and makes the slave deserving of such a great description?
The answer was provided by the Messenger of Allah when he said, “Al-Ihsaan is to worship Allah as if you see Him. And even though you do not see Him, He sees you!” (Muslim). This narration means that man should worship Allah, mindful of his closeness to Him and his standing before Him just as if he is seeing Him plainly. This state brings about Allah-consciousness and love of Allah and purifies ones acts of worship. Anas bin Maalik, narrated that a man said: “O Messenger of Allah! Tell me a short word that could benefit me.” The Prophet said: “Pray as if you are in your farewell prayer, for if you do not see Allah, He sees you.” And the meaning of the phrase “if you do not see Him, He sees you” is that if one cannot worship Allah as if one sees Him, he should then worship Him with the conviction that Allah does see him and that none of his affairs is concealed from Allah. Haarithah related: “The Prophet told me: “O Haarithah! How do you find yourself this morning?” I replied: “A true believer.” then the Prophet told me: “Watch what you say, for every word has a reality, so what confirms what you claimed” I then said: ‘O Messenger of Allah, I keep myself away from the (leisure of this) world, spend my nights in prayer and fast during my days. I am now as if I am looking at the throne of my Lord appearing. I am also as if I am looking at the inhabitants of Paradise as they visit one another. And it seems as if I am looking at the dwellers of hell as they howl therein!” The Prophet then said: “You have indeed seen (what you claimed to have seen). Therefore continue on your state of worship, O slave whom Allah has illuminated his heart with faith!”
Al-Ihsaan is to observe prayer in the best form, moving closer to Allah and beseeching Him secretly during the night when people are asleep, and it is also being benevolent to people. Allah Says (what means): “Verily, they were before this Muhsins - plural of Muhsin (i.e. doers of good). They used to sleep but little by night (invoking their Lord and praying with fear and hope). And in the hours before dawn they were (found) asking (Allah) for forgiveness. And in their properties there was the right of the beggar (who asked) and the poor (who do not ask others).” [Quran 51:17-19].
Al-Ihsaan also means striving against one’s soul, struggle against Satan, hypocrites and unbelievers. Allah Says (what means): “And many a Prophet fought (in Allah’s cause) and along with him (fought) large bands of religious learned men. But they never lost heart for that which did befall them in Allah’s way, nor did they weaken nor degrade themselves. And Allah loves the patient ones. And they said nothing but, ‘Our Lord! Forgive us our sins and our transgressions (in keeping our duties to you). Establish our feet firmly and give us victory over the disbelieving folk! So Allah gave them the reward of this world, and the excellent reward of the hereafter. And Allah loves the Muhsins (doers of good).” [Quran 3: 146-148].
It is also an aspect of Al-Ihsaan to spend in the way of Allah whether one is rich or poor and to suppress ones anger and forgive the ignorant ones when they misbehave. Allah Says (what means): “Those who spend (in Allah’s cause) in prosperity and in adversity, who repress anger and who pardon men; verily, Allah loves the Muhsins (doers of good).” [Quran 3: 134].
It is a part of Al-Ihsaan to surrender to the truth, to love it and to listen to the revealed Book of Allah with sound and healthy minds and attentive ears. Allah Says (what means): “And when they listen to what has been sent down to the Messenger, you see their eyes overflowing with tears because of the truth they have recognised. They say, “Our Lord! We believe; so write us among the witnesses. And why should we not believe in Allah and in that which has come to us of the truth (Islamic monotheism)? And we wish that our Lord will admit us (in Paradise on the Day of Resurrection) along with the righteous people (Prophet Muhammad and his companions). So because of what they said, Allah rewarded them with gardens under which rivers flow (in Paradise), they will abide therein forever. Such is the reward of the Muhsins (doers of good).” [Quran 5: 83-85].
Allah has promised a great reward for the Muhsins in this world and the next. He promises them protection and good things of this life when He Says (what means): “Truly Allah is with those who fear Him (keep their duty unto Him), and those who are Muhsins (doers of good).” [Quran 16: 128].
Among the reward of good deeds is that it makes Muhsins win Allah’s love. Allah Says (what means): “Verily, Allah loves the Muhsins (doers of good).” [Quran 3: 134].
Among the rewards of good deeds is that Allah will impart knowledge into the heart of the Muhsins, which will enable him to differentiate between lawful and unlawful things, and between truth and falsehood. Allah Says about Yoosuf (what means): “And when he (Yoosuf) attained his full manhood, We gave him wisdom and knowledge. Thus We reward those who are Muhsins (doers of good).” [Quran 12: 22].
Allah also rewards Muhsins by praising them and making His slaves praise them as well. The Almighty Says about prophet Nouh (Noah) (what means): “Salaam (peace) be upon Nouh (from Us) among the Alamin (mankind, jinn and all that exists).” [Quran 37: 79].
About the reward of the Muhsins in the hereafter, Allah Says (what means): “For those who have done Al-Ihsaan is the best (reward i.e. Paradise) and even more (i.e. having the honour of glancing upon the countenance of Allah). Neither darkness nor dust nor any humiliating disgrace shall cover their faces. They are the dwellers of Paradise, they will abide therein forever.” [Quran 10: 26]
The word “more” means having the prestige of seeing the Countenance of Allah as it has been successively related in many narrations that the believers will see their Lord on the day of Judgement. As a matter of fact, having the privilege of seeing the Gracious Countenance of Allah on the Last Day is a suitable reward for Al-Ihsaan, since Al-Ihsaan means to worship Allah in this world as if one sees Him. Glancing at His Gracious Countenance plainly on the Day of Judgement then becomes the greatest reward for Muhsins. As regards the unbelievers, their eyes will be screened from seeing Allah on that day, as their hearts were veiled from knowing Allah and fearing Him in this world.
With this part, we come to the conclusion of this issue, during which we will highlight the consequences of being heedless of worship and the fruits gained by being heedful of it.
The consequence of abandoning worship: One should fear Allah and beware of all things that invalidate worship or remove its reward. Among these are associating partners with Allah and showing off. Allah says (what means): “If they had joined in worship others with Allah all that they used to do would have been of no benefit to them.” [Quran 6:88].
Another act that invalidates worship is innovation. The Prophet said: “Whoever does a deed upon which there is no order from us will have it rejected.”
Doing injustice to others also destroys one’s worship. The Prophet said: “The bankrupt among my Nation is the one who comes on the Day of Resurrection with prayer, charity and fasting and yet has abused someone, slandered someone, taken someone’s money illegally, shed someone’s blood and beaten someone. Each of these people will be given for his good deeds (by way of compensation). If his good deeds however finish before judgement is passed on him, parts of their sins will be thrown on him, and he will then be cast into Hell.” (Muslim).
Of these things that invalidate one’s worship is filthy words uttered by some people without thinking of their consequences. The Prophet said: “A man may utter a word (carelessly) which displeases Allah without thinking of it’s gravity and because of that he will be thrown into the Hell-fire.” (Ibn Maajah). The Prophet also told us of a man who said: “By Allah! Allah will not forgive so and so.” Allah then said: “Who is that person swearing by Me that I will not forgive so and so? I have indeed forgiven him and render your own deeds fruitless!” (Muslim).
The fruits of worship: Worship has many praiseworthy and beneficial results, such as:
Making the entire life of the Muslim for the sake of Allah and in His service. One of the most obvious results of worship can be noticed in the performance of prayer; Allah says(what means): “…Indeed, prayer prohibits immorality and wrongdoing…” [Quran 29:45]
Resulting in one leading a prosperous life, as Allah Says (what means): “Whoever does righteousness, whether male or female, while he is a believer – We will surely cause him to live a good life, and We will surely give them their reward [in the Hereafter] according to the best of what they used to do.” [Quran 16:97]
Worship is a training for the soul and the source of its satisfaction.
Freeing the person from being enslaved to other than Allah
Purifying the believer.
Reforming the community.
Being granted victory from Allah; He Says (what means): “…And Allah will surely support those who support Him [i.e., His cause]. Indeed, Allah is Powerful and Exalted in Might. [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 is the outcome of [all] matters.” [Quran 22:40-41]
Having possessed honour and having been worthy of the support of Allah, the Muslims then neglected Jihaad and favoured lives of comfort and relaxation over this act of worship. They, therefore, began following their vain desires, endeavouring to fulfil every one of them to the maximum, which resulted in them losing the support of Allah to become subdued, oppressed and controlled by their enemies.
Entitling the person to the protection of Allah; Jundub bin ‘Abdullaah reported that the Messenger of Allah said: “When anyone offers the Fajr (dawn) prayer, in congregation, he is under the protection of Allah.” [Muslim]
Enabling oneself to be safeguarded and preserved by Allah; Ibn 'Abbaas reported that the Messenger of said: “Be watchful of (the commandments of) Allah and He will (therefore) preserve you.” [At-Tirmithi]
The angels supplicate for the worshipper.
Entitling the person to the love of Allah.
Relieving the person during times of hardship, as in the story of the three men who were trapped in a cave and received relief from Allah due to their righteous deeds.
Elevating one's rank in Paradise.
To conclude: It has become evident that the most important and the greatest obligation for the slave of Allah to fulfill is his servitude to Allah. The core of this servitude is to perform all types of worship such as prayer, fasting, pilgrimage and others, sincerely and exclusively for Allah. Included in this is obeying Him in all He has commanded and refraining from all that He has prohibited. Additionally, these acts of worship must establish according to the teachings and guidelines of the Sunnah of the Prophet as adhering to the Sunnah is what leads to people's prosperity.