Special Sessions

The True Meaning of Worship

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Special Session

The True Meaning of Worship

Here are some questions that are often asked: What is the wisdom behind praying this way? Why do we fast? Why is Hajj at this time of the year? and so on.  The wisdom behind any religious obligation is simple and straight forward: It is because Allah told us to do it.  When a person equal to you in knowledge and degree issues a command, you have the full right to question and debate its merits.  When, on the other hand, a command is issued by your Lord who has infinite wisdom and knowledge, then respect and obedience is obligatory upon you as a worshipper.  Thus, the order of God to do something is sufficient for us to carry it out; and the order not to do something is also sufficient for us to stop doing it. 

             I pray because God has obligated prayer, not because it is a form of exercise or meditation.  I perform ablution before praying because God has commanded me to do so, not because it is act of cleansing myself.  Likewise, I fast during the month of Ramadan because God has ordained fasting upon me; I do not do it to lose weight or to feel the hunger of the poor.  If prayer had been a form of exercise, then we could have replaced it with play and yoga.  Similarly, if ablution had been a form of cleansing, then we could have substituted it with bathing or using hand sanitizers.  If the objective of fasting was to realize the hunger of the poor, then fasting would not have been incumbent upon the poor or the hungry.

Thus, all the obligations that we practice, we only do because Allah has legislated them.  We do not intend anything else besides that.  Likewise, whatever has reached us of the Quran we accept as God's word.  This is the faith that God wants us to adhere to and establish as a way of life. 

By definition, worship means to obey God’s commands and avoid His prohibitions.  Hence, when God says: ‘do’ then I must do, and when He says: ‘do not do’ then I must not do.  My obedience to my creator, in both His commands and His prohibitions, is the very essence of worship.  I do not pick and choose which command to obey or reject.  Take for example the pilgrimage trip to Mecca.  During Hajj you strive to kiss the black stone placed at the corner of the Ka’ba, while you throw pebbles at the stones that represent the devils in Mena.  You kiss one stone, and throw pebbles at another!  This signifies the true meaning of worshipping God and following His commands.  We do as Allah has ordered; we hold nothing sacred except for His command and doctrine.  Thus, we elevate the status of one stone because God ordered so, and debase another stone because God ordered so. 

Allah encourages you to use your intellect and reason to examine all the available evidence when you are considering the truthfulness of the message of Muhammad.  However, once you declare you faith, you entrust your affairs to God and follow His commands even if a few of them do not make sense to you.  Similarly, if you are sick, you should use your intellect and reason and examine all the available evidence in order to choose the best doctor and hospital for your treatment.  However, once you choose a doctor and entrust your health to him or her, you should follow the doctor’s orders even if some of them do not make sense to you. 

Always keep in mind the spiritual reason behind following God’s command.  If you, for example, refrain from drinking wine because it is unhealthy or because it may negatively affect your family, you will receive no reward from Allah.  We refrain from drinking alcohol or eating pork because God has made them unlawful.  This is an act of worship that will be rewarded.

God has the perfect knowledge of His creation.  Not only does He prescribe what is best for us, but He also prescribes what is well within our abilities.  The Israelites claimed that God had burdened them with what was beyond their ability.  Allah explains:

God does not burden any soul with more than it can bear: each gains whatever good it has done, and suffers its bad- (02:286)

             Some people misinterpret this verse for their own benefit.  They think that it is up to them to decide what they can bear and what they are not able to do.  When they are faced with a religious obligation that they like, they do it.  When they are faced with a religious duty that is tough, or inconvenient, they say we are not obligated to do it because 'God does not burden any soul with more than it can bear.'  In other words, they want to be the judges of which of God’s commands applies to them.  

             The truth is exactly the opposite, Allah is the best judge and has absolute knowledge of what you and I are able to do.  So, when Allah assigns a duty to you, then rest assured that it is well within your ability because ' God does not burden any soul with more than it can bear.'  Do not excuse yourself from God’s teachings arguing that times have changed.  In this modern and fast paced world, you may tell yourself that you are too busy to do so and so……After all, people’s lives at the time of Prophet Muhammad were much simpler, and there was plenty of time to do all the religious duties.  Keep in mind that these duties have been assigned by Allah.  He is well aware of what all generations from the time of Adam till the Day of Judgment are capable of doing.  Don't you personally know people that fulfill all their religious obligations and do much more? Don't you know people today who are busy, yet find time to pray the obligatory prayers, and then add many more?  There are those who go to Hajj many times, and those who connect with God a good part of each night.  Thus, the obligations God assigned you are all well within your ability and can be easily done if you have the right frame of mind.