The Qur'ânic Concept of Worship
Have you not pondered that it is Allâh Whose praises celebrate those who are in the heavens and on the earth, and (so do) the birds on the wings. Each one of them knows his own (way of) prayer and glorification (according to his or its own faculties). And Allâh knows well what they do. And to Allâh belongs the Sovereignty of the heavens and the earth and to Allâh shall all eventually return.(24:41-42)
The seven heavens, the earth and all those inhabiting them extol His glory. In fact, there is not even a single thing but glorifies Him with His true and perfect praise, but you do not understand their glorification. Verily, Most Forbearing is He, Great Protector. (17:44)
Have you not considered that whoever is in the heavens and whoever is on the earth, and (also) the sun, the moon and the stars, the mountains, the trees, the moving creatures and many of mankind make obeisance (sajada) to Allâh? (22:18)
When we make use of our power of reflection (Quwwat al-Fikr) and profess that He is Incomparable and that He stands High above any similarity with His creatures, we are full of bewilderment (Hayrat) and this bewilderment inspires in us a desire and urge for worship. Accordingly, the worship is inherent to the created things and there is no need for it to be prescribed.
We are like lutes once held by God.
Being away from His warm body
Fully explains this constant yearning (Hafiz)
Worship is also His decree that cannot be denied. Allâh says, "We have prescribed certain rites of worship for every people" (22:34) and has made it clear that whichsoever way you turn your face, there you will find His "Face" and His attention (2:115). So He is in every direction, each direction represents a particular doctrine and belief regarding Him. "Cloisters and churches and synagogues and mosques are the places where Allâh's name is being mentioned" (22:40). Thus He is worshipped in every object of worship and in every place of worship, no matter to what religious grouping one belongs.
All people know and imagine their Deity according to their capacity and aptitude (2:148) and in cloisters and churches and synagogues and mosques it is basically He and His name is being mentioned (22:40). Thus one who goes to worship in a church, temple, cloister, synagogue or a mosque, believes and worships a Deity he has in his mind, which he has created and which fits into his belief (2:148). But it is often so that the object of worship, which the people think to be right, is poor in form, it is mostly an image in the form of a created thing by God, a star, the sun, an animal or a human being (cf.: 35:13-15). When al-Junaid, the great Islamic mystic, was asked about the gnosis of God he said: "The colour of the water is the same as that of its container".
There I bow my head
At the feet of every creature.
This is the constant submission and homage
Of kissing God all over
Only there I prostrate myself
Before the beauty of every form
When I bring my heart to an object
I always hear the Friend say,
"Hafiz! I am here" (Hafiz)
Atheists think that they do not believe in any god. God says:
They have taken their own low desires as their deity (25:43; 45:23).
Accordingly it is their own low desires that are worshipped by them when they concentrate all their efforts to achieve worldy things. They live a life devoted to satisfying their animal instincts. The deity they worship, is obviously not the Lord of the worlds but their money, their fame or social recognition, their flag, their hero, their king, their president, their pet, their woman or any of the other created things.
“They pursue the glamour of this life, and their hearts are unmindful of the remembrance of their Lord” (18:28).
The Holy Qur’ân tells of such:
Have you considered the case of him who has taken his own low desires for his god, and whom Allâh has forsaken and adjudged as lost on the basis of (His infinite) knowledge, whose ears and heart He has sealed and whose eyes He has covered with a veil? Who then will guide him after Allâh (has condemned him for his being given to evil ways)? Will you then pay no heed? (These are the people) who say, ‘We have only this our present life (to live) (45:23-24)
Allâh says in His words:
Relate to them the news of him to whom We gave Our commandments but he withdrew himself there from, then satan followed him (in his pursuit of worldly efforts and looking for satisfaction of his wild animal like instincts), with the result that he became one of those led astray (and became a pervert).
We would have exalted him (in ranks) thereby (- by means of these Our commandments) if he willed, but he remained inclined to (the material things of) this world and followed his low desires. His case therefore is like that of a dog, if you bear down upon it, it lolls its tongue out or if you leave it alone, it still lolls out its tongue. Such is the case with the people who cry lies to Our commandments; (they do not give up their evil ways whether you warn them or not). So narrate to them the account (of the people of old) that they may reflect. Sad is the case of the people who cry lies to Our commandments and it is their own selves that they have wronged. Those alone are rightly guided to whom Allâh shows guidance, but whom He adjudges to be astray and leaves them in error, it is these who are the losers. (7:175-178).
They have taken their rabbis and priests as their Lord (9:31).
The three instincts love, worship and imitation bring our latent faculties to progress and perfection if we can develop them. We are by nature attracted by things that please us in some way. Perfection of beauty and perfection of beneficence ripen into love and adoration. It assumes the form of worship when accompanied by certain gesticulations such as bowing and prostration and saying words of praise and attributes and beautiful names of Allâh. We are then led to imitate the Being having perfection of beauty and perfection of beneficence. If a being contains excellencies of perfect beauty and perfect beneficence the heart melts and yearns with fervent devotion to imitate that beauty.
The instinct of adoration and worship of Allâh has been placed in the nature of human beings for higher ends, but it misses its object when it is confined only to mere bowing down and prostration and counting and repeating the names of God on a rosary or singing in churches for mere show. All who profess to love God, love only the images they themselves have constructed in their minds. In reality they profess God's similarity with His creatures. The knowledge of Him demands that they profess His Incomparability.
He is Wonderful and Primary Originator of the heavens and the earth! How (and whence) can there be a son for Him, when He has no consort? He has created all things and He has perfect knowledge of everything. Such is Allâh, your Lord! There is no other, cannot be and will never be One worthy of Worship but He, the Creator of all things; therefore worship Him, for He is the Disposer of all affairs. (6:101-102)
Allâh has decreed:
"I have created the Jinn (-creation that is hidden) and the people to worship Me" (51:56)
Therefore it is best to fulfil God's right and His decree. If we fulfil His wish as He desires, His special favour (Rahmîmiyyat) guides us to the right path and He will make us attain our wish. If we worship Him we do so for our own good (17:7). We ourselves are the recipient of the profit of worship. The worship restrains from indecency, abominable things and loathsome deeds and from all that runs counter to reason and moral and from it we obtain inspiration for good deeds (29:45). By doing so we are in fact “glorifying the coming man who has to be evolved from our inner selves.” In reciting the attributes of perfection, we keep before us a sacred cast in which we have to mould our character.
"He has decreed that you should not worship any but Him” (17:23).
The Holy Prophet of Islam said that through worship and implicit obedience to our Lord, Allâh becomes our limb and joints (Bukhârî). By deification we attain the highest morals which we will find when we study the Holy attributes of perfection.
Divine glorification and worship of God do not mean the singing of hymns. That is but a lip gratitude which would not please even an average person. To please God is really to work out our own evolution and to bring to realization what our Creator has placed in us. In this lies our whole success and our worship of God. The worship of God means to fulfil the requirement of His names. It is impossible to think of a better system and guide of morals then that carved on the lives by the said attributes. The concept of His attributes has much to do with the mould of our character and civilization. Albert Ellis flatly states “Religion is neurosis” and Alva Edison writes, “It is a damned fake, all bunk,” similarly C. L. Martin says, “What are we to do with religion? Simply throw it out as a useless historic curiosity.” But if we need some type of consistent, coherent value system that will give us a sense of order, structure and purpose in life, and we certainly need a set of principles, (Dr. Clarence L. Martin, “God is a Verb”, 1989, p. 1), then bring us a coherent value system and mode of character better than what the Holy Qur'an tells us in the following words:
“Assume the attributes of Allâh, and who is fairer and better than Allâh in attribution? We are His worshippers ever” (2:138)
Let the moralists and religious minded persons on one side and the people of culture and progress on the other contemplate on these attributes and see if they can find a better code of life.
The object of these names and attributes is not to glorify Allâh by repeating them on a rosary, for Allâh is far above such needs and does not want such service, but by adopting in our daily lives these attributes we are doing the best service possible to our own selves. In adoring such attributes we are reminded of the ways which will make us too an object of adoration. To glorify Allâh is to edify ourselves, as human beings are capable of soaring to the highest of the high. Even the angels of Allâh that move all the potentialities of nature by His will, will become the human being’s ministers and prostrate before him (2:34). If he makes this acquisition and behaves according to the attributes of Allâh, then and only then, can he go higher than the angels and reach the Divine precinct and boundaries of Divinity and reach the highest pinnacle of civilization, culture, piety, and purity. The recital of certain sacred words and names is not an act of worship. True worship consists in submission to His laws, His ways, and His attributes. If we wish to live as good citizens under the government of the Lord and in the Kingdom of heaven and get true success and happiness in this world and the Hereafter, we must look for these attributes.
Morality in Islam consists in reflecting these Divine attributes. A Muslim says his Prayers (Salât) five times a day and the verses of al-Fâtihah which he recites in each of his Prayer several times should remind him of those Divine moulds in which he has to cast his daily life. He is expected to act like Rabb, Rahmân, Rahîm and Mâlik in his relations to others, at each step of his life. He must be loving, gracious and look after the needs of others, whether they deserve it or not. His help must go to others automatically without their request or desert (Rahmân), and if they serve him in any way, his reward to them should be more than that rather many fold (Rahîm). He must practice forgiveness in his daily dealings (Mâlik). In short, high morality consists in the reflection of Divine morals. Thus the best religious service and worship, according to Islam, consists of acting in conformity with the requirements of the Divine Names and attributes. If the worship of a deity produces no moral effect on our life, it need not be pursued. We know nothing of God except through His ways of work in nature. Hence our worship of Him should find its real manifestation in our following His ways in our life. Our prayer or other forms of adoration should serve as a reminder of that Great Truth. True worship consists in submission to His laws, His ways, His limits and bounds and His attributes.
The Holy Qur'ân has placed some of the excellent attributes of Allâh before us to aid us in building up our moral fabric. But He is in no case an anthropomorphic Deity, and He is not fashioned after the human form and endowed with human passions. Human beings did not ascribe morals to their Deity but He has planted His own morals in human beings. The concept of God has much to do with the moulding of human character. The eintire Qur'ân is basically a commentary of the names of God taught to Adam (2:31). All the laws and regulations given in the Holy Book, when pursued, make our life in accordance with the requirements of these attributes. To be virtuous is to lead such a life. To walk humbly with God (31:19) means to imbue ourselves with His Divine attributes. Everything which goes against the demands of these attributes is sin and making our lives according to them is vile. If the Holy Qur'ân relates events of some great men, it is only an illustration of such lives of people who acted according to these attributes (31:12-19). As Allâh is the Creator of the whole Qur'ân and everything moves around it and worship consists in submission to His laws, His ways, and His attributes mentioned to us in His Book.
In short, belief in Allâh and in His attributes when rendered into action in our daily lives will bring us and our civilization to its climax. But a mere lip confession is less meritorious even than the different forms which polytheism has adopted. It is useless to sing hymns at the top of our voice if we are not leading and do not lead Godly lives. Allâh does not stand in need of any adoration from us. If our worship of Him lies only in bringing offerings and sacrifices to His altar and in the recital of His names and praises and thanks to Him, it is neither credible to God nor profitable to us. He is then only another fetish in the world of religions. Allâh is and should stand above such things. He needs no praise from us.
He who follows the right way follows it to his own good and he who goes astray, surely, he goes astray to his own loss. And no soul that bears the burden shall bear the burden of another (soul) (17:15)
Therefore, Allâh needs no worship, nor does He require any praise or thanksgiving from us (31:12). The Holy Qur'ân is very explicit on this point. It says that our extolling or praising Allâh does not contribute to His Glory nor does blasphemy and disobedience detract at all from His grandeur and dignity. Our prayers to Him should consist of such expressions as may help us to work out our own power and ability, given by Him, to our best advantage and moulding of good character. Therefore if the worship of a deity produces no moral effect on our individual and collective lives, and does not bring out all that is noble and good in us, it need not be pursued. But if, on the other hand, our worship of Him inspires us and His attributes inspire us to follow His ways as they are to be observed, ways and attributes that work out the best of civilization on righteous lines, it ought to be part and parcel of our lives.
Keep on remembering your Lord in your mind with humility and awe and in a voice not loud, in the morning and in the evening, and do not be of the heedless. Those who are near to their Lord (and feel His nearness and presence) do not wax too proud to worship Him, but they glorify Him and prostrate themselves in obedience to Him (7:205-206).
The Holy Prophet said: "God says, 'I am companion of him who remembers Me'. Remembrance is a discourse, and whosoever remembers, sits with God and God is with him.
At some point your relationship with God
Hafiz once said:
Will become like this: Next time you meet Him in the forest
Or on a crowded city road
There will not be any more "Leaving" (Hafiz)
Who is more erring than the one who leaving aside the guidance
from Allâh follows his own low desires (28:50).