Islamic Perspectives

Worship: A medium for self-realization

By Qureish Raghib

The 9th month in the Islamic lunar calendar, Ramadan, has the most varied forms of worship and, therefore, is the most revered.

In Islamic perspective, the concept of worship, termed as Ibadah, is multi-dimensional. Though it is generally referred to as Salat (prayers), Ibadah has a much broader characterization.

The ultimate reason for the formation of transitional or the celestial world is for Ibadah as Allah mentions in the holy Quran that “I created Jinns and Mankind only to worship Me.” (51:56). This significantly elaborates worship to be exceptionally phenomenal.

Fasting during the day as in Ramadan  inculcates in one a sense of humility and breaking it at sunset inspires one to share with gratitude Allah’s infinite munificence - be it a morsel of food or an enlightening thought. Both humility and gratitude are the basic essence of Ibadah.

Ibadah needs to be understood as an ongoing process in life rather than traditional rituals and life-less religious practices. Every religious tenet and code of human life in general is, individually and collectively, an integral part of the process of Ibadah.

Worship is largely categorized in Islamic philosophy into two significant features, namely, Ibadah ‘Ilmiyah and Ibadah ‘Amaliyah.

One is indulged in Ibadah ‘Ilmiyah when enlightening one’s self intellectually by procuring knowledge. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) has, therefore, strongly emphasized that “To seek knowledge is obligatory upon every Muslim man and Muslim woman.” Learning of an alphabet by a toddler is equally enlightening as the shout of “Eureka!” by a scientist on making a scientific breakthrough. The sense of exhilaration experienced by both the toddler and the scientist in that defining moment connects one, in one way or another, with the Creator of that particular element of revelation and learning.

‘Ibadah ‘Amaliyah, on the other hand, is practicing one’s religious and social obligations in a righteous way. This can be by indulgence in different forms of meditation as well as by performing worldly duties that need to be self-beneficial as well as benevolent to society as Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) asserted that, “to love one’s homeland is part of one’s faith”. He further emphasized on endeavouring for the betterment of humanity by saying: “Mankind is a single family dependent on Allah and the most beloved to Him is one who benefits Mankind most”. Be it serving the nation or uplifting fellow-beings, all are part of the formation of Ibadah ‘Amaliyah.

It is imperative to perceive that both the composites of ‘Ibadah ‘Amaliyah and ‘Ibadah ‘Ilmiyah are inter-linked and both stress on self-discipline and total commitment. The veritable essence of ‘Ibadah, therefore, is truly accomplished in word and spirit when right knowledge is derived and when it enables the consciousness to express itself appropriately in its physical format. Subsequently, it is this inimitable fusion of both forms of Worship that helps one embark onto self-realization.

Interestingly, Mankind is constantly indulged in ‘Ibadah, in one way or another, thus making it impossible to fully relieve one’s self from the infinite elements of Worship.

It is noteworthy to mention that ‘Ibadah’s influence on the mind, body and soul is numinous. The habitual practice of different features of Worship such as fasting, charity and prayers eventually affects an individual’s intuition, self-esteem, and inner strength. The efficacy of Worship sub-consciously develops one’s overall perception and personality.

Indeed, the true spirit of ‘Ibadah in Islam can be summed in the words of the renowned spiritual leader His Holiness Dr. Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin that “It is a tendency of humankind that whenever he is regaled or saddened, man endeavours to express joy and grief in one way or another. But, the way he chooses must reflect his devotion to Allah and uplift him to the zenith of humility.”

A  Mumbai-based freelance journalist, the writer has keen interest in the study of spirituality and  philosophy.

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 16-31 August 2012 on page no. 20

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