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What is Ibadah? It’s ‘slavery’, but that’s the best part of Islam.

What is Ibadah? It’s ‘slavery’, but that’s the best part of Islam.

Because this ‘slavery’ grants you liberty: wait, am I reading this right?

This might be life’s eternal question: what is the purpose of our being here, alive in this world? What are we, and why we?

Being here in this world are we meant to be  growing up, chasing our dream, leaving behind some legacies, and returning to earth ? That’s it?

Or are there a more ultimate purpose ? We need to be enlightened on this curious purpose?

Allah, the Almighty Lord and the Creator of us, sent down His Word to satisfy this eternal curiosity of mankind. And you know what? To your surprise, we are but  ‘slaves’ in this world!

“And I (Allah) did not create the jinn and mankind except to worship Me.” (al-Quran 51:56)

Ibadah: a Total Submission

In Arabic, the word ‘Ibadah’ means submission and surrender. The same derived word ‘Ya’buduni’ (translated as worshipping Me) is used in the said Quranic verse, grammatically to indicate current, common and ever-happening states, as well as the future.

Let us rephrase it for you: it’s total, absolute and eternal submission to Allah. In Islam, life is but a full-time ‘slavery’ to Him solely.

From that precept come the decreed acts of worship: the specific tasks we have to perform in our life as His ‘slave’ and worshipper. Among the well-known are the five daily prayers and fasting throughout the  month of Ramadhan.

There are also the obligations to adhere to the ordained practices. Some of these pertain to   character building (the akhlak) which encompasses enacting divine injunctions of  ethics, principles, morals, and much more.

It is expected of  a full-time ‘slave’ of a comprehensive religion to accept that Islam guides on every aspect of life as Allah decrees. These constitute principles that relate to the economy, politics, education, parenting, community, hygiene, research and the like.

Does it sound restricting? No, it’s liberating, in fact!

How can restricting be liberating? You might be interested in this infamous story in Islamic history during the battle of Qadisiyah. The Persian general, Rustum, requested from Rabi’ bin Amir, a companion of Prophet Muhammad, to shed light on their intention regarding the battle.

Rabi’ delivered to him a brief, inspirational declaration on liberating people through the ‘slavery’ of Islam:

“Allah has sent us to deliver whomsoever He wishes of mankind from subjugation to the creation to the servitude and worship of Allah; from the narrowness of the dunya (the world) to the vastness of the akhirah (the Hereafter), and from the injustices of (fabricated) religions and ideologies to the justice of Islam.”

Being a Muslim is to be liberated from being  enslaved by other people. All people are the creation of Allah, hence worshipping the creations is a grave degradation to the nobility of mankind.

Allah is the only One deserving of servitude, not the aristocrats or the corrupt leaders who exercise control beyond what is determined by Him.

Being a Muslim is to be liberated from being a slave to the worldly life. The world is but a sowing land to be reaped in the hereafter. We should give our best in this life, but only for the purpose of gaining Allah’s pleasure and securing the best rewards in the hereafter.

In the end, the righteous deeds resulting from our worldly performance are what really matters, not those accomplishments themselves.

Being a Muslim is is to be liberated  from being lost, wandering in this world without a purpose. Allah sent down the comprehensive guidance through the Quran and the Prophetic traditions. With  these super guides other ideologies about life should be redundant.

Some consider liberation as an absolute right and sanction for them to do anything they think is good. It does not occur to them that they might end up trapped by their limited and fallible thought. By contrast,  Allah offers an all embracing guide of life as befits the encompassing perspective and wisdom of a Supreme Creator, Designer and Arbiter.

“(Mention, O Muhammad), when the wife of ‘Imran said, “My Lord, indeed I have pledged to You what is in my womb as muharraran, so accept this from me. Indeed, You are the Hearing, the Knowing.” (al-Quran 3:35)

Commenting on the above verse, an Islamic scholar, Syed Qutb explained that the term ‘muharraran’ used here is derived from the root word of “freedom” or “liberation” — al-Hurr.

This term  signifies that no one is truly free unless and until he devotes himself totally to God, and liberating himself from servitude to anyone, anything, or any value.

Thus the submission to Allah alone indicates total freedom. Any other situation is a form of slavery however it disguises under the name of freedom or liberty.

It’s a ‘slavery’ built on faith and love

Being a worshipper — a ‘slave’ — of Allah is to experience  a  relationship of pure love. We will discover a vast expression of Allah’s love for us: how concerned is He with every bit of our life affairs, how delighted is He to forgive us when we return to Him, how caring is He about our wellbeing that He persistently reminds us to avoid harm.

Allah sent down trainers — the prophets — to introduce us to Him. Sometimes He grants us with some trials and challenges so we would rely greater on Him and become stronger in our faith.

Allah never stints from giving us mercy and bounties, despite all the mistakes we have committed before Him.

Being His beloved slave, we portray our love to Him by worshipping Him and live according to what He has assigned us. We do everything in our life to please Him and try our best not to incur His wrath.

We bear strong faith in the destiny that He has written for us. At the same time, we give our best effort to make a great ending.

By virtue of our sincere devotion to Him, we hope that He will be pleased with us and prepare the best rewards for us in the Hereafter.

Ibadah in Islam — in all its established forms  through all the deeds which we perform to please Allah — is the best manifestation of life. It provides us with the very purpose of life itself.

And one thing for sure, it is the best part that makes Islam worth accepting and embracing: the virtuous, direct relationship with Allah , the real Most Supreme Lord of the Universe that we won’t find anywhere else.

“Why does it seem like Allah doesn’t accept my du’a?” He reached to me, I almost couldn’t hold my tears.

“Why does it seem like Allah doesn’t accept my du’a?” He reached to me, I almost couldn’t hold my tears.

Or are we asking too much from Him?

I have just finished my Zuhr prayer when a friend of mine came by. One look at his haggard face and I knew  he was not the usual, happy guy I used to spend time together with.

I could see worry, despair and disappointment written all over his face. He sat by my side, looked down and struck my heart with some heavy questionings.

“I’m so tired of asking from Allah. Why the deafening silence? Am I asking too much? Is my constant asking displeasing Him ? Why  should my turning to Him displease Him? Why am I being rebuked after I gave all of my heart and soul submitting to Him?”

My heart trembled, my eyes welled with tears   from listening to his cracking voice. He was just being honest about his feelings. Certainly, this was not the cheerful, happy-go-lucky guy  as people used to know him. This is his inner self crying from the depth of his being, breaking, despairing and gasping for some air of hope from anywhere he could get .

As I tried to bring myself together, I wrapped my arm around his shoulders and said:

“You know, brother. Allah is so close to our being that He knows us better than anyone else. Allah is fond of our repeated appeals to Him because He made us so inclined. It is our fitrah to unwaveringly seek for His constant support. So how could He be displeased with our persistent dua – our cry for His rescue?”

As a lifelong friend, I had come to know him rather intimately — the ups and downs he had gone through, the heavy  trials and tribulations he had faced, and how all this had made him  a rugged survivor.

But now he is beset with nagging doubts as to whether Allah is really listening to him and granting what he had persistently asked for.

“Brother,” I patted his back. “There are three ways in which  Allah responds to our supplications”:

1. Allah decides to grant us precisely what we asked for.

Sometimes, Allah does accept our request as it is. For instance, when we fell sick and prayed for Him to cure us. At the appointed time, praise be to Allah, we found ourselves in the pink of health again.

We might be in a financial crisis, and we knew that money  never rain from the sky. And we have nowhere to avail ourselves of a quick fortune. So, We asked from Him. Suddenly someone appeared on the scene and voluntarily paid our dues.

We asked for the ease of heart after offering shahada and embracing this religion of Islam as our heart fluttered upon making that life-changing decision. Gradually, Allah granted us that ease.

2. Allah decides not to grant our requests so as to save us from a worse outcome.

We have been asking for a raise in our salary for some time already, but still, we returned home with a gloomy face on our payday. We began to wonder that since a pay raise is not a sinful thing to desire for, why isn’t Allah granting it to us then?

The truth is Allah knows us better than we do about ourselves. For all we know, had we been granted that ‘privilege’ of a pay raise we have been asking,  we could be under severe pressure later — due to the heavier workload or responsibility that came with that salary raise — such that we would not be able to bear it.

Perhaps, we might also become conceited and forget altogether that Allah is the sole reason for all the blessings. For our own ultimate benefit Allah desires that our faith in Him to be preserved intact by not being traded with the fleeting worldly trappings. For indeed Allah is the All-Knowing beyond the boundary of time?

So, our supplication is virtually answered by His relieving us of what is a worse outcome and for which we ought, indeed, to be grateful.

3. Allah decides to defer our  earthly reward for the ultimate recompense of Jannah in the Hereafter.

It feels like we have been asking forever. In the end, all we get is but the eternal  prison of  hope. The hardship remains until the end of our earthly time.

In such a predicament the right and wise thing for us to do is to stick with Him  no matter how dark the tunnel of our life is.

Let our conscience be illuminated that by this tribulation Allah is answering our supplication with even a better gift – the ultimate, the eternal reward of jannah in the Hereafter. What could be a better victory for us than  Divine forgiveness and Jannah as our homes? To think that after all the suffering that we had to endure going through this earthly life, it is unbelievable that we are finally  reaching the best finishing line of our journey.

So instead of despairing, what we ought to say  is “O Allah, forgive us for having bad thoughts of You. O Allah, grant us our Duas with what You know is the best for us. Amin.

May Allah grant us the strength and the wisdom to keep being steadfast. May Allah strengthen the heart and spirit of my friend, and the heart and spirit of ours too.