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.