The Journey of Worship
As a follower of Sufi traditions one cannot see the concept of Worship as a single motorized unit of devotion towards the Creator,but rather a compound consisting of the outwardly expression of servitude and the inner realization of submission. Therefore this article would be set into two separate parts to highlight the unique attributes of both aspects and thus highlighting why each is indispensable to the other. I would state that as Worship is a core pillar within Islam, there must be hidden realities to this truth, and there are lessons in this truth that one can attain.
The Arabic term for Worship is ibadah, which is usually connected with the related words of ‘slavery’, upholding connotations of obedience, submission and humility in the face of adversity. Therefore one can stipulate from this that ibadah is the process of attaining obedience through submission. Ibadah cannot be hidden or swayed, it is the overarching frame towards the structure of the universe. I understand ibadah to be an act of obedience;it is submission and devotion to Allah (God), along with the ultimate love for Him.
As a Sufi Muslim, I believe that ibadah is the reason for the existence of all humanity. That is, everything that abode on this world, living or dead only exists with the purpose to submit to the will of Allah (God). The unique aspect of Worship in Islam is that the things which follow from it are Islamic beliefs and practices – its commands, prohibitions, the halal, and the haram. This is due to the nature of Ibadah, which is derived from the pureness of the heart; the sincerity one takes in worshiping and submitting to their Creator. Therefore Ibadah cannot be forced upon by another person, and it is an act or acts that reflect ones faith and willingness to submitting to that faith.
Worship is part of the Five Pillars of Islam; salah is an act of worship and is a universally recognised practice of the Islamic faith. According to Muhammad Asad, on his notes in The Message of the Qur’antranslation on 51:26,
Thus, the innermost purpose of the creation of all rational beings is their cognition of the existence of Allah and hence their conscious willingness to conform their own existence to whatever they may perceive of His will and plan: and it is this twofold concept of cognition and willingness that gives the deepest meaning to what the Quran describes as‘worship’.
The true practice of Worship can only be achieved by the purification of one’s heart and the strengthening of their acts of ibadah. When worshipping, one is at a station of true moderation, and by remaining fully conscious we begin to peel the falsehood of the self. This is all made possible when the journey of worship, as a formal method, is a journey of remembering Allah;it is a process of dhikr which has the heart seeking purification and allows one to take a closer step towards the Beloved.
The process of spiritual development therefore does not come about by the supposed need on the part of the Creator, who is self-sufficient and infinite in His power. Rather the process of spiritual development is a personal process, in which salah is designed as an instrument for the inner development of Ibadah. The physical act of salah therefore allows the consciousness to self-surrender to the all-pervading Creative Will. This combination of physical worship and spiritual worship are both beneficial and one compliments and completes the other. This leads us to a state of spiritual development in where the person attains a greater understanding of that Will and thus a strengthening of their Ibadah.