The common translation of ‘ibaadah in English is ‘worship’. However, the meaning in Arabic is more comprehensive. According to the Sharee‘ah, the word ‘ibaadah means ‘to obey Allah by doing all that He commands and to stay away from all that He forbids’. This is called ‘ibaadah because the Islamic meaning refers to both serving Allah and submitting to His will at the same time.
For Muslims, being called an ‘Abd of Allah is a great honor. This is because being a true ‘Abd of Allah means to submit oneself to the will of Allah. This is done by doing the things that He orders and avoiding that which He forbids. One of the things that Allah orders is to worship Him alone and to avoid shirk. If a person does this, then Allah promises not to punish her/him. Not punishing a person means giving her/ him the reward of Paradise. This is known from the hadeeth narrated by Mu‘aadh ibn Jabal, whilst he was sitting behind the Prophet (peace be upon him) on a mule:
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “ Mu‘aadh!” I replied, “Labbaik wa Sa‘daik” ( I am at your Service). He repeated this call three times and then said, “Do you know what Allah’s Right over His slaves is?” I replied, “No.” He said, “Allah’s Right over His slaves is that they should worship Him (Alone) and should not join partners in worship with Him.” He said, “ Mu‘aadh!” I replied, “Labbaik wa Sa‘daik.” He said, “Do you know what the right of (Allah’s) slaves on Allah is, if they do that? It is that He will not punish them.” (Al-Bukhaari)
One of the best names that a Muslim can have is ‘Abd of Allah (‘Abdullaah). This name is so great that Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) told the people to call him this:
‘Umar Ibn Al-Khattaab said on the pulpit: I heard the Prophet (peace be upon him) saying, “Do not exaggerate in praising me as the Christians praised the son of Mary, for I am only a servant (‘Abd). So, call me the Servant of Allah (‘Abdullaah) and His Messenger.” (Al-Bukhaari)
The words Islam and ‘ibaadah have very similar meanings. This is because Islam means to submit to the will of Allah and to avoid shirk. Since the foundation of the life of a Muslim is Islam, every action can be ‘ibaadah. An example of this is the everyday act of preparing to go to sleep. This act can be ‘ibaadah if a person does the following:
Recite the last two aayaat of Soorat al-Baqarah, making this the last thing that is said before going to bed.
This simple example shows how easy Islam is. Thinking about what is done can change an everyday action into an act of ‘ibaadah.
The Conditions of ‘Ibaadah
It is very important for Muslims to know the conditions of ‘ibaadah. If these conditions are not met, Allah will not reward the person. Every Muslim must know how to worship Allah properly, otherwise their actions will have no real value. The Merciful Allah sent messengers, prophets and Divine Books to guide humans and jinn. In particular, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) guided the people and taught them the conditions of ‘ibaadah.
For acts of worship to be accepted, two conditions have to be fulfilled. First, the intention has to be for the sake of Allah. Second, the act has to be according to the Sunnah of the Prophet (peace be upon him). This means that having pure intentions is not enough and the way of the Prophet (peace be upon him) must be followed as well. These two conditions are contained in the following ahaadeeth of the Prophet (peace be upon him):
‘Umar Ibn Al-Khattaab said: I heard Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) saying, “Actions are based on niyyah and everyone will get what they intended. So, he who migrated for the sake of Allah and His Messenger, then his migration was for Allah and His Messenger. And he who migrated to achieve some worldly benefit or to marry a woman, his migration is for what he migrated for.” (Al-Bukhaari and Muslim)
The second hadeeth is narrated by ‘Aa,ishah :
Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) said, “Whoever introduces anything into this matter of ours that is not from it, shall have it rejected.” (Al-Bukhaari and Muslim , and this is the wording of Al-Bukhaari)
The hadeeth narrated by ‘Umar mentions the first condition which is correct niyyah. Muslims should have sincere niyyah before doing anything. This means doing things for the sole purpose of pleasing Allah. niyyah is made in the heart and it does not necessarily have to be stated verbally before performing any act of worship. From this hadeeth, it is clear that any act done for other than the sake of Allah, is rejected.
The second hadeeth describes the second condition, which is to follow the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) in the same way that the Companions did. From this hadeeth, it can be understood that every act of worship that is not done in accordance with the Sharee‘ah is rejected by Allah. It also means that any act of ‘ibaadah that is introduced into the religion of Islam is not considered part of Islam. The main message of this hadeeth is that Muslims should follow the religion of Islam in the same way as the Companions did. At the same time, Muslims must not introduce any new forms of ‘ibaadah into the religion.
when one follows these two ahaadeeth, the basic conditions of ‘ibaadah will be met; and if the conditions are met, then the ‘ibaadah will be accepted by Allah, in-shaa Allah.