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The Spirit of Worship

Worship has two aspects, spiritual and physical. The spiritual aspect concerns our faith, which serves as both a motive and a guide. The physical aspect applies to the movement of our bodies. Prayer, for example, involves speech and movement, reciting and reading, as well as standing, sitting and kneeling. But all these actions are empty of meaning and spirit, unless they are motivated by the force of true faith in the oneness of God.

Basis for the Oneness of Divinity:

The belief that God alone is the source of all good and evil is the basis for the oneness of Divinity. It may be explained further by stating that God is the Creator of everything. As we said previously, he has created these worlds causing all kinds of creatures and things to flourish in them. He has endowed us with the power of intellect, so that we may think and contemplate about His entire creation. But when we look at the sky, the earth and the various elements of nature, we may find that some of these forces are at odds with each other. For example, fire can bun a dry tree and water can extinguish the fire. If a mosquito stings someone, that person may contract malaria, and the bark of the cinchona tree can cure his fever. We also find that God has combined harmful substances in order to make useful products. Table salt, for example, is made up of two harmful substances, chlorine and sodium. By mixing them together in certain quantities, table salt, which we require for our food, is produced. We can also observe the following points.

1)   Certain sets of rules and methods govern the interaction, fusion and merging of various substances. These principles and precepts laid down by God are constant and do not change. We tend to describe them as laws of nature.

2)   These laws of nature and relationships between material things are not always visible to us, as is the reaction between fire and wood and fire and water. Indeed, many of these interactions are minute – deep, and hidden from our sight. God has created a cure for every illness in this world, but those cures are not visible or intelligible and have not been handed to us as ‘ready-made’ products. On the contrary, in His supreme Wisdom, God has hidden these cures in places and situations where we can hardly imagine them to be. For example penicillin is found in putrid mould which has the appearance of deadly poison. The most fragrant perfumes and paints of dazzling colours are to be found in tar, which is the most foul smelling and ugly looking material. ‘These sources are not within easy reach. Our Lord has mixed them, which means that the most effective and sought after material may exist in a very complicated form, mixed up with many other substances, making it a mammoth task to extract it. When we read about Madame Curie we learn about tremendous patience. She had to carry out a long series of tests and experiments over several years in order to extract a gram of radium from a huge mass of materials! Every student should read the book about Madame Curie and her husband entitled “The Immortal Student” in order to understand the amount of patience and perseverance needed to obtain knowledge. The biographies written by Islamic scholars in the early ages also describe extensively the patience, perseverance and sincerity required to seek knowledge.

3)   So far we know very little about the laws and regulations God laid down. What we have discovered so far is only a drop in the ocean. We have categorized this limited knowledge into what we call science – including biology, chemistry, physics, physiology, medical sciences, etc. Each of these branches of science has specialists who delve into the depths of their particular area in order to gain more knowledge about the laws set down by our Lord.

4)   Some things in our universe serve us while others are harmful and these, we find, can be divided into two categories. Some events can be attributed to an obvious reason. For example, we know that we will die if we take poison. We have gained that knowledge through the application of the laws of nature, which have been incorporated in our sciences. But the second type of useful or harmful occurrence or substance may not seem apparent and may not be based on any known law of nature. An example of this would be of a physically fit person, who enjoys good health, suddenly dying of a heart attack for no obvious reason. Both these phenomena are caused by God.

5)   God has created in us intrinsic qualities of love for what is good and dislike for what is bad. This is why man does all he can in order to achieve what is good and beneficial to him and tries his best to avoid what is harmful and evil. In this context, he seeks help from every possible source of power and strength. Some of these sources are permitted by religion, however, while others are not. So, which means are permitted by religion and which are not? Imagine that your child is unwell. In this situation you normally send for a doctor and ask him to treat your child. He may do so and write out a prescription. This is a lawful means you have made use of, in order to cure your child and it is permitted by God. You sought the help of a ‘scientist’ who has, learnt the laws of nature laid down by God in the area of medicine. But if you had sent for a ‘witch doctor’ to treat your child you would have been seeking help through means which are outside the Divine Law. In other words, the treatment your child would be given would not be based on knowledge of the laws of nature. On the contrary, they would employ certain unseen forces with which they claim to have contact, but the existence of which has not been proved either by physical or traditional evidence, such as evidence given m the Holy Qur’an or in the Traditions of the Prophet (peace be upon him). If your doctor died, and you were to visit his grave requesting him to treat your child, although in this position he is neither able to write a prescription nor is it possible for him to diagnose the disease, this too will be an illegitimate effort. But if all practical efforts and the known scientific methods fail and you resort to prayer or charity to seek the Divine assistance through a pious and saintly person, this too will be permissible. However, if you visit the grave of a saintly person and entreat him, whereas he is in apposition that he can neither move his tongue to pray for your nor is it possible for him to cure anybody without the divine sanction, this method of seeking help will also be illegitimate.

It will be perfectly legitimate effort to administer to a patient the medicine prescribed by a doctor but if you hang the prescription round the neck of a patient or, if you dilute it with water and make the patient swallow it, and you believe that it will cure him, it will be foolish action. It is illegitimate to seek benefit out of things which Allah ahs not clearly ordained to be cause of benefits. It is perfectly permissible for a sterile woman, desiring to be the mother of a child, to seek the help of qualified doctor or use such medicines as Allah has created and which have been discovered and prepared by the scientific means. In seeking his help, she will not be doing any illegitimate thing nor will it be contrary to religion. But if she believes, like the old ladies of Syria that she will get conceived if she visited the Hanball Great Mosque on the mount Qayunon the first Friday of the month of Rajab and pulled at the chain on its door, or she may achieve her object by tying a ribbon to the lattices of a grave, then she will be doing an illegitimate thing (similar practices are common in different parts of world) which will negate her faith in the unity of Godhead (Tawhid).

It is thus clear from the above that to seek help of the natural laws, or to find out an expert advice form one who is a specialist in his job, or use such methods are generally employed, is quite legitimate, but we must always remember that none but Allah is the real benefactor. It is absolutely illegimate and against the Qur’an and the Hadith, as well as contrary to the dogma of Unity of Godhead (Tawhid), to seek the help of such nonsense as is supported neither by science nor by experimentation and observation.

God- The Arbiter of Lawful and Forbidden:

All the benefit which we gain by acting on natural and physical laws are only worldly gains because God has given us the power of intellect to discover them. However, He has not granted us the power to discover what is beyond these laws, nor has he given us the power to bring into this world the benefits of the next world. So we function within the material confines given to us, trying to work for what is good and reject what is bad, as much as possible. We do not claim good or bad for ourselves in the other world. God has ordained that if we do our duty in this world, we shall be amply rewarded with all that is good in the life to come. And if we choose to indulge in what is outside the confines of Divine law, then we will suffer and be in anguish in the next world. This principle forms the basis for the concept of what is acceptable and what is unacceptable, and for reward and punishment. No one else can tell us what is lawful and what is forbidden, nor can anyone make what is forbidden lawful, or, by the same token, forbid anything which has not been forbidden by God. Whoever gives anyone but Him the right to decide what is within or outside the confines of Divine law will either be worshipping someone other than God, or setting up partners in worship with Him. This is described as shirk, (polytheism) in the Holy Qur’an: The worshippers of false gods say “If God has so willed we should not have worshipped aught but Him neither we nor our fathers – nor should we have prescribed prohibitions other than His”(Qur’an;16:36).

Love and Fear of God:

We all have feelings of love, hatred, likes and dislikes. Perhaps we love anything that is good. We may love beautiful scenery, or many may love a woman to the extent of worshipping her. But all these aspects of love are bound by limits and constraints, like any other forms of human love. We become attached to the good feeling we derive from anything we love, or from the pleasure and joy we feel by being close to the person we love. But this love may not continue in the same degree of intensity; in fact it may even turn to dislike if some misfortune happens to the person or object of love, or if the person we love becomes disfigured in an accident, or the food we love goes bad, or if climatic conditions change the beauty of natural scenery. But the love, a believer has for God is absolute. It is not subjected to any constraints or limitations. In fact, the love we have for the people and objects in this world is, in reality, our love for God through his creations, since it is He who has created and placed at our disposal all that we can make use of, or enjoy the sense of seeing or touching.

At the same time, many things in creation are a source of fear for us. A wild beast, deadly poison or a ruthless tyrant may frighten us out of our wits. But such fear is bound by the extent of danger we visualise, or that may result from the source of our fear. When the danger has passed, our fear vanishes. But we do not check or restrain our fear of God. That fear is unlimited. The way of realizing the Oneness of God is based on both the love and fear of Him. And it is love and fear that form the essence of worship. However, it must be pointed out that love of God does not mean you write poetry to Him or express physical love for him. And fear of God should not cause a sense of panic or anxieties, making us lose our sense of mental balance. We should, instead, induce the love of God through obedience to him within us. We therefore resist the craving of the heart, and keep away from the temptations of the devil. It should make us lead a life of purity in both conduct and character, in a way that is acceptable to God. It must, above all, encourage us to proceed on the path shown by our Prophet (peace be upon him). The Holy Qur’an states: “Say (Oh Prophet), if your love God, follow me! God will love you and forgive your sins”(Qur’an;3:31).

Thus the true measures of love and fear, as the example set by the Prophet (peace be upon him), are: 1) Adherence to the path of guidance and abstinence from all that has been forbidden; 2) Preference for the reward in the next world over the pleasures of sin in this world. However, submission to God should not be thought of as being similar to the way we obey some human beings, for the following reasons. We obey our Prophet (peace be upon him) because God ordained us to do so, while we obey other people for reasons of instinct or fear of what the consequences will be if we disobey. For example a nation obeys its ruler, children comply with their parents’ wishes, a wife submits to her husband’s wishes, and, provided that what he is ordered to do, does not hurt him, an person may obey someone who has been good to him, or we may suddenly feel compelled to obey someone to protect ourselves from harm or injury.

All such acts of obedience, except obedience to the Prophet (peace be upon him), which is in fact compliance to God’s will, are conditional. In other words, they are not like the complete and unlimited obedience we show to God. For instance, we may have to carry out duties and activities in our everyday lives which we do not enjoy. In fact, even though we may or may not comprehend His supreme wisdom in all that he wills us to do; our obedience of Him is the fruit and proof of our sincere love for Him.

The Spirit of Worship: http://wp.me/PCgrB-aq

Unity of Godhead: http://wp.me/PCgrB-an
The Spirit of Worship: http://wp.me/PCgrB-aq
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