The Concept of Ibaadah in Islam
Ibn Katheer defines ‘ibaadahas, “a state which combines the perfection of love, submission, and fear.”
Generally speaking these 3 emotions are never combined and directed to only one object. When they are channeled to one object that is when worship occurs.
Ibn Taymiyyah defined it to be, “a comprehensive term, encompassing all apparent and hidden acts and statements that are beloved to Allah.”
In other words, ibaadah can be defined as a state and it can also be defined by actions.
Many other religions consider worship to be simply killing your desires, or trying to benefit mankind. This is incorrect. The Islamic position is that worship is any act that is beloved to Allah.
In general, actions can be worldly or spiritual/religious. Examples of worldly actions are things like wearing clothes, or eating. They are done by humans irrelevant of religion or time. The opposite is spiritual or religious. For example the way Christians worship God are very specific and religious in nature.
For any spiritual or religious act to be accepted by Allah in Islam, it must meet 2 conditions,
Sincerity means to do it solely for the sake of Allah. The second condition means it must agree with the Sunnah of the Prophet (saw). No human being has the right to legislate an act of worship.
The Prophet (saw) said, “Actions are but by intention and every man shall have but that which he intended. Thus he whose migration was for Allah and His Messenger, his migration was for Allah and His Messenger, and he whose migration was to achieve some worldly benefit or to take some woman in marriage, his migration was for that for which he migrated.”(Related by Muhammad ibn Ismaa’eel Al-Bukhari and Muslim)
“You alone we worship.” (Al-Faatihah, 1:5)
If the condition of sincerity is not met, then a person will fall into shirk. If the condition of conformity is not met, then a person falls into bid’ah.
The Prophet (saw) said, “Whoever adds anything to this matter of ours (our religion) will have it rejected. “ (Bukhari)
Every act of worship we do will have two registers opened on its behalf.
The first register will address the issue of: WHY?
Why did we perform that action? Was it out of habit? Was it out of the desire to show off? Or was it done sincerely for Allah?
The second register will address: HOW?
How did we perform this act? Did our act conform to the teachings of our beloved Muhammad (SAS)? Or did it oppose the sunnah?
For every act we do, we should always remember these two basic components: WHY and HOW. (Adapted from the works of Ibnul Qayyim)
Worldly actions on the other hand, are not rewarded or punished unless of course it is a sin like drinking alcohol. For example, there is no merit to drinking Pepsi instead of Coke. You are neither punished nor rewarded for either.
In Islam, worldly actions can become spiritual actions with only one condition, that of sincerity. However, if a worldly action is not done for the sake of Allah it is not shirk. There is no shirk or bid’ah in worldly actions.
“And whatever you spend is an act of charity for you, even the bite of food that you raise to the mouth of your wife.” (Reported by Al-Bukhari)
“I seek reward in my sleep as I seek reward in my standing for prayer.” (Mu’aadh ibn Jabal- Reported by Al-Bukhari)