Story No. 271 – Imam Ali ibn Abu Talib (as) and Ibadah (Worship), Namaz/Salat (Prayer)

From the point of view of Islamic teachings, every sin leaves a black stain and the effects of distortion in the human heart which in turn weakens a person’s aptitude for good and righteous actions and consequently further deviate him towards other sins and foul deeds. On the other hand: worship, prayer and remembrance of Allah (SWT), develop a human being’s religious consciousness, strengthen his aptitude for virtuous deeds and diminish his proneness to sin. This means that worship, prayer and remembrance of Allah (SWT), efface the mal-effects of sins and replace these with fondness for virtue and goodness.

In the Nahj al-Balaghah there is a sermon which deals with Salat, Zakat and delivering of trust; after emphasizing the importance of Salat, Amir al-Muminin (as) further says:

Certainly, prayer removes sins like autumn strips leaves off from trees, and it liberates you from the rope (of sins) tied around your neck. The Holy Prophet Muhammad (saw) likened it to a refreshing stream at one’s door in which one takes a purifying bath five times in a day and night. Will after so much cleansing any dirt remain on him?

Also a heart filled with the remembrance of Allah (SWT) is a heart that finds peace and tranquility. Allah (SWT) says in Noble Qur’an: “Those who believe and whose hearts find satisfaction in the remembrance of Allah: for without doubt in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find satisfaction.” (Surah al-Rad 13:28)

Ibadah or service, of the One God and negation of everything else as an object of service and worship, is one of the essential teachings of God sent apostles, a feature never absent from the teachings of any prophet. As we know, in the sacred religion of Islam, too, worship occupies a preeminent position, with the only difference that worship in Islam is not regarded as a series of devotional rituals separate from everyday life and as pertaining solely to another world. Worship in Islam is located in the context of life and is an unalienable part of the Islamic philosophy of life.

From the point of view of Islam, every good and beneficial action if performed with a pure, God seeking intention is viewed as worship. Therefore learning, acquisition of knowledge and livelihood and social service, if performed for God’s sake, are acts of worship. Nevertheless, Islam also specifies a system of rituals and formal acts of worship such as Namaz/Salat (Prayer), Sawm (fasting) etc., which have a specific philosophy for performing them.

In order to elucidate the approach of Imam Ali ibn Abu Talib (as) towards worship, now we shall proceed to cite few statements from the Nahj al-Balaghah about the differences in various approaches of people towards worship.

  • A group of people worshipped Allah (SWT) out of desire for reward; this is the worship of traders. Another group worshipped Allah (SWT) out of fear; this is the worship of slaves. Yet another group worshipped Allah (SWT) out of gratitude; this is the worship of freemen.
  • Even if Allah (SWT) had not warned those disobedient to Him of chastisement, it was obligatory by way of gratefulness for His favours that He should not be disobeyed.
  • My Lord, I did not worship you out of fear from Your Fire, nor out of desire for Your Paradise; but I found You worthy of worship, so I worshipped You.