How appropriate is it to say, "Allah will forgive" and not to worship?

Details of the Question

Some people do not give due importance to worshipping by saying, "Allah will forgive all sins except violation of other people's rights and polytheism (shirk); Allah will forgive us even if we do not perform prayers." What should we say to the people like that?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

Worshipping is a kind of thanking the Lord in return for the boons He gives us. Man should be conscious of it whether Paradise and Hell exist or not.

The reason why we perform worshipping is that it is Allah's order. We should not worship in order to go to Paradise or to escape from Hell.

Every believer knows that he performs prayers for Allah. He stands in the presence of his Lord five times a day.

The following statement of Badiuzzaman Said Nursi will clarify the issue:  

"I neither care for Paradise nor fear Hell."

To know that Allah's order is superior to everything will place the love of worshipping in our hearts.

Allah states the following in the Quran:

"I have only created jinn and men, that they may serve Me."(adh-Dhariyat, 51/56)

Every deed has a purpose. The reason why this universe was created and arranged is to give humans and jinn the duty of "worshipping Allah". Everybody who has consciousness and will needs to know and worship Allah. This is, so to speak, the divine purpose for the creation of things by Allah.

Worshipping means to fulfill the orders of God Almighty and to represent the responsibilities of being a slave of Allah. Servitude is interpreted as having the consciousness of a slave.

The religious meaning of worshipping is fulfilling the orders of Allah through a sincere intention, expecting to get rewards and thinking about being close to Allah. When we use the word worshipping, we mean both worshipping and being close to Allah. If we think of the fact that jinn and humans were created only to worship Allah, we can say that worshipping means obeying and fulfilling all of the orders Allah.  

According to a widespread belief among people, worshipping consists of only prayers, fasting, zakah and hajj. Such a belief is sound but to restrict the scope of worshipping in terms of form and number will cause fruitlessness in terms of understanding. In fact, five principles that are regarded as the pillars of Islam can be accepted as a summary and basic principles of worshipping. When we expand them and take the other forms of worshipping into consideration, we will see that the whole religion of Islam appears.

Worshipping, which consists of man's turning toward Allah with all of his self, feelings, all of his inner and outer faculties, mental faculties, head and tongue, is a systematic way of acting. It is not possible to interpret worshipping as 'adoring/idolizing' since it encompasses all of the meanings above. Adoring and idolizing consist of a simple orientation and deeds done without a system that lacks real consciousness and intention. Idolaters' bowing down before some deities except Allah, living and non-living beings that they accept as mediators between themselves and Allah, adoring some objects can be called adoring and idolizing but not worshipping. For, worshipping is peculiar to Allah Almighty. Yes, only Him can we worship.

Servitude Exists in the Nature of Man

Religion is seen all the time and everywhere in the history of humanity no matter what it is called, how it is and how it is described. Religion has some common properties. They are belief, worshipping and community. That is, religion is a fact of man and community. Religion exists wherever man exists. However, religion is not only a belief or a system of beliefs. Worshipping is a very important and inseparable property of the religion.

Yes, servitude exists in the nature of man. When Allah created man, He created him with a nature suitable for being a servant of Allah. However, man often used this nature in bad and wrong ways. He transformed the beings like stones, trees, stars, the moon and the sun, which cannot be worshipped and which are weak creatures of Allah, into partners of Allah. When man could not find the real God, he invented some so-called gods and surrendered to them, which is a deviation from his natural state.    

Belief consists of proclaiming Islam through the tongue and confirming it through the heart. However, it is necessary to strengthen and support belief by deeds in order to get the desired result. Some people's words like, "what matters is the cleanliness of the heart; worshipping is not so important" serves to destroy the indications (principles) of the religion.

Human life becomes significant as the duty of worshipping Allah is fulfilled. The deeds of worshipping that Allah orders us to perform serve to maintain our humane feelings and improve them. Man consists of both a body and a spirit; so, harmonious improvement and balanced development necessitate that man show attention toward and take care of both aspects of his personality equally. 

According to the Quran, all beings worship. This fact is expressed as follows in the Quran:

"…There not a thing but celebrates His praise..." (al-Isra, 17/44)

The Quran also states that lengthening and shortening is a kind of worshipping peculiar to shadow. Prostration is a deed of worshipping by plants and their branches. Stars, mountains, birds, animals and many more creatures worship Lord in a way peculiar to them. Even the thunder glorifies Allah by praising Him.

Man, who has a distinguished place in the universe and who is equipped with the mind, thought and superior abilities, was created for a lofty purpose.This purpose is to know Allah and to worship Him.

Benefits of Worshipping:

Worshipping is performed only to fulfill the order of Allah and to attain His consent. The worshipping that is accepted by Allah is the worshipping that is performed sincerely, without having any interests in mind.  

Sincerity is regarded as the spirit of worshipping. Worshipping without sincerity is something without a spirit. It has no value in the eye of Allah. Sincerity in worshipping means to perform it just because it is the order of Allah and it serves to attain the consent of Allah.

If a deed of worshipping is performed for a worldly benefit and advantage, its sincerity disappears and that deed of worshipping becomes invalid; that is, it is not accepted by Allah. However, it is certain that there are many wisdoms and material and spiritual benefits for us in the orders of our Lord.

Just as our body needs food so too does our spirit need food. The most important food of the spirit is a strong belief and worshipping. Worshipping serves to strengthen our belief and develop us ethically. The fruit of the tree of belief that is fed by worshipping is high ethics.

The light of belief shines in the heart of a person who keeps worshipping. Fear of Allah and the feeling of responsibility settle in his heart. Thanks to worshipping, our inner body becomes free of bad ideas and our outer body becomes free of the impurity of sins. Besides, when a Muslims performs financial worshipping (like giving alms), he is loved by others. 

We need to eat and drink as long as we live; similarly, we need worshipping and spiritual food until we die. Allah states the following in the Quran:

"And serve thy Lord until there come unto thee the Hour that is Certain." (al-Hijr, 15/99)

Thanks to worshipping, a believer gets rid of the material bonds of the world and elevates spiritually; the bright way of the land of bliss opens for him after the obstacles are removed.

Worshipping, which is the indication of our belief and the food of our spirit, strengthens our belief and makes us mature believers with ethics and merits by freeing our inner bodies from bad thoughts and our outer bodies from the impurity of sins. Thus, it becomes a means of making us attain peace in the world, save from punishment in the hereafter and have an eternal and happy life in Paradise, which is the land of endless bliss.    

The other benefits of worshipping for the individual and society are as follows:

1. Knowledge and decrees about belief and creed settle in man only through worshipping.

2. Worshipping plays an important role in the arrangement of individual life. 

3. Worshipping plays an important role in binding individuals together and ensuring peace and harmony in society.

4. Worshipping has a positive effect on man's moral life and spiritual realm.

5. Worshipping is the greatest means of attaining personal perfection and maturity.

In addition, worshipping leads to happiness in the world and the hereafter along with being a high relation and an honorable bond between the Creator and His slaves. Fire and melting pot cause the gold in the soil to be distinguished; similarly, the world and worshipping help man attain Paradise. Yes, since man cannot change the road opened by wisdom, he needs to fulfill this very difficult and holy duty truly to deserve Paradise. In other words, the only way to deserve Paradise is worshipping and being a slave of Allah. For, worshipping makes man pure and liable for Paradise.

Form of Worshipping

No being in the universe was created without any purpose; no living being was left without a guide. Allah, who does not leave ants without a prince, bees without a queen, fish and birds without a guide, will definitely not leave human beings without prophets.  Human beings can find Allah by looking at the incidents taking place in the universe and using their minds but they cannot know the purpose of their creation, where they come from and there they are going to and the forms of worshipping without prophets. Therefore, they do not perform worshipping randomly or without a system but based on a system and rules that they learn from their prophets; they present their respect and worshipping to God with awe and reverence.  

Yes, worshipping means belief in Allah and knowledge about His divine personality, the arrangement and formulation of the things that need to be done with the love and admiration coming from this knowledge through the indication and guidance of God Almighty in accordance with His orders. That is, it is necessary to act and worship as it is required under the guidance of the Lord's clear verses and in the light of the lights emitted by the Prophet (pbuh) so as not to do anything wrong or inappropriate.

What are essential in man's relationship with his Lord are meaning, essence and spirit. However, what convey them are words, forms and molds. Therefore, it is necessary to pay attention to those words and molds. Those forms should convey the essential meanings. Therefore, it cannot be said that molds and forms have no meaning. 

It is necessary to be balanced, moderate and to act in accordance with the criteria imposed by Allah while worshipping Him along with intention. The Messenger of Allah said,

"There are so many people standing while performing prayers that what they earn by it is nothing but tiredness; there are so many people who perform fasting that what they earn by it is nothing but hunger and thirst."

That is, the heart needs to turn to Allah. Zakah or sadaqah given without thinking of Him is nothing but wasting, and as the Quran puts it, becoming friends with Satan. To enjoin what is good and to forbid what is evil without having Him as a purpose in one's mind means to do dialectic and to deceive people by being engaged in demagoguery. Jihad without having Him as a purpose means show off, and wasting wealth and time. That is, the purpose of the spirit of worshipping needs to be the Creator; the servant needs to turn toward the Creator and worship Him.

In Islam, the scope of worshipping is wide. In Islam, worshipping does not consist of performing prayers and dhikr only. Every deed that is done in order to attain the consent of the Lord and to fulfill His orders is regarded as worshipping. For instance, a person can transform eating and drinking into worshipping as follows: If a person intends to eat, drink and travel by finding it sufficient to eat halal food and drink halal beverages, avoiding haram and fulfilling the orders of Allah, his deeds will be regarded as worshipping. A person who eats and drinks with this intention and becomes strong becomes the addressee of the following hadith of the Prophet (pbuh):

"A strong (due to worshipping properly) believer is better than a weak believer and he is more beloved in the eye of Allah." (Muslim, Qadar, 34; Ibn Majah, Muqaddima, 10; Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, Musnad, 2:366)

When the deeds that the soul likes and takes pleasure from are done with such sincere intentions, they are regarded as worshipping and become means of getting thawabs (rewards). The servant takes pleasure from what he does and feels happy but he approaches Allah with every deed that he does because his intention is to attain the consent of Allah. Acting upon this fact, the fiqh scholars say, "A righteous intention transforms habitual deeds into worshipping."

Worshipping is classified as follows based on will, determination, intention and sincerity:

a. Worshipping performed with the desire of Paradise.

b. Worshipping performed due to the fear of Hell. 

c.Worshipping performed with the feeling of awe, fear of Allah and love.

d. Worshipping performed as a necessity of the relationship of the Lord and the slave,  the Creator and the creature.

No matter how it is performed, worshipping (servitude) is the color of man's honor and the greatest rank granted to him. There is no rank and position higher than worshipping (servitude).

The Privilege of the Religion of Islam in Worshipping

According to some religions, worshipping means to leave all of the pleasures of the world aside and live in seclusion (like the life of monks and nuns living in a monastery). In another religion, worshipping can be performed only in some special places of their temples. According to some other religions, worshipping can be performed only under the under the leadership of some clergymen. The people cannot worship alone and in congregation without the guidance of the clergymen.  

In Islam, worshipping is free from intermediaries between Allah and His slaves. Man can apply to his Lord directly. In Islam, the clergy are not intermediaries between Allah and His slaves; the belief that worshipping can be accepted only through the mediation of the clergy only does not exist in Islam. In the eye of Allah, scholars, the clergy and ordinary people are equal in terms of worshipping. Superiority is based on taqwa (fear of Allah).  

Islam has freed worshipping from the hands of the intermediaries and from the obligation of being performed in certain places. Every place, whether it is a mosque, a ship in the middle of the sea or a house, is suitable for worshipping as long as they are clean. Man can contact Allah by worshipping anywhere. The Messenger of Allah stated the following:

"The earth was made a mosque and a cleaner for me." (Bukhari, Tayammum, 1; Muslim, Masajid, 3)

That is, a person can perform prayers anywhere and he can use the earth (soil) to make tayammum instead of wudu and ghusl when there is no water.

The Relationship between Belief and Deeds

The principles that need to be believed in Islam do not consist of some abstract ideas only. The principles that need to be believed in Islam are some vital values that need to be done, thought, believed, internalized and used in order to reach Allah with submission.  These vital values become deepened by meditation and dhikr, are fed by worshipping; deeds and manners are also included in this framework so that individual and human thoughts will not affect them. Thus, a believer is in a relationship with the circle of belief all the time and he turns around the main axis of belief.    

According to Ahl as-Sunnah, worshipping is not a part of belief. Deeds are not a part of belief. This principle is a general decree. That is, if a man does not do any deeds and does not worship at all, he will not exit belief. However, it is necessary for him not to deny any worshipping and accept that all kinds of worshipping are true.

As it is seen, there is a difference between believing and doing. However, this is the last boundary. In fact, there is a close relationship between belief and deeds. A person can be treated as a Muslim based on his worshipping only. As it is known, the application of some decrees among the Muslims who live in a community is based on the lifestyles of individuals since the religion decides based on the outward appearance. A person who does not show any signs of being a Muslim will definitely not be treated as a Muslim. Besides, the real benefit of worshipping is to protect and improve the belief that exists. For, belief consists ofproclaiming Islam through the tongue and confirming it through the heart. It is a source of infinite power and strength. However, it is necessary to strengthen and support belief with deeds in order to obtain the fruits and results that are desired. Therefore, the following statement of some people means nothing but demolishing the signs and principles of the religion: "The cleanliness of the heart and intentions are important in religion. Worshipping like prayers and fasting are not so important; there is no harm in abandoning them." For, if this idea is accepted, any denier can claim that he is a distinguished believer.

Besides, though some people who lived in this age and who vulgarized the issue said, "My heart is clean and I believe in Allah" without worshipping, everybody saw that they fell into Hell. Yes, belief needs to be strengthened by prayers, hajj, jihad and other types of worshipping. 

Only worshipping can transform decrees related to creed and belief into faculties by strengthening and maintaining them. Yes, if decrees related to belief, which are involved with conscience and mind, are not trained and strengthened by worshipping, which consists of fulfilling Allah's orders and keeping away from what He prohibits, its results and effects will be weak. The current situation of the Islamic world is evidence for it.  

It is necessary for a believer to strengthen his belief with deeds sooner or later.

Islam has two aspects: belief and deeds. They are indispensible parts of Islam. Belief, or creed as it is mentioned in the Islamic literature, means to believe in all of the things in the system of Islam like Allah, Hz. Muhammad (pbuh), the Quran and the hereafter in a way that excludes the opposite possibilities. 

As for deeds, or as the Quran puts it "amal salih (righteous deeds)", that is, complete, flawless, impeccable deeds, it is the second important element of Islam after belief.For instance, worshipping is an indispensible part of it.

Since man cannot change the road opened by wisdom, he needs to fulfill this very difficult and holy duty truly to deserve Paradise. In other words, the only way to deserve Paradise is worshipping and being a slave of Allah. For, worshipping makes man pure and liable for Paradise.

Deeds of worshipping are in a way like the blockage of the issues related to creed and in another like faculties that improve them. For, if worshipping is not performed and if religion is kept in the conscience only by acting upon a common view today, deviation and destruction - God forbid - and consequently losing the worldly and otherworldly life will be inevitable. Yes, man can be protected from various deviations and his belief can be maintained only through worshipping.    

Mancan believe in Allah as a result of scientific research but it will be a theoretical belief. It can be transformed into real belief and elevated to the desired level only through worshipping. From this point of view, it can be said that it is always possible for a person who has not made worshipping a part of his nature and who has not deepened in it to deviate and go astray. Acting upon this fact, we can say that those who say, "I believe in Allah but I drink alcohol or I cannot perform prayers" lack one of the bonds that protect them. Yes, if those people are sincere in their words, they need to support their belief with deeds and be loyal slaves at the door of God Almighty with their deeds of worshipping so that they will be real believers.

Consequently, it can be said that worshipping is necessary for belief to remain fresh in the hearts and not to wither. Belief can remain new without withering only through worshipping. Otherwise, it is unknown whether the belief of a person who does not worship can last until he dies.

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