Is there a difference between worshipping for the sake of Allah and worshipping for the sake of attaining Paradise or avoiding Hell?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

Aiming to attain Paradise and avoiding Hell along with attaining the consent of Allah while worshipping does not invalidate worshipping and such a person is not regarded to have committed a sin. However, sincerity, which is the spirit of worshipping, is harmed. "A small deed done with sincerity (ikhlas) is better than thousands of worship without sincerity." Therefore, it is necessary to worship because Allah orders not because of any other aims.

We should abandon sins because He orders us to abandon them.

Worship has two aspects. One is its cause, the other is the wisdom behind it. The real reason of worship and the reason why it is a duty is its cause. The cause is the order or the prohibition of Allah. Then, the real reason and cause of worship is the order and the prohibition of Allah. Its result is to attain the consent of Allah. Its fruit is in Paradise in the hereafter.  

“Sincerity is to perform worshipping just because it is ordered by Allah. Worship should be performed just because it is ordered. Some other wisdom or benefit should not be the main cause of worshipping.  

However, it is not objectionable for the wisdoms and benefits to become reasons for preference. Then, we can want our worship to be beneficial for us in the hereafter on condition that we do not regard it as the main reason. After worshipping, we can ask for Paradise from Allah. Since the hereafter is a place of oneness, there is no drawback to worshipping by thinking of the bliss in the hereafter. There is no need to look for something contrary to sincerity here.  

However, if we regard the bliss in the hereafter as the main reason for worship and as superior to attaining the consent of Allah, then our sincerity will be harmed. After all, we are slaves of Allah; we need to attain the consent of Allah. With the expression of Badiuzzaman Said Nursi, a believer who learns from the Quran is a servant of Allah. However, he does not stoop to worship even the greatest of creatures; he is an esteemed slave who does not take a supreme benefit like Paradise as the aim of his worship. (Sözler (Words), p. 122)

The Quran invites people to worship Allah with the following order: “O ye people! Adore your Guardian-Lord!” After this call, the Quran also answers the question, “Why should I worship?” by stating, “Because he is your Lord, who created you.” (al-Baqara, 2/21) Thus, the Quran itself finds it sufficient for us to worship our Lord just because He created us. The statement at the end of the verse, “that ye may have the chance to learn righteousness” expresses a result for our worship. According to this verse, the result of our worship is to attain righteousness (taqwa). To attain Paradise or to attain the endless bounties in the hereafter is a grant from Allah if He wishes.  

Indeed, our purpose of creation is to live for Allah and to exist for Allah. As a matter of fact, the following verse, which is sunnah for us to utter when we are hit by a misfortune, depicts clearly what we are living for:  “Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’un” (To Allah we belong and to Him is our return.) (al-Baqara, 2/156) A person who lives for Allah will definitely worship for Allah only.  

While interpreting the verse above, Badiuzzaman Said Nursi pays great attention to the fact that “taqwa” is shown as a sufficient target for worship. According to Nursi, we understand from the verse that worship becomes real worship when it is performed with sincerity. Worship cannot be performed with the intention of attaining something worldly or Paradise or bliss in the hereafter. Worship is not a means; it is an end. Worship is the only aim of our creation. We do not worship in order to attain something. We do not worship in order to gain rewards or avoid hellfire. We worship because it is the purpose of our creation and because it is a target that we need to attain. (see İşârâtü’l-İ’câz (Signs of Miraculousness, the interpretation of the verse mentioned above) That is why we feel peace and ease when we perform worship because we attain our purpose of creation.

We were created so that we would worship not that we would attain Paradise or be happy in the hereafter. The following verse expresses that purpose very clearly:

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

We worship with that intention, with the help and guidance of Allah, only for the sake of Allah, and in order to obey the order of Allah. We expect Paradise, God’s mercy and pardoning in the hereafter not as a reward of our worshipping but as a grant, grace and mercy of God Almighty.

It is a necessity of our servitude to Allah to worship in the world; similarly, it is a necessity of our servitude to Allah to expect God’s bounties, mercy and Paradise – though not in return for our worship. To ask befits the servant and to give befits Him.  

Then, the answer to the question, “Why are you worshipping?” is “Because my Lord has ordered.” There are several benefits of obeying this order, both in this world and in the hereafter. However, we do not worship for those benefits. They are the wisdoms behind worshipping. The duty of a servant is to worship, to obey orders and to avoid prohibitions. It befits a servant to worship. The grants, bounties and the ranks in Paradise that will be given by the Lord to a servant who worships sincerely are wisdoms behind worshipping.

Let us summarize the issue with an example:

Uncle Hakkı had a very nice garden and he had very nice mulberry, apricot and cherry trees in his garden. When Fatih was a boy, he used to go to Uncle Hakkı and eat those fruits. To eat fruits directly from the tree was really very nice. Once Fatih said to his father, “Dad! I love Uncle Hakkı very much.” His father said jokingly, “Son! You do not love Uncle Hakkı; you love his garden.”

Uncle Hakkı was a person to be loved. However, loving him for his personality was different from loving him for his garden.

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