What is ‘Ibaadah in Islam?

The Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) said: “The right of Allaah upon His servants is that they should worship Him (alone) and not associate anything with Him” [Bukhaaree and Muslim].

Allaah created us that we may worship Him alone and not associate anything with Him. Allaah has said {I did not create Jinn and Men except that they may worship me.} [Qur’an 51:56]. So what is this Ibaadah, what are its types and conditions and how should it be performed?.

Ibaadah is a collective term for everything which Allaah loves and is pleased with from among the words and actions such as supplication, prayer, and patience. Allaah says {Say: Verily my prayer, my service of sacrifice, my life and my death are all for Allaah the Lord of the Worlds.} [Qur’an 6:162] and the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) said “Allaah the Exalted said: My servant does not draw near to Me with anything more loved by me than the obligatory actions which I have imposed upon him” [Bukhaaree].

‘Ibaadah (worship) in Arabic means submission and humbling oneself. In the Sharee’ah, it has numerous definitions, but their meaning is one. From them are:

- It is to worship Allah in conformity to what He has ordered upon the tongues of His Messenger.

- It is utmost submission with utmost love for Allah.

- A more general meaning of al-’Ibaadah is that it is a comprehensive term for everything that Allah loves and is pleased with from speech and actions inwardly and outwardly.

‘Ibaadah (Worship) is categorized as worship of the heart, tongue and limbs. Fear, hope, love, reliance, desire, reverence are worships of the heart. Tasbeeh, Tahleel, Takbeer, thanking Him by the tongue and heart are worships of the heart and tongue. Salaat, Zakaat, Hajj are worships of the limbs and heart. There are many other worships of the heart, tongue and limbs.

It is for the purpose of Ibadah that Allah brought into existence all the creation. Allah says, “And I (Allah) created not the jinn and humans except they should worship Me (Alone).” [Soorah adh-Dhariyat (51): 56]

Shaykhul-Islaam Ibn Taymiyyah (d.728H) – rahimahullaah – said:

Worship (al-’Ibaadah) is obedience to Allaah by following that which He ordered upon the tongues of His Messengers.” He also said, “Worship (al-’Ibaadah) is a comprehensive term covering everything that Allaah loves and is pleased with – whether saying, or actions, outward and inward.” [2]

Ibnul-Qayyim (d.751H), rahimahullaah, said:

Worship revolves around fifteen principles. Whosoever completes them has completed the stages of ’uboodiyyah (servitude to Allaah). The explanation of this is that ’ibaadah is divided between the heart, the tongue, and the limbs. And that for each one of these three come five types of rulings, covering all actions: waajib (obligatory), mustahabb (recommended), haraam (prohibited), makrooh (disliked), and mubaah (permissible).” [3]

Imaam al-Qurtubee (d.671H), rahimahullaah, said:

The root of ’ibaadah is humility and submissiveness. The various duties that have been prescribed upon the people are called ’ibaadaat (acts of worship), since what is required is that these acts of worship must be done with humility and submissiveness to Allaah, the Most High.” [4]

Ibn Katheer (d.774H), rahimahullaah, said:

And ’ibaadah is obedience to Allaah by acting upon what He commands, and abandoning what He forbids; and this is the reality and essence of Islaam. And the meaning of Islaam is: istislaam (submission and surrender) to Allaah, the Most High, along with the utmost compliance, humility, and submissiveness to Him.

He also said whilst explaining the above aayah:

Indeed Allaah, the Most High, created the creation so that they could worship Him alone, without associating any partner with Him. Whoever obeys Him will be completely rewarded, whereas whoever disobeys Him would be punished with a severe punishment. And He has informed that He is neither dependant, nor does He have any need for them. Rather, it is they who are in dire need of Him, in every condition and circumstance, since He is the One who created, sustains, and provides for them.” [5]

Allah then continues and says in the succeeding verses,

I seek not any provision from them (i.e. provision for themselves or for My creatures) nor do I ask that they should feed Me (i.e. feed themselves or My creatures). Verily, Allah is the All-Provider, Owner of Power, the Most Strong.” [Soorah adh-Dhariyat (51): 57-58]

Allah informs us (in this verse) that the wisdom behind creating the Jinn and humans is that they establish His worship. However, Allah is not in need of their worship, but they are in need of Him due to their penury before Him, so they (ought to) worship Him in compliance with His Sharee’ah.

So, he, who does not worship Allah is arrogant.

He, who worships Him and others with Him is a Mushrik (one, who associates partners with Allah).

He, who worships Him by other than what He has legislated is a Mubtadi (an innovator).

And He, who worships Him with that which He has legislated is a Mumin (believer) and Muwahhid (one who establishes Tawheed in its correct manner).

Types and Conditions for ‘Ibaadah

The types of Ibaadah are many and include supplication, fear hope, reliance, love of obedience to Allaah, hatred of disobedience to Him, remorse, repentance, seeking aid from Him, vowing, sacrifice, bowing and prostrating and others besides these.

Thus the first thing which a Muslim acknowledges is that he has been created for Ibaadah and that is due to his declaration of Laa ilaaha illallaaha (There is none worthy of worship except Allaah alone). He must then know of its form and types.

The second thing the Muslim should realise is that a necessary condition of worship is that it is sincere. Allaah the Exalted said {So whoever hopes for the meeting with His Lord let him work deeds of righteousness and associate none as a partner in the worship of His Lord.} [Qur’an 18:110] and the Messenger (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) said “Indeed Allaah does not look at your faces nor your wealth but He looks at your hearts and your actions.” [Muslim].

Also there is the Hadeeth Qudsee where the Messenger (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) said that Allaah said “I am so self-sufficient that I am in no need of having partners. Thus, whoever does an action for someone else’s sake as well as Mine, will have that action rejected by Me to him whom he associated with Me” [Muslim].

Another vital condition of worship is that it is correct and therefore acceptable to Allaah. Our Ibaadah of Allaah should be as He and His Messenger (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) have commanded us. Allaah says {O you who believe! Obey Allaah and obey the Messenger and do not let your actions become nullified.} [Qur’an 47:33] and the Messenger (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) has said “Whoever does an action which we have not commanded will have it rejected.” [Muslim] and he (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) also said “Whoever does an action in a way different from ours will have it rejected” [Abu Daawood – Saheeh].

Fudayl ibn Ayyaad, a taabi’ee, said regarding the verse {…that He may test you, which of you is best in deeds…} [Qur’an 11:7] , “The most sincere and the most correct” so those who were around him said “And what is the most sincere and the most correct?” He replied “Action, if it is correct but not sincere will not be accepted and action, if it is sincere but not correct will not be accepted until it is both sincere and correct. Sincere means that nothing but the Face of Allaah is sought and correct means that it is in conformity with the Sunnah.”

So these are two necessary conditions for our Ibaadah to be acceptable to Allaah, namely that they are sincere (for the sake of Allaah) and correct (in conformity with the Sunnah).

Allaah has also commanded us {So call upon Him (out of) Fear and Hope.} [Qur’an 6:56] and the Messenger (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) used to supplicate “I ask Allaah for Paradise and I seek refuge in Him from the Fire” [Abu Daawood – Saheeh].

And this is the fourth point : that our Ibaadah should be in between hoping for Allaah’s Mercy and reward and fearing His punishment. Some of the pious predecessors used to say “Whoever worships Allaah with Love only is indeed a Zindeeq (a heretic) and whoever worships Him with Hope only is indeed a Murji’ (one who believes sins impart no harm to a persons faith) and whoever worships Him with Fear only is indeed a Harooree (one of those believe that sins take a person out of Islaam) but whoever worships Him with Love, Fear and Hope is indeed a believing Muwahhid (one who performs the Tawheed of Allaah).”

Therefore, in all our actions we should fear Allaah’s displeasure and punishment and then balance this with hoping for His pleasure and reward. Furthermore, we should love Him and love obedience to Him.

Another characteristic of our Ibaadah is being aware of the presence of Allaah, that His knowledge is with us and He sees and hears us. This fifth point is Ihsaan. Allaah says {The One Who sees you when you stand up for the prayer and when you move amongst those who prostrate themselves} [Qur’an 26:218] and also in the hadeeth of Jibreel when he said to the Messenger (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) “Ihsaan is that you worship Allaah as if you see Him and while you see Him not yet truly He sees you” [Muslim].

So these are five points concerning our Ibaadah namely:

  • Acknowledgement of the purpose of our existence, which is to worship Allaah alone without any partners. This is the requirement and meaning of the declaration of faith: There is none worthy of worship except Allaah.
  • Extreme sincerity in fulfilling that purpose
  • The correctness of our Ibaadah and that is upon the Sunnah of the Messenger (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam)
  • Worshipping Allaah by combining Love, Fear and Hope in all of our actions
  • And accompanying all of that with Ihsaan.

The example of the one who learns these five points concerning the Ibaadah of his Lord and builds all of his actions upon them and the one who does not and is careless about his worship is like the example Allaah has given {Which then is best? – he who lays the foundation of his house upon Taqwa and His Good Pleasure or he who lays the foundation of his house upon an undetermined brink of a precipice ready to crumble down, so that it crumbles down with him into the Fire of Hell?} [Qur’an 9:108].

So respected brothers and sisters lets not be careless and make our actions vain like Allaah has mentioned regarding some people, {And We shall turn to whatever actions they did and turn them into scattered dust.} [Qur’an 25:23] but rather let us become cautious and send something foreword for the Day of Judgement, the Day when we will be in great need for good actions, that is our sincere and correct Ibaadah.

The Meaning of Taaghoot:

The statement of Allaah, the Most High: “And to every nation We sent Messengers, ordering them that they should worship Allaah alone, obey Him, and make their worship purely for Him; and that they should avoid at-Taaghoot.” [Sooratun-Nahl 16:36]

And at-taaghoot is from the word at-tughyaan, which means: going beyond the limits.

’Umar Ibnul-Khattaab (radiyallaahu ’anhu) said:

The taaghoot is Shaytaan.” [6]

Jaabir (radiyallaahu ’anhu) said:

The taaghoots are the soothsayers and fortune-tellers upon whom the devils descend.” [7]

Imaam Maalik (d.179H), rahimahullaah, said:

Taaghoot: that which is worshipped besides Allaah.” [8]

So this is what has been mentioned by certain people. However, Imaam Ibnul-Qayyim, rahimahullaahu, has given a very comprehensive definition, so he said, “The taaghoot is all that which causes the person to exceed the limits with regards to that which is worshipped, followed, or obeyed. So the taaghoot in any nation is whosoever turns to other than Allaah and His Messenger for matters of judgement; or is pleased to be worshipped besides Allaah; or is followed without a clear proof from Allaah; or is obeyed in that which is known to be disobedience to Allaah.” [9]


[1] Fathul-Majeed li-Sharh Kitaabit-Tawheed (1/84-90)

[2] Majmoo’ul-Fataawaa (10/149) of Ibn Taymiyyah.

[3] Madaarijus-Saalikeen (1/109)

[4] Al-Jaami’ li-Ahkaamil-Qur‘aan (1/225), and (17/56) of al-Qurtubee.

[5] Tafseerul-Qur‘aanil-’Adtheem (7/402)

[6] Related by at-Tabaree in Jaami’ul-Bayaan ’an-Ta‘weelil-Qur‘aan (no. 5834), al-Haafidh Ibn Hajar said in Fathul-Baaree (8/251), “Its chain of narrators is strong.”

[7] Related by at-Tabaree in his Tafseer (no. 5845)

[8] Related by as-Suyootee in ad-Durarul-Manthoor (2/22), by way of Ibn Abee Haatim.

[9] I’laamul-Muwaqqi’een (1/53)

Author: Islamic Treasure

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  1. JAZAKALLAH for such beautiful article. Ibadah of ALLAH is not tough what ever you learn from Quran accept that and practice that with heart is also Ibadah. Practicing what our beloved prophet teaches us is also Ibadah. your good intention for any good deed is also comes under Ibadah.

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