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The pleasure of God as the axis of worship

The pleasure of God as the axis of worship

Just as heavenly bodies and the earth always have a fixed axis though they make diverse rotations and revolutions, worship, with all its various forms and appearances, is also anchored in a fixed axis, which is the pleasure of God. This is in spite of the fact that spatial and temporal as well as individual and collective circumstances determine the type of movement along this axis.

For example, travel makes (a four-cycle [rak‘ah]) prayer a two-rak‘ah prayer; illness may necessitate changes in the form of the prayer. Yet, the two-rak‘ah or shortened prayer is still a prayer and it is based on the axis of remembering God, seeking His pleasure and performing His command. ﴾ لِذِكْرِي ٱلصَّلَوٰةَ وَأَقِمِ ﴿ “And maintain the prayer for My remembrance.”[1]


The spirit of worship

Worship is the nourishment of the soul and the best food is that which is absorbed by the body. Similarly, the best act of worship is that which is internalized by the soul; that is, if it is performed with enthusiasm and presence of heart. Eating too much food is not beneficial. What is important is eating useful food.

The Holy Prophet ()[2] said to Jābir ibn ‘Abd Allāh al-Anārī:


.اللهِ عِبَادَةَ نَفْسِك اِلىٰ تُبَغِّضُ وَلا بِرِفْقٍ فيهِ فَاَوْغِل لمتين الدّينَ هٰذَا اِنَّ


Indeed this religion is firm. Therefore, act moderately in relation to it (and when you have no spiritual readiness for worship, do not impose it on yourself) so that the worship of Allah would not be detested by you.[3]


In another adīth, we also read that the Holy Prophet () said:


.عانَقَها وَ الْعِبادَةَ عَشِقَ لِمَنْ طُوبىٰ


“Blessed is he who loves worship and is always fond of it.”[4]


Moderation in worship

The spirit of worship and devotion remains alive when man is moderate in its performance. This has been narrated in the books of adīth under the heading, bāb al-iqtiād fī’l-‘ibādah [section on moderation in worship].[5]

Man is healthy when there is proportionality in his bodily limbs, and if a certain body member is bigger or smaller than the normal size, it is considered deformed (or defective in general). In spiritual affairs, man should also harmoniously nurture all that is valuable in himself. It was reported to the Holy Prophet () that under the pretext of worship, a group of his ummah [community] had abandoned their spouses and children and had secluded themselves in the mosque. The Prophet stated in a loud voice: “This is not my way and method. I myself am living with my spouses and reside in my house. Anyone who acts contrary to this does not belong to me.”[6] 

Imām a-ādiq (‘a) narrates the story of a Muslim who had a Christian neighbor that embraced Islam. That Muslim had awakened the former Christian during the first dawn (prior to the time for the dawn prayer [alāh as-sub]), brought him to the mosque and said to him: “Perform your supererogatory night prayers [tahajjud] till the time for the dawn prayer and thereafter, engage in supplication [du‘ā] till the sunrise. Then, read the Qur’an up to the time for the noon prayer [alāh a-uhr].” In this manner, the Muslim urged the former Christian to engage in prayer, recital of the Qur’an and supplication day and night. When the new Muslim returned home, he abandoned Islam and did not go to the mosque anymore.[7]

Yes, such extremism and lack of moderation in worship will drive people away.

The martyred professor, Murtadā Mutahharī,[8] narrates that ‘Amrū ibn al-‘Ā had two sons. One was a votary of Hadrat ‘Alī (‘a) while the other was a supporter of Mu‘āwiyah. One day, the Prophet () said to the good son of ‘Amrū ibn al-‘Ā (named ‘Abd Allāh): “I have heard that you spend your night in worship and your day in fasting.” He said: “Yes, O Messenger of Allah.” The Prophet () said: “This way is not acceptable to me.”[9] 

We read in the traditions: “.اِدْباراً وَ اِقْبالاً لِلْقُلُوبِ اِنَّ” [inna li’l-qulūbi iqbālan wa idbāra(n)] “Indeed, there is inclination and disinclination in the heart (of man).”[10] You have to take advantage of wherever it inclines and leans to. And whenever it is not ready, do not exert pressure on it otherwise it will unconsciously show a negative reaction.

In the Islamic instructions it is mentioned that you have to divide your time into four parts, and allot time for entertainment and enjoyment, for if you do so, you will also have enthusiasm for other activities.[11]

The Holy Qur’an gives the title of “violators” to the Jews who engaged in work and went fishing during the Sabbath Day: ﴾ السَّبْتِ فى مِنْكُمْ ٱعْتَدَوْا الَّذِينَ عَلِمْتُمُ لَقَدْ وَ ﴿ “And certainly you know those of you who violated the Sabbath.”[12]

In any case, keeping zeal and ardor in worship is a principle which comes into being through moderation.

[1] Sūrah ā Hā 20:14.

[2] The abbreviation, “s”, stands for the Arabic invocative phrase, sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa ālihi wa sallam [may God’s salutation and peace be upon him and his progeny], which is used after the name of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (s). [Trans.]

[3] Biār al-Anwār vol. 71, p. 212.

[4] Biār al-Anwār vol. 71, p. 212.

[5] Al-Kāfī, vol. 2, p. 86.

[6] Al-Kāfī, vol. 5, p. 496.

[7] Murtadā Mutahharī, Sayrī dar Sīreh-ye Nabawī [A Survey of the Life Conduct of the Prophet ()], p. 213.

[8] Āyatullāh Murtadā Mutahharī (1298-1358 AHS) was a scholar of unusually wide learning, a prolific writer, eloquent speaker, lecturer, and a cherished student of Imām Khomeinī. He was a leading member of the Revolutionary Council until his assassination on May 1, 1979 by the terrorist Furqān group. [Trans.]

[9] Murtadā Mutahharī, ahārat-e Rū[Spiritual Purification], p. 122.

[10] Biār al-Anwār, vol. 78, p. 357.

[11] Biār al-Anwār, vol. 14, p. 41.

[12] Sūrah al-Baqarah 2:65.

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