The basic and most important act of worship among those which Allah has taught us to perform is salah, or the prayer. It prepares us to worship Him in our entire lives – the purpose for which He has created us.
Consider carefully why it is so important, what is its true meaning and significance.
Prayer.. Remembering God
The Prayer is an act of worship. We should, therefore, first recollect what worship means.
Worship means revering, serving and obeying God in our whole lives. Being born as God’s servants, we cannot give up serving Him at any time or under any circumstances and still remain His servant as God wanted us to be when He created us.
Just as you cannot say that you are creatures of God for a particular time only, so you cannot say that you will spend only a certain amount of time in worshipping Him and be free to spend the rest as you please. You are born to worship Him. Your whole lives should therefore be spent in `ibadah, you should not neglect it for a single moment.
It is precisely for this reason that worship does not require giving up the day-to-day world and sitting in a corner chanting God’s name. Worship means that whatever you do in the world should be in accordance with God’s guidance. Whether you sleep, are awake, eat, drink or work – in fact, whatever activity you do – you worship Allah if these are done in obedience to Him.
When you are at home with your wives and children, brothers and sisters and relatives, behave towards them exactly as God has laid down, when you talk to your friends and amuse yourselves, remain conscious that you are servants of God, when you go out to work and have dealings with other people, keep in view God’s commandments about what behavior is proper and legitimate and what is not.
When in the dark of night you feel you can commit a sin which nobody in the world can see, then is the time to remember that God is seeing you and it is He, and not your fellow humans, who deserves to be feared.
When you find yourselves in a place where you can commit a crime without fear of the police or any witnesses, then again it is time to remember that God sees everything and refrain from doing anything for transient gain which would displease Him.
And when following the path of truth and honesty causes you material loss or otherwise puts you at a disadvantage, accept this ungrudgingly in the knowledge that you are pleasing Allah by obeying Him and that your gain from Him will far outweigh any temporary, earthly loss.
Abandoning the world and sitting in secluded places counting rosary beads is, therefore, not real worship at all. Worship is to be engaged in everyday affairs and yet follow the way of God. What does remembering God (dhikr) mean?
It does not mean merely the continual chanting of ‘Allah, Allah!’. The real remembrance of God consists in recalling to mind the name and will of Allah when you are caught up in day-to-day worldly activities. Being engaged in pursuits which could tend to make you forget God and yet not forgetting Him is in fact remembering Him.
In this life, where opportunities abound for disobeying God and where temptations of huge profits lurk, you must unfailingly remember God and remain steadfast in following His law.
This is the true remembrance of God. This is the kind of remembrance the Qur’an refers to thus:
Then, when the Prayer is finished, disperse on earth and seek God’s bounty; but remember God often, so that you may attain success (Al-Jumu`ah 62: IO)
Keep in mind this comprehensive meaning of `ibadah and see how the prayer helps us realize the qualities which are necessary to live in such `ibadah, what blessings it confers upon us.
The article is excerpted from the book “Let Us Be Muslims” by Abul A`La Mawdudi.