What is the Islamic definition of Ibadah? What does it consist of?
I have looked into several definitions by scholars but none have actually agreed with each other.
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In the Arabic language Al-'Ibadah means the humbleness. We say
طريق معبدة (Tariq mou'abadah) that means
Paved road and for the idiomatic meaning it's everything that Allah loves.
Shaykh l'Islam Ibn'Taymiyah says:
Worship (Al-'Ibadah) is a comprehensive term covering everything that Allah loves and is pleased with - whether saying, or actions, outward and inward."
Ibadah is completed servitude to Allah.
Allah is the master and we're the slave. A slave must obey and be at service to his/her Master at all times.
And this was beautifully manifested in the du'a in Surah al-Anam 6:162 =
Say, "Indeed, my prayer, my rites of sacrifice, my living and my dying are for Allah , Lord of the worlds.
People have defined Ibadah correctly, I would like to answer what it consists of:
Ibadah consists one or all of the following:
Thus following any of the sayings of Muhammad pbuh is also an Ibadat as obedience to prophet is Obedience to Allah.
Al-‘Ibaadah means tadhallul (humility) and khudoo’ (submissiveness). Scholars of the Arabic language have also explained ‘ibaadah to mean “at-tareeq ul-mu’abbad”, or the levelled (paved) road. (Refer to Lisaan ul-‘Arab and al-Qaamoos al-Muheet)
However, juristically (in Shar’eeah) it has been comprehensively defined by Sheikh ul-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah (d. 728 AH) as:
“Al-'Ibaadah is a term which comprises everything that Allah loves and is pleased with, from the outward and inner sayings and actions.” (Al-‘Uboodiyyah)
Singling out Allah in our worship (Ifraadullahi bil-‘Ibaadah) consists of three pillars:
Ifraadullahi bin-Nusk – Singling out Allah in ritual acts
Ifraadullahi bil-Hukmi wat-Tashree’ – Singling out Allah in matters of ruling and legislation
Ifraadullahi bil-Wilaayah – Singling out Allah in alliance and support
Therefore, ‘ibaadah does not only consist of ritual acts; it is any saying or action (of the heart or limbs) which Allah likes (us to do) and is pleased with. Hence, love, hatred (for the sake of Allah), sincerity, rajaa’ (hope), sabr (perseverance), salaat, siyaam (fasting), Hajj, dhikr (remembrance of Allah), tahaakum (arbitration to Islam), sadaqah (charity), da’wah (inviting people to Islam), commanding good and forbidding evil, ruling by Islam, and all other good deeds are ‘ibaadah (worship).
“Salaat (prayer); Zakaat (charity tax); Siyaam (fasting); Hajj (the Pilgrimage); truthfulness in speech; trustworthiness; kindness to parents; maintaining kind relationship with relatives; fulfilling pledges; enjoining the good and forbidding the evil); goodness to the neighbour, the orphan, the poor, the wayfarer and the owned beings whether human or animal; du'aa (supplication); dhikr (remembrance of Allah); qiraa’ah (recitation of the Qur’aan); and the like are all part of ‘ibaadah.
Likewise, loving Allah and His Messenger apprehension before Allah and returning repentantly to Him, sincerity in the Deen for Him, patience with His Ordainment, thankfulness for His Bounties, contentment with His Decree, dependence on Him, hope for His Mercy, fear of His Punishment and the like are also part of 'ibaadah due to Allah.” (Al-‘Uboodiyyah)
Ibadat is ALL beliefs (eman), attitudes and actions / activities, that are pleasing to ALLAH. These are spelled out clearly in the Quran and Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). Therefore, Ibadat would include both the rituals of worship and EVERY other aspect of living our lives individually and collectively.
Rituals most Muslims know about. It is the 'every other aspect of life' where in I believe, lies the source of confusion. Thus resulting in the current sorry state of Muslims the world over.
Muslims generally, have restricted ebadat to the ritualistic part of their lives. For every other aspect of their lives they seem to be content with every other non-Islamic ideology. So generally, Muslims have lost sight of economics, science and technology, research & development, politics, personal and professional growth, mutual relationships etc. etc. so that each of these activities is pleasing to ALLAH. Remembering that any action that is pleasing to ALLAH is by definition, beneficial to humanity, individually and collectively.
To sum up, every single moment of a Muslims existence in this world MUST be spent seeking the pleasure of ALLAH.
The definition of ibn taymiyyah is that ibadah is everything that Allah loves and is pleased with, both internally and externally.
So this comprises of both things that are outwardly such as salah, hajj, etc.. and the internal actions are like khawf (fear), raja (hope), etc...
But the problem with this definition is that its opposite is not shirk. So things that Allah hate are not all shirk and would not take one out of the fold of islam.
So that is why this definition of ibadah by Abdur Rahman ibn al yahya is preferred: ibadah is humility towards Allah Azza wa Jal with choice through which you are expecting an unseen benefit that has evidence behind it.
Humility gets rid of arrogance.
If you pointed a gun to a person’s head and told him to worship Allah SWT then this is not considered Ibaadah because it is forced and the element of voluntary humility is missing. And if a person prostrated to another person out of respect then is also not considered ibadah because they’re not expecting un unseen benefit. This act would not be considered shirk but it is still haraam because the prophet (ﷺ) forbade us from doing so.
An act of worship is not accepted unless it has a piece of evidence backing it up. So adding a fifth rakah to asr would be wrong because it doesn’t have evidence backing it and this would be called bidah.
Ibn al-Qayyim said in Sharh Manazil al-Sa’irin: “Worship brings together two principles: the utmost love with the utmost servility and humbleness.” The author of its marginalia said: “Worship comprises of the utmost love and humbleness just as he said, but this is not its full meaning, because the lover may combine these two properties but is not a worshipper of his beloved. Rather, worship is an expression about a belief and feeling about the object of worship having unseen power beyond the ordinary means by which He is able to cause benefit and harm. Thus, every supplication or praise or veneration accompanied by this belief and feeling is worship.” (1:40)
Al-Ibada (االْعِبَادَةُ ) or "servitude" (rather than worship) is a duty because we collectively made a primordial covenant with God to submit and serve, in order to please him. Allah is that which deserves to be worshipped, revered and served. As such we have been endowed with psychological and spiritual needs that are designed to fully conform with this duty, which when fulfilled, bring peace, tranquillity and happiness.
What is Worship (Servitude)?
Al-Ibada (االْعِبَادَةُ ) is often translated as worship, but is more specifically "servitude". It is a wider notion than secular worship that usually comprises dogma and rituals. It refers to all acts that please God, that he has said he loves. One could use the phrase 'worshipful acts' to describe the servitude intended here - every act can be worshipful depending on its nature and reason it is undertaken.
The Hanbali jurist Ibn Taymiyyah is representative of the scholarly consensus on this:
الْعِبَادَةُ هِيَ إسْمٌ جَامِعٌ لِكُلِّ مَا يُحَبُّهُُ ااَّللُه ويَرْضَاهُ مِنَ الأَقْوَالِ وَالْأَعْمَالِ الظَّاَهِرَةِ وَالَْباطِنَةَِ.. "Ibada is a collective name of all that Allah loves and is pleased by, of both hidden and manifest acts and statements." (Ibn Taymiyyah, Majmu' al-Fatawa, Vol. 10, p. 149)
Note: this is an excerpt from a detailed answer to the question Why does God ask us to Worship him?