Among the many causes of Muslim downfall, one major cause is Parastish or mindless and ritualistic acts of worship. The Quran has in numerous passages given the order for obedience. But sad to say that at present there is not even a mile of land where obedience of Allah is taking place. This is so because we Muslims have failed to differentiate between worship and obedience and our entire emphasis is on Parastish. There are concrete organisations whose members are not only involved in Parastish themselves but they also invite others to it. Parasitish has no limits. When we do not find solace in the five daily prayers then we perform Ishraq and Tahajud prayers! When we are not satisfied with a hundred bead Tasbeeh then we make it into one thousand. At Data Darbar “Amal” on ayah-kareema is done. Worship makes one oblivious from the responsibilities of this world as it is claimed that its results are concerned only with afterlife. Thus worldliness does not matter. There is a certain charm and attraction in worship. Musa (pbuh) and Harun (pbuh) were both mighty Messengers of Allah. They had brought their followers to the Sinai valley. When Musa went to Mount Tur, Samiri took advantage of his absence and misled his people:
“He said: Lo! We have tried thy folk in thine absence, and As-Samiri hath misled them.” 20:85
We should estimate that despite the training by two mighty Messengers of Allah people fell to the sway of Samiri and started worshipping the calf. Here along with the skill of Samiri the weakness of the people of Musa also needs to be realised as worship was something embedded deep within their psyche. The emotional pressure of worship had befallen upon them and they were stooped to it, failing the training that their Messengers had imparted to them.
The Quran has very well differentiated between obedience and worship however if one has decided to close his eyes then there is no remedy available. So in this regard we should consider the clarification of the noble Quran.
Muhammad (pbuh) had established a social order built on humane foundations. During his lifetime, this social order was spread over a million square miles. Such a vast expanse of land was not ruled by one individual, rather Muhammad (pbuh) had appointed regional rulers in every town and city. This was in the hierarchy like we have today e.g. deputy commissioner, inspector General, superintendent etc. The Quran terms these regional administrators as Ulal-Amr and made their obedience compulsory. A natural consequence of appointment of Ulal-Amr was that a social order came into being and its obedience became obedience to Allah and His Messenger. Even a person with basic intelligence can comprehend that with obedience of regional administrators a social order came into existence. There were two important outcomes that came about with this social order. First that with the introduction of a social order the Quran made rule of man over man as unlawful. This was a noble stage for humanity as it became subservient to Divine laws under this social order and attained true freedom. Man is free when he is not subservient to man made rule but purely to the Divine law. Secondly the personal obedience of the Prophet (pbuh) came about through obedience to the Islamic government. Whoever would be obedient to the Islamic social order would in essence be obedient to the Prophet (pbuh). The Quran consolidated this obedience by declaring that whoever obeyed the messenger had obeyed Allah so it was clear that this obedience was not that of the personal wishes of the Prophet (pbuh).
Now obedience to the laws prevailing in the Islamic social order would be true obedience while surpassing this social order would comprise Parastish or worship. To ritualistically and mindlessly perform nafl prayers, to sit in aitikaaf, to build mosques from ill gotten earnings, to make a wanton display during Ramadan; all such may be acts of personal worship but they do not constitute obedience to the Islamic social order. During individual worship one thinks he has a direct relationship with God and does not feel the need of a messenger or worldly authority whereas for obedience a connection with Allah is made by following the social order brought by the messenger of Allah.
At present as there is not prevailing an Islamic social order anywhere therefore there is no obedience to Allah and His Messenger taking place. Neither in India, nor in England. Neither in Saudi Arabia nor in Iran. Obedience to Allah and His Messenger takes place through a social order and for it a living authority is required. In it first people listen and then they obey. “And they say we hear and we obey..” 2:285
(2) At another passage it is stated “I you who believe, obey Allah and obey the Messenger and turn not away while you hear.” 8:20
In personal worship the condition of “while you hear” is not necessary. In the aforementioned Allah and His Messenger refer to the Islamic social order. While Allah and His Messenger are in dual, the pronoun “anhu” (from Him) is singular grammatically and alludes to the obedience of the head of state. For worship a living authority is not needed while for obedience a living authority whose orders are heard and implemented is mandatory.
(3) Allah says: “So take guard of Allah as much as you are able and listen and obey.” 64:16
For obedience, it is apparent from the above verse, that firstly orders are listened to from a living authority and then such are followed. For worship, hearing is not required but for obedience it is necessary. Allah says: “Surely the statement of believers whenever they are called to Allah and His Messenger that he may judge between them is: we hear and we obey. They are the prosperous.” 24:51
Whatever our differences may be, their resolution through the Messenger of Allah is mandatory. Such words are meant for verbal repetition but they are the corner stone of faith and disbelief. A living authority makes a decision which becomes binding. This is the Islamic social order whose obedience is mandatory.
In this regard though there are many verses, we suffice with only four in which difference between worship and obedience is highlighted. Worship is done on a personal and private basis but obedience is through a living authority whose orders are attentively heard and followed. Another difference between worship and obedience is that the results of the former are not attained in this world but are claimed only for afterlife whereas obedience begets its result in this world and it becomes clearly known whether true obedience was taking place or not.
Allah says: “And they swear their strongest paths by Allah that if you order them, they would go forth. Say: Do not swear, obedience is known.” 24:52
In above it can be seen that people were making excuses before the Prophet for not participating in Jihad. It was said to them that
obedience is not all talk only. Obedience is about action which can be observed, which is known, and seen. And such is the proof of Imaan (belief). Eta’at is Maruf, this means that it is known and visible and its results are visible and concrete. The Quran has cited Maruf as proof of Eta’at. The verse after the above orders to obey Allah and His Messenger and links guidance with obedience, and gives the resultant as: “Allah has promised those who believe and do righteous deeds that He will give them succession on land.” 24:52
This is the consequence of obedience. The same verse amplifies that their Deen will be well established and their condition of fear will change into that of peace. We should reflect as to how the results and fruits of obedience are related by the verses. In the aforementioned verse the Quran has used the word Fil Ard (on Earth) which gives special attention to the point that the goal of obedience is not merely for afterlife but also in this world. Had the words Fil Ard not been mentioned our religious leaders would have termed the kingdom acquired through obedience as a “spiritual kingdom” as worship has no bearing on the earth, it is solely concerned with the afterlife.
Our subject matter to distinguish between Eta’at and Parastish comes to a conclusion.
Through this essay we aimed to rectify the misconception prevailing among Muslims that worship and obedience are one and the same thing. The results of Parastish are destruction whereas the result of Eta’at is a peaceful and prosperous society (24:52).
But the question arises as to from where did Parastish originate from?
It originates from the faulty understanding of Rooh or spirit, an understanding which is prevalent among all mankind. At the time of Quranic revelation too this concept was widespread. It is the proof of Divine origin of the Quran when it affirms the concept of Rooh of Allah while denying the existence of Rooh of man. Details of this subject can be found in our book “Roohaniyat a hurdle in Establishment of Deen”. Here we summarise the subject as follows:
The word Rooh has occurred in the Quran in about twenty instances. Out of which in about seventeen occasions it refers to revelation, the bringer of revelation and the recipient of revelation. While in three instances it refers to the breathing of spirit (15:25, 38:72, 32:9).
Life evolved slowly and gradually to the animal stage after hundreds of thousands of years. When life had to progress further Allah gave it an energetic capability from Himself which the Quran called Rooh. When this energy refers to Allah then it is called as Rooh but when man possesses it, it is referred to as Nafs. It is one energy which is bestowed to the entire human species and makes it distinct from the animals. Commonly it is held that man is a combination of body and soul but the Quran terms man a combination of body and Nafs. As the Quran does not accept the existence of Rooh of man, it has not given any details for its training. Our scholars and Sufis devised such of their own accord. They made Rooh an antithesis matter and taught that matter was something to be shunned and despised. According to them whoever shunned the material would progress to the spiritual. The development of Rooh was thought to occur by acts of worship or Parastish. This was done in seclusion in forests, mountains, and abandoned places by certain reciting mantras.
Those who believed in Rooh of man did not need any society to live in. They aren’t concerned with either democracy or communism. They are also against knowledge as they believe in only esoteric means of knowledge. That is why any nation that is engrossed in spirituality is bound to perish. Against this, the Quran recognises the Nafs and suggests ways for its growth and development.
“Hast thou not turned Thy vision to those who claim sanctity for themselves? Nay-but Allah Doth sanctify whom He pleaseth. But never will they fail to receive justice in the least little thing.” 4:49
The Nafs or the self is developed by following God’s laws. For this revelation of God is necessary. Apart from Quran their is neither the concept of Nafs nor any methods for its development.
It is said in Sura Noor:
“Had it not been for the grace of Allah and His mercy unto you, not one of you would ever have grown pure. But Allah causeth whom He will to grow. And Allah is Hearer, Knower.” 24:21
Advocates of Spirituality claim to develop the spirit through worship. Apart from themselves they have no concern for anyone else as it is their own spiritual development that they aim for. They have no sympathy for others and no regard for their societies problems but are engrossed only in their own “spirituality”. Against this selfish behaviour, the growth and development of the Nafs is by caring for our fellow man.
“Who giveth his wealth that he may grow (in goodness).” 92:18
“..(latter), but give them preference over themselves, even though poverty was their (own lot)..” 59:9
The human self or Nafs develops by observing permanent values. By following permanent values an exemplary society comes into existence. Of these values, respect for humanity is an important one.
“And indeed We have honoured the children of Adam.” 17:70
The Quran addresses all humanity and states: ” He (Allah) created you from a single self.” 4:1
Thus on account of birth no one has a privilege over another.
The Quran has laid great emphasis on justice. It says:
“Surely Allah commands you to do justice.” 16:90
Justice is a value which cannot be ignored under any circumstances. Even though if one were at enmity with another, even still he has to be just with him.
“..and do not let the hatred of a people prevent you from being just. Be just; that is nearer to righteousness.” 5:8
We do not wish to prolong the essay further as if permanent values were listed and commented upon it would require much space. The point to consider is that through Roohaniyat or spirituality the world sees only despondency but when we consider the development of the Nafs then by its development we establish a just and fair society. Quranic laws and permanent values are trustees for a just and fair society.
(Tolu-E-Islam, June 2016)