By Khawaja Azhar Abbas

When Imam Hussain (R.A.) was enquired about the meaning of Samad,
he replied that the words that followed Samad in Sura Ikhlas explained
the concept that Samad is that being which neither begets nor is
begotten and nothing is like Him. How clear is the Qur’an in giving its
own meaning of Samad and how meaningful was the great Imam’s
method in Quranic exegesis. Wherever it is that the Quran provides its
own commentary through its own words, and then it is so
comprehensive and elaborated that there is no room for multiple
interpretations. The Quran has explained Ibadat in a similar manner and
left no room for alternate meaning by stating .

“…the free (Hur) for the free, the slave (Abd) for the slave…” 2:178

Here the Qur’an has brought the word Hur in contrast with the word
Abd and has made it clear that an Abd is a slave to his master and not his
worshipper. By bringing Hur in contrast with Abd, the meaning of Abd is
clear. A slave is obedient to the commands of his master; he does not
worship or adore him. In another verse, the Qur’an has itself made the
meaning of Abd clear by stating:

“…a slave (Abd) [who is] owned and unable to do a thing …” 16:75

Imam Raghib has interpreted this verse as a slave who is in complete
dominion of another. Thus it is clear from this that an Abd is one who is
in control of another and he is not merely his worshipper. By the
aforementioned verses the concept of Abd is so clear that they leave no
room for multiple interpretation. In religions other than Islam, worship is
the dominant concept, and it has so much attraction that people are
drawn to it and think that the purpose of life is Parastish or mindless and
ritualistic worship.
We Muslims too seem to be under this impression and since the first era
when Deen Islam became a religion, we too have considered Parastish
as the sole end of faith. While in fact it is Parastish which is the foremost
cause of our decline. We have made all the pillars of our Deen as pillars
of worship. And when someone elaborates that these pillars are not acts
of worship then we are hesitant to accept this because we are too used
to Parastish since a long time.

The Quran has used Ibadat in the sense of subservience. It has no
relation with Parastish. In this regard we have presented two verses as
the basis of this concept namely that in the meaning of Abd, obedience
to law is implied and never worship. To consolidate this view we present
more verses. Allah states:

(1) “…government belongs only to God; He has commanded that you

shall not serve (TABUDOO) any but Him…” 12:40

In this verse if we consider Ibadat to be Parastish then the meaning will
become nonsensical, namely that government belongs to Allah and that

you should worship Him! God’s worship can be done in any
government? But for Ibadat, it is subservience, which is meant in this

(2) “They said, "Should we believe two men like ourselves while their
people are for us in servitude (ABIDOON)?" 23:47

In this verse no meaning other than obedience and subservience fit in
because the people of Musa (pbuh) and Harun (pbuh) did not worship
the pharaoh but were enslaved by him.

After elaborating the meaning of Ibadat in a context of Deen, we will
now shed light on those terms that have attained a symbolic status due
to religious influences. The basic difference between the pillars of Deen
and rituals of religion is that the results of the former are manifest in this
world, while the latter do not have any impact on worldly life, but it is
said that they concern only with the hereafter. Whenever we see that a
pillar of Deen is not producing worldly results, we should understand
that it has not remained a part of Deen but has become a mere religious

(3) Among the rites of Parastish in our society, the foremost is that of
Namaz. It is common knowledge that the word Namaz is of Persian
origin and does not occur in the Qur’an. In the Qur’an, the term Salat
has occurred. Salat is a pillar of Deen and the Qur’an has stated itself
that its result is that it stops from indecency and wrongdoing (29:45),
while to rule by Divine law in society is also its component (20:17).

In order to understand the concept of Salat it is expedient that the
concept of Ruh (Spirit) and Nafs (Self) be expounded. In the Qur’an we
find a mention of Ruh of Allah but nowhere do we find any mention of
Ruh of man. The unique ability that man has been bestowed with has
been called as Nafs in the Qur’an, and it has made it clear that
development of Nafs is the foremost purpose of life. From this emanate
two divergent views of life.

Religion is based entirely on the concept of Ruh or spirit, whereas Deen
is based on the concept of Nafs. In religion spiritual development is on
the basis of renunciation of the world and practice of certain religious
rituals, whereas in Deen Nafs gets nourishment by following permanent
values. As it is only in a society in which permanent values can be
followed, therefore the formation of an Islamic society become a
necessity. In a non Islamic government or in isolation and solitude, the
Nafs or human self does not find development.

The procedure of development of the Nafs is such that when there is a
clash between personal interest and permanent values, then the former
is not preferred over the latter. By obeying the permanent values, the
human personality finds growth and development. That is why it is
necessary to establish an Islamic government to develop the Nafs. It is
said in the Qur’an:

“[He] who gives [from] his wealth to grow his self.” 92:18

At another passage it is said:
“And [also for] those who were settled in al-Madinah and [adopted] the
faith before them. They love those who emigrated to them and find not
any want in their breasts of what the emigrants were given but give
[them] preference over themselves, even though they are in privation.
And whoever is protected from the stinginess of his Nafs – it is those who
will be the successful.” 59:9

It is established from these and many other verses like them that by
caring and looking after the needs of others we care and develop our
own persons. In accordance with the Qur’an development of the Nafs is
a necessary part of Islamic society and not by solitary worship. And it is
this unique principle, which establishes the Divine origin of the Qur’an,
namely that the human intellect cannot come up with such a code of

Here we must also clarify while elaborating on the subtle difference
between Salat and Namaz that the Tolu-E- Islam movement does not
undermine the importance of Namaz. Whoever is associated with this
movement, upholds and diligently performs the prayers just like anyone
else. And whoever rejects the Namaz while citing the movement as its
rationale has in fact put forth a false charge on Tolu-E- Islam movement.

The basic difference between Namaz and Salat is that they both
represent opposite viewpoints. The basis of Namaz is the existence of
man’s Ruh or spirit and every person is responsible for his individual

purification. This purification is independent of the society at large as it
is a personal and private affair and is done as an act of worship. Worship
sees no bounds. If the five daily prayers do not give inner peace then
extra prayers are also offered as consolation. If a hundred bead-prayer
rosary is not enough than one longer in length is employed. The next
and final stage after prayer and worship is that of Tasawuf whose
ultimate aim is renunciation of the world. As personal salvation is its
goal, it makes one selfish. In contrast Salat represents Nafs instead of
Ruh. In it one develops his personality by living in a society and by
providing nourishment to others. As personal salvation is not the sole
aim in Salat it develops a feeling of altruism and sense of compassion to
help others. Namaz advocates a solitude, whereas Salat advocates a
collective life. Namaz is purely Parastish, while Salat is obedience and
subservience as in it one continuously obeys the Divine laws and cannot
be personal and private. In all passages where Salat occurs in Quran the
word Iqamat (to establish) has also occurred, which signifies that Salat is
to be established and it is not something to read. The type of Namaz
that we read today, this is also a part of Salat. In it Rukoo and Sujood
(Bowing and prostration) signify that we surrender fully to the Divine
social order, that we accept it and are obedient to it. If through Namaz
we were to add the process of consultation for running the affairs of the
government then this Namaz would become Salat and become a pillar
of Deen and its results will also start to manifest them selves. Although
the results of our Namaz are not appearing today, still its protection and
preservation is our duty.

After Namaz, fasting and Hajj are considered as pillars of Deen and the
justification for Parastish is derived from these. While both fasting and
pilgrimage are part of Deen, there is no relationship between them and
Parastish. Along with distinct goals, both these acts have the common
objective “To magnify Allah over that which He has guided you.” (22:37,
2:185). The focus of both these institutions is to establish an Islamic
social order. They have no link with Parastish.

(4) Taqwa is also understood as Parastish in our society, however it has
no link with it. To obey every order of Quran is Ibadat and Ibadat has the
rank of hukm, that is why Ibadat of Allah does not constitute Parastish.
The Quran orders that we should investigate matters and not take
arbitrary action on hearsay (6: 69). When we obey this order then we
are doing Ibadat and you are obeying the commands of Allah. In another
verse the command is given:

“Do not enter homes other than your own unless you taken permission
and have saluted the inmates..” (27:24)

When we obey this order and refrain from entering people’s homes
without permission then we are doing Ibadat of Allah. A verse states:

“if you are travelling and do not find a scribe then give something as a
pledge.” 2:283

When you give something as a pledge, then you are doing Ibadat of

The same situation is for Taqwa. For it, Parastish is not necessary but to
be obedient to commands of Allah results in Taqwa as the verses below

1- “O you who believe, take guard of Allah and speak that, which is
right.” 33:70

Thus when we speak to the point then we have Taqwa.

2- “O you who believe, take guard from Allah and give yp what remains
from Usury if you are believers.” 2:278

Here to give up usury is identified as Taqwa.

3- “Take guard of Allah and reconcile between people.” 8:1, 2:224

Here to reconcile between people is called Taqwa.

4- “And cooperate with one another in righteousness and Taqwa, and do
not cooperate with one another in sin and aggression.” 5:2

Taqwa means to be obedient to the commands of Allah. Parastish has
no bearing with it.

5- “O you who believe, take guard of Allah and be among the truthful.”

To be in the company of the truthful is Taqwa as Deen is a collective life.

6-“..And take guard of Allah and listen carefully..” 5:108

Here to listen carefully to the instructions has been related with Taqwa.

7- Those who have Taqwa make wills (2:180) Thus to make a will is part
of Taqwa.

8- In 2:241 the act of provision to divorcees is called an act of Taqwa

9- In 2:179 to act on Qisas has been termed as an act of Taqwa.

10- “Be just that is closer to Taqwa..” 5:8

Here Justice has been called as closer to Taqwa. Thus many verses like
above establish that to be obedient to the commands of Allah is Taqwa,
while Parastish has no remote connection with the term.

(5) Zakat – Similarly Zakat is also a pillar of Islam. It means to provide
nourishment to mankind. It does not mean Parastish. As we do not
consider it as an act of Parastish, we feel no need to provide evidence
from Quran to establish its meaning.
(6) Jihaad – This too is not considered an act of Parastish, therefore
there I no need to establish its import from verses.

(7) Dhikr – Usually this is considered as chanting of the names of Allah or
to read specific incantations. However the Quran does not use this term
in this meaning. According to Quran Dhikr Allah implies that one should
keep the laws of Allah in front of him in each and every facet of life. The
Quran does not distinguish between a Mosque and a battle zone. As the
mosque is a place where Quranic orders are issued, similarly the battle
zone too is a place where divine injunctions are carried out and obeyed.
The Quran states:

“O ye who believe! When ye meet a force, be firm, and call Allah in
remembrance much (and often); that ye may prosper: -“ 8:45

It also lays out the rules of battle by stating:

“O ye who believe! when ye meet the Unbelievers in hostile array, never
turn your backs to them. –“ 8:15

“If any do turn his back to them on such a day – unless it be in a
stratagem of war, or to retreat to a troop (of his own)- he draws on
himself the wrath of Allah, and his abode is Hell,- an evil refuge (indeed)!
–“ 8:16

This is the law, which when kept in consideration results in Dhikr Allah.
This Dhikr is possible only in the battlefield and not by Parastish.
Similarly to reflect and ponder on the phenomenon of nature and the
universe is Dhikr Allah (3:190), to draw lessons from the history of
perished nations is Dhikr Allah (12:120), and it is further said that by

Dhikr Allah the hearts find tranquility (13:28). This was the tranquility
that was given in the battle of Badr when the companions of the
Prophet (pbuh) fought a force thrice their size and emerged victorious.
About that event it is said:

“And Allah made it not except as [a sign of] good tidings for you and to
reassure your hearts thereby. And victory is not except from Allah, the
Exalted in Might, the Wise –“ 3:126

When Allah’s laws are kept in mind, then even in a battlefield one finds
tranquility. Such is never attained in solitude and in an ascetic life.

(8) Tasbeeh – Whenever we come across the word Tasbeeh, our mind
goes off to the rosaries that people read on beads. However during the
time of Quranic revelations, the Arabs did not have any tradition of
prayer beads. It was through the Buddhists that this tradition began and
passed on to Christians and Persian Zoroastrians who eventually
introduced them to the Muslims. However the Quran does not use the
word Tasbeeh in this sense. The word literally means to work for
something to the full effort. This word has been used for the objects of
nature as well as for human beings. When it refers to the objects of
nature then it implies the completion of the Divine programme. For the
objects of nature to remain engrossed in their natural work is their

“And the thunder exalts [ Allah ] with praise of Him – and the angels [as
well] from fear of Him – and He sends thunderbolts and strikes therewith

whom He wills while they dispute about Allah ; and He is severe in
assault.” 13:13

Thunder does not read prayer beads. For the Sun to emit heat, for the
water to rise up, for the crops to yield fruit – all such natural
phenomenon perform their Salat and Tasbeeh.

As far as the Tasbeeh of human beings is concerned, it means to be fully
devoted and to act to one’s fullest for the divine programme. In relation
to the event of Prophet Yunus (pbuh) it is said:

“And had he not been of those who exalt Allah (Musabiheen), He would
have remained inside its belly until the Day they are resurrected.”

Yunus pbuh made strenuous efforts and freed himself from the jaws of
the fish. If he had not done this Tasbeeh he would have stayed in its
belly till the day of judgment.

Tasbeeh of human beings is also made clear in the narrative of Musa
(pbuh). When he was commissioned to deliver the message to the
Pharoah, he requested that his brother Haroon (pbuh) accompany him
for the fulfillment of the divine programme (20:33). Musa (pbuh) was

“Go to Pharaoh. Indeed, he has transgressed." 20:24

To this order Musa had prayed:

[Moses] said, "My Lord, expand for me my breast [with assurance]. And
ease for me my task. And untie the knot from my tongue. That they may
understand my speech. And appoint for me a minister from my family.
Aaron, my brother. Increase through him my strength. And let him share
my task. That we may exalt You much. And remember You much.” 20:25-

Here it is obvious that the word Tasbeeh does not refer to reading beads
and making invocations but to strive to the full effort as was the
vocation of Musa and his brother while confronting the mighty Pharoah.
Hence the meaning of Tasbeeh are to strive fully to implement the
Divine programme, it does not mean Parastish.

(9) Allah states: “And from [part of] the night, pray with it as additional
(TAHAJUD) for you; it is expected that your Lord will resurrect you to a
praised station.” 17:79

The word Tahajud in the above verse means something extra or
supererogatory. Many among us who perform the five prayers also pray
the Tahajud prayer, although this was exclusive to the Prophet (pbuh).
Among traditionalists Tahajud is considered a preferential act of worship
and its benefits are voiced from their circles. Tafseer Zia Ul Quran
mentions the spiritual benefits of Tahajud as:

“ Now we mention that special kind of prayer which was made
compulsory on the beloved of Allah (pbuh). This is the Tahajud prayer.
When everyone is asleep and there is complete silence then at such an

hour the Prophet was to rise and perform Sujood in subservience to his
Lord. The result of this is said to be raising the prophet to Maqam-E-
Mahmood which when witnessed by all creation would result in their
utmost and highest praise.” (Volume 2, page 678)

In a footnote of Urdu translation of Quran by Shaikh al Hind, it is stated
by Maulana Usmani:

“Maqam-E- Mahmood is the rank of Shafa-at or intercession. When no
Prophet will be able to speak, it is then that the Prophet (pbuh) will
intercede on behalf of his people to save them from punishment. At that
juncture everyone will praise the prophet and Allah will also praise him.
The splendor of Muhammad (pbuh) will occur fully at that moment.”

We can see that such narratives are concerned with the element of
worship and parastish. In contrast the Prophetic example and that of his
companions was a life of practical action and intense efforts to
implement the Divine programme. During the daytime he had
responsibilities to implement the Deen and did not have any time for
personal reflection on the Qur’an.

“Indeed, for you by day is prolonged occupation.” 73:7

That is why he was ordered that during the night he should devote
himself to Quran as that was a time of peace and serenity. When the
Divine programme was implemented and its results were manifest and
its benefits visible to all, it was at that time that people would praise the

Prophet for he had delivered the Divine code fully to them and they
were now witnessing its fruits. This would be about the establishment of
Deen in this world and not something reserved solely in the afterlife, as
it is depended upon by Religion and Parastish.

(Monthly Tolu-E- Islam, October 2011)

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