First and foremost: the word ‘worship’ is not found anywhere in the Reading. Again, the religionists have twisted the meaning of a simple word in the book.
The essence of the Book is that all humans need to lead a righteous way of life according to the prescribed covenants by upholding their commitments and keeping them pure. No one can fulfil these commitments through acts of worship or ritual prayer. A person should observe his commitments through the individual act of consenting towards the providence of His master.
Wama qolaq-tul jin-ni wal-ain-sa il-laa li-ya’budun. (51:56)
And I did not create the jinn and the humans except for serving Me. (51:56)
In one sentence, the Reading has explained our purpose here on earth. We are created to serve, not to worship. We have been created in the grand design to serve by deeds (and not merely by thoughts or words). The misrepresentation of the word serve (ta’budu) to mean worship has had a dire effect on the Islamic landscape.
The words serve1 and worship have different meanings in the context of this discussion. The former signifies serving God by doing good deeds in keeping with what we know to be His laws. The latter is a concentrated feeling of respect or admiration and love for the dead idols or icons and is demonstrated through rituals, pilgrimages, and the singing of hymns, etc. The word ‘serve’ ta’budu or ya’budun is derived from the word ‘abd which means servant (and not worship). All humans are servants of God. Therefore they have to serve and consented themselves (sujud) to Him alone. There are several derivatives from the word ‘abd (servant). For example, the following verse is in reference to Jesus the son of Mary and the assigned energies (mala-ika)2 closest to God.
Laiyas-tabkifu masih’u ai-yakuna a’bdan lil-lah wa-lal-malaikatu muqor-robun. Waman yas-tankifu ‘an-‘ibada-tihi was-yastakbir fa-sayah shuru-hum ilai-hi jami’an. (4:172)
Never will the Messiah disdain being a servant (a’bdan) of God nor will the assigned energies. Those who disdain serving (ibada-tihi) Him and are arrogant, surely He will gather them to Him, all of them. (4:172)
The Messiah was pure but he was not disdainful of being a servant to God. It is the duty of a servant to serve his master. The duty of a believer is to serve God by upholding the commitments and not to ‘worship’ Him in the sense of bowing and scraping. It would seem strange for any household to have a platoon of servants worshipping their employer. Where would be the logic in it?
As servants we are expected to look towards Him and praise Him like the rest of His creations in the heavens and the earth.
O mankind, you are the ones in need towards God, and God, He is the affluent the praised. (35:15)
He does not need our petty sacrifices of food or self-imposed pilgrimages. He does not need our presence in Mecca. In fact He does not need our promises. If we have pledged a promise, it is our duty to fulfil that promise for our own good. He wants us to put His words into action. A servant has to observe his commitments or he become useless.
Of course, one can argue that God does not need our service either. This is true. It is we who benefit from being true in our service to Him. By these means, we justify the responsibility of free choice granted us and grow to our full potential. We become fully what we were meant to be. We become true to our truest nature. This is God’s will, and it is for our good.
Similarly, there are energies that are specially assigned making them close to God and they also serve their master. The word ‘abdan in this verse means servant. The same verse also uses another derivative i.e. ibada-tihi to mean doing service for Him. The Messiah and the assigned energies did not worship God. They were too busy doing His work and serving Him.
We can also find a similar derivative from the root word ‘abd in the Reading which means serving and not worship:
Wa-nah-nu lahu a’bidun (2:138)
And Him are we serving (2:138)
Was-alman arsalna min qoblika min-rosulina aj’alna min-dunir-rohman ali-hatan ya’budun. (43: 45)
And ask those whom We have sent from before you among the messengers if We have set other than the Merciful as gods for them to be served. (43: 45)
Simply put, all service is through deeds. The world is full of good intentions but intentions alone are not enough.
The seven verses in the introductory surah3 of the Reading are recited by the followers of the Arab religion during each of their five ‘mandatory’ daily prayers. The religionists deceived them by ascribing the word na’budu (serve) in 1:5 to mean worship. This word is derived from the root ‘abd which means servant. Instead of declaring to God that they will serve Him alone without associating Him with anything, they say they ‘worship’ Him. God has never commanded anyone to worship Him.
The essence of the first part Al Fatihah is that God’s attributes encompass His dominion over the deen of everything in existence in the heavens and the earth. He is the absolute ruler of the orderly system in this world and in the Hereafter. The first four verses say, ‘With the name of God, the Most Compassionate, the Merciful. Praise be to God the Lord of the Universe, the Most Compassionate and the Merciful. The Ruler of the day of the order‘. And then, as servants to our Lord we pledge that we will uphold our covenant to serve him from what we are about to read from His guidance – a guidance which says at the outset of the very next chapter, ‘This Book is infallible, a guidance for the observant who believe in the unseen, and they uphold their commitments……‘
1:5 should properly be read as:
Eiya-ka-na’budu wa-eiya kanas-ta’ain. (1:5)
You alone we serve and You alone we ask for help. (1:5)
This is followed by:
Guide us in the straight path, a path of those whom you blessed, and not of those who deserve wrath, or those who strayed. (1:6-7)
Here, the request is to seek His help in guiding us on the straight path that He had blessed. Logically, the only way God guides His servants is through His revealed Scriptures; certainly not through the performing of ritual prayer. Instead of translating their services into practical acts according to what He has ordained in His Book, the religionists offer only lip-service by repeating: ‘You alone we worship, and You alone we ask for help‘ seventeen times per day (the five daily rituals consist of 2, 4, 4, 3, 4 units in each ritual prayer at dawn, midday, afternoon, evening and night).
These verses clearly say we declare that we will serve Him alone, put our trust in Him to seek His mercy and blessings to guide us to the right path in His deen. God is the only one who can guide His servants to the straight path. No one else can do this, not even the prophets:
You cannot guide those you love. God is the one who guides whomever He wills because He is the only one who is fully aware of those who deserve the guidance. (28:56)
There is no such thing as ‘holy people’ who can guide another to the straight path. These so-called holy people will ultimately themselves become idols to their followers.
God is the Lord of those who believe. He leads them out of the darkness into light. While those who disbelieve, their lords are the idols. They lead them out of the light into darkness. They have deserved the Fire as their eternal retribution. (2:257)
The Reading is telling us that the ‘holy men’ will take people out of the light into darkness and lead their followers into hell-fire. None of us can escape from these ‘holy men’ as long as he belongs to a religion.
Upon a critical reading of the Reading it becomes clear that we cannot ‘butter up’ our Master – the one who gave us this life – by worshipping Him through rituals. There is no barter system involving the performance of rituals. We receive the guidance from God through His mercy – mercy to which we are not entitled. In order to qualify we are simply required to serve God by fulfilling our covenant with Him. That is the contract with Him, and is binding upon us until we breathe our last. There is not a single verse in the Reading commanding humans to worship the Creator.
1 Collin Cobuild: Serve something such as a company, community or your country, you work for it in order to benefit it.
2 The word mala-ika is derived from the root MLK which means functional power or unseen energies at work. There is no such thing as angels floating around the space. Religionists borrowed the description of the Bible to promote this wrong idea. Malik is one who is in power and Mulk is the Supreme Power that rules – an attribute to God.
3 Al-Fatihah, the first surah of the Qur’an.