This series is a study of concepts that feature prominently in The Quran. The words representing these concepts appear tens, if not hundreds, of times and form the backbone of its philosophy. This study is based on my own personal method of study called ‘Qira’ah Wujudiyyah’ (QiWu) or ‘An Existential Reading’. It does not necessarily represent any other Quranist although our methods may overlap. The point of QiWu is to transcend any religious or historical connotation but rather to find a meaning that fits our experience of life.
‘Ibaadah ( عبادة) is a foundational idea in The Quran, appearing more than three hundred times in various forms. I have chosen to translate the word as ‘worship’ which readers may indicate the performance of rituals. This is, however, not what I mean at all. ‘Worship’ in English has a wide variety of connotations including servitude, devotion and attachment. I believe these meanings are contained in the Quranic concept rather than rituals.
In this essay, we will consider the close relationship with the concept of ‘deen’ or religion. This seems to be intuitive, that ‘religion’ and ‘worship’ has a close connection. But Quran goes deeper into expounding the relationship between the two with a number of related concepts, adding more to the dimensions of this relationship.
1. The concept of ownership in the period of religion
In the very first occurrences of these two words, the opening chapter itself, these two concepts are already next to each other
1/3: Owner of the period of religion (yawm ad-deen)
1/4: You alone we worship and you alone we seek optimisation
As we mentioned in the first part of series, worship here is linked closely to seeking a heightened state of life performance. In addition to that, we should also notice that religion is present in the previous verse. The ‘period of religion’ indicates a time when the community is directing itself towards the divine system. The word ‘owner’ (maalik) shows that in this system, Allah is ultimately the owner and that we are merely the trustees of His resources.
2. The concept of worship related to divine governance
The concept of governance or ‘hukm’ appears hundreds of times in Quran in various forms. However, there seems to be only verse, Chapter 12 Verse 40, which connects the concepts of worship and governance:
You worship nothing besides Him except names which you have crafted- you and your fathers,- for which Allah has sent down no authority: the governance is for none but Allah: He has commanded that you worship none but Him: that is the religion which establishes, but most men understand not
There are a few things to notice here. The first is, worship (ta’budu) is mentioned twice with governance (hukm) mentioned in between. This creates a bracketing effect. It highlights the centrality of Allah’s judgements in our lives. It implies that we must follow divine laws in order to worship Him.
The second thing to notice is that the word ‘religion’ here is connected with the word ‘that which establishes’ (al-qayyim). This shows that, with the adherence to divine laws, our religion becomes an agent of establishment of our selves and community.
The third thing is, the opposite of these are names which we and our ancestors have crafted. This shows they have no basis in reality itself since Allah does not descend for them any authority.
3. The relationship of worship and religion with our self-expression and philosophy of action.
When we worship Allah in the mode of His requirement, our expression of selves and philosophy of actions will reorientate. We are told in Chapter 10 Verse 104:
'Say: "O people! If you are in doubt as to my religion, so observe that I worship not what you worship, other than Allah! But rather I worship Allah – who will fulfils you: I am commanded to be in essence one of those who secure (10/104)
The people in doubt must be able to see what the speaker proposes. They are in doubt about his religion so he tells them that he worships Allah alone and points to his fulfilment and this manifests as his secure position in life. The passage continues:
And set your expression towards the religion with devotion, and never in any wise be of the associators.
Nor call on any, other than Allah;- Such will neither profit thee nor hurt you: if you do you shall certainly be of the oppressors (10/105-106)
This is the process that follows. The Reader is told to express himself with the religion and to not associate these values with any other. This constitutes invoking Allah. Calling on any other divine laws will not profit or hurt us.
Summary: one aspect of worship (‘ibaadah) is the relationship to religion (deen). This entails in giving ownership back to Allah, adherence to His laws as well as reorientating ourselves and actions to the framework given by Him.
Next: worship as expressed by the messengers.