The Meaning of Worship

December 27, 2009

The definition of worship

The meaning of the word “ˆibaadah” in Arabic, which is the word translated as worship in English means “obedience with humbleness,” as stated in dictionaries “Al-Mişbaaĥ Al-Muniir,” “An-Nihaayah Fiy Għariib Al-Ĥadiitħ,” and “Al-Qaamuus Al-Muĥiiţ.” There is no question, however, that merely being humbly obedient to someone is not equivalent to worship. To reach to the meaning of actual worship, we would have to say: “the most extreme humility that is only deserved by the one that has the greatest status.” This is the definition stated by Al-Aşbahaaniy in his famous dictionary “Mufradaat Al-Qur’aan”.

What is this extreme humility that is the meaning of worship? It is not merely the most extreme physical act of humility, which is to prostrate. This is true, because the Qur’aan states that the angels prostrated to Adam, and that the brothers of Prophet Yuusuf prostrated to him. Clearly this act of humility that constitutes worship then, needs an act of the heart.

What is this act of the heart? It can only be to believe that the one humbled to has an attribute of godhood, a divine attribute, such as the power to independently influence events. This is the most humble feeling the heart can have, and ultimate humility cannot be achieved without this.

Based on this preface we can define worship as: the most extreme humility with the belief that the one humbled to has an attribute of godhood.

Aļļaah said:

وَمِنَ النَّاسِ مَنْ يَتَّخِذُ مِنْ دُونِ اللَّهِ أَنْدَادًا يُحِبُّونَهُمْ كَحُبِّ اللَّهِ وَالَّذِينَ آَمَنُوا أَشَدُّ حُبًّا لِلَّهِ [البقرة : 165]

Meaning: “Among the people are those who ascribe to Aļļaah equals, and they love them as they love Aļļaah, but the Muslim Believers love Aļļaah more than the idolaters.”

This aayah explains what worshiping other than Aļļaah is. It is to consider Him to have an equal in some sense, as the idolaters did not consider the idols absolutely equivalent to Aļļaah. Second, it is to allow the heart to equalize the love of Aļļaah to the love of something else. I am saying “allow the heart” because a human is only accountable for what he can control.

Explaining Al-Faatiĥah, Ibn Jariir Aţ-Ţabariyy states:

The interpretation of (إيَّاكَ نعبُدُ) (literally: You we worship) is: For You, O Aļļaah, we humbly submit, accept humiliation, and surrender in obedience, in confirmation of You alone being the Creator and absolute owner of everything, and no one else.

قال أبو جعفر: وتأويل قوله (إيَّاكَ نعبُدُ) : لك اللهم نَخشعُ ونَذِلُّ ونستكينُ ، إقرارًا لك يا رَبنا بالرُّبوبية لا لغيرك.(تفسير الطبري , 1 / 157)

As you can see, Aţ-Ţabariyy sees the meaning of worship as being a combination of humility and belief. The belief part he states as, “in confirmation of You alone being the Creator and absolute owner of everything, and no one else.”

Some deviant individuals in this day and age claim that calling a person who is dead, or absent constitutes worship of that person. They also claim that saying something like “O Aļļaah, I ask You by Your Prophet to give so and so!” is worshiping the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم). This does not, however, fit the linguistic meaning of worship, because it does not necessarily involve believing that the called has divine attributes, nor does it mean an ultimate act of humility, not that one believes that the prophet deserves the same love as Aļļaah.

Moreover, if an average, unlearned Muslim should do any of this, he does not understand any of this to be worship of other than Aļļaah. This is because he knows that the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) does not deserve to be worshiped, and that he is only a human being. He also does not believe that Aļļaah needs an intercessor or that the intercessor knows everything or has any other divine attribute. He merely understands from this that calling the Prophet, or asking by him, increases the hope of his needs to be answered. The reason for this being that there is no one more likely to get what he asks Aļļaah for than the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم), or that mentioning the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) in his supplication to Aļļaah makes it a blessed supplication by the blessing of the Prophet’s name (صلى الله عليه وسلم). This is no different than the people asking the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) for intercession on the Day of Judgment.

What we are left with then is the question whether it means worship in terms of the teachings of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم), that is, in light of the Qur’aan and ĥadiitħs.

The difference between worship and taking something as a means (Tawassul)

Before getting into more detail, it is essential to distinguish between the worship (ˆibaadah) of something and taking something as a means (wasiilah) to an end. The person who worships other than Aļļaah to gain His acceptance is indeed a blasphemer, but the one that takes prescribed means to gain His acceptance has done something prescribed: Aļļaah said in the Qur’aan (Al-Maa’idah, 35):

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آَمَنُوا اتَّقُوا اللَّهَ وَابْتَغُوا إِلَيْهِ الْوَسِيلَةَ”

Interpretation: “O You Who Believe, fear Aļļaah, and seek means (wasiilah) to gain His acceptance.”

The means (wasiilah) referred to in the aayah must be something that complies with the teaching of Islaam, that is, with the Qur’aan, ĥadiitħs narrated, and confirmed ijmaaˆ consensus of top scholars of a previous generation. One such means is to supplicate to Aļļaah by the Prophet Muĥammad, called Tawassul in Arabic.

To understand the meaning of Tawassul, consider a person who has angered his bigger brother and asks him to forgive him saying: “forgive me, not because of me, but because of mother.” This does not mean that he is worshiping his mother, but that he is mentioning their mother as a reason for his brother’s forgiveness. He is reminding him that their mother loved both of them and would be pleased if they remained on friendly terms. He is using his mother as a means (wasiilah) for getting his brother’s forgiveness. No one in their right mind would claim that this person has worshiped his mother.

Similarly, he might ask his mother to ask his brother to forgive him, because he knows that his mother’s word carries more weight with his brother than his own. This does not mean that he is worshiping his mother either.

When someone asks through an intercessor, such as “O Aļļaah, I ask You by the Prophet, to give me so and so,” it is in fact more worship than simply asking without mention of the intercessor. This is because a Muslim makes both duˆaa’ and asks through the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) based on knowing his rank. These are two acts of worship, because by asking for intercession he is submitting to Aļļaah by showing love for the intercessor that Aļļaah has given a high rank. The opposite of this was what Ibliis did. He did not want to accept the high rank of Adam. So the intercessor is doing the opposite of what Ibliis did.

Asking an intercessor directly for help (istigħaatħah)

Asking an intercessor directly, or istigħaatħah, is not as good as making tawassul by saying something like, “O Aļļaah, I ask You by the Prophet,” but there is no harm in this either. This is because someone who says, “O Jiilaaniyy, help!” he only means to ask for help from someone more likely than himself to be successful in getting what he wants, because of his high rank. So it is just asking another creation for help, and choosing the one called for help based on the persons rank in Aļļaah’s judgment. He does not believe that the person is able to bring anything into existence, or has real influence on any event. In other words, he believes that the asked is a created being owned by Aļļaah, and without the ability to do anything other than what Aļļaah has created. This is not worship, because he does not think that the person asks has any attribute like Aļļaah, or that he deserves submission and humility like Aļļaah.

It does not matter if the person is dead or alive, present or not, because none of that implies attributing godhood to the person called. The reason is that the person does not believe that hearing or action of any creation can happen unless Aļļaah has willed and created it. Moreover, the hearing of the dead is established by the scholars based on the authentic ĥadiitħs which state that the buried dead kuffaar of Quraysħ heard the Prophet’s (صلى الله عليه وسلم) speech to them, and the ĥadiitħ which states that a dead person hears footsteps around his grave. In other words, no one can claim that the caller has contradicted a basic belief by implying that the dead can hear.

See also this:

Ibn Al-Qayyim argues for the validity of calling the dead

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Ibn Taymiyyah approves of the claim that Aļļaah sits

December 16, 2009

Ibn Taymiyyah condones of the claim that Aļļaah sits saying:

It has been narrated through the acceptable scholars and Muslim saints (‘awliyaa’) that Muĥammad, the Messenger of Aļļaah (صلى الله عليه وسلم) will be seated by His Lord on His throne with Him. 1

قال ابن تيمية في مجموع الفتاوى – (4 / 374) فَقَدْ حَدَثَ الْعُلَمَاءُ الْمَرْضِيُّونَ وَأَوْلِيَاؤُهُ الْمَقْبُولُونَ : أَنَّ مُحَمَّدًا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ يُجْلِسُهُ رَبُّهُ عَلَى الْعَرْشِ مَعَهُ .

This is further to the quotes we have shown earlier regarding Ibn Taymiyyah’s extremely blasphemous anthropomorphism, which includes affirming 6 physical boundaries, divisibility in the mind’s eye due to size, ability to shrink, possibility of being hit by a bucket, having the world physically inside of Him, and more. See the table of contents for details.

All of this, of course, he claims is affirmed by the Qur’aan and the Sunnah and the Salaf and Muslim saints! Such statements of his are buried in ridiculously long books saying very much about very little, and that is why some scholars did not discover him, and praised him based on other things. Those who did discover him, however, such as Taqiyyu-d-Diin Al-Ĥuşniyy, the famous Shaafiˆiyy jurist and author of the widely studied fiqh manual “Kifaayatu-l-‘Akħyaar” called him “an absolute kaafir (zindiiq – which originally means fire worshiper, but later used to mean a particularly mean kaafir),” and alluded to how he considered having his remains extracted from his grave and burned in public as an admonition to the public.

1Aĥmad Ibn Taymiyyah (728 AH) Al-Ĥarraaniyy, Majmuuˆu-l-Fataawaa, 4 / 374.


Wahabi contention: Al-Baaqillaaniyy believed Aļļaah’s aboveness to be in the sense of location

December 13, 2009

The wahabis are claiming that Al-Baaqillaaniyy is an “early ‘Ashˆariyy” and quote him to show, as they claim, that the so called “early ‘Ashˆariyys” believed Aļļaah to be in a location above the Arsh. They quote him, saying:

And if someone says: Where is He? It is said to him: Asking where (al-ayn) is asking about place (al-makaan) and He is not one that a place (makaan) is permitted to enclose (yahwee), and nor [one that] places can encompass. Except that we say: Indeed He is Above His Throne, [but] not with the meaning of a body [being as such] through contact and adjacency, Exalted is He above that with a Lofty Exaltation.

As you can see, Al-Baaqillaaniyy explicitly denies place, and even the validity of asking “where?” Yet the wahabis claim that this is somehow different from saying Aļļaah’s aboveness is not in the sense of direction or location. In other words, they claim that he means that Aļļaah is located above the throne, in a direction to be pointed at, yet not a body. We have shown previously that this is a nonsensical idea.

This is not what Al-Baaqillaaniyy means, and I suspect they know that, but they will go very far in defending their ideas, even forgery and lies. An example being when they claim that there is a difference between “bringing into existence in Himself” and “creating in Himself” to defend their idea that Aļļaah brings about changes in Himself, a plain kufr belief. The father of their kufr and verbose word games, Ibn Taymiyyah, was much more explicit than they are, openly stating that Aļļaah has a size and six limits, i.e. a body, even if he does not usually call it that.

Here is an explicit statement showing that Al-Baaqillaaniyy did not mean that Aļļaah is in a direction:

And Aļļaah, (تعالى) is neither ascribed with directions, nor that He is in a direction. 1

قال الباقلاني في كتابه الإنصاف : والله تعالى لا يوصف بالجهات، ولا أنه في جهة. 2

He also said:

If someone said, “How is He?” then it is said to him, “If you mean by howness composition, form or kind, then (the answer is that) He has no form or kind to tell you about. If you meant by “how is He?” to ask, ”What is His attribute?” then the answer is that He is attributed with Life, Knowledge, Power, Hearing and Seeing. If you meant by “How is He?” to say, “How does He deal with His creation?” then the answer is: “By justice and grace.” 3

قال الباقلاني (ت 403 هـ) في [التمهيد : "فإن قال قائل وكيف هو قيل له إن أردت بالكيفية التركيب والصورة والجنسية فلا صورة له ولا جنس فنخبرك عنه. وإن أردت بقولك كيف هو أي على أي صفة هو فهو حي عالم قادر سميع بصير. وإن أردت بقولك كيف هو أي كيف صنعه إلى خلقه فصنعه إليهم العدل والإحسان" اهـ

So for those who need to be spoon-fed, I hope that would be enough. All Al-Baaqillaaniyy is doing is saying that Aļļaah is ascribed with aboveness, but not in the sense of direction, just as many of the Salaf did, like Aţ-Ţabariyy. They did not explain it further, and simply left it at that. This is what we call tafwiiđ. Then there are those that explain it further, such as Al-Qurţubiyy in this quote.

Note that the wahabis have also claimed explicitly or implied that Abuu Ĥaniifah, Al-Qurţubiyy, An-Nawawiyy and Al-ˆAsqalaaniyy believed Aļļaah to be in a direction. We have shown previously shown this to be false. If you are interested, click on their names to see.

1Abuu Bakr Al-Baaqillaaniyy (338 h. – 403 h.), Al-Inşaaf, 177.

2الباقلاني, الإنصاف, 177.

3Abuu Bakr Al-Baaqillaaniyy (338 h. – 403 h.), Tamiid, 300.


Abuu Bakr Al-Baaqillaaniy, Al-Qaađii al-Baaqillaaniy (338 h. – 403 h.)

December 11, 2009

Muĥammad ibn Al-Ţayyib ibn Muĥammad ibn Jaˆfar, Abuu Bakr Al-Baaqillaaniy, Al-Qaađii al-Baaqillaaniy (338 h. – 403 h.) was the head of the Asħˆariyys/ Sunnis of his time. He wrote many books, some of which are in print (Al-‘Aˆlaam, 6/176).

Al-Dħahabiyy in his “Taariikħu-l-Islaam” V. 28, P. 89 relates that Al-Baaqillaaniy was once sent by the Muslim ruler to debate the Christian scribes of the Roman Emperor. When he arrived to the emperor’s hall they had made the entrance to the emperor very low, to the extent that one had to bow down in order to enter. Al-Baaqillaaniy realized that it was a trick to make him bow to the emperor, so he turned and entered back end first. Once there, he turned to one of the monks and said, “How are the wife and kids?” Astonished, the emperor replied, “Do you not know that the monk elevates himself having a wife or kids?” Al-Baaqillaaniy closed his trap by quickly replying: “You consider him above this, but you do not consider Aļļaah to be clear of and above having a female companion and child?” He was also mockingly asked, “What happened to ˆAa’isħah?” They were referring to the time that she, the Prophet’s wife, was accused by the hypocrites of having been unfaithful. They wanted to make him lose his temper by their insinuations. Al-Baaqillaaniy answered: “Like what happened to Maryam. (They were both accused of adultery), then they were both declared innocent by Aļļaah, and Maryam brought a baby, while ˆAa’isħah did not.” They could find no response to this, because he had shown them that permitting the slander of ˆAa’isħah would imply permitting ugly and heretical slander of Maryam even more1.

1الأعلام للزركلي – (ج 6 / ص 176): القاضي الباقلاني (338 – 403 ه = 950 – 1013 م) محمد بن الطيب بن محمد بن جعفر، أبو بكر: قاض، من كبار علماء الكلام. انتهت إليه الرياسة في مذهب الاشاعرة. ولد في البصرة، وسكن بغداد فتوفي فيها. كان جيد الاستنباط، سريع الجواب. وجهه عضد الدولة سفيرا عنه إلى ملك الروم، فجرت له في القسطنطينية مناظرات مع علماء النصرانية بين يدي ملكها. من كتبه (إعجاز القرآن – ط) و (الانصاف – ط) و (مناقب الائمة – خ) و (دقائق الكلام) و (الملل والنحل) و (هداية المرشدين) و (الاستبصار) و (تمهيد الدلائل – خ) و (البيان عن الفرق بين المعجزة والكرامة الخ – خ) و (كشف أسرار الباطنية) و (التمهيد، في الرد على الملحدة والمعطلة والخوارج والمعتزلة – ط) (1).

تاريخ الإسلام ج28/ص89: قلت أخذ ابن باقلاني علم النظر عن أبي عبد الله محمد بن أحمد بن مجاهد الطائي صاحب الأشعري وقد ذهب في الرسلية إلى ملك الروم وجرت له أمور منها أن الملك أدخله عليه من باب خوخة ليدخل راكعاً للملك ففطن لها ودخل بظهر ومنها أنه قال لراهبهم كيف الأهل والأولاد فقال له الملك أما علمت أن الراهب يتنزه عن هذا فقال تنزهونه عن هذا ولا تنزهون الله عن الصاحبة والولد وقيل إن طاغية الروم سأله كيف جرى لعائشة وقصد توبيخه فقال كما جرى لمريم فبرأ الله المرأتين ولم تأتِ عائشة بولد فأفحمه فلم يُحر جواباً