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A Study in the Philosophy of Islamic Rites

Rites enjoy an important role in Islam. Their injunctions represent an important part of jurisprudence and a worshipping conduct which formulates a noticeable phenomenon in the daily life of the pious. The system of rites in Islamic jurisprudence represents one of its static facets which cannot be affected by the general trend of life or the circumstances of civil progress in man’s life except by a small portion, contrary to other judicial aspects which are flexible and dynamic. The method of application and utilization of these judicial aspects is affected by the circumstances pertaining to civil progress in man’s life, such as the system of deals and contracts.

Rites enjoy an important role in Islam. Their injunctions represent an
important part of jurisprudence and a worshipping conduct which formulates a
noticeable phenomenon in the daily life of the pious.

The system of rites in Islamic jurisprudence represents one of its static facets
which cannot be affected by the general trend of life or the circumstances of
civil progress in man’s life except by a small portion, contrary to other
judicial aspects which are flexible and dynamic. The method of application and
utilization of these judicial aspects is affected by the circumstances
pertaining to civil progress in man’s life, such as the system of deals and
contracts.

In the sphere of worship, the man of the age of electricity and space prays,
fasts, and performs the pilgrimage just as his ancestor from the age of the
stone mill used to pray. fast. and perform the pilgrimage .

It is true, however, that in the civil aspect of getting prepared to perform a
rite. this person may differ from that: for this travels to his place of
pilgrimage in a plane, while that used to travel with a camel caravan. And when
this covers his body-while saying his prayers or during other occasions-with
clothes manufactured by machines, that covered his body with clothes he
hand-sewed. But the general formula of worship, as well as its method and
legislation, is the same. The necessity of its application has never suffered
any change, nor has its legislating value been affected or shaken by the
continuous growth of man’s control over nature and his own means of living.

This means that Islamic Sharia (Jurisprudence) has not prescribed prayer,
fasting, pilgrimage, and other Islamic rites temporarily, or as a juridical
formula limited to conditions such Sharia lived in its early epochs of history.
Rather, it enjoined these rites on man while he uses atomic energy to mobilize
the engine, just as it has enjoined them on man while ploughing his field with a
hand plough.

Thus do we derive the deduction that the system of rites deals with the
permanent needs in the life of man, for whom they are created, and which remain
the same inspite of the continuous progress in man’s life-style. This is so
because the application of a fixed prescription requires a fixed need. Hence,
this question comes up:

Is there really a fixed need in the life of man ever since jurisprudence started
its cultivating role, remaining as such until today, so that we may interpret-in
the light of its stability-the stability of the formulae whereby jurisprudence
has treated and satisfied this same need, so that in the end we can explain the
stability of worship in its positive role in man’s life?

It may seem, at first look, that to suggest such a fixed need of this sort is
not acceptable, that it does not coincide with the reality of man’s life when we
compare today’s man with the man of the future. We certainly find man getting
continuously further-in the method, nature of problems, and factors of progress
of his own life-from the circumstances of the tribal society, his pagan
problems, worries, limited aspirations, and the method of treating and
organizing these needs, wherein appeared the concluding jurisprudence.
Therefore, how can rites-in their own particular juristic system-perform a real
role in this field which is contemporary to man’s life-span, inspite of the vast
progress in means and methods of living? If rites such as prayers, ablution,
ceremonial washing (ghusul), and fasting had been useful during some stage in
the life of the bedouin man- taking part in cultivating his behaviour; his
practical commitment to clean his body and keep it from excessive eating and
drinking- these same goals, by the same token, are achieved by modern man
through the very nature of his civilized life and the norms of social living.
So, it would seem that these rites are no longer a necessary need as they used
to be once upon a time, nor have they retained a role in building man’s
civilization or solving his sophisticated problems !

But this theory is wrong. The social progress in means and tools- for example,
in the plough changing in man’s hand to a steam or electric machine-imposes a
change in man’s relationship to nature and to whatever material forms it takes.
Take agriculture, for example, which represents a relationship between the land
and the farmer; it develops materially in form and context according to the norm
of development described above.

As regarding worship, the latter is not a relationship between man and nature,
so that it would be affected by such sort of development or progress. Rather, it
is a relationship between man and his Lord. This relationship has a spiritual
role which directs man’s relationship to his brother man. In both cases.
However, we find that humanity historically, lives with a certain number of
fixed needs faced equally by the man of the age of oil (i.e:, animal oil used
for lighting) as well as that of the age of electricity. The system of rites in
Islam is the fixed solution for the fixed needs of this sort, and for problems
whose nature is not sequential; instead, they are problems which face man during
his individual, social and cultural build-up. Such a solution, called "rites,"
is still alive in its objectives until today, becoming an essential condition
for man to overcome his problems and succeed in practicing his civilized
vocations.

In order to clearly know all this, we have to point out some fixed lines of
needs and problems in man’s life, and the role rites play in satisfying such
needs and overcoming such problems.

These lines are as follows:

1) the need to be linked to the Absolute
2) the need for subjectivity in purpose and self-denial
3) the need for inner feeling of responsibility to guarantee execution

The system of rites is a way to organize the practical aspect of the
relationship between man and his Lord; therefore, it cannot separate his
evaluation from that of this very relationship and of its role in man’s life.
From here, both of these questions are inter- related:

First: What is the value achieved through the relationship between man and his
lord in his civilized march? And is it a fixed value treating a fixed need in
this march, or is it a sequential one linked to temporal needs or limited
problems, losing its significance at the end of the stage limiting such needs
and problems?

Second: What is the role played by rites as regarding that relationship and what
is the extent of its significance as a practical dedication to the relationship
between man and God?

What follows is a summary of the necessary explanation concerning both
questions:

The Link Between The Absolute Is A Two-Fold Problem

The observer, scrutinizing the different acts of the stage-story of man in
history, may find out that the problems are different and the worries
diversified in their given daily formulas. But if we go beyond these formulas,
infiltrating into the depth and essence of the problem, we will find one main
essential and fixed problem with two edges or contrasting poles wherefrom
mankind suffers during his civilized advancement along history. Looking from one
angle, the problem is loss and nonentity which is the negative side of the
problem. And from another angle, the problem is extreme in entity and belonging.
This is expressed by connecting the relative facts to which man belongs to an
Absolute, thus expressing the positive side of the same problem. The Concluding
Jurisprudence (of Islam) has given the name "atheism" to the first problem,
which it expresses very obviously, and the name "idolatry" and Shirk (believing
in one or many partners with God) as also an obvious expression of it. The
continuous struggle of Islam against atheism and Shirk is, in its civilized
reality, a struggle against both sides of the problem in their historical
dimensions.

Both angles of the problem meet into one essential point, and that is: deterring
man’s advancing movement from a continuously good imaginative creativity. The
problem of loss means to man that he is a being in continuous loss, not
belonging to an Absolute, to Whom he can support himself in his long and hard
march, deriving help from His Absolutism and Encompassment, sustenance, and a
clear vision of the goal and joining, through that Absolute, his own movement to
the universe, to the whole existence, to eternity and perpetuity, defining his
own relationship to Him and his position in the inclusive cosmic framework. The
movement at loss without the aid of an Absolute is but a random movement like
that of a feather in the wind, the phenomena around it affect it while it is
unable to affect them. There is no accomplishment or productivity in the great
march of man along history without a connection to and promulgation with an
Absolute in an objective march.

This same connection, on the other hand, directs the other side of the problem,
that of extreme entity, by changing the "relative" to an "absolute," a problem
which faces man continuously. Man weaves his loyalty to a case so that such
loyalty freezes gradually and gets stripped of its relative circumstances within
which he was accurate, and the human mind will derive out of it an "absolute"
without an end, without a limit to responding to its demands. In religious
terminology, such an "absolute" eventually changes to a"god" worshipped instead
of a need that requires fulfillment. When the "relative" changes to an
"absolute," to a "god" of this sort, it becomes a factor in encircling man’s
movement, freezing its capacities to develop and create, paralyzing man from
performing his naturally open role in the march:

Do not worship another "god" beside God else you should become forsaken. (Quran
17:22)

This is a true fact applicable to all "gods" mankind made along history, albeit
if they were made during the idolatry stage of worship or its succeeding stages.
From the stage of tribe to that of science, we find a series of "gods" which
mankind treated as an "absolute" and which deterred mankind, who worshipped
them, from making any accurate progress.

Indeed, from the tribe to which man submitted his alliance, considering it as an
actual need dictated by his particular living circumstances, he went then to the
extreme, changing it to an "absolute," without being able to see anything except
through them. Hence, they became an obstacle in his way for advancement.

It was to science that modern man deservedly granted alliance, as it paved for
him the way to control nature. But he sometimes exaggerated such an alliance,
turning it to an absolute alliance, with which he was infatuated, an "absolute"
to worship, offering it the rites of obeisance and loyalty, rejecting for its
own sake all ideals and facts which can never be measured by meters or seen by
microscopes.

Accordingly, every limited and relative thing, if man wove out of it, at a
certain stage, an absolute to which he thus relates himself, becomes at a stage
of intellectual maturity a shackle on the mind that made it, because of its
being limited and relative.

Hence, man’s march has to have an Absolute.

And He has to be a real Absolute capable of absorbing the human march, directing
it to the right path no matter how much advancement it achieves or how far it
extends on its lengthy line, wiping out all "gods" that encircle the march and
deter it.

Thus can the problem be solved in both of its poles. Such a remedy is shown by
what Divine Jurisprudence has presented man on earth: The Belief in God as the
Absolute to Whom limited man can tie his own march without causing him any
contradiction along his long path.

Belief in God, then, treats the negative aspect of the problem, refusing loss,
atheism and non-entity, for it places man in a position of responsibility: to
whose movement and management the whole cosmos is related. Man becomes the
vicegerent of God on earth. Vicegerency implies responsibility, and a reward man
receives according to his conduct, between God and resurrection, infinitude and
eternity, while he moves within such a sphere of responsible and purposeful
movement.

Belief in God also treats the positive aspects of the problem-that of the
extreme in entity, forcing restrictions on man and curbing his swift
march-according to this manner:

First This aspect of the problem is created by changing the limited and relative
to an "absolute" through intellectual exertion and by stripping the relative of
its circumstances and limitations. As for the Absolute provided by the belief in
God, this has never been the fabrication of a stage of the human intellect, so
that it may become, during the new stage of intellectual maturity, limited to
the mind that made it. Nor has it ever been the offspring of a limited need of
an individual or a group, so that its becoming absolute may place it as a weapon
in the hand of the individual or group in order to guarantee its illegal
interests. For God, the Praised, the Sublime, is an Absolute without limits, one
whose fixed Attributes absorb all the supreme ideals of man, His vicegerent on
earth, of comprehension and knowledge, ability and strength, justice and wealth.
This means that the path leading to Him is without a limit; hence, moving
towards Him requires the continuity and relative movement and a relative
acceleration of the limited (man) towards the Absolute (God) without a stop.

O thou man! Verily thou art ever toiling on towards thy Lord- painfully toiling,
but thou shalt meet Him … (Quran, 84:6)

He grants this movement His own supreme ideals derived from comprehension,
knowledge, ability and justice, as well as other qualities of that Absolute,
towards Whom the march is directed. The march towards the Absolute is all
knowledge, all potential, all justice and all wealth. In other words, the human
march is a continuously successive struggle against all sorts of ignorance,
incapacity, oppression and poverty.

As long as these are the very goals of the march related to this Absolute, they
are, then, not merely a dedication to God, but also a continuous struggle for
the sake of man, for his dignity, for achieving such supreme ideals for him:

And if any strive (with might and main), they do so for their souls: for God is
free of all needs from all creation. (Quran. 29:6)

He, then, that receives guidance benefits his own soul: but he that strays
injures his own soul. Nor art thou set over them to dispose of their affairs. (Quran,
39:41)

On the contrary, whimsical absolutes and false gods cannot absorb the march with
all its aspirations, for these manufactured absolutes are the children of an
incapable man’s brain, or the need of the poor man, or the oppression of the
oppressor; therefore they are jointly are linked to ignorance, incapacity and
oppression. They can never bless man’s continuous struggle against them.

Second: Being linked to God Almighty as the Absolute Who absorbs all of the
aspirations of the human march means at the same time rejecting all of those
whimsical absolutes which used to cause excessive entity. It also means waging a
continuous war and an endless struggle against all sorts of idolatry and
artificial worship. Thus, man will be emancipated from the mirage of these false
absolutes which stood as an obstacle in his path towards God, falsifying his
goal and encircling his march:

But the Unbelievers, their deeds are like a mirage in sandy deserts, which the
man parched with thirst mistakes for water; until when he comes up to it, he
finds it to be nothing: but he finds God (ever) with him. (Quran, 24:38)

Are many lords differing among themselves better, or the One God, Supreme and
Irresistible? If not Him, ye worship nothing but names which ye have named, ye
and your fathers, for which God hath sent down no authority. (Quran, 12: 39-40)

Such is God your Lord: to Him belongs all Dominion. And those whom ye invoke
besides Him have not the least power. (Quran, 35:13)

If we consider the main slogan God put forward in this respect: "There is no god
but Allah," we will find out that it links the human march to the True Absolute
with the rejection of every artificial absolute. The history of the march, in
its living actuality, came across the ages to emphasize the organic link between
this rejection and that strong and aware tie to God Almighty. For as far as he
goes away from the True God, man sinks in the labyrinth of different gods and
lords. Both rejection and the positive link to "There is no god but Allah" are
but two faces for one fact: the fact which is indispensable to the human march
along its lengthy path. It is but the Truth which is worthy of saving the march
from loss, helping it exploit all its creative energies, emancipating it from
each and every false and obstructing absolute.

Rites Are Practical Expressions

Just as man was born carrying in him all potentials of the experience on life’s
stage, plus all seeds of its success, such as awareness, activity and
conditioning, so was he born tied by nature to the Absolute. This is so because
his relationship with the Absolute is one of the requirements of his own success
whereby he overcomes the problems facing his civilized march, as we have already
seen, and there is no experience more sustaining and inclusive, more meaningful,
than this of Faith in man’s life. It has been a phenomenon attached to man since
time immemorial During all stages of history, such a social and continuous
attachment proves-through experience-that escaping towards the Absolute,
aspiring towards Him from beyond borders lived by man, is a genuine inclination
of man no matter how diversified the shapes of such inclination are, how
different its methods and degrees of awareness.

But Faith, as an instinct, is not enough to guarantee bringing to reality an
attachment to the Absolute in its correct form, for that is linked to the Truth
through the method of satisfying such an instinct. The correct behaviour in
satisfying it in a manner parallel to all other instincts and inclinations,
being in harmony with it, is the only guarantee of the ultimate benefit of man.
Also, the behaviour according to or against an instinct is the one that fosters
the instinct, deepens, eliminates or suffocates it. So do the seeds of mercy and
compassion die within man’s self through the continuous and practical
sympathizing with the miserable, the wronged, and the poor.

From this point, Faith in God, the deep feeling of aspiring towards the unknown
and the attachment to the Absolute have all to have some direction which
determines the manner of satisfying such feeling and the way to deepen it,
fixing it in a way compatible with all other genuine feelings of man.

Without a direction, such feeling may have a setback and may be afflicted with
various sorts of deviation, just like what happened to the strayed religious
feeling during most epochs of history.

Without a deepened conduct, such feeling may become minimized, and the
attachment to the Absolute ceases to be an active reality in man’s life capable
of exploiting good energies.

The religion which laid the slogan of "There is not god but Allah," promulgating
with it both rejection and affirmation, is the Director.

Rites are factors which perform the role of deepening such feeling, for they are
but a practical expression and an expression of the religious instinct; through
it this instinct grows and gets deepened in man’s life.

We notice, too, that in accurate rites-being a practical expression of the link
to the Absolute-both affirmation and rejection promulgate. They are, thus, a
continuous confirmation from man to his link with God Almighty and the rejection
of any other "absolute" of those false ones. When one starts his prayers by
declaring that "God is Great" (Allaho Akbar), he confirms this rejection. And
when he declares that God’s Prophet is also His Servant-Slave and Messenger, he
confirms this rejection. And when he abstains from enjoying the pleasures of
life, abstaining from enjoying even the necessities of life for the sake of God
(as in the case of fasting), defying the temptations and their effects, he, too,
confirms this rejection.

These rituals have succeeded in the practical sphere of brining up generations
of believers, at the hands of the Prophet (peace be upon him) and his succeeding
pious leaders, those whose prayers embodied within their own selves the
rejection of all evil powers and their subjection, and the "absolutes" of Kisra
and Caesar got minimized before their march as did all "absolutes" of man’s
whims.

In this light do we come to know that worship is a fixed necessity in man’s life
and civilized march, for there can be no march without an "absolute" to whom it
is linked, deriving from him its ideals. And there is no "absolute" that can
absorb the march along its lengthy path except the True Absolute (God), the
Glorified. Besides Him, artificial "absolutes" definitely form, in one way or
another, an absolute which curbs the march’s growth. Attachment to the True
Absolute, then, is a fixed need. And there can be no attachment to the True
Absolute without a practical expression of this attachment, confirming it and
continuously fixing it. Such a practical expression is none but worship.
Therefore, worship is a fixed need.

Subjectivity Of Purpose And Self-Denial

In each stage of the human civilization, and in each period of man’s life,
people face numerous interests whose achievement requires a quantitative action
to some degree. No matter how diversified the qualities of these interests are
or the manner of brining them to life from one age to another is, they can still
be divided into two sorts of interests:

One: interests whose materialistic gains and outcomes go to the individual
himself, on whose work and endeavour depends the achievement of that interest;

Two: interests whose gain go to those other than the direct worker or group he
belongs to. In this second kind are included all sorts of labour which aim at an
even bigger goal than the existence of the worker himself, for every big goal
cannot be usually achieved except through the collective efforts and endeavours
of a long period of time.

The first sort of interests guarantees the inner motive of the individual: its
availability and effort to secure it, for as long as the worker is the one who
reaps the fruits of the interest and directly enjoys it, it is natural to find
in him the effort to secure it and the work for its sake.

As for the second kind of interests, here the motive to secure these interests
is not sufficient, for the interests here are not only the active worker’s; and
often his share of labour and hardship is greater than that of his share of the
huge interest. From here, man needs an upbringing of subjectivity of purpose and
self-denial in motive, i.e., that he must work for the sake of others, the
group. In other words, he has to work for a purpose greater than his own
existence and personal materialistic interest. Such an upbringing is necessary
for the man of the electricity and atom age as it equally is for the man who
used to fight with the sword and travel on camel-back. They both confront the
worries of construction and of the great aims and situations which demand
self-denial and working for the sake of others, sowing the seeds whose fruits
may not be seen by the person who sowed them. It is necessary, then, to raise
every individual to perform a portion of this labour and effort not merely for
his own self and his personal materialistic interests, so that he will be
capable of contributing with self-denial, of aiming at a purely "objective"
goal.

Rites perform a large role in this upbringing. These, as we have already seen,
are acts of man performed for the sake of achieving the pleasure of Almighty
God. Therefore, they are invalid if the worshipper performs them just for his
own personal interest. They are improper if the purpose behind them is a
personal glory, public applause, or a dedication for his own ego, within his
circle and environment. In fact, they even become unlawful acts deserving the
punishment of the worshipper himself! All this is for the sake of the worshipper
who tries, through his worship, an objective purpose, with all what this implies
of truthfulness, sincerity and he will totally dedicate his worship to Almighty
God alone.

God’s Path is purely one of the service of all humanity. Each act performed for
the sake of God is but an act for the sake of God’s servants, for God is totally
sufficient, independent of His servants. Since the True Absolute God is above
any limit, specification, not related to any group or biased to any particular
direction, His Path, then, practically equates that of ALL mankind’s. To work
for God, and for God alone, is to work for people, for the good of all the
people. It is a psychological and spiritual training that never ceases to
function.

Whenever the jurisdic path of God is mentioned, it can be taken to mean exactly
all mankind’s path. Islam has made God’s Path one of the avenues to spend Zakat,
meaning thereby: to spend for all humanity’s good and benefit. It also urged to
fight for the Cause of God in defense of all the weak among humans, calling it
Jihad, i.e., "fighting for the Path of God;"

Those who believe (in God) fight in the cause of God, and those who reject Faith
fight in the cause of Evil: so fight ye against the friends of Satan: feeble
indeed is the cunning of Satan. (Quran, 4: 76)

Besides, if we come to know that worship demands different types of endeavour,
as it sometimes imposes on man only some physical exertion, as in prayer; and
sometimes psychological, as in fasting; and other times financial, as in Zakat;
and yet a fourth one an exertion on the level of self-sacrifice or danger, as in
Jihad. If we come to know all this, we will be able to figure the depth and
capacity of the spiritual and psychological training practiced by man through
different rites for the objective purpose, for giving and contributing, for
working for a higher goal in all different fields of human endeavour.

On this basis can you find the vast difference between a person who grew up on
making endeavours to please God, brought up to labour without waiting for a
compensation on the working grounds. and that who grew up always measuring a
work according to the extent he can achieve of his own personal interest, basing
it on the gain he gets from it, not comprehending-out of this measuring and
estimating-except the language of figures and market prices. A person like this
one can be none other than a merchant in his own social practices, regardless of
their field or type.

Considering upbringing on the objective purpose. Islam has always tied the value
of a work to its own impulses, separating them from its results. The value of an
act in Islam is not in what results and gains it brings forth to the worker or
to all people; rather it is the motives behind it, their purity, objectivity and
self-denial. For example, the person who reaches the discovery of a medicine for
a dangerous disease, thereby saving the lives of millions of patients. God does
not evaluate his discovery according to the size of its results and the number
of those patients it saves from death; rather He estimates it according to the
feelings and desires which formulate within the discoverer the motive to make an
effort to make that discovery. If he did not make his effort except to get a
privilege that enables him to sell it and gain millions of dollars. This deed of
his is not considered by God to be equal except to any other purely commercial
deed, for the egoistic logic of the self-centered motives, just as they push him
to discover a medicine for a chronic disease, may as well push him in the same
degree to discover means of destruction if he finds a market that buys them. A
deed is considered commendable and virtuous if the motives behind it go beyond
the ego: if it is for the sake of God and the servants of God. According to the
degrees of self denial and the participation of God’s servant in its making, a
deed is elevated and highly evaluated.

The Inner Feeling of Responsibility

If we observe humanity in any of its historical periods, we will find it
following a particular system of its life, a specific manner in distributing
rights and responsibilities among people, and that according to the amount it
acquires of securities for its members to cling to this system and to its
implementation, it will be closer to stability and the achievement of the
general goals expected from that system.

This fact is equally true concerning the future, as well as the past, for it is
an established fact of man’s civilized march along its lengthy range.

Among the securities is that which is objective, such as penalties enforced by
the group to punish the individual who transgresses beyond his limits. And among
them is that which is inner, i.e., man’s inner feeling of responsibility towards
his social obligations, towards whatever obligations the group demands of him,
determining, spontaneously, his own rights.

In order to be an actual fact in man’s life, the inner feeling of responsibility
needs the belief in. a supervision from whose knowledge not an atom’s weight in
earth or sky escapes and to a practical application through which such a feeling
grows, and according to which the feeling of such an inclusive supervision lays
roots.

The supervision, for whose knowledge not even an atom’s weight escapes, is
created in man’s life as a result of his link with the True Absolute, the
all-Knowing, the Omnipotent, the One Whose knowledge encompasses everything.
This link with His self saves man the need for such a supervision, thus enabling
the creation of an inner feeling of responsibility.

The practical application, through which this inner feeling of responsibility
grows, materializes through practicing rites. For worship is the duty imposed by
the Unseen, and by this we mean that checking it externally is impossible. Any
external measures to enforce it can never be successful, for it stands through
the self’s own purpose and the spiritual attachment to work for God; this is a
matter which can not be included in the calculation of a subjective supervision
from the outside, nor can any legal measure guarantee that either. Rather, the
only capable supervision in this respect is the one resulting from the
attachment to the Absolute, the Unseen, the One from Whose knowledge nothing
escapes. The only possible assurity on this level is the inner feeling of
responsibility. This means that the person who practices worship is performing a
duty which differs from any other social obligation or project when he borrows
and pays back, or when he contracts and adheres to the conditions. When he
borrows money from others and he returns it to the debtor, he performs a duty
which lies within the range of social supervision’s monitoring; hence, his
estimation of the predictment of social reaction dictates to him the decision to
do so.

The ritual duty, towards the Unknown, is one whose inner implication none knows
except God, the Praised, the Omnipotent, for it is the result of the inner
feeling of responsibility. Through religious practices, such an inner feeling
grows, and man gets used to behaving according to it. Through the medium of such
feeling can we find the good citizen. It is not sufficient for good citizenship
that a person is anxious to perform the legal rights of others only because of
his apprehension of the social reaction towards him should he be reluctant to do
so. Rather, good citizenship is achieved by the man who does not relax his own
inner feeling of responsibility.

In Islam, we notice that it is often recommended to perform optional rites
secretly, rather than publicly. There are even rites which are secretive by
nature such as fasting, for it is an inner curb which cannot be checked
externally. There are rites for which a secretive environment is chosen,
avoiding the public stage, such as the nightly Nafl optional prayers whose
performance requires after midnight time. All this is for the sake of deepening
the aspect of worshipping the Unseen, linking it more and more to the inner
feeling of responsibility. Thus, this feeling gets deepened through the practice
of rites, and man gets used to behaving on its basis, forming a strong guarantee
for the good individual’s discharge of his duties and obligations.

General Outlook At Rites:

If we cast a general look at the rites we have observed in this book, comparing
them with each other, we can then derive some general outlooks at these rites.
Here are some of these general outlooks. The Unseen In Explaining Rites

We came to know previously the important role worship plays in man’s life and
that it expresses a fixed need in his civilized march.

From another aspect: if we scrutinize and analyze the particulars, in the light
of advanced science, to be acquainted with the pieces of wisdom and secrets
which Islamic jurisprudence expresses in this regard and which modern science
has been able to discover.

This wonderful agreement between the outcomes of modern science and many
particulars of Islamic jurisprudence, and whatever rules and regulations it
decided, expresses a dazzling support for the position of this jurisprudence,
deeply emphasizing its being God-inspired.

In spite of all this, however, we quite often face unseen points in worship,
i.e., a group of details whose secret cannot be comprehended by the person
practicing worship, nor can he interpret them materialistically; for why must
sunset prayer be three prostrations while the noon-time prayer more than that?
And why should each rekaa include bowing down once instead of twice, two
prostrations instead of one? Other questions of this sort can also be put forth.

We call such as aspect of worship which cannot be interpreted, "unseen." We find
this aspect, in one manner or another, in most rites brought forth by the
Islamic jurisprudence. From here, we can consider obscurity in the meaning we
have already mentioned as a general phenomenon in rites and one of their common
characteristics .

This obscurity is linked to the rites and to their imposed role jointly, for the
role of rites, as we have already come to know, is to emphasize the attachment
to the Absolute and deepen that practically. The bigger the element of
submission and yielding in a worship is, the stronger its effect in deepening
the link between the worshipper and his Lord. If the deed practiced by the
worshipper is understood at all its dimensions, clear in its wisdom and benefit
in all details, the element of submission and yielding gets minimized, and it
will be dominated by motives of interest and benefit, no more a worship of God
as much as it is a deed of benefit practiced by the worshipper so that he might
derive advantage out of it, benefiting of its results.

Just as the spirit of obedience and attachment in the soldier grows, getting
deepened through military training, by giving him orders and requiring him to
perform them with obedience and without discussion, so does the feeling of the
worshipping person grow and get deepened in its attachment to his Lord through
requiring him to practice these rites in their unseen aspects with submission
and yielding. For submission and yielding require the assumption of the
existence of an unseen aspect and the attempt not to question this unseen aspect
of worship. Demanding its interpretation and limitation of interest means
stripping worship of its reality-as a practical expression of submission and
obedience- and measuring it by measurements of benefit and interest like any
other deed.

We notice that this obscurity is almost ineffective in rites representing a
great general interest, one that conflicts with the personal interest of the
worshipper, as is the case with Jihad which represents a great general interest
which contrasts the desire of the person performing it to preserve his life and
blood, and also in the case of Zakat which represents a great interest which
contrasts the strong desire of the person paying it to preserve his wealth and
property. The issue of Jihad is very well understood by the person performing
it, and the issue of Zakat is generally understood by the person who pays it;
neither Jihad nor Zakat thus loses any element of submission and obedience (to
God), for the difficulty of sacrificing life and property is what makes man’s
acceptance of a worship-for which he sacrifices both life and property-is indeed
a great deal of submission and obedience. Add to this the fact that Jihad and
Zakat and similar rites are not meant to be merely aspects of upbringing just
for the individual, but also for the achievement of social benefits secured
thereby. Accordingly, we observe that obscurity is highlighted more and more in
rites dominated by the educating aspect of the individual, such as prayer and
fasting.

Thus do we derive the conclusion that the unseen in worship is strongly linked
to its educating role in attaching the individual to his Lord, deepening his
relationship with his Lord.

When we observe the different Islamic rites, we find in them an element of
inclusion of all different aspects of life. Rites have never been limited to
specific norms of rituals, nor have they been restricted to only needs which
embody the manner of glorifying God, the Praised, the High, like bowing,
prostrating, praying and invoking; rather, they have been extended to include
all sectors of human activity. Jihad, for example, is a rite. It is a social
activity. Zakat is a rite. It, too, is a social activity, a financial one.
Fasting is a rite. It is a nutritious system. Both ablution and Ghusu1
(ceremonial washing) are norms of worship. They are two ways of cleaning the
body. This inclusion of worship expresses a general trend of Islamic upbringing
aiming at linking man, in all his deeds and activities, with Almighty God,
converting each useful deed to worship, no matter what field or type. In order
to find a fixed basis for this trend, fixed rites were distributed to the
different fields of human activity, preparing man to train himself on pouring
the spirit of worship over all his good activities, and the spirit of the mosque
over all places of his works: in the field, the factory, the shop or the office,
as long as his deed is a good one, for the sake of God, the Glorified, the High.

In this respect, Islamic jurisprudence differs from two other religious trends,
one: a trend to separate worship from life; and the other: a trend to limit life
to a narrow frame of worship as do monks and mystics.

As for the first trend, it separates worship from life, leaving worship to be
conducted at places made especially for it. It requires man to be present in
these places in order to pay God His dues and worship Him, so much so that when
he gets out of them to different fields of life, he bids worship farewell,
giving himself up to the affairs of his life until he goes back again to those
holy places.

From here came Islamic jurisprudence to distribute the rites on the different
fields of life, urging the practice of ritual rites in each good deed. It
explains to man that the difference between the mosque, which is God’s house,
and man’s home is not in the quality of building or slogan; rather, the mosque
has deserved to be God’s house because it is the yard whereupon man practices a
deed that goes beyond his ego and wherefrom he aims at a bigger goal than that
dictated by the logic of limited materialistic interests, and that this yard
ought to extend to include all life’s stages. Each yard, whereupon man does a
deed that goes beyond his self, aiming thereby to achieve the pleasure of God
and all people, does, indeed, carry the mosque’s spirit.

As for the second trend, which restricts life in a narrow frame of worship, it
tried to confine man to the mosque instead of extending the meaning of the
mosque to include all the yards which witness a good deed of man.

This trend believes that man lives an inner conflict between his soul and body,
and that he cannot accomplish one of these two duality of worship and different
activities of life paralyze worship and obstruct its constructive upbringing
role to develop man’s motives and make the objective, enabling him to go beyond
his ego and narrow personal interests in various scopes of his deeds. God, the
Glorified and Praised, never insisted on being worshipped for the sake of His
own Person, since He is independent of His worshippers, so that He would be
satisfied with a worship of this sort, nor did He ever put Himself as the goal
and objective of the human march, so that man may bow his head down to Him
within the scope of his worship, and that is it! Rather, He meant such worship
to build the good person who is capable of going beyond his ego, participating
in a bigger role in the march. The exemplary achievement of this cannot be
reached except when the spirit of worship gradually extends to other activities
of life, for its extension-as we have already seen-means an extension of
objectivity of purpose and the inner feeling of responsible behaviour, ability
to go beyond the self to be in harmony with man within this inclusive cosmic
frame, with eternity, immortality that both encompass him.

Except at the cost of the other. Therefore, in order for him to spiritually grow
and be elevated, he has to deprive his body from the good things, shrinking his
presence on life’s stage battling continuously against his desires and
aspirations in different fields of life, until he finally achieves victory over
all of them through long abstention and deprivation and the practice of certain
rituals.

Islamic jurisprudence rejects this trend, too, because it wants rites for the
sake of life. Life cannot be confiscated for the sake of rites. At the same
time, it tries hard to ensure that a good man pours the spirit of worship over
all of his behaviour and activity. This must not be taken to imply that he has
to stop his different activities in life and confine himself between the altar’s
walls; rather. it means that he converts all his activities to rituals.

The mosque is but a base wherefrom a good man sets to conduct his daily
behaviour, but it is not limited to that behaviour alone. The Holy Prophet
(peace be upon him) has said to Abu Tharr al-Ghifari: "If you are able to eat
and drink for the sake of none save God, then do so!"

Thus, worship serves life. Its upbringing and religious success is determined by
its extension, in meaning and spirit. to all fields of life. Worship And The
Senses

Man’s perception is not merely by his senses, nor is it merely an intellectual
and non-material reasoning. It is a mixture of reasoning plus material and
non-material feeling. When worship is required to perform its function in a way
with which man interacts perfectly, and whereby it harmonizes with his
character, worship is composed of a mind and senses; worship then must contain a
sensitive aspect and a non-material intellect, so that worship will be
compatible with the worshipper’s personality, and the worshipper, while
performing his worship, lives his attachment to the Absolute with all his
existence.

From here, the intention, as well as the psychological contention of worship,
always represents its intellectual and non-material aspect, for it links the
worshipper to the True Absolute, the Praised, the High. There are other aspects
of worship whicl1 represent its material aspect:

The qibla towards whose direction each worshipper must direct his face while
praying;

The Haram, visited by both those who perform the pilgrimage and those who do the
Umrah, around which they both perform tawaf;

The Safa and Marwah, between which he runs; Jamratul Aqabah, at which he casts
stones;

The Mosque, which is a place especially made for adoration wherein the
worshipper practices his worship.

All these are things related to the senses and tied to worship: there is no
prayer without a qibla, nor tawaf without a Haram, and so on, for the sake of
satisfying the part related to the senses in the worshipper and giving it its
right and share of worship.

This is the midway direction in organizing worship and coining it according to
man’s instincts as well as his particular intellectual and sensual makeup.

Two other directions face him: one of them goes to the extreme in bringing man
to his senses, if the expression is accurate at all, treating him as if he had
been a non-material intellect, opposing all sensual expressions of his in
worship’s sphere. As long as the True Absolute, the Praised One, has no limited
place or time, nor can He be represented by a statute; then H is worship has to
stand on such a premise, and in the manner which enables the comparative
thinking of man to address the Absolute Truth.

Such a trend of thinking is not approved by Islamic jurisprudence, for inspite
of its concern about the intellectual aspects brought forth by the Hadith: "An
hour’s contemplation is better than a year’s adoration." it also believes that
pious worship, no matter how deep, cannot totally fill man’s self or occupy his
leisure, nor can it attach him to the Absolute Truth in all his existence, for
man has never been purely an intellect.

From this realistic and objective starting point rites in Islam have been based
on both intellectual and sensuous bases. The person performing his prayers is
practicing by his intention an intellectual adoration, denying his Lord any
limits, measurements. Or the like. For when he starts his prayer with Allah o
Akbar (God is Great). while taking at the same time the holy Kaaba as a divine
slogan towards which he directs his feelings and movements. he lives worship by
both intellect and feeling, logic and emotion non- materialistically as well as
intellectually.

The other trend goes to the extreme in the part related to the senses, changing
the slogan to an identity, and the hint to reality, causing the worship of the
symbol to substitute what the symbol really stands for, and the direction
towards him instead of the reality it points to; thus, the worshipping person
sinks, in one way or another, in shirk and paganism.

Such a trend totally annihilates the spirit of worship and it stops its function
as a tool linking man and his civilized march to the True Absolute, converting
it to a tool for linking him to false absolutes, to symbols which
changed-through false intellectual stripping of the matter-to an absolute. Thus,
false worship becomes a veil between man and his Lord, instead of a link between
both of them.

Islam has rejected such a trend because Islam convicted paganism in all its
forms, smashing its idols and putting an end to all false gods, refusing to take
any limited object as a symbol for the True Absolute, God, the Glorified, or as
a personification of Him. But it deeply distinguished between the meaning of the
idol which it crushed and that of the Qibla it brought, whose meaning conveys
nothing more than a particular geographic spot to have been divinely favoured
through linking it to prayers for the sake of satisfying the worshipper’s aspect
related to the senses. Paganism is really nothing but a deviated attempt to
satisfy such an aspect, and Islamic jurisprudence has been able to correct it,
providing a straight path in harmonizing between the worship of God, as being
dealing with the Absolute Who has neither limit nor personification, and the
need of man who is composed of feeling and intellect to worship God by both of
his feeling and intellect!

Conclusion The Social Aspect of Worship

Essentially, worship represents the relationship between man and his Lord. It
provides this relationship with elements of survival and stability. But this has
been formulated in the Islamic jurisprudence in a way which often made it an
instrument for the relationship between man and his brother man, and this is
what we call the social aspect of worship.

Some rituals force, by their nature, segregation and the establishment of social
relations among those who practice that ritual. For example, Jihad requires
those worshippers fighting for God to establish among themselves such relations
as would naturally happen among the corps of a fighting army.

There are other rituals which do not necessarily enforce congregating, but
inspite of this, they are linked, in one way or another, to congregation in
order to bring forth a mixture between man’s relation with his Lord and his own
relation with his brethren men.

Among prayers’ rituals is the congregation wherein the individual’s prayer
becomes a group’s worship, strengthening the ties among the group, deepening the
spiritual links among them through their unity in practicing the rituals.

The tenet of pilgrimage has definite timings and places, and each participant in
it has to practice it within those timings and places, hence, such participation
evolves as a great social activity.

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