Friday, May 21, 2010

Ibada in Islam (part 2)

This is a continuation of a past post, which can be found by following the link:

Ibada in Islam (part 1)


So what is this concept of slavery that we are getting at? Every other slavery is forced, but this slavery [to Allah] is willing. You walk into this slavery, you accept this slavery yourself. Even in Surat Al Fatiha He [Allah] did not say o'bodo (enslave yourselves, worship and enslave yourselves). Instead, we said

إِيَّاكَ نَعۡبُدُ
eeyaka na'bodo

We declared (we enter into the slavery and worship you only). That's essentially what we said. So now the uniqueness of Allah's mastery is that we enter into this slavery willingly, and secondly instead of being based on anything else, the primary drive of this slavery is that the master is not hated ... the master is loved. It's a different kind of slavery. What were those five conditions that I was referring to before [i.e. in the beginning of the talk on slavery]?

The first of them is actually love. To be a slave of Allah, you have to love Allah. You can't be considered a slave until you love him. And what that love goes to mean is that everything else you love must be less than the love you have for Allah, and everything else you love must be dictated by the love you have for Allah. So you cannot love your wife or your children or your family or whatever, unless that love is taba'an ... it's underneath/in submission to the love you have for Allah. That's the first condition of slavery.

The second is obedience. [la ta'aten le makhlooqen fi ma'seyat al khaliq] the messenger, Allah's Peace and Blessings be upon him, said. I.e.: there is no obedience to the creation while disobeying the creator. In other words, yes you have to obey other things like you have to obey your boss, you have to obey traffic laws, but none of those obedience can exist while you are in disobedience to Allah. That obedience comes first [You don’t get rewarded for the other obedience’s]. That's the second consideration of Allah's slavery. The first one was love, and the second is obedience.

The third one is sincerity. What that means is, everything that you do, you do it as a slave now. It's not "somethings" that you do as a slave. If you are a worshiper, only Sala [Muslim prayer] is for Allah while everything else is for you. But if you are a slave, what is everything for? Who is everything for? Everything is for Allah. Everything. Your job is for the sake of Allah, your family is for the sake of Allah, your worship is for the sake of Allah. Everything is for the sake of Allah. But when you just think of yourself as a worshiper you only give one part of your life to Allah, you don't give the whole thing to Allah. So Allah teaches us in the Quran

قُلۡ إِنَّ صَلَاتِى وَنُسُكِى وَمَحۡيَاىَ وَمَمَاتِى لِلَّهِ رَبِّ ٱلۡعَـٰلَمِينَ
[ina salati wa nusuki wa mahaya wa mamati lillahi raab el 3almeen]
My prayer belongs to Allah (it's for his sake) My sacrifice is for his sake, my life and my death are also for his sake

You know what the means practically? It practically means that when I make career goals, when I make family goals, when I make business goals, what is my ultimate agenda? What are these things for? They are for the service of my master. It's a change of attitude. So even with most Muslims today, when we look at the ayat where Allah calls us to become his slaves, what do we reduce it to most of the time? We reduce it to worship. He [Allah] is asking for something WAY more, something huge, something tremendous, instead.

So we got three conditions so far. We got love, obedience and sincerity. Our motives are now directed by Allah, sincerely for the sake of Allah, and that's what's gonna come up in this aya.

Then two more. The next condition is trust. Tawkul. We have to have trust in our master. Btw, just a side note, these five conditions I quote from which scholar? Ibn Taymiya rahmeaho Allah [May Allah have mercy on him]. You have to have absolute trust in this master. Whatever He does, you have to trust is good for you. Whatever He gives you, it's good for you, whatever He didn't give you, He didn't give you coz it's good for you. If you got something, it's from Allah, it's a gift. If you didn't get something there's also good in that, you have to have absolute trust. Whatever may happen, whatever may occur, it is because of Allah's decree:

مَآ أَصَابَ مِن مُّصِيبَةٍ۬ فِى ٱلۡأَرۡضِ وَلَا فِىٓ أَنفُسِكُمۡ إِلَّا فِى ڪِتَـٰبٍ۬ مِّن قَبۡلِ أَن نَّبۡرَأَهَآ
[ma asaba min musebaten fil arthi wa la fee anfosekoum illa fee ketabn min qabli an nabraa-ha lkay la taa-so ala ma fatkoum wa la tafraho ala ma atakoum]
Naught of disaster befalleth in the earth or in yourselves but it is in a Book before we bring it into being

It's simple: whatever you are given in life, you don't become sad over what you lose, you don’t become overjoyed over what you gained, everything is from Allah. Your tawakul is placed, your complete trust and reliance is placed in Allah. So this slave does not put his trust in means. You don't trust your car because it's from a reliable company, you don't trust your family! Instead, your trust in them comes from who? Your trust and your expectations come from Allah, not from your family. When you place your trust in creation you will always be disappointed. When you place your trust in Allah, nothing will disappoint you. Nothing will disappoint you. So this is trust, tawakul.

And finally, it's the terms of slavery, which is a very interesting concept. In every relationship there are terms. For example: the teacher and the student: there is a relationship. And in that relationship both parties have certain responsibilities. In a parent and child relationship, again both sides have certain responsibilities, don't they? Employer and Employee, both sides have a certain understanding. You have to come to work at this time, you have to leave at this time, you leave at 8 on this day, this is how much you will get payed. Do this, don't do this. There are terms. We understand that the terms of this slavery are not dictated by us. We understand that the terms of this slavery are dictated by Him [Allah], the Master. In other words, what does it mean to become a "good slave", that definition does not come from me. Those standards don't come from me. I cannot think of myself "I think I am a pretty good slave. I think I am doing alright" From your own assumption, you can't do that. Those standards of what makes you a slave and what makes you a rebel are dictated by Him and you have no hand in them, nor any say in them. This is the problem with most people in their relationship with God. Even though they will tell you “I love God too man. You Muslims, you love God! We love Him too! I love God too. “Well how do you please him?”Whatever my heart tells me. My heart tells me this is good, that's why I do it" That concept does not exist for us because who's dictating what's good and what's bad? Allah aza wa jal. He put the fitra in us, but what is dictated comes from the master.

These are the conditions of slavery. And this is the essence of this deen. In the end what is this guidance about: you become salve, you accept Him as master. That's the essence of Quran in the end ... that is the juice of the matter. And it is this concept that is nowadays being separated or not being understood in line with worship.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Ibada in Islam (part 1)

Listening to one of Nouman Ali Khan's podcast (this one was a tafseer on Surat Al Bayyinah), I happened upon a most wonderful discussion on the concept of Ibada in Islam. I took the time to write out the discussion as narrated by Nouman, but just changed a few words here and there (since for one to talk about a topic is different than for one to read a topic). I will split the discussion into two posts, in order to not daunt those out there whom are not champion readers.

Just some background info, he has reached the tafseer of the fifth Aya in the Sura. Also, Bayyinah in arabic means that which is crystal clear, there is no black or white to it.

For the full podcast, here's the download link (this discussion starts at about 3.30) :

Tafseer Surah 098 – Bayyinah Part 2 by Nouman Ali Khan


We shall discuss the concept of Ibada from the linguistic point of view only, we're not even gonna go into a full deep discussion.

One of the most beautiful discussions on Ibada is actually compiled by Ibn Taymeya (Rahemaho Allah, May Allah have mercy on him) who talks about the five conditions of being a slave to Allah. I'll atleast hightlight those five things, but for now inshaAllah ta3la we shall talk about some other issues.

Commonly, with the words (Ibada, leya'bado Allah [so they they worship Allah]) when translated to English the translation says "worship". The key term is worship. We have to address the gap between the arabic word

  • (leya'bodo)
  • (Ibabada)
  • (Ya'bodo)
  • It is even mentioned in Surat Al Fatiha (eeyaka na'bodo)

and the english word worship, because there is a gap and if we don't understand that gap, this will lead to there being a gap in our understanding sometimes. You know, if we don't truley fill that void then there is something missing in our reading from the Quran.

The word worship in the English language is very specific, It's used for particular acts of worship offerred at particular times. Worship is also specific to specific religions. So for example the Christian has his own mode of worship, the Muslim has his own mode of worship, the Jews may have their own mode of worship, and Hindus may have their own mode of worship. But if you ask someone who speaks the English language "what comes to your mind when you hear the word (worship)? what images pop into your mind?" The images that will pop into their mind is somebody kneeling, somebody bowing down, somebody at a church, at a synagogue, these are the kind of images that crop into the mind. Therfore, because we are translating from Arabic to English, we have to becareful of the words we choose and the images they conjure up in the mind of the people who speak that language.

The word Abada in Arabic includes the meaning of worship, but has another distinctly seperate connotation also and that is that of slavery. So Abid is a worshiper but Abd is actually a slave. What's the difference between a worshiper and a slave? In English atleast, there is a huge difference. They may not have anything to do with each other. Some one who is worshiping may not be a slave and someone who is a slave may not be worshiping. They could be two mutually exclusive things.

But when we use the word Ibada in Arabic we actually combine two concepts together: that of worship and also that of slavery. These two are together. So when we translate the Aya:

وَمَآ أُمِرُوٓاْ إِلَّا لِيَعۡبُدُواْ ٱللَّهَ
(Wa ma omeroo ila laybodo Allah)
What were they commanded except that they should worship Allah

we are missing the other half that is implied and meant. We didnt capture it.

Now, what is the opposite of Abd in arabic? It is Raab [Master]. The antonym, the lingustic antonym of Abd is Raab. But Abd is two things right? It could be one who is a slave and the one who worships also (in a larger sense a great worshiper). If you think of it in the meaning of slave in Arabic, then the opposite of it is Raab. If you think of it in the meaning of a worshiper, then the opposite of Abd in arabic is Iillah [a diety that is worshiped]. So there is two antonyms: one from the meaning of worship and one from the meaning of slavery. Two seperate antonyms. But both are implied when Allah uses the word Abd in verbal form and in nominal form as a noun, both of those meanings are meant.

So the first thing I wanna do, and I assume everyone here is clear about what worship means, I wanna clarify some things about what slavery means so that we have a little more comprehensive view of the Aya and of the term in general as it occurs in the Quran. I am taking the time to explain this, because as I said this Aya represents a summury of the entire Quran. "What were they told except," and then Allah says leya'bodo Allah, i.e "so they become Ibad of Allah, so they may enter into slavery of Allah and worship him".

This first thing. Slavery is different than worship because slavery has no time associated with it. Worship is at a cetain time, at a cetain place, a certain activity. But a slave, when is he a slave? When he's sleeping he's a slave, when he's awake he's a slave, when he's eating, when he's not eating, when he's changing he's clothes, when he's working, when he's on vacation, he's always a slave. So slavery is a state of being, while worship is an act itself. Someone can be a worshiper at cetain times, but they are not always worshipers, but a slave is a a slave, they are always a slave.

That's one huge difference between the two. The other thing sometimes, to be politcally correct, when some people translate, instead of slave, they use the word servant. Or humble servant, some translations offer that word. This comes from the english word service. You are a servant at your company. If you're an accountant you serve your company, you are a servant for them. A servant could be a janitor, a servant could be somebody who is working a job but in any of those scenarios service is a give or take, it's an exchange. Service is an exchange, I give a service what do I expect in return? To be payed. Also, service is specified. If you're an accountant you cannot be asked to wash the windows, unless the economy is really bad. If your service is one thing you are not asked for anything else. But in slavery, what are you asked to do? Everything that the master says. Everything that the master says you have to do. So it is totally different from the idea of service and significatly different from the idea of worship. Both of those things are seperate. That's the first issue with slavery.

The second issue is that slavery, as it is understood in the world, is never something you want to enter into, slavery is usually something forced upon you. Worship is something you do voulntarliy but slavery is not something you would do voluntarily. It's always involuntary. You can apply for a job in a service, you can be in a certain service industry and apply to become a part of that service. But you don't apply to become a slave, you don't give in an application and say "I love taking beatings, and I love chains around my neck". You don't do that, it doesn't make any sense. The one who is in slavery would want nothing more than to be free of that slavery. That is the nature of slavery in human history. So it does conjure up negative images. However, we cannot abonden the term and stop being true to the text because of those negative images. We have to still be true to the text, plus fully explaining the concept.

The thing is, in this slavery [the one mentioned in the Aya, and in the Quran] who is the master? Allah ... and Allah is nothing like his creations. He's far above his creations. In every other slavery a human being is the master. Another human being is the master. But in this slavery, Allah is the master. And since Allah is completely different from all of his creations, when he is the master he's a different kind of master ... a kind of master that no other master can be like. Even in Surat Al Fatiha, before we call him Raab, What do we say?

ٱلۡحَمۡدُ لِلَّهِ رَبِّ
Al Hamdu Lillahi Raab

We say Al Hamdu Lillah first, which means we praise him, and we show him gratitude first. No master is praised, no master is shown gratitude, except Allah. Every other master is cursed, every other master is complained about, but even Allah before he tells us he is master what does he tell us? Al Hamdu Lillah. This is a different kind of master. Which means that, if he is a different kind of master we must be a different kind of slave. You understand so far?

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