As Muslims, we often hasten to answer this question by quoting the verse of the Qur’an where Allah tells us: “I only created human beings and jinn to worship me.” [Sûrah al-Dhâriyât: 56]
We are certainly right in doing so. It is right for us as Muslims to look for our answer in the words of Allah. Certainly, this verse is one of the most important and relevant verses in the Qur’an addressing the question of what Allah wants from us.
But have we really answered our question yet?
No, we have not. The term “worship” needs to be properly understood. In Islam, worship is defined as everything that we do that Allah loves and is pleased with. It can be in what we do or what we say. It includes both inward and outward actions.
Everyone agrees that prayer, fasting, remembering Allah, purifying the heart, and similar devotional activities are part of worship. It is, therefore obvious that these acts of worship are something that Allah wants from us. However, it is a mistake to forget that our worship – in other words, what we do, say, and think that pleases Allah – is limited to these personal devotions alone. Our worship also includes how we deal with others.
So we must ask our question again: What does Allah want from me as a Muslim in my dealings with others? To answer this question, we must return to the Qur’an and Sunnah. When we do, we find there can be no doubt that the texts point us to at least two types of concerns. First, it is obvious that we are supposed to propagate the faith and convey the message of Islam to others. There are many verses of the Qur’an and Prophetic hadith that call us to this duty. However, that is not all. There are also numerous texts that call upon us to serve humanity. How often are we told to respect, honor, and assist others? These texts help us to complete the picture of how we are expected to worship Allah in our daily lives.
Let us consider some of the main themes:
Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “Whoever is engaged in fulfilling his brother’s needs, then Allah will be fulfilling his needs.” [Sahīh al-Bukhārī]
Likewise, he said: “Allah loves best the one who benefits people the most. The most beloved deed to Allah is to make a Muslim happy, remove his distress, pay off his debt, or placate his hunger. For me to go forth in fulfilling my brother’s need is dearer to me than to observe a retreat in this mosque (in Madinah) for worship for a month... And whoever goes forth to fulfil his brother’s need until it is taken care of, then Allah will make his feet tread steadily on that Day when feet will slip.” [al-Silsilah al-Sahihah]
Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) is also reported to have said: “Whoever goes forth to fulfil his brother’s need and makes headway in fulfilling that need, it is better than observing a retreat in the mosque for ten years.” [al-Tabarānī, al-Bayhaqī and al-Hākim]
►Being Kind and Well-Mannered:
Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) declared: “I was sent only to perfect good conduct.” [al-Silsilah al-Sahīhah]
The Prophet (peace be upon him) stressed just how important it is to show kindness to people and exhibit good manners by describing an ill-mannered person as “bankrupt” even if that person was devoted to prayer and fasting:
Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) asked: “Do you know who is bankrupt?”
His Companions replied: “The bankrupt person is one who has neither money nor property.”
The Prophet (peace be upon him) then said: “The bankrupt person is one who will come on the Day of Judgment having to his credit much prayer, fasting, and charity. But alas, he will have against him that he ridiculed this person, falsely accused that one, stole the property of another, shed the blood of another, and assaulted another. They will each be compensated from his good deeds, and if his good deeds run out, some of their sins will be transferred to him and he will be consigned to Hell.” [Sahīh Muslim]
►Upholding and Defending Justice:
Allah says: "O you who believe! Stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to Allah, even as against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, and whether it be (against) rich or poor: for Allah can best protect both. Follow not the lusts (of your hearts), lest you swerve, and if you distort justice or decline to do justice, verily Allah is well-acquainted with all that you do." [Sûrah al-Nisâ’: 135]
Allah also says: "O you who believe! Stand out firmly for Allah, as witnesses to fair dealing, and let not the hatred of others to you make you swerve to wrong and depart from justice. Be just: that is next to piety: and fear Allah. For Allah is well-acquainted with all that you do.” [Sûrah al-Mâ’idah: 8]
Indeed, Allah tells us in the Qur’an that establishing justice was part of the mission of all the Prophets: “Indeed, We had sent Our Messengers with clear proofs and sent down the scriptures and the balance with them so that people could establish justice.” [Sūrah al-Hadīd: 25]
Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) described the greatest for of struggle for the faith as follows: “The greatest struggle is to speak a true word in front of an unjust ruler.” [Sunan al-Nasā’ī, Sunan al-Tirmidhī, and Sunan Abī Dāwūd]
By helping others, showing kindness, and being just we engage in the worship of Allah, just like we do when we pray and fast. Therefore, these are also part of what it means to fulfil the purpose for which we were created.
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