Date : 20-06-2021

Question :

According to Islam, what does worship mean? In addition,  is every act considered worship since some say that if a person asks a friend for a favor or seeks help from Prophets and saints, he is considered a polytheist?

The Answer :

Praise be to Allah the Lord of the Worlds. May His peace and blessings be upon our Prophet Mohammad and upon all his family and companions.

The word Ibadah, usually translated as "worship", means submission and humility. It is stated in the book "Taj Al-Aroos, V.8:331": " {O people, worship your Lord}, i.e. obey Your Lord. {You [alone] we worship, and You [alone] we ask for help.}, i.e. we obey You with submission. Ibn Al-Atheer said: "Linguistically speaking, Ibadah means obedience with submission."

In Islam, Ibadah is submission to the worshipped as God and Lord. Thus, according to Islam, not every act of submission and humility is Ibadah. Rather, it is believing that the One to Whom submission and humility are shown is God and Lord or that He has some divine attributes, and there is no doubt about this. For example, a child shows humility and submission to his/her parents, but he/she doesn`t worship them. However, submission to idols, by idolaters, is worshipping them because they believed that these idols enjoy divine attributes, such as sustaining and the like. It is stated in "Tohfat Al-Mohtaj, V.2:12", "Al-Fakhir Al-Razi reported that the theologians are agreed that whoever worships or prays out of fear or for seeking a reward, his/her worship is invalid and this ruling applies to one whose worship is intended for such objective." 


Worship isn`t merely a physical deed; rather, it is a belief coming from the heart. The evidence on this is that Allah the Almighty commanded the angels to prostrate before Adam (Peace be upon him). Allah said {What means}: " And when We said to the angels, ‘Prostrate yourselves to Adam; so they prostrated themselves, except IblÄ«s, he refused and disdained; and so he became one of the disbelievers." {Al-Baqarah, 34}. This prostration is neither an act of worship on the part of the angels nor that they believed Adam to be God, Lord, and worthy of worship. They prostrated to salute and honor him (Adam) and in compliance with Allah`s command. However, prostration as an act of worship is believing that the one prostrated to is God and Lord. Allah the Almighty says {What means}: "And among His signs are the night and the day, and the sun and the moon. Do not prostrate to the sun and moon, but prostrate to God Who created them, if it is Him Whom you worship." {Fussilat, 37}.

Accordingly, it is evident that not all acts are considered worship. Rather, some are customary practices. When a person is in a difficult situation and asks a friend for help, this isn`t a customary practice. Rather, it is a means to a certain end. Therefore, it isn`t permissible to tag this person as a polytheist just because he asked for help.

Ahlus Sunnah Wal Jamaah are agreed that it isn`t permissible to accuse a Muslim of disbelief just because he has committed unlawful matters and major sins. Similarly, it isn`t permissible to tag a Muslim as a disbelievers just because he fell into a doubtful matter, which is customary practice, or did a lawful matter, such as seeking help from Prophets and saints.

Those who accuse Muslims of disbelief just because they seek help from Prophets and saints or ask others for help may base this accusation on the verse in which Allah says {What means}: " Surely to God belongs pure religion. And those who take besides Him patrons, [say]: ‘We only worship them so that they may bring us near to God’. God will indeed judge between them concerning that about which they differ. Truly God does not guide one who is a liar, a disbeliever." {Az-Zumar, 3}. However, the true meaning of this verse is that the disbelievers are the ones who took patrons besides Allah believing that they have divine attributes. They also claimed that they worship these patrons to bring them near to Allah, however, they are liars and disbelievers.

Accordingly, Ibadah or worship is a special concept of Islam encompassing submission and devotion with believing that the worshipped enjoys divine attributes and drawing closer to Him through that worship. But, this doesn`t apply to customary practices and no Muslim in their sound mind would think that. Rather, All Muslims worship Allah as their Lord and ascribe no partners in worship with Him. Therefore, it isn`t permissible, no matter what the case may be, to tag Muslims with disbelief for committing a sin. Similarly, it isn`t permissible to accuse them with disbelief for doing something permissible, according to the majority of the scholars, such as seeking help from Prophets and saints. And Allah the Almighty knows best.