Today I elucidate before you the purport of another word which Muslims generally use but few people know its correct meaning. This word is ' Ibadat '. Allah has said in his Holy Book :-
"I have not created the jinn and humankind for any other purpose except that they should worship Me."
It is clear from this verse that the purpose of your birth and of your life is no other than that of the worship of Allah. Now you can well imagine how much necessary it is for you to know the meaning of 'Ibadat. If you will not know the real meaning of this word you will not be able to fulfil the very purpose for which you have been created. And anything which does not fulfil its purpose results in fiasco. If a doctor cannot restore health to his patient, he is said to have failed in his profession. If a farmer cannot raise a good crop, he is said to have failed in cultivation. Similarly, if you have not been able to fulfil the real purpose of your life, i.e. 'Ibadat, it should be said that your whole life has been a failure. For this reason I want you all to hear and understand with full attention the meaning of 'Ibadat' and preserve it in mind because on it depends the success or failure of your life.
Meaning of ' Ibadat'
The word 'Ibadat' is derived from 'Abd. The meaning of 'Abd is servant and slave. Therefore the meaning of 'Ibadat is servitude and slavery. If a person who is a slave of somebody remains in his service as a slave and behaves with him as one should behave with a master, it is called servitude and 'Ibadat'. As against this, if a person who is a slave of somebody and also gets full salary from him but does not serve him just as a slave ought to serve his master, it will be called disobedience and insubordination. In fact, more appropriately, it amounts to being untrue to one's salt.
Now consider what should be the form of behaviour for a slave towards his master.
The first duty of a slave is to regard his master as his lord, and to consider it incumbent upon himself to be faithful to that being who is his master, nourisher, protector and warden, and firmly believe that no one except he is worthy of loyalty.
The second duty of a slave is to be always obedient to his master, to meticulously carry out his orders, never to draw back from his service, and to refrain from saying anything from his own mind or listening to anybody's word against his master's wishes. A slave is all the time and in all circumstances a slave. He has not the least right to say that he will obey a particular order of the master and disobey the other order or that he is his master's slave for a certain period and is free of his duty for the rest of the time.
The third duty of a servant is to respect and revere his master. He should follow the method laid down by his master for showing respect and reverence to him. He must definitely be present at the time fixed by his master for saluting him and should furnish proof of the fact that he is quite firm in his faithfulness and obedience to him.
These are the requisites which constitute together 'Ibadat'; firstly, fidelity to one's master; secondly, obedience to the master, and thirdly, respect and reverence for the master. What Allah has said in the verse : " I have not created the jinn and humankind for any other purpose except that they should worship Me " actually means that Allah created these two species so that they will be faithful only to Allah and to no other being, that they will follow the commandments of Allah only, that they will not listen to the order of any body else against Him, and will bow their heads in respect and reverence only to Him and to none else. These three things have been described by Allah in the comprehensive term: ' Ibadat '. This is what is meant from all those verses in which Allah has commanded that 'Ibadat' be performed to Him. The gist of the teachings of our Holy Prophet, and of all the prophets (peace be upon them) sent by God before him, is:
" You worship none save Him."
Which means that there is only one Sovereign to whom you must be faithful, and that Sovereign is Allah, that there is one law which you should obey and that is the law of Allah and that there is only one being who should be worshipped and that Being is Allah.
Results of wrong meaning of ' Ibadat'
Keep this meaning of 'Ibadat' in mind and then give answers to my questions.
What will you say about that servant who instead of performing the duties prescribed by his master stands all the time before him with folded hands and goes on chanting his name? The master orders him to go and redeem what is due to such and such persons but he sticks to his post, and bowing to the master salutes him ten times and again stands up with folded hands. The master instructs him to go and remove such and such wrongs but he does not budge an inch and starts prostrating before him. The master commands: " Cut off the hand of the thief ". On hearing this order the servant still standing there, recites scores of time in an extremely melodious tone: " Cut off the hand of the thief," " cut off the hand of the thief, " but not once does he try to establish that system of Government under which the hand of a thief can be severed. Can you say that this man is really serving his master? If any servant of yours were to adopt such an attitude, I do not know what you will say about it. But I am surprised at you that a servant of God who behaves like this is regarded by you as a devout worshipper of God! This heartless person reads from dawn to dusk, God knows how many times, the Divine injunctions in the Qur'an but never stirs himself to carry out these injunctions. On the other hand, he starts offering Nawafil after Nawafil, chants the name of God on a thousand-bead rosary and recites the Qur'an in a melodious tone. When you see him in this position you exclaim: " What a devout and pious person he is!" This misunderstanding arises because you do not know the correct meaning of 'Ibadat'.
There is another servant who is busy day and night discharging duties entrusted to him by other people. He obeys their orders, and acts according to their laws, while he consistently flouts the commands of his real master but presents himself before him at the time of saluting and wags his tongue in chanting the master's name only. If a servant of any of you were to follow such a course, what will you do with him? Will you not throw back his salutation on his face ? When he will address you as master and lord, will you not at once turn back and retort : " You are an infernal liar and a cheat; you take salary from me and do the service of others. You verbally call me master and actually serve everybody else except me". This is a matter of simple common sense which everyone of you can easily understand. But how astonishing it is that you consider as 'Ibadat' of God the prayers, fasting, chanting on rosary-beads, recital of Qur'an, pilgrimage and Zakat of those people who day and night violate the law of God, act on the orders of unbelievers and polytheists, and never care for the commandments of God in the affairs of their life. This misunderstanding is also due to the fact that you are unaware of the real meaning of 'Ibadat'.
Take the example of yet another servant. The uniform fixed by the master for his servant is worn by this man with perfect trimming. He presents himself before the master showing the utmost respect and reverence. On hearing orders, every time he bows meekly and says: " With all my hearts I will obey", thus giving the impression that no other servant is more faithful than him. At the time of saluting, he stands ahead of everybody and excels all other servants in chanting the name of the master. But, on the other side, this very man renders service to the rebels and enemies of his master, participates in the conspiracies they hatch against him and co-operates with them in their efforts to efface his name from the world. In the darkness of night he commits burglary in his house and in the morning present himself with folded hands before him like an extremely faithful servant. What will you say about such a servant? Only this that he is a hypocrite, rebel and unfaithful. But what do you call those servants of God who behave like this? You call them Pir Sahib, Hadrat Maulana, religious people, pious persons and devotees of God. This is just because on seeing beards of full measure on their faces, their pyjamas two inches above their ankles, knobs due to Sajdah on their foreheads, their long sessions of Salah and their rosaries of big beads, you consider them highly religious and full of adoration to God. This misunderstanding arises also because you have not correctly grasped the meaning of 'Ibadat' and religiousness.
You think that standing towards Qibla with folded hands, bowing with your hands resting on the knees, prostrating with the hands, knees and forehead placed on the ground and uttering a few stereotyped words--only such few actions and movements are by themselves 'Ibadat. You think that to be hungry and thirsty from morning till evening every day from the first of Ramadan till the appearance of Shawwal moon is called Ibadat. You think that a verbal recital of some parts of Surahs of the Qur'an is called 'Ibadat'. You think that a visit to Mecca and circum-ambulation of Ka'ba is called 'Ibadat'. In short, you call Ibadat only the outward aspects of some actions, and whenever you notice any person doing these acts in their external forms, you think that he has performed 'Ibadat' of God and fulfilled the purpose of the verse:
" I created the jinn and humankind only that they might worship Me."
After that he is quite free to do whatever he likes all his life.
'Ibadat '----Servitude throughout life
But the actual reality is that the 'Ibadat' for which God created you and which He has commanded you to perform, is something quite deferent. It is this: You obey the law of God in your life at every step and in every condition and free yourself of the shackles of every such law as is opposed to the law of God. Every move of yours should be within the limits prescribed for you by God. Every action of yours should be in conformity with the method laid down by God. As such, the life that you will spend in this manner will be an embodiment of Ibadat. In such a life, your being asleep, being awake, taking food and drinking water, even moving about and talking, are all 'Ibadat'. So much so that your going to your wife and kissing your child are also 'Ibadat'. The deeds which you call totally worldly, are all religious acts and 'Ibadat', provided during their performance you observe the limits imposed by God, and watch at every step what is allowed and what is not allowed by God, what is Halal and what is Haram, what has been made incumbent and what is forbidden, with which deed is God pleased and with which displeased? For instance, you go out to earn your livelihood. In this pursuit, many opportunities arise for you to acquire forbidden (Haram) money easily. If, for fear of God, you abstained from that money and earned only Halal livelihood, the time you spent in the latter, endeavour is all counted as 'Ibadat'. And the bread you brought home, ate yourself and fed with it your wife and children and also fed those who are deserving of it as prescribed by God--for all these acts you become worthy of reward and blessings of Allah. If, while walking on the road, you remove a stonepiece or a thorn lest it should hurt the slaves of God, this is also 'Ibadat'. If you nurse a patient or show the way to a blind man or help a person in distress, this is also 'Ibadat'. If while conversing with people, you abstained from lying, backbiting, slandering and passing of sarcastic remarks, and feeling afraid of God, told the truth only then all that time you thus spent in clean talk will be reckoned as spent in 'Ibadat'.
Therefore, the real Ibadat of God is to follow the law of God and lead a life according to His commandments from the period of adolescence to the time of death. There is no time fixed for 'Ibadat'. It must be performed all the time. There is no one particular shape of this 'Ibadat'. In every work and in every form God's Ibadat must be performed. Since you cannot say : " I am servant of God at such a time and I am not a servant of God at such a time", you cannot also say that such and such a time is earmarked for God's service and 'Ibadat' and the remaining time is not meant for that purpose.
Brethren ! You have now come to know the meaning of 'Ibadat' and also the fact that to serve God and to be obedient to Him throughout life in all circumstances is called 'Ibadat'. Now you, may ask : "What then are these things such as Salah, fasting and pilgrimage teach?" The answer is that the aim of these 'Ibadaat', which Allah has enjoined as obligatory upon you, is in reality to prepare you for that big Ibadat that you have to perform throughout your life in all conditions. Salah reminds you five times a day that you are a slave of Allah and to Him alone is due your servitude. Zakat repeatedly brings home to you the truth that the money you have earned is a gift of God. Do not spend it on corporeal urges only, but render what is due to your Master. Hajj makes such an impression of love and majesty of God on the heart that if once this impression gets rooted, its effect will never abate during the whole life. If after performing all these 'Ibadaat' your whole life becomes an embodiment of the 'Ibadat' of God, then undoubtedly your Salah is Salah, your fast is fast, your Zakat is Zakat and your Hajj is Hajj. But if this object is not achieved, no purpose is served by doing Ruku' and Sajdah, by spending days in hunger and thirst, by going through the formalities of Hajj and by setting aside Zakat money. These outward functions may be likened to a body which, if it has a soul and moves about and does work, is certainly a living human being, but, if it is soulless, it is no more than a corpse. A corpse has everything like hands and feet, eyes and nose but is devoid of soul. So you bury it under earth. Similarly, if the rules of Salah are being fulfilled, but if the fear of God, love for Him and loyalty to Him, for development of which Salah and fasting have been made compulsory, are missing, it will also be a soulless exercise.
In my future lectures I shall explain to you in detail how each one of those 'Ibadaat which have been made compulsory, prepares man for that big 'Ibadat'. I shall also explain that if you perform these 'Ibadaat' with full understanding and try to fulfil their main objective, what a great effect it can produce in your life !