2. Ubudiya: What Does it Mean to Worship Allah? (Ibada)

In lesson one I gave you the Islamic hack that is understanding ‘Bismillah.’ I hope you feel the difference now, whenever you say it. We went through a detailed explanation and ended with exploring the meaning of the name ‘Allah.’ Which brings us to lesson two.

After reading the various meanings of Allah’s name, how did you feel? Did you feel a sense of awe? Humility? Submission? Did it make you want to be a better Muslim? That’s exactly what is required of us. When we come to the realization – a true, soul-felt realization – that Allah is who He is, we have no choice but to worship him. Do you remember when Musa (peace be upon him) met Allah in the sacred valley of Tuwa? Allah said to him…

“I am Allah. There is no god but Me…”

Musa (peace be upon him) hears this and he’s from Bani Israel so he realizes who’s speaking to him. That Supreme Being we just discussed in the first lesson? HE’S speaking to him. Musa’s (peace be upon him) emaan goes into overdrive in an instant. But then, immediately after introducing Himself Allah says…

“…so worship Me and establish salat to remember Me.”

It’s a cause & effect relationship – believing in such a such a being necessitates that we worship Him. Now, we aren’t Musa (peace be upon him), to experience such a miracle, but Allah does reinforce this relationship for us daily. It happens when we recite Surat al-Fatiha. We acknowledge some of Allah’s most awe-inspiring Names.

  • The He alone deserves all praise; whether we praise Him or not, whether our praise is adequate or not
  • That He is the Lord of Creation; the Creator, Owner, Master, Sustainer and Provider of all that exists
  • That He is the All-Merciful Bestower of Mercy
  • That He is the Owner and Master of the Day of Judgement

And THEN we say…

“You alone we worship. You alone we ask for help.”

Do you see what’s going on? Allah, in His infinite wisdom, obligates us to go through this process at least 17 times a day! Ok, so let’s break down this verse in detail because this is the point of today’s lesson. Are you ready?

“Iyyaka na’budu wa iyyaka nasta’een.”

There are 4 parts to this:

  • “You” i.e. the object of the statement being brought forward
  • Worshiping Allah
  • The plural form of the statement
  • Asking for His help

1. Beginning with the object “You”

If you’ll remember, we covered the significance of the first part in the previous lesson. Delaying the verb restricts the meaning. The meaning is:

“You alone, and no one else, do we worship. You alone, and no one else, do we ask for help.”

2. Worshipping Allah

Let’s move on to the next, ‘worship.’ The verb a-ba-da (to worship) implies complete servitude, submission, and surrender. It also implies that this submission is done with the utmost love and humility. The abd submits himself absolutely to the will of his master. Ibada, or worship, is an act directed to someone or something in complete subservience, submission, love, and humility. In this verse, we are saying that we will direct all such acts of worship to Allah alone and no one else.

3. The plural form of the statement

The plural form here, ‘na,’ is significant because many acts of worship in Islam are communal. Imagine standing in the rows during prayers. All of us reciting the same 7 verses. All of us supplicating to God and asking for His help. Some of us will be less mindful than others.

The fact that we’re ALL asking Him… and asking on behalf of everyone else… all it takes is ONE sincere prayer being accepted and we’re ALL good!

4. Seeking His help

The final part is ‘isti’ana,’ seeking Allah’s help. Isti’ana is an act of worship and should only be directly towards Allah. So, isn’t it repetitive to mention it after saying that we’ll worship Allah alone? There are several things to unpack here:

First, the repetition identifies external, and internal acts of worship, sometimes known as worship of the heart/soul.

Second, is that external worship is accompanied by an internal spiritual condition which should also be directed to Allah alone.

Third, and this is most important part of today’s lesson so pay attention, is that we are asking Allah’s help to worship him better.

How do we get that help? By worshiping him as he asked and fulfilling the conditions of worship we described above. It is only through Allah’s help that we are able to worship Him, and it is only through worshiping Him alone that we are entitled to His help.

So now that we understand this, we have to ask ourselves:

How do we worship Him? What do we have to do to gain His help?

That’s lesson three.

Start Lesson Three 👉

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