Islamic Reform in the Domain of Worship
Islam came at a time when there were many forms of worship in the world. Some of these were remnants of the previous divinely revealed scriptures. Others were completely man-made. Even those acts of worship that were of divine origin had been corrupted, altered, and removed from their proper contexts.
Some religions exaggerated the importance of formalism and mindless ritual. Others went to extremes to free themselves of all notions of form and order. Some religions went to extremes that made worship a harmful and painful thing. Some of them also demanded monasticism from their adherents. Other religions went to extremes in indulgence, often completely abandoning religious obligations altogether.
Islam came to correct and reform these excessive tendencies, while establishing principles of its own. It provided principles to bring about reform and to safeguard worship. The most important of these principles are as follows:
1. No one deserves to be worshipped except for Allah:
The first thing that Islam came with was the concept of monotheism. Bearing witness to monotheism is how a person enters into the fold of Islam and is considered to be a believer. The testimony is as follows:
“There is no god but Allah. Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah.”
These words are a testimony that there is no one worthy of worship except for
Allah. In this way, Islam negates every possible manifestation of polytheism.
The following are some of the ways that Islam safeguards the idea of monotheism:
A. Islam makes polytheism a cause of negating the effects of good works and as a way of leaving the fold of Islam. Allah addresses His Messenger (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) with the following words:
“It has been revealed to you and to those who came before you: If you commit
polytheism, your deeds will be naught and you will be among the losers.”
B. Islam closes all the doors to polytheism. It pays careful attention to all the ways polytheism can be prevented. Among these are the following:
- The Messenger (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) prohibited the people from honoring him excessively, because this could lead to excessiveness in belief. He made it clear that he was merely a slave of Allah and His Messenger. He said: “Do not praise me excessively the way that the Christians praised `Isâ (Jesus) the son of Maryam (Mary). I am only Allah’s slave and Messenger so say that I am His slave and Messenger.”
- He prohibited people from seeking assistance through him or through the agency of any other righteous person. It has been related that one of the hypocrites used to abuse the believers, so some of the believers suggested that they collectively seek help from that Hypocrite by means of Allah’s Messenger (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). The Prophet (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “None should seek help through me. Help should be sought from Allah alone.”
C. The Prophet (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) prohibited people from turning gravesites into places of worship. He strongly warned against this practice. Near the time of his death, he repeatedly mentioned this prohibition. He would say: “Allah’s wrath became severe towards those people who turned the graves of their prophets into places of worship.”
D. The Prophet (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) prohibited people from taking oaths in other than Allah’s name, because an oath implies the aggrandizement of the one in whose name it is taken. The Prophet (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “Whoever takes an oath in other than Allah’s name has fallen into polytheism.”
E. The Prophet (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) prohibited people from performing sacrifices to other than Allah. He said: “Allah has cursed those who offer sacrifices to other than Allah.”