Ibn Taymiyyah / Islamic Themes

Ibn Taymiyya on Worship (Ibadah)

The Meaning of Worship (`ibada):

Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyya

  • There are two foundations for worshipping Allah (swt) in Islamic and they are as explained by Imam Ibn Taymiyyah (728/1328)[1] as follows:

والعبادة، والطاعة، والاستقامة، ولزوم الصراط المستقيم، ونحو ذلك من الأسماء مقصودها واحد، ولها أصلان‏:‏ أحدهما‏:‏ ألا يعبد إلا اللّه‏.‏ والثاني‏:‏ أن يعبد بما أمر وشرع لا بغير ذلك من البدع‏.‏ قال تعالى‏:‏ ‏[‏فَمَنْ كَانَ يَرْجُوا لِقَاءَ رَبِّهِ فَلْيَعْمَلْ عَمَلًا صَالِحًا وَلَا يُشْرِكْ بِعِبَادَةِ رَبِّهِ أَحَدًا] ‏ ‏[‏الكهف‏:‏ 110‏]‏، وقال تعالى‏:‏ ‏[لَى مَنْ أَسْلَمَ وَجْهَهُ لِلَّهِ وَهُوَ مُحْسِنٌ فَلَهُ أَجْرُهُ عِنْدَ رَبِّهِ وَلَا خَوْفٌ عَلَيْهِمْ وَلَا هُمْ يَحْزَنُونَ‏]‏ ‏[‏البقرة‏:‏ 112‏]‏، وقال تعالى‏:‏ ‏[‏وَمَنْ أَحْسَنُ دِينًا مِمَّنْ أَسْلَمَ وَجْهَهُ لِلَّهِ وَهُوَ مُحْسِنٌ وَاتَّبَعَ مِلَّةَ إِبْرَاهِيمَ حَنِيفًا وَاتَّخَذَ اللَّهُ إِبْرَاهِيمَ خَلِيلًا‏] ‏[‏النساء‏:‏ 125‏]‏. فالعمل الصالح هو الإحسان وهو فعل الحسنات‏.‏ والحسنات، هي ما أحبه اللّه ورسوله، وهو ما أمر به أمر إىجاب، أو استحباب، فما كان من البدع في الدين التي ليست مشروعة، فإن اللّه لايحبها ولا رسوله، فلا تكون من الحسنات، ولا من العمل الصالح، كما أن من يعمل ما لايجوز كالفواحش، والظلم ليس من الحسنات، ولا من العمل الصالح‏.‏ وأما قوله‏:‏ ‏[وَلَا يُشْرِكْ بِعِبَادَةِ رَبِّهِ أَحَدًاِ] وقوله‏:‏ ‏[‏أَسْلَمَ وَجْهَهُ لِلَّهِ‏]‏، فهو إخلاص الدين للّه وحده، وكان عمر بن الخطاب يقول‏:‏ اللهم اجعل عملي كله صالحاً، واجعله لوجهك خالصاً، ولا تجعل لأحد فيه شيئاً‏.‏ وقال الفضيل بن عياض في قوله‏:‏ ‏[لِيَبْلُوَكُمْ أَيُّكُمْ أَحْسَنُ عَمَلًا‏]‏ ‏[‏هود‏:‏ 7، الملك‏:‏ 2‏]‏، قال‏:‏ أخلصه، وأصوبه‏.‏ قالوا‏:‏ يا أبا على، ما أخلصه وأصوبه‏؟‏ قال‏:‏ / إن العمل إذا كان خالصاً ولم يكن صواباً لم يقبل، وإذا كان صواباً ولم يكن خالصاً لم يقبل، حتى يكون خالصاً صواباً، والخالص أن يكون للّه، والصواب أن يكون على السنة‏.‏


“The terms worship, obedience, uprightness and the necessity of adhering to the Straight Path are from the names by which one and the same meaning is intended and which have two basic principles: [1] One of them is that nothing should be worshipped except Allah. [2] The other is that Allah should be worshipped by what He ordered and legislated [in the Qur’an and Sunna) and not based on matters made up by people.

Allah the Exalted says: {So whoever would hope to meet his Lord – let him do good actions and not associate anyone in the worship of his Lord};[2] {Yes, [on the contrary], whoever submits his face [i.e. self] in Islam to Allah and does good actions will have his reward with his Lord. And no fear will there be concerning them, nor will they grieve}[3] and Allah says: {And who is better in religion than one someone who submits himself to Allah and does good actions and follows the religion of Abraham, inclining toward truth? And Allah took Abraham as an intimate friend.}[4]

Good actions is called al-ihsan, which is performance of praiseworthy actions, and praiseworthy actions are what Allah and His Messenger love, which, in turn, is what He ordered from obligatory and recommended matters.

Hence, whatever is from anything made up in religion i.e. that is not legislated, Allah and His Messenger do not love it, and it cannot be from good actions and praiseworthy deeds. Just like performing impermissible actions – such as acts of indecency and oppression – is not from good deeds and righteous actions.

As for Allah saying: {…and [let him] not associate in the worship of his Lord anyone} as well as, {he is someone who submits his face [i.e. self] to Allah}, it means being sincere to Him in the religion.

`Umar ibn al Khattab[5] used to say: O Allah, make all of my actions good and make them sincere for your Face (s: i.e. for you only), and do not make in them anything for anyone [else].’

al Fudayl ibn `Iyad (d. 188/803)[6] said about Allah saying: {To test which of you is best in action}[7] that the word ‘action’ here means: “the most sincere and most proper action.” Some people asked Fudayl Ibn `Iyad: ‘O Abu `Ali, what action is most sincere and most proper?’ He replied: “An action that is done sincerely and is not proper is not accepted, and when it is proper and not done sincerely it is also not accepted. Sincere action is one that is done for Allah, and proper is one that is in accordance with the Sunnah”…”[8]


  • So, in the Muslim faith, worship (= `ibada) is something that is done purely for Allah (swt) and no-one else.
  • The concept of `ibada is based on what Allah has commanded people to follow through the example of the Prophet Muhammad (saw) – i.e. everything that has been legislated.
  • It is not allowed for a person to make up what h/she likes when it comes to `ibada – this would be tantamount to unwarranted religious innovation (bid`a).
  • What Allah orders and likes are praiseworthy and what he prohibits and dislikes is blameworthy.
  • Therefore, any other basis, criterion or source – whether secular or devised from the thoughts and philosophies of men – for actions or indeed belief will not be acceptable to Allah and will be rejected.
  • The correct concept of `ibada ought to make a person love Allah, fear Him and have humility. These are its fruits.

And Allah knows best.



[1] For more in him, see A. I. Al-Matroudi, The Hanbali School of Law and Ibn Taymiyya, pp.16-30.

[2] See Qur’an 18:110.

[3] See Qur’an 2:112

[4] See Qur’an 4:125.

[5] Senior Companion, one of the ten promised paradise, the second Caliph of Islam and one of the foremost members of the Prophet’s inner circle of advisors and representatives; see Ibn Sa`d, al-Tabaqat al-Kubra, 3:190—374 and Ahmad b. Hanbal, Fada’il al-Sahaba, 244-448. Cf. Also G. Levi Della Vida “Omar Ibn al-Khattab”, EI1, 3:982-984.

[6] A Khurasanian ascetic and traditionist from the early strata of Islamic history; See. M. Smith, “Al-Fudayl b. `Iyad”, EI2, 2:936.

[7] See Qur’an 67:2

[8] See Ibn Taymiyya, Majmu` al-Fatawa, 10:172-174.


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