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Suluk and Ibadah in the Sayings of Imam Ali (A.S)

imam ali (a.s)

This article is divided into two parts:
1. Levels of Worship
2. The Approach of the Nahj al-balaghah (This part is divided in to two parts too)
A. Levels of Devotion
B. Purging of Sins

'Ibadah, or service, of the One God and negation of everything else as an object of service and worship, is one of the essential teachings of God-sent apostles-a feature never absent from the teachings of any prophet.
As we know, in the sacred religion of Islam, too, worship occupies a preeminent position, with the only difference that worship in Islam is not regarded as a series of devotional rituals separate from everyday life and as pertaining solely to another world. Worship in Islam is located in the context of life and is an unalienable part of the Islamic philosophy of life.
Aside from the fact that some of the Islamic acts of worship are performed collectively, Islam has structured them in such a fashion that their performance automatically ensures the performance of other duties of life. For instance, salat is a complete expression of man's servitude and surrender to God.
It has been specified in such a manner that even a man who desires to pray in a lonely corner is forced to observe certain things of moral and social relevance, such as cleanliness, respect for rights of others, observance of punctuality, possession of a sense of direction, control over one's emotions, and expression of good-will and benevolence towards other righteous servants of God.

From the point of view of Islam, every good and beneficial action if performed with a pure, God-seeking intention, is viewed as worship. Therefore, learning, acquisition of knowledge and livelihood and social service, if performed for God's sake, are acts of worship.

 Nevertheless, Islam also specifies a system of rituals and formal acts of worship such as salat, sawm (fasting) etc., which have a specific philosophy for performing them.
Levels of Worship
Men have varying attitudes towards worship. Not all of them view it in the same light. For some, worship is a kind of deal, barter and an exchange of labour performed for wages. Like an ordinary worker who spends his time and labour for the benefit of an employer and expects a daily wage in return, the devotee also endeavours for the sake of Divine reward, which, however, he would receive in the next world.
Like the labourer, for whom his labour bears fruit in the form of his wages and who would not work except for a wage, the benefit of the devotee's worship, according to the outlook of this particular group of devotees, lies in the wages and reward which shall be granted to the devotees in the shape of the goods and comforts in the other world.
However, every employer pays wages in return for the benefit he derives from his workers, but what benefit can the Lord of the heavens derive from the labours of a weak and feeble servant? Moreover, if we assume that the Great Employer does remunerate His servants in the form of the blessings and rewards of the Hereafter, then why does He not reward them without any effort and consumption of labour and energy?
These are questions which never occur to this class of pious. From their viewpoint, the essence of worship lies in certain visible bodily movements and oscillations of the tongue. This is one attitude towards worship. Unrefined and vulgar it be, it is, in the words of Ibn Sina, as he puts it in the ninth chapter of His al-'Isharat, 'the attitude of the unenlightened and God-ignorant, acceptable only to the plebeians.'
Another approach towards worship is that of the enlightened. Here the aforementioned problems of worker and employer, labour and wage, have no relevance. How can they be relevant when worship is viewed by them as the ladder to attain nearness to God, as the means of human sublimity, edification and upliftment of the soul and its flight to the invisible sphere of spiritual greatness, as an invigorating exercise of his spiritual faculties, and as a triumph of the spirit over the corporeal?
It is the highest expression of the gratitude and love of the human being towards his Creator and his declaration of love for the Most Perfect and the Absolutely Beautiful, and finally, his wayfaring towards Allah!

According to this approach, worship has a form and a soul, an appearance and an inner meaning. That, which is expressed by the tongue and the movements of other members of the body, is the form, the outer mould, and the appearance of worship. Its soul and meaning is something else. The soul of worship is inextricably connected with the significance attached to worship by the devotee, his attitude towards it, his inner motive that drives him to it, the ultimate satisfaction and benefit he derives from it, and the extent to which he covers the Divine path in his journey towards God.

By: Ayatullah Shaheed Murtuza Mutahhari

Source: imamreza.net

Other links:

Monotheism (Advantage of Discussion about the Outlook on Universe)

Monotheism, the First Principle of Divine Outlook on Universe

Monotheism (What is Natural Disposition?)

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