Is Praying the Only Way to Worship in Islam?

31 December, 2019
Q As-salamu `alaykum. What are the ways in which a Muslim may worship Allah? Is prayer the only way of worship in Islam or does it include dhikr, da`wah, etc.? Please list various ways.


Wa `alaykum As-Salamu wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuh.

In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.

All praise and thanks are due to Allah, and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger.

In this fatwa:

Worship in Islam is an all-inclusive term for all that Allah loves of the external and internal sayings and actions of a person. In other words, worship in Islam is everything one says or does for the pleasure of Allah. This, of course, includes rituals as well as beliefs, social activities, and personal contributions to the welfare of fellow human beings.

In his response to your question, Sheikh Ahmad Kutty, a senior lecturer and Islamic scholar at the Islamic Institute of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, states:

Performing Prescribed Duties

You have raised a very important question. It shows your love for Allah and your genuine desire to seek His goodly pleasure.

Now coming to your question, let me quote a hadith qudsi (sacred tradition) that has been authenticated by scholars of Hadith:

“My servant can never draw nearer to Me by anything more dearer to Me than by doing the duties I have prescribed on him. My servant shall continue to draw nearer to Me by performing the supererogatory acts of virtue until I love him. When I love him, I become his ears with which he hears, his eyes with which he sees, his hands with which he grasps, and his feet with which he walks. If he were to ask of Me, I will grant his request. If he were to seek refuge in Me, I will protect him” (Al-Bukhari)

It is clear from the above tradition that nothing can replace the prescribed duties enjoined by Allah. The five pillars are therefore indispensable for salvation.

The Door of Virtue Is Wide Open

After one has performed them, the door of virtue is wide open to include each and every act that is considered beneficial for humanity.

In this sense, the area of supererogatory acts of virtue is at once diverse and immense. There are a number of well-attested hadiths from Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) that highlight the limitless opportunities we have been provided with for accumulating charitable works every single day of our life from the moment we open our eyes in the morning.

Sorts of Charitable Actions

Prophet Muhammad said,

“Every day that the sun comes up in the sky, mankind ought to perform acts of charity (kindness) (to express thanks to Allah) on behalf of every single joint in their bodies. It is an act of charity to work to bring peace between two people who are estranged. It is charity to help someone who has no ride by giving him a ride or by helping him lift his load. It is charity to speak a kind word. … It is charity to glorify Allah. It is charity to praise Allah. It is charity to testify the Oneness of Allah. It is charity to guide a person who is stranded. … It is charity to help a producer or to produce something for someone who cannot produce for himself. … It is charity to remove litter from the path of the people.” (Al-Bukhari)

When the Prophet had enumerated all sorts of charitable actions, one of the Companions inquired, “What if a person cannot do any of such deeds?” The Prophet replied, “At least let him spare others from harm; for that is the least kind of charity he can do for the benefit of his soul!”

He also said, “You cannot make people happy by giving them financial assistance (for there is a limitation of funds); but you can at least bring joy to their hearts by meeting them with a pleasant face.”

The Ways of Worship in Islam Are Unlimited

In short, the ways of virtue and kindness are unlimited. It is only limited by our imagination. The world around us offers unlimited opportunities for us. Let me list some of the most essential ways we can apply the above exhortations:

1- Make dhikr your constant companion. Allah says, {When the Prayer (on Friday) has ended, disperse in the land seeking the bounty of Allah, and remember Allah much in order for you to prosper.} (Al-Jumu`ah 62:11)

In other words, after having performed our obligatory religious duties, it is imperative that we strive our utmost to infuse everything we do with dhikr or remembrance of Allah.

Prophet Muhammad excelled in implementing the above order of Allah in such a way that his beloved wife Aishah tells us, “He was ever wont of remembering Allah in all of his conditions.”

2- Find a meaningful area or field which is helpful for the community and gain expertise in it and try to fill that niche. While excelling in your work, seek the pleasure of Allah through it;

3- Keep your mind always open to rendering acts of kindness and virtue. Let us learn from the example of Abu Bakr (may Allah be well pleased with him). Abu Bakr did every single act of virtue that the Prophet asked his Companions about. He visited the sick, attended the funeral, freed the slaves, gave charity, and observed fasting. Hence Prophet Muhammad  exclaimed,“What an excellent faith you have, Abu Bakr!”

Allah Almighty knows best.

Editor’s note: This fatwa is from Ask the Scholar’s archive and was originally published at an earlier date.