Paper Presented at the 14th International Leadership Training programme Islamabad Pakistan 11-2- February 1998 by Prof Dr Omar Hasan Kasule, Sr. Director, Tarbiyat and Training Center, International Islamic University, Malaysia.









There is no correct English translation for the word taqwa. It is commonly translated erroneously to mean fear. Humans undertake good actions and avoid evil ones not only out of fear of Allah’s punishment in case of default, but to express gratitude to Allah for the gift of life and the bounties they enjoy on earth. Taqwa is the only true and invariable criterion of superiority among humans (p 246 49:13). Taqwa or its absence have a major impact on human action (p 245 2:2-4… 77:41-44). At an individual level the practical manifestations of taqwa are: doing good, undertaking ‘ibadat, and avoiding bad actions. At a societal level the practical manifestations of taqwa are enjoining good (amr bi al maruf) and forbidding the bad (nahy ‘an al munkar). Among the consenquences of taqwa are: love of Allah (p 246 3:76…45:19), success (falah) (3:130…39:61), nasr (p 246-247 2:212…16:128), and good behaviour (p 248-249 2:2-5…65:10).


‘Ibadat is the purpose of creation. ‘Ibadat in Islam is a comprehensive concept that embraces all human endeavours. Whatever humans do in sincerity and without disobeying any of Allah’s commands is a form of worship and they will be rewarded for it. Thus ‘ibadat is the practical expression of taqwa.


‘Ibadat can be structured or non-structured. Structured ‘ibadat can be obligatory or non-obligatory. The obligatory prayers and paying of zakat are examples of structured ibadat. These physical acts of ibadat must be performed accurately. This is part of Islam’s teaching of excellence (ihsan). Orderly and organised activity is conducive to spiritual growth and development. The rest of human endeavours are also ibadat but are not structured. Obligatory acts of ibadat are associated with a reward if performed and punishment if neglected. Non-obligatory acts of ibadat are associated only with a reward if performed; there is no punishment for their neglect.


Ibadat must be constant and in all circumstances and is not confined to certain places, times, or occasions. The whole purpose of human creation is the worship of Allah. Only Allah is worthy of worship (4:36. P 776 19:93…44:18). Ibadat is Allah’s right and He punishes those who do not fulfil it. Humans were given a free will to choose what to do and not what not to do within the limited human capacity. Life is therefore a test for them whether they will choose the right path of ‘ibadat or they will choose otherwise. 


All human activities can be ‘ibadat. There must be a balance between these various activities for a harmonious life. No one act should be done to excess to the detriment of others. For example prayer at night is ibadat. It should not be done to such an excess that the ‘ibadat of looking for a livelihood the next morning is not possible. Although every human endeavour can be ‘ibadat, only those undertaken with the correct intention (niyyat) are rewarded as ibadat. An act of ibadat can therefore not be accidental. It must be a consenquence of a deliberate choice and intention.


Fulfilling acts of ibadat brings a reward (thawab) to the worshipper in addition to societal advantages. All prescribed acts of ibadat have a social purpose. Salat is best offerred in congregation with one leader (imaam). Adhan (5:58, 62:9) has to be recited loudly to announce salat because salat is a public community event. Facing one qiblat (2:144) in salat emphasises unity of the world-wide community of believers. Salat al Jumat (62:9) is weekly gathering of the whole community. Salat al eid is an bigger annual gathering. Hajj is the great assembly where once a year Muslims from all nations and places get together and worship together. Zakat is a system of mutual social support that provides for everybody’s welfare. Fasting is a voluntary experience of hunger that makes the rich sensitive to the plight of the poor who can not get enough food.


Ma’asiyat is the opposite of ibadat. It is neglect of prescribed duties or committing forbidden acts.



The concept of taharat in Islam refers to ritual, spiritual, and physical purity and cleaniliness. It has social and civilisational dimensions. The Qur’an has devoted many verses on taharat (   ).


There is a link between physical and ritual purity. Physical purity is ridding one-self of dirt and physical impurities (najasat). Being physically clean is conducive to ritual purity. In many cases both physical and ritual purity occur at the same time for example bathing (ghusl) after sexual intercourse, at the end of menstruation, and after birth.


Taharat embraces cleaniliness. A clean environment and a clean body are part of aesthetic beauty and are also necessary for sanitation and health. There are some cases like tayammum in which taharat is achieved without cleaniliness as usually understood by humans.


Taharat is in itself a form of ‘ibadat as well as preparation for other forms of ‘ibadat. Since worship is direct communication with Allah, taharat can also be viewed as a protocol preparation for an important event. Some forms of ‘ibadat like salat and hajj can not be valid without taharat. The holy Qur’an can not be touched unless one is in a state of taharat. Physical purity for salat embraces the body, the clothes, the place, and the atmosphere. The prophet for example forbade eating of food with strong orders and then coming to the mosque in order to keep the mosque atmosphere clean and pleasant .


One of the unique bounties for the ummat is that the earth was made a purifying agent. The cleaning agents are water and dust. There are several types of water: not clean in itself and not able to cleanse, clean in itself but not able to cleanse, clean in itself and also able to cleanse something else. Water that may appear clean may have filth, infectious organisms, or chemical pollutants that make it unsuitable for cleansing. The level or amount of impurity is imoportant. A little impurity does not necessarily make water unsuitable for cleansing.


Insitnjah is the process of removing excrement from the body. It has its specific regulations and etiquettes. Wudu involves cleaning the exposed parts of the body. It is recommended that a Muslim stays in a state of purity most of the time. Ghusl is washing the whole body after sexual relations, at the end of the menstrual period, at the end of post-partum bleeding, on becoming a Muslim or in relation to performing some types of ibadat such as  hajj. Oral hygiene by using a tooth-pick (miswak) is encouraged by Islam.


Salat is the most important formal act of ‘ibadat. It was ordained in heaven; the prophet had to make a special journey for this on the night of isra and miraaj. Salat is so important that it is considered a distinguishing characteristic of Muslims. True Muslims keep it all the time, muhafadhat ala al salat (p 713 2:238…107:4-5). Deliberate refusal to pray puts the individual concerned outside the community of Islam. Neglect of salat is a great sin (107:4-5)


Salat has advantages and a lasting impact on the individual (p 710-11 23:1-2…87:14-15). Regular salat protects the worshipper from committing evils and transgression (29:45). Salat properly offerred cleanses and expiates sins. Salat is direct communication between the worshipper and Allah. The actions of qiyaam, sujuud, and rukuu (p 564 2:58….96:19) are all direct actions of respect and reverence that the worshipper performs infront of the creator (23:1-2). Khushu is necessary for validity of salat otherwise it becomes a series of routine physical movements with no purpose.

Salat has advantages for the society. Salat in congregation or in the mosque has the social advantage of bringing people together in worship and to strengthen their brotherhood. The spirit of brotherhood and social organization is reflected in the requirement to straighten rows, to stand shoulder-to-shoulder and to follow the imaam. The whole community meets five times a day in congregational prayer. The larger community meets once a week on Friday. An even larger gathering occurs during the 2 festival prayers (salat al eidain). The biggest gathering is at the kaaba in Makka. Salat also prevents committing  fahishat and munkar (29:45)


There are several types of salat. Some are obligatory like the 5 daily salats, salat al jum’a, and salat al janazat. Many more are voluntary or supererogatory for example salat al tahajjud or qiyam al layl (p 713 17:78-79…76:26, 17:79, 73:1-7, 73:20, 51:17), salat al eid, and salat al witr. Some salat is for special reasons for example fear (salat al khawf),consultation (salat al istikharat), asking for rain (salat al istisqaa), solar eclipse (salat al khusuf).


The physical actions of salat must be done exactly in order to get spiritual involvement. Islam being a complete civilisation emphasises perfection, excellence and order. Disorderly salat is not conducive to spiritual elevation. Salat has pillars (arkaan al salat), conditions for validity (shurut al salat), and actions that nullify it (mubtilaat al salat).


Obligatory prayers have fixed times (4:103). The best of ibadat is prayer in its time. Salat times are set in such a way that there is continuos communication with the creator. Each of the 5 obligatory salats is offerred at any time somewhere on the globe thanks to the diferent time zones.


There are times in which salat can not be offered. Salat is not allowed at sunrise and sunset to avoid confusion with worshippers of the sun. Salat should also be delayed if the physical conditions will not allow undivided attention and concentration for example conditions of extreme heat, extreme cold, or hunger is the presence of food.

Salat is so important that it can not be left even in difficult circumstances. While on a journey the salat can be shortened or offerred before or after its prescribed time (4:101). The sick are permitted to abridge or modify the physical movements of the salat. Soldiers in the battle-field can pray abridged prayers and physical movements are changed. Women are excused from salat during the period of menstruation because of the associated physiological stress.


Among the bounties of Allah on the ummat is that salat can be offerred anywhere on earth and not necessarily in prescribed places. Muslims are encouraged to offer supererogatory prayers in their homes so that the houses do not become graves. Being in the mosque (itikaaf) (2:187) even without active engagement in salat is a source of reward.



The definition of fasting as prohibition of entry of anything through any of the external body orifices is figurative but is true. Food and drink through the mouth are not allowed. Smoking and other inhalants are also forbidden. Sexual relations are strictly forbidden. All these prohibitions operate during the day-light hours because fasting is not obligatory at night.


Fasting is ibadat that teaches self-control. A fasting person is able to control the food instinct, perhaps the most powerful human instinct. The sense of self-control gained is extendable to other situations of temptation to evil or when facing difficulties.

Fasting also has the further advantage that it teaches compassion for the poor and the hungry in a practical way. The wealthy who fast taste of hunger and can appreciate the cry for help from the poor and less privileged. Without this obligatory fasting the wealthy would never taste real hunger.


Fasting does not make the body suffer to attain spiritual benefit. The concept of ascetism in this sense is alien to the Islamic creed. There is no spiritual advantage in punishing or persecuting the body or causing it any harm.


Fasting is not harmful to the body’s physiology. The sick, the young, the travellers, pregnant women, menstruating women, breast-feeding mothers, and any other persons for whom fasting is an extra burden are excused from fasting or are asked to fast at a different time when they are physiologically competent.


When undertaken according to the teachings of the prophet, fasting should not disturb the normal activities needed to work for feeding the family or undertaking ‘ibadat.

There are several types of fasting. Some fasting like that of Ramadhan is obligatory. Most other types of fasting are non-obligatory. There are some types of fasting undertaken as a punitive measure.


Fasting has pillars, conditions of validity, and nullifiers. Knowledge of these is necessary to perform fasting correctly.


There are several medical advantages of fasting. Abundant epidemiological evidence has proved that diet is a co-factor in heart diseases and cancer. People or communities with excessive intake of certain types of foods are at increased risk for these diseases. Tobacco is linked to lung and oral cancers. In all such cases there is weak will-power to control appetite for food or tobacco. Fasting teaches appetite control. Its advantages should not be looked at only as deprivation of food for a limited time. The focus should be looked on the long-term benefits that a fasting person gets from strengthening will-power and stopping eating or smoking even if they feel like to eat more.


Fasting takes place in the month of Ramadhan. It is part of the new civilisation ushered in by Islam that Muslims have to determine accurately the start and end of Ramadhan and have to watch the calendar carefully.


Fasting has a beneficial impact on the daily routine of life. It is surprising to many people to discover that their daily life routines are tightly controlled by the pattern of meals. A fasting person feels a sense of liberation in Ramadhan when the routines of daily life are changed. Ramadhan is therefore a time of stock-taking when a person can look back in his her life when he or she is in a different mood.



The concept of sadaqat in Islam is very comprehensive. It covers all good actions however small they may be. You can be charitable by saying a good word, refraining from saying a bad word, by giving money, by helping others with your hands, and by thinking good of others.


Sadaqat has three main purposes: (a) improve the giver (9:104) (b) cleanse wealth (p 531 9:103, 9:1-3) (c) improve society. All three can be achieved from one single act of charity.


Sadaqat has benefits for the giver. The giver has to part with something considered dear. He or she must struggle against the human tendency to be covetous and selfish (al shuhhu). Those who give overcome the acquisitive instinct that leads humans to accumulate wealth by all means, fair or foul, and never get satified. The more one gives he or she becomes a fuller human being. Thus giving becomes part of human liberation.


The recipient has needs relieved and feel as a member of a mutually supportive community. Sadaqat thus creates psychological security. Individuals in the community know that if there is a need some-ne will help them. This feeling of security covers both the wealthy and the deprived. The wealthy today may become the needy of tomorrow.


Sadaqat is a system of social mutual support. Those who have share with those who do not have. This increases social cohesivenenss and the feeling of brotherhood.

There are several types of sadaqat. Sadaqat can be obligatory or voluntary. It can be open or private; the private being better (2:271). Sadaqat is closely related to iman (23:1-4) and taqwa (2:2-3).


The obligatory sadaqat, zakat, is a unique institution in social support and social welfare. The giver is obliged by law to give. The receiver does not feel that he is inferior because he is being helped because what is given to him is on instructions from Allah. The zakat that the poor receive is a right that they have in the wealth of the rich (51:19).


Zakat al maal is paid from wealth if there is a quorum. If the institution of zakat was operating fully as is required by law, there would be no destitution in the ummat today.


Zakat al fitr is a fixed amount paid on behalf of each member of the family at the end of the fasting month of Ramadhan. It plays a very important social and psychological function. The less priviledged are assured that they can take part in the festivities at the end of the fasting month.



Hajj is obligatory only on those financially and physically capable (3:97). There are obligations that take precedence over hajj like jihad, caring for parents and the family.

Hajj is a unique institution found in no other religion or community. It involves worship of Allah but at the same time fulfils social and ummatic functions. In hajj Muslims, men and women, come from all the world to worship together. This reminds them of the power and majesty of the creator to whom all people turn. It also reminds each individual that he or she is not alone but is part of a world-wide community of  believers. In hajj all pilgrims do the same rites again a reminder of the unity of humanity in worship. The male pilgrims are all dressed in the same way. The rich and the poor, the powerful and the weak, the famous and the unknown are all reminded that in front of Allah they are all the same. Hajj is also an occasion for social interaction. Trade is allowed mainly for this purpose. Thus hajj is a big international conference of the ummat and if its significance were well appreciated the ummat would be more united and more cohesive.


Hajj in unfortunately not a political and economic forum for the ummat at the moment. If an attempt were made to make it the ummatic annual summit that it should be, the existing schisms in the ummat would predominate over the unity and the ‘ibadat would not be carried out well. We have to be careful in hajj not to undertake activities that will distract from the main purpose of worship.


Hajj has prescribed rites (2:196-203). Each of the hajj rites has its spiritual and social significance. Circumbulation of the kaaba (Tawaaf) signifies unity of the community of believers. This community has both time and place dimensions. Believers have always been coming to go around the house from time immemorial and will do so until the end of the world. Believers come from all parts of the world. This community of believers also includes angels in the high heavens who circumbulate bayt al ma’mur which is in heaven directly above the kaaba. A worshipper at the kaaba is therefore part of this big community of worshippers. This gives encouragement and motivation.


The trot between safa and marwa (al sa’ay) signifies strength and hope in times of adversity as did the mother of Ismail who was left in Makka with no water or provisions and was running between the two hillocks in fear and hope until Allah delivered her and her son from  danger


Standing in the plain of Arafat (wuquf arafat) signifies the unity and equality of humanity. People of all colours and nationalities gather in one plain with only one purpose, the worship of Allah.


Stone-throwing (ram’yu a; jamarat) signifies the determination not to succumb to the temptations of shaitan. This symbolism commemorates the victory of the patriarch of the believers Ibrahim (PBUH) over shaitan who tried to distract him from executing Allah’s commands.


The city of Makka has a special spiritual significance for the Muslim (3:96, 2:125-127, 14:35-37, 5:97, 22:25). It is the religious capital of the ummat and perhaps of humanity. It has the holy kaaba , a sacred hiuse (al bayt al haram) that all  Muslims face in their prayers (p 214-215 2:125 … 106:3). It is a city of peace that is open to all Muslims. The visitor and resident have the same equal rights, a situation that is not found in other places on earth.


Hajj has pillars (arkan al hajj), conditions for validity (shurut al hajj), forbidden things (mawaniu al hajj), and nullifiers (mubtilaat al hajj). Every intending pilgrim must know these things in order to perform hajj correctly and fully. Details are discussed in a later volume of this series.



Look up and list various translations of the term taqwa

What are the advantages of ibadat from your personal experience?

What is the impact of ibadat on character?

Try to make a check-list of your ibadat actvities in a typical day

Assess the general cleaniliness of your community; does it fulfil the Islamic ideal?

What do you know about the problem of water in arid Muslim countries

What is the relation between physical and ritual purity

Think of your particular community and discuss the general understanding of salat as ritual

vs spirituality

How well do people in your community observe salat?

What can you suggest to improve salat observance in your community?

List social and community advantages of congregational prayers

Make a small survey among your close friends on distraction in salat? What is the solution?

List the advantages of fasting: social, spiritual, and medical

What are the main differences between voluntary and involuntary fasting

Explain how fasting leads to self control

What are the social and spiritual advantages of sadaqat: to the giver and the recipient

Describe the payment of zakat and sadaqat in your your community

List spiritual advantages of zakat as given in the Qur’an

Explain how the zakat institution can be the basis of a social welfare system

Can zakat replace other types of government or civil taxes taxes? Give reasons for your view.

Explain how hajj can be a political assembly of the ummat

What aspects of hajj emphasises equality and universality

Explain how hajj can be an economic forum

What public health precautions are needed in hajj?

What do you think about fixing quotas of pilgrims for each country?

Omar Hasan Kasule Feb 1998