Human beings were created for the worship of Allah as Quran tells us in 51/56. This is our essential purpose but what image does this conjure for those who read this aya (verse)? For many, it is about filling places of worship (mosques, churches, synagogues, temples of all varieties) and performing rites and rituals for a God who demands this. I do not share this point of view. That is, I do not believe that these devotional acts are technically called ‘worship’. They are devotional acts though and the states of being they generate may lead to actual acts of worship.
So what is worship in my understanding of the Quranic term? Worship is the direct translation of the word ‘ibadah’. ‘Ibadah’ is the act of servitude. An ‘abd’ (one who performs ibadah) is one who serves his ‘ilah’(god or authority) or ‘rabb’ (lord). This relationship between the abd and the ilah or rabb is called ‘deen’. So deen is a power based relationship. Our task is to become the ibad (plural of abd) of Allah alone. Unfortunately, the pitfall which ensnares most of us is that we end up associating partners with Allah (false gods and lords) or worse still, lose the servitude of Allah completely.
What does it mean to realise (tasdiq) our deen with Allah, that is to serve Him? If we consider Quran 107/1-3, it equates the denial (the opposite of tasdiq above) of the deen with driving away those without relations (yateem) and refusal to feed the stagnant (miskeen). So in effect, we worship or serve Allah by doing the opposite – we are to build positive relationships with those who lack support and to feed on every level those who are stagnant in life so they may progress.
What is the goal of these action strategies? The beauty of these smaller suras such as 107 is just that – they are small and so easy to digest. At the end of this sura (107/7), it tells that these people in 107/1-3 are those who present obstacles to a state of optimal existence. This is a state where the energies of life feed into our maximum performance in life. This state is called ‘awan’ in Quran and Muslims seek this from Allah when they recite ‘iyyaka nasta’in’ in the Fatihah. As Fatihah is the opening recitation in Quran, we can see how fundamental this optimum state is.
After we realise a deen with Allah, our next next step would be to ‘exclusivise’ our deen so that it is only Allah who is our authority and lord and not a false authority. What does it mean to serve Allah alone, that is to totally empower Him (give him deen, so to speak) to run our lives? Once again, Quran does not let us down in explicating that idea. If we look at Quran 2/139 which mentions ‘mukhlisoon’ (‘exclusivisers’ , contextually for Allah). Who are these mukhlisoon?
Reading 2/139 with consideration to the passage (2/135-141) to be very enlightening. 2/135 speaks about the way of ibrahim which is totally removed from partnering another authority with Allah. The opposite of this behaviour is be one who is lenient or expects leadership or merely one who acts towards the good without having a direct connection with Allah (huda and nasara personalities). 2/136 speaks about a set of personalities to emulate in terms of belief and to be agents of wholeness and soundness (muslimeen). 2/137 confirms this strategy of belief outlined in 2/135-136 to be what is required to make progress. 2/138 further explicates this as taking on the baptism of Allah – which I interpret to be immersing oneself in the names of Allah. We finally come to the aya in question, 2/139, where we can see much more clearly what being ‘mukhlisoon’ is – to have all the attributes mentioned so far. 2/140 once again mentions the behaviour which is less than ideal mentioned in 2/135, this time equating them with hiding their witnessing of Allah. This shows that to be mukhlisoon, we must witness Allah in our lives. 2/141 finally ends the passage calling them a nation which has passed, emphasising for us the results of a nation which conceals the light of Allah.
From this long analysis above, I think its clear what it takes to be mukhlisoon, people who have ‘exclusivised’ their worship so that it is only for Allah. These people are those who follow the way of ibrahim and have shunned any kind of intermediation between themselves and Allah. They have made themselves workers of wholeness and soundness and strive to immerse themselves in the attributes of Allah. This is what it means to be at the peak of worship.