"To know Me is... to worship Me"
by: Abbas Di Palma
The worship of God, being a real connection with the spiritual dimension, is the actual purpose of human existence, explains Abbas Di Palma.

God's creation is marvellous. Water, minerals, plants, sky, mountains, rivers are all part of a whole and unique system in which we live in. According to a religious perspective, this creation is not limited to its physical aspects and beauties but in it are secrets and worlds to be discovered by the faithful.

Often, human aims and ideas stagnate at the material, or at most psychological, level making celestial realms inaccessible and closing in this way the doors of a higher understanding and bliss. Some people, however, do not limit themselves by the boundaries of their physical condition and are not keen to accept a compromise with 'space and time'. They want to see beyond and to transcend historical and social phenomenon so as to witness that mysterious world announced by the prophets and saints. In other words, we are pointing to the true spirituality whose traces are not clearly visible, neither in the classical annals nor in mere rational thought, as it is the very 'experience of man'.

Indeed we often witness the limitations of spirituality as applied in different social contexts. Human, social and political ideologies often resulted from the secularisation of previous theological notions or systems.
Consequently, such ideologies postulate a representation of a human world in which an effective connection with other worlds and dimensions has been lost.

In any case, as a matter of fact, the unseen spiritual world indicated by the religious scriptures cannot be denied. This issue has been at the centre of many heated and controversial debates for centuries where each side brought different pieces of evidence to support its view. The believer, however, may choose to undertake another route to explore God's creation and this would happen by walking through the Path of Faith by using tools such as humility, intimacy and worship.

Finding enjoyment in worship detaches the human being from his physical conditions and makes him taste a paradisiacal sweetness that does not belong to this world. This fact has been proven not only by the words and actions of holy personalities but also by the direct experience of ordinary believers. Unfortunately, many people have spent many years engaging themselves in outwardly devotional disciplines without directly experiencing this joy and sense of happiness. Such lack of feeling may have been caused by the absence of certain important premises, factors and etiquettes that are to be kept in mind in relation to our worship.

First of all, we should not compare worship to a mere exercise of concentration. Concentration may be a part of worship but it is not its finality because to focus on concepts or words in some cases may represent a form of distraction from the One to whom our worship is directed. There is a fundamental element in worship that is to be distinguished from the different forms of exercises and concentration. Mere concentration may improve our capability of meditation on an object but may not necessarily be classified as real worship. Divine vigilance and attention cannot be forcefully vehiculated towards something although it may be intensified towards what it is already directed to. If a person does not find pleasure in worship, he should first realise that for him, God's presence is not found, and he should look for a solution to that problem, being aware that love and attraction for Him cannot be forced. His ideal state should be like that of a lover admiring the loved one without focusing on what he is saying to him, although words of love would naturally flow from his tongue.

Furthermore, the heart should be conscious of the importance of worship. The more our awareness of the importance of worship is present, the more intensified should be our devotional actions. A natural consequence of such awareness will be to dedicate a specific time for worship in which any other worry or preoccupations are not taken into consideration.

There is no doubt that performing a daily prayer or reciting the Qur'an while thinking of finishing that worship prevents spiritual ascension. The time of worship should be allocated only with the intention of divine satisfaction and nothing else. It is for this reason that all scholars agree that worship without appropriate intention is invalid under all circumstances. More precisely it can be said that the core of worship is that same intention which brings the consequent predisposition of mind and movements of the body.

Some good-hearted people may not be extremely keen on the act of worship. In fact it is true that different people have different tendencies; some emphasise charity works, some focus on morality, others on the maintenance of justice, all elements that reflect God's beauty and majesty on earth, but it is through worship that man can reflect divine beauty and majesty in the angelic sphere as well to the point that even the angels may become subservient to Him as it is mentioned in some religious literature. It is the real scope of His Creation as the Qur'an says: "I have not created the spirits and the humans except to worship Me." (51 :56).

Also, since according to some traditions 'to worship Me' means 'to know Me', it may be concluded that God can be fully known only through worship. The limbs of the body and the mental inferences are limited factors that cannot lead by themselves to the ultimate knowledge of God.

The predisposition of the heart is the essential ingredient to really knowing Him by being the actual bridge between the finite and infinite aspect of our existence.

Hujjatul-Islam Abbas Di Palma is an Italian convert, graduated from the Hawza Ilmiyya ofLondon. He holds a MA in Islamic Studies and lecturs at The Islamic College - London.

Originally published in islam today magazine UK, issue 46 vol. 5 | April 2017. It has been republished here with permission.