What is the Point of Worship,
Why Does it Have to Be Done in a Certain Way?
Consider our position in this universe. We are neither omnipotent nor self-sufficient, and so have needs, many of which we cannot satisfy. We are weak and vulnerable, and subject to worry, illness, and other negative events. When we look at the sheer abundance of animate and inanimate things around us, as well as their tremendous harmony and order, we cannot help but reflect on our own frailty and relative insignificance. This realization awakens a deeply embedded need to acknowledge the Divine and to worship the great mysterious power that controls everything. Since whatever we can see and touch is both transient and dependent on something else, it is unworthy of our worship, for logic dictates that behind them is a Supreme Being, a Transcendent Will guiding and controlling everything. This Being, therefore, must be the goal of our worship.
Reflecting more carefully on existence, we see the all-encompassing lawfulness and order of things and events, as well as their uniformity, regularity, and obedience to an All-Powerful Will. We thus become aware of the fact that everything has a part in that lawfulness and order. That part is its purpose or duty. As we realize that each one of us is also just a part, we conclude that each individual’s existence cannot be a purposeless accident; rather, each individual has a specific purpose and duty to fulfil.
In aesthetic terms, we can never emulate the beauty of creation. From our own form to the vigorous and lively beauty of the innumerable forms and colors surrounding us, not to mention those of the stars and planets, everything causes a strong desire within us to know the Creator. It is as if everything were designed and produced elsewhere and then simply placed before us so that we could marvel at them while using and benefiting from them. The world is presented as a richly laid table of foods and ornaments for our use. As we reach for any item, we inevitably sense the Giver’s presence, and so experience an even greater joy and wonder.
In religious terms, such sentiments and conceptions aroused in human consciousness, as it were by nature, are a stage in acknowledging the Beautiful Names and Attributes of the Creator making Himself known through His creation. Every blessing, excellence, and beauty speaks of the one who made it possible. Every system, balance, and order indicates the one who established and sustains it. In sum, we naturally feel grateful for what God has provided and so worship Him in response to His making Himself known.
Even in the absence of Prophets or guides, we should be able to gain some knowledge of God by observing the universe and then act accordingly. There is some evidence to support this argument. Before Islam, many people, including Muhammad, were born and lived in Mecca, the heartland of Arab paganism and idolatry. No one showed them the way to God or spoke to them of the Oneness of God. And yet history records the remarks of a desert nomad of that time: “Camel droppings point to a camel’s existence. Footprints on the sand tell of a traveller. Heaven with its stars, the Earth with its mountains and valleys, and the sea with its waves—don’t they point to the All-Powerful, Knowing, Wise, and Caring Maker?”
Evidently, a pure conscience free of any traces of paganism and polytheism can understand its own station and duty when it seen creation’s splendor and harmony, and thus seek to serve and please the One who created and ordained all things.
Knowing God entails worshipping Him. As he provides everything for us, we are obliged to serve Him. One of these blessings is that of prayer. God tells us how to pray so that we will do it correctly and effectively.
We are in constant need of help, guidance, and counsel. Imagine that a successful business owner gives you sound and free advice on how to run your business. Would you refuse such advice? If we pray according to the revealed method, we avoid the pitfalls of excess and impropriety, and obtain advantage and blessings beyond our imagination.
Prayer straightens all ways and opens all doors. God hears our recitals and supplications, and angels gather around us when we prostrate with sincerity. No one can claim that such things do not happen. This is why the most accepted pattern of worship is the one prescribed by God.
When we buy something, do we make up our own instructions concerning how to use it, or do we use the instructions provided by the manufacturer? As the Creator knows what will cause us to prosper in this world and the next, we should follow what He has revealed and how His Messenger practiced it in his daily life. It is we who need to worship God; not God who needs to be worshipped—He is free of all need.
By M. Fethullah Gulen