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Ibada (عِبادۃ)

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Dictionary meanings of the word ‘Abada عبد and its variants

‘abada: to serve, worship or adore; to render religious service, worship or adoration; to obey; to obey with humility or submissiveness; to be or become a slave or in a state of slavery [LL, LA]; to do what is approved (by God) [LL]; to serve or worship (ه a god); to adore, venerate (ه someone, a god or a human being); to idolize or deify (ه someone) [HW]; to accept the impression of a thing; to submit, devote, serve, worship, adore, venerate; to imbibe and reflect the Divine attributes or morals on one’s own person [AM]

Abida (y’abadu): to be or become angry [LL, LA, K]; to disdain or scorn [LL, LA, LQ]; to deny, disacknowledge or disallow [LL, K]; to repent or blame oneself [LL, K] for having been remiss or falling short of what one ought to have done [LL]; to mourn, grieve or be sorrowful [LL, LA]; to be covetous or inordinately or culpably desirous [LL, K]

II & X to take someone as a slave; to enslave; to bring someone under; to subdue; to render (someone) submissive so that he did the work of slaves; to render (a camel) submissive or tractable; to beat or tread a path or road to make it even or easy to walk or ride upon [LL]; to harness, control or direct a camel (or horse) so that its power is utilized for useful purpose. From this, it is said that ‘Ibada results in the harnessing, direction and control of man’s power, energy or abilities to useful purpose, and also keeps him from exceeding the just limits or from being immoderate, inordinate, exorbitant or straying away from the Right Path [Al-Quran (16:36) Al-Quran (19:44)][LQ]; to enslave, enthrall, subjugate, subject (ه someone); to make passable for traffic (ه a road) [HW]. Making the road passable needs a lot of effort or work but the result is well worth it [LQ]

V to devote oneself to the service of God; to show divine veneration (ل for someone); to deify or worship (ل someone) [HW]

Abd(un): a male slave; contr. of Hurr(un) [LL, LA]; a servant; a worshipper; a man or human being (male or female) whether free or a slave; ignoble or base-born (as Hurr(un) may also signify generous, noble or well-born)[LL]; a certain plant, of sweet odour [LL, K] , of which camels are fond because it makes the milk to become plentiful, and fattens. It is sharp or hot in temperament and when they eat it, they become thirsty and seek the water [LL, LQ]- from this, it is said that‘ibada is such a work that is done fondly, and it may involve a temporary unease but the end result is very beneficial for him who does it [LQ].

Abeed(un): slaves [LL]

Ibaad(un): servants [LL]

Al-ibaad(un): mankind [LL]

Aabideen: (from abida/y’abadu) disdainers, scorners, deniers, the angry [43:81] [LL, LQ]; (from ‘abada) worshipers, obeyers, servants

Ibadat(un) عبادة: religious service, worship, adoration, devotion [LL, LA]; obedience [LL, K]; obedience with humility and submissiveness [LL, LA]; doing what God approves [LL]

Uboodiyyat(un) عبودية: the state or condition of a slave; slavery; servitude [LL, LA]

Aabid(un) عابد: a server, worshipper; an adorer of God; an obeyer of God with humility and submissiveness; a devotee [LL, LA]; a servant [LL]

Muta’abad(n) متعبد and Ma’abad(un) معبد: a place appropriated for the purpose of ‘ibada

Mu’abbad(un): (applied to a camel) rendered submissive or tractable [LL, LA]; syn. Mudhallal [M]

How the word ‘Ibada and its variants are used in the Qur’an?

The word ‘abd has been used in the Qur’an in different meanings, at different places. Some of the meanings in which this word is used in the Qur’an, are given below:

–        a slave or servant (as opposite to a free person)

–        male slave or servant (as opposite to a female slave or maid)

–        a human being (male or female)

–        one who renders ‘Ibada to Allah (by complying with His Laws and Commands)

-In 2:178, the word ‘abd has been used to mean slave or servant as an opposite of free person

-According to 26:22, Pharaoh had enslaved (‘abbadta) the Children of Israel [see also 23:47]

-In 2:221 and 24:32, the word ‘abd has been used to mean ‘male’ slave or servant as an opposite of a ‘female’ slave or servant

-In 16:75, the word ‘abd has been used to mean ‘a slave’ {owned by someone, who has no power over anything}

-In 39:7, the word ‘abd has been used to mean a man or human being (male or female)

-In 2:23, 8:41, 17:1, 18:1, 25:1 53:10, 57:9, 72:19 Allah has called the Prophet Muhammad (a.s.), His ‘abd

-In 4:172, the word ‘abd-Allah has been used for Al-Maseeh (a.s.)

-In 12:24 , the Prophet Yusaf (a.s.) has been called ‘abd

-In 17:3, 37:81 and 66:10 , the Prophet Nuh (a.s.) has been called ‘abd

-In 18:65-82, an account of one of Allah’s ‘abd and the Prophet Musa (a.s.) is given

-In 19:2, the Prophet Zakariya (a.s.) has been called ‘abd

-In 19:30 and 43:59, the Prophet Isa (a.s.) has been called ‘abd

-In 38:17, the Prophet Dawood (a.s.) has been called ‘abd

-In 38:30, the Prophet Sulaiman (a.s.) has been called ‘abd

-In 38:41, 38:44, the Prophet Ayyub (a.s.) has been called ‘abd

-In 38:45, the Prophets Ibrahim, Ishaq and Yaqoub (a.s.) have been called ‘ibaad

-In 37:111 , the Prophet Ibrahim (a.s.) has been called ‘abd

-In 37:122 , the Prophet Musa and Haroon (a.s.) have been called ‘ibaad

-In 37:132 , the Prophet Elias (a.s.) has been called ‘abd

-In 66:10 , the Prophet Lut (a.s.) has been called ‘abd

-In 37:171 , the Messengers (a.s.) have been called ‘ibaad


Ibada as elaborated in the Quran

‘Ibada, (in the Proper sense, when the object of the word is Allah) has been elaborated in the Qur’an. Some points are given below:

-‘Ibada is likened with Sirat-e-Mustaqeem [3:51, 19:36, 36:61, 43:64], which is related to: Allah’s Guidance [5:15-16]; Holding fast to the Revelation of Allah [43:43]; Deen-e-qayyam and Millat-e-Ibrahim [6:161]; and Ittiba-e-Rasool [43:61]

-‘Ibada is the absence to Istikbaar (i.e. haughtiness or insolence) [4:172-173, 7:206, 21:19, 40:60]. So it implies humility and submissiveness (to Allah)

‘Ibada is related to Allah’s Command (Al-Hukm) and has been termed as Deen-ul-Qayyam [12:40]. Also compare la yushriku fi hukmihi ahada in 18:26 with la yushriku bi ibaditi rabbihi ahada in 18:110

-‘Ibada is related to Deen (i.e. the obedience to Allah) [39:2, 39:11, 39:14, 98:5]. The phrase lahu ad-deen in these verses means ‘the obedience is due only to Him’, as when the preposition ‘la’ is used with the word deen, the word deen means ‘obedience’. Hence ‘ibada also means obedience to Allah.

-terms ‘ruku’sajda’ and ‘Ibada have been used distinctly in 22:77 (also see 53:62, 66:5)

-terms ‘ibadaiqamat-e-salat and I’ta-e-zakat have been used distinctly in 98:5 (however, ‘wao’ between these terms may be wa-e-tafseeri). Also compare 98:5 with 12:40]


Characteristics of ‘Ibad-Allah

Some of the characteristics of ‘Ibad-Allah (in Proper sense), as given in the Qur’an, are as follows:

-Those who do not deviate from the Right Path [15:39-42]

-Those on whom Shaitan has no authority or influence [17:65]

-Those who listen to the Word (of Allah) and follow it the best, are on the Guidance from Allah and are men of understanding [39:17-18]

-Those who believe and do righteous deeds [42:23]

-Those who believe in Allah’s Ayaat and submit [43:68-69]

-Those who keep their vows and give food to the poor, the orphans and the captives, without wishing any return from them, not even any thanks [76:6-9]

-Those who are proactively steadfast, truthful in word and action, ever submitting to the Commandments, keeping their wealth open for the society, and seeking protection early against any forthcoming challenge from the bottom of their hearts [3:15-17]

-Those who turn away from evil and indecency [12:24]

-Those who establish salat and spend of the provisions, on others, secretly and openly [14:31]

-Those who act according to Allah’s Commands [21:26-27]

-Those who walk on earth in humbleness, pass their nights preparing themselves to make a rightful submission and take a rightful stand, spend their wealth, on others, and are neither extravagant not stingy [25:63-68]


Some verses in which the object of the verb ‘abada is Allah: 1:5, 2:21, 2:83, 2:133, 2:138, 2:172, 3:64, 4:36, 5:72, 5:117, 6:107

Some verses in which the object of the verb ‘abada is idol: 14:35, 26:71, 37:95

Some verses in which the object of the verb ‘abada is Shaitan:19:44, 36:60

A verse in which the object of the verb ‘abada is a human (Pharaoh): 26:22

A verse in which the object of the verb ‘abada is At-taghoot: 39:17

A verse in which the object of the verb ‘abada is Jinn: 34:41

When the object of the verb ‘abada is an idols or anything that cannot give commands or instruction or guidance, or cannot devise laws, it can mean nothing more than the ritual worship or adoration. The obedience or the compliance with the commands of the idols is out of the question.

When the object of the verb ‘abada is Shaitan it may signify the worship or obedience of Shaitan which might be anything that takes man away from the Path prescribed by Allah

When the object of the verb ‘abada is At-Taghoot it may signify the worship or obedience of At-taghoot which may be anything that makes man to exceed the Limits prescribed by Allah

When the object of the verb ‘abada is a human being, it might mean the obedience, adoration or servitude of human master or compliance with his commands. It might also include some rituals of adoration or worship of human lords, by their followers. By obeying, adoring or serving human beings rather than Allah is elevating their status and making them equal or comparable to Allah.

When the object of the verb ‘abada is Allah, it would mean the obedience of Allah with humility and submissiveness and to do what Allah has approved, instructed or commanded, in all walks of life and conform to His Laws and comply with His Guidance. To do only the worship and adoration of Allah but not follow His commands is reducing the status of Allah to a mere idol.

As far as the word ‘worship’ is concerned, there is no single agreed-upon definition. Some of the definitions (given in English Dictionaries) are as follows:

-A feeling of profound love and admiration

-Love unquestioningly and uncritically or to excess; venerate as an idol

-Show devotion to (a deity)

-Attend religious services

-The obligation of God’s creation to give to Him all honour, praise, adoration, and glory due Him because He is the holy and divine creator

-The activity of praying in a church, temple, mosque, etc. in order to show respect and love for a divine being

-Homage rendered to God which it is sinful (idolatry) to render to any created being

-The ascribing ultimate worth, worth-ship

-The act of prayer or actions dedicated to praising God

The phrase I‘bubu Allah is better NOT rendered as ‘worship Allah’ because the purpose of ‘Ibada, according to the Qur’an, is taqwa (or preservation) of man [2:21] and ultimately, falah (or the success and prosperity) of man [2:189, 3:130, 3:200, 5:35, 22:70]. ‘Ibada of a man does not, and cannot, do any good to Allah but it is for his own benefit, i.e. his preservation, success and prosperity which can be judged and seen objectively and is not just an abstract idea.

The phrase I‘bubu Allah is better also NOT rendered as ‘serve Allah’ as some English dictionaries define the word “service” as “Work done by one person or group that benefits another” or “Employment in duties or work for another”. Since Allah is Al-Ghani (i.e. beyond any needs) [3:97] and none can benefit Him (He does not need to be benefited), hence the phrase I‘bubu Allah is better rendered (in the light of 3:97) as “Comply with Allah’s commands, orders, or instructions” or “Act in accordance with Allah’s laws, rules, commands, or guidance” . This rendition is not only in accordance with the Arabic dictionaries but also conforms to the Quranic explanation of the term I’bada, and the characteristics of ‘Ibad-Allahas given in the Quran.

The phrase “abd-Allah” (when used in Proper sense) is better NOT rendered as ‘the slave of Allah’ or ‘the servant of Allah’ because slave and servant may have a derogatory connotation while Allah says about man that He has honoured the Children of Adam [17:70] and man is not supposed to do any service or benefit to Allah but only to himself and that benefit is his own preservation (taqwa) and success (falah). Not only Allah has honoured man but unlike human masters of slaves or servants, He gives them full choice of their actions [Fa’abudoo ma shi’tum (Render ibada to whomever you like) {39:15},I’maloo ma shi’tum (Do whatever you like) {41:40}]. He gives man choice of actions and also gives them guidance about actions which would result in their preservation and prosperity, and actions which would result in their ruin and misery. He also minds them that the result of their actions is built-in in their actions [7:147, 7:180, 28:84, 34:33, 83:14, 83:36], just like the health benefits of a morning walk are built-in in the walk. There is no external agency at your home that gives you health benefit as a reward when you come back home after a morning walk. The beneficial effect of the walk is in the walk itself, which occurs according to the Laws defined by Allah. The phrase “abd-Allah” (when used in Proper sense) is better rendered as ‘the one who complies with the Laws and Commands of Allah’ or ‘the one who acts in accordance to the Guidance of Allah’

The phrase “abd-Allah”, when used in general sense, may be rendered as ‘the men of Allah, the humankind’

Since the characteristics of Ibad-Allah include much more than prayer, fasting, Zakat and Hajj, the term ‘ibada (when the object of the word is Allah) is better not restricted to prayer, fasting, Zakat and Hajj only but it should be defined as ‘compliance with the Laws and Commands of Allah, with humility and submissiveness’ or ‘acting in accordance with Allah’s Guidance (in humility and submissiveness)’. This definition encompasses all the characteristics of Ibad-Allah as given in the Qur’an and also conforms to the elaboration of the term ‘ibada as given therein.





LL: Lane’s Lexicon by E. W. Lane

LA: Lisan-ul-Arab by Ibn-e-Manzoor

M: Mufradat fi Gharib-ul-Quran by Raghib

K: Kamoos-ul-Muheet by Muhammad bin Yaqoob Al-Feroz Abadi

LQ: Lughat-ul-Quran by G.A. Parvez

AM: Dictionary of the Quran by Abdul Mannan

HW: Hans-Wehrs dictionary of modern Arabic

Updated: March 16, 2014 — 12:53 pm
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