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Al-'Uboodiyah, literally, is that state in which a person subdues himself with humility and love to the will of someone else. One can easily enslave himself to any created being. This type of 'Uboodiyah surely leads to sadness, humiliation, and transgression; it is then the enslavement by false idols. But devoting oneself to the Creator (SWT) of all the beings and submitting to His (AWJ) Command leads to nothing but happiness, nobility and justice; and that is the beloved 'Uboodiyah.
The reader may know that the word 'Abd in Arabic carries the meaning of both "slave" and "worshiper." In this treatise, Ibn Taymiyah clarified successfully not only the distinction between being a "slave" and being a "worshiper," but also enlightened us to the full scope of what worship in Islaam is.
We are all aware of the horrors and atrocities of human enslavement perpetrated throughout the history of the human race. In the case of divine enslavement, Al-'Uboodiyah represents the human beings' "slavery" to Allah (AWJ), our devotion and submission to our Lord and Creator. It therefore becomes necessary to make sure we are aware of the distinctions between human enslavement and divine enslavement. The latter type of 'Uboodiyah is a slavery which is beloved. It frees us from idolatry and saves us from the evils of "Taaghoot" (he who sets himself up as an object of worship). In this case, Al 'Uboodiyah corresponds to happiness and virtue, and brings back to man his nobility and excellence.
Being in this 'Uboodiyah, we prostrate before Allah Ta'aala, we do not become humiliated before any tyrant on earth, and we walk on the path of goodness until victory or martyrdom. If people were to respond to this noble Da'wah (call), they would live in freedom, virtue, happiness and peace. But Ibn Taymiyah did not stop at this general understanding of 'Uboodiyah. He went on to clarify the subtle yet powerful distinctions between mere "slavery" and true "worship." To accomplish this he articulated his ideas by extracting evidence from the legislated texts (Quraan and Sunnah). Also, he highlighted his presentation of the truth by using linguistic arguments as to how to understand the texts, and supported his propositions with uncontested scientific, psychological and sociological facts which are still valid today. All this led to a most in depth and comprehensive study of worship in Islaam.
The main point of his theology is that all created things (organic and inorganic) are 'Ibaad-Allah (slaves of Allah), but that the 'Ibaad are immediately divided into two groups: one being the involuntary slaves and the other being the voluntary slaves. Obviously, animals, plants and minerals fall under the first category while the human beings are free to choose their position.
In other words, there are two different realities - the Universal Reality and the Religious Reality. All Ibaad (slaves) are subject to the Universal Reality. Whether one is good or bad, believer or disbeliever, or rich or poor, he is subject to the laws of physics (i.e. the sun shines on us all). The Religious Reality, however, is the voluntary acceptance of Allah's legislation and willingly struggling to love and obey Allah (SWT), His Messenger (SAAWS) and the Message of Al Islaam. It is the true 'Abd (worshiper) who recognizes the two Realities, keeps them clear in his mind, and strives to fulfill the dictates of the Religious Reality - Allah's (SWT) Commands. This, then, explains why, in a religious context, 'Abd is sometimes translated as slave, and other times as worshiper. It is the choice to follow Islaam that makes the 'Abd (slave) become an 'Abd (worshiper).
After establishing this point, Ibn Taymiyah then went on to explain how various groups of Muslims misunderstood this, misinterpreted it, or simply twisted it for their own benefit. It is the complete or partial confusion of the Universal Reality with the Religious Reality that has given birth to deviation from the straight path and weakness in the moral fiber of mankind. The theology propounded by Ibn Taymiyah, the theology of Quraan and Sunnah, is the means of reforming the soul and rejuvenating the Spirit of man to walk in the light of Al-lslaam. Ibn Taymiyah has explained away the many forms of misguidance into which man fell, and has given us a theology to reform our intellectual and disciplinary behavior. He has warned us of theories that propagate so-called elite statuses for their followers, theories that would actually lead us astray. He has thus slammed shut the doors through which came the evils of astray desires, phony philosophies, anarchic methodologies and deviated meanings of Allah's (SWT) Words and Commands. To help us understand Ibn Taymiyah's treatise there are several thoughts to keep in mind.
Ibn Taymiyah unveiled for us a whole process whereby the first small step towards deviation, whether intentional or not, leads further and further down the path of Shirk (associating partners with Allah SWT,) and Kufr (denying the truth). He first warned us against falling prey to the teachings of those who claim to have witnessed the truth. Basically, this is where one would experience a phenomenon in the realm of the Universal Reality and take it as a sign that he is on a select path of truth. He witnesses the Universal Reality, stops there, and does not establish that duty to fulfill the Religious Reality. He believes in Allah (SWT), but only admitting that all things are willed by Allah, and that all events and phenomena fall under Al-Qadar (the Divine Measure). This allows for the emergence of the doctrine of fatalism and the suspension of the duties legislated by Allah Ta'aala. Here, the person embarking on this path thinks that if he commits a sin it is simply because Allah has willed it for him. Fatalism leads to a silence towards evil and excuses for shirk. The human being becomes a helpless puppet.
The next step becomes the admission of Wahdat Al Wuujuud (unifying of existence). The absurd logic of the deviant mind rationalizes that since Allah is the one absolute, and all things occur by the will of Allah, then all things must be an extension of Allah. By taking that first step in denying the Religious Realities, the astray man now has committed a worse form of Kufr than Ahl Al-Kitaab (people of the Scripture) and the Mushrikeen (idolators). He has, in effect, set himself up as part of the Godhead and has made allowable all actions whether sinful or otherwise. By using the undeniable proofs of Quraan and Sunnah, Ibn Taymiyah unveiled how these astray sects adopted an inverted meaning of Al-'Uboodiyah and showed their lack of true understanding of Al-Islaam.
Finally, Ibn Taymiyah explained the defects in the thinking of the two major sects that evolved out of this false interpretation of Al-Qadar. The explanation of the deviant sect just given describes the beliefs of Al Jabriyah. This group affirms the existence of Al Qadha, the Divine Decree and Al-Qadar, the Divine Measure. When we say the "Measure" we mean the good and evil that Allah (SWT) has measured out for us. But in the face of this, Al-Jabriyah denied the legislated commanding of good and forbidding of evil. This occurred because they were too narrow-minded to understand how Allah (SWT) could command one thing (good) but measure out something else (e.g. evil).
They therefore rationalized that there is only the Divine Measure, and the Commands and Prohibitions do not apply. But as is made clear by Ibn Taymiyah, all things are indeed willed by Allah (AWJ), but, equally important, Allah (AWJ) loves for us to - in fact prefers that we - follow that which is right and good and avoid that which is evil and wrong. For this very reason the Quraan was sent down to us. What does Allah Ta'aala say in Surat Al-Fatihah? Is it not "Show us the straight path, the path of those whom You have blessed, not of those who receive Your Wrath, or of those who went astray." Also, in the opening of Surat Al-Baqarah does it not state - "This is the Book, without doubt there is in it guidance for those who ward off evil."
The question is, what do you do when you show someone a path or give some one guidance? Are they then forced, with no choice whatsoever, to do your bidding? Certainly not! So, also, Allah (SWT) does not lead us to good or evil without it being based on His Perfect Wisdom and Justice. The choice is ours, and He (AWJ) guides us to that which is right.
So Al-Jabriyah went off into Al-Qadar and lost sight of the Divine Legislation. In response to them there developed other groups such as Al-Qadariyah and Al Mu'tazilah. The latter group, Al-Mu'tazilah, typifies the thinking of A1-Qadariyah in general. In effect they reversed the rationalization of Al-Jabriyah. They affirmed the Commands and Prohibitions, but denied the Divine Decree and Measure. Whereas Al-Jabriyah stripped Allah (AWJ) of His Right of Legislation, Al Mu'tazilah stripped Him (SWT) of His Most Perfect Will. Both groups have erred to the point of committing Kufr. (This does not mean we can declare them Kafir, but we must be aware of their astray beliefs.) As Ibn Taymiyah points out, this is nothing but pure lies that conceal their Kufr beliefs.
Ibn Taymiyah then went on to prove that to realize Al 'Uboodiyah one must go the way of Ash-Sharee'ah (Divine Legislation). To worship Allah (AWJ) correctly we must worship Him according to His path, and that is to follow the Legislated Path - Ash Sharee'ah. lbn Taymiyah took the Shahaadatain (Testimonies of Faith) and linked them to two basic principles of Islaam. As we know, "La ilaaha illa Allah" implies that none are to be worshiped except Allah Ta'aala. And "Muhammad Rasool-Allah" implies that the theme of the Message is to clarify the way in which we worship and that any deviation is inherently in opposition to Ash-Sharee'ah.
To this is linked two conditions that must be fulfilled to establish true worship. First, we must perform righteous deeds knowing that a deed cannot be righteous unless it complies with the Legislation of Allah (SWT) as sent down to His Rasool (SAAWS). Second, when performing the deed nothing is to sought from it except the Pleasure of Allah (AWJ). In this way Ibn Taymiyah instructed us, as is stated in Quraan, that selectivity in the Deen of Islaam is wrong. We cannot pick out parts and reject other parts, but we must accept the whole of Islaam as it is. This becomes the essence of perfecting out worship.
Whenever one attempts to translate a text various problems naturally occur. Languages are very distinctive and each has its own set of idioms, phrases and expressions. Thus a translator must often reject a literal translation for the sake of presenting the proper meaning. When you add to this the fact that Ibn Taymiyah was a great scholar of the highest caliber and that he wrote over 600 years ago, the translation process becomes even trickier. In this translation we decided to stick as close to the original text as possible. We did this for various reasons. First of all, we felt it is important to introduce the reader to Ibn Taymiyah's thinking process. Not only was his form and style logical and concise, but his very use of certain words and expressions carried significant meaning and importance. Why a particular word is used when others may be equally interchangeable says something of the author's concepts and beliefs. This does create, however, a small problem for someone living in twentieth century America. So we warn you that some sentences and paragraphs may come across as being awkward and archaic. We ask you to read carefully and reflect on the content of the text.
As for Ibn Taymiyah's style, you will notice that much of the book is quoted from Al-Quraan. He (RA) presented his argument and point of view and then supported it with a list of evidences. Also, he drifts slightly from his main theme when a sub-topic becomes vital as clarification of the main point. Do not be surprised if you find yourself somewhat lost as to the point he was trying to make. As you read on he brings you back to his original point but now with a deeper understanding. Again, you may have to read over certain passages several times before grasping the meaning. May Allah (SWT) accept this work from us and make it a means of spreading Deen Al-Islaam. May He (AWJ) grant you patience and understanding and allow you to benefit from this book. May Allah (SWT} bless us all and guide us on His (AWJ) Straight Path.