General Meaning and Private Meaning

November 13, 2007


Q: But is it possible to know the meaning of worship? And does it have a general meaning and a private meaning?

A: Yes.

General Meaning: As I stated above, humility before God, praised and exalted, affection and glorification in doing the things he commanded, and avoiding the things he prohibited in a manner that follows his laws, is the general meaning.

Private Meaning: I’d like to elaborate this. The Sheikh of Islam, Ibn Taymiyya, God’s mercy upon him, said “It [private meaning] is a general name for everything God likes and that pleases him. This includes words and deeds, both internal and external, such as fear [of God], trust [in God], prayer, charity, and other Islamic practices.

So, if you were to try and define general and private meanings by what some of the learned scholars have mentioned on the subject of devotion, both universal and Islamic, in that [devotion] means that a person may be humble before God (SWT) through universal humility and through Islamic humility. Universal humility is general and includes Believers and Non-believers, the pious and the debaucherous. In the words of the Most High: “There is none in the heavens and the earth but cometh unto the Beneficent as a slave.” [Maryam 93] So everything in the skies and on land is subservient to God (SWT), [simply through their] existence. It is never possible to contradict God or oppose what His (SWT) cosmic will intends.

Regarding Private Devotion: It is Islamically prescribed devotion and humility before God (SWT). This is special to Believers in God (SWT) and those who follow his commands, and there is a more special devotion than that, and an even more special one still.

The more exclusive private devotion is that of the Prophets, may God’s peace and blessings be upon them. In the words of the Most High, “Blessed is He Who hath revealed unto His slave the Criterion (of right and wrong)” [Al-Furqan 1] and “And if you are in doubt as to that which We have revealed to Our servant” [Al-Baqara 23] and “And remember Our servants Abraham and Isaac and Jacob” [Saad 45] and other descriptions of the devotion of the Prophets, peace and blessing be upon them.

Taken from Fiqh al-Ebadaat “Jurisprudence of Belief” by Sheikh Muhammad bin Saalih Al-Authaymin, Dar al-Baseera, Alexandria. Translated by Josh Berer


مفهوم – Meaning

آنفاً – Previously, stated above

الباطنة والظاهرة Internal and external, hidden and clear etc

بر – Pious

فاجر – Non-pious, debaucherous

خاضع – Submissive, under the will of

Translation Notes

ثم إن منها ما هو خاص أخص, وخاص فوق ذلك –
“There is a more special devotion than that, and an even more special one still.” This gave me no small amount of problems translating.

الخوف والخشية – Two words for fear, I only translated one to avoid redundancy


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