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Is there a meaning for ‘Ibaadah (worship) such that it is possible for us to know of? Does it have a general and a specific meaning?


Yes. Its general meaning is as I have indicated earlier, namely the submission to Allaah, the Mighty and Majestic, with love and awe by doing that which He commands and avoiding that which He has forbidden, and in the manner set forth by His legislations. This is the general meaning.

The specific meaning, i.e. its meaning in detail, then, as Shaykh-ul-Islaam ibn Taymeeyah said, “It is a comprehensive name covering whatever Allaah loves and is pleased with, both sayings and actions, the apparent and the hidden, such as fearing (Khawf), having awe (Khashyah), having true trust and reliance (Tawakkul), Prayers (Salaat), Zakaat (obligatory charity), Fasting (Siyaam) and the like, from the ordinances of Islaam.”

Then if you mean that the general and specific meaning [of ‘Ibaadah] is what has been mentioned by some scholars, namely that ‘Ibaadah is either Kawniyyah or Shar’iyyah, meaning that man could be in a Kawniyyah and Shar’iyyah state of submission to Allaah, then the Kawniyyah worship is a general one, comprising the believer and unbeliever and the righteous as well as the wicked, due to the saying of Allaah, the Most High:

 (إِنْ كُلُّ مَنْ فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ إِلَّا آتِي الرَّحْمَنِ عَبْداً) (مريم:93)
There is none in the heavens and the earth but comes to Ar-Rahmaan as a slave. [Qur’aan, soorat Maryam (19): 93]

Therefore all that is in the heavens and the earth is, in the universal sense (Kawnee), submitting to Allaah, The One free from all imperfection. None can stand to oppose Allaah or work against Him in whatever He wants as to His Universal Will.

As to the specific worship, al-’Ibaadah ash-Shari’yyah, whichis the submission to Allaah, the Most High’s, Shar’ (legislation), then this is specific to the believers in Allaah, the One free of all imperfection, who carry out His Command. Then some of this is more specific and some is less. The more specific worship is like that of the Messengers ‘alyayhimussalaatu was salaam as signified in the Saying of Allaah, The Most High:

(تَبَارَكَ الَّذِي نَزَّلَ الْفُرْقَانَ عَلَى عَبْدِهِ )(الفرقان: 1)
Blessed be He Who sent down the criterion (of right andwrong, i.e. this Qur’aan) to His slave (Muhammad). [Qur’aan, sooart al-Furqaan (25): 1]
  (وَإِنْ كُنْتُمْ فِي رَيْبٍ مِمَّا نَزَّلْنَا عَلَى عَبْدِنَا)(البقرة: 23)
And if you (Arab pagans, Jews, and Christians) are in doubt concerning that which We have sent down (i.e. Qur’aan) to Our slave (Muhammad  عليهم الصلاة والسلام), then produce a Soorah of the like thereof and call your witnesses (supporters and helpers) besides Allaah, if you are truthful.
 [Qur’aan, soorat al-Baqarah (2): 23]

Also in His Saying:


  (وَاذْكُرْ عِبَادَنَا إِبْرَاهِيمَ وَإِسْحَاقَ وَيَعْقُوبَ) (ص:45)

And remember Our slaves, Ibraaheem, Ishaaq, and Ya’qoob, [all] owners of strength [in worshipping Us] and [also] of religious understanding. 
[Qur’aan, soorat Saad (38): 45]

And the likes of these ayaat describe the Messengers, ‘alayhimus-salaat was-salaam, with al-‘Uboodiyyah.