From Issue: 495 [Read full issue]
Position of Specific Rituals
The wide jurisdiction of worship, its incorporation into all acts which are performed with the intention of complying with the will of God, is sometimes used as a pretext to support the erroneous view that the formal rituals of worship such as prayers, fasting, zakah and pilgrimage can be dispensed with; or that they are not very important. The truth, however, is quite contrary to this. In Islam, they are the chief means for strengthening one's attachment with God. Thus the view of those who are given to laxity in religious matters with regard to obligatory acts of worship, and who imagine that the true faith does not consist of salah and sawm, and who believe that the basis of true faith is merely purity of heart, goodness of intention and soundness of conduct is absolutely misconceived. This constitutes a fundamental misrepresentation of the Islamic teachings.
So far as the intention to live a life of righteousness is concerned, some take the view that this does not lend itself to external observation. But such intention to do good alone does not mark off true people of faith from the rest. Religion, after all, has an external aspect in the same way as it has an intearnal one.
This attitude of deliberate disregard for obligations is destructive of the very foundations of religion. For, were this viewpoint to be adopted, everyone, even those who are opposed to religion, could claim to be the most devout of all worshippers! Prayers, and all other prescribed forms of worship for that matter, serve to distinguish the ones who do really have faith and who wish sincerely to serve God from those who are content with lip service. So important is Prayer that the Prophet has said: 'salah is the pillar of the Islamic religion and whosoever abandons it, demolishes the very pillar of religion.'
Islam: The Way of Revival,"The Islamic Concept of Worship" - Mustafa Ahmad al-Zarqa, pp. 161, 162