In the Name of Allah, the Entirely Merciful, the Especially Merciful
Salutations of Peace and Blessings upon our Beloved Prophet and Master Muhammad and upon His Family and Progeny
Worship of One God (Elah) is the essence of Islam. Continuous, consistent, and sincere worship, such as offering Salat, praying (Du'a), reading the Qur'an, remembering Allah in one's heart (Dhikr), fasting (Siyam), undertaking a pilgrimage (Ziyara) to the Sacred Mosques, offering animal sacrifices (Qurban), spending charity (Sadaqa), and many other acts of worship are means through which a Muslim attains spiritual nearness to his Lord and Maker. It is also a means for purification of the soul and such acts of worship are done with the intention of gratifying Allah Most High. Worship is the path to salvation, as Allah says:
إِنَّ الَّذِينَ يَسْتَكْبِرُونَ عَنْ عِبَادَتِي سَيَدْخُلُونَ جَهَنَّمَ دَاخِرِينَ
Verily, those who are too conceited to worship Me shall enter Hell in disgrace
(Sura 40: 60)
The idea that worship is not necessary, cloaked in a theological argument, has been put forward by a modern stream of Christianity known as Calvinism. The Calvinists and Protestants in general disdain the idea of worshiping God with the intention of seeking salvation, as their theology is that all one needs to obtain salvation is to have faith in Jesus Christ.
Islam too teaches the idea that salvation is contingent to faith, and that salvation is a result of God's Grace and Mercy, and not the efforts and acts of the human being. However, Islam differs from Protestantism and particularly Calvinism in that it teaches that any person who does not offer acts of worship dedicated to Allah out of pride and conceit is doomed to eternal damnation (burning in Hell).
In the world of Islam, the equivalent of the Protestant deviation in regard to the understanding of worship (Ebada) was manifested in the ideas or Fikr of Abul Alaa Mawdudi. I have discussed the perversions and misguidance of Mawdudi at length in this blog, particularly his novel idea that Din is synonymous with government, and that the moral reformation of humanity is not possible through mere preaching (Wa'z) but requires political power and full control of the State.
Mawdudi argued that worship is synonymous with obedience to God's commandments, an idea shared by other deviated individuals such as G. A. Parwez and Syed Masood Ahmed (B.Sc.) founder of the Kharijite Takfiri so-called Jama'at-ul-Muslimin. While obedience to Allah's commandments is certainly an example of worship, it is not the full meaning or expression of worship, otherwise the non-obligatory acts of devotion (Nawafil) through which a person attains extreme nearness to Allah and embarks upon the path of sainthood (Wilaya) could technically not be considered worship!
Mawdudi defines the acts of worship such as Salat, Hajj, and Siyam, as merely expressions of Ta'zim or outward respect and etiquette, but that the true and real worship is to obey the commandments of God. According to him, these ritual acts of worship are only meant to daily remind man of his duty to constantly obey God. For Mawdudi, the ritual acts of worship like prayer, pilgrimage, fasting, etc., are not worship of God in their own right, but serve only to train the worshiper to be accustomed to being dutiful to God and nurturing discipline within him in preparation for the real and true worship. Mawdudi declares that the true and real worship is Jihad, which he defines as a political struggle to establish an Islamic state on the Earth.
To illustrate the deviation of Mawdudi's attitude toward worship, and how he stripped the greatest symbol of Islam, the Salat, of its spiritual value and it being a means in its own right to nearness to and pleasing Allah, the reader need only read Mawdudi's parable where he compares Salat with military drills and police training:
Reference: Khutbat; p. 125