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Introduction

The most fundamental aspect of Islam is tawhid and – though there have been distortions in some divine religions as well as some Islamic sects, where matters have been taken to extremes – whatever draws man closer to tawhid and absolute obedience to the divine commands and proscriptions is deemed noble, and whatever leads to the denial of tawhid or tends to undermine it is ignoble. 

One of the aspects of tawhid is tawhid in worship. In other words, once one has come to believe in his heart and confessed to the unity of God and prophecy of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) he must perform the principle rites of Islam. Worship which is none other than the performance of divine commands must be intended as a means of drawing near to God. The most significant aspect of worship is this display of obedience. Undoubtedly, in order to fathom the secrets of worship, in addition to the Quran, one has to search through hadiths. However, one must remain cognizant of the distortions which have occurred as a result of idiosyncratic or sectarian interpretations of these sources. 

Religious practices (`ibadat) comprise a major part of what in Islamic culture is referred to as furu` al-din (the subsidiary aspects of religion), which are the practical aspects of religion as opposed to usul al-din which comprise the theoretical underpinnings of Islam. In mainstream Imami Shi`ism these furu` are said to include ritual prayer, fast, zakat, khums, hajj, jihad, enjoining the good, forbidding the evil, tawalla (befriending the pious), and tabarra (avoiding the impious). However, in Sunnism some of these subsidiary principles have received lesser emphasis. 

A close look at religious rites and practices in Islam will show that very few are purely individualistic, while many partake of a social quality. Those such as ritual prayer (salat), fast and hajj may be viewed as individual acts of worship, whereas zakat, khums and jihad contain social and economic components. One may draw distinctions among the first group as well. While ritual prayer is a daily activity, fast is devoted to a particular month of the year, and hajj is a once in a lifetime obligation. In sum, the performance of these rites and practices is an integral part of being a Muslim and underpins the continuity of the Islamic ummah (community).

* source: Gorji , Abolghasem "Islam Entry" The Great Islamic Encyclopedia. Ed. Kazem Musavi Bojnourdi.Tehran: The Center of Great Islamic Encyclopaedia , 1989-, V.8 ,pp.407

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