Significance of Worship in Islam

Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, states: “There is a lot of malice and envy widely spread by some atheists and enemies of Islam who try to disseminate their false ideas and force people to adopt their worn-out beliefs. They claim that the core essence of all religions is, by and large, to purge man’s souls, to awaken his conscience, and to rectify his moral decay. They continue to say that if we reach this satisfactory result through other means, such as modern moral discipline, then we are in no need of worship including prayer, fasting, obligatory charity, and other ritual acts. They claim that such `ibadat (acts of worship) are mere means to achieve a certain purpose, and whenever the purpose is achieved, then there is no need of the means. In other words, those people follow the trend that claims that the end justifies the means.
This stance, as far as Islam is concerned, is categorically rejected. `Ibadat are meant for themselves as the Qur’an explains. Allah Almighty says, “I created the jinn and humankind only that they Worship Me.” (Az-Zariyat: 51).
The first aim of worship is to demonstrate how far a Muslim abides by Allah’s Commands and shuns what He Almighty forbids. This is the main aim of all forms of worship including prayer, fasting, obligatory charity, reciting the Qur’an, and following Allah’s Commands regarding what is permitted and what is prohibited.
As for moral discipline and other results that may be gained from performing `Ibadat regularly, they cannot be considered to be mere results irrespective of how satisfactorily their fruits are. Allah Almighty says: “O ye who believe! Fasting is prescribed for you, even as it was prescribed for those before you, that ye may ward off evil.” (Al-Baqarah: 183)
If a person prays five times a day or fasts in Ramadan and only means to train himself and elevate his character without bearing in mind the right he owes to Allah, and the observation of his servitude to his Master, then his prayer and fasting will only be a habit which will not be accepted by Allah or rewarded when he is held accountable before Allah.
Worship, as Imam Ash-Shatibi states, is a fundamental aim in itself, and has secondary objectives.
One of the secondary objectives of worship is that it reforms the soul and helps one to obtain virtue. For example, prayer is originally meant for worshipping Allah, resorting to Him in sincerity, feeling humble before Him, and reminding one of the Remembrance of Allah, as Allah says: “And establish worship for My Remembrance.” (Taha: 14)
‏He also says: “Recite that which hath been inspired in thee of the Scripture, and establish worship. Lo! Worship preserveth from lewdness and iniquity, but verily Remembrance of Allah is more important. And Allah knoweth what ye do.” (Al-`Ankabut: 45). In addition to this, prayer aims to enjoin good and forbid evil, and provide a safe shore from the burdens of life. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) says, “… And my peace of mind is found in prayer.”
Moreover, prayers helps one fulfil his needs, since there is a prayer for seeking Allah’s Guidance and another for fulfilment of a need. Through prayer one seeks Allah’s Pleasure and Salvation in the Hereafter. Like other acts of worship, prayer has worldly and heavenly benefits; the latter are general and the former are secondary and based on the fundamental benefits, which is the worship of Allah and submission to His Will.”