The Spirit of `Ibadah
`Ibadah (act of worship) is an Arabic word derived from `abd (a slave) and it means submission. It portrays that God is your Master and you are His slave and whatever a slave does in obedience to and for the pleasure of his Master is `ibadah. The Islamic concept of `ibadah is very wide.
If you free your speech from filth, falsehood, malice, and abuse and speak the truth and talk goodly things and do all these only because God has so ordained to do, they constitute `ibadah, however secular they may look in semblance. If you obey the law of God in letter and spirit in your commercial and economic affairs and abide by it in your dealings with your parents, relatives, friends, and all those who come in contact with you, verily all these activities of yours are `ibadah. If you help the poor and the destitute, give food to the hungry, and serve the ailing and the afflicted persons, and do all this not for any personal gain of yours but only to seek the pleasure of God, they are nothing short of `ibadah. Even your economic activities, the activities you undertake to earn your living and to feed your dependants, are `ibadah if you remain honest and truthful in them and observe the law of God.
In short, all your activities and your entire life are `ibadah if they are in accordance with the law of God, and your heart is filled with His fear, and your ultimate objective in undertaking all theses activities is to seek the pleasure of God.
Thus, whenever you do good or avoid evil for fear of God, in whatever sphere of life and field of activity, you are discharging your Islamic obligations. This is the true significance of `ibadah, namely total submission to the pleasure of Allah; the molding into the patterns of Islam your entire life, leaving out not even the most insignificant part thereof. To help achieve this aim, a set of formal `ibadat (acts of worship) has been constituted, which serves as a course of training. These `ibadat are thus the pillars (salat, fasting, zakat and hajj) on which the edifice of Islam rests.
Syed Abul A’la Maududi | Toward Understanding Islam