Worship (‘ibadah)

Before embarking on the discussion of prayer, I shall deal with the meanings, philosophy and dimensions of worship (‘ibadah) and servitude as they are the spirit of prayer.

Why worship (‘ibadah)?

Worship (‘ibadah) means the expression of abasement (dhillah), the highest form of humility and homage, before God. As to its importance, it is enough to state that worship is the purpose behind the creation of all beings and the mission (bi’thah) of the prophets (as) (the creational world (alam at-takwin) and the legislative world (alam at-tashri), respectively). God says:

وَ ما خَلَقْتُ الْجِنَّ وَ الإِْنْسَ إِلاَّ لِيَعْبُدُونِ

“I did not create the jinn and humans except that they may worship Me.”1

The mission of all the prophets (as) has been to invite the people to worship God:

وَلَقَدْ بَعَثْنَا فِي كُلِّ أُمَّةٍ رَّسُولاً أَنِ اعْبُدُواْ اللّهَ وَاجْتَنِبُواْ الطَّاغُوتَ

“Certainly We raised an apostle in every nation (to preach:) ‘Worship Allah, and keep away from the Rebel’.”2

So, the objective behind the creation of the universe and the mission of the prophets (as) has been the worship of God. However, it is clear that God, the Exalted, is in no need of our worship:

فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ غَنِيٌّ عَنكُمْ

“Yet Allah is Independent of you.”3

The benefit of worship returns to the worshippers themselves, as simply as the pupils’ decision to study their lessons is to their own advantage and has no gain for the teacher.

Reasons for worship

The following reasons persuade man to worship and serve God:

1. Greatness of God

When man sees the greatness and magnificence of God, he unconsciously feels humble and weak before Him, just as a person who regards himself insignificant before a distinguished person and scholar, also honors and respects him.

2. Feelings of dependence

Man’s nature is such that he feels humble before some one upon whom he is dependent. Our very existence depends upon the will of God and we need Him all the time. This feeling of need and deficiency urges man to worship God—for only He is the Ultimately Perfect and Independent. It is stated in some hadiths that if there were no death, poverty and sickness, some people would never humble themselves before God.

3. Awareness of blessings

Man loves to possess and enjoy blessings. Remembering the abundant blessings of God can be the strongest motive for worshipping Him. In the litanies (munajat) of the infallible Imams (as), the blessings of God, including those that are related to those prior to the birth of man, are initially mentioned, and in this way man shows his love to God and than he humbly presents his requests. God also says:

فَلْيَعْبُدُوا رَبَّ هَذَا الْبَيْتِ ٭ الَّذِي أَطْعَمَهُم مِّن جُوعٍ وَآمَنَهُم مِّنْ خَوْفٍ

“Let them worship the Lord of this House, who has fed them (and saved them) from hunger, and secured them from fear.”4

In another verse, man is asked to worship God who created him.

4. Human nature (fitrah)

Worship is an instinctive and integral part of human nature. Being innate, man sometimes treads the correct path and worships God. When misled, he is drawn to the worship of the sun, stones, wood, the cow, money, spouses, and taghuts.5

The prophets (as) have not come to instill the sense of worship in man. Rather, their mission is to guide this natural disposition in the right direction. ‘Ali (as) said:

فَبَعَثَ اللهُ مُحَمَّداً بِالْحَقّ لِيُخرِجَ عِبادَهُ مِنْ عِبادَةِ الأَوْثانِ إِلى عِبادَتِهِ.

“God thus sent down Muhammad in truth to stop His servants from idol-worship, and invite them to His worship.”6

Most of the Qur’anic verses related to worship invite people to the divine unity in worship (tawhid fi’l-’ibadah) and not to the spirit of worship, because that spirit of worship already exists in man. It is like the desire for food which exists in every infant, but if it is not guided, he will eat mud instead of food and enjoy eating it!

Were it not for the leadership of the prophets (as), the direction of this instinct would be elsewhere, and instead of God, false and futile deities would be worshipped. Just as during the forty days of the absence of Hadhrat7 Musa (Moses) (as), the people through the temptation of Samiri started worshipping the golden calf.

Role of worship

Worship means devoting all the dimensions of life to the divine will and pleasure. Giving divine meaning to all activities has significant effects on the life of man, some of which are the following:

1. Making the perishable perpetual

Man and all his efforts will perish, but whatever is done for His pleasure will remain as an asset. The Holy Qur’an says:

ما عِنْدَ كُمْ يَنْفَدُ وَ ما عِنْدَ اللهِ باقٍ

“That which is with you will be spent but what is with Allah shall last.”8

It also says elsewhere:

كُلُّ شَيْءٍ هَالِكٌ إِلَّا وَجْهَهُ

“Everything is to perish except His Face.”9

2. Changing the material into the spiritual

If the purpouse behind (man’s) deeds be a Godly one if man could set the intention, motive and direction of his activities along the path of the divine will, and conduct himself as a true servant of God, even his mundane acts such as eating, dressing, traveling, visiting, housekeeping, studying, and all his daily chores would become spiritual. On the contrary, sometimes even the most sacred of works, if done with materialistic and worldly motives, could lose their worth.

3. Individual and collective development

Worship of God demands a total disregard of personal whims and caprice; non-glorification of any race, garment, language, land, and city; association with God, the Ultimate Power and Perfection. And gratitude to the Bestower of blessings. Taken together, they play an important role in the intellectual development of the individual and society collectively. Worship means moving along the straight path of God:

وَأَنْ اعْبُدُونِي هَذَا صِرَاطٌ مُّسْتَقِيمٌ

“Worship Me. This is a straight path.”10

وَاسْتَعِينُواْ بِالصَّبْرِ وَالصَّلاَةِ

“And take recourse in patience and prayer.”11

Also, worship individually protects human beings from caprice, sin and temptation, and a devoted society that worships God consciously rejects the worship of taghuts, tyrants and superpowers. ‘Allamah Iqbal Lahuri said:

آدم از بى بصرى بندگى آدم کرد

گوهرى داشت ولى نذر قباد و جم كرد

يعنى از خوى غلامى ز سگان پستتر است

من نديدم كه سگى پيش سگى سرخم كرد

Due to a lack of insight, man serves another man,

He possessed a gem but gave it to others,

He is worse than dogs in his slavish demeanor,

I have yet to see a dog bow down before another.

Worship improves individuals as well as societies. In most cases, the corruption in society emanates from, and is caused by the inclination to worship any other, besides God.

Dimensions of worship

In the culture of Islam, worship (‘ibadah) is higher than its manifestations such as prayer and fasting. Acts which are beneficial to the people are all acts of worship. We shall point to some activities which are reckoned as acts of worship in Islam:

1. Reflection on the handiwork of God

Imam as-Sadiq12 (as) said:

لَيْسَت الْعِبادَةُ كَثرَةُ الصَّلوٰةِ وَ الصَّوْمِ، إِنَّما العِبادَة التَّفَكُّرُ في أَمر اللهِ.

“Worship (‘ibadah) is not excessive praying and fasting. Verily, worship is reflection on the handiwork of Allah.”13
Reflection that makes human beings better acquainted with God has been regarded as an act of worship.

2. Earning a living

The Messenger of Allah (S) said:

أَلْعِبادَةُ سَبْعُونَ جُزْءً أَفْضَلُها طَلَبُ الْحَلال.

“Worship has seventy parts, the best of which is to earn a lawful (halal) (income).”14

3. Seeking knowledge

The Prophet of Islam (S) said:

مَنْ خَرَجَ يَطْلُبُ باباً مِنَ الْعِلْمِ لِيَرُدَّ باطِلاً إِلىٰ الْحَقِّ وَضَالاًّ إِلىٰ الْهُدىٰ كانَ عَمَلهُ كعبادةِ أربعين عاماً.

“The act of seeking knowledge in order to refute falsehood and turn deviation into guidance is equivalent to forty years of worship.”15

4. Rendering service to the people

Many Prophetic traditions assert that service to the people and attending to their problems is far superior to many acts of worship and optional Hajj pilgrimage (‘umrah). In the words of Sa’di,16

عبادت بجز خدمت خلق نيست به تسبيح و سجّاده و دلق نيست

Worship is nothing but service to the people.

It is not rosary, prayer mat and cassock.

5. Waiting for the global government of justice

The Holy Prophet (S) said:

أَفْضَلُ العِبادةِ إِنْتِظارُ الْفَرَجِ.

“The best act of worship is to wait for the relief (faraj) (with the advent of Imam al-Mahdi17 (as)).”18

It is clear that it must also be accompanied by positive and constructive waiting, which paves the ground for the establishment of the just government of al-Mahdi (as).

Thus, giving divine color (sibghah) to works increases their value and transforms them into acts of worship, at times, even the best acts of worship. Proper intention is like an alchemy that makes every invalid meral into gold. Acts performed with the intention of seeking nearness to God shall become acts of worship. As such, it can be said that the dimensions and manifestations of worship cannot be counted. A benevolent glance at one’s father and mother, or the countenance of the ‘ulama’; looking at the Qur’an, the Ka’bah, a just leader, or a brother in faith, are also acts of worship.19

How we should worship

The manner of performing worship must be learned from the Qur’an and the progeny (‘itrah) of the Prophet (S) (after him) just as the address of every house must be sought from its owner. Therefore, we need to see what the verses of the Qur’an and the hadiths of the Infallibles (ma’sumin)20 (as) consider as the best acts of worship and how they (‘itrah (as)) describe them. Let us look at the statements of the pious saints (awliya):

1. Conscious worship

It is stated in a hadith, thus:

رَكْعَتانِ مِنْ عالِمٍ خَيْرٌ مِنْ سَبْعِينَ رَكْعَةً مِنْ جاهِلٍ.

“Two rak’ahs (cycles or units) of prayer of a scholar (alim) are better than seventy rak’ahs of prayer of an ignorant person (jahil).”21

The Messenger of Allah (S) said: “What is accepted in prayer is that which is performed or recited on the basis of reflection and consciousness.”22
It is thus stated in another hadith:

أَلْمُتِعَبِّدُ عَلىٰ غَيْرِ فِقْهٍ كَحِمار الطّاحونةِ.

“He who worships without understanding and discernment is like the donkey of a mill but does not advance.”23

It is essential for the person to know what he is doing and reciting, and who he is addressing, with total presence of mind and heart.
The Holy Prophet (S) said: “Two rak’ahs of conscious prayer is better than an unconscious night vigil.”24
The Glorious Qur’an states:

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ لاَ تَقْرَبُواْ الصَّلاَةَ وَأَنتُمْ سُكَارَى حَتَّىَ تَعْلَمُواْ مَا تَقُولُونَ

“O you who have faith! Do not approach prayer when you are intoxicated, (not) until you know what you are saying.”25

Imam as-Sadiq (as) said: “The sins of the one who performs two rak’ahs of prayer while aware of whom he is addressing and what he is reciting shall be forgiven.”26

2. Fervent worship

Just as the sick do not enjoy eating food, the unenthusiastic worshippers will not also acquire pleasure in worship. Worship must be performed with love, enthusiasm, fervor and pleasure and not indisposition, languidness and despondency.

Cheerfulness in worship is a privilege possessed by the people whose hearts are enamored by Him. Its ground must also be obtained through gnosis (ma’rifah) and attention (tawajjuh). Worship under compulsion and imposition leads nowhere. Imam as-Sadiq (as) said:

لا تُكْرِهوا إِلىٰ أَنْفُسِكُم العِبادَة.

“Do not enforce worship on yourself.”27

Just as we ardently wish to meet a beloved person or a great personality, we must also ardently desire meeting God and worshipping Him. The holy saints (awliya) and the Infallibles (as) were astonishingly enamored by the moment of meeting God and worshipping Him. (We shall cite some instances of it in future discussions.)

3. Sincere worship

Sincerity bestows value and credit to acts of worship. Any act of worship not purely for the sake of God but out of ostentation, hypocrisy, demagogy and advertisement is devoid of value, and not accepted by God.
The Glorious Qur’an states:

وَلا يُشْرِكْ بِعِبادَةِ رَبِّهِ أَحَداً

“And make none sharer of the worship due unto his Lord.”28

Imam ar-Ridha’29 (as) said:

مَنْ شَهّرَ نَفْسَهُ بِالْعِبادَةِ فَاتَّهَمُوهُ عَلىٰ دِينِه.

“You should be skeptical about the piety of one who seeks popularity (in society) through worship.”30

Such people make use of religion to deceive others. Insincere worship is like a lifeless body and soulless corpse. And the Glorious Qur’an beautifully states:

وَما أُمِرُوا إِلاّ لِيَعْبُدُوا اللهَ مُخْلِصِينَ لَهُ الدِّين

“And they are ordered naught else than to serve Allah, keeping religion pure for Him.”31

4. Worshipping submissively

Humility (khushu) means total attention of the heart to the Lord and Cherisher and a physical and mental state which is worthy of the majesty of God. Worshipping God must be accompanied by a heart filled with the sense of God’s grandeur, and its own insignificance before Him. In describing the upright believers, the Holy Qur’an notices the presence of “humility during prayer”:

وَالَّذِيْنَ هُمْ فِي صَلوٰتِهِم خاشِعُونَ

“And those who are humble in their prayers.”32

This humility of heart should encompass the entire being of the worshipper as if he can see God and feel his own worthlessness in front of His power and glory. This is stated in a hadith:

أَعْبُدُ اللهَ كَأَنَّكَ تَراه.

“Worship God as if you can see Him.”33
Another hadith further informs thus:

فَصَلِّها لِوَقْتِها صَلاةَ مُوَدِّعٍ.

“Perform the prayer within its appointed time in such a manner as if it is your last prayer (and you are bidding farewell to prayer and the world).”34

5. Worshipping in private

Man is not immune from the snares of Satan, and so many acts of worship are tainted with self-conceit, ostentation and publicity. The way to overcome this defect is to worship in private. The Messenger of Allah (S) said:

أَعْظَمُ الْعِبادَةِ أَجْراً أَخْفاها.

“The reward for an act of worship done in private is greater.”35

However, this does not apply to congregational acts of worship (such as Friday and other congregational prayers, and Hajj pilgrimage); for, congregational prayer in the mosque is superior to individual prayer at home. Worshipping in private, in most cases, prevents ostentation and adulteration of acts of worship.

Dangers threatening worship

Satan, the avowed and perennial enemy of man is always trying to adulterate his acts of worship and render them worthless. He makes use of the following ways:

1. Ostentation (riya’)

He who worships not for the sake of God but to win the attention of people or to earn popularity and a certain status is ensnared by Satan, and his acts of worship become futile. This havoc in worship sometimes occurs in the intention even before the act itself, thus distancing it from the intention of “seeking nearness to Allah” (qurbatan ilallah).

2. Self-conceit (‘ujb)

Satan draws man, while in the state of worship, toward self-conceit by regarding his acts of devotion as worthy of acceptance, thus sending them down the drain, though they have been started with the name of God and for him. And, as such, man is involved in pride.

3. Sin

Undoubtedly, sins efface the good effects of devotional acts. After months of sweat and toil for his farm and orchard to yield fruits and products, as a result of a single instance of negligence a fire might burn all of the harvested products, thus rendering all the farmer’s efforts futile. Sin is the fire in the crops of our devotions and deeds which consumes them.

In sum, Satan obstructs the pouring of the limpid water into the heart’s goblet, or pollutes and contaminates it after the container is full, or makes a hole in the container so as to waste the water.
In the Makarim al-Akhlaq Supplication, Imam as-Sajjad36 (as) thus beseeches God:

إِلٰهي عَبِّدْني لَكَ وَلا تُفْسِدْ عِبادَتي بالعُجْبِ... أَعِزَّني وَلاَ تَبْتَلَيّني بِالْكِبْرِ.

“O my Lord! Let me be Your servant but do not contaminate my devotion (‘ibadah) with self-conceit (‘ujb)… Make me honorable (‘aziz) but do not inflict me with pride (kibr).”37
In the words of the Glorious Qur’an, giving alms (sadaqah), which is a material form of worship, is tainted and rendered void by twitting anyone for a favor done to him (minnh):

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ لاَ تُبْطِلُواْ صَدَقَاتِكُم بِالْمَنِّ وَالأذَى

“O you who have faith! Do not render your charities void by reproaches and affronts.”38

Planting a shoot does not take much time, but making it bear fruit, keeping it safely growing, and purging it of pests are difficult. Sometimes, the sins or spiritual maladies wipe off all goodness. We read in a hadith:

إِنَّ الْحَسَدَ يَأْكُلُ الْحَسَناتِ كَما تَأْكُلُ النَّارُ الْحَطَبَ.

“Verily, jealousy consumes all goodness just as the fire consumes firewood.”39

It is stated in another tradition: A proud worshipper and a repentant transgressor (sinner) both entered the mosque. Because of his repentant and regretful nature, the transgressor reformed himself and became a righteous believer. Owing to his pride, however, the worshipper turned into a transgressor.40

Ways of avoiding pride and self-conceit (‘ujb)

Among the most potent dangers threatening worship are pride (kibr) and self-conceit (‘ujb). How can one cure or not become involved in them? By paying attention to the following points, one may avoid or cure these maladies:

1. Have we really worshipped?

Sometimes, man is in a state of compound ignorance (jahl al-murakkab), thinking that he is engaged in worshipping God while in fact he is going astray and giving extreme importance to his works. At times, unpleasant acts seem “good deeds” to him and Iblis (Satan) is active in this context. The Holy Qur’an points to this “embellishment of evil deeds” (tazyin ‘amal su) in some of its verses, some of which are the following:

أَفَمَنْ زُيِّنَ لَهُ سُوءُ عَمَلِه فَرآهُ حَسَناً

“Is someone the evil of whose conduct is presented as decorous to him, so he regards it as good...”41

ٱلَّذِيْنَ ضَلَّ سَعْيُهُمْ فِى ٱلْحَيَوٰةِ ٱلدُّنْيَا وَهُمْ يَحْسَبُونَ أَنَّهُمْ يُحْسِنُونَ صُنْعًا

“Those whose endeavor goes awry in the life of the world, while they suppose they are doing good.”42

زُيِّنَ لَهُمْ سُوءُ أَعْمَالِهِمْ

“Their evil deeds appear to them as decorous.”43

2. Have our acts of worship been accepted?

On the discussion about the conditions and signs of the acceptance of worship, you will read that the value of acts of worship and prayer lies in their being accepted. God accepts the worship of the meritorious, pious servants, recognizing their spending and alms-giving.44

A person not sure of the acceptance of his acts of worship obviously cannot be proud of them.

3. Futile acts of worship

Some sins corrupt and render futile a whole lifetime of prayers and other acts of worship, and people will return empty-handed from the market of deeds. We need to ensure that our prayers and other acts of worship are not accompanied by those sins. 45

4. Will we achieve redemption?

A noble ending and favorable future are great blessings, which the divine saints (awliya) have always prayed for. Hadhrat Yusuf (as) prayed to God that he die a Muslim (who submits to the divine will):

تَوَفَّنِي مُسْلِمًا

“Let my death be in submission (to You).”46

The Glorious Qur’an states that one of the requests of the men of wisdom to God is for them to die along with the good ones:

وَتَوَفَّنَا مَعَ ٱلأَبْرَارِ

“And make us die with the pious.”47

Requesting guidance along the straight path (sirat al-mustaqim) is the prayer for constancy along the path, and the Holy Qur’an describes the final ending as belonging to the pious:

وَ ٱلْعَاقِبَةُ لِلْمُتَّقِيْن

“And the outcome will be in favor of the God-wary.”48

Was not Satan with all those acts of worship expelled from the kingdom of God? Were there not those who, after a whole lifetime of prayers and other acts of worship, passed away in the worst state of misguidance? So, one must not be proud of the present state!

5. Comparing acts of worship and blessings

Whatever we have is from God. The blessings of health, active limbs, faculties, and sustenance are all divine graces. Success in worship also originates from Him. We are totally enveloped by His blessings. In order to attain felicity and bliss, He invites, guides, encourages, and provides us with opportunities.

He accepts us in His presence in every place, time, circumstance, age, and condition that we may be in. He also accepts the repentant. He is not tired of hearing repetitive petitions and pleadings, nor does He fall short of entertaining His servants.

He accepts unworthy acts of worship and compensates them worthily. He overlooks shortcomings because His favors and blessings are boundless. What is the value of our acts of worship compared to His Benevolence? “And what is the worth of our deeds in comparison to His favors?”

6. Comparing acts of worship and complacencies

Which are greater in number, our acts of worship or our complacencies and sins? The Holy Qur’an has stated many times:

فَأَيْنَ تَذْهَبُونَ؟

“So where are you going?”49

Can our prayers and acts of devotion outweigh our moments of negligence, disobedience, shortcomings, carelessness, and heedlessness?
Imam as-Sajjad (as) says in a supplication, thus:

وَلَسْتُ أَتَوَسَّلُ إِلَيْكَ بِفَضْلِ نَافِلَةٍ مَعَ كَثِيرِ مَا أَغْفَلْتُ مِنْ وَظَائفِ فُرُوضِكَ وَتَعَدَّيْتُ عَنْ مَقَامَاتِ حُدُودِكَ؟

“O Lord! With all this negligence of obligations, violation of limits, and transgressions, how can I come near You through optional and supererogatory acts?”50

7. Comparing acts of worship and needs

Acts of worship are our provision for the hereafter. A long and winding road is before us. Will these acts of worship suffice all this way and meet all our needs? Was the lamentation of ‘Ali (as) not loud enough when he said, “Oh… for lack of provision (for the long way)”?

After this worldly existence, we are in need of God and His favors in the next stages—in the grave, purgatory (barzakh), Day of Reckoning (mahshar), and the hereafter. Do all these acts of worship guarantee God’s favors?

Abu Darda’ says:
At the Masjid an-Nabi there was talk about the deeds of those who participated in the Battle of Badr and those who gave their Pledge under the Tree (bay’ah ar-ridhwan). I said: “The devotion and piousness of ‘Ali is greater than all (excluding the Prophet (S)).” When they rejected this claim, I narrated this incident which I personally witnessed:

“One night, I saw ‘Ali (as) hiding in a palm plantation. I followed him but I lost him. I thought he had gone home. A few moments later I heard his voice lamenting: “O God! …Alas for the sin that I have forgotten but You have recorded in my account of deeds… Alas for the burning flame and…” He wept so much to such an extent that he became unconscious and motionless. I thought he had passed away.

I went to the house of Zahra (as) to inform her of it. She said: “This situation happens to ‘Ali out of his fear of God.” So, we brought water and ‘Ali (as) became conscious. On regaining consciousness, he said: “O Abu Darda’! How do you see me on the Day of Resurrection when I will be called to account, and the wrath of God would be certain for the sinners?” I was dumbfounded and broke down.”51

Yes, taking pride in our insignificant acts of worship without realizing the extent of our need for the mercy of the Lord is another sign of negligence.

8. Comparing our state of worship with that of the divine saints (awliya’)

Our acts of worship as compared to those of Allah’s saints are indeed insignificant. Notwithstanding their infallibility, their preeminence in worship, invocation and servitude during their lifetimes were incomparable for all time.

We who are absolutely defective, weak and dependent need to worship more. Learning about the quality of their worship prevents us from being proud of our prayers and other acts of devotion. Now, we shall cite some instances:52

1. The Messenger of Allah (S) used to worship so excessively that this verse was revealed:

طٰهٰ ٭ مَا أَنْزَلنَا عَلَيْكَ ٱلْقُرْآنَ لِتَشْقىٰ

“Ta Ha. We did not send down to you the Qur’an that you should be miserable.”53

2. Imam al-Mujtaba54 (as) said:

مَا كَانَ فِي ٱلدُّنْيَا أَعْبَدُ مِنْ فَاطِمَة. كَانَتْ تَقُومُ حَتّىٰ تَتَوّرَم قَدَمَاهَا.

“I have never seen anyone who surpassed Fatimah in worship. She used to stand in worship to such an extent that her feet would swell.”55

3. Imam al-Baqir56 (as) said: “Imam Zayn al-’Abidin (as) used to perform a thousand rak’ahs (units or cycles) of prayer day and night as the Commander of the Faithful (as) used to do. He had five hundred palm trees beside each of which he used to pray two rak’ahs of prayer.57

4. Imam al-Baqir (as) narrated:
I came in and I saw that my father’s feet were swelling; his complexion changing; his eyes turning red; his forehead bearing the mark of prostration. This made me cry. When he sensed my presence, he said, “Bring to me that written document!”

In the said document, he read to me some of the acts of worship of ‘Ali (as). He put it aside and then said with a sigh, “Who can worship like ‘Ali (as)?”58

5. While in prison Imam al-Kazim59 (as) sometimes was in the state of a single prostration from dawn till noon, so much so that it seemed as if a garment had been spread out on the ground.60

If our infallible personages (as) were such, always highlighting their shortcomings in worship and uttering “We do not worship You the way You deserve it” (ma ‘abadnaka haqqa ‘ibadatik), is there still any room for pride and self-conceit in relation to what we are performing as “worship” (‘ibadah). Since our acts of worship and that of the divine saints are cheese and chalk apart, what should we be proud of?

Invalid acts of worship

We have stated that servitude (‘ubudiyyah), obedience (ita’ah) and worship (‘ibadah) deserve to be done to the Creator alone, and any worship of a phenomenon, human being, creature, or any other is invalid. These invalid acts of worship stem more out of ignorance than alienation from the guidance of the prophets (as).

In the Glorious Qur’an, God, the Exalted, reckons worship of any other than Him invalid, futile, as well as unreasonable, for, in seeking assistance from others, you ask from other than God, knowing that all powers belong to Him:

إِنَّ ٱلْقُوَّةَ للهِ جَمِيْعًا

“That power, altogether, belongs to Allah.”61

If you are seeking honor, be aware that honor also belongs to God and is at His disposal:

لِلَّهِ الْعِزَّةُ جَمِيعاً

“Honor entirely belongs to Allah.”62

If you are looking for daily provision and sustenance, be it known that the false deities are not the owners of your sustenance:

لاَ يَمْلِكُوْنَ لَكُمْ رِزْقًا

“(Those whom you worship besides Allah) have no control over your provision.”63

If you are hoping for gain or refuge from harm from other deities, you should know that they do not have the power to grant any profit nor parry any threat:

لاَيَمْلِكُ لَكُمْ ضَرًّا وَلاَ نَفْعًا

“(It) has no power to bring you any benefit or harm.”64

If you regard the taghuts as superior to you, be reminded that they are also servants of God like you:

عِبَادٌ أَمْثالُكُم

“(They) are creatures like you.”65

If to worship idols means to imitate the ancestors, be wary that they were misguided:

أَنْتُمْ وَ أَبَائُكُمُ فِي ضَلالٍ مُبِيْنٍ

“You and your forefathers have been in manifest error.”66

If you think on the Day of Resurrection the deities you worshipped will help, be informed that they shall not take into account your acts of worship, and they shall become your enemies:

سَيَكْفُرُونَ بِعِبَادَتِهِم وَيَكُونُونَ عَلَيْهِم ضِدًّا

“No indeed! Soon they will disown their worship, and they will be their opponents.”67

Without any reason and purpose, you resorted to other deities without any basis for their worship:

وَيَعْبُدُونَ مِنْ دُونِ اللهِ مَالَمْ يُنَزِّلْ بِهِ سُلْطَانًا

“They worship besides Allah that for which He has not sent down any authority.”68

Nobody and nothing is worthy of worship except God. It is because either these false deities don’t exist and are mere figments of the mind, or they are impotent and worthless beings, or, if they ever do anything, it is just temporary, limited and always accompanied by a sense of indebtedness and humiliation. It is thus, not appropriate for a human being to obey them. Man should not serve, obey, adore and submit to any being if it amounts to disobedience to God. Imam al-Jawad69 (as) said:

مَنْ أَصْغىٰ إِلىٰ نَاطِقٍ فَقَد عَبَدَهُ.

“Anyone who listens to (obeys) the words of another has worshipped him!”70
So, if the one speaking is speaking the truth, we are then true servants, and if he is telling lies, we have then worshipped him futilely. And Imam as-Sadiq (as) has said in a hadith:

مَنْ أَطَاعَ مَخْلُوْقًا فِي مَعْصِيَةِ ٱلْخَالِقِ فَقَدْ عَبَدهُ.

“Anyone who disobeys the Creator by obeying a creature has indeed worshipped the latter.”71

As such, invalid worship is not only confined to the worship of stone, wood, the sun and the moon. The attachment of the heart and soul to any ungodly idea, statement, power, and government is false worship. Even the acceptance of profane culture can also be considered as an example of invalid worship.

Servitude (‘ubudiyyah) and not worship (‘ibadah)

Outward worship and obedience are useless if they are devoid of total submission to, and acceptance of the will of God. A servant is supposed to unconditionally and totally submit to God. He should put aside his personal likes and dislikes while obeying the commands of God and His religion, and not care about the approval or disapproval of others. This absolute and unconditional submission is exactly what is called servitude (‘ubudiyyah) which is an essential qualification for worship (‘ibadah).

Notwithstanding all those accounts of worship, since he lacked the spirit of servitude, Iblis (Satan) disobeyed the command of God to bow down before Adam (Adam) (as) and was thus expelled from the realm of divine mercy.

Arrogance and pride in people, not heeding the call of the prophets (as) became the reason for their lack of obedience and servitude (‘ubudiyyah), as they wished to follow their own desires. The Holy Qur’an states:

أَفكُلّمَا جَائَكُم رَسُولٌ بِمَا لاَ تَهوىٰ أَنْفُسُكُمُ ٱسْتَكْبَرتُم

“Is it not that whenever an apostle brought you that which was not to your liking, you would act arrogantly?”72

It also states elsewhere:

فَلاَ وَرَبِّكَ لاَ يُؤْمِنُونَ حَتَّىَ يُحَكِّمُوكَ فِيمَا شَجَرَ بَيْنَهُمْ ثُمَّ لاَ يَجِدُواْ فِي أَنفُسِهِمْ حَرَجًا مِّمَّا قَضَيْتَ وَيُسَلِّمُواْ تَسْلِيمًا

“But no, by your Lord! They will not believe until they make you a judge in their disputes, then do not find within their hearts any dissent to your verdict and submit in full submission.”73

So, valuable worship is that which stems from servitude (‘ubudiyyah), submission (taslim) and willingness (Rida) of man. Worship means total submission to God with a complete negation of the self.

When the decree for jihad was ordained for the Muslims during the early period of Islam, some of them questioned it and said:

لَوْلا أَخَّرْتَنَا إِلَى أَجَلٍ قَرِيبٍ

“Why did You not respite us for a short time?!”74

During the event of the changing of the qiblah (direction of prayer and other rituals) from Bayt al-Muqaddas to the Ka’bah, some asked for the reason behind it. The Glorious Qur’an answers, thus:

لِنَعْلَمْ مَنْ يَتَّبِعُ ٱلرَّسُوْلَ مِمَّنْ يَنْقَلِبُ عَلىٰ عَقِبَيه

“That We may ascertain those who follow the Apostle from those turn back on their heels.”75

Another perfect example of submission or servitude to God is the story of Ibrahim (Abraham) and Isma’il (Ishmael) (as). The father submits to the command of God as he brings his son to the appointed place for sacrifice and puts the knife on his son’s neck. The son also submits and says, “O father! Do whatever you are commanded to do.”76

Ibrahim (as) is a perfect example of a submissive and obedient servant in his willingness to sacrifice Isma’il (as), in leaving Hajar (Hagar) and Isma’il (as) alone in the barren desert of Makkah as well as in his readiness to be thrown into the blazing fire prepared for him by the people of Nimrud (Nimrod).

Constancy in worship

رهروآن نيست كه گه تند و گهى خسته رود رهرو آنست كه آهسته و پيوسته رود

To walk does not mean to run and stop intermittently,

To walk means to move slowly but steadily.

Constancy and steadfastness in every activity are praiseworthy; the same is true in the case of worship.

Islam considers small but constant acts of worship as more valuable than great, yet inconsistent, good deeds. The Glorious Qur’an states:

فَاْعْبُدْهُ وَاصْطَبِر لِعِبَادَتِهِ

“So worship Him and be steadfast in His worship.”77

The Messenger of Allah (S) is reported to have said:

آفَةُ ٱلْعِبَادَةِ ٱلْفَتْرَةُ.

“The greatest danger against worship is sluggishness (while performing it and at times neglecting it).”78
And this subject matter has been recorded in many hadiths:

إِنَّ أَحَبَّ ٱلأَعْمَالِ إِلىٰ اللهِ تَعَالىٰ أَدْوَمُهَا وَ إِنْ قَلَّ.

“The most beloved of all deeds in the sight of God is that which is most constant, no matter how small it is!”79

You have to continue for one whole year whatever activity you start to demonstrate constancy. So, constancy in worship and the spirit of servitude in man are essential. Being sometimes obsessed with worship, supplication and the mosque, and after sometime, abandoning those deeds and becoming totally alien to them is not at all desirable.

Opportunity to engage in worship

The asset of a lifespan and its opportunities shall be taken away and fade just like the passing clouds . One must be wary, make the best use of a passing opportunity and render service to God. In a beautiful hadith, ‘Ali (as) has said:

إِنَّ ٱللَّيْلَ وَ النَّهَارَ يَعْمَلاَنِ فِيكَ فَاعْمَلْ فِيِْهمَا وَ يَأْخُذَانِ مِنْكَ فَخُذْ مِنْهُمَا.

“The day and night are working in you. You also work in them. They are taking (something) from you. You also take (something) from them.”80

However, we are given life, but are unaware of how we are spending this asset day and night. Are we making the best use of it? The Messenger of Allah (S) has said:

أَلدُّنْيَا سَاعَةٌ فَاجعَلُوْهَا طَاعَةً.

“The world is just an hour. Spend it in obedience (to God).”81

If under certain circumstances the ground for worship and serving God is limited, one must strive hard to make it broader, go to freer environments and worship God; for, the limitation of time and place is not an excuse for one to keep aloof from the worship of God:

إِنَّ أَرْضِي وَاسِعَةٌ فَإِيّٰىَ فَاعْبُدُونِ

“My earth is indeed vast. So worship (only) Me.”82

Enduring difficulties of worship

Worshipping God has accompanying difficulties stemming from the taghuts who create hindrances to prevent people from focusing on God; from the irreligious ones who ridicule the religious ones; from Satan and the carnal soul that strive to obstruct the human being from the worship of God; and other factors that create obstacles.

Were they not annoying the Prophet of Islam (S) when he was praying in the Ka’bah?

Were the combatant Muslims not giving their lives for the sake of the worship of God under the tortures of the taghuts?

Were the likes of Bilal al-Habashi not being whipped in the way of the One True God?
Under no condition or circumstance, whatsoever, did the men of God turn back from God, from His worship, from following His religion. Notwithstanding all those afflictions and sufferings she experienced, Hadhrat Zaynab83 (as) never missed the supererogatory night prayers along the way from Kufah (in Iraq) to Sham84 although, because of inability, she performed them sitting.

During his last night at the hospital, Imam Khomeini (may Allah be pleased with him) also did not abandon the optional prayers.

The path of truth has difficulties that must be overcome by giving one’s life and not being afraid of being hooted or incurring the enmity (of people). ‘Ali (as) said:

لاَ تَسْتَوْحِشُوا فِي طَرِيْقِ ٱلْهُدىٰ لِقِلَّةِ أَهْلِهِ.

“In the way of truth, you must not be afraid because of the scantiness of its followers.”85

Sometimes, it is possible that because of buying something, taking a meal, or the falling of a load, we insist on stopping the bus, but for prayer, we are reluctant to raise our voice and ask the bus driver to stop!

Promotion of worship

The believer who is devoted to God should engage in promoting the culture of worship. He should not only restrict himself to his own prayer and worship but also acquaint others with God and worship. Exhorting one another to truth and the duty of conveying the message (tabligh) are incumbent upon every believer. God calls on man, after faith and righteous deeds, to exhort one another to truth, and exhort one another to patience and the truth:

وَ تَوَاصَوْا بِالْحَقِّ وَ تَوَاصَوْا بِالْصَّبْرِ

“And enjoin one another to (follow) the truth, and enjoin one another to patience.”86

If ten smokers inhabit a community, many people will become familiar with smoking within a short period. The presence of only a few corrupt elements is enough to corrupt an entire city. Why cannot a number of faithful worshippers then acquaint the people with God and make the environment congenial for the worship of God?

With utmost effort, at home, school, office, city, and village, we must plan for the advancement of our own divine objectives, and put into action whatever we can along this path.

Duty and its conditions

After dealing with the importance of worship and the dangers threatening it, one must know the conditions necessary for worship.

Having duty (taklif) is considered as man’s great distinction. Man is the recipient of divine grace and, thereby, obliged (mukallaf) to perform certain duties as God’s vicegerent on earth. This honorable distinction must be celebrated by him.

One of the ‘ulama’ always used to celebrate the anniversary of his attainment of puberty (bulugh), saying: “On this day, I assumed responsibility to perform divine duties!”

Just as people felicitate someone on his election to the presidency and the parliament, or appointment as minister, etc. because the public honor him with a responsibility, the day of attainment of puberty and acceptance of responsibility set by God is also a blessed and auspicious day.

Now, we shall briefly point out the conditions of the assumption of this responsibility or duty:

1. Puberty (bulugh)

On reaching their 15th and 9th lunar year respectively, boys and girls attain the age of responsibility. Of course, sons might attain maturity prior to the stated ages.87

There are also other types of maturity (bulugh) apart from this one in terms of worship and responsibility, the performance of what is obligatory and refraining from what is forbidden. For example, there is “political maturity,” which includes intellectual growth, an awareness of the political concerns of society, correct political thought, and obedience shown to deserving leaders.

Qasim, son of Imam al-Mujtaba (as), who was martyred in Karbala’ said to his uncle, the infallible Imam of the time (Imam al-Husayn (as)): “If the government is in the hands of a taghut like Yazid,88 death in the way of fighting against him is sweeter than honey for me.” This implies his political maturity.

“Economic maturity” means the understanding of the proper utilization of wealth, be it his own or that of others. The Holy Qur’an states:

“Turn over the wealth of the orphans (to them) when you feel that they have attained enough maturity to reasonably spend it in business, trade and the like.”89

“Marital maturity” expects both the man and woman, apart from attaining maturity in terms of assumption of responsibility, to have acquired the capability of managing their lives and performing the corresponding duties, for, in this issue mere physical maturity and legal age are not enough.

Some reminders

a) We have said that puberty (bulugh) is a requisite of responsibility, but this does not mean that those who have not yet attained maturity are totally exempted. In some cases, the Glorious Qur’an also addresses the young, giving orders to them. For instance, they are not supposed to enter a house or room without permission, and must take permission before entering a room at the private resting time of their parents.90

And also, Hadhrat Luqman thus commands his son:

يَا بُنَىَّ أَقِمِ ٱلصَّلوٰةَ وَٱمُرْ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ وَٱنْهَ عَنِ ٱلْمُنْكَر

“O my son! Maintain the prayer and bid what is right and forbid what is wrong.”91

b) Although puberty is a requisite for accountability, parents are nevertheless supposed to acquaint their children prior to puberty with the religious rites and traditions, such as prayer and fasting. Sometimes, they are advised to punish them with the aim of showing their seriousness and the dire consequence of neglecting prayers and other duties.

c) Puberty is a requisite for accountability, but if a young person causes financial damage to someone, his parents should provide compensation, because accountability to people is separate from the accountability to God.

d) Maturity is a requisite for accountability, but young people have rewards for their good deeds yet, if they commit a mistake, say something unpleasant, or do something bad, there is punishment for them.

2. Strength

Strength and capability are requisites for accountability. Anyone who is incapable of performing a certain task is not accountable for it. Concerning the divine duties, this parameter of strength is also observed. God thus says:

لاَ نُكَلِّفُ نَفْسًا إِلّاَ وُسْعَهَا

“We task no soul except according to its capacity.”92

The Qur’an also states:

مَا جَعَلَ اللهُ عَلَيكُم فِي ٱلدِّينِ مِنْ حَرَجٍ

He has chosen you and has not placed for you any obstacle (as well as pressure and difficulty) in religion.”93

This refers to pressure beyond man’s capacity, for religiosity also has corresponding pressure and struggle.

Even in the case of jihad, which entails broader predicaments and difficulties, the Qur’an does not include the sick, infirm and blind as well as other individuals who are incapable of performing jihad.94

3. Freewill (ikhtiyar)

If someone is compelled to commit a certain sinful act, or hindered by force from fulfilling a certain duty, he cannot be called to account. It means that a requisite of fulfilling an obligation is freewill (ikhtiyar) and freedom of action. Under compulsion and in an emergency, the verdict about a certain issue is different. An example is the case when a taghuti places hindrances in the way of a Muslim’s performance of the Hajj pilgrimage, or the case of someone who is dying of hunger and no food is available for him except a human corpse.

4. Intellect (‘aql)

Intellect (‘aql) and common sense (shu’ur) are the criteria of man’s maturity and his duty. Accountability, liability and responsibility are also undertaken on the basis of one’s level of intellect, and those who lack intellect have no obligation and as such, no punishment or reward. In some Prophetic traditions, the intellect has been reckoned as the first created entity and true servitude (‘ubudiyyah) as emanating from the intellect. And in the books on hadith, the discussion about the intellect has come first compared to other subjects.95

In Islam, anything that befogs the mind (such as alcoholic beverages) is unlawful (haram) and anything that enhances the intellect and understanding is encouraged such as teaching, learning, research, traveling, consultation, etc.

Conditions for the soundness of worship

The value of worship lies in its soundness and correctness, which depend on two key factors: (1) soundness of the purpose, and (2) soundness of its form.

Let us deal first with the “purpose”. Seeking divine pleasure and attempting to perform one’s duty must be of man’s purpose in worship. Therefore, an act of worship which is performed with ostentation (riya), or is meant to win people’s attention and approval, or performed with the expectation of praise from one other than God, is tantamount to the commission of polytheism (shirk). Of course, if people take notice of someone’s sincere work, there is nothing wrong with that.96

In addition to its being unlawful (haram), ostentation in worship also renders it invalid. One must strive hard so that the pure intention for worship is not mixed with ungodly motives. Regarding sincerity in action, Imam as-Sadiq (as) has said:

وَ ٱلْعَمَلُ ٱلْخَالِصُ الَّذِي لاَ تُرِيْدُ أَنْ يحَمَدك عَلَيْهِ أَحَدٌ إِلاَّ الله.

“And the sincere deed is that you do not expect any appreciation and eulogy from anyone except God.”97
On the effects of sincerity, the Messenger of Allah (S) is reported to have said:

مَا أَخْلَصَ عَبْدٌ للهِ عَزَّ وَ جَلَّ أَرْبَعِيْنَ صَبَاحًا إِلاَّ جَرَتْ يَنَابِيعُ ٱلْحِكْمَةِ مِنْ قَلْبِهِ إِلىٰ لِسَانِهِ.

“There is no servant of Allah, the Glorious and Dignified, who sincerely worships Him for forty days without having springs of wisdom flow from his heart to his tongue.”98
Sincerity is an academy that produces sages and men of wisdom after a period of forty days.
Let us now deal with “the form of worship”.

An act of worship is correct when it is performed in exactly the same form, method and manner as specified by God and ortodox teaching, and not according to personal whims or manners contrary to the dictates of religion.
The Messenger of Allah (S) said:

لاَ قَول وَ لاَ عَمَل وَ لاَ نِيَّة إِلاَ بِإِصَابَةِ ٱلسُّنَّةِ.

“No saying, action or intention is valuable unless it is done according to the sunnah.”99
So, the form of worship must also be learned from the holy saints (awliya). Hadhrat Ibrahim (as) beseeches God to show to him the correct form of worship:

وَأَرِنَا مَنَاسِكَنَا

“And show us our rites (of worship).”100

One must faithfully observe the commands for the prayer to be shortened (qasr) or performed in full (tamam), the recitation in prayer must be loud or silent, the number of rak’ahs, and the like, otherwise it will have no value at all.

The same is true if it is said that there is a hidden treasure a 100 steps away, which you may posses, if you take 98 or 102 steps, you will not possess it and your efforts will be useless.

Similarly, if you want to contact a certain person or a municipality by phone, by dialing one digit more or less, you will be connected to another person or another municipality. So, in worship the form which is commanded must be strictly followed. It is like the grooves of a key, which if they become a little too fine or rough, will no longer open a lock.

On the interpretation of verse (ayah) 189 of Surah al-Baqarah, “And come into houses from their doors,” Imam al-Baqir (as) said: “It means that you have to perform an act according to its command.”101

Motives behind changing the form of worship

The Holy Qur’an cites numerous cases on how the past communities incurred divine wrath and chastisement by changing the form of worship. The motive behind this change has assumed diverse forms. We shall mention an example from the Qur’an for each of these cases:

1. Changing the form out of obduracy

God commanded the Children of Israel (Bani isra’il) to utter the word “hattah” (which means, “O God forgive us and wipe off our sins”) at the time of entrance to the holy land. Out of derision and obduracy, they changed it and instead said, “hantah” (which means “wheat”). God vented His wrath upon them and brought them to perdition.102

2. Changing the form out of false enlightenment

In Islam, four months are deemed sacred (haram) in which waging war is forbidden. The imposed ceasefire covers three successive months, namely, Dhu’l-Qa’dah, Dhu’l-Hijjah and Muharram, and one separate month (Rajab) which have been described as a whole by the Holy Qur’an as the “four sacred (months)” (arba’atun hurum)103 in which fighting is prohibited except in the form of defense.

Out of their personal desire and false enlightenment, some people used to interchange these months, setting them in advance or otherwise, and saying: “What is the difference? The point is that every year, we should not wage war for four months.” The Glorious Qur’an condemned this changing of the sacred months, regarding it as a sign of unbelief (kufr).104

3. Changing the form out of sanctimony

It refers to the work of those who, under the garb of religion and religious ruses, want to satisfy their carnal desires, and by means of this, they wish to relieve their conscience and circumvent the laws of God. An example of this can be found in the historical account of the Children of Israel.

Since God had forbidden them to catch fish on the Sabbath, they constructed small pools near the body of water in which they placed the fishes caught a day before, and took them the next day saying, “We have not caught fishes on the Sabbath!”

This event has been described and condemned in some verses of the Holy Qur’an.105

Conditions for the acceptance of acts worship

Apart from their correctness, acts of worship have conditions for their “acceptance” and “perfection”. It means that by observing them man will attain nearness to Allah, spiritual growth and influence individual as well as society.

Sometimes, an act of worship is correct but does not lead to spiritual growth, just like a medicine which does not heal the patient.

At times, an act of worship relieves us from the punishment (of abandoning it) but does not make us beloved of God.

The conditions for the acceptance of deeds and acts of worship have been stated in Qur’anic verses and Prophetic traditions. Some of them are the following:106

1. Ideological condition;

2. Political condition;

3. Moral condition;

4. Economic condition;

5. Social condition;

6. Familial condition.

Before explaining the above, it must be emphasized that man should strive hard for the acceptance of his acts of worship and to benefit from his spiritual endeavors. ‘Ali (as) said:

كُوْنُوا عَلىٰ قَبُوْلِ ٱلْعَمَلِ أَشَدَّ عِنَايَةً مِنْكُمْ عَلَىٰ ٱلْعَمَلِ.

“Pay more attention to the acceptance of the act than you do to the act itself.”107
For acceptance in a certain position, a person may possibly be required to acquire an entrance card and to act according to the apparent rules, but in the interview he will be rejected for reasons such as moral corruption, bad record, etc. It is also possible for the act of worship to have been performed properly according to the divine rules, but it will not be accepted by God for certain reasons. Is it not sometimes observed that correct works done by unauthorized persons, instead of being appreciated are criticized?! Why? Because acceptance depends on certain conditions which shall now be discussed.

1. Ideological condition: Faith in God

Lack of faith (iman) renders deeds futile:

وَمَن يَكْفُرْ بِالإِيمَانِ فَقَدْ حَبِطَ عَمَلُهُ

“Should anyone renounce his faith, his work shall fail.”108

Those who build the mosques of God should be believers in God and the hereafter:

إِنَّمَا يَعْمُرُ مَسَاجِدَ اللهِ مَنْ آمَنَ بِاللهِ وَ ٱلْيَوْمِ ٱلآخِرِ

“Only those shall maintain Allah’s mosques who believe in Allah and the Last Day.”109

And it is the righteous deed of a believing (mu’min) man and woman that brings about pure life:

مَنْ عَمِلَ صَالِحًا مِّن ذَكَرٍ أَوْ أُنثَى وَهُوَ مُؤْمِنٌ فَلَنُحْيِيَنَّهُ حَيَاةً طَيِّبَةً

“Whoever acts righteously, (whether) male or female, should he (or she) be faithful—We shall revive him with a good life.”110

Anyone who denies God has performed no deed for which he should expect reward. The Holy Qur’an regards the deeds of unbelievers just like ashes that will be blown by the wind on a windy day, and thus, nothing will be left of them.

2. Political condition: Guardianship (wilayah)

Correct and divinely ordained guardianship (wilayah) directs all the servants of God, acts of servitude (to Him), prayer, Hajj pilgrimage, jihad and others, along the divine path. It is like Iran which today, having the guardianship of the jurist (wilayah al-faqih), is progressing. On the contrary, other Muslim countries, notwithstanding the observance of prayers, fasting and others therein, are in an abject state due to incorrect leadership.

The leader of society is like the driver of a vehicle. If all the passengers are smart, neat and courteous but the driver is drunk or the way is altered, mishap is in the offing. But if the driver is morally sound and well-experienced, no matter if all the passengers are old-fashioned and untidy, this journey will end at its destination.
In a hadith, Imam al-Baqir (as) is reported to have said:

مَنْ دَانَ اللهَ بِعِبَادَةٍ يَجْهَدُ فيهَا نَفْسَهُ وَ لاَ إِمَامَ لَهُ مِِنَ اللهِ فَسَعيُهُ غَيْرَ مَقْبُوْلٍ.

“Anyone who has faith in God and also performs onerous acts of worship, but has no deserving Imam from Allah, his efforts are useless.”111

If the divinely ordained leader had been allowed to rule, the worship of God would not have led to the worship of the taghut; the heavenly laws would not have turned into superstitions; the Friday congregational prayers, in all their splendor, would not have been conducted for the interest of the taghuts; and the Hajj—this manifestation of the power and honor of Islam and the Muslims—would not have been transformed into something unproductive or for the advantage of rulers alien to Islam.
We read in a hadith:

فَمَنْ لَمْ يَتَوَّلنَا لَمْ يَرْفَعِ اللهُ لَهُ عَمَلاً.

“Whoever shall not accept our guardianship (wilayah) (and leadership), his deeds also shall not be accepted by God.”112

Hadhrat ‘Ali (as) said: “We are the “door of Allah” (bab Allah) and the way of Allah will be introduced and known through us.”113
So, wilayah is a condition for the acceptance of acts of worship. Along with it, there must also be God-wariness (taqwa). Imam al-Baqir (as) said:

وَ مَا تَنَالُ وَ لاَ يَتَنَا إِلاَّ بِالْعَمَلِ وَ ٱلْوَرَعِ.

“There is nothing in the line of our leadership except (good) deeds and piety (wara ‘).”114

3. Moral condition: God-wariness (taqwa)

The story of the two sons of Adam (Adam) (as) is recorded in the Glorious Qur’an. Both of them offered sacrifices. The sacrifice offered by one of them was accepted while that of the other was not.
God says:

إِنَّمَا يَتَقَبَّلُ اللّهُ مِنَ الْمُتَّقِينَ

“Allah accepts only from the God-wary.”115

It has been narrated that upon entering the market, a certain person stole two loaves of bread and two pomegranates. He then gave the two loaves of bread and the two pomegranates to the poor. He was asked: “What kind of work is this?”

He answered: “God gives one punishment for every sin committed but ten rewards for every good deed done. By stealing those two loaves of bread and two pomegranates, I committed four sins, but since I gave the same to the poor, I have gained forty rewards. If four sins are subtracted from forty rewards, thirty six rewards will remain.”

It was said to him: “Ten times the reward is for the one who does good deeds on the basis of God-wariness (taqwa). Spending stolen or usurped property in God’s way has no reward. Have you not read, “Innama yataqabbal Allahu min al-muttaqin” (Verily, God accepts only those who are God-wary)?!”

4. Economic condition: Giving people their rights

Addressing the needs and rights of the deprived occupies such a degree of importance that sometimes the acceptability of the act of worship depends upon it. Paying the poor-rate (zakat)116 and earning a lawful income are some examples. Imam ar-Ridha’(as) says:

مَنْ صَلّىٰ وَ لَمْ يُزَكِّ لَمْ تُقْبَلْ صَلوٰتُه.

“The prayer of one who prays but does not give zakat (and other Islamic taxes) shall not be accepted.”117
In another hadith, ‘Ali (as) says to Kumayl: “When your food is not acquired through lawful (halal) earning, God will also not accept your glorification (tasbih) and thanks-giving.”118

5. Social condition: Wishing others well

The preservation of society, brotherhood, and a wholesome relationship among Muslims, are of the utmost importance. There fore any saying or action that disrupts good relationships is prohibited. Backbiting (ghiybah), suspicion (su’i zann), malevolence, severance of ties, peevishness and envy are some of the vices and actions that cause the non-acceptance of worship.
The Messenger of Allah (S) said:

مَنِ ٱغْتَابَ مُسْلِمًا أَوْ مُسْلِمَةً لَمْ يَقْبَلِ اللهُ صَلاَتَهُ وَ لاَ صِيَامَهُ أرْبَعِيْنَ يَوْمًا وَ لَيْلَةً إِلاَّ أَنْ يَغْفِرَ لَهُ صَاحِبُهُ.

“The prayers and the fasting for forty days of one who backbites against a Muslim man or woman are not accepted unless the victim (the person backbitten) concerned forgives him.”119
The Prophet (S) also said:

يَا أَبَاذَرّ! إِيَّاكَ وَهِجْرَانَ أَخِيْكَ، فَإِنَّ ٱلْعَمَلَ لاَ يَتَقَبَّلُ مَعَ ٱلْهِجْرانِ.

“O Abu Dharr! Keep aloof from severing ties with your brother in faith as the deeds of the ones doing so are not accepted.”120
Imam as-Sadiq (as) said:

لاَ يَقْبَلُ اللهُ مِنْ مُؤْمِنٍ عَمَلاً وَ هُوَ مُضْمِرٌ عَلىٰ أَخِيْهِ سُوء.

“God does not accept the deeds of any believer who has bad intentions against his brother in faith.”121
Imam as-Sadiq (as) also said:

إِنَّ سُوءَ ٱلْخُلْقِ يُفْسِدُ ٱلْعَمَلَ كَمَا يُفْسِدُ ٱلخَلُّ ٱلْعَسَلَ.

“Verily, bad behavior (toward the people) spoils (good) deeds just as vinegar spoils honey.”122
In conclusion, speaking ill of others, bad intentions against others, severing ties of friendship, backbiting and the like which weaken the social bonds of Muslims, are considered among the obstacles to the acceptance of worship. Therefore, supplicants and worshippers should have a firm religious relationship with the servants of God so that their acts of worship might become worthy of acceptance.

6. Familial condition: Good behavior

Islam establishes a strong interconnection between devotion, politics, morality, and society. In family affairs, it regards as important the observance of mutual respect and rights between the husband and wife so much so that inattention to them may sometimes lead to the non-acceptance of worship. The severance of earthly ties leads to the severance of heavenly ties. In this regard, the Prophet of Islam (S) has said:

مَنْ كَانَ لَهُ إِمْرَأَةً تُؤذيهِ لَمْ يُقْبَلِ اللهُ صَلاَتَهَا وَ لاَ حَسَنَةً مِنْ عَمَلِهَا... وَ عَلَىٰ ٱلرَّجُل مِثْلُ ذٰلِكَ.

“God does not accept the prayers and good deeds of an ill-mannered and annoying wife… And the same is true if the husband is such.”123

Not only does uncivil behavior toward one’s spouse hinder the acceptance of worship, but also casting a furious look at one’s father or mother, as said by Imam as-Sadiq (as):

مَنْ نَظَرَ إِلىٰ أَبَويهِ نَظَرَ مَاقَتٍ وَ هُمَا ظَالِمَانِ لَهُ لَمْ يُقْبَلِ اللهُ لَهُ صَلاةً.

“The prayer of the one who looks furiously at his father or mother is not accepted even though his parents have treated him unjustly.”124

For, once we are in the state of prayer, we are actually in spiritual ascension (mi’raj) provided that its edifices are firmly established on the ground. However, if they are situated on slippery or soft ground, going up becomes problematic and at times, impossible. Spiritual perfection under the aegis of worship also emanates from good behavior and wholesome social relationships.

Habits such as drinking liquor, gambling, eating what has been prohibited and others, which have been mentioned in the Prophetic traditions, also hinder the acceptance of good deeds. However, it must not be imagined that since God does not accept them, one should not pray and fast, etc. Rather, these examples point out what weakens deeds and decreases their value on account of the untoward behavior and character of the worshipper.

Signs of acceptance

The Holy Qur’an regards the rejection of obscenity and vices as the fruit of prayer


the prayer prevents indecencies and wrongs”


—and this virtue is the essence of prayer and a sign of its acceptance and other acts of worship.

In expressing this sign, Imam as-Sadiq (as) thus said:

مَنْ أَحَبَّ أَنْ يَعْلَمَ أقُبِلَت صَلاَتَهُ أَمْ لَم تُقْبَلْ، فَلْيَنْظُر هَلْ مَنَعَتْهُ صَلاَتُهُ عَنِ ٱلْفحْشَاءِ وَٱلْمُنْكَرِ؟ فَبقَدرَ مَا ضَعَتْهُ قُبِلَتْ مِنْهُ.

“Anyone who wants to know whether his prayer is accepted or not should see if his prayer is keeping him away from sin and indecency. So, the degree of acceptance of his prayer is commensurate with the power his prayer has in keeping him away from sin.”126

Conditions for the perfection of worship

Besides the conditions for the correctness and acceptance of worship, there are other conditions which relate to the perfection (kamal) of worship, which indicate the higher value, better substance and greater impact of worship. These conditions are the following:

1. Making greater effort

Performance of easy tasks and acts of worship can be undertaken by everybody, but an act of worship which is more difficult and necessitates more dedication, effort and endeavor is more valuable and nearer to perfection. The Holy Qur’an praises those who assisted and obeyed the Messenger of Allah (S) during tortuous circumstances.127

Imam al-Mujtaba (as), in spite of having a riding animal, used to travel by foot in performing the Hajj so as to gain a greater reward. The Glorious Qur’an praises those who perform the night supererogatory prayers by leaving their soft, warm beds so as to engage in supplication and prayer.128
Imam ‘Ali (as) has said:

أَفْضَلُ ٱلأَعْمَالِ مَا أَكْرَهْتَ نَفْسَكَ عَلَيْهِ.

“The best of deeds is that in which you have to urge yourself to perform it.”129
The Holy Qur’an regards as superior the reward and station of great and diligent mujahidin,130 stating thus:

وَفَضَّلَ اللّهُ الْمُجَاهِدِينَ عَلَى الْقَاعِدِينَ أَجْرًا عَظِيمًا

“And Allah has graced those who wage jihad over those who sit back with a great reward.”131

2. Concentrating on what is more important

In the performance of works, paying attention to “what is important and what is more important” is an indication of intellect, foresightedness and purposefulness, and Islam encourages the performance of works which are more in need, more useful and more important, be it in the realm of education, worship, spending money in Allah’s cause (infaq), etc. The Prophet of Islam (S) has said:

لاَ صَدَقَةَ وَ ذَوْرَحِمٍ مُحْتَاجًا.

“While there are needy relatives, spending on and helping others is worthless.”132
And Imam ‘Ali (as) said:

لاَ قُرَبَة بِالنَّوَافِلِ إِذَا أَضرَّتْ بِالْفَرَائِضِ.

“Whenever supererogatory prayers jeopardize obligatory prayers, they will not bring about nearness to God.”133

3. Concentrating on what has lasting value

The impact of a deed and act of worship which has the quality of perfection is not fleeting and temporary but of permanent value.
Imam ‘Ali (as) says:

رُبَّ يَسيرٍ اَنْمىٰ مِنْ كَثيرٍ.

“So many seemingly small and trivial deeds are more fruitful than a large amount of deeds.”134

Some writings, outstanding works and service centers are blessed with amazing influence and power that so many writings, works and institutions lack. It shows that being blessed is also a sign of achieving perfection in devotional acts.

4. Acting in accordance with the Sunnah of the Prophet (S)

The perfection of deeds and acts of worship is achieved when it toes such actions are in accordance with the Sunnah of the Prophet (S) and the holy saints, and not based on inherited popular communal rituals or traditions. The nearer the worship is to the method of the Infallibles (as), the more valuable it is.

5. Having precedence in meritorious works

Precedence has value in acts of worship and good deeds, and preeminence in such affairs is the criterion of perfection. The Holy Qur’an in many instances uses the order, “sari’u” and “sabiqu” (be ahead). It states elsewhere:

وَمَا لَكُمْ أَلَّا تُنفِقُوا فِي سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ وَلِلَّهِ مِيرَاثُ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ لَا يَسْتَوِي مِنكُم مَّنْ أَنفَقَ مِن قَبْلِ الْفَتْحِ وَقَاتَلَ أُوْلَئِكَ أَعْظَمُ دَرَجَةً مِّنَ الَّذِينَ أَنفَقُوا مِن بَعْدُ وَقَاتَلُوا وَكُلًّا وَعَدَ اللَّهُ الْحُسْنَى وَاللَّهُ بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ خَبِيرٌ

“Why should you not spend in the way of Allah, while to Allah belongs the heritage of the heavens and the earth? Not equal (to others) are those of you who spent and fought before the victory. They are greater in rank than those who have spent and fought afterward. Yet Allah has promised the best reward to each and Allah is well aware of what you do.”135

So, having precedence in meritorious works (such as spending and jihad in the way of Allah) is one of the criteria of perfection. We read in a hadith that ‘Ali (as) said:

لاَ يتمّ المعروفُ إلاّ بثلاثِ خصالٍ: تعجيلهُ و تصغيِرهُ وَ سترهُ.

“A good deed becomes more valuable if it is done immediately; the doer regards it as something small (and as such he does not become proud of it), and does it quietly without expecting anything in return.”136

Therefore, the best prayer is that which is offered at its first call; the more it is delayed, the lower its merit. The adhan (call to prayer) clearly invites: “Come to prayer; come to success; come to the best of deeds (hayya ‘ala’s-salah; hayya ‘ala’l-falah; hayya ‘ala khayr al-’amal)!”

6. Performing devotional acts under difficult circumstances

As it demands more sacrifices and has a far-reaching impact, the good and devotional act performed in an atmosphere dominated by tyrants and taghuts is more valuable. Since the pressures of the external environment and natural instincts tend to obstruct worship and servitude to God, overcoming these pressures and worshipping God are signposts of value and perfection. In praising the upright believers, the Glorious Qur’an states:

يُجَاهِدُونَ فِي سَبِيلِ اللّهِ وَلاَ يَخَافُونَ لَوْمَةَ لآئِمٍ

“Wage jihad in the way of Allah, not fearing the blame of any blamer.”137

It also states in another place:

الَّذينَ يُبَلِّغُونَ رِسالاتِ اللّهِ وَ يَخْشَوْنَهُ وَ لا يَخْشَوْنَ أَحَدًا إِلاَّ اللّهَ وَ كَفى‏ بِاللّهِ حَسيبًا

“Such as deliver the messages of Allah and fear Him, and fear no one except Allah, and Allah suffices as reckoner.”138

Yes, those who safeguard themselves and their religion (such as the wife of Pharaoh) under the dominance of an oppressor, occupy a loftier station.

7. Fervor and constancy

The lack of fervor in worship is a sign of hypocrisy (nifaq). The Holy Qur’an denounces the lack of enthusiasm of the hypocrites (munafiqun).139 On the contrary, enthusiasm and constancy in worship generates spiritual perfection (kamal).

In the hadiths, a small number of deeds which are constant and regular are considered better than a large quantity of devotional acts which are accompanied by laziness, ennui and abandonment. The Glorious Qur’an promises rewards and abundant good fortune in the field of knowledge and understanding to those who are firmly entrenched on the right path.

وَ أَن لَوِ ٱسْتَقٰمُواْ عَلَى ٱلطٍّرِيقَةِ لأَسْقَيْنٰهُم مَّآءً غَدَقًا

“If they are steadfast on the path (of Allah), We shall provide them with abundant water.”140

8. Humility

Arrogant people regard their acts of worship as great and significant where by they spoil their acts of worship. Whereas the condition for the perfection of worship is that the worshipper should not reckon his devotional acts as plentiful and be arrogant. In the Makarim al-Akhlaq supplication, Imam as-Sajjad (as) thus pleads with God:

أللّٰهمّ عَبِّدْني لَكَ وَ لاَ تُفْسِدْ عِبَادَتِي بِٱلْعُجْبِ.

“O my Lord! Let me be Your servant but do not contaminate my devotion (‘ibadah) with self-conceit (‘ujb).”141

There are many hadiths which exhort man not to consider as great his devotions and good deeds. The Qur’an mentions the abundant worship and glorification (tasbih) of angels as well as their remembrance (dhikr) of God.142 Perhaps, the purpose behind this is to discourage the servants of God on earth from being proud of a few rak’ahs of prayer and worship.

9. Possessing insight

Profound awareness and insight in religion is the most valuable attribute of deeds and devotional acts, without which no work can achieve perfection. Imam ‘Ali (as) says:

أَلاَ، لاَ خَيرَ فِي عِبَادَةٍ لَيْسَ فِيْهَا تَفَكُّرٌ.

“Worship without insight and reflection is indeed worthless.”143
In another hadith, “certainty” (yaqin) is mentioned as follows:

إِنَّ ٱلْعَمَلَ ٱلدَّائم ٱلْقَلِيْل عَلىٰ ٱلْيَقِيْنِ، أَفْضَلُ عِنْدَ اللهِ مِنَ ٱلْعَمَل ٱلْكَثِيرِ عَلىٰ غَيرِ يَقِينٍ.

“Verily, small yet constant works based on certainty (yaqin) are superior in the sight of God to many works without certainty (and insight).”144
Let us suffice ourselves with this in explaining the conditions for attaining perfection in deeds and worship.

Philosophy of worship

All Islamic laws and traditions of worship possess wisdom and philosophy:
Firstly, in line with hundreds of Qur’anic verses and hadiths that call on the people to reflect and think, and no school of thought has invited the people to think as much as Islam has done.

Secondly, one of the strong criticisms of the Qur’an against the polytheists and idol-worshippers is their blind and unreasonable imitation of their ancestors.

Thirdly, the Qur’an itself has also mentioned the laws and commands many times along with the reasons behind them. The infallible Imams (as) have also cited in the hadiths the wisdom behind these laws and commands. Some Muslim scholars have also written books regarding this subject.145

In addition, with the advancement of human knowledge some of the secrets of divine laws and religious commands are being unveiled day by day, and with the passage of time the grandeur and image of Islam will be enhanced.

In view of all the above points, it must be noted that:

1. It is not necessary that all the people in all eras should know the wisdom behind all laws. Sometimes, the reason behind some of them is presently unclear but as time goes on, it will become clear.

2. Concerning the philosophy of the laws, one must not only focus on their material benefits and effects, nor pay attention only to their economic, medical and other dimensions but also assess their spiritual and otherworldly outcomes.

3. Anyone who regards God as All-wise and His commands as based on wisdom should not neglect a command merely because of not knowing the reason behind it today.

4. Whenever we do not have strong proof in the Qur’an and hadith of the philosophy of a law, it is better for us to keep silent rather than offering a series of justifications based on conjecture.

5. If some secrets of the universe are revealed to us, we should not become arrogant and expect to know the reason behind everything.

6. We should not go beyond the common axis and fall prey to insinuations. Just as people entrust themselves to a physician and refrain from asking technical questions they are also supposed to accept and abide by the laws of God, for God is the Most Kind, the All-Knowing as well as the All-Wise; He knows the future, as well as the apparent and hidden effects.

7. If we discover a certain secret of God’s law, we should not imagine that we have discovered the whole secrets. When one puts his hand under the sea, he has no right to say to the people that the water in his hand is the sea. Instead, he must say, “This water is from the sea, only as much as it fits in my palm.” He who understands the philosophy of a law is not supposed to think that that which he understands is the whole truth and there is nothing else. Could the depth of the laws that emanate from the boundless knowledge of God be fathomed solely through the limited human intellect and reason?

8. The same intellect that calls on us to understand the philosophy of laws directs us toward the holy saints.
Now, after these preliminaries, we shall cite some instances from the Qur’an and hadiths which point out the philosophy of laws:

Firstly, we deal with the Qur’an:
Regarding the prayer, the Qur’an states that it keeps man away from evil and indecency.146
In another place, it states:

“And maintain the prayer for My remembrance.”147

In yet another place, it states:

“Look! The hearts find rest in Allah’s remembrance!”148

Concerning fasting (sawm), it declares:

“O you who have faith! Prescribed for you is fasting as it was prescribed for those who were before you, so that you may be God-wary.”149

It is because many sins are outbursts of anger and carnal desire and fasting prevents that outburst and arouses fear of God (taqwa) in man. It is precisely for this reason that crime rates are and offenses is lower in the month of Ramadhan.
With regard to the Hajj, it says:

“That they may witness the benefit for them.”150

The social and political benefits and impacts of Hajj are things that are beyond doubt and skepticism.
It thus states about the poor-rate (zakat):

“Take charity from their possessions to cleanse them and purify them thereby, and bless them.”151

It thus declares pertaining to gambling and intoxicants:

Indeed Satan seeks to cast enmity and hatred among you through wine and gambling, and to hinder you from the remembrance of Allah.”152

And it regards retribution (qisas)153 as vital for the health of society.154 The reason for this is that if the criminal is not punished the society will wither and die; crime will prosper while the oppressed will be crushed, and security of life and property will disappear.

These are some of the verses of the Qur’an that point out the effects and reasons behind the divine laws.

We shall now deal with the Prophetic traditions:

Among the abundant hadiths regarding this subject, we shall quote some lines of one of the speeches of the Commander of the Faithful (as) recorded in Nahj al-Balaghah:

فَرض الله الايمان تطهيراً مِنَ الشِرك وَ الصَلوةَ تَنزيهاً عَنِ الكِبر و الزكوة تسبيباً لِلرّزق...

“Allah has laid down belief (iman) for purification from polytheism, prayer (salah) for purification from vanity, zakat for purification of the means of livelihood.”155

Faith in God saves man from polytheistic thinking, futile worship and impotent sources of support.
The prayer which seeks to worship the Fountainhead of all greatnesses and pleads for help from the Epicenter of power and grandeur purges man of pride (kibr).

Zakat provides succor to the unemployed; motivates and empowers the deprived and bankrupt; revives compassion and benevolence toward the needy; and it excludes love of wealth and the world from the heart of the alms giver. In addition, he will strive hard to compensate for the amount of zakat thus deducted from his wealth by engaging in more economically prosperous activities. It is natural that he who spends a much must also work hard too. Therefore, zakat is a source of sustenance.

In the above hadith Imam ‘Ali (as) points out the philosophy and wisdom behind the divine decrees such as fasting, enjoinment of what is good and prohibition of what is evil, jihad, prohibition of intoxicants and adultery (zina), implementation of hudud,156 obedience to the rightful leader, etc.157

The natural disposition (fitrah) of man also recognizes and acknowledges the philosophy of some laws. Man, since creation, believes that lying, treachery, slandering, killing, stealing, tyranny, hoarding, etc. are bad, while justice, purity, generosity, charity, etc. are good. This is the divine inspiration referred to in this verse:

فَأَلْهَمَهَا فُجُورَهَا وَتَقْوَاهَا

“…and inspired it with (discernment between) its virtues and vices.”158

It must not be overlooked that the advancement of science in various fields has rendered services in explaining the philosophy of religious laws by revealing their benefits.
For example, the existence of tapeworms in the flesh of the pig or the harmful effects of alcohol to the human liver and body are not hidden from anyone. This reveals the philosophy behind the prohibition of pork and intoxicants.

Islam discourages urinating while standing, and science shows that some urine remains in the urinary passages if one does so; or, the case of taking a bath (ghusl) it cleanses the effects of the activity of certain nerves and the disequilibrium in blood pressure caused by sexual intercourse (janabah); all this with the intention of seeking nearness to Him (qurbah) In order to cleanse us from the state of negligence of God.

If Islam forbids using the wood of the pomegranate tree as a toothpick, it is because it is harmful for the gums of the teeth. As such, all the injunctions of Islam regarding the obligatory, the prohibited, the recommended and the undesirable in the spheres of behavior, eating, clothing, and other issues of life contain much wisdom, on which many books have been written by Muslim scholars and researchers.159 But as a whole, it proves one thing and that is, all the laws of Islam are based on a definite philosophy and wisdom, some of which has been discovered. At any rate, the spirit of obedience demands that we accept and abide by everything which we know has been commanded by Allah”.

Submission as the greatest philosophy of responsibility

Undoubtedly, the commands of God and religious laws have reasons and philosophy, but it is not necessary for us to discover the economic, medical and scientific reasons of all the divine laws and commands. The Muslim must submit to the order of revelation, and this spirit of submission and acceptance demonstrates human perfection, as some orders are meant to test the spirit of submission and servitude. God’s order to Ibrahim (as) to sacrifice Isma’il (as) is an example, and Ibrahim’s (as) obedience is a sign of perfection in servitude.

Let’s take the example of walking; not all the time do we walk to reach a certain point but walking itself is our purpose; as in a march or walking for doing exercise, as well as running in a race that the purpose is just running not reaching anywhere.

In religious commands and divine laws, too, at times the aim is submission to and acceptance of the command and exercise for attracting the Worshipped’s satisfaction as well as mere obedience from the creator.

The aim of devotional acts is to nurture the soul of man in the same manner as athletic movements are meant to train the body.
Imam ‘Ali and Imam as-Sajjad (as) have said:

اِلٰهى كَفىٰ بى عِزّاً أَنْ أَكُوْنَ لَكَ عَبْدًا.

“O Lord! It is already an enough honor for me that I am Your servant.”160
In Munajat ash-Sha’baniyyah,161 we read:

لَئِنْ أَدْخَلْتَنِي ٱلنَّارَ أَعْلَنْتُ أَهْلَهَا إِنِّي أُحِبُّكَ!

“(O Lord!) Even if You throw me into the hellfire, I shall announce to its dwellers that I love You!”
‘Ali (as) declared:

إلٰهى ما عَبَدتُكَ خَوْفاً مِنْ نارِك وَ لا طَمَعاً في جَنَّتِك بَلْ وَجَدْتُك أهْلاً لِلْعِبادَة فَعَبْدتُك.

“O God! My worship is not out of fear of hell or desire for Your paradise. Rather, it is because I found You worthy of worship and thus I worshipped You.”162

The divine saints (awliya) acquire pleasure in worshipping God while sinners are deprived of this pleasure found in the remembrance of God.

Sometimes, a person wants to serve another without having any monetary motive or economic aim. For him, rendering service itself to that great person is itself the aim and is valuable in itself and not the acquisition of knowledge, earning money or the attainment of a certain social standing.

So many are glad to sit beside a certain figure or take pictures with him even if it brings no benefit to him at all. To be with the said person is in itself important for him. If such an act is precious and pleasurable for human beings in this world, should servitude to God and being in His Presence not be a source of pride?

Pretext or research?

Keeping in mind what has been discussed so far, it is obvious that there are those who do not possess the spirit of submission and obedience and are looking for pretexts to find fault with religious obligation and religiosity. As such, they bring about the issue of “research” and are looking for the philosophy and reasons behind every religious injunction while claiming to be “intellectuals”. Regarding such persons, the Holy Qur’an thus says concerning belief in the Day of Resurrection:

بَلْ يُرِيْدُ ٱلإِنْسَانُ لِيَفْجُرَ أَمَامَهُ ٭ يَسْئَلُ أَيَّانَ يَوْمُ ٱلْقِيَامَةِ

“Rather man desires to go on living viciously. He asks, ‘When is this day of resurrection?”163

They are like children who are constantly seeking excuses. Regarding such individuals, the Glorious Qur’an says:

وَ إِنْ يَرَوا آيَةً يُعْرِضُوا وَ يَقُولُوا سِحْرٌ مُسْتَمِرّ

“If they see a sign, they turn away, and say, ‘An incessant magic!”164

Strangely enough, they unconditionally submit to the mechanic, the physician, all external fashions, baseless insinuations and satanic inclinations, but when a religious command comes, they disparagingly become men of research and reasoning.

An encounter

One day, someone asked: “Why does the dawn (subh) prayer have two rak’ahs?” I replied, “I do not know. It is the command of God and we have to perform it.”

As soon as I said I do not know, he began posing as an “intellectual” and said: “The world is a world of science. Today, religion without science is not correct…” I asked, “Now, you tell me why the leaf of a pomegranate tree is small while the leaf of the grapevine is big and wide?”

He answered, “I do not know.” I smiled and said: “The world is a world of science. Science must give a reason for it…” His sense of arrogance diminished immediately, so I said: “Brother! We do accept that the world is a world of science, but it does not mean that all the secrets of the universe must be known to us now.

There definitely is a relationship between the small leaf of pomegranates and the wide leaf of grapes and their fruits, which the experts on leaves, soil, plants and fruits have not yet discovered. Thus, we acknowledge the existence of secrets, but we will never accept anybody’s claim to knowing all of them.”

By the way, if we had to know the philosophy of laws first before abiding by them, where would worship of and submission to God be headed? Divine revelation (wahy) is superior to science and more mysterious than human knowledge. Why do so-called intellectuals obey man-made laws and programs, but when it comes to the laws of God and religion, being “men of logic” they find them difficult to believe,?!

  • 1. Surah adh-Dhariyat 51:56. In this volume, the translation of Qur’anic passages is adapted from Sayyid ‘Ali Quli Qara’i, The Qur’an with a Phrase-by-Phrase English Translation (London: Islamic College for Advanced Studies Press, 2004). (Trans.)
  • 2. Surah an-Nahl 16:36.
  • 3. Surah az-Zumar 39:7.
  • 4. Surah al-Quraysh 106:3-4.
  • 5. The term taghut applies to any idol, object, or individual that prevents men from doing what is good, and leads them astray. The term has been used eight times in the Qur’an. Prior to Islam, taghut had been the name of one of the idols of the Quraysh tribe. This name is used also to mean Satan. Moreover, the term is used to indicate one who rebels against lofty values, or who surpasses all bounds in his despotism and tyranny and claims the prerogatives of divinity for himself whether explicitly or implicitly. (Trans.)
  • 6. Nahj al-Balaghah, Sermon 147.
  • 7. Hadrat: The Arabic word Hadrat is used as a respectful form of address. (Trans.)
  • 8. Surah an-Nahl 16:96.
  • 9. Surah al-Qasas 28:88.
  • 10. Surah Ya-Sin 36:60-61.
  • 11. Surah al-Baqarah 2:45, 153.
  • 12. Ja‘far ibn Muhammad (as) entitled, as-Sadiq (The Truthful),” is the sixth Imam from the Prophet’s Progeny (83-148 AH). Many of the Sunni and Shi‘ah ‘ulama and scholars attended his teaching classes and seminars. Narrators of tradition have quoted the number of Imam as-Sadiq’s students as four thousand. The socio-economic conditions of his time necessitated utmost efforts to be made by the Imam (as) in the areas of expanding authentic and original Islamic teachings and in the training and education of the faithful students. For this reason the books of tradition and other books quote and cite more traditions from Imam Ja‘far as-Sadiq than from any other infallible Imams. See Shaykh Mohammed al-Husayn al-Muzaffar, Imam Al-Sadiq, trans. Jasim al-Rasheed (Qum: Ansariyan Publications, 1998). (Trans.)
  • 13. Mizan al-Hikmah, vol. 7, p. 542.
  • 14. Wasa’il ash-Shi‘ah, vol. 12, p. 11.
  • 15. Muhajjah al-Baydha’, vol. 1, p. 19.
  • 16. Shaykh Muslih ad-Din Sa‘di (1184-1283) was one of the greatest Persian poets. Born in Shiraz, he studied Sufi mysticism at the Nizamiyyah madrasah at Baghdad, with Shaykh ‘Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani and with Shahab ad-Din Suhrawardi. He made the pilgrimage to Makkah many times and traveled to Central Asia, India, the Seljuq territories in Anatolia, Syria, Egypt, Arabia, Yemen, Abyssinia, and Morocco.

    His best known works are Bustan (Garden) and Golestan (Rose-Garden), also known as Sa‘di-Nameh. The former is a collection of poems on ethical subjects, while the latter a collection of moral stories in prose. He also wrote a number of odes, and collections of poems known as Pleasantries, Jests and Obscenities. His influence on Persian, Turkish and Indian literatures has been very considerable, and his works were often translated into European languages from the 17th century onward. (Trans.)

  • 17. It refers to Imam Muhammad ibn Hasan al-Mahdi, the Twelfth and Last Imam from the Prophet’s Holy Progeny who is presently in the state of major occultation (ghaybah al-kubra) and will appear on the appointed time in the future to fill the world with truth, justice and faith after being engulfed by falsehood, injustice and unbelief. For further information on the Islamic belief on the Mahdi, see Ayatullah Ibrahim Amini, Imam Mahdi: Just Leader of Humanity,
    Ayatullah Sayyid Muhammad Baqir as-Sadr and Ayatullah Murtada Mutahhari, Awaited Savior, (Trans.)
  • 18. Nahj al-fasahah, statement 409.
  • 19. Safinah al-Bihar, under the word “nazar”.
  • 20. Ma‘sumin: those possessing the quality of ‘ismah (infallibility); viz., the Prophet, Fatimah, and the Twelve Imams (as). See A Brief History of the Fourteen Infallibles (Tehran: WOFIS); Sayyid Murtada al-‘Askari, The Twelve Successors of the Holy Prophet (S), (Trans.)
  • 21. Safinah al-Bihar, under the word “‘abd” (servant).
  • 22. Muhajjah al-Baydha’, vol. 1, p. 366.
  • 23. Safinah al-Bihar, under the word “‘abd” (servant).
  • 24. Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 84, p. 259.
  • 25. Surah an-Nisa’ 4:43.
  • 26. Al-Wafi, vol. 2, p. 10.
  • 27. Usul al-Kafi, vol. 2, p. 83.
  • 28. Surah al-Kahf 18:110.
  • 29. Imam Ar-Ridha’: ‘Ali ibn Musa, eighth of the Twelve Imams, born in 148 AH/765 CE and died in 203 AH/817 CE in Tus (Mashhad). He was poisoned by the ‘Abbasid caliph Ma’mun, who had superficially appointed him as his successor at first, but then grew fearful of the wide following he commanded. His shrine in Mashhad is one of the principal centers of pilgrimage and religious learning in Iran.

    See Baqir Sharif al-Qarashi, The Life of Imam ‘Ali bin Musa al-Ar-Ridha’, trans. Jasim al-Rasheed (Qum: Ansariyan Publications, 2001) Muhammad Jawad Fadlallah, Imam al-Ar-Ridha’: A Historical and Biographical Research, trans. Yasin T. al-Jibouri, Muhammad Mahdi Shamsuddin, “Al-Imam ar-Ridha’ (as) and the Heir Apparency,” At-Tawhid Journal,

  • 30. Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 70, p. 252; Wasa’il ash-Shi‘ah, vol. 1, p. 58.
  • 31. Surah al-Bayyinah 98:5.
  • 32. Surah al-Mu’minun 23:3.
  • 33. Misbah ash-Shari‘ah, p. 8.
  • 34. Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 84, p. 223.
  • 35. Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 70, p. 251.
  • 36. ‘Ali ibn al-Husayn: the fourth Imam from the Holy Prophet’s Progeny, known as Zayn al-‘Abidin and as-Sajjad (658-712 CE). The son of Imam Husayn by the daughter of Yazdgird, the last Sassanid king of Iran, he was not able to carry arms at Karbala’ because of illness, and thus he did not meet the fate of his three brothers. For most of his life he lived in seclusion in Madinah, having contact with only a few select followers. His piety—which is reflected in his prayers whose compilation is known as Sahifah as-Sajjadiyyah - is proverbial. He is buried in the Baqi‘ cemetery in Madinh. (Trans.)
  • 37. As-Sahifah as-Sajjadiyyah, Supplication 20.
  • 38. Surah al-Baqarah 2:264.
  • 39. Mizan al-Hikmah, under the word “hasad” (jealousy).
  • 40. Al-Kafi, vol. 2, p. 314.
  • 41. Surah Fatir (or al-Mala’ikah) 35:8. Ellipsis. The phrase omitted is ‘like one who is truly virtuous?’ (Qur’an Translator)
  • 42. Surah al-Kahf 18:104.
  • 43. Surah at-Tawbah (or, Bara‘ah) 9:37.
  • 44. Surah al-Ma’idah 5:27: “But recite unto them with truth the tale of the two sons of Adam, how they offered each a sacrifice, and it was accepted from the one of them and it was not accepted from the other. (The one) said: I will surely kill thee. (The other) answered: Allah accepteth only from those who ward off (evil);” Surah at-Tawbah (or, Bara‘ah) 9:53: “Say: Pay (your contribution), willingly or unwillingly, it will not be accepted from you. Lo! Ye were ever forward folk.”
  • 45. See Surah Hud 11:16: “Those are they for whom is naught in the Hereafter save the Fire. (All) that they contrive here is vain and (all) that they are wont to do is fruitless;” Surah al-Furqan 25:23: “And We shall return unto them the work they did and make it scattered motes.”
  • 46. Surah Yusuf 12:101.
  • 47. Surah Al ‘Imran 3:193.
  • 48. Surah al-A‘raf 7:128; Surah Hud 11:49; Surah al-Qasas 28:83.
  • 49. Surah at-Takwir 81:26.
  • 50. As-Sahifah as-Sajjadiyyah, Supplication after the Supererogatory Night Prayer.
  • 51. Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 41, p. 12.
  • 52. Refer also to other examples cited in the discussion about the prayers of the Infallibles (as).
  • 53. Surah Ta Ha 20:1-2. It is a hadith recorded in Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 16, p. 202; Tafsir Nur ath-Thaqalayn, vol. 3, p. 366.
  • 54. Imam Hasan al-Mujtaba: son of Imam ‘Ali and second of the Imams from the Prophet’s progeny. He was poisoned in 50 AH/670 CE after spending most of his life in seclusion in Madinah. See Shaykh Radi Al-Yasin, Sulh al-Hasan: The Peace Treaty of Al-Hasan, trans. Jasim al-Rasheed (Qum: Ansariyan Publications, 1998), (Trans.)
  • 55. Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 43, p. 61.
  • 56. Imam Muhammad al-Baqir: the fifth Imam from the Holy Prophet’s Progeny. He was born in 57 AH/675 CE and spent most of his life in Madinah, until his martydom there in 114 AH/732 CE. See Baqir Sharif al-Qarashi, The Life of Imam Mohammed al-Baqir, trans. Jasim al-Rasheed (Qum: Ansariyan Publications, 1999) (Trans.)
  • 57. Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 46, p. 64.
  • 58. Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 46, p. 75.
  • 59. Imam Abu’l-Hasan Musa, son of Ja‘far: seventh of the Twelve Imams, and generally known as Imam Musa al-Kazim. He was born in Madinah in 744 CE and died in prison in Baghdad in 799 CE. (Trans.)
  • 60. Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 48, p. 107.
  • 61. Surah al-Baqarah 2:165.
  • 62. Surah Fatir (or al-Mala’ikah) 35:10.
  • 63. Surah al-‘Ankabut 29:17.
  • 64. Surah al-Ma’idah 5:76.
  • 65. Surah al-A‘raf 7:194.
  • 66. Surah al-Anbiya’ 21:54.
  • 67. Surah Maryam 19:82.
  • 68. Surah al-Hajj 22:71.
  • 69. Imam al-Jawad: Muhammad ibn ‘Ali, the ninth of the Twelve Imams from the Prophet’s Progeny. See Baqir Sharif al-Qarashi, The Life of Imam Muhammad al-Jawad, trans. Abdullah al-Shahin (Qum: Ansariyan Publications, 2005) (Trans.)
  • 70. Tuhaf al-‘Uqul, p. 456.
  • 71. Nur ath-Thaqalayn, vol. 3, p. 357.
  • 72. Surah al-Baqarah 2:87.
  • 73. Surah an-Nisa’ 4:65.
  • 74. Surah an-Nisa’ 4:77.
  • 75. Surah al-Baqarah 2:143.
  • 76. Surah as-Saffat 37:102.
  • 77. Surah Maryam 19:65.
  • 78. Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 77, p. 68.
  • 79. Nahj al-Fasahah, Statement 453.
  • 80. Al-Hayah, vol. 1, p. 331.
  • 81. Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 77, p. 164.
  • 82. Surah al-‘Ankabut 29:56.
  • 83. Zaynab al-Kubra’: daughter of Imam ‘Ali and Hadhrat Fatimah (as) and sister of Imams al-Hasan and al-Husayn (as) who served as the mouthpiece of Imam al-Husayn’s revolution after the event of Karbala’. See M.H. Bilgrami, The Victory of Truth: The Life of Zaynab bin ‘Ali (Karachi: Zahra Publications Pakistan, 1986), available online at (Trans.)
  • 84. Sham or Shamat: the capital of the Umayyad dynasty. Up until five centuries ago, it included Syria of today, Lebanon and parts of Jordan and Palestine. (Trans.)
  • 85. Nahj al-Balaghah (Faydh al-Islam), Sermon 192.
  • 86. Surah al-‘Asr 103:3.
  • 87. For its explanation, see Imam Khomeini, Tawdhih al-Masa’il, Issue 2252.
  • 88. Yazid ibn Mu‘awiyah: (26-62 AH) succeeded his father to occupy the office of the Caliphate in the year 60 AH. He was a young man devoid of knowledge and virtues and was well known for his debauchery and other vices. Yazid ruled for three and a half years. During his first year he killed Imam al-Husayn(as) and his votaries at Karbala’ and made the latter’s surviving kith and kin captives. In his second year as Caliph, he ransacked Madinah (the seat of the Prophet’s rule and his burial site), and in his third year of rule he invaded Makkah. (Trans.)
  • 89. Surah an-Nisa’ 4:6: “Then, if ye find them of sound judgment, deliver over unto them their fortune.”
  • 90. Surah an-Nur 24:58: “O you who have faith! Let your permission be sought by your slaves and those of you who have not reached puberty three times: before the dawn prayer, and when you put off your garments at noon, and after the night prayer. These are three times of privacy for you.”
  • 91. Surah Luqman 31:17.
  • 92. Surah al-An‘am 6:152.
  • 93. Surah al-Hajj 22:78.
  • 94. Surah al-Fath 48:17: “There is no blame for the blind, nor is there blame for the lame, nor is there blame for the sick (that they go not forth to war).”
  • 95. For example, see Usul al-Kafi, Al-Wafi and Bihar al-Anwar.
  • 96. Tafsir Safi, vol. 2, p. 35.
  • 97. Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 70, p. 230.
  • 98. Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 70, p. 242.
  • 99. Qassar al-Jamal, vol. 2, p. 73.
  • 100. Surah al-Baqarah 2: 128.
  • 101. Al-Mizan, vol. 2, p. 59.
  • 102. Surah al-Baqarah 2:59: “But the wrongdoers changed the saying with other than what they were told. So We sent down on those who were wrongdoers a plague from the sky because of the transgressions they used to commit.”
  • 103. Surah at-Tawbah (or, Bara‘ah) 9:36: “Of these, four are sacred. That is the upright religion. So do not wrong yourselves during them. Fight all the polytheists, just as they fight you all.”
  • 104. Surah at-Tawbah (or, Bara‘ah) 9:37: “Indeed nasi is an increase in unfaith, whereby the faithless are led (further) astray. They allow it in one year and forbid it another year, so as to fit in with the number which Allah has made inviolable, thus permitting what Allah has forbidden.”
  • 105. For instance, see Surah al-A‘raf 7:163: “Ask them about the town that was situated on the seaside, when they violated the Sabbath, when their fish would come to them on the Sabbath day, visibly on the shore, but on days when they were not keeping Sabbath they would not come to them. Thus did We test them because of the transgressions they used to commit.”
  • 106. I do express my appreciation to my dear brother Hujjat al-Islam Aqa Wahidi who gave me the idea of this classification.
  • 107. Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 71, p. 173.
  • 108. Surah al-Ma’idah 5:5.
  • 109. Surah at-Tawbah (or, Bara‘ah) 9:18.
  • 110. Surah an-Nahl 16:97.
  • 111. Wasa’il ash-Shi‘ah, vol. 1, p. 90.
  • 112. Al-Kafi, vol. 1, p. 430.
  • 113. Al-Kafi, vol. 1, pp. 145, 193.
  • 114. Al-Kafi, vol. 2, p. 75; Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 71, p. 187.
  • 115. Surah al-Ma’idah 5:27.
  • 116. Zakah: the tax levied on various categories of wealth and spent on the purposes specified in Surah at-Tawbah 9:60. (Trans.)
  • 117. Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 96,p. 12.
  • 118. Safinah al-Bahar, vol. 1, under the word, “hall”.
  • 119. Jami‘ as-Sa‘adat, vol. 2, p. 234.
  • 120. Makarim al-Akhlaq, p. 554 (as quoted in Al-Hayah, vol. 1, p. 236).
  • 121. Usul al-Kafi, vol. 2, p. 361.
  • 122. Usul al-Kafi, vol. 2, p. 321.
  • 123. Wasa’il ash-Shi‘ah, vol. 14, p. 116.
  • 124. Usul al-Kafi, vol, 2, p. 349.
  • 125. Surah al-‘Ankabut 29:45.
  • 126. Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 82, p. 198.
  • 127. Surah at-Tawbah (or, Bara‘ah) 9:117: “Certainly Allah turned clemently to the Prophet and the Emigrants and the Helpers, who followed him in the hour of difficulty.”
  • 128. Surah as-Sajdah 32:16: “Their sides vacate their beds to supplicate their Lord in fear and hope, and they spend out of what We have provided them.”
  • 129. Qassar al-Jamal, vol. 2, p. 74.
  • 130. Mujahidin (sing. mujahid): those who struggle in the way of God for the attainment of God’s purposes on earth; those who perform jihad. (Trans.)
  • 131. Surah an-Nisa’ 4:95.
  • 132. Nahj al-Fasahah, Statement 522.
  • 133. Al-Hayah, vol. 1, p. 318.
  • 134. Nahj al-Balaghah, Saying 31.
  • 135. Surah al-Hadid 57:10.
  • 136. Qassar al-Jamal, vol. 2, p. 30.
  • 137. Surah al-Ma’idah 5:54.
  • 138. Surah al-Ahzab 33:39.
  • 139. Surah an-Nisa’ 4:142: “When they stand up to worship they perform it languidly and to be seen of men, and are mindful of Allah but little.”
  • 140. Surah al-Jinn 72:16.
  • 141. As-Sahifah as-Sajjadiyyah, Supplication 20. (Trans.)
  • 142. Surah al-Anbiya’ 21:20: “They glorify (Him) night and day; they flag not.”
  • 143. Usul al-Kafi, vol. 1, p. 36.
  • 144. Usul al-Kafi, vol. 1, p. 57.
  • 145. For instance, Shaykh as-Saduq, ‘Ilal ash-Sharayi‘ (Reasons of the Laws) and tens of books concerning the secrets of prayer, Hajj pilgrimage, etc.
  • 146. Surah al-‘Ankabut 29:45: “Indeed the prayer prevents indecencies and wrongs.”
  • 147. Surah Ta Ha 20:14.
  • 148. Surah ar-Ra‘d 13:28.
  • 149. Surah al-Baqarah 2:183.
  • 150. Surah al-Hajj 22:28.
  • 151. Surah at-Tawbah 9:103.
  • 152. Surah al-Ma’idah 5:90-91.
  • 153. Qisas (literally means retribution or retaliation) in the Islamic jurisprudence is to be executed against a criminal, according to the legal decree, who has committed crimes such as murder, amputation of a limb, or beating in case the victim or his guardians are seeking retribution in lieu of receiving fine or blood money. (Trans.)
  • 154. Surah al-Baqarah 2:179: “And there is life for you in retaliation (qisas), O men of understanding, that ye may ward off (evil).”
  • 155. Nahj al-Balaghah (Subhi Salih), Saying 252; (Faydh al-Islam), Saying 244.
  • 156. Hudud (literally means boundaries or limits) in the Islamic law is generally applied to penal law for punishments prescribed for particular crimes whose extent is determined by law. (Trans.)
  • 157. “Allah has laid down… fasting as a trial for the people, Hajj (pilgrimage) as a support for religion, jihad (fighting in the cause of Allah) for the honor of Islam, persuasion for good for the benefit of the common people, dissuasion from evil for the control of the mischievous, regard for kinship for increase -in numbers, revenge for the stoppage of bloodshed, award of penalties for the realization of the importance of prohibitions, abstinence from drinking wine for the protection of wit, avoiding theft for inculcating chastity, abstinence from adultery for safeguarding descent, abstinence from sodomy for the increase of progeny, tendering evidence for furnishing proof against contentions, abstinence from lies for increasing the esteem for truth, maintenance of peace for protection from danger, trusts for the orderliness of the community, and obedience as a mark of respect to the Imamate.” Ibid.
  • 158. Surah ash-Shams 91: 8.
  • 159. For example, one may refer to the voluminous book, Awwalin Daneshgah va Akharin Payambar (The First University and the Last Prophet), written by Shahid Dr. Paknezhad.
  • 160. Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 77, p. 402. (Trans.)
  • 161. Munajat Ash-Sha‘baniyyah: a litany that was recited by all the infallible Imams (as), something true of no other prayer or invocation, during the month of Sha‘ban. (Trans.)
  • 162. Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 70, p. 186. (Trans.)
  • 163. Surah al-Qiyamah 75:5-6.
  • 164. Surah al-Qamar 54:2.