The Radiance of the Secrets of Prayer

The Radiance of the Secrets of Prayer
Muhsin Qara‟ati
Translator and typesetter:
Mansoor Limba
Project supervisor:
Translation Unit, Cultural Affairs Department
Ahl al-Bayt („a) World Assembly (ABWA)
ISBN: 978-964-529-434-0
Published by:
Ahlul Bayt World Assembly
Keshavarz Blvd., Opposite to Laleh Park,
P.O. Box: 14155-7368
Tehran, IRAN
Site :
E-mail: [email protected]
© Ahl al-Bayt („a) World Assembly (ABWA)
The Radiance of the Secrets of Prayer
Chapter 1
Worship {„ibadah}
-Why worship {„ibadah}?
-Reasons for worship
1. Greatness of God
2. Feelings of dependence
3. Awareness of blessings
4. Human nature {fitrah}
-Role of worship
1. Making the perishable
2. Changing the material
into the spiritual
3. Individual and collective
-Dimensions of worship
1. Reflection on the
handiwork of God
2. Earning a living
3. Seeking knowledge
4. Rendering service to the
5. Waiting for the global
government of justice
-How we should worship
1. Conscious worship
2. Fervent worship
3. Sincere worship
4. Worshipping
5. Worshipping in private
-Dangers threatening
1. Ostentation {riya‟}
2. Self-conceit {„ujb}
3. Sin
-Ways of avoiding pride and
self-conceit {„ujb}
1. Have we really
2. Have our acts of worship
been accepted?
3. Futile acts of worship
4. Will we achieve
5. Comparing acts of
worship and blessings
6. Comparing acts of
worship and complacencies
7. Comparing acts of
worship and needs
8. Comparing our state of
worship with that of the
divine saints
-Invalid acts of worship
-Servitude and not worship
-Constancy in worship
-Opportunity to engage in
-Enduring difficulties of
-Promotion of worship
-Duty and its conditions
1. Puberty {bulugh}
-Some reminders
2. Strength
3. Freewill {ikhtiyar}
4. Intellect {„aql}
-Conditions for the
soundness of worship
-Motives behind changing
the form of worship
1. Changing the form out of
2. Changing the form out of
false enlightenment
3. Changing the form out of
-Conditions for the
acceptance of acts worship
1. Ideological condition:
Faith in God
2. Political condition:
3. Moral condition: Godwariness
4. Economic condition:
Giving people their rights
5. Social condition: Wishing
others well
6. Familial condition: Good
-Signs of acceptance
-Conditions for the
perfection of worship
1. Making greater effort
2. Concentrating on what is
more important
3. Concentrating on what
has lasting value
4. Acting in accordance with
the Sunnah of the Prophet
5. Having precedence in
meritorious works
6. Performing devotional
acts under difficult
7. Fervor and constancy
8. Humility
9. Possessing insight
-Philosophy of worship
-Submission as the greatest
philosophy of responsibility
-Pretext or research?
-An encounter
Chapter 2
Prayer {Salah}
-Importance of prayer
-Prayer as viewed by
reason and conscience
-Some questions and
-Negligence of prayer
-Treating prayer lightly
-Unaccepted prayers
1. Those who are indifferent
2. Those who live on
unlawful earnings
3. Those who are unmindful
of their duties
4. Those who do not pay
zakat {poor-rate}
5. Those who are
6. Those who are “haqin wa
7. Those who are
unacceptable prayer
-Prayers of the Infallibles
-Prerequisites of prayer
-Prayer and its
-Prayer as spiritual
Chapter 3
Let‟s Welcome Prayer!
-Preliminaries of prayer
-Purification {taharah}
-Ablution {wudhu’} in every
-Bathing {ghusl}
-Dry purification
-Clothing and place of the
one praying
1. Observance of courtesy
2. Observance of the rights
of others
3. Observance of priorities
-Focus of direction in prayer
-Call to prayer {Adhan}
Chapter 4
Intention {niyyah}
-Intention {niyyah} as the
criterion of value
-Examples of sincerity
-Sincerity in worship
-Worldly effects of intention
1. Management of the
2. Improvement of
economic conditions
3. Good social relations
-Intention as an action
-Intention as compensation
for deficiencies
-Ways of acquiring sincerity
1. Attention to values
2. Reflecting on creation
3. Attention to the Attributes
of God
4. Attention to His blessings
5. Attention to the sure gain
6. Attention to
worthlessness of the world
7. Attention to impotence of
created beings
8. Learning from the
experiences of others
9. Attention to final end of
hypocrites in the hereafter
-Sound intentions
1. Fear of the Divine Station
and Court
2. Hope for reward
3. Gratitude for blessings
4. Modesty {haya‟}
5. Love of God
-The university of wisdom
-The root of sincerity
-Signs of sincerity
1. Not expecting anything
from others
2. Focusing on duty, not title
3. Having no regrets
4. Treating receptivity and
heedlessness as one
5. Consistency of motive
and action
6. Lack of wealth and
position does not hinder
7. Oneness of the apparent
and the hidden
8. Without factional bigotry
9. Pursuit of important
works undone
10. Desisting from error
-Outcome of sincerity
-Sincerity in the context of
Chapter 5
Let‟s Engage in
-“Allahu Akbar”
-Allahu akbar!
-Surah al-Hamd
-“Al-hamdulillahi rabbi‟l„alamin”
-“Maliki yawmi‟d-din”
-“Iyyaka na„budu wa iyyaka
-“Ihdina‟s-sirat al-mustaqim”
-“Sirat al-mustaqim”
-Some notes
-“Sirat al-mustaqim” in the
-Examples of immoderation
and profligacy
-Sirat alladhina an„amta
„alayhim wa ladh-dhallin”
-Surah at-Tawhid
-“Lam yalid wa lam yulad”
-“Wa lam yakun lahu
kufuwan ahad”
-To be calm while reciting
-Ruku„ {Bowing}
-Ruku„ of the saints of God
-In the company of angels
-Sujud {prostration}
-Sujud of all created beings
to God
-Sujud of the saints of God
-Effects of sujud
-Prostration on the soil of
-Meaning of “subhan Allah”
-Tasbih as the most oftrepeated command
-A glance at the salam
Chapter 6
The Post-prayer
Devotional Acts
{ta„qibat wa nawafil}
-Post-prayer devotional acts
-Invoking benediction and
-Tasbihat Hadhrat az-Zahra‟
-Prostration of gratitude
{sujud shukr}
-Supererogatory prayers
-Night supererogatory
prayers {tahajjud}
Chapter 7
Congregational Prayer
{salat al-jama„ah}, Etc.
-Importance of
congregational prayer
{salat al-jama„ah}
-Effects of congregational
1. Spiritual effects
2. Social effects
3. Political effects
4. Moral and educational
-The leader of
congregational prayer
-Selection of congregational
prayer leader
-Justness of congregational
prayer leader
-Means of recognizing
-Why some people do not
participate in
congregational prayers?
-Traveler‟s prayer
-Conditions for shortened
{qasr} prayer
-Ten days of stay
-Compensatory {qadha}
Chapter 8
Other Prayers
-Friday congregational
prayer {salat al-jum‘ah}
-Manner of offering Friday
congregational prayer
-Importance of Friday
congregational prayer
1. Cultivating the spirit of
fraternity and brotherhood
2. Formation of the Islamic
3. Intellectual and political
development of the
4. Enhancing the spirit of
5. The center for
-Life conduct {sirah} of the
holy saints {awliya‟}
-„Id prayers
-‘Id al-Fitr Prayer
-Divine gift
-„Id al-Fitr as a scene of the
Day of Resurrection
-„Id al-Adhha prayer
-‘Id prayer as a prerogative
of the leader
-Salat al-Ayat {Prayer for
the Signs}
-Salat al-Ayat as a lesson
on monotheism
-Manner of performing Salat
-Salat al-Mayyit
-Prayer for rain
-Reason behind the
absence of rain
-Manner of performing the
prayer for rain
-Historical precedence of
the prayer for rain
-Other prayers
In the Name of Allah, the All-beneficent, the All-merciful
The precious legacy left behind by the Holy Prophet‟s Household {ahl al-Bayt} (may peace be
upon them all) and their followers‟ preservation of this legacy from the menace of extinction is a
perfect example of an all-encompassing school {maktab}, which embraces the different branches
of Islamic knowledge.
This school has been able to train many talented personalities by quenching them from this
gushing fountain. This school has presented scholars to the Muslim ummah who, by following
the Holy Prophet‟s Household („a), have occupied the station of clarifying doubts and
skepticisms brought forth by various creeds and intellectual currents both inside and outside
Muslim society. Throughout the past centuries, they have presented the firmest answers and
solutions to these doubts.
Anchored in the responsibilities it is shouldering, the Ahl al-Bayt („a) World Assembly has
embarked upon defending the sanctity of risalah {messenger ship} and its authentic beliefs—
truths which have always been opposed by the chiefs and leaders of anti-Islamic sects, religions
and trends. In this sacred path, the Assembly regards itself as a follower of the upright pupils of
the school of the Ahl al-Bayt („a)—those who have always been ready to refute those
accusations and calumnies and have tried to be always in the frontline of this struggle on the
basis of the expediencies of time and space.
The experiences in this field, which have been preserved in the books of scholars belonging to the
school of the Ahl al-Bayt („a), are unique in their own right. It is because these experiences have
been based upon knowledge {„ilm} and the preeminence of the intellect and reasoning, and at the
same time, they are completely devoid of blind prejudice, whim and caprice. These experiences
address experts, scholars and thinkers in a manner that is acceptable to a healthy mind and the
pure human natural disposition {fitrah}.
In a bid to assist those who are in quest of truth, the Ahl al-Bayt(„a) World Assembly has
endeavored to enter a new phase of these worthy experiences within the framework of research
and translating the works of contemporary Shi„ah writers or those who, through divine guidance,
have embraced this noble school.
The Assembly is also engaged in the study and publication of the valuable works of pious
predecessors and outstanding Shi„ah personalities so that those who are thirsty for the truth could
quench their thirst from this refreshing fountain by listening and embracing this truth, which the
Holy Prophet‟s Household („a) has offered as a gift to the entire world.
It is hoped that our dear readers would not deprive the Ahl al-Bayt („a) World Assembly of their
valuable opinions, suggestions and constructive criticisms in this arena.
We also invite scholars, translators and other institutions to assist us in propagating the pure
Muhammadan Islam.
We ask God, the Exalted, to accept this trivial effort and enhance it further under the auspices of
His vicegerent on earth, Hadrat al-Mahdi (may Allah, the Exalted, expedite his glorious advent).
It is appropriate here to express our utmost gratitude to Hujjat al-Islam wa‟l-Muslimin Shaykh
Muhsin Qara‟ati for writing the book, and to Mr. Mansoor Limba for translating it, as well as to
all our honorable colleagues in accomplishing this task especially the dear ones in the
Translation Office for undertaking this responsibility.
Cultural Affairs Department
The Ahl al-Bayt („a) World Assembly
In the Name of Allah, the All-beneficent, the All-merciful
ِ ِّ ‫َْلم ُد هللِ ر‬
َ ْ ‫ب الْ َعالَم‬
ْ َْ ‫أ‬
ِ ِِ ٍ
ِ ْ ‫اى ِرين و لَعنَةُ اهللِ على أ َْع َدائِ ِهم أ‬
ٰ َ
ٰ ‫صلَّى اهللُ َع‬
َ ْ ‫َْجَع‬
ْ َ َ ْ َّ‫لى َسيِّدنَا َو نَبِيِّػنَا ُُمَ َّمد َو آلو الط‬
َ ‫َو‬
All praise is due to Allah, the Lord of the worlds, and may the blessings of Allah be upon
our Master and Prophet, Muhammad, and his pure progeny, and may the curse of Allah be
upon all their enemies.
Today, it is imperative to explain the teachings of Islam in the areas of “beliefs” {„aqa‟id},
“laws” {ahkam} and “morality” {akhlaq} in simple language based on Qur‟anic verses and
Prophetic traditions to meet the needs of those who are interested.
Through divine succor {tawfiq}, the televised presentation of the discussions on “Lessons from
the Qur‟an,” was welcomed by our religious community for some years, and some of these
discussions were published. The discussions on the basic principles of religion {usul ad-din} and
the Day of Resurrection {ma„ad} {in particular} are among them.
After these, discourses pertaining to the branches of religion {furu„ad-din} were also meant to
follow. However, on account of urgent need, “Hajj” was presented to you earlier. Now, prayer
{salah} is at your disposal, thanks to the blessings of the blood of martyrs.
Although useful and valuable books and brochures about prayer and other branches of Islam
have already been published, it is still hoped that owing to its novelty of approach, simplicity of
discussion, suitable organization of the subjects, and reliance on ample Qur‟anic verses and
hadiths, this volume would be useful to all readers, particularly teachers, who are presenting the
truths of religion in class sessions. The main references used in organizing these discussions are
the Qur‟an, and the hadith, for which both Sunni and Shi„ah books have been utilized.
The principal sources being consulted (apart from the Qur‟an and Nahj al-Balaghah) are Bihar
al-Anwar, Wasa‟il ash-Shi„ah, Mustadrak al-Hakim, Usul al-Kafi, Man La Yahdhuruh al-Faqih,
Ghurar al-Hikam, Kanz al-„Ummal, and others whose particular references are indicated in the
In preparing the contents of this treatise, valuable ideas and supplementary suggestions offered
have also been utilized, which are hereby acknowledged with profound gratitude. The positive
aspects of this book are related to the luminous statements of God, the Prophet (S) and the
infallible Ahl al-Bayt („a) and written with their blessings. Any weaknesses, however, are mine.
The translations of Qur‟anic verses and hadiths are relatively free translations and sometimes
accompanied by explanations and addenda. It should not remain unsaid that the content of this
volume has been shown earlier in the state television of the Islamic Republic of Iran. It has been
put into writing with some corrections and modifications.
I beseech God, the Exalted, for sincerity of intention {ikhlas}, dedication to purpose {tawfiq}
and eloquence in speech and writing. I hope that this trivial attempt at inclining people toward
the great obligatory act of prayer is fruitful and plays a vital role in the dissemination of Islamic
culture throughout the world—an obligation which is incumbent upon each of us. It is also hoped
that by clinging to its religious identity and rich Islamic culture, our great Islamic nation can
serve as a formidable stronghold of truth and a strong refuge for the deprived ones of the world.
Verily, He is the Bestower of Success {innahu wali at-tawfiq}.
Muhsin Qara‟ati
Ramadhan 1410 AH
Farvardin 1369 AHS
(Circa March-April 1990)
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 („a) (the creational
world {„alam at-takwin} and the legislative world {„alam at-tashri„}, respectively). God says:
ِ ‫ْج َّن و اإلْ ِِنْس إِالَّ لِي ْعب ُد‬
ِ ُ ‫﴿ و ما َخلَ ْق‬
﴾ ‫ون‬
َُ َ
َ ‫ت ال‬
“I did not create the jinn and humans except that they may worship Me.”
The mission of all the prophets („a) has been to invite the people to worship God:
﴾ ‫وت‬
َ ُ‫اجتَنِبُواْ الطَّاغ‬
ْ ‫﴿ َولََق ْد بَ َعثْ نَا في ُك ّْل أ َُّمة َّر ُسوالً أَن ا ْعبُ ُدواْ الل َّو َو‬
“Certainly We raised an apostle in every nation {to preach:} „Worship Allah, and keep away
from the Rebel‟.”
So, the objective behind the creation of the universe and the mission of the prophets („a) has
been the worship of God. However, it is clear that God, the Exalted, is in no need of our worship:
﴾ ‫﴿ فَِإ َّن اللَّوَ غَنِ ّّي َعن ُك ْم‬
“Yet Allah is Independent of you.”
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 („a),
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:
ٍ ‫وع وآمنَ هم ّْمن َخو‬
ِ ِ
َّ ‫﴿ فَ لْيَ ْعبُ ُدوا َر‬
ْ ْ ُ َ َ ٍ ‫ب َى َذا الْبَ ْيت٭ الَّذي أَط َْع َم ُهم ّْمن ُج‬
“Let them worship the Lord of this House, who has fed them {and saved them} from hunger,
and secured them from fear.”
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.
The prophets („a) 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 („a) said:
ِ ِ ‫ث اهلل مح َّمداً بِالْح ّق لِيخرِج ِع‬
ِ ‫بادةِ األَو‬
َ ‫ثان إِلى ع‬
َ َ ُ َ
ْ َ ‫بادهُ م ْن ع‬
َ ُ ُ َ ‫فَ بَ َع‬
“God thus sent down Muhammad in truth to stop His servants from idol-worship, and invite
them to His worship.”
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 („a), 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 Hadhrat Musa (Moses) („a), 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
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 ِع ْن َد ُكم ي ْن َف ُد و ما ِع ْن َد‬
ٍ ‫اهلل‬
﴾ ‫باق‬
َ َْ
“That which is with you will be spent but what is with Allah shall last.”
It also says elsewhere:
﴾ ُ‫ك إَِّال َو ْج َهو‬
ٌ ِ‫﴿ ُك ُّل َش ْي ٍء َىال‬
“Everything is to perish except His Face.”
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:
ِ ٌ ‫صرا‬
﴾ ‫يم‬
ٌ ‫ط ُّم ْستَق‬
َ ‫﴿ َوأَ ْن ا ْعبُ ُدوني َى َذا‬
“Worship Me. This is a straight path.”
﴾ ‫الصالَ ِة‬
َّ ‫الص ْب ِر َو‬
َّ ِ‫استَ ِعينُواْ ب‬
ْ ‫﴿ َو‬
“And take recourse in patience and prayer.”
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 ىب بصرى بندگى آدم کرد‬
‫گوىرى داشت وىل نذر قباد و جم كرد‬
‫يعىن از خوى غالمى ز سگان پسترت است‬
‫من نديدم كو 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-Sadiq („a) said:
ِ َّ ُ‫بادةُ َكثرة‬
ِ ‫ إِنَّما‬،‫الصوِم‬
ِ ‫بادة التَّ َف ُّكر في أَمر‬
َ ‫الع‬
ْ َّ ‫الصلوة َو‬
َ َ ‫ست الْع‬
َ ‫لَْي‬
“Worship {„ibadah} is not excessive praying and fasting. Verily, worship is reflection on the
handiwork of Allah.”
Reflection that makes human beings better acquainted with God has been regarded as an act of
2. Earning a living
The Messenger of Allah (S) said:
َ ْ‫بادةُ َس ْب عُو َن ُج ْزًء أَف‬
َ ‫أَل ِْع‬
َ ‫ب ال‬
ُ َ‫ضلُها طَل‬
“Worship has seventy parts, the best of which is to earn a lawful {halal} (income).”
3. Seeking knowledge
The Prophet of Islam (S) said:
ِ ‫من خرج يطْلُب باباً ِمن الْعِْل ِم لِيػرَّد‬
.ً‫كعبادة أربعي عاما‬
ْ ‫باطالً إِ ٰىل‬
ٰ ُ‫ضالِّ إِ ٰىل ا ْْل‬
َ ‫اْلَ ِّق َو‬
ُ‫دى كا َن َع َملو‬
ُ َ َ ََ ْ َ
“The act of seeking knowledge in order to refute falsehood and turn deviation into guidance is
equivalent to forty years of worship.”
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,
‫سجاده و دلق نيست‬
ّ ‫بو تسبيح و‬
‫عبادت جبز خدمت خلق 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:
ِ ِ ِ َ ْ‫أَف‬
.‫ظار الْ َف َر ِج‬
ُ ‫ض ُل العبادة إِنْت‬
“The best act of worship is to wait for the relief {faraj} (with the advent of Imam al-Mahdi
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 („a).
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.
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} („a) consider as the best acts of worship and how they („itrah („a)) describe them.
Let us look at the statements of the pious saints {awliya‟}:
1. Conscious worship
It is stated in a hadith, thus:
ِ ‫تان ِمن عالِ ٍم َخي ر ِمن سب ِعين رْكع ًة ِمن‬
ِ ‫رْكع‬
.‫جاى ٍل‬
ْ َ َ َ َْ ْ ٌ ْ
“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}.”
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.”
It is thus stated in another hadith:
ِ ‫أَلْمتِعبّْ ُد َعلى غَي ِر ِف ْق ٍو َك ِحمار الط‬
“He who worships without understanding and discernment is like the donkey of a mill but does
not advance.”
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
The Glorious Qur‟an states:
ِ َّ
﴾ ‫َّى تَ ْعلَ ُمواْ َما تَ ُقولُو َن‬
َّ ْ‫آمنُواْ الَ تَ ْق َربُوا‬
َ ‫ين‬
َ ‫﴿ يَا أَيُّ َها الذ‬
َ ‫الصالَةَ َوأَنتُ ْم ُس َك َارى َحت‬
“O you who have faith! Do not approach prayer when you are intoxicated, {not} until you
know what you are saying.”
Imam as-Sadiq („a) 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.”
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 („a) said:
ِ ‫ال تُ ْك ِرىوا إِلى أَنْ ُف ِس ُكم‬
َ ‫الع‬
“Do not enforce worship on yourself.”
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 („a)
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:
ِ ِ َ ‫﴿ وال ي ْش ِر ْك بِ ِع‬
﴾ ً‫َحدا‬
َ ‫بادة َربّْو أ‬
ُ َ
“And make none sharer of the worship due unto his Lord.”
Imam ar-Rida („a) said:
.‫بادةِ فَاتَّ َه ُموهُ َعلى ِدينِو‬
َ ‫َم ْن َش ّه َر نَ ْف َسوُ بِال ِْع‬
“You should be skeptical about the piety of one who seeks popularity (in society) through
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:
ِ ِ ِ
﴾ ‫ين لَوُ الدّْين‬
َ ‫﴿ َوما أُم ُروا إالّ ليَ ْعبُ ُدوا اهللَ ُم ْخلص‬
“And they are ordered naught else than to serve Allah, keeping religion pure for Him.”
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
ِ ‫﴿ والَّ ِذين ىم فِي صلوتِ ِهم‬
﴾ ‫خاشعُو َن‬
ْ ُ َْ َ
“And those who are humble in their prayers.”
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:
.‫ك تَراه‬
َ َّ‫أَ ْعبُ ُد اهللَ َكأَن‬
“Worship God as if you can see Him.”
Another hadith further informs thus:
ِ ِ
.‫صال َة ُم َود ٍّْع‬
َ ‫صلّْها ل َوقْتها‬
َ َ‫ف‬
“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).”
5. Worshipping in private
Man is not immune from the snares of Satan, and so many acts of worship are tainted with selfconceit, ostentation and publicity. The way to overcome this defect is to worship in private. The
Messenger of Allah (S) said:
ِ َ ‫أَ ْعظَم ال ِْع‬
.‫َجراً أَ ْخفاىا‬
ْ ‫بادة أ‬
“The reward for an act of worship done in private is greater.”
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
In the Makarim al-Akhlaq Supplication, Imam as-Sajjad („a) thus beseeches God:
ِ ‫ أ‬...‫ب‬
ِ ‫َع َّزني والَ تَبتَ لَيني بِال‬
ِ ‫بادتي بالعُ ْج‬
.‫ْك ْب ِر‬
َ َ‫إِلهي َعبّْ ْدني ل‬
َ ‫ك َوال تُ ْف ِس ْد ع‬
ّ ْ َ
“O my Lord! Let me be Your servant but do not contaminate my devotion {„ibadah} with selfconceit {„ujb}… Make me honorable {„aziz} but do not inflict me with pride {kibr}.”
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}:
ِ َّ
﴾ ‫ص َدقَاتِ ُكم بِال َْم ّْن َواأل َذى‬
َ ْ‫آمنُواْ الَ تُ ْبطلُوا‬
َ ‫ين‬
َ ‫﴿ يَا أَيُّ َها الذ‬
“O you who have faith! Do not render your charities void by reproaches and affronts.”
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:
ِ ‫إِ َّن الْحس َد يأْ ُكل الْح‬
َ ‫َّار ال‬
ُ ‫سنات َكما تَأْ ُك ُل الن‬
َ َ‫ْحط‬
ََ ُ َ ََ
“Verily, jealousy consumes all goodness just as the fire consumes firewood.”
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.
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:
﴾ ً‫﴿ أَفَ َم ْن ُزيّْ َن لَوُ ُسوءُ َع َم ِلو فَرآهُ َح َسنا‬
“Is someone the evil of whose conduct is presented as decorous to him, so he regards it as
ُّ ِ‫ْحيَ وة‬
﴾ ‫ص ْن ًعا‬
َ ‫﴿ ٱلَّ ِذيْ َن‬
ُ ‫سبُو َن أَنَّ ُه ْم يُ ْحسنُو َن‬
َ ‫ض َّل َس ْعيُ ُه ْم فى ٱل‬
َ ‫ٱلدنْيَا َو ُى ْم يَ ْح‬
“Those whose endeavor goes awry in the life of the world, while they suppose they are doing
﴾ ‫﴿ ُزيّْ َن لَ ُه ْم ُسوءُ أَ ْع َمالِ ِه ْم‬
“Their evil deeds appear to them as decorous.”
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.
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.
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 („a) prayed to God that he die a Muslim (who submits to the
divine will):
﴾ ‫﴿ تَ َوفَّنِي ُم ْس ِل ًما‬
“Let my death be in submission {to You}.”
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:
﴾ ‫﴿ َوتَ َوفَّنَا َم َع ٱألَبْ َرا ِر‬
“And make us die with the pious.”
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:
﴾ ‫﴿ َو ٱل َْعاقِبَةُ لِ ْل ُمت َِّق ْين‬
“And the outcome will be in favor of the God-wary.”
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:
﴾ ‫﴿ فَأَيْ َن تَ ْذ َىبُو َن؟‬
“So where are you going?”
Can our prayers and acts of devotion outweigh our moments of negligence, disobedience,
shortcomings, carelessness, and heedlessness?
Imam as-Sajjad („a) says in a supplication, thus:
ِ ‫ات ح ُد‬
ٍ ِ ْ ‫ك بَِف‬
ِ ‫ائف فُر‬
ِ َ‫ْت ِمن وظ‬
‫ود َك؟‬
َ ‫وض‬
َ ‫ت أَتَ َو َّس ُل إِلَْي‬
ُ ْ‫ك َوتَ َع َّدي‬
ُ ‫َولَ ْس‬
ُ ‫ت َع ْن َم َقا َم‬
َ ْ ُ ‫ض ِل نَافلَة َم َع َكثي ِر َما أَ ْغ َفل‬
“O Lord! With all this negligence of obligations, violation of limits, and transgressions, how can
I come near You through optional and supererogatory acts?”
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 („a)
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 („a) 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 („a) to inform her of it. She said: “This situation happens to „Ali out
of his fear of God.” So, we brought water and „Ali („a) 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.”
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:
1. The Messenger of Allah (S) used to worship so excessively that this verse was revealed:
﴾ ‫ك ٱلْ ُق ْرآ َن لِتَ ْشقى‬
َ ‫﴿ طو٭ َما أَنْ َزلنَا َعلَْي‬
“Ta Ha. We did not send down to you the Qur‟an that you should be miserable.”
2. Imam al-Mujtaba („a) said:
ِ َ‫ٱلدنْيا أَ ْعب ُد ِمن ف‬
ْ َ‫ َكان‬.‫اط َمة‬
َ ‫وم َحتّى تَتَ ّوَرم قَ َد َم‬
ُ ‫ت تَ ُق‬
ْ َ َ ُّ ‫َما َكا َن في‬
“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.”
3. Imam al-Baqir („a) said: “Imam Zayn al-„Abidin („a) used to perform a thousand rak„ahs
{units or cycles} of prayer day and night as the Commander of the Faithful („a) used to do. He
had five hundred palm trees beside each of which he used to pray two rak„ahs of prayer.
4. Imam al-Baqir („a) 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 („a). He put it aside and
then said with a sigh, “Who can worship like „Ali („a)?”
5. While in prison Imam al-Kazim („a) 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.
If our infallible personages („a) 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 („a).
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:
ِ َ‫﴿ إِ َّن ٱلْ ُق َّوة‬
﴾ ‫هلل َج ِم ْي ًعا‬
“That power, altogether, belongs to Allah.”
If you are seeking honor, be aware that honor also belongs to God and is at His disposal:
﴾ ً‫﴿ لِلَّ ِو ال ِْع َّزةُ َج ِميعا‬
“Honor entirely belongs to Allah.”
If you are looking for daily provision and sustenance, be it known that the false deities are not
the owners of your sustenance:
﴾ ‫﴿ الَ يَ ْملِ ُك ْو َن لَ ُك ْم ِرْزقًا‬
“(Those whom you worship besides Allah) have no control over your provision.”
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:
﴾ ‫ض ِّرا َوالَ نَ ْف ًعا‬
ُ ‫﴿ الَيَ ْم ِل‬
َ ‫ك لَ ُك ْم‬
“(It) has no power to bring you any benefit or harm.”
If you regard the taghuts as superior to you, be reminded that they are also servants of God like
﴾ ‫﴿ ِعبَا ٌد أ َْمثالُ ُكم‬
“(They) are creatures like you.”
If to worship idols means to imitate the ancestors, be wary that they were misguided:
ٍ ‫ض‬
﴾ ‫الل ُمبِْي ٍن‬
َ ‫﴿ أَنْتُ ْم َو أَبَائُ ُك ُم فِي‬
“You and your forefathers have been in manifest error.”
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:
ِ ‫ادتِ ِهم وي ُكونُو َن َعلَْي ِهم‬
﴾ ‫ض ِّدا‬
َ َ َ َ‫﴿ َسيَ ْك ُف ُرو َن بِعب‬
“No indeed! Soon they will disown their worship, and they will be their opponents.”
Without any reason and purpose, you resorted to other deities without any basis for their
ِ ‫﴿ وي ْعب ُدو َن ِمن ُد‬
ِ ‫ون‬
﴾ ‫اهلل َمالَ ْم يُنَ ّْز ْل بِ ِو ُس ْلطَانًا‬
ُ ََ
“They worship besides Allah that for which He has not sent down any authority.”
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-Jawad („a) said:
ِ َ‫من أَصغى إِلى ن‬
.ُ‫اط ٍق فَ َقد َعبَ َده‬
ْ َْ
“Anyone who listens to (obeys) the words of another has worshipped him!”
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 („a) has said in a hadith:
ِ ‫اع م ْخلُوقًا فِي م ْع‬
.ُ‫صيَ ِة ٱلْ َخالِ ِق فَ َق ْد َعبَده‬
ْ َ َ َ‫َم ْن أَط‬
“Anyone who disobeys the Creator by obeying a creature has indeed worshipped the latter.”
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) („a) and was thus
expelled from the realm of divine mercy.
Arrogance and pride in people, not heeding the call of the prophets („a) became the reason for
their lack of obedience and servitude {„ubudiyyah}, as they wished to follow their own desires.
The Holy Qur‟an states:
ِ ٌ ‫﴿ أَف ُكلّما َجائَ ُكم ر ُس‬
﴾ ‫ٱستَ ْكبَرتُم‬
ْ ‫س ُك ُم‬
ُ ‫ول ب َما الَ تَهوى أَنْ ُف‬
“Is it not that whenever an apostle brought you that which was not to your liking, you would
act arrogantly?”
It also states elsewhere:
ِ َ ‫ك الَ ي ْؤِمنُو َن حتَّى يح ّْكم‬
ْ‫ت َويُ َسلّْ ُموا‬
َ َ‫يما َش َج َر بَ ْي نَ ُه ْم ثُ َّم الَ يَ ِج ُدواْ فِي أَن ُف ِس ِه ْم َح َر ًجا ّْم َّما ق‬
َ ‫ض ْي‬
ُ َ ّْ‫﴿ فَالَ َوَرب‬
َ ‫وك ف‬
ُ َُ َ َ
﴾ ‫يما‬
ً ‫تَ ْسل‬
“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.”
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:
ٍ ‫َج ٍل قَ ِر‬
﴾ ‫يب‬
َ ‫َّرتَنَا إِلَى أ‬
ْ ‫﴿ لَ ْوال أَخ‬
“Why did You not respite us for a short time?!”
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,
﴾ ‫ب َعلى َع ِقبَيو‬
َّ ‫﴿ لِنَ ْعلَ ْم َم ْن يَتَّبِ ُع‬
ُ ‫ٱلر ُس ْو َل م َّم ْن يَ ْن َقل‬
“That We may ascertain those who follow the Apostle from those turn back on their heels.”
Another perfect example of submission or servitude to God is the story of Ibrahim (Abraham)
and Isma„il (Ishmael) („a). 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.”
Ibrahim („a) is a perfect example of a submissive and obedient servant in his willingness to
sacrifice Isma„il („a), in leaving Hajar (Hagar) and Isma„il („a) 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
‫رىروآن نيست كو گو تند و گهى خستو رود رىرو آنست كو آىستو و پيوستو 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
Islam considers small but constant acts of worship as more valuable than great, yet inconsistent,
good deeds.
The Glorious Qur‟an states:
﴾ ‫ادتِِو‬
َ َ‫اصطَبِر لِ ِعب‬
ْ ‫﴿ فَاْ ْعبُ ْدهُ َو‬
“So worship Him and be steadfast in His worship.”
The Messenger of Allah (S) is reported to have said:
.ُ‫اد ِة ٱلْ َف ْت َرة‬
َ َ‫آفَةُ ٱل ِْعب‬
“The greatest danger against worship is sluggishness (while performing it and at times neglecting
And this subject matter has been recorded in many hadiths:
ِ ‫ال إِلى‬
ِ ‫ب ٱألَ ْعم‬
.‫اهلل تَ َعالى أَ ْد َوُم َها َو إِ ْن قَ َّل‬
َّ ‫َح‬
َ ‫إِ َّن أ‬
“The most beloved of all deeds in the sight of God is that which is most constant, no matter how
small it is!”
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 („a) has said:
ِ ‫ْخ َذ‬
.‫ك فَ ُخ ْذ ِم ْن ُه َما‬
َ ‫ان ِم ْن‬
َ ‫َّه َار يَ ْع َمالَ ِن ِف‬
ُ ‫ىما َو يَأ‬
َ ‫إِ َّن ٱللَّْي َل َو الن‬
َ ِِ ‫يك فَا ْع َم ْل ف ْي‬
“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.”
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:
ُّ ‫أ‬
َ َ‫اجعلُ ْو َىا ط‬
َ ‫َلدنْيَا َس‬
َ َ‫اعةٌ ف‬
“The world is just an hour. Spend it in obedience (to God).”
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:
ِ ِ
ِ ‫اسعةٌ فَِإيى فَا ْعب ُد‬
﴾ ‫ون‬
ُ َ ّ َ ‫﴿ إِ َّن أ َْرضي َو‬
“My earth is indeed vast. So worship {only} Me.”
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 Zaynab („a) never missed the supererogatory night prayers along the
way from Kufah (in Iraq) to Sham 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 („a) said:
.‫شوا فِي طَ ِريْ ِق ٱل ُْهدى لِِقلَّ ِة أ َْى ِل ِو‬
ُ ‫الَ تَ ْستَ ْو ِح‬
“In the way of truth, you must not be afraid because of the scantiness of its followers.”
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:
﴾ ‫ْص ْب ِر‬
َّ ‫اص ْوا بِال‬
َ ‫ْح ّْق َو تَ َو‬
َ ‫﴿ َو تَ َو‬
َ ‫اص ْوا بِال‬
“And enjoin one another to {follow} the truth, and enjoin one another to patience.”
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.
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 („a), who was martyred in Karbala‟ said to his uncle, the
infallible Imam of the time (Imam al-Husayn („a)): “If the government is in the hands of a taghut
like Yazid, 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.”
“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.
And also, Hadhrat Luqman thus commands his son:
ِ ‫ٱلصلوةَ وٱمر بِالْمعر‬
﴾ ‫وف َوٱنْ َو َع ِن ٱل ُْم ْن َكر‬
ُ ْ َ ْ ُ َ َّ ‫﴿ يَا بُنَ َّى أَق ِم‬
“O my son! Maintain the prayer and bid what is right and forbid what is wrong.”
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:
﴾ ‫سا إِّالَ ُو ْس َع َها‬
ُ ّْ‫﴿ الَ نُ َكل‬
ً ‫ف نَ ْف‬
“We task no soul except according to its capacity.”
The Qur‟an also states:
﴾ ‫﴿ َما َج َع َل اهللُ َعلَي ُكم فِي ٱلدّْي ِن ِم ْن َح َر ٍج‬
“He has chosen you and has not placed for you any obstacle (as well as pressure and
difficulty) in religion.”
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.
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.
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
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 („a) has said:
.‫َح ٌد إِالَّ اهلل‬
َ ‫ص الَّذي الَ تُ ِريْ ُد أَ ْن‬
َ ‫يح َمدك َعلَْيو أ‬
ُ ‫َو ٱل َْع َم ُل ٱلْ َخال‬
“And the sincere deed is that you do not expect any appreciation and eulogy from anyone except
On the effects of sincerity, the Messenger of Allah (S) is reported to have said:
ِ ِ ِ ِ ِ ِ ِ ِ‫ت ي نَاب‬
َ ‫ص َع ْب ٌد هلل َع َّز َو َج َّل أ َْربَع ْي َن‬
ُ َ ْ ‫احا إِالَّ َج َر‬
ً َ‫صب‬
َ َ‫َما أَ ْخل‬
َ ‫يع ٱلْح ْك َمة م ْن قَ ْلبو إلى ل‬
“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.”
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:
.‫ٱلسن َِّة‬
ُّ ‫صابَِة‬
َ ‫الَ قَول َو الَ َع َمل َو الَ نيَّة إِالَ بِِإ‬
“No saying, action or intention is valuable unless it is done according to the sunnah.”
So, the form of worship must also be learned from the holy saints {awliya‟}. Hadhrat Ibrahim
(„a) beseeches God to show to him the correct form of worship:
ِ َ‫﴿ وأَ ِرنَا من‬
﴾ ‫اس َكنَا‬
َ َ
“And show us our rites {of worship}.”
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 („a) said: “It means that you have to perform an act according to its
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.
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} 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}.
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
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.
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:
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 („a) said:
.‫ُك ْونُوا َعلى قَ بُ ْو ِل ٱل َْع َم ِل أَ َش َّد ِعنَايَةً ِم ْن ُك ْم َعلَى ٱل َْع َم ِل‬
“Pay more attention to the acceptance of the act than you do to the act itself.”
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:
ِ ‫﴿ ومن ي ْك ُفر بِا ِإليم‬
﴾ ُ‫ط َع َملُو‬
َ ِ‫ان فَ َق ْد َحب‬
ْ َ ََ
“Should anyone renounce his faith, his work shall fail.”
Those who build the mosques of God should be believers in God and the hereafter:
ِ ‫اهلل و ٱلْي وِم‬
ِ ِ ‫﴿ إِنَّما ي ْعمر م‬
﴾ ‫ٱآلخ ِر‬
ْ َ َ ِ‫آم َن ب‬
َ ‫ساج َد اهلل َم ْن‬
َ َ ُُ َ َ
“Only those shall maintain Allah‟s mosques who believe in Allah and the Last Day.”
And it is the righteous deed of a believing {mu‟min} man and woman that brings about pure life:
﴾ ً‫صالِ ًحا ّْمن ذَ َك ٍر أ َْو أُنثَى َو ُى َو ُم ْؤِم ٌن فَ لَنُ ْحيِيَ نَّوُ َحيَاةً طَيّْبَة‬
َ ‫﴿ َم ْن َعم َل‬
“Whoever acts righteously, {whether} male or female, should he (or she) be faithful—We shall
revive him with a good life.”
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 („a) is reported to have said:
ٍ َ ‫من َدا َن اهلل بِ ِعب‬
ِ ‫فيها نَ ْفسوُ و الَ إِمام لَوُ ِم ِِ َن‬
.‫اهلل فَ َسعيُوُ غَْي َر َم ْقبُ ْو ٍل‬
َ َ َ َ َ ‫ادة يَ ْج َه ُد‬
َ َ
“Anyone who has faith in God and also performs onerous acts of worship, but has no deserving
Imam from Allah, his efforts are useless.”
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:
.ً‫فَ َم ْن لَ ْم يَتَ َّولنَا لَ ْم يَ ْرفَ ِع اهللُ لَوُ َع َمال‬
“Whoever shall not accept our guardianship {wilayah} (and leadership), his deeds also shall not
be accepted by God.”
Hadhrat „Ali („a) said: “We are the “door of Allah” {bab Allah} and the way of Allah will be
introduced and known through us.”
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 („a) said:
.‫ال َو الَ يَتَ نَا إِالَّ بِال َْع َم ِل َو ٱل َْوَر ِع‬
ُ َ‫َو َما تَن‬
“There is nothing in the line of our leadership except (good) deeds and piety {wara „}.”
3. Moral condition: God-wariness {taqwa}
The story of the two sons of Adam (Adam) („a) 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
God says:
﴾ ‫ين‬
َ ‫﴿ إنَّ َما يَتَ َقبَّ ُل اللّوُ م َن ال ُْمتَّق‬
“Allah accepts only from the God-wary.”
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}
and earning a lawful income are some examples. Imam ar-Rida(„a) says:
َ ‫صلّى َو لَ ْم يُ َز ّْك لَ ْم تُ ْقبَ ْل‬
َ ‫َم ْن‬
“The prayer of one who prays but does not give zakat (and other Islamic taxes) shall not be
In another hadith, „Ali („a) says to Kumayl: “When your food is not acquired through lawful
{halal} earning, God will also not accept your glorification {tasbih} and thanks-giving.”
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
The Messenger of Allah (S) said:
ِ ‫صيامو أرب ِعين ي وما و لَي لَةً إِالَّ أَ ْن ي غْ ِفر لَو ص‬
ْ َ ً ْ َ َ ْ َْ ُ َ َ ِ َ‫صالَتَوُ َو ال‬
َ ُ َ َ
َ ُ‫اب ُم ْسل ًما أ َْو ُم ْسل َمةً لَ ْم يَ ْقبَ ِل اهلل‬
َ َ‫َم ِن ٱ ْغت‬
“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.”
The Prophet (S) also said:
ِ ‫اك و ِىجرا َن أ‬
ِ ‫ فَِإ َّن ٱلْعمل الَ ي تَ َقبَّل مع ٱلْ ِه ْجر‬،‫ك‬
َ ‫َخ ْي‬
َ َ ُ َ َ ََ
َ ْ َ َ َّ‫يَا أَبَاذَ ّر! إي‬
“O Abu Dharr! Keep aloof from severing ties with your brother in faith as the deeds of the ones
doing so are not accepted.”
Imam as-Sadiq („a) said:
ِ ‫ض ِمر على أ‬
ِ ِ
.‫َخ ْي ِو ُسوء‬
َ ٌ ْ ‫الَ يَ ْقبَ ُل اهللُ م ْن ُم ْؤم ٍن َع َمالً َو ُى َو ُم‬
“God does not accept the deeds of any believer who has bad intentions against his brother in
Imam as-Sadiq („a) also said:
.‫وء ٱلْ ُخل ِْق يُ ْف ِس ُد ٱل َْع َم َل َك َما يُ ْف ِس ُد ٱل َخ ُّل ٱل َْع َس َل‬
َ ‫إ َّن ُس‬
“Verily, bad behavior (toward the people) spoils (good) deeds just as vinegar spoils honey.”
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:
َّ ‫ َو َعلَى‬...‫سنَ ًة ِم ْن َع َملِ َها‬
َ ِ‫ٱلر ُجل ِمثْ ُل ذل‬
َ ُ‫َم ْن َكا َن لَوُ إِ ْم َرأَ ًة تُؤذيو لَ ْم يُ ْقبَ ِل اهلل‬
َ ‫صالَتَ َها َو الَ َح‬
“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.”
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 („a):
ِ ِ
.‫صال ًة‬
َ ُ‫َم ْن نَظََر إِلى أَبَويو نَظََر َماقَت َو ُى َما ظَال َمان لَوُ لَ ْم يُ ْقبَ ِل اهللُ لَو‬
“The prayer of the one who looks furiously at his father or mother is not accepted even though
his parents have treated him unjustly.”
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—“Indeed 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 („a) thus said:
ِ َ ‫ فَ لْي ْنظُر ىل من ع ْتو صالَتُو ع ِن ٱلْفح‬،‫ب أَ ْن ي علَم أقُبِلَت صالَتَو أَم لَم تُ ْقبل‬
َ ‫در َما‬
َ ُ َ ُ َ ََ ْ َ َ ْ َ
ُ‫ض َع ْتو‬
ْ ُ َ
َ ‫َم ْن أ‬
َ ‫شاء َوٱلْ ُم ْن َك ِر؟ فَب َق‬
َ ْ َ َّ ‫َح‬
.ُ‫ت ِم ْنو‬
ْ َ‫قُبِل‬
“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.”
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.
Imam al-Mujtaba („a), 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
Imam „Ali („a) has said:
ِ ‫ضل ٱألَ ْعم‬
.‫ك َعلَْي ِو‬
َ ‫ال َما أَ ْك َرْى‬
َ ُ َ ْ‫أَف‬
َ ‫ت نَ ْف‬
“The best of deeds is that in which you have to urge yourself to perform it.”
The Holy Qur‟an regards as superior the reward and station of great and diligent mujahidin,
stating thus:
﴾ ‫يما‬
ْ ‫ين أ‬
ً ‫َج ًرا َعظ‬
َ ‫ين َعلَى الْ َقاعد‬
َ ‫َّل اللّوُ ال ُْم َجاىد‬
َ ‫﴿ َوفَض‬
“And Allah has graced those who wage jihad over those who sit back with a great reward.”
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:
َ َ‫ال‬
ً َ‫ص َدقَةَ َو َذ ْوَرح ٍم ُم ْحت‬
“While there are needy relatives, spending on and helping others is worthless.”
And Imam „Ali („a) said:
ِ ِ‫ت بِالْ َف َرائ‬
َّ ‫َّوافِ ِل إِذَا أ‬
ْ ‫َضر‬
َ ‫الَ قُ َربَة بالن‬
“Whenever supererogatory prayers jeopardize obligatory prayers, they will not bring about
nearness to God.”
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 („a) says:
.‫ب يَسي ٍر اَنْمى ِم ْن َكثي ٍر‬
َّ ‫ُر‬
“So many seemingly small and trivial deeds are more fruitful than a large amount of deeds.”
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 („a), 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:
ِ ‫السماو‬
ِ ‫ات َو ْاأل َْر‬
ِ ِ‫﴿ َوَما لَ ُك ْم أََّال تُ ِنف ُقوا ِفي َسب‬
‫ض َال يَ ْستَ ِوي ِمن ُكم َّم ْن أَن َف َق ِمن قَ ْب ِل الْ َفْت ِح‬
ُ ‫يل اللَّ ِو َولِلَّ ِو ِم َير‬
َ َ َّ ‫اث‬
ِ َّ
﴾ ‫ْح ْسنَى َواللَّوُ بِ َما تَ ْع َملُو َن َخبِ ٌير‬
َ ِ‫َوقَاتَ َل أ ُْولَئ‬
ُ ‫ين أَن َف ُقوا من بَ ْع ُد َوقَاتَلُوا َوُك ِّال َو َع َد اللَّوُ ال‬
َ ‫ك أَ ْعظَ ُم َد َر َجةً ّْم َن الذ‬
“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.”
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 („a) said:
ِ ّ‫المعروف إال‬
.ُ‫ تعجيلوُ و تصغيِرهُ َو ستره‬:‫خصال‬
ّ َ‫ال‬
“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.”
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:
ِ ‫﴿ يج‬
ِ ِ‫اى ُدو َن فِي َسب‬
﴾ ‫يل الل ِّو َوالَ يَ َخافُو َن لَ ْوَمةَ آلئٍِم‬
“Wage jihad in the way of Allah, not fearing the blame of any blamer.”
It also states in another place:
ِ ‫﴿ الَّذين ي ب لّْغُو َن ِر‬
﴾ ‫َح ًدا إِالَّ الل َّو َو َكفى بِالل ِّو َحسيبًا‬
َ ‫ش ْونَوُ َو ال يَ ْخ‬
َ ‫ساالت الل ِّو َو يَ ْخ‬
َُ َ
َ ‫ش ْو َن أ‬
“Such as deliver the messages of Allah and fear Him, and fear no one except Allah, and Allah
suffices as reckoner.”
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}. 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.
﴾ ‫آء غَ َدقًا‬
ْ ‫ٱستَ ق ُمواْ َعلَى ٱلطٍّ ِري َقة أل‬
ْ ‫﴿ َو أَن لَ ِو‬
ً ‫َس َقْي ن ُهم َّم‬
“If they are steadfast on the path {of Allah}, We shall provide them with abundant water.”
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 („a) thus pleads with God:
ِ ‫ادتِي بِٱل ُْع ْج‬
َ َ‫هم َعبّْ ْدني ل‬
َ َ‫ك َو الَ تُ ْف ِس ْد عب‬
ّ ‫ألل‬
“O my Lord! Let me be Your servant but do not contaminate my devotion {„ibadah} with selfconceit {„ujb}.”
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. 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 („a) says:
ٍ َ ‫ الَ َخير فِي ِعب‬،َ‫أَال‬
.‫س فِْي َها تَ َف ُّك ٌر‬
َ ‫ادة لَْي‬
“Worship without insight and reflection is indeed worthless.”
In another hadith, “certainty” {yaqin} is mentioned as follows:
ِ ‫ضل ِعْن َد‬
َّ ‫إِ َّن ٱل َْع َم َل‬
.‫اهلل ِم َن ٱل َْع َمل ٱلْ َكثِي ِر َعلى غَي ِر يَِقي ٍن‬
ُ َ ْ‫ أَف‬،‫ٱلدائم ٱلْ َقلْيل َعلى ٱلْيَقْي ِن‬
“Verily, small yet constant works based on certainty {yaqin} are superior in the sight of God to
many works without certainty (and insight).”
Let us suffice ourselves with this in explaining the conditions for attaining perfection in deeds and
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 („a) have also cited in the hadiths the wisdom behind
these laws and commands. Some Muslim scholars have also written books regarding this subject.
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.
In another place, it states:
“And maintain the prayer for My remembrance.”
In yet another place, it states:
“Look! The hearts find rest in Allah‟s remembrance!”
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.”
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.”
The social and political benefits and impacts of Hajj are things that are beyond doubt and
It thus states about the poor-rate {zakat}:
“Take charity from their possessions to cleanse them and purify them thereby, and bless them.”
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.”
And it regards retribution {qisas} as vital for the health of society. 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
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 („a) recorded in Nahj al-Balaghah:
ِ ‫الشرك و الصلوَة تَنزيهاً ع ِن‬
ِ ‫فَرض اهلل الميان تطهرياً ِمن‬
...‫الكرب و الزكوة تسبيباً لِ ّلرزق‬
َ َ
“Allah has laid down belief {iman} for purification from polytheism, prayer {salah} for
purification from vanity, zakat for purification of the means of livelihood.”
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 („a) 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, obedience to the rightful
leader, etc.
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:
﴾ ‫ورَىا َوتَ ْق َو َاىا‬
َ ‫﴿ فَأَل َْه َم َها فُ ُج‬
“…and inspired it with {discernment between} its virtues and vices.”
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. 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 („a) to sacrifice Isma„il („a) is an example, and Ibrahim‟s
(„a) 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 („a) have said:
.‫ك َعْب ًدا‬
َ َ‫الهى َكفى بى ِع ّزاً أَ ْن أَ ُك ْو َن ل‬
“O Lord! It is already an enough honor for me that I am Your servant.”
In Munajat ash-Sha„baniyyah, we read:
َ ُّ‫ت أ َْىلَ َها إِنّْي أ ُِحب‬
ُ ‫َّار أَ ْعلَْن‬
َ ‫لَئ ْن أَ ْد َخلْتَني ٱلن‬
“(O Lord!) Even if You throw me into the hellfire, I shall announce to its dwellers that I love
„Ali („a) declared:
.‫بادة فَ َعْبدتُك‬
َ ُ‫إلهى ما َعبَدت‬
َ ‫ك َخ ْوفاً م ْن نا ِرك َو ال طَ َمعاً في َجنَّتِك بَ ْل َو َج ْدتُك ْأىالً لِل ِْع‬
“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.”
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
﴾ ‫سا ُن لِيَ ْف ُج َر أ ََم َاموُ٭ يَ ْسئَ ُل أَيَّا َن يَ ْو ُم ٱل ِْقيَ َام ِة‬
َ ْ‫﴿ بَ ْل يُ ِريْ ُد ٱ ِإلن‬
“Rather man desires to go on living viciously. He asks, „When is this day of resurrection?”
They are like children who are constantly seeking excuses. Regarding such individuals, the
Glorious Qur‟an says:
﴾ ‫ضوا َو يَ ُقولُوا ِس ْح ٌر ُم ْستَ ِم ّر‬
ُ ‫﴿ َو إِ ْن يَ َروا آيَةً يُ ْع ِر‬
“If they see a sign, they turn away, and say, „An incessant magic!”
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
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,?!
Prayer {Salah}
We have discussed the acts of worship and their conditions and philosophy. After stating those
generalities, we shall now deal with their manifestations and examine the most apparent form of
servitude which is prayer {salah}. First of all, we need to know the status of prayer from the
perspective of the (Qur‟an and hadith). Thereafter, we shall touch on its details and secrets. Let
us recall some of the views of the school of revelation {maktab-e wahy} regarding prayer:
Prayer has been one of the most important commands of the prophets („a) and one of the
most apparent manifestations of worship. Hadhrat Luqman says to his son:
“O my son! Maintain the prayer.”
Prayer is a cure for forgetfulness and a means of remembrance of God:
“And maintain the prayer for My remembrance.”
The Messenger of Allah (S) said: “Prayer is the covenant of Allah.”
Prayer is like solace for our Beloved Prophet (S), since he said: “My eyes find solace in
Prayer is a means of seeking assistance in times of adversity and difficulty. God says:
“And take recourse in patience and prayer.”
Prayer is a cure for arrogance. „Ali („a) says: “Allah has laid down… prayer for purification
from vanity.”
Prayer is a means of thanking God for His blessings:
“So pray to your Lord and offer sacrifice (in gratitude).”
Prayer is the physiognomy of our school {maktab}: “Prayer is the physiognomy of your
Prayer identifies the school of Islam. The Holy Prophet (S) said: “Prayer is the banner of
Prayer is a firm support of religion: “And it (prayer) is the pillar of your religion.”
Prayer is like a head for the body. The Prophet of Islam (S) said: “The position of prayer in
religion is like that of the head to the body.”
Prayer is the key to paradise.
Prayer assesses people: “Prayer is a scale {mizan}.”
Prayer is the basis of religion: “Islam is based on …prayer”
Prayer is the first question that will be asked on the Day of Resurrection: “The first thing to
be accounted with respect to the servant {„abd} is prayer.”
Prayer washes away sins. In a hadith, prayer is likened to a river in which man takes a bath
five times a day and no dirt remains on his body.
Prayer is the relationship of the creature {makhluq} to the Creator {khaliq}; it acquaints
man‟s spirit with God and familiarizes him physically with nature—water, earth, qiblah,
sunrise, sunset, time, etc.
Prayer is the only form of worship which cannot be abandoned even at the moment of
drowning in time of and war. It is the loudest declaration of man‟s obeisance to God and total
freedom from the dominance of the powerful.
Prayer revives the tradition of Ibrahim, Muhammad, Husayn, and the Mahdi („a).
Prayer is a means of gaining nearness to God.
Prayer is the last injunction of the prophets („a) and the last injunction of Imam as-Sadiq („a)
before his last breath. The Imam asked all his relatives and children to gather around him and
then said, “Anyone who treats prayer lightly shall not be included in our intercession
{shafa„ah} in the Day of Resurrection.”
Prayer is a pleasure for divine saints {awliya‟} but a heavy burden for hypocrites
ِ ِ
﴾ ‫ين‬
َ ‫﴿ َوإنَّ َها لَ َكب َيرةٌ إالَّ َعلَى الْ َخاشع‬
“And it (prayer) is indeed hard except for the humble.”
Prayer defeats all the wiles of Satan.
Importance of prayer
Apart from the verses of the Qur‟an and hadiths cited so far, the conduct of the divine saints also
expresses the important status of prayer. Prayer has been part of the programs of the prophets („a).
While in the cradle, Hadhrat „Isa (Jesus) („a) says that God has enjoined him to establish prayer
and pay the poor-rate {zakat} so long as he is alive:
َّ ‫الصلوةِ َو‬
﴾ ‫ت َحيِّا‬
َّ ِ‫صانِي ب‬
ُ ‫اد ْم‬
ُ ‫ٱلزكوةِ َم‬
َ ‫﴿ َو أ َْو‬
“And He has enjoined me to {maintain} the prayer and to {pay} the zakat as long as I live.”
Imam al-Husayn („a) did not neglect prayer even at noontime on the day of „Ashura‟ on the
battlefield while facing the arrows of the enemies.
Hadhrat Ibrahim („a) settled his wife and child in the wilderness of the desert of Makkah which
had no water or plants at that time, saying:
﴾ َ‫الصالَة‬
َّ ْ‫يموا‬
َ ِ‫نت ِمن ذُ ّْريَّتِي بَِو ٍاد غَْي ِر ِذي َزْر ٍع ِعن َد بَ ْيت‬
ُ ‫َس َك‬
ْ ‫﴿ َّربَّنَا إِنّْي أ‬
ُ ‫ك ال ُْم َح َّرم َربَّنَا ليُق‬
“O Lord! I have settled part of my descendants in a barren valley, by Your sacred House, our
Lord, that they may maintain the prayer.”
Our infallible predecessors („a) used to tremble at the time of prayer and say: “It is the time to
discharge the divine trust in the Divine Precinct and Court.
Although some people say their prayers in order to be admitted to paradise or out of fear of the
fire of hell, the Commander of the Faithful („a) used to perform prayer not for trade (gain) or
release from hellfire but because of God being worthy of worship.
In order to teach the importance of prayer, Islam has enjoined parents to persuade their children
to pray before they reach the age of puberty, , starting from the age of eight, in whatever way
they can and sometimes, also with the use of force because of their children‟s heedlessness.
Praying connects man with the Origin of the universe just like a pilot maintains a link with the
control tower.
Prayer remits sins and erases their after-effects. After enjoining prayer, the Holy Qur‟an states:
ِ َ‫الس يّْئ‬
ِ َ‫﴿ إِ َّن الْحسن‬
﴾ ‫ات‬
َّ ‫ات يُ ْذ ِى ْب َن‬
“Indeed good deeds efface misdeeds.”
Prayer as viewed by reason and conscience
All humans, especially Muslims have rights upon each other. One of these human rights is to be
thanked for the love and goodness shown to others. Even if we are not Muslims, we are dutybound to be grateful for the love and attention we get from others. This right is identical in every
language, race, nationality and country. Gratitude must be directly proportionate to the
graciousness enjoyed. Just think, is there anyone who has more right to us than God? There can
be no one because God‟s favors and blessings are innumerable, and He Himself is the Most
Generous Being of all.
God created us from a single cell and provided us with all that we need in order to survive, such
as light, heat, earth, air, water, bodily limbs, instincts, strength, nature, plants animals, senses,
intellect, emotions, etc. He sent the prophets („a) for our guidance and spiritual training through a
set of laws.
He determined what was lawful {halal} and what was unlawful {haram} equipped and our
“material” and “spiritual” lives with perfect means and methods. He made available the
conditions for our worldly and otherworldly growth, advancement and bliss. Who is the one who
does us more good than God and who deserves being worshipped more than God?
In the words of Sa„di, every breath that is inhaled extends life and of the air that is inhaled,
energizes the inhaler. Thus, there are two blessings in every breath, and thanks-giving is
obligatory for every blessing:
‫كز عهده شكرش بو درآيد‬
ِ ‫از دست و ز‬
‫بان كو برآيد‬
Whatever gratitude the hand and tongue can express must be given for the air.
He endowed us with the guidance of the prophets („a) and the Infallibles („a). He made man
conquer the world and nature and gave him the power to benefit from the gifts of nature, to
discover the secrets of the world and to use them along the path of success and life.
Leaves and plants take the carbon in the atmosphere and release oxygen.
Rain drops make the atmosphere clean and fresh.
Sharks eat dead fishes in the sea and thus remove the foul smell from the water.
Every instant our eyes take varied and exact pictures of all things from different angles.
If our lips were not soft, we would not have the power to speak.
If tears were not salty, our eyes which are created from nerves would be destroyed.
If the water was bitter or salty, trees would not grow.
If the earth had no gravity; if the distance between the sun and earth were shorter; if at the time
of birth we did know how to suck milk; if the kindness of mother and father did not exist; and
thousands of other “ifs”… could we have survived?
However, we are not aiming to count the blessings of God as we cannot do that. God Himself
said that if we tried to count His blessings we would not succeed in doing so.
If one million of us were enjoying these blessings from someone else, would we not have been
indebted to, and thank him for the rest of our lives?
Our human duty and conscience demand that we express gratefulness for the divine favors,
establish prayer and worship God in gratitude for all these blessings.
We should also worship God and we should become His servants because He created us. We
should not become slaves of the East or West.
Prayer is an expression of gratitude to God, and every wise and conscientious person realizes the
necessity of establishing prayer.
A dog expresses gratefulness for a bone given to it by wagging its tail, and if a thief or a stranger
enters the house, it will attack him. If man is indifferent to all these favors of God and lacks the
spirit of giving thanks which is manifested in the form of prayer, is he not lower than the dog in
recognition of another‟s worth?!
Some questions and answers
Question: Does God need our gratitude?
Answer: Never! Appreciation of a favor is a virtue for us and a sign of our sense of justice, and
not a sign of God‟s need of our thanks. If a teacher says to his student, “You have to
acknowledge my efforts (in teaching you) and study hard, the teacher does not mean that he is in
need of his student‟s acknowledgment and seriousness in studies. It is rather to enhance the
excellence of the student himself.
Question: If we are supposed to thank God for His blessings, why must we perform prayer?
Answer: Once we admit the essential need for expressing gratitude, the manner of doing so must
be according to the procedure outlined by God. Once it is determined that it is necessary for a
patient to consult a doctor, the manner of taking the medicine is according to the doctor‟s
So, we must express gratitude according to the will of God. As soon as a pilot consents to take
flight in whatever part of the world he may be he has to contact the control tower using the
English language. So, we have to learn the manner of giving thanks from the command of God
and the ways of the divine saints.
Question: Is it proper to express thanks for blessings, even if one is living in the midst of
unpleasant circumstances?
Answer: First of all, many of our troubles are the result of our own making. For example, by not
observing health instructions, we become sick. Due to laziness and apathy, we experience stagnation
in life. Foolishly choosing a friend can cause troubles, etc.
Secondly, unpleasant circumstances are also good because they urge man to strive more and
make his talents blossom.
Thirdly, we should look at bitterness alongside sweetness and look at afflictions alongside
numerous blessings.
Fourthly, sometimes hardships and afflictions bring about spiritual elevation, reevaluation of the
self, and a renewal of faith in hearts broken by expecting from „other-than-God‟.
Negligence of prayer
Negligence of prayer means curtailing the establishment of a relationship with the Creator of the
universe, and this has painful consequences in this world and in the hereafter. In the hereafter,
the inhabitants of heaven will ask the dwellers of hell, “What made you inhabit the hellfire?”
One of their answers shall be:
ِ ُ َ‫﴿ لَم ن‬
﴾ ‫ين‬
َ ‫ك م َن ال ُْم‬
َ ّْ‫صل‬
“We were not among those who prayed.”
In another place, the Glorious Qur‟an addresses those who are careless and heedless of their
prayer, sometimes performing it and at other times not performing it, thus:
ِ َّ ّْ‫﴿ فَ ويل لّْلْمصل‬
﴾ ‫اىو َن‬
ُ ‫ص َالتِ ِه ْم َس‬
َ ‫ين ُى ْم َعن‬
َ ‫ين٭ الذ‬
َ َ ُ ٌ َْ
“Woe to them who pray—those who are heedless of their prayers.”
The Messenger of Allah (S) has said:
.‫تعم ًدا فَ َقد َكفر‬
ّ ‫َم ْن تَرك‬
ّ ‫ٱلصالة ُم‬
“He who consciously neglects prayer has become an infidel.”
The Holy Prophet (S) has also said:
ِ ‫ب ين ٱلع‬
َّ ‫بد َو بَ ْي َن ٱل ُكفر تَ ْر ُك‬
َ َ َْ
“That which lies between faith and disbelief is the negligence of prayer.”
Treating prayer lightly
Giving value to prayer is a sign of faith in God, and heedlessness is caused by weakness of love
and loss of interest in spiritualities. Hadhrat „Ali („a) said: “Verily, the worst of thieves among
people is he who steals his prayer.”
In another place, Imam „Ali („a) said: “Those who treat prayer lightly are like women who abort
their fetuses; they can neither be called pregnant nor having children.”
And the Imam („a) also said: “He who treats prayer lightly and ruins it will also ruin other
The Prophet of Islam (S) said: “He who spoils his prayer shall be with Qarun and Haman on the
Day of Resurrection. Woe unto him who does not take care of his prayer!”
The Apostle (S) also said:
God shall take away the blessings, benefits and goodness from the life and wealth of the one who
treats prayer lightly. There will be no reward for his deeds; his supplications will not be heard.
At the time of death, he will depart from this world with the feeling of hunger, thirst and
remorse. He will be tortured, chastised and pressurized in purgatory {barzakh}. On the Day of
Resurrection, he will be called strictly to account.
He (S) also said: “He who treats prayer lightly is not of my ummah {community}.”
The Holy Prophet (S) is also reported to have said:
“When a person pays attention to other than God during prayer, God says to him: “To whom you
are paying attention? Do you have a deity other than Me? Is there any protector other than Me?
Are you attached to a compassionate being other than Me? I am the Most Compassionate… If
you will pay attention to Me, My angels and I will pay attention to you.”
Unaccepted prayers
We have said that it is possible for an act to be proper but not accepted like a saleable item
without a buyer. In the hadiths, the prayers of some individuals have been considered
unacceptable because of various reasons, examples of which follow below:
1. Those who are indifferent
Imam as-Sadiq („a) said: “The prayer of those who are indifferent to the barefooted and
displaced people of the society, is not accepted.”
2. Those who live on unlawful earnings
The Holy Prophet (S) said: “The prayer of those who live on unlawful earnings is like
constructing castles on sand.”
3. Those who are unmindful of their duties
The Messenger of Allah (S) said: “The prayer of a wife who enjoys the income of her husband
but does not discharge her divine obligation is not accepted.”
4. Those who do not pay zakat {poor-rate}
In most instances, the payment of zakat {poor-rate} has been mentioned in the Holy Qur‟an
alongside the establishment of prayer, and it has been stated in many hadiths that the prayer of
those who do not give their zakat will not be accepted. One day, the Messenger of Allah (S)
entered the mosque and asked nine people to leave the mosque for not paying zakat. He then
offered his prayers. Yes, a relationship with God must be built on a relationship with the
5. Those who are lackadaisical
The prayer of one who is impious, or does not perform his ruku„ {kneeling down} and sujud
{prostration} properly, is not accepted.
6. Those who are “haqin wa haqib”
Haqin wa haqib refers to a person who holds his urine and feces, and in doing so, exerts pressure
on himself and experiences physical stress. In addition to being harmful to health, this practice
disrupts one‟s concentration in prayer. Imam as-Sadiq („a) said: “The prayer of such a person is
not accepted.”
7. Those who are unacceptable prayer leaders
Sometimes, it is possible that the people do not accept the prayer leader in a mosque and for
selfish reasons, he refuses to leave the mosque or his position. Such a case will naturally lead to
quarrels and disruptions in the congregational prayer. It is stated in traditions that the
congregational prayer of such persons is considered unacceptable.
Prayers of the Infallibles {ma„sumin} („a)
The manner of prayer of the holy saints is both inspiring and instructive, and a model for their
followers. We shall survey some examples of their manner of prayer:
The sound of adhan {call to prayer} was so attractive and delightful to the Messenger of Allah
(S) that at the time of prayer, he would say to Bilal (the one calling to prayer): “O Bilal! Relieve
us (from grief, anguish and pain).” And the Prophet (S) used to say: “He who hears the adhan
but remains indifferent is unkind.”
At the time of prayer, „Ali („a) used to turn pale and start trembling, saying: “The time of prayer
has come—the time of the trust offered by God to the heavens, the earth and the mountains, but
they refrained from shouldering it.”
This act of shouldering the burden of the divine trust is the greatest honor of man. In the words
of Hafiz,
‫آمسان بار امانت نتوانست كشيد قرعو فال بو نام من ديوانو زدند‬
Heaven was not able to carry the burden of the trust.
The lot fell upon me, the foolish.
At the time of prayer, when Imam as-Sajjad („a) would reach the point of reciting “maliki
yawmi‟d-din” {You are the Master of the Day of Judgment} (in Surah al-Fatihah), he would
repeat it so many times that listeners would imagine that he was on the verge of death. And while
in prostration {sujud}, he would sweat profusely.
Imam al-Baqir („a) said: “My father (Imam as-Sajjad) used to perform a thousand rak„ahs of
prayer day and night.”
Whenever the time of prayer arrived, it seemed as if the Messenger of Allah (S) knew no one for
he would enter a strange spiritual state. He used to say: “Hunger can be satiated and thirst can be
quenched, but my desire for prayer can never be satisfied.”
During the Battle of Siffin, „Ali („a) remained watchful of the sun‟s position in the sky. „Abd
Allah ibn al-„Abbas asked the reason for this. The Imam said: “I do not wish to miss offering the
prayer as soon as its time begins.” “Now, on the battlefield?!” asked Ibn al-„Abbas (in
astonishment). The Imam replied, “Yes!”
Yes, just as fishes are not tired of swimming, divine saints {awliya‟} are not tired of worship and
prayer. Rather, with every act of worship, they find more pleasure being in the Presence of God.
It is narrated that during the month of Ramadhan, the late „Allamah Amini (author of the book,
Al-Ghadir) used to perform a thousand rak„ahs of prayer every night. This is supposed to be the
method of someone who has learned the lesson of love from the saints of Allah. At the time of
prayer, the upright servants and divine saints used to establish prayer with much fervor, apply
perfume, wear the best of clothes, welcome the prayer and experience fear and dread lest they do
not earn the favor of God, or they do not have the necessary amount of humility and attention in
Prerequisites of prayer
Observance of some rules related to prayer (such as brushing the teeth {miswak}, cleanliness,
attention to God, etc.) is contributory in the perfection of this act of worship. Imam al-Baqir („a)
has said:
ِ َ‫ك بِ ْاألقْب‬
ِ َ ِ‫صالَت‬
.‫ْت َعلَْي ِو‬
َ َ‫ب ل‬
َ ‫َعلَْي‬
َ ‫ك ِم ْن َها َما أَقْبَ ل‬
َ ‫ال َعلى‬
ُ ‫ك فَإنَّ َما يُ ْح َس‬
“Pay attention to God while in prayer because what is accepted in prayer is that which is said
with attention.”
The Imam („a) continued: “During the prayer, do not play with your hand, head and face because
all these things cause deficiency in prayer, and do not perform prayer while in a state of
sluggishness, sleepiness and weariness because such a prayer is that of hypocrites {munafiqun}.”
In a hadith, the Holy Prophet (S) is reported to have said:
ِ َ‫رْكعت‬
ِ ‫ضل ِمن أَل‬
.‫ْف َرْك َع ٍة ِمن َم ْخلَ ٍط‬
ٍ ‫ان ِم ْن َر ُج ٍل َو‬
ْ ُ َ ْ‫رع أَف‬
“A person‟s two rak„ahs of prayer with piety {wara„} are superior to a thousand rak„ahs of
prayer with heedlessness.”
Imam as-Sadiq („a) said: “At the time of prayer, neglect the world and all it contains; focus all
your attention on God; and remember the day when you will be brought in front of the court of
divine justice.”
The same Imam („a) also said: “Sometimes, fifty years of prayer may pass without even a single
prayer being accepted.” And we also read in a hadith: “Some stand in front of God and pray in
such a manner that if they talk in a similar manner with their neighbor, he will not answer them.”
The Messenger of Allah (S) is reported to have said: “Two rak„ahs of prayer of a person who
brushed his teeth are superior to seventy rak„ahs of the one who did not brush his teeth.”
Prayer and its accompaniments
In the numerous verses of the Qur‟an in which prayer is mentioned, there are also other
accompany commands, such as paying zakat, giving charity, enjoining what is good, forbidding
what is evil, and spending (in the way of Allah) by attending to the deprived. This shows the
universality of the devotional laws of Islam that alongside connection with the Lord, economic
and social issues as well as tackling with the poor, and enjoining what is good and forbidding
what is evil are also raised and no issue can prevent paying attention to other issues.
And it is here that the verse,
“Indeed the prayer prevents indecencies and wrongs,”
becomes clearer and more understandable, and it is obvious that implementing this divine
precept will prevent the corruption of Muslim society.
Prayer as spiritual ascension
Prayer has been mentioned in the hadiths as “ascension of the believer” {mi„raj al-mu‟min}.
This ascension and flight, however, is not in the open space of the sky but in the sphere of
spirituality and servitude, and it is aimed at attaining “nearness to God”, not reaching mountain
peaks thousands of feet above the ground.
One may compare the spiritual flight and mystical ascension of the one praying with the flight of
an airplane in the sky:
1. Most of the force and pressure is applied at the time of the aircraft‟s take off. In worship and
prayer, the main difficulty is to overcome carnal desire and commence the act of worship.
2. The importance of both flights lies in a safe and risk-free landing. Worship also has value if its
ending is wholesome and without the blemish of self-conceit {„ujb} and arrogance {ghurur}.”
3. For its energy, the airplane is in need of pure and special fuel. The spiritual ascension of the
one praying also necessitates pure attention and negation of all other servitudes. By raising his
hands up to the bottom of his ears he negates and refuses everything other than God, and thus
attains the purity of intention.
4. The pilot must be physically and mentally sound for the flight. In the prayer and to be in the
Presence of God, “a sound mind and heart” are also necessary.
5. The aircraft flies by means of two wings. In prayer also, along with the discharging of the
“right of Allah” {haqq Allah} one must also discharge the “right of men” {haqq an-nas}. Along
with “yuqimuna‟s-salat” {establish your prayer}, the Qur‟an in most cases has also “yu‟tuna‟zzakat” {pay your alms-rate}.
6. In order to fly, the airplane covers a long distance on the ground to acquire the ability to take
off. The preliminaries of prayer, the adhan, iqamah, and recommended invocations {dhikr} are
also the groundwork of this spiritual flight. (The supplications after the ritual prayer and
subsequent invocations also constitute the movement on the ground after landing.)
7. In flying, the first mistake is also the last mistake and is accompanied by crashing and
annihilation. In worship also, polytheism {shirk}, self-admiration {„ujb} and ostentation {riya‟}
will lead astray. By committing a single mistake, Iblis who had a record of six thousand years of
worship was cast out and accursed till eternity!
8. Every pilot makes a move on the order of the control tower. Prayer and worship are also
according to the order, and even a single minute before or after the appointed period or against
the law will render them invalid.
9. The pilot rests between flights, while the aircraft goes through its routine maintenance. Along
with invocation and worship, sometimes man is also in need of rest and lawful enjoyments as
well as engagement in earning a livelihood, and a person like the Messenger of Allah (S) would
sometimes say, “kallimini ya humayra.”(O, Humeyra, come and chat with me).
10. For the pilot‟s communication with the control tower, there is only one officially recognized
language. The contact of the one praying with God is only through Arabic and in the devotional
act of Hajj, the state of ihram commences with the recital of “labbayk allahumma labbayk”
{Here I come, O Lord, here I come}.
11. Prior to flying, directions based on the weather forecast, map-reading, determination of
direction, etc. need to be followed. In worship, preliminary pieces of information are also
necessary, and worship without knowledge and jurisprudence is worthless. Even in trade,
familiarity with the laws of God is also needed, let alone in prayer and worship.
12. The higher the pilot, ascends the more the ground seems to become small for him. The more
a holy man is acquainted with the greatness of God, anything other than God becomes more
trivial in his sight. In the words of the Commander of the Faithful („a):
ِ ِ
.‫اد ْونَوُ فِي أَ ْعيُنِ ِهم‬
ُ ‫صغْ َر َم‬
َ َ‫َعظُ َم ٱلْ َخال ُق في أَنْ ُفس ِهم ف‬
“The greatness of the Creator is seated in their heart, and so, everything else appears small in
their eyes.”
13. The bigger the airplane, the smoother the flight and the more comfortable the passengers will
be. In prayer and worship also, that which is done in congregation (the large gathering of people
in the congregation and Hajj) has more reward and the possibility of its being accepted is greater.
14. Usually, there is a co-pilot accompanying the pilot for emergencies. In the congregational
prayer also, there are just and pious individuals standing in the first row so that in case a problem
(affecting the ability of the Imam to continue leading the prayer) arises, one of them can assume
leadership of the prayer up to the end.
15. In physical flight, when the pilot and passengers are in the sky, they are away from and
uninformed of their domestic problems and concerns. In spiritual flight also, when the soul is at
its zenith, the attention to material things become insignificant, so much so that an arrow pulled
from the foot of Hadhrat Amir („Ali) („a) was not felt at all.
16. In flight, descending from the summit is called “lessening the altitude” although it is still
high in relation to those that are on the ground. Although the worship of the saints of Allah is
always high in relation to the prayer and worship of common people, for them this “lessening of
the altitude” by coming down from the pinnacle is a sort of shortcoming and degradation, and
they always asked forgiveness {istighfar} for it. This is the meaning of
.‫ات ٱل ُْم َق َّربِْين‬
ُ َ‫ات ٱألَبْ َرا ِر َسيّْئ‬
ُ َ‫سن‬
َ ‫َح‬
“The good qualities of the pious are blemishes for the anointed ones.”
To conclude, prayer is the uninterrupted attention of the worshipper toward the Creator of the
universe and the heart‟s detachment from worldly desires is regarded as a flight by the people of
gnosis {ahl al-ma„rifah}—a flight higher than the flight of birds in the air or the flight of aircraft
in the earth‟s atmosphere and beyond.
What causes man‟s descent is his attachment to material things and carnal desires?
In the words of Sa„di,
‫بدر آى تا ببيىن طريان آدميت‬
ِ ‫طريان مرغ ديدى؟ تو ز پاى‬
‫بند شهوت‬
Have you seen birds fly? Detach yourself from your carnal desires and then watch the flight of
Let‟s Welcome Prayer!
To embark on the constructive form of worship, i.e. prayer, we shall cite a set of physical and
spiritual preliminaries in terms of cleanliness and purity of body and soul as well as other
Preliminaries of prayer
Preliminaries are those essentials whose performance or provision prior to prayer is necessary.
They are as follows:
Purification {taharah}
For the performance of the prayer, the one praying must be in a state of ritual and spiritual
purification {taharah}. Sometimes, he does so by ablution {wudhu‟}, taking a bath {ghusl}, and
under certain circumstances, by performing dry ablution {tayammum}.
Ablution is part of faith {iman}, and in the words of Imam al-Baqir („a), “Prayer without
ablution is not prayer at all,” and in some hadiths ablution has been described as the “key to
faith” and “half of faith.
Imam ar-Rida („a) made an interesting statement regarding ablution when he said:
1. Ablution is a courtesy toward God ensuring that the servant is clean while praying and
standing before God;
2. It aims at purging him of all pollution and contamination;
3. In addition, it is the shedding of laziness and discarding sleepiness; and
4. It makes the heart and soul ready to stand in front of God, the Exalted.
In this noble hadith, the Imam („a) has pointed out all the physical and spiritual dimensions of
ablution, i.e. cleanliness and purity as well as preparation of the soul, acquisition of enthusiasm
to worship and the paving of the spiritual ground for worship.
The late Faydh Kashani said: “Rising from materiality all at once toward spirituality is hard, but
performance of ablution gradually prepares man for it.”
Ablution {wudhu‟} in every state
The inner luminosity and purity blessed by ablution {wudhu‟} is significant. It is therefore
emphasized in the hadiths that a person must always be in a state of ablution; ablution is likened
to a light; and sleeping while in a state of ablution has been considered like life and night vigil.
To perform ablution has been recommended for supplication, recitation of the Qur‟an, ziyarah,
and many other good and devotional acts.
Without ablution, it is forbidden to touch the verses of the Qur‟an and the names of Allah, the
Prophet and Imams („a). The same ruling applies even if the name of Allah appears in different
forms, such as the logos of institutions and establishments (such as the logo of the Islamic
Republic of Iran).
Ablution permits entrance into the Presence of God, and specific supplications for its different
steps have also been mentioned in books. There are many issues concerning ablution which
cannot be covered in this volume. It should not remain unsaid, however, that it is unlawful to use
water if it reaches the bound of what may be considered as extravagance. The Messenger of
Allah (S) has said:
ِ َ‫ك َعلى ِخال‬
.‫ف ُسنَّتي‬
َ ِ‫ك فَأُولئ‬
َ ِ‫ام يَ ْستَ ِقلُّو َن ذل‬
ُ ‫أَل ُْو‬
ٌ ‫صاعٌ َو َسيَأْتِي أَق َْو‬
َ ‫ضوءُ ُم ٌد َو ٱلْغُ ْس ُل‬
“For ablution a mudd and for taking a bath {ghusl} a sa„ are enough, but there will come people
in the future, people who will regard this amount as not enough (and they will consume more
volumes of water). Therefore, they will go against my tradition.”
Purification {taharah} for prayer has the following stages:
1. Outward purification from impurities and pollutions;
2. Purification of the bodily limbs from sins and offenses;
3. Spiritual purification from moral corruption—just as we read in supplications: “O Lord!
Cleanse my heart of polytheism!”
If, at the time of prayer, it is necessary for the body and clothing to be clean from impurities, is it
not essential for the heart and soul to be free of arrogance {kibr}, ostentation {riya‟}, envy
{hasad}, and rancor {kinah}?
Will not inner pollution and outer cleanliness be a type of hypocrisy {nifaq}?
Bathing {ghusl}
Sometimes, instead of ablution one has to perform ghusl {ritual bathing}. One of these cases is
ritual impurity caused by sexual intercourse {jinabah} and the entire body must be washed
according to the rulings stated in the books on practical laws {risalah al-„amaliyyah}. Some
hadiths indicate that during jinabah, sperm {mani} comes out from under every hair, all bodily
parts and limbs—“min tahti kulli sha„r”, unlike urine which has a specific and limited
passageway. And perhaps this is the reason why in ghusl the entire body must be washed. These
hadiths may also be referring to the activity of the sex-related cells at the time of jinabah as they
exist and are active in the entire body.
Dry purification {tayammum}
If there is no water for ablution or taking a bath, or the time for ablution is limited, or the use of
water is harmful to the health of the person, or the price of water is extremely exorbitant, or
water is needed for drinking and saving a life, one must perform dry ablution {tayammum}.
That is, based on the instructions indicated in books on practical laws, one must strike both hands
against clean earth and wipe the forehead and back of the hands. Clean earth is necessary!
We read in a hadith that Hadhrat „Ali („a) prohibited performing dry ablution on soil taken from
near the streets (which is usually unclean).
Clothing and place of the one praying
A male worshipper must cover his private parts {„awrah} during prayer which is from the navel
to the knees. The female worshipper must cover her entire body except the face, hands and feet
up to the ankles.
This covering must also be done with clean and lawful clothing. It is better for the clothes of the
one praying to be white, clean and fragrant smell and for the one praying to wear a ring with the
„aqiq stone during prayer, and it is better for him not to use black, dirty and tight clothes, or the
clothes of a person who is careless about the physical purity or impurity.
Similarly, the place carpet or thing upon which the prayer is performed must be acquired
lawfully {halal}. The use of the fixed property of a deceased who owes khums or zakat is
unlawful {haram} and praying there is invalid {batil}, and if a piece of land is purchased with a
sum of money whose khums or zakat is not paid, it is unlawful to occupy it and invalid to pray
There are many issues pertaining to place and clothing. In addition to obedience and the spirit of
submission to the divine commands, there are three other aspects which we shall mention below:
1. Observance of courtesy
The exigency of courtesy while standing in front of God in the precinct of His Glory and
Grandeur demands that prayer must be performed with inner and outer purity and concentration.
Even praying in front of the grave of the Holy Prophet (S) and Imams („a) is sometimes regarded
as an impolite gesture and makes the prayer invalid.
2. Observance of the rights of others
Some of these conditions are related to the observance of the rights of others. That the clothing
and place of the one praying is lawful and legally acquired means to observe the right of the
Islamic government (in levying khums) and the right of the society‟s deprived (in the payment of
zakat) and other people. Even praying near highways and along the streets is unlawful if it causes
obstruction to pedestrians.
The genuine satisfaction of the owner of rights is essential. If he outwardly says that he is
satisfied (for us to occupy his place and pray there), but we know for certain that he is not,
occupation of the place is unlawful, and the prayer offered there is invalid. On the contrary, if he
outwardly expresses his lack of satisfaction, but we know for certain that he is actually satisfied,
to pray there is valid.
3. Observance of priorities
Besides the main conditions, there are some recommended {mustahabb} points that are
indicative of Islam‟s attention to priorities. For example, under ordinary and non-emergency
situations the location of the one praying must not only be lawfully acquired, it must also be
stable, flat and clean. Prayer in some places is emphasized more, such as in the mosque, which
shall be dealt with later.
Focus of direction in prayer {qiblah}
Prayer is performed facing the Holy Ka„bah (in Makkah) which is called the “qiblah”. Although
God is everywhere, focusing on a single sacred point, such as the Ka„bah, inspires monotheism
and, is reminiscent of the monotheistic line of Ibrahim („a).
For a Muslim the command is final, so all prayer must be performed facing the Ka„bah,
otherwise our worship would lack the spirit of obedience {ta„abbud} and submission {taslim}
and hence be futile.
During the early period of Islam, the qiblah of the Muslims for many years was Bayt alMuqaddas (in Jerusalem). The Messenger of Allah (S) did not like the Ka„bah, which was then a
temple full of idols, to be set as the focus of direction in worship. After the migration {hijrah}
(to Madinah), however, circumstances emerged that led to the change of the Muslims‟ qiblah
from Bayt al-Muqaddas to Masjid al-Haram (in Makkah). One of the reasons behind it was the
insults and abuses suffered by the Muslims at the hands of the Jews (in Madinah), who were
saying, “You do not have a qiblah of your own and you are praying facing our qiblah.”
The Messenger of Allah (S) was distressed by this situation and waiting for a way out from God.
Until, verses of the Qur‟an were revealed with the order, “Wherever you are, henceforth, face the
Masjid al-Haram and pray.” The verses of the change of qiblah teach the Muslims throughout the
history, that they should be independent and free; that they should not debase themselves in front
of others even in matters of worship; and that they should live honorably with an identity of their
This command of the change of qiblah also served as a trial for the Muslims—to identify those
who are totally obedient and subservient to the commands of God and the Prophet (S), and those
who always question and complain.
Besides facing the Ka„bah while praying or reading the Qur‟an, it is better for Muslims to face
the Ka„bah while sleeping and eating; while slaughtering animals by placing them with faces
toward the qiblah, otherwise their meat will become unlawful {haram}. This specification of
direction in all affairs toward the ka„bah of monotheism makes it impossible for Muslims to be
negligent of God in all their daily activities.
Moreover, this specification of direction toward the Ka„bah creates a wonderful order and
stunning unity, when all Muslims, in whatever part of the world they may be, face toward that
divine point at the time of prayer. If someone from space takes a look at those who are praying
on earth, he will see numerous circles whose epicenter is the Ka„bah, and monotheism {tawhid}
as the central point in the minds, hearts and souls of Muslims.
Because of the attention to the qiblah, astronomy, geography and the detection of direction also
flourished among the Muslims.
Yes, the Ka„bah is the memento of the monotheistic struggles of Ibrahim, Isma„il and
Muhammad (may peace be upon them all). In his global uprising, Hadhrat al-Mahdi („a) will
also incline toward the Ka„bah and reform the world. It is this Ka„bah that is taken as the qiblah
of every Muslim at the time of prayer and worship.
Call to prayer {Adhan}
The recital of the call to prayer {Adhan} and iqamah is among the acts prior to the prayer and
prepares the ground for greater attention to God during prayer.
The Adhan is a silence-breaking, rhythmical, short, substantial, and constructive message which
is chanted, while repeating the most fundamental statements of faith and giving direction to the
activities of Muslims.
The Adhan is the announcement of the existence of Islam, of the beliefs and deeds of Muslims,
and a rejection of all false deities.
The Adhan is a sign of the openness of the propagation environment as well as the declaration of
the intellectual stance of Muslims in a clear and lucid manner.
This monotheistic message is the first that is whispered to the new-born child and the initial
lessons about God imparted to it. For adults, it has always acted as a warning against
The Adhan is the only sound that reaches the inhabitants of heaven.
The Adhan is a sound that makes devils flee and feel dejected.
Reciting the Adhan with a beautiful voice and listening to the Adhan at home, particularly at the
time of sickness, is strongly recommended.
In a hadith, the Messenger of Allah (S) has said:
ِ ‫َسيَأْتي َعلى ٱلن‬
.‫ض َع َفائِ ِه ْم‬
ُ ‫َّاس َزَما ٌن يَ ْت َرُكو َن ٱألَذَا َن َعلى‬
“A time will come when the people will belittle the adhan and assign it to the weak among
It is stated in a hadith that on the Day of Resurrection, when most of the people will be abased
due to shame, the callers to prayer {mu‟adhdhins} will be raised honorably with exalted statures
(lofty stations). The mu‟adhdhin has a share in the reward of those who prayed through the
agency of his Adhan.
Bilal al-Habashi was a Muslim from Africa appointed by the Messenger of Allah (S) to be the
mu‟adhdhin. When the adhan was sent down through a revelation, the Prophet (S) taught it to
Bilal who had a strong voice. That the Prophet (S) designated him to be the mu‟adhdhin has
some lessons for us, among which are the following:
1. Giving identity and honor to slaves, for Bilal was a slave who became a mouthpiece of Islam
and harbinger of the ummah;
2. Giving identity to blacks, proving that color of the skin is not a criterion {of piety};
3. Condemning the arrogant disparagement and ridicule of Bilal by the polytheists and
hypocrites, and their pretension of generosity and boasting;
4. True faith, piety and merit compensate for external shortcomings of expression. Although
Bilal used to pronounce “sh” (‫ )ش‬as “s” (‫ )س‬and had this pronunciation defect, God laid more
emphasis on his spiritual perfection and inner beauty.
Bilal was the first person in Islam to recite the adhan. He believed in the Prophet (S) at the very
beginning of the Prophetic mission and for the sake of his faith, he endured the severest tortures
under the scorching heat of the sun in the deserts of Hijaz by repeating “ahad, ahad” {(God is)
One, (God is) One}.
During the conquest of Makkah, at noontime {zuhr} Bilal also climbed on top of the Ka„bah as
ordered by the Prophet (S) and recited the adhan, after the idols were shattered.
Bilal participated in the Battles of Badr, Uhud and Khandaq.
After the Messenger of Allah (S), he did not recite the adhan for any one else. He recited the
adhan only when requested by Hadhrat Zahra („a) who missed the time of her father. While Bilal
was still halfway in his adhan, the people and Hadhrat Zahra („a) wept.
This conduct of Bilal demonstrated that the adhan must only be recited for the sake of truth and
at the time of deserving leader.
One day, „Umar (ibn al-Khattab) said to Bilal: “It was Abu Bakr who bought you and set you
free. Why do you not recite the adhan for the prayer he is leading?”
Bilal replied: “If he freed me to earn for himself the pleasure of God, I owe him nothing.
However, if he had some other motive, then I am ready to be his slave but I will never recite
the adhan for someone whose caliphate was not endorsed by the Prophet (S).”
Bilal was not even willing to recite the adhan, which is a religious message to encourage an
army which he did not recognize as being rightfully guided.
Bilal—that Ethiopian slave attained such a position under the auspices of faith that he
became the herald of the Apostle‟s (S) itinerary and the public treasurer.
If at the time of prayer, students throughout Europe and America recite the adh an, will they
not make people reflect?
This brings to mind the late Martyr Nawwab Safawi who urged his companions to recite the
adhan at noontime {zuhr} and sunset {maghrib} wherever they may be. It was this very
adhan that struck fear and terror at the heart of the taghuti system (Pahlavi monarchy). This
is the meaning of the hadith which states, “On hearing the adhan, Satan gets furious and
It is not without reason that Gladstone (a British statesman) said before the British
Parliament: “So long as the name of Muhammad is recited from the top of minarets, the
Ka„bah exists, and the Qur‟an is the guide of Muslims, it will be impossible to implement
our policies in Muslim territories.”
It is because of its rich content and constructive monotheistic dimensions that its recitation is
strongly recommended in announcing prayer.
Intention {niyyah}
Since intention {niyyah} is the criterion of value in every act including worship, it is the first
obligatory act in prayer. Considering its importance, a separate and lengthy chapter has been
included for the examination of its dimensions, with the hope that by doing so, we would
succeed in giving more value to all devotional acts.
Intention {niyyah} as the criterion of value
The element that gives importance to a person‟s action is his intention, motive or objective. So,
in the verses of the Qur‟an, the phrase “in the way of Allah” {fi sabilillah} is often used (seventy
times), and thus a warning for people to ensure that their actions and intentions be in the way of
God, and not for the sake of other than God or their own carnal desires.
Like a dangerous read in which many signboards have been set up, servitude of God is also like a
way which has many precipices; and all of these emphasizes is a warning for avoiding
deviations. This is particularly true with respect to devotional acts which without the purest of
intentions, lose all hope of seeking nearness to God.
Intention is the pillar of worship. If an action is done without intention, or has an ungodly
intention behind it, it will be invalid {batil}.
Intention is the pillar of worship and the essence and foundation of action. The most sacred acts
are spoiled because of the mixed intentions behind them, while the simplest acts gain in value on
account of the purely good intentions behind them. Anyone who strives in the way of God will
also be guided by God toward His path:
ِ َّ
﴾ ‫َّه ْم ُسبُ لَنَا‬
َ ‫ين َج‬
ُ ‫اى ُدوا فينَا لَنَ ْهديَن‬
َ ‫﴿ َوالذ‬
“As for those who strive in Us, We shall surely guide them in Our ways.”
Intention is the indispensable prerequisite for the acceptance of a deed. Imam as-Sadiq („a)
quotes a statement of God, the Exalted:
.‫صا لي‬
ً ‫لَ ْم أَقْبَ ْل إِالَّ َما َكا َن َخال‬
“I do not accept anyone except the one who is sincere to Me.”
Intention magnifies a small deed. Imam as-Sadiq („a) said:
ِ ِ ِ‫من أَراد اهلل بِالْ َقل‬
َ ‫ َو َم ْن أ ََر‬،‫اد‬
َ ‫يل م ْن َع َم ِل ِو أَظ َْه َرهُ اهللُ أَ ْكثَ َر م َّما أ ََر‬
ُ‫َّاس بِالْ َكثِي ِر م ْن َع َمل ِو أَبَى اهللُ إِالَّ أَ ْن يُ َقلّْلَو‬
َ ََ َْ
َ ‫اد ٱلن‬
.ُ‫في َع ْي ِن َم ْن َس ِم َعو‬
“Anyone who performs a small act for the sake of God, God will make it bigger than he wishes
in the sight of others. And anyone who performs a great act for the sake of people, God will
make it trivial in the sight of others.”
Yes, honor {„izzah} and disgrace {dhillah} are in the hands of God, and it is He who draws
hearts toward a person. So, one must work for Him to set works right.
For the sake of God, Hadhrat Ibrahim („a) left his wife and son in the scorching desert of Makka.
He then asked God to draw the hearts of people toward them. The Holy Qur‟an also states:
ِ َّ ِ
ِ ‫الصالِح‬
﴾ ‫ٱلر ْحم ُن ُودِّا‬
َّ ‫ات َسيَ ْج َع ُل لَ ُه ُم‬
َ َّ ‫آمنُوا َو َعملُوا‬
َ ‫ين‬
َ ‫﴿ إ َّن الذ‬
“Indeed those who have faith and do righteous deeds—the All-beneficent will endear them {to
His creation}.”
This is one of God‟s worldly rewards. Of course, God-given love is different from the fleeting
and false popularity among people. So many famous people are forgotten after their death, and
so many unknown persons remain alive in the hearts of so many people!
So, popularity must also be sought through God, as He is the Transformer of Hearts {muqallib
al-qulub} and the hearts of people are in His hands. If someone works sincerely for the sake of
God, God will compensate his sincerity in a manner beyond his expectations.
Imam as-Sadiq („a) said:
ِ ‫اهلل و الَ تُس ِكنُوا حرم‬
.‫اهلل غَْير اهلل‬
َ ‫ْب َح َرُم‬
ُ ‫أَلْ َقل‬
“The heart is the sanctuary of Allah; so do not allow anyone to dwell therein except Allah.”
Examples of sincerity {ikhlas}
Regarding an attribute of the pious {muttaqin} „Ali („a) said:
.ُ‫ال لَو‬
ُ ‫اف ِم َّما يُ َق‬
َ ‫َح ُد ُىم َخ‬
َ ‫إِذَا زّك َي أ‬
“When anyone of them is spoken of highly, he is afraid of what is said about him.”
The righteous men are afraid that the people‟s attention toward them may obstruct their attention
to God, and this is what is referred to by “alladhina yasudduna „an sabilillah”.
One night, an interview with a 16 year-old war veteran was shown on Iranian TV. The
interviewer asked: “What is your occupation?” Answer: “Detonation of land mines.” Question:
“How many mines have you detonated so far?” Answer: “By the grace of God, many.” Question:
“Do you know exactly how many?” Answer: “I am afraid to tell lest Satan inflict me with selfadmiration {„ujb} and arrogance {ghurur} and make my friends, who have detonated a smaller
number of mines, feel belittled.” Allah is the greatest {Allahu akbar}!
Another example: It has been narrated that one of the students of the late Ayatullah Sayyid „Abd
al-Hadi ash-Shirazi raised an objection about a lesson. Although the teacher calmly replied to it,
he refused to accept it. After the class session, the student stayed back to talk to the teacher and
reiterate his objection.
The late Shirazi satisfied him with 14 logical reasons. The other students, who observed the
logical strength of the teacher‟s argument, asked: “Having all these solid reasons, why did you
hesitate during the class session?”
Ayatullah Shirazi responded: “I was afraid that if I would enumerate them, the morale of your
classmate would be arbitrarily affected and I would suffer from self-admiration and arrogance. I
deemed it appropriate to let him raise his objection freely so that the courage to question should
remain intact in him.”
This demonstrates greatness of soul and purity of intention. In spite of all those services, some do
not talk about themselves while others, whenever they donate garbage can for the streets and
alleys, inscribe their names on it so that people know what they have contributed. Divine saints
act and worship God for His sake and expect nothing but His pleasure.
Each of their acts has the divine color {sibghah}, which is everlasting. And which color can be
better than divine color, which can never be erased, nor affected by heat and cold, poverty and
wealth, anonymity and popularity?
Imam „Ali („a) said:
ِ ‫أَ ْخلَص‬
َ َ‫ص ْمت‬
َ ‫ك َو َكالَ َم‬
َ ‫ك َو أَ ْخ َذ َك َو تَرَك‬
َ ْ‫ك َو بُغ‬
َ ‫ك َو ِعل َْم‬
َ َ‫هلل َع َمل‬
ُ ‫ك َو‬
“Purify your work, knowledge, anger, acceptance, refusal, speech and silence for the sake of
By means of this, deeds and their effects shall remain, and whatever has the divine reflection and
visage is everlasting: “Everything is to perish except His Face.”
And whatever is colored with ostentation and self-glorification will fade and nothing will be left
for the individual.
Sincerity in worship {„ibadah}
All acts of worship must be done with the intention of seeking nearness {qurbah} (to Allah) and
if a part of them is for the sake of other than God, they all become invalid. For example, if one of
the obligatory acts in prayer is done for the sake of other than God, the entire prayer becomes
If one of the supererogatory acts is also done ostentatiously, or the time of worship (performance
at its first and best period), or its place (in the first row or in the mosque) is for the sake of other
than God, the prayer is invalid. During winter, standing beside a heater so as to keep one‟s body
warm as well as to pray, invalidates the prayer.
God accepts an act which is pure and sincere in terms of its location and time requirements,
quality and peculiarity, and in which no partner is associated with Him:
“And not associate anyone with the worship of his Lord.”
It is stated in a hadith, thus: “If a warrior goes to war for the sake of bigotry {ta„assub},
acquisition of war booties, or show of strength and bravery, and the like, his struggle has no
Sincerity, or freedom from ostentation is crucial for acceptance. In a hadith Imam al-„Askari („a)
said: “The penetration of polytheism {shirk} in the works of man is more subtle than the
movement of an ant on a dark night on a black rock.”
There are many succinct aphorisms on sincerity by „Ali („a). Here are just some of them:
“Pure intention is the ideal end and final aim.”
“Sincerity is righteousness.”
“Faith means purification of one‟s work.”
“Purity is the highest stage of faith.”
“All efforts are naught except that which has sincerity.”
“The fruit of knowledge is purity of action.”
“The acceptance and exaltation of deeds depends on sincerity.”
“If intentions are pure, actions acquire loftiness and exaltation.”
“He who is sincere (in his work) shall realize his aspirations.”
And there are still many hadiths that indicate the sublime status that sincerity and pure intention
give to actions and deeds in this world and in the hereafter.
Worldly effects of intention
Apart from otherworldly rewards and spiritual benefits, sincerity also has some worldly effects,
which we shall examine below:
1. Management of the society
If the administrators of society conduct their affairs with goodness of intention and sincerity,
better results can be achieved and justice can be observed. „Ali („a) said to Malik al-Ashtar: “For
the implementation of social justice, seek assistance from the people with good intentions .”
The spirit of sincere benevolence is the strongest foundation for the implementation of justice.
2. Improvement of economic conditions
Kind-hearted, benevolent and sincere individuals are more successful even in economic and
occupational affairs, and their sincerity supports social prestige, customer attraction and people‟s
trust in dealing with them. Perhaps, this statement of „Ali („a) is related to this issue, “The
sustenance of every person is commensurate with his intention.”
3. Good social relations
Good-natured and well-intentioned persons are held in high esteem by people, and even if they
commit a mistake, their lives will not become bitter and the people will still love them because of
their sincerity and goodness of intention. „Ali („a) has said: “Anyone who has good intentions
has a greater chance of success, while his life is purer, and it is necessary to befriend him.”
This is the amazing effect of righteous intention. On the contrary, if intentions are wicked and
mischievous, their consequences will affect the person himself, and in addition to otherworldly
consequences, social calamities will also follow. „Ali („a) says: “When the intention is corrupt,
affliction will come.”
Firm intentions and good motives will get important work done even from those who are
considered incapable. If the motive is strong and divine, there will be no apathy, hesitation, or
despair. For this reason, depression and cowardice cannot be observed in any of the divine saints,
even in their old age, because their hearts and souls were replete with pure, divine intentions,
seeking help from God in all predicaments and crises, against all enemies and powers. An
illustrious example is the Imam of the ummah (may his soul be sanctified) who with a tranquil
heart in constant remembrance of God forced the superpowers to surrender.
On the day of „Ashura‟, in spite of facing the martyrdoms of his beloved ones and foreseeing the
inhuman treatment of his family, the more Imam al-Husayn („a) became isolated, the more his
countenance became illuminated with the fire of love, totally relying on God and saying: “That
which makes these severities easy for me is that I can see everything in the Presence of God, and
He watches and bears witness.”
Imam „Ali („a) has said: “When intention is strong and firm, the body will not become weary.”
Perhaps, this refers to the psychological and emotional effects of intention in man‟s conduct and
Intention as an action {„amal}
The decision to do good deeds and to have good intentions releases man from a state of
indifference, and it has a value equal to the act itself, in addition to the divine reward for it.
The Messenger of Allah (S) said to Abu Dharr: “Resolve to perform noble deeds. Even if you
fail in doing so, at least you will not be included among the negligent.”
And Imam as-Sadiq („a) said: “A good deed will be recorded in favor of anyone who decides to
do something good but fails to do so.”
Concerning the aspiration to attain martyrdom, the Prophet of Islam (S) said: “Anyone who, out
of sincerity and uprightness, prays for martyrdom, God will include him in the company of
martyrs on the Day of Resurrection even if he dies in bed.”
Intention as compensation for deficiencies
Since the knowledge, power and faculties of man are limited, he cannot acquire all he wants. But
intention fills the gap between “man‟s endless needs” and his “limited faculties”. For example, if
someone intends and wishes to guide all the misguided people around him and strives hard to do
so but fails, he will be rewarded for the said intention.
On the other hand, bad intentions go beyond time and place circumstances, and affect the doer of
evil deeds. If a person accepts the corruption, sin and tyranny of others and is pleased with them,
he shares their sins.
The Holy Qur‟an attributes the killing of the she-camel of Hadhrat Salih („a), that was a divine
miracle, to all those who opposed him. Although all of them did not have a hand in the said
crime, they were pleased with the act.
So, to be pleased with a good or evil act carries man beyond time and space and lets him share in
its reward or consequence. And this fact has been mentioned in numerous traditions.
Ways of acquiring sincerity
Some of the ways of acquiring sincerity in intention and action are as follows:
1. Attention to values
Those who sell their commodity cheaply, do not realize its worth because they fail to identify the
commodity as iron or gold, silk or cotton; they do not recognize the customer; and they are
unaware of the commodity‟s current market price. The Glorious Qur‟an has guided man in all
three areas so that he does not sell his valuable commodity at a throw-away price:
“Commodity”: The Qur‟an regards man as the vicegerent {khalifah} of God as well as the
essence and aim of creation—the highest status.
“Customer”: It is God Himself who buys man‟s excellent deeds and He offers the best bargains
compared to other customers:
1. He pays the most (in return for the Paradise);
2. He accepts small deeds;
3. He rewards good intentions; and
4. He conceals wicked and corrupt acts and manifests good deeds.
“Price”: The price of man is paradise and divine pleasure, and anyone who sells himself for less,
actually incurs a loss. And in the words of the Qur‟an, the sinners have lost and gambled
themselves away {khasaru anfusihim}.
The Qur‟an has always mentioned those who are going astray with the description, “famara
bihat tijaratuhum,” i.e. their business has acquired no gain.
Imam „Ali („a) also said:
ُّ ‫س ٱل َْم ْت َج ُر أَ ْن تَرى‬
.‫ك ثَ َمنًا‬
َ ‫ٱلدنْيَا لِنَ ْف ِس‬
َ ‫لَب ْئ‬
“What a bad business it is that you would regard the world as your price and rate!”
If man is aware of his price, he will not work for the sake of other than God.
2. Reflecting on creation
Reflecting on creation enhances our cognition of the grandeur and power of God, and as a result,
we direct our deeds toward Him with greater sincerity and purity of intention.
3. Attention to the Attributes of God
Learning, reciting and remembering the Attributes of God, the Exalted, keeps our focus in the
right direction, detaches us from all besides Him, and gradually elevates us. For example,
examining closely the Names and Attributes of God in the Jawshan Kabir Supplication can be a
truly great purifying experience.
4. Attention to His blessings
Recognizing the blessings of God and paying attention to them draw man toward God and make
his heart the sanctuary of His love. For this reason, In Islamic supplications and litanies of the
Infallibles („a) these favors have been repeatedly mentioned and recollected.
For instance, in the Abu Hamzah ath-Thumali Supplication, Imam as-Sajjad („a) enumerates the
blessings one by one:
O God! I was small but You made me big;
I was contemptible but You gave me honor;
I was ignorant but You made me aware;
I was hungry but You fed me;
I was naked but You covered me;
I was misguided but You guided me;
I was indigent but You made me free of want;
I was sick but You healed me;
I committed sin but You concealed it.
And the list is endless. Imam al-Husayn („a) also embarks on mentioning the blessings of God in
the Du„a‟ al-„Arafah so that the love of God remains alive in his heart, and all his work is purely
for His sake and pleasure.
5. Attention to the sure gain
Those who strive for the sake of the world and other than God may or may not attain their
objective. The gain and outcome of the works of those who strive in the way of God and the
hereafter, however, are certain. The Glorious Qur‟an states:
ِ ‫﴿ و من أَراد ٱأل‬
﴾ ‫ورا‬
َ ِ‫َخ َرةَ َو َس َعى لَ َها َس ْعيَ َها َو ُى َو ُم ْؤِم ٌن فَأ ُْولَئ‬
ََ َْ َ
ً ‫ك َكا َن َس ْعيُ ُهم َّم ْش ُك‬
“Whoever desires the Hereafter and strives for it with an effort worthy of it, should he be
faithful—the endeavor of such will be well-appreciated.”
Then the effort and worship in the way of God surely gives result.
6. Attention to worthlessness of the world
Those who have worldly and other-than-God objectives value the world more than its actual
worth. There are expressions in the Holy Qur‟an which mention the worthlessness, deceptive
nature, transitory and arrogance-generating quality of the world, such as,“mata„u‟l-ghurur,”
“la„ibun wa lahwun,” “zahrat al-hayat ad-dunya‟ ” and “mata„u‟d-dunya qalilun”.
Such are the expressions of the Creator of the universe who knows the nature of the world better
than anybody else. He, who is not seduced and charmed by the world and does not desire it, is
the one who will attain purity.
7. Attention to impotence of created beings
Absolute power belongs to God Almighty and none other than Him. Therefore, anyone who is
created by God is not worthy of being the focus of attention or worship.
In the expression of the Glorious Qur‟an, the false deities are incapable of creating even a single
fly. And concerning the impotence of mankind, it states:
ِ ‫﴿ و من أَراد ٱأل‬
﴾ ‫ورا‬
َ ِ‫َخ َرةَ َو َس َعى لَ َها َس ْعيَ َها َو ُى َو ُم ْؤِم ٌن فَأ ُْولَئ‬
ََ َْ َ
ً ‫ك َكا َن َس ْعيُ ُهم َّم ْش ُك‬
“Whoever desires the Hereafter and strives for it with an effort worthy of it, should he be
faithful—the endeavor of such will be well-appreciated.”
In another place, it poses these questions:
ِ ِ‫﴿قُل أَرأَيْتُم إِ ْن جعل اللَّوُ َعلَْي ُكم اللَّْيل سرم ًدا إِلَى ي وِم ال ِْقيام ِة من إِلَوٌ غَْي ر اللَّ ِو يأْتِي ُكم ب‬
‫ضيَ ٍاء ۖ أَفَ َال تَ ْس َمعُو َن‬
ْ َ َ َ َْ
َْ َ َ ُ
ْ َ
َ ََ ْ َ ْ
‫َّه َار َس ْرَم ًدا إِلَى يَ ْوم ال ِْقيَ َام ِة َم ْن إِلَوٌ غَْي ُر اللَّ ِو يَأْتِي ُك ْم بِلَْي ٍل تَ ْس ُكنُو َن ِف ِيو ۖ أَفَ َال‬
َ ‫قُ ْل أ ََرأَيْتُ ْم إِ ْن َج َع َل اللَّوُ َعلَْي ُك ُم الن‬
ِ ‫تُ ْب‬
﴾‫ص ُرو َن‬
“Say, „Tell me, if Allah were to make the night perpetual over you until the Day of
Resurrection, what god other than Allah could bring you light? Will you not then listen?‟ Say,
„Tell me, if Allah were to make the day perpetual over you until the Day of Resurrection, what
god other than Allah could bring you night wherein you could rest? Will you not then
Even those who have been associated with God as His partners can do nothing in the world and
in the hereafter. Those who are worshipping deities other than God on the Day of Resurrection
they will regret pleasing those who were impotent and powerless.
In addition, pleasing the One and Only God who is “easy to be pleased” {sari„ ar-Rida} is easier
than pleasing numerous deities and countless objects of worship which involve many difficulties.
8. Learning from the experiences of others
Many of those who focused their attention on other than God, met a painful and dismal fate.
Taking one look at their fate can teach man the futility of worshipping anyone other than God.
The son of Nuh (Noah) („a) who turned his back on God and relied on the mountain‟s height to
be saved from the flood was helplessly drowned in the great deluge.
Qarun (Korah) did not pay heed to the sincere invitation of Hadhrat Musa (Moses) („a) and took
pride in his abundant wealth, but he was miserably swallowed by the earth and none of his
supporters was able to rescue him:
“So We caused the earth to swallow him and his dwelling place. Then he had no host to help
him against Allah, nor was he of those who can save themselves.”
Many rich and affluent garden owners went away and left behind all the things they had
accumulated. All their wealth was of no avail.
“How many gardens and springs did they leave behind! Fields and splendid places, and the
bounties wherein they rejoiced!”
God exposed and unveiled the true nature of so many who deceptively showed themselves for
sometime to be sincere and pious:
“And Allah brought forth that which you were hiding.”
Those who want to dupe the people and deceive God by means of ostentation and pretension, the
divine scheme will encompass them and they will be exposed. There are numerous examples of
such people. Their end is instructive for anyone who wishes to keep aloof from pretension and
9. Attention to final end of hypocrites in the hereafter
The Holy Qur‟an regards the fire of hell as meant for pretentious worshippers who are actually
careless about their prayers.
It is stated in a hadith that on the Day of Resurrection, the dissembler will be called by four
names: unbeliever {kafir}, impious {fajir}, traitor {ghadir}, and loser {khasir}.
He will be called kafir because in terms of belief, he has not taken God into account.
He will be named fajir since flouting God‟s commands is going beyond the purpose of creation.
He will be labeled ghadir for being deceptive.
He will be branded khasir, for the outcome of his whole lifetime was nothing.
Then, it shall be said to them: “Your deeds were invalid and thus have no corresponding rewards.
Today, get your rewards from those for the sake of whose pleasure you were working.”
Therefore, attention to the regret of dissemblers in the hereafter, brings man nearer to sincerity.
Sound intentions
Purity of intention and the motive of seeking nearness {qurbah} to God can assume various
forms. Of course, some forms are more valuable than others. Some of these forms are as follows:
1. Fear of the Divine Station and Court
Doing good and avoiding evil is sometimes due to fear of hell and hardships on the Day of
Resurrection. Regarding the Commander of the Faithful and Hadhrat Fatimah‟s („a) sincere act
of feeding the helpless, the orphan and the prisoner, the Glorious Qur‟an states:
ِ ُ ‫﴿ إِنَّا نَ َخ‬
﴾ ‫وسا قَ ْمطَ ِر ًيرا‬
ً ُ‫وما َعب‬
ً َ‫اف م ْن َربّْنَا ي‬
“Indeed we fear from our Lord a day, frowning and fateful.”
2. Hope for reward
Divine reward is also a sound intention for worship. The Holy Qur‟an has also mentioned in
hundreds of verses the pleasures of paradise as a reward for the righteous ones. In numerous
traditions, otherworldly rewards for righteous deeds have also been mentioned, and these
rewards generate motives in man.
3. Gratitude for blessings
Gratitude for the infinite blessings of God is also one of the righteous intentions in worship. „Ali
(„a) has said:
ِِ ِ
.‫صى ُش ْكراً لِنِ ْع َمتِ ِو‬
ٰ ‫ب اَل يػُ ْع‬
ٰ ‫لَ ْو ََلْ يػَتَػ َو ِّع َد اهللُ َع‬
ُ ‫لى َم ْعصيَتو لَكا َن ََي‬
“Even if Allah had not warned of chastisement those disobedient to Him, it was obligatory by
way of gratitude for his favors that He should not be disobeyed.”
4. Modesty {haya‟}
Sometimes, the motive for the performance or abandonment of an act is to avoid feeling ashamed
before God. When man believes in the Presence of God in the universe and recognizes Him as
Witness over him, he will not cheat and commit sins out of respect for God. It is stated in a
hadith, thus:
َ ‫ فَِإ ْن لَ ْم تكن تَ َراهُ فَِإنَّوُ يَ َر‬،ُ‫ك تَراه‬
َ َّ‫أَ ْعبُ ُد اهللَ َكأَن‬
“Worship God as if you can see Him. Even if you cannot see Him, He can surely see you.”
5. Love of God
Those worshippers whose worship is motivated by love and affection and who believe that God
is worthy of being worshipped are few and far between. The Commander of the Faithful („a)
said, as recorded in Nahj al-Balaghah: “A group of people worship God out of desire for reward;
this is the worship of traders. Another group worships God out of fear; this is the worship of
slaves. Yet another group worships God out of gratitude; this is the worship of free men.” About
himself he stated in litanies {munajat}: “O God! I found You worthy of worship and I
worshipped You.”
On the Day of Resurrection, human beings will be raised up according to their intentions. The
Messenger of Allah (S) has said: “Verily, the people will be resurrected on the basis of their
The university of wisdom {hikmah}
Sincerity {ikhlas} is a quality the practice of which results in wisdom {hikmah} par excellence
within a period of forty days, after which an unbelievable stage of insight {basirah} and
certainty {yaqin} will be:
ِ ِ ‫اْلِك‬
ِ ِ ِ ِ‫من أَخلَص الْع‬
.‫لى لِسانِو‬
ْ ‫صباحاً ظَ َه‬
ٰ ‫ْم َة م ْن قَػ ْلبِو َع‬
َ َ ْ َْ
َ ْ ‫بادة هلل أ َْربَع‬
َ ‫ي‬
ُ َ‫رت ي‬
َ ْ ‫نابيع‬
“He who sincerely worships Allah for forty days, springs of wisdom shall flow from his heart to
his tongue.”
The root of sincerity
The fact that one is suffering from ostentation means that one has not yet attained the stage of
certainty {yaqin} and faith.
Imam „Ali („a) said: “Sincerity is the product of certainty.”
It is possible for man to have knowledge of God, the hereafter, spiritual reward, etc. but as long
as knowledge has not reached the stage of certainty and faith, it will not have the necessary
effect. Everybody knows that the dead are incapable of doing anything, but in spite of this
knowledge, so many are afraid of a corpse.
Although a pretender is possibly aware of God, the Day of Resurrection, accountability and the
book of deeds, since, his awareness has not reached the stage of certainty he will go away from
sincerity. This certainty. is also available through worship. The Holy Qur‟an states:
ِ َ ‫ك حتَّى يأْتِي‬
﴾ ‫ين‬
َ َ َ َ َّ‫﴿ َوا ْعبُ ْد َرب‬
ُ ‫ك الْيَق‬
“And worship your Lord until certainty (or death) comes to you.”
If we are certain that the universe has the Presence of God; that honor and disgrace are in His
hand; and that the world and its manifestations are trivial, fleeting and deceptive assets, we will
be drawn toward sincerity in action.
Signs of sincerity
There are so many who regard themselves as “sincere” in intention and action, but if they
examine themselves closely, they will find ungodly intentions in their actions. Therefore, we
shall point out some signs of sincerity on the basis of the Qur‟an and hadith:
1. Not expecting anything from others
A pertinent example which the Glorious Qur‟an mentions is Hadhrat „Ali and Fatimah‟s („a) act
of feeding the needy. Imam al-Hasan and Imam al-Husayn („a) fell ill during childhood. The
Prophet (S) and a group of the companions went to pay him a visit and recommended to „Ali („a)
to make a vow {nadhr} for their sons‟ recovery. „Ali and Fatimah („a) vowed to fast for three
consecutive days if their children recovered.
Their two children recovered by the Grace of God. In fulfillment of their vow, „Ali and Fatimah
(„a) fasted. These two personages could hardly find bread to bake at home. At the time of
breaking the fast {iftar} on the first day, a blind man came and knocked at their door. They gave
him their food, and broke their fast with water.
The same happened on the second and third day. The couple, who had fasted for three days
without any food visited the Prophet while turning pale. Surah ad-Dahr (or al-Insan) was
revealed about them which points out this sincere act:
ِ ِ ِ
﴾ ‫ورا‬
ً ‫اء َو الَ ُش ُك‬
ً ‫﴿ إنَّ َما نُطْع ُم ُكم ل َو ْجو اهلل الَ نُ ِري ُد م ْن ُكم َج َز‬
“{Saying,} „We feed you only for the sake of Allah. We do not want any reward from you nor
any thanks.”
They offered food out of sincerity and solely for the sake of God; feeding the poor was routine
with them; they gave the food they liked; they were never tired of guests or beggars nor did they
get them annoyed with; and they also did not expect any token of gratitude from them.
It is possible for man to do something sometimes without any monetary benefit, but he would
like to advertise what he has done in the community.
Sometimes, a person says that he is not expecting any compensation but his heart actually yearns
for it.
Sometimes, if one‟s good deeds and activities are not acknowledged, he feels discouraged and
annoyed, and if a gesture of gratitude is not rendered, he will nurse a grudge.
These are signs of the absence of sincerity. Sincere is he, in whose performance of duty,
criticism and appreciation of the people have no effect, and he fulfills his duty whether the
people know it and express appreciation for it, or remain uninformed of it.
2. Focusing on duty, not title
Another sign of sincerity is that one is looking for an action which is necessary, an obligation
undone, though it does not entail money, title and fame, and will not increase his welfare, income
and social standing; for example, rendering service in deprived regions or small and far-off
villages and areas with bad climate, or engage in necessary works which do not have much social
prestige but are obligatory.
Once, during my youth, I had classes with children and adolescents. Along the way, if
youngsters joined me, I would feel some sense of pride, but if kids followed me, I would feel
somewhat embarrassed. I used to pass by a small marketplace. One day, an illiterate old man
came out of a store and said to me: “Are you teaching for the sake of God?” I was sure that I
was, since I was not receiving money for it, so I confidently replied: “Yes.”
He said: “If you are really teaching for the sake of God, then be aware that the God of children
and that of adolescents and youngsters is one and the same, and if they call you “teacher of
children” and “children story-teller ” you should not be annoyed.”
The statement of that old man was divine enlightenment for me. It taught me that the Lord of the
rich and famous and that of the poor and needy is one and the same. I sincerely wish we all reach
such a stage where we consider it equally prestigious to participate in the assembly of the famous
and that of the unknown; to study alongside popular personages and unsung individuals; to
render service in prestigious centers or common centers; to teach at the simple and elementary
level or at a higher level of learning; where we expect honor from God alone and not through
money, fame, material assets, hats, and position!
3. Having no regrets
Anyone who works for God and does not expect anything from others will never feel regret if his
deeds do not achieve the ideal goal because working for the sake of God leads to rewards,
irrespective of their worldly outcome.
If you visit a believer or a sick person for the sake of God, and not find him at home, you are not
supposed to regret going because you gained your own reward for it.
If we feel regret everyday for paying respects, entertaining others, rendering services, and
offering assistance, we ought to reconsider our “motive of seeking nearness to God”.
4. Treating receptivity and heedlessness as one
In the performance of duty, it should not matter to those sincere whether the people welcome
them or treat them with how are no importance. For them, criticism and appreciation are the
same. If a person is elated by the reception of the people and discouraged by their heedlessness,
it shows a lack of sincerity in him.
Of course, one may justify that being elated is for the reason that the people are gathered in truth,
while being discouraged is for the fact that the people are lukewarm with respect to religion and
faith. But beyond this justification, one must examine what is in one‟s heart.
The Commander of the Faithful („a) has said: “The pretender has three signs. If alone, he is
languid and indolent. If he is with the people, he has enthusiasm (in worship and action). If he is
appreciated by them he works more, but if he is neglected, he works less.”
May God relieve us from this sort of dangerous sickness and not make us like those physicians
who die of the same ailment of which they are specialists! And may it not happen in spite of
writing about sincerity, we depart from this world drenched in pretension {riya‟} and polytheism
5. Consistency of motive and action
A sincere person is devoted to divine duty and obligation, and not deterred by conditions and
circumstances. He performs his duty constantly and persistently, and does not get tired of
repeating it thousands of times. Physical weakness or old age may decrease his labor, but his
fervor and motive remain unchanged.
6. Lack of wealth and position does not hinder
For a sincere person, wealth and position are not hindrances in the performance of his duty. He
sacrifices his desires and needs, and if necessary, even his life in the fulfillment of his duty. If
attachment to wealth, position, relatives, and friends becomes a hindrance to his performance,
sincerity will depart. The Holy Qur‟an states:
“If your fathers and your sons, your brethren, your spouses, and your kinsfolk, the
possessions that you have, the business you fear may suffer, and the dwellings you are fond of,
are dearer to you than Allah and His Apostle and to waging jihad in His way, then wait until
Allah issues His edict.”
The sincere person is not a captive of place, time, spouse, residence and his self. He only strives
to please God.
It has been narrated that a rider and his horse arrived at a stream. The man did everything, he even
whipped the animal but the horse would not step into the water. The man stepped into the water
and pulled the horse‟s bridle but the horse still refused. A sage who was present there said: “Mount
the horse and muddy the water with your stick and spade and them the horse will cross.” He did so
and the horse crossed the stream without any problem.
The rider asked the reason for the wise man‟s advice. The wise man replied: “As the horse could
see its reflection in the limpid water of the stream, it was not willing to step on its face. But since
the water was disturbed, the horse crossed the stream!”
Yes, those who are self-centered and inclined toward wealth, position, children and occupation
for themselves cannot be sincere, because in the path of sincerity everything must be sacrificed.
7. Oneness of the apparent and the hidden
Under certain circumstances or in the presence of certain people, a person may do certain things
that are contrary to his inner and personal state. This is a type of ostentation. „Ali („a) said: “One
who is as honest in his secret activities as in overt deeds and whose words and actions suit, is the
person who has faithfully discharged the duty laid down upon him by the Lord, has honestly
handed over the things entrusted to him, and has sincerely obeyed Allah only to achieve His
favors and blessings.”
The sincere person discharges his duty in the way of God without taking into account the
satisfaction and pleasure of anyone in particular, and he is also not afraid of any censure:
ِ ‫﴿ يج‬
ِ ِ‫اى ُدو َن فِي َسب‬
﴾ ‫يل الل ِّو َوالَ يَ َخافُو َن لَ ْوَمةَ آلئِ ٍم‬
“Wage jihad in the way of Allah, not fearing the blame of any blamer.”
8. Without factional bigotry
Sincerity leads man to strive untiringly all the time and in, at all places. Without sincerity,
however, factional bigotry and partisanship take over. His attachment and prejudice with a
certain group might tend to make him active and enthusiastic, however if he becomes respect to
biased against, that group he may loses his zeal, and may even retire and seclude himself, or
worse, oppose and sabotage it.
A sincere person is not confined and limited to a certain group and does not practice factional
bigotry. If he identifies a certain group to be linked with falsehood, he will keep away from it.
He keeps himself aloof from group-worship and polytheistic prejudice presented as tribalism,
regionalism and factionalism (which are incompatible with the spirit of sincerity).
The Holy Qur‟an declares:
ِ ‫ت ٱلنَّصارى لَْيس‬
ِ َ‫ت ٱلنَّصارى َعلى ش ٍئ و قَال‬
ِ ‫ود لَْيس‬
﴾ ‫ت ٱلْيَ ُهود على ش ٍئ‬
َ ُ ‫﴿ َو قَالَت ٱلْيَ ُه‬
“The Jews say, „The Christians stand on nothing,‟ and the Christians say, „The Jews stand on
Of course, if a party, group or organization is on the path of truth, it must be supported. It means
that one‟s falsehood must not be seen as “truth” while the truth of others must not be reckoned as
9. Pursuit of important works undone
If there is sincerity and dedication in work, a person will look for necessary and undone works
whose absence is felt and nobody has done them as they do not entail fame and money, or are not
regarded as important.
Glass, cabinet and curtain are as important for a building, as they are for a bathroom and toilet.
In a table spread, food, meat and others are needed and so is salt. Sincere persons have no
inhibition in doing undone works, whether they are small or great, and they believe that
sometimes, God blesses and gives great impact to sincerely performed, small good deeds.
When „Allamah Sayyid Muhammad Husayn at-Tabataba‟i arrived in Qum from the Islamic
seminary {hawzah „ilmiyyah} in Najaf (in Iraq), he observed that there were a lot of classes on
jurisprudence and its principles {fiqh wa usul al-fiqh}, but there was no mention of any lessons
in exegesis {tafsir} of the Qur‟an or philosophy.
Therefore, he started teaching these two branches of knowledge. Although, out of good intention,
some individuals protested, saying that doing so is incompatible with the prestige of the future
religious authority {marja„ at-taqlid}, he continued teaching tafsir and philosophy and
considered them expedient and necessary for the Islamic seminary, and he wrote the
monumental, Al-Mizan fi Tafsir al-Qur‟an.
Yes, divine grace depends on the sincerity of individuals and not on the title of the position that
they occupy.
10. Desisting from error
The fact that one persists it error shows his lack of sincerity. If a sincere person realizes that
there is a better way, he will desist from the wrong way, or entrust the work to the better worker.
There are so many who are in error for sometime, but when the error is pointed out to them, they
are not willing to change for they regard doing so as a sort of defeat. While, persistence in error
is an ever more serious defeat. Sincere individuals have a sublime spirit and a great capacity to
accept truth, and their magnanimity deters them from yielding to all kinds of dishonorable
egoistic actions.
Outcome of sincerity
Man‟s sincere connection with God is accompanied by the luminosity of disposition, purity of
inner self and insight, which guide him in the twists and turns of life as well as impasses and
Imam „Ali („a) said: “When sincerity enters the heart, it is accompanied by glow and
This is the same “furqan” {criterion} that the Holy Qur‟an regards as a result of God-wariness
﴾ ً‫﴿ إِن تَتَّ ُقواْ الل َّو يَ ْج َعل لَّ ُك ْم فُ ْرقَانا‬
“If you are wary of Allah, He shall appoint a criterion for you.”
It also argues that if you are conscious of God, He will bestow a light on you which will light
your way:
﴾ ‫شو َن بِ ِو‬
ُ ‫ورا تَ ْم‬
ً ُ‫﴿ َويَ ْج َعل ل ُك ْم ن‬
“And give you a light to walk by.”
Sincerity, God-wariness and keeping away from carnal desire have an outcome that enhances the
clear-sightedness of man and leads him from the darkness of polytheism, ignorance {jahl} and
capricious desire to the atmosphere of light, monotheism and knowledge. He who has sincerity
will attain felicity and success.
Sincerity has extraordinary value and at the same time, it is so difficult. In the supplications at
dawn during the month of Ramadhan, Imam as-Sajjad („a) prays to God to remove hypocrisy
{nifaq} from the heart, and ostentation {riya‟} from the act.
In the Du„a‟ al-„Arafah, Imam al-Husayn („a) also beseeches God to bestow sincerity in action.
Sincerity in the context of society
Ideal and valuable sincerity must be in the context of society, among the people, and accompanied
by social responsibilities and activities. Some erroneously identify sincerity with isolation and
seclusion, away from people. God brings about pure and wholesome milk from food and blood.
The sincere person must also keep himself pure in the midst of an impure and corrupt environment,
and free his actions from ostentation, and succeed. Such sincerity is valuable and important.
The sincere person {mukhlis} sets himself at the disposal of God, makes his heart the sanctuary of
this love, and allows divine motives to guide all his actions and behavior, and in doing so, he
attains honor and nobility.
Let‟s Engage in Prayer!
After intention {niyyah} which is the decision to perform the act of worship for the sake of God
and to establish prayer with the aim of seeking nearness to Allah, we embark on the prayer itself.
Along with “presence of heart” {hudhur-e qalbi}, mental preparation and total attention to the
Lord, we recite the takbir, “Allahu akbar” {God is the greatest}. This attentiveness and presence
of heart serves as the spirit of prayer.
“Allahu Akbar” {God is the greatest}
God is superior and greater than we think and imagine, and superior than what our pens and
tongues can describe. His grandeur is beyond our understanding, cognition and comprehension.
Whatever He wills is realized immediately. His command is obeyed. He created the universe
with its natural phenomena and human beings from nothing. He nourishes and guides everything,
and the life and existence of all living species (plants and animals) are in His hand. To Him is the
return of all things created by Him.
It is He who dispenses with honor and disgrace. He is self-sufficient but everything depends on
Him. He fashions man in the womb of his mother. He endows guided instincts in his nature
{fitrah} as a trust. He heals the sick. He gives strength to the weak. Everything is perishable and
passes away except His Essence.
On the Day of Resurrection, the reckoning, book account, reward, and punishment are done by
Him. It will be manifest on that day that power belongs to Him and all others can do nothing, and
those who turned their faces to other than Him are lost and defeated.
Our prayer commences with the Name of that Magnificent Lord.
After the intention, we recite the takbirat al-ihram, which signifies the commencement of our
Allahu akbar!
Allahu akbar is the crux of our school‟s {maktab} belief {„aqidah}.
Prayer begins with Allahu akbar and ends with rahmat Allah {mercy of God}.
Prayer needs attention of the heart as well as eulogy and salutation of the tongue. We listen to the
praises and invocations, while we worship with the movements of our bodily limbs and organs.
Prayer begins with the Name of Allah, and it is not like the idol-worshippers, taghutis and
Christians who begin their activity with the name of their idols, the taghuts and kings or Jesus
Prayer is accompanied by Allahu akbar, which announces, the invalidity of all falsehoods and
futile powers, and is repeated eighty five times throughout the daily obligatory and
recommended prayers.
It is also uttered as a recommended act under various labels.
This slogan is repeated during prayers and the secret behind our growth in spiritual dimensions
lies in the very repetitions.
God is greater than everything!
God is greater the one who is compared with others.
He is greater than human comprehension, the claims of others, the insinuations of Satan, and the
visages of the world.
If Allahu akbar springs forth from the depth of our souls and on the basis of faith and belief, the
world and its temptations, the splendor of power and its manifestations, will become trivial and
insignificant in our sight.
His Pleasure will become superior to everything else.
Imam as-Sadiq („a) says that when you utter takbir at the beginning of prayer, everything except
God must be insignificant in your sight, and if not, it shall be said: „You are a liar!‟
If in the mind of the one praying there is someone greater, he will be considered a liar, just as the
hypocrites {munafiqun} used to verbally bear witness to the apostleship of the Messenger of
Allah (S), but they had no faith in what they were saying. God described them as liars:
“And Allah bears witness that the hypocrites are indeed liars.”
Because such duality of speech and belief is hypocrisy. As such, the same Imam („a) says: “God
addresses such worshippers, saying: “Are you deceiving and duping Me? By My Honor and
Glory! I shall deprive you of nearness to Me, the sweetness of remembering {dhikr} Me, and the
pleasure of My litanies.”
After narrating this hadith, the late Faydh Kashani says:
Whenever you attain the pleasure and sweetness of litanies during prayer, be aware that your
takbir is accepted and confirmed by God, the Exalted, and if it is not, you will feel that God has
expelled you from His Court, does not confirm your utterance, and regards you as a liar.”
Yes, God is the greatest!
Anyone who professes such belief will, like the Great Leader of the Islamic Revolution (Imam
Khomeini) (may his soul be sanctified), says even to the US as such: “It cannot do a damn
„Ali („a) considers it as part of the attributes of the pious ones {muttaqin}:
ِ ِ
.‫اد ْونَوُ فِي أَ ْعيُنِ ِهم‬
ُ ‫صغَُر َم‬
َ َ‫َعظُ َم ٱلْ َخال ُق في أَنْ ُفس ِهم ف‬
“The greatness of the Creator is seated in their heart, and so, everything else appears small in
their eyes.”
Surah al-Hamd
In every prayer, the recital of Surah al-Hamd (or al-Fatihah) is necessary. It is the surah
{chapter} that describes God as the Creator and Nourisher of the universe, Most Beneficent and
Most Merciful, Master of the Day of Judgment, followed by a declaration of worshipping only
Him, and beseeching only Him for His help and guidance in treading the straight path.
Now, we shall discuss the highlights of this surah:
Bismillahi‟r-rahmani‟r-rahim {In the Name of Allah, the All-beneficent, the All-merciful}
We begin with the name and help of the All-beneficent and All-merciful God.
He is the Lord whose compassion encompasses all and whose kindness is universal and
everlasting. Others have either no compassion, or their compassion is limited, or their aim is not
to be compassionate. But in the case of God, even His act of creating all beings is based on grace
and kindness:
﴾ ‫ك َو لِذلِك َخ َل َِقَ ُهم‬
َ ُّ‫﴿ إِالَّ َم ْن َرِح َم َرب‬
“Except those on whom your Lord has mercy—and that is why He created them.”
Whoever loses the mercy of the Lord is himself responsible.
Divine mercy is all-encompassing, but sometimes, people close the door of mercy for themselves
through their false thinking and actions.
Bismillah {In the Name of Allah} at the beginning of every action is the secret code of love for
God, reliance on Him, seeking help from Him, and depending on Him.
Bismillah means holding fast and clinging to the inspiration-giving Name of God and fleeing
from the insinuations of Satan.
Bismillah has been at the beginning of all heavenly scriptures, and the prophets („a) also used to
start all their work with the name of Allah. This act sets man under the protection and care of
God and anyone who sincerely seeks refuge in God will be guided on the straight path:
ٍ ‫صر‬
ِ ِ ‫صم بِالل ِّو فَ َق ْد ُى ِد‬
ِ َ‫﴿ ومن ي ْعت‬
﴾ ‫اط ُّم ْستَ ِق ٍيم‬
َ ََ
َ ‫ي إلَى‬
“And whoever takes recourse in Allah is certainly guided to a straight path.”
Bismillah is the sign of servitude to God and dependence on Him. It is like saying: “O Lord! I
have not forgotten You. I begin every activity with Your Name. I take You as my Protecter and
drive away Satan through Your assistance.”
Imam as-Sadiq („a) said: “Bismillah is the crown of all surahs,” and it is the sign of security and
mercy. And there is no bismillah at the beginning of Surah al-Bara‟ah (or at-Tawbah) because
this surah is a declaration of disgust and disavowal for the infidels and polytheists, and this act
must not be accompanied by mercy. It is stated in the hadith that every action, be it writing a
single verse of poetry, must begin with bismillah, and that every action that is devoid of His
remembrance will not reach its conclusion.
“Al-hamdulillahi rabbi‟l-„alamin” {All praise belongs to Allah, the Lord of the worlds}
Praise and eulogy belong exclusively to God who nourishes all creatures. For the nourishment of
the physical realm, He has set the order of creation, the movement of the earth, the sun, air,
plants, seas, and material blessings.
And for the nourishment of the soul, He has designated the prophets („a), heavenly books,
pleasant and unpleasant instructive events, etc.
For the guidance of humanity, He has sent down religion and laws based on the natural
disposition {fitrah} of man, and founded on reason {„aql}. He has not left the earth without a
guide nor placed it at the disposal of man with all its apparent and hidden blessings, but ensured
the presence of a proof {hujjah} of His Ownership and Watchfulness. If a minute change and
disorder occurs in the order of creation, everything will perish.
The firm and fixed order of creation in the mountains and plants, atoms and galaxies, water and
soil, the four seasons, day and night, organs of the body, diverse instincts, and the different sets
of guidance is a perfect manifestation of His Lordship {rububiyyah} for the entire universe.
Our body organs and limbs have such wonderful precision, complexity and order that it is
amazing. The quality of the eye, ear, heart, respiratory organs, veins, nerves, the five senses,
reflects the wonderful divine design.
It is lamentable that instead of giving thanks, man is most ungrateful:
﴾ ً‫﴿ و كان النسا ُن كفورا‬
“For man was ever thankless.”
Instead of seeking nearness to God, he turns away from Him:
َ ‫﴿ اذآ أنْػ َع ْمنَا علی النسان اَ ْعَر‬
“When We bless man, he is disregardful and turns aside; but when an ill befalls him, he is
And instead of loving and worshipping God, he expresses enmity and insolence:
﴾ ‫بي‬
ٌ ‫صيم ُم‬
ٌ ‫﴿ فَاذا ُى َو َخ‬
“Behold, he is an open contender!?”
It is regrettable that instead of showing humility and reverence, he assumes an air of dignity:
﴾ ‫ك ٱلْ َك ِر ِيم‬
َ ّْ‫سا ُن َماغَ َّر َك بَِرب‬
َ ْ‫﴿ يَا أَيُّ َها ٱإلْ ِِن‬
“O man! What has deceived you about your generous Lord?”
A false feeling of self-sufficiency makes him rebel (against God):
ِْ ‫﴿ َك َّال إِ َّن‬
﴾ ‫استَ غْنَى‬
ْ ُ‫نسا َن لَيَطْغَى٭ أَن َّرآه‬
َ ‫اإل‬
“Indeed man becomes rebellious when he considers himself without need.”
And he thinks the divine blessings are the result of his own efforts:
﴾ ‫﴿ انما اوتيتُوُ علی ِعلم‬
“I have indeed been given {all} this because of the knowledge that I have.”
And he does not pay heed to the sounds of awakening:
﴾ ‫﴿ َو إِذَا ذُّْك ُروا الَ يَ ْذ ُك ُرون‬
“And {even} when admonished do not take admonition.”
This ungrateful man extends gratitude to all people for the least goodness done to him, but he
forgets God who is the main “Bestower of Favors” {wali an-ni„mah}. It is a pity that man loses
the way, puts out the light of thought {fikr} and natural disposition {fitrah}, shuts his eyes,
attaches his heart to so-and-so, and relies on human and satanic powers instead of trusting God.
The sentence, “Al-hamdulillahi rabbi‟l-„alamin” extinguishes these complacencies, reminds us
of the blessings of the Divine Lordship {rububiyyat-e ilahi}.
God is the Lord of the worlds. He is the Lord of the entire universe, all creatures, and all things:
“He is the Lord of all things,” and not in the sense of the pre-Islamic period of ignorance {yawm
al-jahiliyyah} where there was a lord and cherisher for every kind of thing {rabb an-Naw„}. God
is the Master, Manager and Administrator of all. He creates, regulates, as well as trains.
“Ar-rahmani‟r-rahim” {the All-beneficent, the All-merciful}
The extent of His universal Beneficence surrounds everything. His mercy precedes His wrath.
He has paved the way of repentance {tawbah} for the sinners, promising that He accepts
repentance even on the verge of death of the repentant, and He loves the penitent ones:
﴾ ‫ب ٱلْتَ َّوابين‬
ُّ ‫﴿ إِ َّن اهللَ يُ ِح‬
“Indeed Allah loves the pertinent.”
And He has made it incumbent upon Himself to be merciful and oft-forgiving:
ِ ‫﴿ َكتَب ربُّ ُكم على‬
﴾ ‫الرحمة‬
َّ ‫نفس ِو‬
ْ َ َ
“Your Lord has made mercy incumbent upon Himself.”
He has also made everybody hopeful and called upon them toward His mercy:
ِ ‫﴿ الَ تقنَطُوا ِمن ر ْحم ِة‬
ُّ ‫اهلل إِ َّن اهللَ يَغْ ِفر‬
﴾ ‫نوب َج ِم ًيعا‬
َ ‫ٱلذ‬
َ َ ْ
“Do not despair of the mercy of Allah. Indeed Allah will forgive all sins.”
Among the manifestations of the mercy of the Lord is that He transforms into good even the evil
ٍ َ‫ّْل اهلل سيّْئَاتِ ِهم حسن‬
﴾ ‫ات‬
َ ُ ُ ‫﴿ يُبَد‬
“Allah will replace their misdeeds with good deeds.”
Even trials, afflictions and difficulties are signs of His mercy that arouse man from the slumber
of negligence and urge him to search. Enduring the difficulties is pleasurable for the saints of
God who thank Him for those pains.
“Maliki yawmi‟d-din” {Master of the Day of Retribution}
He is the Master of the Day of Retribution. This is another Attribute of God which is exclusively
Man mostly gives thanks in three cases:
1. Attention to past favors;
2. Attention to present love; and
3. Attention to future grace.
Keeping this in view, all praise must be solely for God because He has safeguarded our past;
blessed our present with His mercy and grace; and in the future on the Day of Resurrection, all
our accounts will be with Him, so we pray for His favor and compassion.
He is the master—the Real Master!
Although human beings in the world are captives in the webs of open and hidden polytheisms,
on the Day of Judgment all will realize that the universe and everything in it belongs to Him, and
that He is the Master of the universe, Absolute Sovereign and Real Ruler:
“And all command that day will belong to Allah.”
On the Day of Resurrection, the people will be asked:
“To whom does the sovereignty belong today?”
They will answer, thus:
“To Allah, the One, the All-paramount.”
The phrase, “Maliki yawmi‟d-din” reminds man of the reckoning on the Day of Judgment so that
while he still has time he needs to improve himself.
Every time Imam as-Sajjad („a) would reach this phase in prayer, he would repeat it to such an
extent that it seemed his soul would separate from his body.
“Din” (in “Maliki yawmi‟d-din”) means retribution {jaza‟}. God is the Master of the Day of
Retribution, and Reward. In this surah, both His mercy and His wrath and justice are pointed out
so as to make clear the code of proper living, which is between fear of His Wrath and hope of
His Mercy.
“Iyyaka na„budu wa iyyaka nasta„in” {You {alone} do we worship and to You {alone} do we
turn for help}
Up to that point, the one praying verbally expressed his beliefs regarding the genesis and final
destination as well as the Attributes of God. So, the outcome of these beliefs must be sincere
servitude and asking succor from God.
Even if the one praying is alone, he recites the sentence in the plural form so as to relate himself
to the other worshippers. Perhaps, his defective worship would be accepted and considered along
with the acts of worship of the perfect, sincere and upright ones.
The collective description gives the lesson that the “I‟s” must become “we”. The edifice of
worship, prayer in particular, is founded on congregation, while individualism, isolation and
segregation are worthless.
In the same ayah, worship of Allah alone has been coupled with seeking help from Him alone, so
that side by side with servitude, we also beg for immunity from deviation of thought, arrogance
and self-admiration, ostentation and sluggishness. One must seek assistance from Him, because
He and only He can grant us with faith and recognition of Truth.
Waking up in the morning, performing ablution with water, moving and standing, all emanate
from Him. The acceptance of prayer and our immunity from arrogance and ostentation are in His
We owe even our interest in worship to His grace.
Worship is solely for God. Neither worship of the West nor worship of the East; neither
servitude to force or position; neither submission to carnal desire, nor seduction by woman;
neither enamored by offspring nor obsessed with wealth.
This sentence in prayer condemns serving any kind of interest more than God. It negates every
sort of assistance from false powers. It teaches the worshipper the lesson of “honor under the
auspices of servitude to God”, not become a slave and servant of other than God, not to be afraid
of the threats and warnings of others, and not under any circumstances abandon the way of God.
“Ihdina‟s-sirat al-mustaqim” {Guide us on the straight path}
Our first request to God after praising and eulogizing Him, sincerely expressing our servitude to
Him, and begging Him for help, is the request for guidance along the right path. In the theoretical
and practical issues of life, beliefs, behavior, and attitudes, recognizing the correct path is so
important, yet so difficult. As such, we implore God to guide us to the “straight path” {sirat almustaqim}.
“Sirat al-mustaqim” {The straight path}
When the right path is talked about, non-straight paths will also be touched. Once we identify
these “byways” we will also recognize better “the way”. Below is a list of non-straight paths:
1. The path of one‟s passions that appear at the time of anger, sensual desire and instinctive
2. The path of others‟ passions;
3. The path of disbelief, extremism and bigotry;
4. The path of satanic insinuations and their manifestations;
5. The path of the taghuts that draw people through threat and temptation;
6. The path of worldliness in which wealth and position make man strive for the pleasure of soand-so;
7. The paths lacking proof and logic, and based on false fads and tendencies;
8. The path chosen by man for being unmindful, inexperienced and heedless;
9. The path that drew those who tread it toward perdition (the path of those who earned God‟s
wrath and those who go astray);
10. The path of personal tastes and opinions, as well as improper habits.
Now, let us find the straight path?
The path of God:
ٍ ‫صر‬
﴾ ‫اط ُم ْستَ ِق ٍيم‬
َ ‫﴿ إ َّن َربّْى َعلى‬
“Indeed my Lord is on a straight path.”
The path of the prophets („a):
ٍ ‫صر‬
﴾ ‫اط ُم ْستَ ِق ٍيم‬
َ َّ‫﴿ إِن‬
َ ‫ك َعلى‬
“Indeed you are on a straight path.”
The path of servitude and worship:
ِ ٌ ‫صرا‬
﴾ ‫يم‬
ٌ ‫ط ُم ْستَق‬
َ ‫﴿ َو أَن اْ ْعبُ ُدونى ىذا‬
“Worship Me. This is a straight path.”
The path of the infallible Imams: Imam as-Sadiq („a) said: “Verily, we are the „straight path‟.”
The path of clinging and holding fast to God and His law:
ٍ ‫صر‬
ِ ِ ‫صم بِالل ِّو فَ َق ْد ُى ِد‬
ِ َ‫﴿ ومن ي ْعت‬
﴾ ‫اط ُّم ْستَ ِق ٍيم‬
َ ََ
َ ‫ي إلَى‬
“And whoever takes recourse in Allah is certainly guided to a straight path.”
Some notes
1. The straight path is different for different individuals, in different periods and under different
circumstances. At one time, it assumes the form of silence, while voicing out at another. It is
sometimes spending wealth, while sacrificing life at another. It is studying for one person, while
working for another, etc. (These statements must not be taken as an excuse to escape from social
and religious responsibilities for personal comfort.)
2. Those that are on the straight path and possess congenial conditions and facilities must not
criticize and find fault with others (who are also busy in other activities in the way of God)
because the ways to attain the pleasure of God are diverse, and every individual‟s actions vary in
degree from those of another. In many cases, all are treading the straight path under a single
banner through diverse methods.
3. Persistence of movement along the straight path is imperative, for humans are inclined to err
and deviate. In a hadith from „Ali („a) concerning the meaning of the verse, he stated that “set
The future of our life, too, on the right path.”
4. The person who is in the highest degree of perfection (including even the degree of
infallibility {„ismah}) must continue praying to God for the straight path, because this path has
various angles, and like light, knowledge, and movement, it is evolutionary and creative.
Regarding further guidance of the guided ones, the Holy Qur‟an states:
ِ َّ
ً ‫ين ْاىتَ ُد ْواْ ُى‬
َ ‫﴿ َو يَ ِزي ُد اهللُ الذ‬
“Allah enhances in guidance those who are {rightly} guided.”
And in the initial part of Makarim al-Akhlaq Supplication, Imam as-Sajjad („a) beseeches God to
make his faith, certainty, desires, and goals attain the perfect degree of sublimity.
5. To identify the straight path is difficult and to stay on it is even more difficult, like passing
through a narrow and slippery pass, narrower than a string of hair and sharper than a sword.
Most of the people either fail to recognize it or go astray after treading it. One will be misguided
in belief while another in practice. One will become a proponent of predestination {jabr} while
another that of Divine Resignation {tafwidh}.
One will elevate the infallible leaders to the level of divinity and commit extremism in belief,
while another one regards them as common people, and even as insane, or soothsayers. Yet
another considers paying homage {ziyarah} to the Imams and martyrs as an act of polytheism.
There is one who worships trees and walls, while another leads a monastic life. One wastes his
wealth and faces poverty, while another suffers from laziness. One does not even mention the
name of his wife out of excessive (and misplaced) possessiveness, while another sends his
spouse onto the streets without observing the Islamic dress code {hijab}.
Islam invites the people to the right and straight path, which is the middle way, the path of
equilibrium and moderation in all affairs—including devotional affairs. In the hadith, there is a
section called “Al-Iqtisad fi‟l-„Ibadat” {Moderation in the Acts of Worship}.
“Sirat al-mustaqim” in the traditions
Concerning this part of the ayah, Imam al-„Askari („a) says: “With this phrase, the worshipper
prays for obedience and servitude in the future just as in the past, and the straight path is a way
which is higher than shortsightedness and lower than extravagant opinions.”
Imam as-Sadiq („a) says: “The straight path is that which drives man to love God and His
religion, discourages partisanship, and hinders following one‟s desires and personal views about
In the book, Bihar al-Anwar, there are 56 hadiths about it—that the „straight path‟ means the
pure Imams, the infallible saints of God and their true followers.
It is because they are the embodiment of the path of truth, and their wrath and benevolence, war
and peace, worship and deed, thinking and action are based on the command of God and in the
straight way. Following them in this world is a difficult task and full of responsibility, like the
sirat {path} in the hereafter which is above hell, narrower than a strand of hair and sharper than a
Anyone who has been on the straight path in this world will easily and quickly cross that sirat.
And those who engage in immoderation and excess will face problems in crossing the sirat.
Imam „Ali („a) has described those who have deviated from the straight path thus:
If he sees even a tiny gleam of success, then greed forces him to humiliate himself. If he gives
way to avarice, then inordinate desires ruin him. If he is disappointed, then despondency almost
kills him. If he is excited, then he loses temper and gets angry. If he is pleased, then he gives up
If he acquires wealth, then he becomes haughty and arrogant. If he is plunged in distress, then his
agitation, impatience and nervousness disgrace him. If he is overtaken by poverty, then he finds
himself in a very sad plight. Hunger makes him weak, and over-feeding harms him equally.
And such excess and licentiousness stem from ignorance {jahl} about which the Commander of
the Faithful („a) has said:
ِ ‫الَ تَرى الج‬
.‫اى ُل إِالَّ ُم ْف ِرطًا أ َْو ُم َف ّْرطًا‬
“An ignorant person will always overdo a thing or neglect it totally (That is, he will be at one
extreme or the other).”
Of course, to identify immoderation and profligacy is difficult, as every person regards his own
conduct as reasonable and just accusing others of extremism and shortcomings. Being ignorant,
he tends to commit immoderation in this act of attributing things to others. The divine saints and
those who are trained in the school {maktab} of the prophets („a), however, still act according to
the truth even in their judgments.
Examples of immoderation and profligacy
Numerous cases of deviation from the straight path have been stated in hadiths. We shall cite
below some of these cases of immoderation and profligacy:
1. Regarding appreciation of others, Hadhrat „Ali („a) says: “To praise more than entitlement is
sycophancy; to do less is either because of inability to express or of envy.”
2. With respect to extremism in reproach, the Imam („a) says: “Immoderation and excess in
reproaching someone kindles the fire of obstinacy.”
3. Concerning the criterion of spending, the Holy Qur‟an says:
ِ َّ
﴾ ‫ك قَ َو ًاما‬
َ ِ‫ين إِذَا أَن َف ُقوا لَ ْم يُ ْس ِرفُوا َولَ ْم يَ ْقتُ ُروا َوَكا َن بَ ْي َن ذَل‬
َ ‫﴿ َوالذ‬
“Those who, when spending, are neither wasteful nor tightfisted, and moderation lies between
these {extremes}.”
Sirat alladhina an„amta „alayhim {The path of those whom You have blessed}
The Glorious Qur‟an clearly describes the people who have been blessed by God, saying:
ِ ُّ ‫ّْيقين و‬
ِ ِ َّ ‫داء و‬
ِ ّْ ‫ك مع ٱلَّ ِذين أَنْ عم اهلل َعلَي ِهم ِمن ٱلنَّبِيّْين و‬
ِ َ ‫ٱلرس‬
ُ َ َ َ َ َ َ ‫ول فَأُولئ‬
ُ َّ ‫﴿ َو َم ْن يُط ِع اهللَ و‬
َ ‫ٱلش َه‬
َ َ ‫ٱلصد‬
َ ‫ٱلصالح‬
﴾ ‫ك َرِفي ًقا‬
َ ِ‫س َن أُولئ‬
ُ ‫َو َح‬
“Whoever obeys Allah and the Apostle—they are with those whom Allah has blessed,
including the prophets and the truthful, the martyrs and the righteous. The best of company
are they!”
We recite this verse many times day and night as it is our request to God to be included in the
company of the four categories.
In Tafsir-e Nemuneh, we read the following:
The four categories (the prophets, the truthful {siddiqin}, martyrs, and the righteous {salihin})
are perhaps necessary to build a sound, advanced and religious human society, and the prophets
and true leaders must enter the scene of action. Next to them are the truthful and upright
propagators whose words and actions promote the mission of the prophets in all places.
Following this period of intellectual reformation (the Islamic Revolution in Iran), the corrupt
elements and those who obstruct the path of truth will naturally express their opposition, and in
confronting them there must be a collective uprising. As a result, some will be martyred and
through their pure blood, the tree of monotheism will be irrigated.
In the fourth stage, the product of these efforts and struggles is the sprouting of the righteous
ones, as well as a pure and meritorious society full of spirituality!
What is interesting is that in Bihar al-Anwar, the same infallible Imams („a) have been presented
in numerous traditions as the perfect embodiments of the martyrs, the truthful and the righteous.
Such a request in prayer demands a fellowship of these four groups in thought and action.
Anyone who is endowed with the grace and favor of God will neither accept oppression nor
support the oppressors. In this connection, Hadhrat Musa („a) said:
ِ ‫ت علَى فَ لَن أَ ُكو َن ظَ ِهيرا لِل‬
﴾ ‫ين‬
ّْ ‫﴿ َر‬
ْ َّ َ َ ‫ب بِ َما أَنْ َع ْم‬
ُ ً
َ ‫ْم ْج ِرم‬
“My Lord! As You have blessed me, I will never be a supporter of the guilty.”
At this point, the intellectual and practical orientation of the worshipper will be clear when he
asks God to let him tread the path of those exalted personages.
Ghayri‟l-maghdhubi „alayhim wa ladh-dhallin”
{Such as have not incurred Your wrath, nor are astray}
It is not the path of the accursed Pharaohs and powerful ones who were drowned and perished on
account of their infidelity and stubbornness.
It is neither the path of the Qaruns and stony-hearted capitalists who incurred the divine wrath
and were swallowed by the earth on account of their obstinacy in dealing with the men of God.
Neither is it the way of the worldly scholars and „ulama‟ who did nothing but create dissension
and earned the anger of God.
In order to identify those who incurred the divine wrath, one must study the history and fate of
individuals and communities that earned the anger of God and were chastised and ruined, such as
the Jewish community, the people of Lut (Lot), the followers of the taghuts, hypocrites,
murderers, etc.
While declaring disavowal of such groups, the worshipper asks God not to let him tread their
path, nor follow the way of the misguided ones {adh-dhallin}.
Those who are misguided in thought and action, and fanatically entangled in the incorrect
polytheistic beliefs of their forebears, they are a manifestation of those who have gone astray
Surah al-Hamd ends here—the surah that begins with hamd {praise} and ends with du„a‟
{supplication}; the surah which heals and is the prologue to the Holy Book.
Surah at-Tawhid
﴾ ‫َح ٌد‬
َّ ُ‫َح ٌد٭ اللَّو‬
َ ‫الص َم ُد٭ لَ ْم يَل ْد َولَ ْم يُولَ ْد٭ َولَ ْم يَ ُكن لَّوُ ُك ُف ًوا أ‬
َ ‫﴿ قُ ْل ُى َو اللَّوُ أ‬
“Say, „He is Allah, the One‟. Allah is the All-embracing. He neither begat nor was begotten.
Nor has He any equal.”
Although after Surah al-Hamd, any other surah may be recited in prayer, Surah at-Tawhid is
more meritorious. It is also recommended to the leader of the congregational prayer to take into
account the situation of others by selecting a short surah.
The surah also begins with the Name of Allah. With the exception of Surah at-Tawbah,
Bismillah {In the Name of Allah} is the beginning of all surahs and is considered one of the
verses of each surah.
As Surah at-Tawbah contains criticism and disavowal of the infidels and polytheists, it does not
have bismillah because disavowal and disgust are incompatible with the “All-beneficent” {arrahman} and “All-merciful” {ar-rahim} Attributes of Allah.
Starting with the Name of Allah is meant to bestow divine color, divine orientation and divine
motive to the works and programs in hand, and is an educative point in the culture of Islam. One
must pay attention to God at both the beginning and end of any action, including the slaughtering
of animals!
Any act without bismillah is void, and sometimes, because of heedlessness to God, terrible
consequences are faced. It happened to someone that at the moment of sitting down, the legs of
his chair collapsed and his head broke as he stumbled upon the ground. Hadhrat „Ali („a) said:
“The reason behind this unpleasant happening is that you did not utter bismillah.”
Surah at-Tawhid is singular in presenting the oneness of Allah. God is One and Unequal in every
aspect because His Being and Attributes are unlimited, and the Unlimited Being cannot be but
only one. For example, if a house wants to be unlimited and infinite in terms of area, no land and
space will remain for other houses, and this house will not be more than one.
God is One and He is such in everything:
He is One in creation:
“Say, „Allah is the creator of all things, and He is the One, the All-paramount‟.”
He is One in giving nourishment:
“And He is the Lord of all things.”
He is One in ownership:
“To Allah belongs the kingdom of the heavens and the earth.”
He is One in Sovereignty:
“The decision is for Allah only.”
He is One in providing assistance:
“Is He who answers the call of the distressed {person} when he invokes Him?”
And He is peerless in all Attributes.
He is samad {All-embracing}.
He is the Self-sufficient Being of whom all are in need and to whom all pay attention. He is
samad; that is, He is free from food, sleep, change, transformation, partner, negligence, tiredness,
begetting and being begotten, etc.
Imam „Ali („a) said: “Samad means that He is not a body, a similitude, nor form; and neither has
He any semblance, location, time, boundary, limitation, and form. He is neither empty nor full.”
“Lam yalid wa lam yulad” {He neither begat nor was begotten}
He has neither offspring not parent. He is not taken from anything nor can something be taken
from His Essence. He is not a fruit that can be separated from the tree, or a tear that flows from
the eye, or a pebble that comes from a rock.
This statement negates the doctrines of people such as the Christians and the Jews who used to
recognize „Isa and „Uzayr (Ezra), respectively, as son of God, or the idol-worshippers who used
to assume the angels to be daughters of God.
“Wa lam yakun lahu kufuwan ahad” {Nor has He any equal}
He has no equal. He has no resemblance in Essence {dhat}, Attributes {sifat} and Actions
“Nothing is like Him.”
To be calm while reciting
Surah al-Hamd and another surah must be recited while the body is at rest. The recital must be
done correctly and the pronunciation of the words which are in the Islamic international language
(Arabic) must be flawless. Of course, learning the correct pronunciation is not as difficult as
presumed. It only needs a bit of effort and dedication.
Arabic is the language of Islam and the Qur‟an. Just as every pilot anywhere in the world must
speak in English while communicating with the airport‟s control tower, in prayer, which is a
psychic flight and spiritual ascension of the believer, the communication with the Creator must
be made in the language used by Allah to communicate with us.
At the moment of prayer, presence of heart and mind is essential. It is good for one while
standing to look at the spot of prostration on the prayer mat and to perform the prayer with
humility. The Holy Qur‟an reckons as successful the believers who are humble in their prayers;
that is, they are heedful and conscious of God, His grandeur and His magnificence, while in that
particular spiritual and physical state.
The Messenger of Allah (S) saw a person who was playing with his beard while praying. He
said: “If he is truly humble and attentive to his prayer, he will not perform such a prayer.”
Of course, with respect to the correctness of prayer, humility and presence of the heart is just one
aspect. Keeping the trust in relation to the rights of others is another.
Imam „Ali („a) said to Kumayl: “Be watchful of the location where you are praying and what
clothes you are wearing. If your clothes and place for prayer are earned from unlawful income,
your prayer will not be accepted.”
Ruku„ {Bowing}
Ruku„ means that after finishing the recital of the surah after Surah al-Hamd, we bow down to a
certain extent with the intention of glorifying God and being obedient to His command and
majesty, while our hands are placed on the knees, with our back evenly extended horizontally,
and our neck equally stretched as if the worshipper is willing to be beheaded in the way of Allah.
In every rak„ah, one ruku„ is required with the exception of salat al-mayyit {ritual prayer for the
dead} which has no ruku„ and salat al-ayat {prayer for natural phenomena or signs} whose
every rak„ah has five ruku„s.
Ruku„ is one of the pillars of prayer, and excess or decrease in its number, done consciously or
unconsciously, renders the prayer invalid, being one of the most significant expressions of
Ruku„ is a courtesy while sujud {prostration} is the proximity, and he who performs courtesy
correctly is the one who can attain proximity to God. This is the meaning of the statement of
Imam as-Sadiq („a) when he said:
ِ ‫صلَح لِْل ُقر‬
ُّ ‫ب َو يف‬
ُّ ‫َو يف‬
ٌ ‫ٱلس ُجود قُػ ْر‬
ٌ ‫ٱلرُكوع أ ََد‬
َ ‫ب َو َم ْن لَ ََْي ُس ُن ٱأل‬
َ ‫َْ َد‬
ْ ُ ْ َ‫ب لَي‬
There are examples of ruku„ and sujud of the spiritual leaders recorded in the traditions that will
put to shame one‟s ruku„ and sujud.
Ruku„ of the saints of God
The Commander of the Faithful („a) had such a long ruku„ that his forelegs would sweat and the
soles of his blessed feet would moisten.
Someone came into the house of Imam as-Sadiq („a). He saw that while in the state of ruku„, the
Imam was busy performing tasbih (glorifying Allah such as saying, “subhanallah” {glory be to
Allah}), repeating the tasbih 60 times.
It is recorded in another hadith that Imam as-Sadiq („a) used to recite the invocation {dhikr} in
ruku„ (subhana rabbiya‟l-„azim wa bihamdih) and sujud (subhana rabbiya‟l-a„la wa bihamdih)
30 times.
Faydh Kashani says: “The repetition of tasbih more than 30 times was during congregational
prayers. Since the Imam had to take into account the condition of the weak among the
worshippers, it shows that those who were joining him in the congregation consented to this
In the ruku„ we say, subhana rabbiya‟l-„azim wa bihamdih “Glory be to my Lord, the Great, and
praise belongs to Him.” When the verse, “So celebrate the Name of your Lord, the All-supreme,”
was revealed, the Prophet (S) thus ordered:
ِ ‫﴿ اِجعلوىا فى رُك‬
﴾ ‫وعكم‬
“recite it in your ruku”
In the company of angels
The angels of God are always in the state of worship. Some are always in ruku„ while others are
always in sujud and tasbih. In this regard, „Ali („a) said as recorded in Nahj al-Balaghah:
.‫ئمو َن‬
َ ‫م ْن ُه ْم ُس ُجود الَيَ ْرَكعُو َن َو ُرُكوعٌ الَ يَ ْنتَصبُو َن َو‬
ُ ‫سبّْ ُحو َن الَ يَ ْس‬
َ ‫صافُّو َن الَ يَتَ َزايَلُو َن َو ُم‬
“Some of them are in prostration and do not kneel up. Others in kneeling position do not stand
up. Some of them are in array and do not leave their position. Others are extolling Allah and do
not get tired!”
The worshippers who are engaged in ruku„ are in the company of angels, nay, all atoms of the
world that are busy in glorifying God, the Glorious. Which honor is more sublime than this?!
And which form of negligence is more grievous than that of those who are alien to prayer, ruku„
and sujud?!
Sujud {prostration}
Sujud {prostration} symbolizes the peak of humility and submission to God, and is the highest
degree of worship.
By doing sujud, man unites himself with the universe: “To Allah prostrates whatever is in the
heavens and whatever is on the earth,”
Sujud is the best state for man to approach God.
Sujud is the code of the four stages of human life. „Ali („a) says: “The first sujud means that I
was mud clay in the beginning, and as I raise my head from sujud, it means that I came to the
world from the soil.
The second sujud means that I will again return to the soil, and as I raise my head from sujud, it
means that on the Day of Resurrection I will rise up from the grave and be summoned.” This is
the subject of this Qur‟anic verse:
“From it did We create you, into it shall We return you, and from it shall We bring you forth
another time.”
Since sujud is a symbol of servitude {„ubudiyyah}, it is forbidden to prostrate on items that are
meant to be eaten and worn as garments. In the state of proximity to God, it is not correct to
prostrate on something which one is dependent on (while not in the state of prayer)!
It is not permissible to prostrate before other than God. If ever the brothers of Yusuf (Joseph)
(„a) prostrated before him, it was in reality a form of worship to God and gratitude to Him who
had brought Yusuf from the bottom of the well to such honor and glory.
Sujud of all created beings to God
According to the Holy Qur‟an and the divine worldview, all created beings have consciousness
{shu„ur} and are engaged in praising and glorifying God, the Exalted, as well as prostrating
before Him. There are many verses in the Glorious Qur‟an in this regard, an example of which is
the following verse:
“Have you not regarded that to Allah prostrates whoever is in the heavens and whoever is on
the earth, and the sun, the moon, and the stars, the mountains, the trees, and the animals and
many of mankind? And for many the punishment has become due.”
In his poetry, Mawlawi has also pointed out the consciousness and faculty of speech of all beings
in the universe, saying:
‫نطق آب و نطق خاک و نطق گِل ىست ُمسوس حواس اىل دل‬
‫با تو مى گويند روزان و شبان‬
‫ در عاَل هنان‬،‫ذرات‬
ّ ‫ْجلوٲ‬
‫باى شيم با مشا ناُمرمان ما خامُ شيم‬
ُ ‫ما مسيعيم و بصري و‬
ِ ‫از ْجادى سوى‬
‫جان جان شويد غلغلوٲ اج زاى عاَل بشنويد‬
‫وسوسوٲ تأويلها بزدايدت‬
‫فاش تسبيح ْجادات آيدت‬
The voice of water, soil and mud can be heard by the gnostics.
All particles of the world say secretly to you during the day and night:
“We are hearing, discerning and vigilant. We are silent with you, the strangers.”
This worldview is also highlighted in some ways in the verses of the Qur‟an.
God taught the logic and language of birds to certain prophets.
Hadhrat Sulayman („a) could understand the conversation of the ants.
All the creatures glorify {tasbih} God but you cannot understand their tasbihs.
After discussing this issue in detail, „Allamah Tabataba‟i says: “The fact is that the tasbih of all
creatures is a reality (and not metaphorical) and with speech and voice (and not instinctively).”
Of course, it is not necessary for all expressions and voices to be identical.
It is true that one meaning of the tasbih of creatures is that their existence bears witness to the
Perfect Essence of God, the Exalted.
Yet, the verses of the Qur‟an and Prophetic traditions refer to something higher than this. It is
stated in a hadith: “Do not beat the face of an animal as it is doing tasbih to God.” And it is also
stated in another hadith: “Wash your clothes because dirty clothes do not perform tasbih to
The Glorious Qur‟an mentions the report given by the hoopoe {hudhud} to Sulayman („a).
In any case, the sujud and tasbih of the worshipper are in symphony with the world of beings
that are all humble and obeisant to the command and majesty of God.
Sujud of the saints of God
Being acquainted with the sujud of the divine saints inspires us with humility and submission in
worship. We shall deal below with some instances of their sujud:
Imam as-Sajjad („a) used to perform his prostrations with such concentration and repetition of
the Names of Allah that whenever he would rise up, his blessed body would be full of
After the dawn {subh} prayer, Imam al-Kazim („a) would place his forehead on the ground and
he would remain in that state of prostration for hours until the sun was already high in the sky.
The reason behind Hadhrat Ibrahim‟s („a) attainment of the station of “Khalil Allah” {Friend of
Allah} was his long prostrations.
Salman al-Farsi used to say: “If there were no sujud, I would have wished for death (that is, it is
only sujud that I like in the life of this world).”
After every supererogatory prayer, Hadhrat Musa („a) used to place his right and left cheeks on
the ground.
A certain person said: “I saw Imam as-Sadiq („a) while in the state of prostration repeating the
invocation “subhan Allah” {glory be to Allah} 500 times.”
The reason why the fourth Imam („a) earned the title of “As-Sajjad” {he who is fond of
prostration} is that the mark of prostration could be seen in mawadhi„ as-sajdah—all the seven
parts of his body that are engaged in prostration (forehead, both hands, both knees, and toes of
both feet).
The Glorious Qur‟an describes the companions of the Messenger of Allah (S) that
“{They} are hard against the faithless and merciful among themselves. You see them bowing
and prostrating {in worship}, seeking Allah‟s grace and {His} pleasure. Their mark is {visible}
on their faces, from the effect of prostration.”
Effects of sujud
Prostration closes man to God, washes away sins, brings satan to his knees and causes man to
enter the paradise.
Someone came to the Prophet (S) and said: “I have many sins and only little good deeds.” The
Prophet advised him: “Increase your prostrations, because just as the wind blows away the leaves
of a tree, prostrating before God washes away sins.”
Some people came to the Prophet (S) and asked him to guarantee their admission to paradise.
The Prophet (S) said: “I will do so provided that you help me in this task (of ensuring your
admission to paradise) through your long prostrations to God.”
Imam as-Sadiq („a) said: “Prolong your prostrations because the most troublesome for Satan is
man‟s prostration to God. The reason behind it is that he was commanded to prostrate before
Adam („a) and he disobeyed, but man obeyed and he was delivered.
The Prophet of Islam (S) said to one of his companions: “If you want to be with me on the Day
of Resurrection, you should make long prostrations to God.”
Prostration on the soil of Karbala‟
Sometimes, some common material things call to mind lofty spiritual moral values and concepts.
Such is the soil where the blood of the greatest Martyr was spilled.
It is recommended for one to prostrate on the soil of the grave of the Martyr of Martyrs {sayyid
ash-shuhada‟}. It is because prostration on the pure soil {turbah} of al-Husayn („a) calls to mind
the epic and spiritual value of the event in Karbala.
It acquaints the worshipper with the culture of jihad and shahadat {martyrdom}. From the
turbah of the Imam, one can smell the fragrance of sacrifice and selflessness and learn a lesson
daily from the school {maktab} of martyrs {shuhada‟}.
Imam as-Sadiq („a) would not prostrate on anything except the soil of the grave of Imam alHusayn („a), saying: “Prostration on the soil of Imam al-Husayn („a) has such radiance that it
penetrates the veils that conceal the Truth.”
Meaning of “subhan Allah” {Glory be to Allah}
Sanctifying the inviolability of God, and regarding Him free of defect and deficiency in all
aspects are contained in the concept of this invocation {dhikr}.
Subhan Alah states a fact which is the root of all Islamic belief and thought, and the
infrastructure of man‟s relation to God and the Attributes of Perfection. Let us explain in detail:
Tawhid {monotheism} is based on glorifying God; that is, considering Him immune from
partnership {shirk} and partner {sharik}:
ِ ‫﴿ سبحان‬
﴾ ‫اهلل َع َّما يُ ْش ِركون‬
“Clear is Allah of any partners that they may ascribe {to Him}!”
„Adl {justice} is founded on glorification {tasbih}; that is, to think of God as guiltless of any
form of injustice {zulm}. God cannot be unjust to anyone. And if there are to emerge problems,
misfortunes and calamities for mankind, they are trials, or means of enhancing human potential,
or as products and consequences of our own making:
ِ ٍ ِ ِ
﴾ ‫ت أَيْ ِديْ ُكم‬
ْ َ‫سب‬
َ ‫﴿ َما أ‬
َ ‫َصاب ُك ْم م ْن ُمص ْيبَة فَب َما َك‬
“Whatever affliction that may visit you is because of what your hands have earned.”
So, God is blameless. It is we who are unjust to ourselves:
﴾ ‫ين‬
َ ‫﴿ ُس ْب َحا َن َربّْنَا إنَّا ُكنَّا ظَالم‬
“They said, „Immaculate is our Lord! We have indeed been wrongdoers!‟”
Prophethood {nubuwwah} and Imamate {imamah} are rooted in tasbih in the sense that in order
to save man from the yoke of instincts and taghuts and guide him toward the truth, perfection
and felicity, God sends down leaders and guides for him and does not leave him alone. As such,
God does not leave mankind without guidance.
And those who think otherwise have not recognized God and do not consider Him as All-wise,
and thus attribute such a thing to Him:
﴾ ‫َنز َل اللّوُ َعلَى بَ َش ٍر ّْمن َش ْي ٍء‬
َ ‫﴿ َوَما قَ َد ُرواْ الل َّو َح َّق قَ ْد ِره إِ ْذ قَالُواْ َما أ‬
“They did not regard Allah with the regard due to Him when they said, „Allah has not sent
down anything to any human‟.”
Ma„ad {(belief in) the Day of Resurrection} is anchored in tasbih. Without eternal life, the
hereafter and the return of human beings for reckoning, reward and punishment, life and creation
would be futile and the right of human beings would not be given to them. God is immune from
creating all beings in vain and not setting the Day of Resurrection:
﴾ ‫﴿ أَفَ َح ِس ْبتُ ْم أَنَّ َما َخلَ ْقنَا ُك ْم َعبَثًا َوأَنَّ ُك ْم إِلَْي نَا الَ تُ ْر َجعُو َن‬
“Did you suppose that We created you aimlessly, and that you will not be brought back to
Love of God is based on tasbih because He is Absolute Perfection, the Faultless and Flawless
Being. So, why should we not love Him?
The pleasure of man is also founded on tasbih. Anyone who is pleased with God does not find
fault with His acts, and glorifies and sanctifies Him to the utmost.
Obedience is also rooted in tasbih. Man becomes obedient, submissive and humble before
whomsoever he regards as the Perfect Deity and immune from any shortcoming, abomination
and defect.
Reliance on God {tawakkul} is anchored in tasbih. He who trusts in God is the one who believes
in His power and Mercy, and regards Him guiltless of any form of ignorance, weakness and
God-wariness {taqwa} is based on tasbih. The God-conscious person thinks of God as Allaware, Reckoning and Just, considers the universe as the Presence of God and Him as free and
immune from any form of ignorance and negligence. Therefore, he is heedful of God and does
not commit any sin.
Hence, tasbih—this blessed and profound word—has a world of meanings, as regarding God as
Pure is the edifice of man‟s love and affection, servitude and reliance, God-wariness and
obedience, as well as belief in tawhid, nabuwwah, ma„ad, imamah, and „adl {divine justice}.
Since He is blameless, God is worthy of praise and eulogy.
For this reason, in the tasbihat al-arba„ah, we immediately say al-hamdulillah {praise be to
Allah} after the utterance of subhan Allah.
The Holy Qur‟an declares God free from any partners:
﴾ ‫﴿ ُس ْب َحا َن اللَّ ِو َع َّما يُ ْش ِرُكو َن‬
“Clear is Allah of any partners that they may ascribe {to Him}!”
And He is also immune from what they attribute to Him and what they imagine about Him:
ِ ‫ش َع َّما ي‬
ِ ‫ب ال َْع ْر‬
﴾ ‫ص ُفو َن‬
ّْ ‫س ْب َحا َن اللَّ ِو َر‬
ُ َ‫﴿ ف‬
“Clear is Allah, the Lord of the Throne, of what they allege {concerning Him}.”
He is equally free from poverty and need:
﴾ ‫﴿ ُس ْب َحانَوُ ُى َو الْغَنِ ُّي‬
“Immaculate is He! He is the All-sufficient.”
He is guiltless of creating things aimlessly and vainly:
ِ ‫ت ىذا ب‬
َ َ‫اطالً ُس ْب َحان‬
َ َ َ ‫﴿ َربَّنَا َما َخلَ ْق‬
“O Lord, You have not created this in vain! Immaculate are You!”
He is not guilty of committing injustice to His servants. It is rather the people who are unjust to
ِ ُ ‫ك إِنّْي ُك ْن‬
﴾ ‫ين‬
َ َ‫﴿ ُس ْب َحان‬
َ ‫ت م َن ٱلظَالم‬
“You are immaculate! I have indeed been among the wrongdoers!”
He is immune, from having daughter.
ِ ‫﴿ ِو يِ ْج ِعلو ِن‬
﴾ ُ‫البنات ُس ْبحانَو‬
“And they ascribe daughters to Allah, glory be to Him..”
And these are the secrets behind the many repetitions of this invocation in the ruku„, sujud, and
many other states in prayer and other than prayer, which is a lesson in monotheism.
Tasbih as the most oft-repeated command
The Messenger of Allah (S) who is especially favored and nurtured by God also has distinct
commands from God. The order for him to glorify Allah {tasbih} is the foremost of these
If we try to examine the verses of the Glorious Qur‟an, we will find out that God commands the
Prophet (S) to trust Him {tawakkul} eight times; to prostrate {sujud} two times; and to seek His
forgiveness {istighfar} eight times.
God orders the Apostle (S), however, to glorify Him {tasbih} in 16 instances, and these are in
different conditions and diverse circumstances, so that the Prophet (S), in a sense, always
remains heedful of God. Therefore, along with the order to perform tasbih, there are the
following lines:
1. “Before the rising of the sun and before the sunset;”
2. “And glorify Him in watches of the night and at the day‟s ends;”
3. “And celebrate the praise of your Lord morning and evening;” and
4. “And celebrate the praise of your Lord when you rise {at dawn}.”
These bespeak of the importance of the “subhan Allah” invocation {dhikr} and show its
constructive effect on the mind and action of the one praying. Imam as-Sajjad („a) said:
“Whenever the servant of God says “subhan Allah” all the angels send benedictions to him.”
Qunut means obedience, supplication and heedfulness of God as well as humility in prayer. And
in prayer, it is one of the recommended acts {mustahabbat} in which the worshipper raises both
his hands adjacent to his face and supplicates. The late Shaykh as-Saduq has even regarded it as
an obligatory {wajib} act in prayer.
According to the Prophetic traditions, the performance of qunut during the Friday congregational
prayer, as well as the dawn {subh} and sunset {maghrib} prayers has been given more emphasis.
Particular supplication is not necessary in qunut and according to Imam as-Sadiq („a) whatever
supplication to be recited is correct and good, but some supplications are recommended as better.
The Messenger of Allah (S) has recommended the prolongation of qunut in prayers, considering
it a means of deliverance and relief of man during the different stages of reckoning on the Day of
Resurrection. It is also stated in a hadith that the best prayer is that which has the longest qunut.
In the qunut, which is a state of imploring and asking for requests from God, the better the
supplications and more sublime the requests, the better. Some „ulama‟ (such as Haj Mulla Hadi
Sabzewari) used to recite in the qunut of his night supererogatory prayers the Jawshan al-Kabir
Supplication, which is a very long supplication and contains a thousand Names and Attributes of
God. Such a prayer is a symbol of love of God and fondness of making litanies to Him.
Tashahhud is among the obligatory acts of prayer. After every two rak„ahs (and also in the third
rak„ah of maghrib prayer) one must sit down and perform tashahhud, which includes bearing
testimony to the Oneness of God, the apostleship of the Prophet(S), as well as salawat {sending
benediction to the Prophet and his progeny}.
The one praying must sit down and place his left foot under the right foot in such a manner that
the weight of his body is on the left side. Since in the words of the Qur‟an, the right is the
symbol of truth while the left is the symbol of falsehood, the Commander of the Faithful („a), in
reply to the question regarding the reason behind placing one‟s left foot under the right foot,
said: “It means, „O God! Let falsehood perish and truth remain‟.”
Tashahhud is the repetition of the same testimony and announcement uttered at the beginning of
prayer as well as in the adhan and iqamah, and it serves to call to mind the correct line we stated
at the beginning.
In the tashahhud, testimony to the Oneness of God is stated along with that of the apostleship of
the Prophet (S), and this signifies the attachment of prophethood and leadership with
monotheism and servitude to God.
In Surah al-Fatihah we express servitude and seeking of assistance in plural form. It is in first
person, singular form in the tashahhud. Perhaps, it implies that one must express these
testimonies with consciousness and profound faith, and renew allegiance to God and the
Messenger (S).
In this testimony apostleship and servanthood of Hadhrat Muhammad (S) lies the grandeur of his
station. God has set testimony to his apostleship alongside monotheism.
It also connotes the link of the person praying with the line of divine leadership and its
acknowledgment by him. It equally indicates the preeminence of his being a servant {„abd} to
his being a messenger {rasul}, as the secret behind the apostleship of the Prophet (S) lies in his
being a „servant‟ of God, due to which he has been selected to occupy the station of
The other highlight of tashahhud is the salawat.
Sending salutations to the Prophet and his progeny {al} („a) is the identification mark of Islam
and that of Shi„ism in particular, and without which the prayer is incompelet. Although the Ahl
as-Sunnah do not recite it in the tashahhud, Imam ash-Shafi„i, the founder of one of the four
Sunni schools of thought, has recited the following in his poem:
ِ ‫فَػرض ِمن‬
ِ ‫اهلل ىف ٱلْ ُقػػر‬
‫آن أَنْػَزلَو‬
َ ٌ ْ
‫ص ٰلوةَ لَو‬
َ ‫ص ِّل عَلَْي ُك ْم فَال‬
َ ُ‫َم ْن ََلْ ي‬
ِ ‫تر‬
‫سول اهللِ ُحبُّ ُك ُم‬
َ ‫يَا أ َْى َل بػَْي‬
‫َكفا ُك ْم ِم ْن َعظي ِم ٱلْ َق ْد ِر أنَّ ُكم‬
O members of the Household {Ahl al-Bayt} of the Messenger of Allah! Loving you is an
obligation, which God has revealed in the Qur‟an.
On the greatness and loftiness of your station, it is enough that anyone who does not invoke
blessings on you (in invoking blessings on the Prophet (S)), as if he has not invoked blessings at
Regarding the essence and manner of sending salutations {salawat} to the Prophet and his
progeny, there have been numerous hadiths recorded in Sunni exegesis {tafsir}, jurisprudence
{fiqh} and hadith books. It is even narrated in Sahih al-Bukhari that the Prophet (S) was asked:
“How should we send blessings to you?” The Prophet (S) said: “You say,
.‫لى ِآل ُُمَ َّمد‬
ٰ ‫لى ُُمَ َّمد َو َع‬
ٰ ‫ص ِّل َع‬
َ ‫أَللَّ ُه َّم‬
“O Allah! Send blessings on Muhammad and the progeny of Muhammad.”
It is a pity that in quoting the same hadith, the phrase “ali Muhammad” is omitted in writing the
salawat to the Prophet(S)!
In other hadiths “al Muhammad” has been mentioned also alongside the name of the Prophet (S).
And in the hadiths, those who at the time of sending salutations to Muhammad (S) do not include
his Ahl al-Bayt („a) have been reproached. For example, the Prophet of God (S) said: “Those
who deprive my progeny of salawat cannot smell the fragrance of paradise on the Day of
And on the contrary, those who also send salutations to the Prophet‟s Household („a) have also
been appreciated and the reward of intercession {shafa„ah} and nearness to the Prophet (S) have
been stated.
It is narrated in a tradition that a certain person was clinging steadfastly to the Ka„bah and
sending salawat but not including the progeny of Muhammad (S). Imam al-Baqir said: “This is
an act of injustice against us.” In many hadiths, such salawat is deemed incomplete and cut off
In any case, mentioning the progeny of Muhammad {al Muhammad} in the salawat is a gesture
of appreciation of the pious descendants of the Prophet („a) and obedience to the command of the
Prophet himself.
And according to many hadiths, the very salutations to Muhammad and his progeny are a light
that will illuminate your hereafter, and our salutations are heard by the Prophet (S) and he
answers them. Salawat begets a remuneration that sheds our sins and becomes a means of our
It is stated in another hadith: “Send salawat collectively and loudly so as to uproot hypocrisy
{nifaq} in you.”
The Messenger of Allah (S) said: “Your salawat to me brings about the acceptance of
supplication, pleasure of God, your purification and increase of good deeds.”
It is mentioned in the hadiths that God and the angels also send salutations to anyone who sends
salutations to the Prophet (S), and he will be among the nearest ones to the Prophet (S) on the
Day of Resurrection.
As the salawat has such rewards and importance, it is enough to say that it is a part of the
tashahhud in prayer, we shall hereby repeat it so as to get those rewards:
.‫لى ِآل ُُمَ َّمد‬
ٰ ‫لى ُُمَ َّمد َو َع‬
ٰ ‫ص ِّل َع‬
َ ‫أَللَّ ُه َّم‬
“O Allah! Send blessings on Muhammad and the progeny of Muhammad.”
After tashahhud, there are three salams at the end of prayer.
The first salam is addressed to the Messenger of Allah (S).
The second salam is addressed to ourselves and the righteous servants of God.
The third salam is addressed to all the angels, believers, etc.
Salam is the request for wellbeing, peace and blessing. Salam is one of the Names of God {Assalam} and it means that whatever we obtain from God is a grace and blessing.
The salam that we give to the Prophet (S) during the prayer is accompanied by divine mercy and
blessings, and this is the best form of salam.
ِ ُ‫ك أَيُّ َها ٱلنَّبِ ُّى و ر ْحمة‬
.‫اهلل َو بَ َركاتُو‬
َّ ‫أ‬
َ ‫الم َعلَْي‬
ُ ‫َلس‬
َ َ َ
“May Allah‟s peace, mercy and blessings be upon you, O Prophet!”
{Assalamu „alayka ayyuha‟n-nabiyyu wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh}
Our salam to the Prophet (S) is a token of appreciation of his efforts in guiding us, and
acquainting and connecting us with God.
At the moment of extending salam during prayer to all the faithful, righteous servants of God
including himself, the person praying feels that he is not alone, as he is part of the great Muslim
ummah and he feels a sense of solidarity with the men of God everywhere on earth.
A glance at the salam
At times outside of prayer, to extend salam in meeting Muslims in the Islamic society is
considered as one of the forms of courtesy in social intercourse, civility and morality, which
engenders love and friendship, is a sign of humility, and has spiritual reward as well.
God extends salam to the inhabitants of heaven. And He orders the Prophet (S) to extend salam
in meeting the believers.
The angels also convey salam to the people of salvation.
The dwellers of paradise also say salam to one another:
ِ ِ
﴾ ‫الم‬
ٌ ‫﴿ ََتيَّتُػ ُه ْم ف َيها َس‬
“…Their greeting there in will be „peace!‟”.
These are a few examples of the Qur‟anic verses in which the issue of salam is mentioned.
Let us now examine the Prophetic traditions.
One may notice so many hadiths about salam, its rewards and manner of doing it recorded in the
books of hadith. We shall suffice here to give some examples which contain points regarding
“The laziest of people is he who is lazy in conveying salam to others.”
Imam as-Sadiq („a) regards conveyance of salam to anybody as one of the signs of humility and
the absence of arrogance and pride.
Sometimes, giving salam is regarded a means of encouragement while not giving salam is
deemed a sort of reproach and forbidding of evil {nahy „anil-munkar}.
The Prophet of Islam (S) said: “Do not convey salam to the drunkard, sculptor and gambler.”
It is stated in a hadith that the closest to the morality of the Holy Prophet (S) and the grace of
God is he who gives salam first.
Imam ar-Rida („a) says: “On the Day of Resurrection, God shall have wrath on the person who
makes distinction between the poor and rich in conveying salam (or giving reply to salam).”
Conveying salam is recommended {mustahabb} but replying to it is obligatory {wajib}, and it is
better to give a warmer and more enthusiastic reply to salam. The Glorious Qur‟an states:
ِ ‫﴿ وإِذَا حيّْ يتم بِت ِحيَّ ٍة فَحيُّواْ بِأَح‬
﴾ ‫ُّوىآ‬
َ ُْ ُ َ
َ ‫س َن م ْن َها أ َْو ُرد‬
“When you are greeted with a salute, greet with a better one than it.”
Giving salam not only demonstrates humility but increases honor and endearment. The
Messenger of Allah (S) used to extend salam to everybody including the children, while being
proud of this act.
It is stated in a hadith that for every salam there are seventy rewards, sixty nine of which are for
the conveyer of salam, while one are for the replier of salam.
The Holy Qur‟an thus enjoins: “Extend salam to yourself when you enter the house, as the salam
and salutation from God is blessed and pure.” On the commentary of the said verse, Imam alBaqir („a) says: “It means giving salam to the members of the household.”
It is because the wife and children are the apple of one‟s eyes, and such a way of dealing with
one another from the viewpoint of the Qur‟an is wholesome and blessed. It is a sign of life‟s
pleasure, and a remover of fatigue.
It is true that extending salam brings about honor and not disgrace, but it is better for the young
to convey salam first to the elder; the one riding to the one walking; the one entering a room to
those already present; and the small group to the large group.
We shall end this section about salam with a tradition from the Commander of the Faithful („a).
He („a) said: “The Messenger of Allah (S) used to extend salam to men and women.”
But „Ali („a) himself did not convey salam to young women, saying: “I am afraid that their soft
answer will effect me and instead of obtaining a reward, I will fall prey to the trap of Satan‟s
insinuation {waswasah}.”
In explaining this hadith, „Allamah Majlisi writes, thus:
The Imam („a) used to do and say so in order to teach the ummah that men have to lessen contact
with young women (who are not their mahram), for as a matter of fact, an infallible Imam would
never fall prey to the insinuation of Satan.
The Post-prayer Supererogatory Devotional Acts {ta„qibat wa nawafil}
Prayer means presence in the Court of God and participation in the spiritual banquet to which
God has invited His servants. Just as attendance to a party has some preliminaries and protocol,
the same is true in discharging divine obligation.
Prior to the arrival of the time of prayer, our infallible Imams(„a) used to prepare themselves for
it, and after the prayer, they also used to engage in other post-prayer devotional acts {ta„qibat},
such as the remembrance of God, hymning His praises, with their faces toward the qiblah. Were
they not considering prayer as the apple of their eye? Does man easily detach his heart and close
his eyes from the apple of his eye?
The adhan and iqamah are a form of welcoming prayer while post-prayer devotional acts are its
Heedlessness to post-prayer devotional acts and supplications is a sign of lack of interest to the
prayer itself.
As recorded in the hadiths, going early to the mosque and waiting for the commencement of
prayer have been encouraged and enjoined while the person waiting for the prayer has been
described as “guest of God”. Performance of supererogatory acts and supplications after the
prayer is also recommended. The Holy Qur‟an says:
﴾ ‫ٱرغَب‬
َ ّْ‫ب٭ َو إِلى َرب‬
َ ‫﴿ فَِإذَا فَ َر ْغ‬
َ ‫ت‬
ْ َ‫ك ف‬
ْ ‫فٱنص‬
“So when you are done, appoint, and turn eagerly to your Lord.”
Now, we shall deal with some issues pertaining to post-prayer devotional acts {ta„qibat}:
Post-prayer devotional acts {ta„qibat}
Imam as-Sadiq („a) says: “As you finish saying your obligatory prayer, engage in supplications
and other devotional acts.”
The same Imam („a) also says: “Supplication after dawn {subh}, noon {zuhr} and sunset
{maghrib} prayers will be accepted {mustajab} (by God).”
The Imam („a) also says elsewhere: “The tasbihat of Hadhrat Zahra („a) (34 times “Allahu
akbar,” 33 times “al-hamdu lillah,” and 33 times “subhan Allah”) is better in the sight of God
than a thousand rak„ahs of recommended {mustahabb} prayer.”
We read in a hadith that anyone who recites this tasbihat has observed the injunction in
“Remember Allah with much remembrance.”
Of course, supplication {du„a‟} and other devotional acts have their merits and so do work and
struggle to earn an honest living, and one should not pose as hindrance to the other. Some think
that instead of supplication (during its apportioned time) if they go to work, they will end up
more productive and successful.
The Messenger of Allah (S) says: “Supplication after the dawn {subh} prayer is more effective
for life and acquiring of sustenance.”
Invoking benediction and malediction
Invoking benediction and salutations on the embodiments of human perfection, and cursing and
invoking malediction on the manifestations of polytheism and personifications of disbelief and
tyranny, are among post-prayer devotional acts.
In those that are deemed as post-prayer supplications, we can come across numerous cases of
both salawat and curse {la„n}, and it is an instance of tawalla {befriending the truthful} and
tabarra {being inimical to the people of falsehood} in the living and guided school {maktab}.
The narrated salawat has its own merit. The recital of “Allahumma salli „ala Muhammad wa ali
Muhammad” itself has been mentioned as one of the post-prayer devotional acts.
Regarding the case of curse {la„n}, Imam al-Baqir („a) says: “After you finish your obligatory
prayer, do not rise up unless you invoke curse upon the Umayyad tyrants.” This is because the
said ignominious and corrupt family is an example of the taghuts and one of the most vivid
portraits of opposition to the infallible Imams and progeny of the Prophet (S), and thus,
deserving every kind of curse and aversion!
After every obligatory prayer, Imam as-Sadiq („a) used to curse and pray for damnation of four
men and four women (who were among the stern enemies of the station of Imamate).
How good Islam is for setting as part of its programs aversion to the tyrants, corruptors and
taghuts alongside its devotional and religious programs! Its prayer, its Hajj and other acts of
worship are accompanied by disavowal {bara‟ah} and declaration of aversion toward infidels,
polytheists and hypocrites.
So, post-prayer devotional acts also include invoking curse on enemies of God and opponents of
the line of divine leadership.
Tasbihat Hadhrat az-Zahra‟ („a)
Another post-prayer devotional act {ta„qibat} is the tasbihat of Hadhrat az-Zahra („a); that is,
reciting 34 times “Allahu akbar,” 33 times “al-hamdu lillah,” and 33 times “subhan Allah” after
finishing one‟s obligatory prayer. This tasbih {tasbihat} was taught by the Messenger of Allah
(S) to his daughter Fatimah(„a), and its recital has been highly emphasized as having huge
spiritual rewards.
Imam al-Baqir („a) says: “There is no eulogy better than the tasbihat of Hadhrat az-Zahra („a),
and if there were any, the Messenger of Allah (S) would have taught it to his daughter.”
In numerous traditions, it is stressed that to have a rosary {tasbih} with 34 beads from the sacred soil of
Imam al-Husayn („a) and to recite tasbihat with it has great rewards, and even counting its beads
without the recital of tasbihat is good and valuable.
And it is stated in a hadith that the beads themselves glorify {dhikr} God.
The turbah of al-Husayn („a) is reminiscent of the epic in Karbala‟ and reviver of the culture of
martyrdom, and it makes human beings familiar with the Doyen of the Martyrs („a) himself,
divine leadership, jihad, martyrdom, self-sacrifice, struggle against tyranny, and remaining
steadfast against oppressors.
The tasbihat of Hadhrat az-Zahra („a), as stated, has been mentioned even in hadith books of the
sunni people {Ahl as-Sunnah} but it is nowhere mentioned that the name of the said tasbihat is
Tasbihat Hadhrat az-Zahra‟ („a)!
Prostration of gratitude {sujud shukr}
Gratitude for the blessings endowed by God, the Exalted, is a sign of gnosis {ma„rifah}, courtesy
and servitude. In the verses of the Qur‟an and Prophetic traditions, expressing gratitude for
blessings has been highly enjoined, and it has been stated that recollection of blessings enhances
a human being‟s love for God and makes divine blessings perpetual and abundant.
It is true that due gratitude for blessings is beyond the capability and power of man, but he ought
to express thanks as far as he can for the favors and blessings of God. One form of expressing
gratitude is to prostrate on the ground and express gratefulness to the Lord.
And this prostration of gratitude {sujud shukr} is considered as one of the post-prayer devotional
acts {ta„qibat}. The late „Allamah Majlisi has allotted the entire volume 83 of Bihar al-Anwar
(with the exception of a few pages at the end of the volume) to the narrations about post-prayer
devotional acts while quoting 63 hadiths of the infallible Imams („a) about the prostration of
Prostration after prayer is a token of gratitude for successfully offering the prayer.
In the sujud shukr, the recital of “shukran lillah” {thanks to Allah} three times is enough, but it
is stated in a hadith that if a person would say “ya rabb, ya rabb” {O Lord, O Lord} in a single
breath, God will address him, thus: “Labbayk! Ma hajatuk?” {What is your wish that I may grant
Imam as-Sadiq („a) said: “The prostration of gratitude after the obligatory prayer makes the
prayer complete, earns the pleasure of God, and elicits the admiration and approbation of angels.
God will ask the angels many times, “What is the reward for this grateful servant?
They will say to God, “your mercy, your paradise, solution to his wordly problems, and any
other reward that your angels many say. They hear no response, saying: We do not know the
reward for this sujud.” God will say, “Just as he thanked Me, I will also give thanks to him.” And
with this statement, He teaches the angels that divine pleasure and gratitude to him are more
sublime than mercy, paradise and solution to worldly problems.
It is mentioned in a hadith that God said to Hadhrat Musa („a): “The reason why I appointed you
to the station of prophethood was your prostrations after prayer.”
Supererogatory prayers {nawafil}
Apart from daily obligatory prayers (with seventeen rak„ahs), there are also other recommended
prayers {mustahabb} which have abundant rewards. And since these prayers are additions to
obligatory prayers, they are called nawafil (sing. nafilah). The Arabic word “nafl” means surplus
and addendum.
The number of rak„ahs of supererogatory prayers is two times that of obligatory ones, i.e. 34
rak„ahs. They are as follows:
1. The nafilah of the dawn {subh} prayer has two rak„ahs to be performed before the obligatory
2. The nafilah of the noon {zuhr} prayer has eight rak„ahs to be performed before the obligatory
3. The nafilah of the afternoon {„asr} prayer has eight rak„ahs to be performed before the
obligatory prayer;
4. The nafilah of the sunset {maghrib} prayer has four rak„ahs to be performed after the
obligatory prayer;
5. The nafilah of the night {„isha‟} prayer has two rak„ahs to be performed after the obligatory
prayer; and
6. The nafilah of the night {tahajjud} has eleven rak„ahs to be performed before the adhan of
the dawn prayer, the first eight rak„ahs of which is called “salat al-layl”; the next two rak„ahs
“salat ash-shafa„”; and the last rak„ah as “witr”.
It is stated in a hadith that nafilah prayers are like a gift and are accepted under all
Notwithstanding all the emphasis and encouragement about the performance of recommended
{mustahabb} prayers, they must be said on the basis of interest and love, and a person must not
impose them on himself. In the beginning, he has to acquire mental readiness as well as interest
of heart. Then and only then he should perform them.
Imam ar-Rida („a) has said: “Sometimes, hearts are willing and ready, while at other times they
are not. Perform the act of worship when the heart is willing.”
For this reason, there are some leniencies and facilities in optional prayers; things that are not
present in obligatory ones. This ease is meant to attract more people to perform recommended
prayers. Some of these leniencies and facilities are the following:
1. One may perform the recommended prayer standing or sitting.
2. One may only recite Surah al-Fatihah and then proceed to ruku„.
3. One‟s doubt whether he is in his first, or second rak„ah does not render the prayer invalid, and
he may freely evaluate which rak„ah he is in.
4. The commission of one or more mistakes does not require any sujud sahwi {prostration for
forgetting a certain essential act or recital in prayer}.
5. It is better for the worshipper to go to the mosque to perform obligatory prayers but for
recommended prayers, there is no such injunction.
These leniencies are meant to encourage people to perform these constructive acts of worship.
Even if someone cannot perform an optional prayer on its appointed time, he can do so later in a
compensatory manner {qadha}. For doing so, according to a hadith, God will address the angels,
saying: “Look at my servant! He is performing in a compensatory manner something that I have
not obliged him to!” (And in another hadith, it is added: “I take you as witnesses that I have
forgiven him.”)
It is stated in a hadith, thus: “nafilah prayers are compensation for deficiencies in obligatory
And they are like alms that a person gives.
Night supererogatory prayers {tahajjud}
Among nafilah prayers, tahajjud occupies a special station, the performance of which has been
much emphasized in verses of the Qur‟an and hadiths, compared to other recommended prayers.
For this reason, the saints {awliya‟} of God were heedful and used to offer the tahajjud and midnight vigils.
It is such that God has made incumbent upon His most beloved servant, Hadhrat Muhammad (S),
to perform the night supererogatory prayers by commanding him, thus: “And keep vigil for a
part of the night, as a supererogatory {devotion} for you.”
In describing those who are observing the night vigils and performing the tahajjud, the Glorious
Qur‟an says:
﴾ ‫ين بِٱألْ َِ ْس َحا ِر‬
َ ‫﴿ َو ٱل ُْم ْستَ غْف ِر‬
“And pleading {Allah‟s} forgiveness at dawns.”
ِ َّ
﴾ ‫ين يَبِيتُو َن لَِربّْ ِه ْم ُس َّج ًدا َوقِيَ ًاما‬
َّ ‫اد‬
ُ َ‫﴿ َوعب‬
َ ‫ َوالذ‬...‫الر ْح َم ِن‬
“The servants of the All-beneficent are… those who spend the night with their Lord,
prostrating and standing {in worship}.”
ِ َّ‫﴿ َكانُوا قَلِيالً ِم َن ٱلل‬
﴾ ‫يل َما يَ ْه َجعُون‬
“They used to sleep a little during the night.”
We read in another verse that men of God forsake the warmth of their beds in order to perform
litanies at dawn and the night supererogatory prayer. Their reward does not pertain to paradise,
its nymphs and the like. There are things that God has reserved for them which shall make them
﴾ ‫س َما أُ ْخ ِف َي لَ ُه ْم ِم ْن قُ َّرِة أَ ْعيُ ٍن‬
ٌ ‫﴿ فَالَ تَ ْعلَ ُم نَ ْف‬
“No one knows what has been kept hidden for them of comfort as a reward for what they used
to do.”
As such, all the prophets („a) were heedful of the night supererogatory prayer, and the Messenger
of Allah (S) enjoined Hadhrat „Ali („a) for several times, saying: “The night prayer {salat allayl} is {obligatory} upon you; the night prayer is upon you; the night prayer is upon you.”
It is stated in a hadith, thus: “The nobility of the faithful lies in his night prayer.”
And Imam as-Sadiq („a) said: “The houses in which the night prayer is performed and the Qur‟an
is recited are like shining stars for inhabitants of heaven.”
In addition, waking up early and breathing the fresh air at that time bestows health to the body,
as said in a hadith. And in another hadith, in addition to its spiritual effects, its curative feature
has also been mentioned.
The night supererogatory prayer is a sign of man‟s love and affection for his Creator, and this
interest distances him from sleep and urges him to tell his secrets to the Beloved and pray for his
needs at midnight. If this love is not present, what would motivate a person to cease resting and
talk with his Loved One in a mystical fashion in the darkness of the night?
We read in a divine hadith {hadith qudsi} that God says: “He is telling a lie who claims that he
loves me but when the night comes, he sleeps. Does not every lover wish for privacy with his
The night supererogatory prayer also requires opportunity and chance {tawfiq} which must be
sought from God.
Sometimes, sins and lies are the reason behind man‟s deprivation of the night supererogatory
prayers, and the sweetness of worship and litany is taken away from him.
It is thus mentioned in a hadith: “Verily, once a person tells a lie, his lie makes him deprived of
the night prayer {salat al-layl}.”
Through constant performance of tahajjud and other acts of worship at night, man can attain a
station of perfection, purity of soul and proximity to God, in which condition he would possess
divine eyes, ears and hands (in the sense that he will no longer look at anything except that
which is wholesome, nor listen to anything but good, nor do anything except good) and attain a
stage where every supplication of his will be accepted.
Congregational Prayer {salat al-jama„ah}, Etc.
The religion of Islam has a significant social dimension, and it has relied on and emphasized this
dimension in many of its programs through the blessed effects of unity, solidarity and
The holding of the daily obligatory prayers in congregation is one of these programs.
In this chapter, we shall deal with the importance of congregational prayer {salat al-jama„ah}
and its various effects.
Importance of congregational prayer {salat al-jama„ah}
Great rewards for congregational prayer have been mentioned in the hadiths, some of which
have been cited below:
The Messenger of Allah (S) is reported to have said: “The prayer of one who hears the adhan but
does not participate in the congregational prayer of Muslims for no (justifiable) reason at all is
It is stated in a hadith that disparaging congregational prayer is tantamount to disparaging God.
Constant participation in congregational prayer saves a person from becoming a hypocrite
{munafiq}. And there are rewards for every step taken toward congregational prayer and the
The person who goes out of his house to participate in congregational prayer and waits in the
mosque for it, gets the reward of a person who is engaged in prayer for the entire period.
The more the people present in congregational prayer, the more its reward. This is a statement of
the Messenger of Allah (S) who said: “That which is greater (in number) is more beloved by
There is an interesting hadith pertaining to the virtue of congregational prayer, a part of which
has been mentioned in treatises on practical laws {risalah al-„amaliyyah}. The following is a
translation of the whole hadith:
If there is one person {ma‟mum} following the prayer leader {imam}, the reward of the prayer
(compared to that which is done individually) is 150 times.
For two persons, the reward is 600 times.
For three, the reward is 1,200 times.
For four, the reward is 2,400 times.
For five, the reward is 4,800 times.
For six, the reward is 9,600 times.
For seven, the reward is 19,200 times.
For eight, the reward is 36,400 times.
If the followers and the prayer leader are 10 in all, the reward of the prayer is 72,800.
But if the number of the persons praying exceeds 10, nobody knows its reward except God.
It is mentioned in another hadith that God and the angels love one who loves congregational
During the time of the Prophet (S) whenever the number of participants in congregational prayer
was less, he would search for and inquire about the condition of individuals, saying:
“Participation in the dawn {subh} and night {„isha} prayers is the most difficult of all things for
The Holy Qur‟an has also mentioned laziness and languidness at the time of prayer as one of the
descriptions of the hypocrites. Waking up early and attending congregational morning prayer
while coming from a reasonable distance during the cold or warm season is a sign of sincerity in
faith and love of God.
Attendance in congregational prayer is not confined to only one place. Wherever the person may
be, it is better for him to find the congregational prayer, participate therein and encourage others
to do the same.
Concerning the importance of congregation {jama„ah}, the Messenger of Allah (S) said: “A
single prayer in congregation is better than forty years of prayer at home.” He was asked: “Is it
one day of prayer?” He said: “No, it is a single prayer.”
And the Prophet (S) also said: “The rows of congregational prayer are like rows of angels on the
fourth level of heaven.”
The first congregational prayer to be held was under the leadership {imamah} of the Messenger
of Allah (S) and with the participation of Hadhrat „Ali („a) and Ja„far at-Tayyar (brother of
Hadhrat „Ali). When Abu Talib saw his son „Ali („a) standing behind the Prophet (S) in prayer,
he said to his other son, Ja„far: “Go, follow the Prophet.” This congregation of three persons was
held after the revelation of the verse, “Fa‟sda„ bima tu‟mar” which issued the order of openly
propagating Islam.
Effects of congregational prayer
In addition to the abundant rewards mentioned, observance of religious obligations in the form of
congregation has also ample positive effects on the individual and collective life of the Muslim
ummah. Some of these effects are mentioned below:
1. Spiritual effects
The greatest spiritual effect of congregational prayer is the divine rewards mentioned. It is
narrated that one night, „Ali („a) was busy in worship till dawn. As dawn {subh} prayer arrived,
he said the obligatory prayer individually and rested.
As the Messenger of Allah (S) did not see him in the congregation for the dawn prayer, he went
to his house. Hadhrat Fatimah („a) said that „Ali‟s („a) night vigil was the reason for his failure to
attend the congregational dawn prayer. The Prophet (S) said that the reward not earned by „Ali
(„a) for not attending the congregational dawn prayer is more than the reward for the whole night
of worship.
The Messenger of Allah (S) has said: “If I pray the dawn prayer in congregation, it is more
lovable for me than night vigil and worship till morning.”
It is for these merits and rewards that if the number of persons praying exceeds 10, the reward of
one rak„ah cannot be written by the angels if all the skies were sheets of paper, the seas pens,
and the trees ink.
2. Social effects
Congregational prayer is a prelude to unity among the ranks, closeness of hearts, and promotion
of the spirit of brotherhood. It is a kind of informal attendance check, and the best way of
identifying individuals.
Congregational prayer is the largest, purest and most economical gatherings in the world. It is a
sort of free-of-charge meeting, familiarity with each other‟s problems, and a platform for social
cooperation among Muslims.
3. Political effects
Congregational prayer is a symbol of the power of Muslims, closeness of hearts and their
solidarity in their unity of purpose.
It eliminates discord, strikes fear in the hearts of enemies, upsets hypocrites, and is a thorn in the
eyes of the malevolent.
Congregational prayer is a demonstration of presence on the scene, and the link between the
Imam and the ummah.
4. Moral and educational effects
In congregational prayer, individuals stand in a single row, setting aside all distinctions of
position, race, language, wealth, etc. Purity and sincerity of affection toward fellow human
beings is aroused. Meeting one another in rows of worship, makes believers experience a sense
of belonging that engenders courage, power and hope.
Congregational prayer creates a sense of order and discipline, alignment, and timeconsciousness.
It effaces the spirit of individualism, schism and isolation, while engendering a sense of struggle
against arrogance and selfishness.
Congregational prayer teaches unity of expression, direction, objective, and leadership. And
since the most pious, meritorious and knowledgeable person must be the one to lead the
congregation, it is a kind of training and promotion of knowledge, piety and justice.
Congregational prayer gets rid of rancor, resentments and suspicions between individuals and
elevates the level of knowledge, servitude and humility among those praying.
It is because of all these effects that congregational prayer has been much enjoined. Even when a
blind man requested exemption from going to the mosque, the Prophet (S) said to him: “Tie a
rope from your house to the mosque and with its help you will arrive at the mosque (and return
home afterward).” The Messenger of Allah (S) did not even permit blind men to abandon
congregational prayer.
On the contrary, the harsh treatment of those who do not give importance to congregational
prayer is another sign of its importance.
It is stated in the hadiths that one should not give a woman in marriage to such people nor
introduce them to any body.
The leader of congregational prayer
In congregational prayer, the person standing in front, leading the people is called the imam.
Some also call him the „leader‟. In the sociopolitical system of Islam, the one who is in charge of
leading a group must possess a set of virtues and merits so that his merits also serve as an
inspiration to others. In congregational prayer, the imam must be above the rest in knowledge,
action, piety, and justness.
We read in hadiths: “Place in front the most virtuous among you” and “the best among you” and
follow him.
There are a lot of hadiths in this regard some of which are quoted below:
The leader of the congregation must be one whose faith and commitment the people trust.
Imam as-Sadiq („a) said: “The imam of the congregation is one who leads you toward God. So,
be aware of whom you are following.”
Abu Dharr al-Ghaffari said: “Your imam is your intercessor {shafi„} on the Day of Resurrection.
So, do not let your intercessor be among the ignorant and transgressing.”
Following unknown individuals and those who have extreme views with respect to religion or
Imamate has been forbidden. Individuals in society who have received lashes for committing an
open sin, or are illegitimate children cannot become an imam of the congregation.
The imam of the congregation must be accepted by people; otherwise, the prayer will not be
accepted by God.
On the exegesis {tafsir} of this noble verse,
﴾ ‫﴿ ُخ ُذواْ ِزينَتَ ُك ْم ِع ْن َد ُك ّْل َم ْس ِج ٍد‬
“Look to your adornment at every place of worship,”
Imam as-Sadiq („a) said: “The adornment of a place of worship {masjid} is the worthy leader of
the congregation.”
Of course, wearing clean clothes, and applying perfume are also mentioned in some traditions as
“the adornment of the place of worship”.
Imam al-Baqir („a) said: “The imam of the congregation must be from among the learned
The Messenger of Allah (S) said: “Anyone who stands in prayer behind a learned imam is like
standing behind me and Hadhrat Ibrahim in prayer.”
The imam of the congregation must take into account the weakest one among the congregation
and he must not conduct a lengthy prayer.
From this set of hadiths, the sensitive position of the leader of congregational prayer can be
Selection of congregational prayer leader
Superiority and preeminent virtue compared to the rest is a requisite for the leader of the
congregation. If there is more than one person worthy to be followed, the traditions mention
some conditions which teach us to incline toward certain values to choose the best. Among these
conditions are the following:
1. The one whose pronunciation and recital is better;
2. The one who is foremost in the migration {hijrah};
3. The one who has more knowledge of religion and is more learned;
4. The one who is older;
5. The one who is more familiar with the Qur‟an;
6. The one who is more handsome and good-looking.
7. The host has precedence over the guest in leading the congregation; and.
8. The permanent imam of the congregation has precedence over the one who is new to the
Among the merits, the issue of being more knowledgeable has been given the most emphasis.
This state of being learned and knowledgeable is a condition and advantage in all cases
pertaining to leadership and headship.
It is stated in a hadith, thus: “If someone is assuming the post of leadership in a congregation in
which there is a person more knowledgeable than him, that congregation till the Day of
Resurrection will be in a state of downfall and disgrace.”
Of course, as stated in a hadith earlier, the imam of the congregation must be accepted by the
people. This acceptability is acquired through knowledge, purity, justness, humility, and good
It must not be forgotten that sometimes, with the aim of striking a blow to Islam and the „ulama‟,
the enemies and hypocrites try to tarnish the image of a congregational leader through rumor,
calumny and lies in order to isolate him. The vigilance of the people is the antidote to this satanic
plot. One must not stand in a congregational prayer behind a person who has lost his popularity
through transgression, sin and bad manners, but behind a person whose popularity might have
diminished through the evil plots of enemies!
Justness of congregational prayer leader
Justness is an important condition for the congregational prayer leader.
Justness has been defined in the books on jurisprudence. Imam Khomeini (may his soul be
sanctified), who is one of the distinguished jurists {fuqaha}, says: “To be just {„adil} is an inner
state of being that keeps the person away from committing major sins, and the repetition and
persistence in the commission of minor sins.”
Purity, piety and avoidance of sin are among the signs of justness. In view of the importance of
this characteristic in the Islamic system, Islamic jurisprudence, and the Constitution, the
possession of this merit is a requisite for the high-ranking officials and holders of sensitive posts.
Besides, important works of the country and affairs of the people must be undertaken by just
Let us draw our attention to some of the cases in which justness is a requisite:
In devotional matters, congregational prayer leader must be just.
In politico-religious affairs, such as Friday congregational prayer, the person who delivers the
sermon {khutbah} and lead the prayer must be just.
In politico-legal issues, such as representation in the Majlis (Parliament) and the enactment of
laws, the opinion of just jurists under the rubric of “Council of Guardians” {shura-ye negahban}
is indispensable.
In legal questions, the granting and acceptance of rights must be done with the testimony of just
In penal issues, the implementation of Islamic hudud and punishment of the iniquitous and guilty
is possible if just individuals bear witness to their offences and crimes.
In economic matters, the public treasury must be in the hands of just individuals.
In socio-cultural affairs, the dissemination and airing of news must be done by just people, and
the news spread by a transgressor {fasiq} should not be trusted, unless due investigation and
inquiry has been carried out.
In military issues, the commander-in-chief must have leadership qualities, a requisite of which is
Therefore, to be just is one of the key pillars of the political system in Islam. It is indispensable
in the designation of social responsibilities, and the management of life‟s affairs.
Means of recognizing justness
It is true that being just and avoiding sin are personal to individuals and inner qualities of
character, but it is possible to detect these virtues through outward signs in the life and actions of
individuals. The traditions point out some criteria, the existence of which makes a person worthy
of being regarded as just.
Imam as-Sadiq („a) was asked, “Who is just {„adil}?” He said: “It is he who keeps his eyes away
from those who are not mahram {individuals whom he could marry}, his tongue from sin, and
his hands from inequity.”
In a hadith, the Messenger of Allah (S) describes a just and generous person in this manner: “He
who does not commit inequity with people in his dealings, does not tell lies in his speech, and
does not break his promises, is among those whose piety is perfect and whose sense of justice is
Imam as-Sadiq („a) was asked: “How can we identify the just person?” He said: “The just person
is he who is modest and chaste; who does not draw himself toward sin in eating, speech and
carnal desire; who shuns major sins such as adultery {zina}, usury {riba}, intoxicants, fleeing
from jihad (which have all been explicitly forbidden by the Qur‟an); and who does not desist
from attending the congregation of Muslims except under justifiable circumstances. Such a
person is just and it is unlawful for people to question his shortcomings and to malign him.”
We read in another hadith, thus: “Be optimistic about the person who performs his five daily
obligatory prayers in congregation and accept his testimony.”
Perhaps, what the jurists are expressing as the “outward goodness” with respect to justness is that
his presence in ceremonies and congregations of Muslims and his absence from centers of
corruption and indecency persuade people to trust him, and in this manner he is recognized as a
just and good person.
Regarding just women, Imam al-Baqir („a) says: “The fact that she observes the Islamic dress
code {hijab} and belongs to a respectable family, obeys her husband, and shuns unscrupulous
acts and unpleasant gestures shows that she is just {„adil}.”
In some traditions, transgressors {fasiqun} are identified as those who receive lashes in public
because of their open abominable sins, or those who are known among the people for their
wickedness and impiety, or those who are suspected of something bad.
Of course, the justness of a person does not mean that he never commits sin throughout his life
because this quality is only true with respect to the prophets {anbiya‟} and infallible saints
{awliya‟} („a), but the fact that he has not been seen committing major sins is enough to regard
him as just.
The fact should not remain unsaid that if a person does not consider himself just and even
declares so to the people, but the people recognize him as just and pious, he can be the leader of
congregational prayers and the people can follow him. If the people are inclined to follow him he
must not refuse.
If after the congregational prayer, it becomes known that the imam of the congregation is not a
just person, the prayers performed by following him in the congregation are valid and there is no
need to repeat them.
Why some people do not participate in congregational prayers?
Notwithstanding all those rewards and effects of congregational prayer, some people are
deprived of this great blessing. It is regrettable to observe that they do not give importance and
pay heed to it. Even those who are in the neighborhood of a mosque do not attend the
congregation of Muslims. Sometimes, lamentably and painfully, the mosques are empty.
There are various reasons why people do not participate in congregational prayers. Some are
really excused and their reasons are justifiable, but in most cases, invalid excuses are presented.
A survey of such reasons and excuses is presented:
Some people are unaware of the rewards for attending congregational prayer.
On account of the unpleasant behavior of some worshippers in the mosque, some people do not
give importance to congregational prayer.
There are some who take the bad behavior of the congregational prayer leader as the reason for
not attending, considering it as contrary to the quality of justness required for an imam.
Some people refrain from participating in congregational prayer because of the difference of
their political views with that of the imam on certain subjects, figures, etc.
Some individuals are deprived of great rewards for attending the congregational prayer owing to
their socio-economic preoccupations and daily undertakings.
Some are discouraged because of the lukewarm treatment of the people in the mosque, and thus,
they no longer go there.
There are those who associate the shortcomings of the imam‟s kith and kin to him and thus, they
do not accept him as imam.
Some people regard their participation in congregational prayer as contributing to the increasing
popularity of the imam and thus, they refrain from doing so without substantiating the unjustness
of the imam.
Out of arrogance, there are people who are not willing to participate in congregational prayer
under the leadership of a young or poor person in spite of his being sincere, committed and
There are also those who are lazy and self-indulgent, and in the acts of worship they are languid
and indolent. They treat congregational prayer as a „burden‟ instead of an „obligation‟ and they
seldom desist other works to join other Muslims in prayer.
Some individuals avoid the mosque because of the longevity of congregational prayer.
Some do not participate in congregational prayer because they do not like the guardians or
caretakers of the mosque.
These are just some of the reasons why some people do not participate in congregational prayer.
As you must have observed, most of these reasons are unjustifiable excuses.
If the religious awareness and growth of people reaches the point where they set aside the
abovementioned factors; and with sincerity and solidarity, sit together in well-ordered lines; pay
attention to the great rewards of congregation; do not regard the imam‟s bad gesture as
inconsistent with his justness; not associate the sins of his relatives with him; and take into
account the abundant blessings and positive effects of this “religious gathering”, a flourishing of
the mosques will be observed, and the „thinness‟ of congregational prayers will vanish.
Of course, the intellectual and moral competence of the imam, the warm and educational
atmosphere of mosques, the worthy and respectful behavior with congregational prayer
participants, particularly the youngsters and adolescents, could play an important role in
attracting them to the mosque—the Muslims‟ center of spirituality and unity. The involvement of
the cultural, propagational, and educational officials of the country is also crucial in this context.
If coaches, teachers and parents themselves participate in congregational prayers, pray in the
presence of their pupils and children, or go to the mosques, they will serve as an inspiration for
If only schools were built near the mosques, it would facilitate the pupils‟ participation in
congregational prayers.
Traveler‟s prayer
Prayer is a very important obligatory act, the performance of which can never be suspended by a
person—even while traveling, in sickness, on the battlefield, on the verge of drowning, etc. Of
course, according to particular circumstances, prayer will assume different forms, but it will
always be obligatory on man.
While traveling, the Muslim must be heedful of his prayers. Whether in a train or bus, in cold or
warm weather, having ample time or in a hurry, he should not treat prayer as insignificant and
forget to perform it. When the bus or train stops for prayer or food, one must not miss the
opportunity of offering his prayer. And if the vehicle does not stop, he needs to request the driver
to stop for a short while.
Conditions for shortened {qasr} prayer
Throughout his journey, the traveler {musafir} has to shorten {qasr} his four-rak„ah prayers,
subject to the following eight conditions:
First: His travel must not be less than eight farsakhs as defined by religious law.
Second: He should intend at the time of the commencement of the journey, to cover a distance of
(at least) eight farsakhs.
Third: He should not change his mind (of covering the abovementioned distance) while on his
Fourth: He does not intend to pass through his home town and stay there, or to stay at some place
for 10 days or more, before he reaches a distance of eight farsakhs.
Fifth: He should not travel for haram activity and his travel must not be for the commission of
Sixth: He should not be a nomad, who roam about in the deserts (and temporarily stay at places
where they find food for themselves, and fodder and water for their animals, and again proceed
to some other place after a few days halt).
Seventh: His profession should not be traveling (that is, his work involves traveling; or that
traveling is the means of his subsistence, like the camel rider, driver, herdsman, and sailor).
Eighth: He should reach the limit of tarakhkhus, that is, at a point beyond which traveling
Ten days of stay
If a person intends to stay for 10 days or more at a certain place while traveling, he should perform
his prayers in full (not shortened).
If his true intention is to stay for less than 10 days, he cannot outwardly intend for 10 days of stay
and thus pray in full.
If prior to the passing of 10 days, the person changes his mind for some reasons and decides to
return home, he should pray in full during the remaining days of his travel.
If a person reaches his hometown {watan} during his journey, and makes a stopover there, he
should offer full prayers as long as he stays there, unless he changes his place of residence and
has no intention to return to his hometown.
The person‟s place of birth is his original hometown {watan} unless he migrates from there. The
other place chosen by the person to stay permanently is regarded as his adopted hometown. If a
person is living in two places, both places are considered as his watan. So long as the person has
no intention of staying permanently in a certain place other than his hometown, that place cannot
be treated as his watan unless, without the intention of staying there, the people consider it as his
hometown, because of his long stay.
Anyone whose profession is traveling (such as drivers, pilots, etc.) or whose occupation is
related to traveling, and as such is always traveling, he should perform his prayers in full.
A traveler can offer either shortened or full prayers in four places:
(1) Masjid al- Haram (in Makkah);
(2) Masjid an-Nabi (in Medina);
(3) Masjid al-Kufah (in Kufah, Iraq); and
(4) The shrine of the Doyen of the Martyrs („a), and the mosque attached to it (in Karbala‟, Iraq).
In these places, in order to obtain more bounties, a traveler can offer his prayers in full.
Compensatory {qadha} prayer
Prayer is among the duties of man toward his Creator and to offer so is incumbent upon the
obliged person. A person, who does not offer his obligatory prayer on its prescribed time for any
of the following reasons; such as forgetfulness, unconsciousness, intoxication, the lack of
opportunity, being under compulsion, out of heedlessness, committing sin, is offered, but later
discovered that it was invalid {batil}, must offer compensatory {qadha} prayer.
Of course, the ladies who have to miss the daily prayers, or any other obligatory prayers, due to
haydh or nifas, do not need to offer any qadha for them.
Anyone who has to offer qadha prayer should not abandon it totally though it is not obligatory to
offer it immediately.
So long as man is alive, though he is excused from offering his prayers, another person cannot
offer them afterward as qadha.
Qada prayer may be performed in congregation and it is not necessary for the participants in the
congregation to say qadha prayer for an identical prayer. For example, one may say qadha
prayer for the dawn {subh} prayer in the congregation for maghrib and „isha‟ prayers, or vice
The prayer that has not been offered in the past, should be performed in qadha in the same
manner in terms of the number of rak„ahs. For example, a person who is traveling should offer
the qadha for a four-rak„ah prayer in full. And if while traveling, a person misses his noon
{zuhr} prayer, in his hometown he should offer its qadha in a shortened manner, i.e. in two
rak„ahs instead of four.
Other Prayers
So far, daily recommended {mustahabb} and nawafil prayers, post-prayer devotional acts
{ta„qibat}, prayer of a traveler {musafir}, and compensatory {qadha} prayer have been
discussed. These two types of prayer are the same daily obligatory prayer under particular
circumstances (in travel, or after its appointed time).
There are other prayers, however, some of which are obligatory while others are emphatically
recommended {mutahabb mu‟akkad}. In order to complete the discussion about prayer, we shall
also deal with them in brief.
Friday congregational prayer {salat al-jum„ah}
In the weekly social ceremony of Muslims, Friday congregational prayer {salat al-jum„ah}
occupies a special status. It is not only an act of worship, but also a manifestation of Muslim
power and the grandeur of Islam. It increases the awareness of followers of the Qur‟an and is
considered a “religio-political prayer”.
Regarding Friday congregational prayer, the Holy Qur‟an says:
ِ ِ ِ َّ ِ‫ودي ل‬
ِ ‫وم ٱل‬
ِ ِ
ِ َّ
﴾ ‫يع‬
ْ َ‫ْج ْم َعة ف‬
ُ َ‫لصلوة م ْن ي‬
َ َ‫اس َعواْ إِلى ذ ْك ِر اهلل َو َذ ُرواْ ٱلْب‬
َ ‫ين‬
َ ُ‫آمنُواْ إ َذا ن‬
َ ‫﴿ يَا أَيُّ َها ٱلذ‬
“O ye who believe! When the call is made for prayer on Friday, hurry up toward the
remembrance of Allah, and leave all business.”
Manner of offering Friday congregational prayer
During the period of occultation {„asr al-ghaybah} of Imam al-Mahdi („a), Friday
congregational prayer is wajib takhyiri and one has the option to offer the Friday congregational
prayer or the noon {zuhr} prayer.
Friday congregational prayer consists of two rak„ahs and it must be performed in congregation.
Before the prayer, there are two obligatory sermons {khutbayn} in which the khatib {the one
delivering the sermons} shares socio-political issues with the congregation apart from inviting
them to observe piety.
Its appointed time is from the beginning of zuhr up to about an hour after the recital of its adhan
and later than that, it is no longer permissible.
The number of persons offering Friday congregational prayer should be at least five, including
the imam.
The distance between the two places where Friday congregational prayers are offered should not
be less than one farsakh (approximately 3 miles).
It is obligatory {wajib} to listen to the sermons of the Friday congregational prayer. Nonparticipation in the Friday congregational prayer for no reason at all is a sign of hypocrisy
It is better for the prayer leader in the first rak„ah to recite Surah al-Jum„ah after Surah al-Hamd
and Surah al-Munafiqun in the second rak„ah.
The Messenger of Allah (S) has said: “Through the Surah al-Jum„ah, God has honored the
believers.” Thus, as glad tidings for them, the Prophet (S) has made it his tradition {sunnah} to
recite Surah al-Jum„ah, and as a reproach to hypocrites, he has regarded it necessary to recite
Surah al-Munafiqun.
Importance of Friday congregational prayer
There are many hadiths which have been narrated in this regard and it is impossible to deal with
them here.
The Messenger of Allah (S) has regarded Friday congregational prayer as the Hajj pilgrimage of
the poor and as a means of forgiveness of sins.
Friday congregational prayer demonstrates the power of Muslims and is a meeting place of the
faithful worshippers.
At the beginning of migration {hijrah}, the Apostle of Allah (S) held the first Friday
congregational prayer for the people of Medina laying the foundation of this splendid and
constructive gathering.
This prayer has political and administrative dimensions. The khatib and imam of Friday
congregational prayer is either the ruler of Muslims or appointed by the leader to assume the
post. There are many constructive educational and social blessings and effects this „political
worship‟. Some of them are the following:
1. Cultivating the spirit of fraternity and brotherhood
All people from different places gather in a single prayer ground and sit together, without
distinction of race and color. Whatever is present in a congregational prayer is far greater and
stronger in the Friday congregational prayer—this weekly gathering of Muslims.
2. Formation of the Islamic forces
This act of worship organizes the Muslims around the axis of worship and prayer, and strikes fear
in the heart of the enemy as well as thwarts the plots and intrigues of the discord-mongers.
3. Intellectual and political development of the Muslims
According to the exigency of subject matters, the information given during Friday prayer
sermons makes the people aware of political issues concerning their country and the world. By
familiarizing them with social responsibilities, they tend to have greater participation in the
society scene.
4. Enhancing the spirit of collectivity
Friday congregational prayer gathers the scattered drops of human beings into a single ocean,
and through mutual communication and acquaintance, everybody acquires the spirit of
collectivity, and thus, dissension and individualism gradually vanish.
5. The center for mobilization
The Friday congregational prayer stronghold is the best place to invite people and mobilize them
for jihad, defence, solving social problems, and rendering assistance to others. This glorious
power of the masses that is formed in the Friday congregational prayer has always been the focus
of attention. During the early days of Islam, the Messenger of Allah (S) and the Commander of
the Faithful („a) used to mobilize the people and dispatch them to the arenas of jihad.
Life conduct {sirah} of the holy saints {awliya‟}
The conduct {sirah} of the Messenger of Allah (S) and the infallible Imams („a) in relation to
Friday congregational prayer bespeaks of its importance and the need to increase efforts for this
It is recorded in the hadith that „Ali („a) said: “During Thursday, do not take medicine that
weakens the body.” He was asked for the reason. He said: “So that it does not hinder you from
attending the Friday congregational prayer.”
Imam as-Sadiq („a) says: “The companions of the Prophet used to make preparation for Friday
on Thursday because on Friday the time is limited (because of their works).”
The Commander of the Faithful („a) used to free those who were imprisoned on account of debt,
accusation, and the like so that they could attend the Friday congregational prayer while their
guardians used to guarantee that they would return to the prison cell. The Imam („a) also used to
allow the imprisoned transgressors {fasiqun}, under guard, to participate in the congregational
As a token of commemorating Friday congregational prayer and glorifying these rites, „Ali („a)
used to attend the congregational prayer barefooted, holding his shoes with his left hand saying,
“This prayer has a special divine status.” He used to do so out of humility in the presence of the
Keeping this in view, the importance of this obligatory act becomes clear, and any committed
Muslim must not be heedless of attending this politico-religious assembly.
The Imam of the ummah has said: “The Friday congregational prayer which is a demonstration
of the sociopolitical power of Islam must be made more splendid and substantial. The great and
dear nation should keep this Islamic fortress as majestic and splendid as possible so that by its
blessing, plots of traitors and intrigues of corruptors would be thwarted.”
„Id prayers
Islamic occasions are a means of reminding Muslims to remember God, the Exalted. For most of
these occasions, special supplications and prayers have been mentioned.
Salat al-„id is the prayer consisting of two rak„ahs which is offered on „Id al-Fitr and „Id alQurban.
Contrary to other celebrations and festivities which are associated with heedlessness, selfindulgence and sensual desires, Islamic festivity is accompanied by prayer, supplication, almsgiving and charity, washing {ghusl} and purification, etc. Now, we shall briefly explain the
prayer of these two festivals:
„Id al-Fitr Prayer
On the first day of the lunar month of Shawwal, which is „Id al-Fitr, one must offer prayer in
gratitude for a whole month of worship and fasting. During the time of the presence of the
infallible Imam, this prayer is obligatory and must be performed in congregation, but in our time
it is mustahabb.
It can be offered from sunrise of the day of „Id up to midday, but performing it earlier in the day
is recommended.
In the first rak„ah, after the recital of Surah al-Hamd and another surah, one must recite takbir
{“Allahu akbar”} five times and perform qunut after takbir. In the qunut any supplication may
be recited, but it is better to recite the supplication, “Allahumma ahl al-kibriya‟i wa‟l„azamah…”
There are four takbirs in the second rak„ah, and after each takbir, qunut is required.
Because of the peculiar spirituality it possesses, the „Id al-Fitr prayer makes hearts aware of God
and creates a state of repentance, followed by asking for forgiveness. It is recommended
{mustahabb} for a person to take a bath, recite a particular supplication and pray in an open
Imam ar-Rida („a) says: “God has made this day as a day of festivity so that the Muslims can
gather together and glorify Him for His blessings and favors. Thus, this day is a day of festivity,
of fraternal gathering, alms-giving, spiritual delight, and benediction.”
In this noble hadith, the philosophy of the prayer and festivity {„id} has been stated under the
following headings:
(1) fraternal gathering;
(2) alms-giving and attending to the poor;
(3) dutifully inclining toward God; and
(4) humbly entreating the Lord.
All of these refer to the spiritual and mystical dimension of the said prayer and religious rites, as
well as the social effects and benefits which the people obtain. By giving their zakat al-fitr, the
people provide sustenance to the poor and needy. In another dimension, attention is diverted
toward the deprived ones, „Id al-Fitr is regarded as the “feast of the poor”.
In addition to sociopolitical effects of this glorious annual gathering, it is a symbol of the power
and glory of the Muslim ummah.
Divine gift
The main thing which can be requested from God in this prayer is forgiveness and mercy as well
as the acceptance of worship. This is the best gift that God grants to the worshippers who have
Imam al-Baqir („a) says: “The Messenger of Allah (S) said that whenever the first day of
Shawwal (i.e., „Id al-Fitr) arrives, a caller from God cries out, “O believers! Hurry to get your
gifts”.” Then, the Imam („a) turns toward Jabir and says: “O Jabir! The gifts of God are not like
the gifts of kings… Today is the day of (divine) gifts!”
„Id al-Fitr as a scene of the Day of Resurrection {qiyamah}
One of the educational and constructive effects of „Id al-Fitr prayer is that in the said gathering
for supplication and entreating in open space, man is reminded of God, the Day of Resurrection
and his need of divine mercy, while the scene of the Day of Resurrection comes into view.
Remembering the Day of Resurrection on that day is enjoined by the Commander of the Faithful
It is recorded in the hadith that on a certain „Id al-Fitr, the Commander of the Faithful („a) said
to the people in a sermon: “O people! This day of yours is the day when the good ones shall
receive reward. On this day, the evil-doers shall be in loss.
This day is the day most similar to your resurrection. Your coming out from your houses and
going to the prayer ground calls to mind your coming out of your graves. Your waiting for the
prayer reminds us of the gathering in the Presence of God on the Day of Resurrection. Your
returning home after the prayer is reminiscent of your return to your dwelling, either in paradise
or hell.”
On a certain „Id al-Fitr, Imam al-Mujtaba („a) came across some people who were busy laughing and
playing. The Imam („a) said to his companions: “God has made Ramadhan as a ground to
compete in obtaining His mercy and pleasure. Some are ahead while others are left behind. What
is sorrowful is that on this day of reward, the latter are busy laughing and playing.”
„Id al-Adhha prayer
The tenth day of Dhu‟l-Hijjah is „Id al-Qurban (or al-Adhha). It is one of the most auspicious
festivities of Islam, with specific practices and supplications. One of them is the „Id al-Qurban
prayer. Like the „Id al-Fitr prayer, it consists of two rak„ahs. It is also offered in the same
manner, at the same time, and under the same conditions.
Whether on the day of „Id al-Fitr or „Id al-Qurban, takbirs are to be recited before and after the
prayer (in the case of „Id al-Qurban, up to ten takbirs after the „Id al-Qurban prayer), which all
contain the glorification of God, monotheism, His greatness, and our gratitude for His blessing of
In the qunut of the „Id al-Adhha prayer, as in the previous „id prayer, it is better to recite the
supplication, “Allahumma ahl al-kibriya‟i wa‟l-„azamah…” In this supplication, we recognize
and remember God through His greatness, omnipotence, clemency, mercy, and forgiveness. For
the sake of this great day which is a day of festivity for the Muslims and a source of nobility and
pride for the Prophet and his descendants („a), we beseech God to send salutations to Muhammad
and his progeny („a) and to benefit from His blessings and good things.
The statement made in this supplication is the most comprehensive request that may be asked
from God. We request the following from God:
O God! Include me in whatever goodness You bestowed on this day upon Muhammad and his
And also take away from me whatever evil You took away from Muhammad and his progeny.
O God! I ask You for the best of things which Your righteous servants have asked of You.
And I seek refuge in You from whatever evil Your righteous servants have sought refuge in You!
„Id prayer as a prerogative of the leader
In Islam affairs pertaining to Friday and „Id congregational prayers are among the posts
designated to the rightful government and Islamic leadership. If oppressive powers assume the
posts to advance their own objectives, it is an act of usurpation.
Even designating individuals to conduct the Friday and „Id congregational prayers and the Hajj
pilgrimage is one of the prerogatives and functions of the government and guardian of the affair
{wilayah al-amr}. Therefore, such affairs being in control of the unworthy individuals is
mournful for the progeny of Muhammad (S). In a hadith Imam al-Baqir („a) has pointed to this
fact: “There is no „Id al-Adhha or „Id al-Fitr for Muslims in which the grief and sorrow of the
progeny of Muhammad are not aggravated and revived.” The Imam („a) was asked about the
reason and he said: “It is because on that day the Ahl al-Bayt could see their rights in the hands
of others!”
And which state of being oppressed is graver for the infallible progeny than the fact that even the
Islamic festivities are sorrowful for them, as they remind them of the usurpation of their rights
and the deviation of the leadership of society!
Salat al-Ayat {Prayer for the Signs}
Some phenomena occurring in nature have uncommon characteristics which create fear among
people, and at times, bring about superstitious and polytheistic ideas in the minds of the ignorant
and heedless.
It is the duty of religions with heavenly origins to draw minds toward the original factors of these
phenomena and prevent mental deviation.
In Islam a particular prayer has been made obligatory for such phenomena, so that the people
turn their attention toward God, the Creator of the universe, and regard His power as the source
of these changes and occurrences. This prayer is called Salat al-Ayat {Prayer for the Signs}
because it is offered at the emergence of natural events which are divine signs and symbols in the
We read in the books on practical laws that salat al-ayat is obligatory upon the occurrence of the
following phenomena:
(1) solar eclipse {kusuf};
(2) lunar eclipse {khusuf};
(3) earthquakes, and
(4) thunder and lightning, and black and red winds that frighten most people.
Salat al-Ayat as a lesson on monotheism {tawhid}
The occurrence of such events was considered by the narrow-minded ones as a sign of nature‟s
wrath and gods‟ anger. Since they were unaware of the nature and causes of these events, they
used to be heedless of God and focus their attention to lifeless nature. In particular, the sun- and
moon-worshippers had their own superstitious ideas.
Offering salat al-ayat is meant to draw the attention toward the Primary Source of creation and
natural changes, viz. God the Exalted. It also gives a lesson on monotheism {tawhid}.
It is narrated that there was a solar eclipse when Ibrahim, a son of the Prophet (S) died in
childhood. The people started saying that the loss of the Prophet‟s (S) male offspring was the
reason behind the solar eclipse. In a bid to correct the wrong notions and assumptions, the
Apostle of Allah (S) mounted the pulpit {minbar} and after praising and extolling God, he said:
“O people! The sun and moon are among the signs of Allah.
They run on their respective courses by His command and they are subservient to Him. Eclipses
take place not on account of the death or life of anyone. So, if there is a solar or lunar eclipse,
you offer a prayer.” After this speech, he went down from the pulpit and along with the people
he offered a prayer for the eclipse.
We can learn two lessons from this behavior of the Prophet (S):
One lesson is that the Prophet (S) first enlightened minds about natural phenomenon and then
performed a prayer for the natural signs. It implies that proper understanding and correct
thinking are more important than worship and prayer.
The other lesson is that since he was a man of God and a true messenger, he spoke the truth and
drew the people‟s attention toward God. On the contrary, the deceivers and demagogues would
perhaps take advantage of such an event to draw attention toward themselves. They would
analyze and interpret even the natural happenings for their selfish desires.
Imam as-Sadiq („a) narrated that his father said: “Earthquakes, solar and lunar eclipses, strong
and dreadful winds, are among the signs of the Day of Resurrection. Whenever you happen to
witness them, think of the Day of Resurrection, seek refuge in mosques, and stand in prayer.”
This narration also draws people‟s attention from nature to the Lord of nature, and in the end,
this „God-centeredness‟ is completed through prayer.
Manner of performing Salat al-Ayat
We shall point to only a few issues regarding the Salat al-Ayat. For details, one may refer to
books on practical laws.
1. The Salat al-Ayat consists of two rak„ahs and every rak„ah has four ruku„s. In every rak„ah,
after reciting Surah al-Hamd and another surah, one may perform ruku„ and then rise up, and
then recite Surah al-Hamd and another surah, and then perform ruku„, and continue doing so
five times. In every rak„ah, after the recital of Surah al-Hamd one may also divide a surah into
five parts and recite a part of it before ruku„, and continue doing so five times.
2. Whatever is obligatory in the five daily obligatory prayers such as ritual purification
{taharah}, qiblah, etc. is also obligatory in the case of Salat al-Ayat.
3. Offering Salat al-Ayat is an urgent obligation and it must not be delayed. In case of solar and
lunar eclipses, one may offer the prayer from the beginning of the eclipse. If a person fails to
perform the said prayer, he commits a sin, and it is obligatory upon him as long as he is alive,
and it is valid whenever he offers it.
4. If natural phenomenon for which Salat al-Ayat is obligatory (such as an earthquake, etc.)
happens in a certain city, it is obligatory upon the inhabitants of that place to offer the said prayer
but those in the other places are not obliged.
5. It does not make any difference whether a total or partial eclipse takes place. In both cases,
Salat al-Ayat is obligatory.
Salat al-Mayyit {ritual prayer for the dead}
When a Muslim, even if he is a child, dies, prayer is to be performed for his corpse after the
ritual bathing {ghusl al-mayyit} and enshrouding {kafan} are done. Although it is called salat almayyit {prayer for the dead}, in reality it is nothing more than supplication, because it has no
ruku„, sujud, tashahhud, and salam.
To perform ablution {wudhu} or dry ablution {tayammum}, or taking a bath {ghusl} is not a
prerequisite for its performance. The physical purity of the person praying is not also required
though it is better to observe all the conditions for prayer.
It is better to perform this rite in congregation.
To offer prayer for the corpse of a Muslim is wajib kifa‟i, which means that it is incumbent upon
all Muslims, and if a Muslim or a group of Muslims do so, the rest are excused.
This prayer requests mercy and forgiveness for the dead one. As such, it is better for the friends
and relatives of the deceased and the believers to be informed to participate therein, and pray for
This prayer brings mercy to the dead one as well as forgiveness for the sins of the persons
Usually, in offering this prayer certain recommended {mustahabb} supplications and statements
are recited. The obligatory things, however, which are necessary for every Muslim to know, are
the following:
Salat al-mayyit consists of five takbirs.
After the first takbir, “Ashhadu an la ilaha illallah wa anna Muhammadan rasulullah” {I bear
witness that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah} is recited.
After the second takbir, “Allahumma salli „ala Muhammad wa ali Muhammad” {O Allah! Send
blessings on Muhammad and the progeny of Muhammad} is recited.
After the third takbir, “Allahumma ‟ghfir li‟l-mu‟minina wa‟l-mu‟minat” {O Allah! Forgive the
believing men and women} is recited.
After the fourth takbir, “Allahumma ‟ghfir li-hadha (or li-hadhihi) al-mayyit” {O Allah! Forgive
this dead (male or female as the case may be)} is recited.
After the fifth takbir, the prayer is finished.
The person praying for the dead body must face the qiblah and place the corpse in the lying
position in front of him in such a manner that the head of the dead body is on the right side of the
one praying while the feet are on his left side.
The person praying must not be far from the corpse, but if the prayer is in congregation, there is
no problem if others are far from the dead body, provided the connection between those who are
praying is maintained.
If the prayer for the dead Muslim is not offered (intentionally or out of forgetfulness), or it is
found out later that the prayer offered was invalid, it must be offered near his grave after the
Prayer for rain {salat al-istisqa‟}
When divine mercy (rain) is withheld, springs and canals dry up and water scarcity takes place, a
prayer is offered for divine mercy and rain. This prayer is called “salat al-istisqa‟” or prayer for
This is also a lesson in monotheism, and paying attention to the divine power and mercy, because
at the time of draught, famine and water scarcity, nobody can be of help. It is only God who can
shower His mercy on the people by sending the dark clouds. God says:
ٍ ِ‫﴿ قُل أَرأَي تم إِ ْن أَصبح مائ ُكم غَورا فَمن يأْتي ُكم ب‬
﴾ ‫ماء َمعي ٍن‬
ْ َ ْ َ ًْ ْ
َ َْ
ْ ُْ َ ْ
“Say, „Tell me, should your water sink down {into the ground}, who will bring you running
The scarcity of water and lack of rain in a place is a sign of divine wrath and sometimes due to
the sins committed by the people in society. So, attention to God, weeping, beseeching, repenting
with humility might be accepted by God and the scarcity of water removed. The prayer for rain is
meant to earn the mercy of God.
Reason behind the absence of rain
As indicated above, sometimes, the absence of rain is the result of the sins of people and is a sign
of divine wrath and chastisement.
The Messenger of Allah (S) has said: “When God is displeased with a community and does not
bring chastisement to it, inflation will occur and the lifespan will become shorter; traders will not
profit and trees will not bear fruit; rivers will not be full of water and rain will be withheld from
people; wickedness will become rampant.”
In another hadith, Imam as-Sadiq („a) has said: “When the rulers and judges practice injustice,
rain will not come down from the sky.”
According to hadiths, besides those mentioned already, prevalence of sins, denial of blessings,
obstruction of rights, hoarding, oppression and deception, abandonment of the enjoining of good
and the forbidding of evil, non-payment of zakat, are sometimes the reason for the absence of
It is narrated in a hadith that Hadhrat Sulayman („a) along with his companions was going out in
order to pray for rain. He came across an ant that lifted one of its feet toward the sky, pleading:
“O God! We are Your weak creatures and we are not independent of Your provision. So, on
account of the sins of the Children of Adam, do not bring us to perdition.”
Hadhrat Sulayman („a) said to his companions: “Go back! Indeed, because of the supplication of
others, you shall be satiated!”
So, one must not be arrogant. Sometimes, because of the request of an ant, God will send down
His mercy to His servants. At times, He hears the supplication of even an unbeliever, such as
Pharaoh, and shower abundant rain. It is stated in a hadith from Imam as-Sadiq („a) that the
companions of Pharaoh talked about the lowering of water level of the Nile River in his
presence, expressing that “This will end in our perdition.”
Pharaoh asked them to return that day. When the night arrived, he went to the middle of the Nile
and raised his hands toward the sky and said: “O God! You are aware that I know that except
You, no one can bring down water. So, give water to us.” The following morning, the Nile River
was overflowing with water.
‫ مرا دمشن شدند‬،‫دوسىت كردم‬
‫اميىن ديدند و نا امين شدند‬
‫دوستان را از نظر چون مى برمي؟‬
‫ما كو دمشن را چني مى پرورمي‬
They saw security and got insecure.
I tried to befriend them but they turned inimical to Me.
How can We who nurtured the enemy as such
forget the friends?
Manner of performing the prayer for rain
Like „Id prayer, this prayer consists of two rak„ahs and is offered in congregation. The first
rak„ah has five qunuts while the second rak„ah has four qunuts.
In the qunuts, any supplication may be recited but it is better if the supplication to be recited
contains something about request for rain, and before every supplication salawat to the Prophet
and his progeny („a) should be offered. It is recommended {mustahabb} to recite aloud Surah alHamd and another surah.
Since this prayer is for drawing the mercy of the Lord, there are recommended acts
{mustahabbat} which demonstrate the, weakness and intense need of the servants of God and
attract divine mercy.
Among these acts are the following:
The people must fast for three days and go to the open field on the third day and pray there.
They must gather together in an open space.
They must be barefooted.
They must bring the pulpit {minbar} along with them;
They must let callers to prayer {mu‟adhdhin} accompany them.
They must also bring with them the aged, their children and four-footed animals.
They must separate the children from their mothers so as to intensify the crying and wailing.
They should not let the unbelievers with them go outside.
The imam and the people must go to the open space with utmost humility and seriousness and
choose a clean place for the performance of prayer.
When the prayer is finished, the imam has to mount the pulpit, and hang his cloak, or place it on
his back or shoulder. He has to recite takbir a hundred times aloud. Facing the people on the
right, he has to recite “subhan Allah” {glory be to Allah} a hundred times aloud. Then, facing
the people on the left, he has to recite “la ilaha illallah” {there is no god but Allah} a hundred
times aloud. There is nothing wrong if the people repeat these slogans aloud to win divine mercy
and forgiveness.
Thereafter, the imam and the people have to raise their hands in supplication, fervently pray,
beseech, and implore. The imam of the congregation has to deliver a sermon and request God for
rain. It is better for him to recite the sermons transmitted from the Infallibles („a) such as those
transmitted from Hadhrat Amir („Ali) („a) and Imam as-Sajjad („a).
Historical precedence of the prayer for rain
As indicated in historical accounts, there has been prayer for rain during the periods of the
prophets („a), an example of which was the account about Hadhrat Sulayman („a) mentioned
The transmitted supplications and hadiths about the life conduct {sirah} of the Messenger of
Allah (S) in offering prayer for rain, the sermons related to this prayer narrated from the
Commander of the Faithful („a), and the supplication of Imam as-Sajjad („a) bespeak of the fact
that this tradition {sunnah} was practiced in the past.
In history, some distinguished „ulama‟ have also offered this prayer and their request for rain has
been granted by Allah. Of course, this prayer is crucial because if the request for rain is not
granted by God and it does not rain, it will embarrass the worshippers for not being heard by
God. For this reason, to perform this prayer requires courage and sacrifice to the extent of risking
one‟s honor.
One of the most famous prayers for rain in our contemporary history was the prayer of Ayatullah
al-„Uzma Sayyid Muhammad Taqi Khwansari (may Allah be pleased with him).
It has been recorded that in 1363 AH (1944), the same year when the Allied Forces had occupied
Iran after World War II, there was no rain in Qum. The gardens and fields dried up, and draught
and famine were threatening the people of Qum.
The abovementioned religious authority {marja„ at-taqlid} went to the open fields in the suburbs
of Qum for two successive days, in order to pray for rain. Although this move was subjected to
the insults of those who were denying spiritual and unseen affairs, on the second day, there was
such a heavy downpour that the rivulets were overflowing. This was the effect of the lofty spirit
of that man of God.
Other prayers
For the purpose of establishing relationship between God and His servant, many prayers have
been recommended, among which are the following:
Salat al-Ghufaylah;
Salat al-Hajat;
Salat al-Layl ad-Dafan (prayer on the first night of burial of a dead Muslim);
Prayer on the first day of the month; and
Many other prayers which are discussed in the books on supplications and those who are
interested may refer to those books.
I shall end up this writing with the hope that it will serve as a provision in the hereafter and a
useful venture for me and others.