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Mustahabb Worships

Worship or ʿIbāda (Arabic: العبادة) is humble obedience and compliance. It refers to an internal state of human beings in which they find themselves under the control of their Creator. The philosophy behind worship is said to be the remembrance of God and the human need to God.

Worships are categorized into compulsory and voluntary. In the Qur'an and hadiths, worships are said to have effects such as the forgiveness of sins, peace and happiness, increase in livelihood, Imamate, proximity to God, and remaining steadfast on the path of religion.

Manners and conditions of worship are said to include sincerity, moderateness, patience, knowledge, humbleness, and cleanliness. Worships are not restricted to certain religious rituals. It also includes supplication, thinking, and the attempt to earn halal livelihood.

In Quranic verses and hadiths, obstacles of worship are said to include boastfulness, arrogance, ignorance, worldliness, and earning haram livelihood.

The Notion

"Ibada" (worship) is said to mean veneration, obedience, and humble compliance, and in some cases, humbleness and modesty.[1] In this sense, it is a state within human beings in which they feel the need to,[2] and the dominance of, their Creator.[3] According to Allama Tabataba'i, to worship is to put oneself in the position of humility and compliance, to disconnect from anything else, and to remember God.[4] Also, worship is said to consist in a desire to serve and venerate a superior being that deserves veneration.[5]

In Quranic terminology, "ibada" has a very general meaning which includes many human behaviors, even when they are done in compliance with Satan and personal desires. According to Quranic verses, the notion includes worshiping other human beings,[6] worshiping one's desires,[7] worshiping Satan,[8] worshiping the idols,[9] and worshiping God.[10]

Unlike the general Quranic usage, in Islamic jurisprudence, the term, "ibada", refers only to practices and rituals that are done with the intention of proximity to God, which are called "ta'abbudi" rulings.[11] In its commonsensical usage, the term is known with some of its instances, such as prayer, fasting, hajj, supplication, and tasbih, which is more limited than both the Quranic and jurisprudential uses.[12]

Philosophy of Worshiping

Some reasons are given for why people should worship God, including the remembrance of God and the human need to God.

  • The Goal of the Creation of the World: The main goal of the creation of the world is said to be the worship and servitude of God. According to some Quranic verses, God has created the jinn and mankind to worship Him.[13] Thus, when mankind is distracted from this goal, God sends prophets (a) to rescue people from the worship of Taghut and redirect them to their main goal.[14] The worship of God lies within human nature (or fitra), although human beings might sometimes deviate from the right path and worship entities such as idols and other human beings.[15]

According to Imam Ali (a), prophets are sent by God in order to prevent people from worshiping idols and encourage them to worship God.[16]

  • Remembrance of God: one goal of worship is said to be the remembrance of God and the recitation of dhikrs.[17] In the Qur'an 20:14, God addresses Prophet Moses (a) and introduces Himself as the one and only deity, and asks Moses (a) to worship Him and perform the prayer so that he could always remember God. Quranic exegetes take the command of worship in this verse to be the essence of practical rulings (Ancillaries of the religion), which is the second essence of the faith.

Kinds of Worship

Worships are categorized into compulsory and voluntary.


Non-voluntary, compulsory worship is a kind of worship in which the worshipper cannot opt out of the worship and can only comply. All beings in the world, except those with free will, are subject to compulsory worship.[18] This kind of worship is mentioned in certain Quranic verses as well.[19] Allama Tabataba'i refers to this as "general worship."[20]

Voluntary Worship

Voluntary worship is a kind of worship done with the exercise of the free will by creatures such as the jinn and human beings.[21] This is referred to as "specific worship" as well[22] and is pointed out in certain Quranic verses.[23]

Some others have provided another categorization of worships by appealing to a supplication by Imam Ali (a):[24] the worship of slaves, the worship of businessmen, and the worship of the free. If God is worshiped out of the desire for Heaven and other rewards, then this is the businessman's way of worship; if God is worshiped out of the fear from the divine punishment, then this is the slave's way of worship; and if God is worshiped because He is deemed worthy of worship and appreciation, then that is the freeman's, and the best way of, worship.

Effects of Worship

In the Qur'an and hadiths, many effects have been said to follow from worships, such as the forgiveness of sins,[25] peace and delight,[26] increase in the livelihood,[27] steadfastness in the religion,[28] Imamate,[29] proximity to God,[30] piety,[31] attraction of God's mercy and satisfaction,[32] thanking God,[33] dignity,[34] power,[35] immunity to sins,[36] divine guidance,[37] companionship with righteous people,[38] and certainty.[39]

Manners and Conditions of Worship

Certain conditions and manners have been stipulated for worships so that they can be done more optimally. They include sincerity, moderateness, the worship being out of knowledge, patience in worship, humbleness, cleanliness, and time and place of the worship.

  • Sincerity: (khulus) the acceptance of worships by God is said to depend upon the degree of the worshiper's sincerity. On Allama Tabataba'i's definition, a worship is sincere if the worshiper is not preoccupied with anything and anyone other than God and does not take a partner for God in the worship. He maintains that a worship is sincere when it is done neither in the hope of divine rewards nor from the fear of divine punishment.[40] Over fifty Quranic verses have put a strong emphasis on sincerely doing worships. In hadiths, sincerity is introduced as a condition for the acceptance of worships, and people are commanded to stay away from those who intend to obtain fame via worshiping.[41]
  • Moderateness: one manner in which worships have emphatically been commanded to be done is moderateness. Quranic exegetes have appealed to a phrase in Qur'an 17:110, "seek between that an [intermediate] way," in which it is commanded that the prayer should not be recited too loudly or too quietly and should instead be recited in a middle way, to show that the pattern should be followed in all human conducts, and in particular, worships.[42] Moderateness in worships has been emphasized in hadiths through certain stories.[43] In these hadiths, Islam is characterized as a moderate religion and so Muslims are recommended to do all their actions in moderate ways. According to hadiths, one result of moderateness in worships is the preservation of one's passion and the prevention of boredom in worships,[44] to which the Qur'an 4:142 refers.

There is a hadith in which the Prophet (s) prohibits people from forcing others to worship when they are reluctant. He analogizes this to a helpless rider who has neither traveled a path, nor left the vehicle.[45] In maxim 285 of Nahj al-Balagha, Imam Ali (a) emphasizes the abandonment of recommended actions if they disrupt obligatory actions.

  • Worships being based on knowledge: one condition of the perfection and acceptance of worships is said to be doing them with knowledge and cognizance.[46] The Qur'an prohibits worships and prayers without consciousness.[47] Some hadiths have analogized worships by an ignorant person to animals moving around mills. According to hadiths, two rak'as by a knowledgeable person is equal to seventy rak'as by an ignorant person.[48] In these hadiths, effects of worships, including the forgiveness of sins, are said to depend on doing them with knowledge and reflection.[49]
  • Patience in worship: one condition of worships is to be patient and steadfast in the obedience of God. In the Qur'an 19:65, God calls the Prophet (s) to have the patience for God's worship. In hadiths, patience for the obedience and servitude of God is considered as one among many kinds of patience.[50]
  • Humbleness: another manner and condition of worships are to have an internal feeling of humbleness while doing the worship. Humbleness in worships is interpreted as the ultimate modesty and humility towards God's greatness, and the value of a worship is said to depend on how humble the worshiper is while doing it.[51] The Qur'an partly describes believers as humbly saying their prayers.[52] According to hadiths, actions count as worships only when they are done in humble ways.[53] The Qur'an counts cruelty and stony-heartedness as an obstacle for the human humility towards God.[54]
  • Cleanliness: many worships are said to have cleanliness (tahara) as a condition. The Qur'an 4:43 permits the performance of prayers only on the condition of cleanliness. In other verses, the cleanliness of the place of worship, such as the mosque, is stated as an obligation of administrators of religious affairs.[55]
  • The place and time of worships are also said to have roles in the effectiveness of worships. According to hadiths and practices of Ahl al-Bayt (a), they allocated a place in their houses for worships and worshiped at certain times during the day and night.[56]

Manifestations and Instances of Worship

In religious texts, worships and servitudes of God are not restricted to certain religious rituals, such as prayer, fasting, hajj, and the like. Instead, they are extended in the Qur'an and hadiths to include many other actions as well. In addition to rituals, actions such as supplication, thinking, Intizar al-Faraj (Wait for the Relief),[57] and earning a halal livelihood are enumerated as instances of worships.

  • Worship rituals: rituals such as prayer, fasting, hajj, and the like count as prime examples of worship. In religious texts, the prayer is characterized as the pillar of the religion[58] and a paradigm of worships, which has many effects.[59]
  • Supplication: one manifestation of worships is in the form of supplications, which has been emphasized in Quranic verses[60] and hadiths, as well as the practice of Ahl al-Bayt (a), such that the Prophet (s) has described supplication and praying as the brain of worships[61] and Imam Ali (a) has described them as God's favorite actions.[62]
  • Earning halal livelihood: trying to earn a halal livelihood for one's family has also been considered in hadiths as a superior part of worships.[63]
  • Thinking: according to hadiths, thinking, or a moment of reflection about God's power and command, are the greatest worships, because it leads one to goodness and good conducts.[64]

Obstacles for Worship

Sometimes, worships are faced with obstacles, including boastfulness, arrogance, ignorance, worldliness, and earning a haram livelihood.

According to the Qur'an 4:36, boastfulness and self-deludingness are described as obstacles for worships. According to other Quranic verses, avoiding arrogance is a condition for worshiping God.[65] The Qur'an 39:64 refers to ignorance as a ground for worshiping things and persons other than God.

In a hadith from Imam Ali (a), worldliness – engagement in worldly affairs – is considered as the main obstacle for worshiping God, and the abandonment of the love for the mundane world is regarded as the main factor in achieving perfection.[66] The Qur'an warns believers against the negligence of God because of their preoccupation with their children and property.[67]

Earning haram livelihood is another obstacle for worshiping God. The Prophet (s) has analogized worships while earning a haram livelihood to the construction of a building on a sabulous land.[68]

Prominent Worshipers

In the Qur'an, hadiths, and historical sources, certain figures are introduced as prominent worshipers. The Qur'an refers to the following people as great worshipers: Abraham (a),[69] Isaac (a),[70] Companions of the Cave,[71] Elijah (a),[72] Job (a),[73] Habib the Carpenter,[74] Zechariah (a),[75] Solomon (a),[76] Jesus (a),[77] Companions of Suffa,[78] Noah (a),[79] Muhammad (s),[80] Maryam (a),[81] Moses (a) and Aaron,[82] Jacob (a),[83] and Joseph (a).[84]

Worship in the Old Testimony

Worship, as an innate need within every human person, has been emphasized in all religions as a primary human obligation.[85] The word, "worship", in the Bible includes actions done for the veneration of God.[86] In the Old Testament, the worship is referred to as service, which points to our obligations towards God.[87] The term appears in many verses in the Old Testament. In the second of the Ten Commands, God calls people to worship Him and to avoid worshiping anyone or anything other than God.[88]

In the Old Testament, worship is deemed so important that God makes a covenant with Israelites in which He conditions His blessings for them upon their worships.[89] This has also been pointed out in the Qur'an. In the Old Testament, worship is not restricted to certain actions such as sacrifice, charity, fasting, and the like. It includes many aspects of life and any action done for the sake of God, such as wars, thinking, supplication, and so on.[90]


  1. Ibn Manẓūr, Lisān al-ʿArab, under the word "'Abada"; Rāghib al-Iṣfahānī, Mufradāt alfāẓ al-Qurʾān, under the word "'Abada".
  2. Qur'an 35:35.
  3. Muṭahharī, Majmuʿa āthar, vol. 21, p. 195-196.
  4. Ṭabāṭabāyī, al-Mīzān, vol. 18, p. 388.
  5. Muṭahharī, Yaddāsht-hā, vol. 6, p. 160.
  6. Qur'an 9:31 and Qur'an 10:28-29.
  7. Qur'an 20:42.
  8. Qur'an 19:44.
  9. Qur'an 29:17,25.
  10. Qur'an 39:11 and Qur'an 17:23 and Qur'an 11:2.
  11. Qummī, Jāmiʿ al-shatāt, vol. 1, p. 176; Mishkinī, Muṣṭalaḥāt al-fiqh, p. 20.
  12. Kūrānī, Falsafat al-ṣalāt, p. 9.
  13. Qur'an 51:56
  14. Qur'an 16:36
  15. Muṭahharī, Āzādī-yi maʿnawī, p. 109.
  16. Nahj al-balāgha, sermon 147, p. 204.
  17. Muṭahharī, Falsafa-yi ʿibādāt, p. 13-17.
  18. Rāghib al-Iṣfahānī, Mufradāt alfāẓ al-Qurʾān, 396-397, 542.
  19. Qur'an 17:44, Qur'an 16:49, Qur'an 62:1
  20. Ṭabāṭabāyī, al-Mīzān, vol. 1, p. 415.
  21. Rāghib al-Iṣfahānī, Mufradāt alfāẓ al-Qurʾān, p. 542.
  22. Ṭabāṭabāyī, al-Mīzān, vol. 1, p. 415.
  23. Qur'an 2:21, Qur'an 4:36.
  24. Nahj al-balāgha, hikmat 234, p. 510.
  25. Qur'an 71:3-4
  26. Qur'an 32:16-17, Qur'an 13:28.
  27. Kulaynī, al-Kāfī, vol. 4, p. 252; Majlisī, Biḥār al-anwār, vol. 68, p. 184.
  28. Qur'an 98:5.
  29. Qur'an 21:73
  30. Qur'an 39:2-3; Majlisī, Biḥār al-anwār, vol. 67, p. 16.
  31. Qur'an 2:21.
  32. Qur'an 48:29.
  33. Qur'an 2:172, Qur'an 16:114, Qur'an 39:66, Qur'an 29:17.
  34. Qur'an 19:81.
  35. Qur'an 11:50-52; Kulaynī, al-Kāfī, vol. 2, p. 468.
  36. Qur'an 12:21, Qur'an 17:64-65, Qur'an 29:45.
  37. Qur'an 16:36, Qur'an 43:26-27.
  38. Qur'an 18:28.
  39. Qur'an 15:98-99.
  40. Ṭabāṭabāyī, al-Mīzān, vol. 1, p. 26.
  41. Majlisī, Biḥār al-anwār, vol. 68, p. 256.
  42. Ṭabāṭabāyī, al-Mīzān, vol. 13, p. 225; Makārim Shīrāzī, Tafsīr-i nimūna, vol. 12, p. 329; Suyūṭī, al-Durr al-manthūr, vol. 4, p. 206-208; Fakhr al-Rāzī, Mafātīḥ al-ghayb, vol. 21, p. 419-420.
  43. Kulaynī, al-Kāfī, vol. 2, p. 43.
  44. Majlisī, Biḥār al-anwār, vol. 68, p. 213.
  45. Kulaynī, al-Kāfī, vol. 2, p. 86.
  46. Fayḍ al-Kāshānī, al-Maḥjat al-Bayḍāʾ, vol. 1, p. 366.
  47. Qur'an 4:43
  48. Mufīd, al-Ikhtiṣāṣ, p. 245.
  49. Kulaynī, al-Kāfī, vol. 3, p. 266.
  50. Kulaynī, al-Kāfī, vol. 2, p. 91.
  51. Khomeinī, Ādāb al-Ṣalāt, p. 17.
  52. Qur'an 23:2.
  53. Majlisī, Biḥār al-anwār, vol. 81, p. 230.
  54. Qur'an 34:16.
  55. Qur'an 2:125, Qur'an 22:26.
  56. Barqī, al-Maḥāsin, vol. 2, p. 612.
  57. Ṭūsī, al-Amālī, p. 405.
  58. Barqī, al-Maḥāsin, vol. 1, p. 44.
  59. Qur'an 29:45.
  60. Qur'an 2:186, Qur'an 40:60
  61. Majlisī, Biḥār al-anwār, vol. 93, p. 300.
  62. Kulaynī, al-Kāfī, vol. 2, p. 468.
  63. Kulaynī, al-Kāfī, vol. 5, p. 78.
  64. Kulaynī, al-Kāfī, vol. 2, p. 55.
  65. Qur'an 7:206, Qur'an 40:6, Qur'an 32:15
  66. Nahj al-balāgha. hikmat: 391, p. 545.
  67. Qur'an 63:9
  68. Majlisī, Biḥār al-anwār, vol. 81, p. 258.
  69. Qur'an 14:35 and 40, Qur'an 37:109
  70. Qur'an 21:72-73
  71. Qur'an 18:9,14
  72. Qur'an 37:132
  73. Qur'an 21:83-84
  74. Qur'an 36:20-21
  75. Qur'an 3:38,41
  76. Qur'an 34:12-13
  77. Qur'an 4:172
  78. Qur'an 6:52
  79. Qur'an 37:81
  80. Qur'an 48:29
  81. Qur'an 3:43
  82. Qur'an 7:142, Qur'an 37:122
  83. Qur'an 2:123, Qur'an 21:72
  84. Qur'an 12:24
  85. Shīyāsī Arānī, Jāygāh-i ʿibādat dar Qurʾān wa ʿAhd-i ʿatīq.
  86. Muḥammadīyān, Dāʾirat al-maʿārif-i kitāb-i muqaddas, p. 414.
  87. Masson, Qurʾān wa kitāb-i muqaddas, vol. 2, p. 597.
  88. Book of Deuteronomy 5:7-9
  89. Shīyāsī Arānī, Jāygāh-i ʿibādat dar Qurʾān wa ʿAhd-i ʿatīq.
  90. Shīyāsī Arānī, Jāygāh-i ʿibādat dar Qurʾān wa ʿAhd-i ʿatīq, p. 30.


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