The Psychological Motives For Worship

The concept of servitude and submission to Allah the Exalted in man's soul is founded on a psychological bases, which enlivens the idea of servitude and grants it vitality and a spiritual and conscious force that urges man to cling to Allah and be connected to Him.

These psychological roots and the resultant deep inner feelings, are:


When love of Allah occupies man's mind and heart, and when it interacts with his feelings and emotions, filling his soul and conscience, it becomes devotion, a way of life, which affects the entirety of his behaviour. Its spirit is reflected in all his activities and emotions. Thus,

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his servitude to Allah is ingrained in his soul on the basis of love and pure eagerness for his God, in Whom he discerns every ยท loveable attribute; nay, more; he sees in Him the infinite perfection and the ultimate goal.

Consequently, this love and eagerness towards Allah continually urges him - in the direction of his Lord, and restlessly pushes him to do whatever may bring him nearer to Him, and to try whatever may attract His approval.

By enjoying such a love, and living in this state of eagerness, man feels as if he were imbibing the most delicious pleasures of life, at the highest stages of bliss, which takes him still nearer to the proximity of his Creator, with utmost love and longing. The ways of expressing worship practiced by man through praying, fasting, fighting for the sake of Allah, invocation, etc. cannot have their full meaning penetrate in the human soul, without its first feeling a pure love and longing for Allah.

This is why the believer carries in his soul and mind the message of servitude to Allah (religion), speaks about it, is proud of it, and sacrifices for it all his wealth, comfort, himself and his kinsmen; because all these cannot be compared with the love for his Lord.

This is very expressively, though briefly, described in the Qur'an:

"0 you who believe! Should any among you turns back from his religion, Allah will soon raise a people whom He loves and who love Him..." Holy Qur'an (5:54)

"And those who believe, their love of Allah be more intensely..." Holy Qur'an (2:165)

In the invocation of the great Prophet (s.a.w.), we find a genuine expression of the fountains of divine love and longing. He says: "0 God, grant me to love You, to love who loves You, and love the one who brings me nearer to loving You. Let Your love be more dear to me than a drink of cold water. 2

Here is Hussain bin Ali bin Abi Talib (a.s.), the grandson of Prophet (s.a.w.) who dips from the fountain of divine love, and illustrating its sweet taste, proclaims the drinker would not like to turn to any other than it: "It was You Who wiped away the others from the hearts of Your lovers, so as to love no one save You and to take refuge with no one but You .3 Imam Ja'far Al-Sadiq (a.s.) referred to the relation between the lover and Allah, and its impression on his conduct

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and feelings, saying: "The lover is the most sincere, the truest speaker and the strictest keeper of his promise, to Allah. 4 But when this glowing flame dies away in man's soul, and when this flowing fountain dries up, man feels the dessication of life, the accumulation of darkness in his being, the misery of his living. He wanders at random in his worship, ambling aimlessly in the world of the astray, far from Allah. If he, in this case, practices religious rites, such as saying his prayers, fasting and other good deeds, they will be void of real meaning and they spiritual contents that raise man to high degrees of human progress and perfection.


The other psychological drive which strengthens the feelings of submission in man, is the attitude of being small and trivial before Allah's greatness. He sees that he has no right to rebel and disobey. This inner feeling; the notion of nothingness before Allah's greatness, merges with emotions of fear and awe in the soul of the believer, causing him to submit, surrender, and adhere to his Lord, lest his love might be lost, and wrath and torment be sent down upon him.

Fear of losing the love and severing connection with Allah has its positive effects on the soul of the believer, his hope, his continual expectation, and despairing not of Allah's mercy. It also has tangible results in enhansing the role of fear in controlling the balance of the human soul and directing its movement towards Allah.

Thus, in this way, the feelings of the believer grow continually under the shadow of hope and expectation of divine kindness, free from the despair which closes in the face of man the doors of hope, preventing him from reforming himself and changing his attitudes.

The dual drives fear and hope have strong psychological effects and are a powerful moving force which stamps their mark on man's behaviour, pushing him towards good, or dragging him towards evil.

2-JamiAl-Sa'adat, Vol.3, P.150. 3-ibid. P.152. 4- bid, p. 154.

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This is because fear and hope form in the depths of the human soul, the two expressions of a balanced equation which dictate the sum total of human motives and conduct.

Imam Muhammed Al-Baqir (a.s.) explained the effect of these two drives on the believer's soul, and the psychological relation between them. He said:

"There is no believing servant without having in his heart two lights: the light of fear and the light of hope; if he weighed the one, it would not seem to be heavier than the other. Allah had joined them when He described those whom He praised, saying: (They)cry to their Lord in fear and hope.." 5

Imam Al-Sadiq (a.s.) elaborated on this concept and illuminated it by saying:

"Fear is the watcher over the heart, and hope is the intercessor for the soul. Whoever knows Allah, fears Him, and to Him he places his hope, as these are the two wings of faith by which the righteous servant ascends to Allah."6

From this brief presentation of the psychological motivation inherently compelling man to true servitude, we understand that love, longing, fear and hope are the psychic drives interacting in the depths of the soul and urging man to be connected with Allah, and to try through all available means including conduct, thought, emotions and activity, to obtain Allah's pleasure, and win His reward for purely and sincerely worshipping Him.