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Summary of question
Why do the religious obligations such as prayer, fasting, hajj etc. not have visible effects?
question
Why do the religious obligations such as prayer, fasting, hajj etc. not have visible effects?
Concise answer

All acts of worship including prayer, fasting and hajj have a lot of individual and social benefits and effects. One of the blessed effects of prayer is proximity to God and keeping us away from evil and indecency. Fasting also has profuse benefits and effects. For instance, it heals the physical body, creates a feeling of sympathy and causes one to guard himself against evil. Hajj is also a spiritual journey which, if performed correctly and with all its conditions and manners, will leave profound and lasting effects on the individual.  A pilgrim's adornment with the qualities of servitude to God, the materialization and actualization of absolute submission and surrender to God, adherence to the tradition of great prophets, special divine saints and worthy servants in Makkah and Medina and in other holy places such as Arafat, Mash'ar and Mina and donning the white attire which reminds us of death produce profound effects on the individual. However, if these same acts of worship do not produce the special effects and do not improve our behavior and conduct either, then it is our deeds and actions which are defective and which we must try to correct and improve.

Detailed Answer

The effect of religious deeds and acts of worship on an individual depends on the psychological and spiritual content of his life and on observance of all the required manners and conditions. If our acts of worship do not produce the special effects and do not improve our behavior and conduct, then the fault lies with us as well as our deeds and actions which we must investigate and seek correction. Anyway, these acts of worship have profuse effects on the individual and society which every fair-minded person testifies and every man of insight is well aware of.  

The Effects of Prayer

Although a perfect prayer leaves profound effect on man's soul and personality and the more he distances himself from it the less its effects become, we ask you this question: Does the situation of a sinful person who has no sincere intention, change for the better, if he abandons the prayers? Does his heart and mind become purified? There is no doubt that the prayer has an impact on the sinful individual to the extent of the individual's spiritual and psychological capacity. If the same person abandons the prayers, his sin and indecency increase and become manifold. That is to say, the effect of the prayer which is keeping away from evil and indecency[1] becomes visible in him though in less amount. However, it will have its effect on him and will keep him away from evil to a proportionate degree. Now the question is: How can one deny these clear effects?

It has been narrated that a young from Ansar[2] was offering his prayer with the Holy Prophet (S) but he was also committing sins and prohibited acts. The story was told to the Prophet (S) and he said: "One day, his prayers will keep him away from evil and indecency." It did not take long that the young man repented and stayed away from the sinful acts which he used to commit.[3]

Again we ask you: Is there not any difference between one who offers prayers and one who does not? If a person, whose intention is clear and sincere, offers prayers and engages in dua and reading supplications, is his heart not purer and clearer than that of a person who does not offer prayers? Would he not become more luminous and purified?

The effect of prayer in every individual is subject to his knowledge, understanding, sincerity of intention, concentration and other conditions and manners which if observed will produce the expected result. Since people are different in terms of spirituality, their prayers and the effects of their prayers are also different. However, no prayer is ever without an effect, though the effect might vary completely from individual to individual.[4]

The Effects of Fasting

Fasting has numerous positive effects on the body, mind and soul.[5] Some of the benefits are enumerated as under:

1. Fasting makes the soul of man elegant, then strengthens his will, and moderates his instincts.[6]

2. The fasts have been made obligatory in order to establish equality between the rich and the poor; and this, in order that the rich experience the pangs of hunger and thus fulfill their obligations with respect to the poor.

3. The physical and spiritual effects and benefits of fasting are numerous and they tend to have a great impact upon man - the most important of them being their metabolic aspects. As said by a Russian scientist, Alex Sauveur, fasting is a cure for many diseases such as blood disorders, intestinal weakness, rheumatism, eye ailments, sugar disease, kidney and liver disorders.[7]

4. According to official statistics, crimes rates see a decline in the month of Ramadhan.

The Effects of Hajj

Hajj is also a spiritual journey which if performed correctly and with all its conditions and manners will leave profound and lasting effects on the individual. A pilgrim's adornment with the qualities of servitude to God, the materialization and actualization of the aspect of absolute submission and surrender to God, adherence to the tradition of great prophets, special divine saints and worthy servants in Makkah and Medina and in other holy places such as Arafat, Mash'ar and Mina, donning the white attire which reminds us of death, circumambulating around the House of God, the Ka'bah which is the center of monotheism and congregation of all the worshippers of the One God have profound effects on the individual and Muslim Ummah at large. The social benefits of hajj are also numerous. The congress of millions of Muslims at one time and in the same place (Makkah) is a symbol of power and strength of the Islamic world.

Despite all the effects and benefits mentioned for the acts of worship, if our deeds do not produce the special effects and do not improve our behavior and conduct, then it is our deeds and actions which are defective and which we must try to correct. Therefore, we must know that if our prayers do not keep us away from evil and indecency and they do not help us get nearer to God, it is all because they (prayers) lack the required conditions and features of a complete prayer. They just have the outward features of a prayer and for this reason they do not produce the effects e.g. proximity to God and avoidance from indecency. Same is the case with other acts of worship.



[1] - Al-'Ankabut, 49

[2] - Ansar  is an Islamic term that literally means "helpers" and denotes the Medinan citizens that helped Muhammad and the Muhajirun (migrants).

[3] - Rey Shahri, Muhammad Mizan al-Hikmah, vol.5, h.10254, Islamic Propagations Office Publications, 1362 (1983).

[4] - For seeing other effects of prayer, vide: question 2997 (site: 3242) The Effects and Meaning of Prayer).

[5] - See: Kulayni, Usul-e Kafi, vol.4, pg. 62, The Merits of Fasting and the One Who Fasts, Dar al-Kutub al-Islamiyah, Qom, 1365 (1986).

[6] - Al-Baqarah, 183: "O you who believe! fasting is prescribed for you, as it was prescribed for those before you, so that you may guard (against evil)."

[7] - Extracted from Porsman Software

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