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Last Updated: 2014/05/19
Summary of question
I want to make sure that all my deeds are performed according to Islamic laws. The obsession has affected my ordinary life. I need you advice.
I am a 22 year old young man studying electric engineering in a university. I have embraced the fact that Islam is the right religion and the direct path to perfection and eternal happiness. I do believe that if a person does not abide by Islamic injunctions, he is not in the right path and if he is bent on following the same path, he will end up going astray. I am a competent and talented young man. However, my belief in the religion of Islam being the right way has made me doubt whether or not every deed of mine is performed according to Islamic rules. That has caused a kind of problem in my life. Due, largely, to the fact that since I do not have precise knowledge of Islamic standards and criteria as well as of those of prophetic traditions, I begin to feel obsessed with my deeds. I doubt too often. The hesitation and doubt have caused me not to live a comfortable and ordinary life. I want my words, interaction with others, eating, sleeping and all aspects of my life to be done according to Islam. The obsession has isolated me from public life. Sometimes, I think that perhaps, some people who never believe in Islam are living more tranquil life. They are making better progress in their life and in acquiring knowledge. Now, I have several questions to put forth and I request you to kindly reply to them thoroughly and precisely. First question: In my daily life, I am looking for someone who is performing his deeds correctly and precisely according to religious codes. I want to follow him so that my deeds are also performed correctly in the same way as his. Thus, I would be in the right path, the path to happiness and prosperity. Does such a person exist in our time and in our surrounding? If there is one such individual, can I have access to him and see how he is performing his religious deeds? Second: Is Islam an easy religion or a difficult one? If it is easy, what does it mean to be easy? Does it mean that Islam does not conflict with our natural routine life? If that is the case, what is the difference between a Muslim and a non-Muslim individual? How can we tell the difference between a true Muslim and a non-Muslim? How can one be a true Muslim then? Third: What are the names of the reliable and authentic books that introduce us to the individual and social life of the Prophet (S) and his pure progeny? Fourth: What is the Islamic criterion for an act to be correct or incorrect? Fifth: A lack of real and trustworthy role model has caused obsession in me. How can I do away with the obsession and temptations?
Concise answer
God has allowed man to make decisions on his own free will for the most part of his life and it makes no sense, to be so particular and obsessive. Although performing the obligatory duties and staying away from the prohibited ones might, at times, cause you to encounter difficulties, they are not intolerable nor are they a hurdle to your daily life.  Islam's precise and exact criteria and principles have been mentioned in the Quran and Prophetic traditions and they have been explained by the progeny of the Holy Prophet (S). They are accessible and one can find them by referring to knowledgeable and God-conscious (pious) scholars or to books authored by prominent scholars. Thus, by understanding those criteria, you should follow them, not individuals because the individuals, who are fallible, are always likely to go astray. If you rely a hundred percent on a religious person, you will go astray, should he get deviated from the right path.  You should also understand that a religious person enjoys calm and tranquility of mind which is not comparable to any material wealth and progress.  One who endeavors to understand the truth should not fall prey to doubt and satanic temptations. In fact, he should know that God, the Merciful, will forgive him due to him being truthful and honest. He should not worry at all.
Detailed Answer
The questions and difficulties you made reference to in your message are sorted out under seven categories which will be answered in parts and in some cases you will be advised to refer to related questions and answers on our website:
1. Should one's entire behavior and conducts be according to Islam? If so, how is it possible?
2. Does acting upon Islamic laws and divine injunctions disrupt one's behavior? Is it not consistent with man's daily life? Does one need to live an isolated life, a life in seclusion, in order to remain Muslim?
3. How is possible to get to Islam's precise standards and criteria? How can one be a true Muslim?  What is Islam's criterion for an act to be correct or incorrect?
4. Is it possible for one's actions to be entirely according to Islamic rules and values, so he can be followed as a role model?
5. Do those who do not believe in religion and Islam live a more comfortable life and attain more progress as compared to those who believe in Islam?
6. What books should one read in order to know the individual and social behavior of the Prophet (S) and his pure household?
7. How is it possible to get rid of obsession and satanic temptations?
We must know that one who is serious about his relation to God and is submissive in his heart to the will of Allah, he will not be affected by any doubts concerning religious issues even if those doubts are very serious. In fact, as the Holy Prophet (S) says, the emergence of such a condition can be a sign of his sincerity and religiosity.[1] That is because only a pious and practicing individual gets concerned about his spiritual situation. For this reason, we believe you are a practicing man and we are going to clear your ambiguities.  Now, we will study your questions in the same sequence as they were sorted out above:
1- Islam considers certain acts as inevitably obligatory and mandatory terming them as "wajib". It has declared certain other acts such lying, backbiting, oppression etc. as prohibited terming them as "haram".
Anything which is neither obligatory nor prohibited is technically called "mubah" in its broader and more general meaning.[2] Most of the things which we have something to do with in our daily lives come into the category of mubah about which we can have a free choice easily. Conclusively, when it comes to mubah things, one can choose to do or not to do it. In both cases, he has not violated Islam.  For instance, the model of cell phone you choose to buy, or the washing power (detergents), journeying by bus or train and thousands of such examples can be produced where one does not need to make sure that his actions are in accordance with Islamic standards. The fact that you have stated that you want to make sure that all your actions are done according to Islamic laws is something that the religion itself does not want us to do anything about.  Read the following saying from the Commander of the Faithful, Ali (AS) who says:
Allah has placed on you some obligations which you should not ignore, laid down for you limits which you should not transgress and prohibited you from certain things which you should not violate. He has kept silent about certain things but has not left them out through forgetfulness, so do not burden yourself with them.[3]
Note that our country's law (i.e. the laws of the Islamic Republic of Iran)_ should not be opposed to Islamic criteria which, in fact, does not mean that there must be similar Quranic verses and prophetic traditions about every legislated rule.  In fact, the jurists in the Guardian Council study the differences and consistency of the passed laws and articles with a view to Islamic laws, not their agreement with Islam.[4]
It is therefore not necessary that you should be obsessed with your practices to make sure that all what you do is according to a religious source or a religious role model.
2- As for the second point, we should also say that as the Quran clearly states, God wants everything to be easy so that people do not encounter unnecessary hardship.[5] Although there are no difficult and intolerable rules in Islam,[6] it does not meant that one should not face any difficulties while performing religious deeds and acting upon Islamic injunctions.  That is because we know for sure that certain acts of worship such as fasting, jihad etc. are accompanied with hardships.  There is also no doubt, that life in the world is not free of any difficulty regardless of one's religion and beliefs.  However, according to the Quran and prophetic traditions, acting upon religion is not so difficult to be unbearable and to make human beings doubt the truthfulness of the religion. That is why, despite Islam emphasizing on performing recommended acts, one should understand that performing those recommended acts should not put him to unnecessary hardships. Consider the following hadith:
Uthman bin Maz'un's wife said to the Prophet (S): “O Messenger of Allah (S), Uthman, mostly fasts during the days and spends the nights in worship, and he does not come near me.” The Holy Prophet (S) came out of his house in fury, in such way that he was carrying his slippers in his hands. And he reached the residence of Uthman in this condition.
He found Uthman praying, and when Uthman saw the Prophet he concluded his prayer and came to the Messenger of Allah (S). The Prophet said: “O Uthman, the Almighty Allah has not sent me to propagate monasticism and abstinence from the world. He has sent me with an easy set of commandments. I also fast, pray and have relations with my wives. Thus one who wishes to follow my religion should following my practice. And it is my practice to associate with women. Whoever wants to remain in Islamic nature should act according to my method.[7]” That is how the Quran does not consider monasticism and seclusion from society which is propagated by Christian leaders as being opposed to Islam. It is an innovation on the part of the individual who adopts seclusion. Thus, it stresses that one earn the pleasure of Allah without detaching himself from society.[8] Read question 2159 also to learn more in this regard.
3- The main criterion in being a Muslim is to submit to the command of Allah and His Prophet (S) as well as to surrender oneself to what is decreed by Allah, thought it might be opposed to some of our inclinations and desires. Abraham (AS) surrendered herself to divine commandment by preparing Ismail for sacrifice. The latter humbly submitted himself to what God had decreed. Both the father and the son consented to God's order.  God, the Exalted, describe this submissive behavior as "Islam" (submission to the will of Allah).[9] You should bear in mind that although the sacrificial act was not completed but since God was aware of their intention, He named them as Muslims. Elsewhere in the Quran, the magicians who are about to embrace Islam have been considered as Muslims.[10]
Hence, it can be easily concluded that the real criterion for being a Muslim is neither profuse knowledge, nor abundant worship and efforts. In fact, it is one's niyah (intention) and being submissive that indicate one's being Muslim.  The intention must be coupled with efforts to learn more and improve one's knowledge of Islamic teachings. The mujtahideen (holy warriors) who took part in the Battle of Badr had less knowledge and engaged in worshipping less than those who converted to Islam later. That was because Islam had just emerged then.   However, they earned more reward due to their sincerity. There are narrations which state that if a person acts simply because he has been told that he will earn reward for doing it, he will earn the reward even if he comes to know later that the report was not true.[11]  Can such a report be interpreted in a way different from the fact that intention plays a basic role in people's genuine and true submission to Islam? It is also necessary to note that if an individual is at a higher rank of faithfulness and belief in Islam, he should not call others as non-Muslims or unreal Muslims.[12]
The Holy Quran considers Prophet Muhammad (S) as a role model for faithful people[13] calling on them to obey him and also the infallible leaders who are the Prophet's successors.[14] However, now that we do not have access to those noble leaders, a specific person has not been appointed as a role model. In fact, various standards and criteria have been announced so that we may, by using them, choose models to follow in our lives. Naturally, whoever follows the criteria more carefully, we should follow him more strictly as a role model. In the present time in which we are living, it is neither recommended nor is it advised that we should make all our beliefs and thoughts to match the thoughts of a particular person. Even the concept of taqlid has something to do with the secondary issues of jurisprudence (fiqh). When it comes to the fundamentals of faith, we are not allowed to follow anyone. We must learn and understand them with our own insight.[15] The most important criterion to be considered for people as patterns is knowledge of God, practice and piety. Consider the following reports:
A) The disciples told Prophet Jesus: "Who should we associate with?" Jesus (AS) replied: "People who remind you of God, whose words increase your knowledge and whose behavior persuades you towards the Hereafter."[16]
B) The Imam of Age (AS) says: Whoever from among the ‘al-Fuqaha’ safeguards himself, is protective of his religion, opposes his temptations, is obedient to his Master’s commands, then the common people must do his ‘taqleed’ (emulate), and this is only applicable to some of the Shia ‘Fuqaha’.[17]
C) Imam Sadiq (AS) says to Abu Hamza al-Thumali not to take a non-infallible individual as his role model accepting all what he does.[18]
Considering these narrations and the likes of them which can be found in our sources, one must avoid going to extremes in imitating and following someone. That is to say, he should neither be like those who do not accept divine leaders and religious scholars nor should he be like those who blindly follow others without applying his reason and intellect to make sure they are either right or wrong. Even if he is advised to give up offering prayers and other apparent religious duties to attain a degree of spirituality, he is prepared to do so. In fact, a faithful and adhering individual must always seek to increase his knowledge and by using his God-gifted capacity – intellect – he should try to improve his awareness by asking others so that he should have knowledge and practice together.  Thus, he will not fall in the trap of those who use religion as a means to make material gains. As the Commander of the Faithful, Ali (AS) said if a person connects himself to the Quran and Sunnah, then if the mountains tremble, he will not tremble. But if he, in his religiosity, wishes to rely on people accepting them hundred percent, the same people may possibly cause him to deviate from the right path.[19]
In short, faithful people should identify the criteria and by taking them into consideration and looking carefully at the sayings and conducts of scholars who possess those criteria, he will come to a clear conclusion about a suitable pattern of life without having to be bound by following someone as a role in all individual and social areas.  For further information in this regard, refer to questions 2702, 2991 and 4302.
5- If we are to consider gaining more wealth and knowledge as our ultimate goal, we may come across some unfaithful and unbelieving people who have attained more progress in terms of collecting and amassing wealth but a faithful and believing man does not believe that  happiness rests in material gains. He will follow the Quranic verses which describe the world with all its glamour as an insignificant and transient commodity.  Considering the following two verses:
a) Let it not deceive you that those who disbelieve go to and fro in the cities fearlessly. A brief enjoyment! then their abode is hell, and evil is the resting-place.[20]
b) Do they think that because We have granted them abundance of wealth and sons, We would hasten them on in every good? Nay, they do not understand.[21]
Indeed, tolerating some hardship and tribulations is difficult for some faithful people and it is for the same reason that God has announced those difficulties as a test for the faithful promising great reward for those who come out triumphant.[22] It is also necessary to mention that whatever has thus far been said does not imply that we should give up our efforts to achieve progress, acquire knowledge, gather wealth and adopt a secluded life to engage in worship; rather we should, by taking the religious criteria into consideration (not to an obsessive extent) pay attention to such matters as well considering them as acts of worship.[23] We must know that many unbelieving people who look apparently to be happy are faced with a lot of mental crisis. We ask you a question: There is a person who does not believe in the hereafter and believes that he will ceases to exist after death; doesn't such feel useless?  Can he feel happy for a while?
6- The Prophet of Islam (S) invited his nation to follow the Quran and his progeny.[24] Considering that according to these traditions the behavior of the Infallibles (AS) are based on the teachings of the Quran, a careful study of the Holy Quran and narrations reported from religious leaders is the best way to get acquainted with their lifestyle. Hence, we advise you to read the Quran and Nahjul Balaghah carefully along with their interpretations as well as Shi'as authentic hadith books.[25] If reading the original hadith sources are too difficult to read, you can begin to read simplified editions of books authored by prominent Shia scholars to improve your awareness about religious teachings and biography of the infallibles. You can look at the index of books to locate the subjects you are interested in.
If you are interested in the behavioral advice of the noble leaders, it is appropriate that you first read the indexes so that you may identify the subjects you would like to read. For instance, in the book of al-Kafi, you can first of all read the traditions in Kitab al-'Ashra (second part) and Kitab al-Ma'eishah (fifth part). As for Nahj al-Balaghah, you can read the final part i.e. the short sayings of the Commander of the Faithful, Ali (AS). Such a method in reading hadith books will create further motivation to carry on your studies.  For studying other books in this regard, you should seek others' advice in every single case so that you may be able to make better use of your time. Refer to index 23058 for further information.
7- Everybody knows himself better than he knows others.[26] If you are really interested in finding Islamic teachings and comparing your conducts with those teachings, there is no doubt that God will treat your efforts with respect even if, in some cases, your conducts are not completely in accordance with Islamic standards in which you are not guilty. For this reason, there is nothing to worry and you can carry on your efforts and God will help you.[27]
Read the following traditions carefully as they will help you do away with your obsession:
A) A man went over to the Prophet (S). He looked worried and said to the Messenger of Allah (S):  "O Messenger of Allah, I feel I have become a hypocrite" The Prophet said in response: "No, by Allah, you have not become a hypocrite and if you were a hypocrite, you would not come to me to declare your hypocrisy. I suppose the enemy which is present everywhere (Satan) has occurred to your mind and asked you: "Who created you?" And you replied: "God".  And he asked again: "Then how was God created?" Surprised to hear this from the Prophet (S), he said: "Yes, by Allah Who chose you as prophet, that is how you said." The Holy Prophet (S) said: "When the devil (Satan) despaired of you going astray, it enters your heart this way. In such a situation, you should remember God (and not pay attention to its temptations).[28]
B) Jamil bin Darraj says: "I said to Imam Sadiq (AS) that sometimes I become obsessed and suspicious in the matters appertained to my faith." The Imam said: "Whenever such a feeling comes up, say "La ilahi illallah".
Jamil narrates that by acting upon the Imam's advice, I was able to get rid of the obsession.[29]
Muhammad bin Hamran also narrates a similar tradition from Imam Sadiq (AS) who said: Things which are causing you temptations, no matter how many they are, are not going to be harmful. The treatment is to recite "la ilahi illallah".
You should always remember God, the Almighty, without having to let other routine activities come to a standstill. In addition to learning the related sciences connected to your university field, make efforts to improve your religious knowledge and if there is something which you think is disrupting your life, come back to us with precise information about it and we will try to address that problem.

[1]Hurr Amili, Muhammad bin al-Hasan, Wasail al-Shi'ah, vol.7, p. 168, narration No. 9027, Aalulbayt Institute, Qom, 1409 A.H.
[2] Abominable (makrooh) and recommended (mustahab) acts are included in the general meaning of "mubah" because, although they are instrumental to man's spiritual progress, they are not mandatory. For instance, the "Night Prayers" is recommended and "poetry" on Friday abominable but none of them is mandatory.
[3] Nahjul Balaghah, p. 487, sayings No, 105, Dar al-Hijrah Publications, Qom, (without date).
[4] Vide: Principle 91, Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran; Also, see: Detailed discussion of experts of the constitution in this regard.
[5] Al-Baqarah, 185.
[6] Al-Maedah, 6, Hajj, 78, al-Tawbah, 91; Noor, 61; Fath 7 etc. in which the words "'usr" and "haraj" have been used.
[7] Hurr Amili, Muhammad bin al-Hasan, Wasail al-Shi'ah, vol.20, p. 106, narration, 25157.
[8] Hadid, 27.
[9] Saaffaat, 103.  "فلما اسلما و تله للجبین".
[10] Al-A'raf, 120 – 126.
[11] Hurr Amili, Muhammad bin al-Hasan, Wasail al-Shi'ah, vol.1, p. 80, chap. 18, hadith 182.
[12] Nisa, 59; Hashr, 7 etc.
[13] Al-Ahzab, 21.
[14] An-Nisa, 59; al-Hashr 7 etc.
[15] The subject of taqlid or following a qualified Mujtahid has been discussed at length in the first section of Manual of Islamic Laws (Resalah).
[16] Kulayni, Muhammad bin Ya'qub, al-Kafi, vol.1, p. 39, narration 3, Dar al-Kotob al-Islamiyah, Tehrna, 1365 (Persian calendear).
[17] Hurr Amili, Muhammad bin al-Hasan, Wasail al-Shi'ah, vol.27, p. 131, narration, 33401.
[18] Ibid, vol.27, p. 126, narration 33387.
[19] Ibid, vol.27, p.132, narration 33403.
[20] Aal-e Imran, 196 – 197.
[21] Muminoon, 55 -56.
[22] Al-Baqarah, 155 – 157 and 177; Muhammad 31; Nahl 96. Refer to answer 3040 to learn more in this regard.
[23] There are some details in the answer to question 4007 about God providing sustenance. Should you wish to learn more, you can refer to the same question.
[24] Hurr Amili, Muhammad bin al-Hasan, Wasal al-Shi'ah, vol.27, p. 33, narration 33144.
[25] There is no doubt that a lot of the sayings of the infallible leaders have not reached us due to many reasons. In this regard, you can refer to questions 3966 and 531.
[26] Qiyamah, 14, "بل الانسان علی نفسه بصیره".
[27] Al-'Ankabut, 69, "و الذین جاهدوا فینا لنهدینهم سبلنا".
[28] Hurr Amili, Muhammad bin al-Hasan, Wasail, vol.7, p. 167 – 168, narration, 9026.
[29] Ibid, vol.7, p. 168, narration 9025.
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