The following are in accordance to “The Manifest Edicts”by His Eminence the late Sayyed Muhammad Hussein Fadlullah (ra). The book is the Manual of Islamic Practices or a reference for Muslims (Ar-Risalah Al-Amaliyah). That is, in committing themselves, on a spiritual, as well as a mundane level that they should observe what Allah has ordained lawful and refrain from embark on that which He has unlawful.
Allah has ordained that the Mukallaf, or one who comes of age, needs to carry out certain acts for the sake of Allah and as a sign of submission to Him. Such devotions should not be considered as properly executed unless they are embarked upon with the wish of Qurbah, or closeness and proximity, to Allah.
There are other things which Allah has recommended that His servants carry out. But He did not make it obligatory that they carry them out on the same principle of niyyah of Qurbah. Thus, the servant is free to observe such acts either for Allah’s sake or for the person’s own reasons. Either way, they should both be appropriate and proper. These devotions are called Tawsilaat (done for their expected good).
In Shariah, Ibadaat consists of purity; tahara (wudhu, ghusl, and tayamum), prayer, adhan, Iqama, fasting, i’tikaf (staying in a mosque for the sole purpose of worship, haj, umrah, tawaf, zakah, khums, jihad, kaffaraha, itq (freeing of a slave).
Others, among obligatory as well as recommended devotions, could be personal hygiene, of body and clothes, spending one’s money on spouse or relatives, maintaining one’s kinship, teaching Sharia rules, shrouding the dead and burying them, settlement of debt, returning what is deposed in trust, giving counsel to those who seek it, being good to one’s parents, returning the greeting, fighting oppression, enjoining what is good and forbidding what is evil, rescuing the human soul in peril, reciting the Holy Quran, and paying respect to the holy shrines of the Prophet (p) and Imams (a.s.).
What is meant by niyyah of Qurbah (the intention of reaching proximity to Allah) is that you should commission the action for His sake. This should be your motive for embarking on the action; of a secondary importance is whether the reason for the action was fear of Allah’ punishment, desires of His reward, or love of and faith in that He is worthy of obedience. Holding such worship would be proper of it stemmed from the intention of seeking closeness to Him. Making the niyyah by specifying that particular act of worship is wajib, obligatory, or mustahab is immaterial.
If the Mukallaf carried out the obligation, such as maintaining his spouse, with the niyyah of Qurbah, they would spare themselves the scourge of Allah’s wrath, by Allah’s grace, His reward. If their reasons for commissioning the action were, say, their love for their wife, they would ward off the punishment, but would not qualify for the reward.
By the same token, if the rich spend of their wealth in any of the avenues of good, with the niyyah of Qurbah, they would certainly warrant Allah’s reward, and their benevolence would fall under the banner of sadaqah. If they did not contemplate such a niyyah, they would not achieve the reward. However, in most circumstances, Allah would make them a favor by accepting their deeds, for He is the Most Benevolent.
If the mukallaf carried out the obligation with the niyyah of Qurbah and the personal motive, in such a way that if there was no personal motive they would have carried it out any way, they would be spared the punishment and reap the reward. As for obligatory acts of worship, the mukallaf should not expect to be spared the punishment, unless they take to the devotions with the niyyah of Qurbah in mind.
The niyyah of Qurbah would materialize whether or not the worshipper was able to determine the particular act of worship. For example, holding prayer facing the qiblah is an obligatory segment of prayer. The worshipper may be aware of the directions of qiblah, whereby they can say their prayer with the niyyah of Qurbah. However, identifying where the qiblah may be requires the worshipper to ask. If the matter is not resolved, they may be required to pray twice in two different directions with the niyyah of Qurbah and without giving preference to any of the two prayers being the required one.
Should the worshipper know that a given actions was not sanctioned by Allah, it is forbidden for them to commission it with the niyyah of Qurbah. If they go ahead with it, this will constitute an innovation which is haram. However, if they were not sure whether or not it was called for and that they were inclined to commission it in the hope that it was, they shall not be deemed sinful. This is called ihtiyat, which has already been discussed.
Hypocrisy is commissioning the act with the intention of earning people’s praise and admiration.
In Ibadaat, this is considered haram because any act of worship performed for this motive is batil (null and void). This person who commissioned the action would be deemed a sinner; this is irrespective of whether they embarked on the action to covert human praise alone or their and that Allah of Allah. As in evident from the hadith this is shirk (ascribing partners to Allah).