Can a Muslim be exempted from the responsibility of worship by loving Ali (may God be pleased with him) and the Family of the Prophet (PBUH)?
In order to understand this issue completely, these three points must be explained:
1) What is worship? Why human beings are held responsible for worship?
2) What is love? Whom should man love and at what degree?
3) In our religion, what is the place of the love for the Family of the Prophet?
The first point: What is worship?
Worship is the believer performing such duties as proclaiming God Almighty as the greatest and offering Him thanks in the fashion He commands. Man is responsible for fulfilling the duty of offering thanks to Him with complete modesty, thinking that he is fed with the endless favors, presents, and blessings of God Almighty. And this can be done only through worship. The worshipper performs all his actions in the circle of divine commandment. He lives as the slave of no one else but God. This slavery improves him in humanity, honor, and avoidance from sins. Actually, the purpose of the creation of humankind is to reach this honor with worship.
It is clear that this sacred duty could not be fulfilled through loving Ali (may God be pleased with him). If this was the case, there would be no need for all the commandments of worship in the Quran and we would have been commanded only to love our Prophet instead.
The second point: What is love? Whom should man love and at what degree?
The love of God is a light that forms in the heart in proportion with contemplating and praising the perfection and beauty of God Almighty. Through this affection, the human soul is saved from troubles and sufferings. He reaches pure joy and peace. The strongest one of the causes that leads the human soul to high virtues is the love of God.
God has put into the human heart an endless capacity of affection. This endless affection is exclusively for God, who has an endless perfection with His Self and names. In other words, this capacity of affection that is bestowed on man is for the love of God.
Man loves something either for its perfection or for the benefit and pleasure, he takes from it. For example, a Muslim loves prophets, people of closeness to God and of knowledge and virtue for their perfection-maturity-virtues. He loves the people who bestow upon himself for their favors and blessings. He loves the foods and fruits he eats for their flavors. Man knows mentally and conscientiously that all entities whose perfection he praises whose favors he is pleased with and takes pleasure from belong to God. He created them all. All the perfection, beauty, and favors that are reflected upon these come only from Him.
Hence, man should direct this endless capacity of affection firstly to God and then other people that deserve affection, and favors and blessings for the sake of God.
For this reason; we Muslims love first Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), the Four Caliphs, the Family of the Prophet, all the Companions for the sake of God and because God loves them and wants us to love them, too. If we love these people not for God but only for their personalities, then we would also have fallen into the danger Christians have fallen. For they love Jesus Christ (UWBP) not for the sake of God as one of His prophets, but-God forbid-like God. They stray from the right path by attributing him as a partner to God.
As for how the love for God should be, the Quran gives us this measure:
Say (to them, O Messenger): "If you indeed love God, then follow me, so that God will love you and forgive you your sins." God is All-Forgiving, All-Compassionate. (Al-Imran Surah, 3:31).
As an explanation to the above verse, it is stated in the Risale-i Nur Collection:
"If you believe in God (May His Glory be exalted), you will surely love Him. Since you love God, you will act in the manner He loves. To do that, you must resemble the one God loves. And he may be resembled by following him. Whenever you follow him, God will love you too. Anyway you have to love God so that He shall love you." (The Flashes, 21)
The third point: In our religion, what is the place of the love for the Family of the Prophet?
It is wajib-obligatory in our religion to love the Family of the Prophet-According to Imam Shafii; it is a farz-duty.
God Almighty says in the Surah Ash-Shura:
Say: "I ask of you no wage for it (for conveying Gods Religion to you which will bring you this favor), but (I ask of you for) love for my near relatives (on account of my mission)." (Surah Ash-Shura, 42:23)
In one of his Hadiths, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) says, I leave you two things. If you stick to them, you will be rescued. One of them is the Quran, and the other is my family.
By mentioning the Book of God and the Family of the Prophet together in this hadith, we are given this lesson of truth:
Every Muslim who obeys the Book of God should love the Family of the Prophet, and every Muslim who loves the Family of the Prophet should practice according to the Book of God. All in all, a believer who loves the Family of the Prophet should believe both in all the principles of faith that the Quran comprises and in all its judgments concerning morals and worship and apply them to his life.
As is the case in everything, the love for the family of the Prophet should have a measure. And this measure is to live the Sunnah of the Prophet completely. Bediuzzaman explains this point as follows:
His purpose with the Family of the Prophet in accordance with his duty of prophethood is his Sunnah. As the one who abandons the Sunnah is not really from the Family of the Prophet, he cannot be a real friend of the Family of the Prophet, either.
Hence, only the Muslim who sticks to the Sunnah of the Prophet loves the Family of the Prophet in its real meaning.
Finally, I want to highlight this truth; it is not only for their personalities that we love the Family of the Prophet, but also for their services to the Quran and services in the fields of knowledge and values and for the great sacrifices they showed in issuing Islam.
Thanks to services of theirs, the community of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) could save their belief from the fake ideas and superstitions of the people astray.
As a reward for their pure and sincere services, God Almighty sent such great people from their line as Zaynal-Abidin, Jafar-i Sadık, and Abdulkadir-i Gaylani who showed the world of Islam the right path.
The Family of the Prophet knew worship as the biggest objective of their lives and performed the duty of slavery with the utmost sincerity and purity at any moment in their lives. For example, Zaynal-Abidin would pray one thousand series of salats night and day, even at the time of tremendous mischief and intense political clashes.
All the great people and scholars of Islam that have come from their offspring also followed the same way and with great efforts led the community to this right path.
Therefore, every believer who loves the Family of the Prophet should model them, resemble them, and try to be like them by performing his duty of worship. The love of the Family of the Prophet can be realized only through this way.