Relative Values

Anas b. Mālik – Allah be pleased with him – said:

You people do things today that you regard as less significant than a strand of hair, whereas we, during the time of the Prophet – peace and blessings be upon him – used to consider them destructive sins.

Al-Bukhārī in his Ṣaḥīḥ, Chapter on sins that are seen as insignificant but which should be kept away from.

Loftier Goals in Life

Commenting on 2:201 of the Quran which states:

Our Lord! Give us the good of this world and the good of the hereafter…

Al-Hasan Al-Baṣrī – Allah have mercy on him – said:

The good of this world is knowledge and worship, and the good of the hereafter is Paradise.

Al-Ājurrī in Akhlāq Al-‘Ulamā’ no. 30 and Ibn Jarīr in his Tafsīr of this verse.

Scholars of tafsīr like Ibn Jarīr and Ibn Kathīr point out that ‘the good of this world’ is general and includes all those things which have been allowed for us to enjoy and which are considered useful by people for day-to-day living. And they point out that above this; the good of this world includes those things which will lead to success in the hereafter. This narration reminds us of these loftier things we should ask Allah for, and that the good of this life embraces what is required or recommended for a worshipper of Allah to acquire on this Earth, like knowledge of his religion and good deeds.

The Real Faqīh

‘Alī b. Abī Ṭālib – Allah be pleased with him – said:

Shall I not tell you who the real faqīh is? He is one who does not make people despair of Allah’s mercy, yet he does not give them concessions to disobey Allah. He does not make them feel safe from Allah’s plan and he does not leave the Quran.

There is no good in worship that involves no efforts to gain fiqh, and there is no good in seeking fiqh without seeking a thorough understanding. And there is no good in reading without contemplating.

Al-Ājurrī in Akhlāq Al-‘Ulamā’ no. 45, Al-Khaṭīb in Al-Faqīh wa Al-Mutafaqqih Vol. 2 pp338-339.

Worse than not knowing

Imām Muslim reports in the introduction to his Saḥīḥ that Yaḥya b. Saʿīd once said to Al-Qāsim b. ʿUbaydillāh:

“Abu Muḥammad! It feels horrible and grave that you should be asked a question about this religion and not have knowledge about it or a way to get out [and not look like you don’t know].” He replied, “And why is that?” Yaḥya replied, “Because you are the son of two great Imāms of Guidance, Abu Bakr and ʿUmar.” Al-Qāsim said, “Even more horrible than this – to those who understand what Allāh has taught us – is that I should say something without knowledge or report a narration from someone who is not reliable.”

Al-Qāsim b. ʿUbaydillāh was the great grandson of Abu Bakr Al-Ṣiddīq on his mother’s side and the great grandson of ʿUmar b. Al-Khaṭṭāb on his father’s side. His grandfather was ʿAbdullāh b. ʿUmar – Allāh be please with them all.

Intentions First

The Prophet Muhammad – Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him – said:

Actions are but by intentions, and everyone will have what he intended. So whoever migrated to Allah and His Messenger, he migrated to Allah and His Messenger. But whoever migrated for some worldly benefit, or to take a woman in marriage, then his migration was only to what he migrated to.

Al-Bukhāri, Muslim and others.

Traditionally, Muslim scholars chose to begin their works by quoting this hadīth, or report, from the Messenger of Allah, Muhammad – Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him. Here is a brief commentary taken from Ibn Rajab’s Jāmi’ Al-‘Ulūm wa Al-Hikam, in which he explains the entire Forty Hadīth collection of Al-Nawawi:

Imām Al-Bukhārī (as Al-Nawawi later did in his Forty Hadīth) begins his Sahīh collection with this hadīth, reminding us that any deed through which Allah’s pleasure is not sought is futile; it will bear no fruits in this life or the hereafter.

ʿAbd Al-Rahmān b. Mahdī, the great scholar of hadīth, said, “If I were to compile a work in chapters, I would place this hadīth at the beginning of each one.” He also said, “Whoever wishes to author a book, he should begin with the hadīth about intentions.”

This hadīth forms a fundamental principle of Islām and an axis around which this way of life revolves.

It is reported that Imām Al-Shāfi’ī said, “This hadīth constitutes a third of all knowledge, and it relates to seventy areas of fiqh (correct understanding of the religion).”

It is reported from Imām Ahmad that he said, “The foundations of Islām are upon three hadīth: the one reported by ʿUmar – ‘Actions are but by intentions’, the one reported by ‘Āishah – ‘Whoever does a deed that does not conform to our commands will have it rejected’ and the one reported by Al-Nu’mān b. Bashīr – ‘The halāl and harām are clear…’”

This hadīth teaches us the principle that acceptance of our deeds and whether or not they are regarded as righteous depends primarily on what the intention behind them is. If the intention is good and pure – to receive Allah’s pleasure and reward, the deed is righteous. Otherwise the deed is futile and false. This is the first thing that needs to be dealt with.

The second condition which needs to be met for our deeds to be accepted by Allah is that they should be in conformity with Islām’s true teachings as taught to us by the Prophet – peace and blessing be upon him – and as understood and applied by the Righteous Predecessors. Hence, the Prophet stated:

Whoever does a deed that does not conform to our commands will have it rejected.

Al-Bukhārī and Muslim.