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From the fundamentals of knowledge which have been neglected by many Muslims is how and when an action becomes righteous and acceptable to Allah.

In fact, the matter has grown worse than that! We live in an age in which many Muslims assume that whatever actions they undertake as regards the Din, then they must surely be acceptable to Allah!

Such assumptions - arising from ignorance - have played a destructive role in the collective affairs of this Ummah - may Allah increase it in nobility - and may possibly being destructive to one's own salvation in the Hereafter, as Allah says{qluetip title=[1]}All quotes are translations of the meanings of the Qur'an.{/qluetip}:

"Say! Shall we tell you of those who lost most with respect to their actions? Those whose efforts have been wasted in this life, whilst they thought that they were acquiring good by their actions." [Al-Qur'an 18:103-104]{qluetip title=[2]}Ibn Kathir - rahimahullah - says in his Tafsir al-Qur'an al-'Adhim (3/112): "It (the ayah) is general regarding everyone who worships Allah in an unacceptable way, thinking that he is correct in it and his action is correct in it and that his action is acceptable, whereas he is in error and his action his rejected."{/qluetip}

So " ... the people are of three classes: The righteous scholar, the student of knowledge being upon the path of salvation and the confused rabble who follow everyone who calls out - bending along with every wind - they are not enlightened by the light of knowledge, nor do they lean upon a firm support."{qluetip title=[3]}Part of a lengthy piece of advice by 'Ali (d. 40H) radiallahu 'anhu to Kumayl ibn Ziyad - as is reported by Abu Nu'aym al-Asbahani in Hilyatul-Awliyah (1/79-80). From the principles of correction and reformation - O noble reader - as mentioned by Ibn al-Qayyim in Lighathatul-Luhfan (p. 397), is that: "The foundation of all good as knowledge and justice and the foundation of all evil is ignorance and oppression." Thus the one involved in da'wah and reformation must have adequate shari'ah knowledge, or else more harm will occur than good - as the saying of old goes: Sa'd brought the camels leading them. O Sa'd - that is not the way to bring in camels!{/qluetip}

Two Essential Conditions

It is a must that two great and important matters be considered for actions to be acceptable:

  1. That the one undertaking the action must intend only the pleasure of Allah - the Mighty and Majestic.
  2. The action must be in agreement with the Sunnah of His Messenger sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam.

If any of these two conditions are not fulfilled, then the action will neither be righteous, nor accepted by Allah. The proof for this is in His saying:

"Whosoever expects to meet His Lord, then let him work actions of righteousness and in the worship of his Lord associate no one as a partner." [Al-Qur'an 18:110]{qluetip title=[4]}Ibn Kathir says in his Tafsir (3/114): "So - for an action to be acceptable it has to fulfil two conditions. Firstly: It must be sincere for Allah alone. Secondly: It must be correct in accordance with the shari'ah. So if the action is sincere, but not correct, it will not be acceptable."{/qluetip}

In this noble ayah Allah commanded that the action should be righteous - in agreement with the shari'ah - and it should be sincere - associating none with him.{qluetip title=[5]}Al-Lalika'i relates in his Sharh Usul I'tiqad Ahlus-Sunnah wal-Jama'ah that Sa'id ibn Jubayr (d. 95H) - rahimahullah - said: "No word is acceptable except with action and no action is acceptable except with words and no word nor action are acceptable except with intention and no word, action or intention is acceptable except when it confirms to the Sunnah."{/qluetip}

Similar to this is the saying of the Prophet - sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam:

"Indeed Allah does not look at your faces nor your wealth. But he looks at your hearts and your actions." {qluetip title=[6]}Sahih - related by Muslim (2564), Ibn Majah (4143) and Ahmad (2/285) - from Abu Hurayrah radiallahu 'anhu. The wording with Muslim is: " ... your bodies nor your faces ... "{/qluetip}

So, contrary to what many people think, sincerity alone is not sufficient for worshipping Allah - but along with that it must be in conformity with the Sunnah. Thus the condition of the action must be such that it confirms.

Righteous Actions

Personal tastes, desires and perceptions - intellectual or otherwise{qluetip title=[7]}Imam al-Barbahari (d. 329H)- the Imam of Ahlus-Sunnah wal-Jama'ah of his time - says in his Kitab Sharh as-Sunnah: "And know - may Allah have mercy upon you - that the din came from Allah - the Blessed and Most High - and was not left to the intellect and opinions of men - and knowledge of it is with Allah and His Messenger. So do not follow anything based upon your desires and so deviate from the din ... Since Allah's Messenger sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam explained the Sunnah to his Ummah and made it clear to his Companions that they are the Jama'ah and the Great Majority (as-Sawad ul-A'dham); and the Great Majority is the Truth and its People."{/qluetip} - are not the criteria for judging whether actions are righteous or not. Allah says:

"Who is more astray than one who follows his own desires without guidance from Allah." [Al-Qur'an 28:50]

Rather, a righteous action is one "that is commanded by Allah and his Messenger - and that is obedience." {qluetip title=[8]}Al-Hisbah fil-Islam (p. 82) of Ibn Taymiyyah.{/qluetip} And this obedience must be upon the understanding of the companions - radiallahu 'anhum. Since they are for this Ummah - after its Prophet sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam - the custodians of correct knowledge ('ilm), action ('aml), belief (i'tiqad) and methodology (manhaj). As the Prophet 'alayhis-salam said:

"My Companions are the custodians for my Ummah, so when my companions go, that which has been promised to my Ummah will come to it." {qluetip title=[9]} Sahih - related by Muslim (16/82), Ahmad (4/398) and al-Baghawi in Sharh as-Sunnah (14/71-72) - from Abu Musa radiallahu 'anhu.{/qluetip}

And the Prophet sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam warned us about actions which have no basis from the Book of Allah and the Sunnah of His Messenger, by saying:

"Whosoever does an action that we have not commanded then it will be rejected." {qluetip title=[10]}Sahih - related by Muslim (5/132), ad-Daraqutni (pp.520-521) and Ahmad (6/146, 180) - from 'A'ishah - radiallahu 'anha. Refer to the Booklet: Understanding the Evil of Innovations by our brother Abu Muntasir - may Allah reward him with goodness - for a detailed explanation of this hadith and the principles connected to it. And it is available from this Jam'iyyah - and all praise is for Allah.{/qluetip}

Sincerity - the Essence of Tawhid

Sincerity demands that one seeks to do actions which Allah is pleased with, in way in which He is pleased with. The root of this is knowledge, as one of the Imams of the tabi'in, az-Zuhri (d. 124H) - rahimahullah - said: "The people will not trust the action of one who acts without knowledge; and they will not be pleased with the saying of a scholar who does not act." {qluetip title=[11]}Iqtida ul-'Ilm il-'Aml of al-Khatib al-Baghdadi. Yet today, it is sufficient for one to be a speaker and that is enough credentials for him to be a guide for the Ummah - regardless of whether he has knowledge or not! So let the noble reader reflect upon the saying of the Companion Ibn Mas'ud (d.32h), related by at-Tabarani in al-Kabir (8066) and al-Bukhari in al-Adab al-Mufrad (789) and declared to be Sahih (authentic) by al-Hafidh Ibn Hajr in Fath al-Bari (10/510) that he - radiallahu 'anhu - said: "You are in a time whose scholars are many and its speakers are few. After you will come a time whose scholars are few and its speakers are many." How yesterday's warning depicts today's action!{/qluetip}

As regards sincerity, then it is "the stripping of ones intentions from all impurities in order to draw close to Allah, ensuring that the intention behind all acts of worship and obedience are exclusively for his pleasure." {qluetip title=[12]}Tazkyatun-Nufus (p. 4) of Ahmad Farid.{/qluetip} As Allah - the One free from all imperfections - says:

"They have not been commanded except to worship Allah, being sincere and making the din for Him." [Al-Qur'an 98:5]

The Prophet sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam said that Allah - the Blessed, the Most High - said: "I am so self-sufficient that I am in no need of having partners. Thus, whoever does an action for someone else's sake as well as Mine, will have that action rejected by Me to him who he associated with Me." {qluetip title=[13]}Sahih - related by Muslim, Ibn Majah (4202) and Ibn Khuzaymah in his Sahih (8/223) - from Abu Hurayrah radiallahu 'anhu.{/qluetip}

Thus, if a person does an action, then even if he performs it according to the Sunnah, but he does it so that people may speak well about him, his action thereby becomes null and void. If the deed just became void then the following hadith would apply in such a case:

"How many fasting people obtain nothing from their fast except hunger and thirst and how many people stay up at night (praying) obtain nothing from their fast except sleeplessness and tiredness." {qluetip title=[14]}Sahih related by at-Tabarani in al-Kabir - from Ibn 'Umar and also by al-Hakim and al-Bayhaqi - from Abu Hurayrah radiallahu 'anhuma.{/qluetip}

However, this is not the case. For this person's action has turned into a sin, since he acted without intending to seek only the face of Allah, thus associating partners shirk along with Allah in his action.{qluetip title=[15]}Similar to this are actions based on party-spirit ('asabiyah) about which our Messenger sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam said - as is related by Muslim in his Sahih: "Whosoever fights under the banner of the blind, becoming angry for party-spirit, or calling to party-spirit, or assisting party-spirit, then if he dies, he dies a death of jahiliyyah (pre-Islamic ignorance)." And how damaging - O seeker of unity - has its modern counter-part, partisanship (hizbiyyah), been in destroying the very fabric of comprehensive brotherhood. Such that the one immersed in this hizbiyyah loves and hates, builds and destroys - not due to the ties of correct faith (iman) - but due to this vile hizbiyyah - thereby having enmity for the friends ('awliyah) of Allah, competing thereby with the enemies of the Prophets! We seek Allah's protection against this and only He guides to a way that is Straight.{/qluetip}

Success for the Muslims - individuals and groups - will not be attained except when actions are carried out with sincerity, following the Sunnah, upon the Path (sabil) of the Pious Predecessors (as-Salaf as-Salihin) as Ubayy ibn Ka'b (d. 22H) - radiallahu 'anhu - said:

"Adhere to the sabil and Sunnah - who remembers the Most-Merciful and his eyes swell up with tears due to the fear of Allah - except that he will never be touched by the fire. Indeed moderation in the sabil and Sunnah is better than exertion in opposition to it." {qluetip title=[16]}Related by Ahmad in az-Zuhd (p.196) and the isnad is hasan.{/qluetip}

And our final supplication is that all praise belongs to Allah - Lord of the Worlds.

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Be Mindful O Mankind!

He who seeks knowledge of religion, Paradise seeks him, and he who seeks deeds of vice, Hell seeks him.
'Ali ibn Abi Talib (d. 40H), may Allah be pleased with him