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Correctness and Intention: Conditions of Reformation


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 says1:

"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]2

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."3


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]4

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.5

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." 6

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.


Personal tastes, desires and perceptions - intellectual or otherwise7 - 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." 8 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." 9

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." 10


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." 11

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." 12 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." 13

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." 14

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.15

Success for the Muslims - individuals and groups - will not be attained except when actions are carried out with sincerity, following theSunnah, 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." 16

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


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