10 September 2013


Man’s Acts Depends on His Intentions

The motivations and the factors which prompt a man to do a better job in a better way, to strive hard and bear all the trials and tribulations and induce him to sacrifice his property and life for a thing, are many and varied. One motivation is such that it manifests itself with the man’s interest and involvement in his work, while there is another motivation which remains hidden in the interior recesses of the heart and cannot be discerned from outside. Many times, the man who performs the act does not recognize it although he is influenced by it and the secret of his acceptance or non-acceptance of a thing is hidden in that.

The normal human nature decides what the general rules of treatment in a certain case are. You can very easily determine what are the motivations of a particular person in acting in a certain manner by looking him at work. He will be seen either involved in self-love or self-preservation, or greed for more wealth would be troubling him, or the feelings of pride and self-importance would be giving him sleepless nights, or hypocrisy and desire for fame would be inciting him to advance forward. Hear what the people talk about. Take a survey of their daily activities. You will not find anything else the axis of their talk and efforts but their feelings of joy and hatred, pride and conceit.

Islam judges the acts and deeds, and decides about their importance on the basis of the intentions, feelings, and sensations behind them. For Islam, the value of an act depends on the nature of the motivation which prompted the act to be performed.

Sometimes, a man gives costly donations and gifts so that through these good acts, people should be attracted towards him and should talk about his generosity, and sometimes, his purpose is to give valuable presents to that person who had treated him in a commendable way and had obliged him. Both these acts are of charity and generosity, which were guided by, as pointed out by psychologists, by the man’s consciousness, directly or indirectly. But Islam does not give importance to charity if it is given in a hypocritical way or for attaining fame, and unless it is given entirely for seeking the pleasure of Allah:

“We feed you seeking Allah’s countenance only. We wish no reward nor thanks from you.”

- Qur'an (Surah Al Insan 9)

“Those who spend their wealth for increase in self-purification, and have in their minds no favor from anyone for which a reward is expected in return, but only the desire to seek the pleasure of their Lord, Most High, and soon they will attain (complete) satisfaction.”   

- Qur'an (Surah Al Lail 18-21)

Purity of Purpose is of Importance

The rightness of intention and sincerity are the two things which elevate a man’s worldly action and make it a prayer that is answered. But if there is perversion in the intention and corruption in the heart, a man, in spite of offering prayers is degraded. He commits sins. And inspite of his showing interest in and taking pains for performing worship, is doomed to failure and loss.

The fact is that, as long as man keeps himself obedient to Allah, and his intention is pure and sincere, then all his acts and movements, his sleep and his waking are considered to be for seeking the pleasure of Allah. And sometimes, it so happens that a man wants to perform a righteous act, but on account of his poverty he is unable to do so, then Allah, Who knows the secrets of the hearts, gives the man desirous of reform the honor of a reformer, the man desirous of fighting in the cause of Allah the honor of a Mujahid (the fighter in the cause of Allah), because for Allah, high courage and righteous intention is more appreciable than the lack of resources.

During the days of scarcity and poverty, a battle was to be fought. Some people came to Prophet Muhammad with a desire to join his forces and offered themselves to be sacrificed for the cause of Allah. But Allah’s Messenger did not allow them to take part in the Jihad because of their incapability. They returned with heavy and sorrowful hearts. They were very much grieved for not being able to participate in the Jihad. About them, the following verses were revealed:

“Nor is there any blame on those who came to you to be provided with mounts, and when you said, “I can find no mounts for you,’ they turned back, while their eyes were overflowing with tears of grief that they could not find anything to spend for Jihad.  

- Qur'an (Surah At Taubah 92)    

Do you think that a firm and strong faith would be wasted? And this burning desire for sacrifice would be just lost? No, never. For this reason, the Prophet appreciated their faith, and said to the soldiers going with him,

“There are some people who we have left behind in Madinah, in whatever place or valley we may camp, they will be with us. For them, their excuse is enough.”  
As their intentions were honest, they were the recipients of the reward (sawab) of the Mujahideen (fighters), because they had stayed in Madinah against the wishes of their hearts and with great unwillingness. If this is the achievement of the honest intention that the person having it is so favored, then the dishonest intention also earns the punishment reserved for the bad deed, although apparently the act was righteous. Such hypocrisy has been condemned:

“So woe to those performers of Salah (prayers) (hypocrites), those who delay their Salah (prayer from their stated fixed times). Those who do good deeds only to be seen (of men).  

- Qur'an (Surah Al-Maun 4-6)

The prayer based on hypocrisy is considered a sin, because after losing the essential sincerity, it has become useless. Similarly is the case of Zakat (charity). If it is paid merely to seek Allah’s pleasure, then it can be acceptable to Allah, otherwise, it will be a waste:

“O you who believe! Do not render in vain your Sadaqah (charity) by reminders of your generosity or injury, like him who spends his wealth to be seen of men, and he does not believe in Allah, nor in the Last Day. His likeness is the likeness of a smooth rock on which is a little dust; on it falls heavy rain which leaves it bare. They are not able to do anything with what they have earned. And Allah does not guide the disbelieving people.”  

- Qur'an (Surah Al Baqarah 264)

The heart which is bereft of sincerity cannot be acceptable, as the rock with some dust on it cannot grow any grain when rain falls on it. If the kernel is rotten, beautiful outer skin cannot be of any use.

However, if the self is full of sincerity, then its blessing helps to make an ordinary thing as weighty as a mountain. If it is devoid of sincerity, then what reward can mounds of chaff and husks achieve from Allah?  That is why, Allah’s Messenger said,
 “Make your faith pure, a little righteous act will be sufficient to save you from hell.” 
(Al Hakim)
In the Hadith (sayings of Prophet Muhammad), the reward for virtuous acts has been mentioned to be from ten times to hundred times depending on the performer’s intention and sincerity hidden in his heart, which is known only by Allah Who knows about all the manifest and hidden things. Accordingly, the reward increases according to the sincerity and honesty of the intentions.

The external acts of man can neither achieve the pleasure of Allah nor the grandeur of worldly life. Allah gives attention to His faithful and sincere servants and accepts only those acts which bring them nearer to Him. As regards the worldly show and human trappings, they have no importance and no value. Prophet Muhammad said,

“Allah does not judge you according to your bodies and appearances, but He scans your hearts and looks into your deeds.” 

The one who would adopt these realities in ones life would experience relief and comfort in this world and would also achieve eternal bliss in the Hereafter. He will not be harmed by the loss of anything nor will he grieve over any act.

“And they were commanded not, but that they should worship Allah, and worship none but Him Alone (abstaining from ascribing partners to Him). And perform As-Salah (prayer), and give Zakat (charity), and that is the right religion.” 

- Qur'an (Surah Al-Bayyinah 5)

Sincerity is the Desired Thing

In times of scarcity and adversity, the rays of sincerity draw their light in full force. At such times, man separates himself from his vain desires and yearnings. He severs his relations with their defects and errors. He repents before Allah and weeps and wails and prays for His blessings. He shakes from the fear of Allah’s wrath. The Noble Qur’an has drawn a very fine picture of such a man who is surrounded by adversities, who out of fear, has forgotten all of his mischief and is appealing to his Merciful Lord so that He may lift him out of his mire:

“Say, Who rescues you from the darkness of the land and the sea (dangers like storms), (when) you call upon Him in humility and in secret (saying): If He (Allah) only saves us from this (danger). We shall truly be grateful. Say, Allah rescues you from this and from all other distresses, and yet you worship others besides Allah.” 

- Qur'an (Surah Al-An’am 63-64)

This heat of sincerity dies down gradually as passion for wealth, self-love, egotism, hunger for position and office, hypocrisy, and desire to be famous increases. For this reason, Islam has considered hypocrisy in righteous acts as most abominable and has declared it as Shirk, associating someone else with Allah.

The truth is: this hypocrisy destroys all acts as white ants slowly destroy things they come in contact with. When the habit of hypocrisy takes roots in any man’s dealings, as germs of an infectious disease spread in the society, then it becomes a sort of idolatry and throws its practitioner into the fire of Hell.

Allah wants that He should be truly and correctly known and recognized and should be respected and honored in all conditions. People should give their due place to honest and sincere intention and good conduct in their lives. Their attachment to these qualities should be strong and should not break at any time, and they should not make any other thing but selflessness and Allah’s pleasure as an ideal to follow in their life.

The severe criticism and attacks which Islam has unleashed on the evils emanating from hypocrisy and lack of sincerity is because it is a kind of corruption that is not discernible, and keeps the carnal desires and the wicked wishes of the self hidden.

The evils which can be seen give rise to other evils and increase the rate of corruption of the society considerably. Such evils are considered very low and mean, and on account of this consciousness and feeling, it is possible that the man who commits them may give them up sooner or later and may turn a new leaf.

But that act of sinning which puts on the garb of worship has its evils hidden from the sight of the sinner himself and the society is also not able to recognize it. It is so because such a person remains absorbed in the ramifications of his acts. He is under the impression that he is working towards the pleasure of Allah, but how then can he realize that he has committed a sin? And how can he turn away from a thing which he considers righteous?

As regards the general society, it is harmed more by the learned hypocrites than by the poor and needy people. Lack of sincerity of talented people makes their ability a curse, and such a society suffers a set-back instead of making a progress. It is also true that to pollute a virtue with the impurities of the self is to downgrade its value. This is another crime which is committed for lack of sincerity. The man who wants to please other men and is neglecting to seek the pleasure of his Lord; he does not understand, on account of his ignorance, as to what his sin signifies. He is turning away from Allah, Who is Most Powerful, Who is Independent of everything, to those beggars who have neither power, nor riches.

In the fields of learning and culture, deep sincerity is extremely necessary. Knowledge is such a pure and high thing that on its basis Allah has granted superiority to man over all the other creatures. Therefore, it would be a very mean thing if it is utilized in furtherance of self-interest, and if it is reinforced with mischief, corruption, and vain desires. The world experienced a great setback at the hands of those learned men who did not possess good moral character, and were deprived of purity and sincerity.

Islam severely disapproves that a man should attain learning and when he gets proficiency in that line; he should start impressing others with his learning and his greatness, and open a battle-field of debates and controversies.

The magicians of Pharaoh established a perfect example of true belief and high sincerity when they rejected all the threats of Pharaoh, and trampled below their feet the love of wealth and high position, and replied to that tyrant king’s challenge:

“They said, we prefer you not over what have come to us of the clear signs and to Him (Allah) Who created us. So decree whatever you decide to decree, for you can only decree (regarding) this life of the world.”  

- Qur'an (Surah Ta-Ha 72)

What a great difference between these two groups! One group disdainfully kicks at the material world, and the other group, in order to reach up to some big personality or to achieve some small gains, makes fun of its own religion and faith in order to achieve temporary success in this world.

[Excerpted from: Chapter 10 of Muslim’s Character by Mohammed Alghazali]