Sincere Devotion and Adhering to the Islamic Shari'ah as Prerequisites For the Acceptance of Deeds
Among the basic concepts of the aspired Civilized Fiqh is laying emphasis on two basic prerequisites that ensure that Allah will accept one's deeds as sincere.
First, the deed must be carried out sincerely and devoutly for Allah's Sake. It must not be tinged with hypocrisy and worldly interests.
Second, it must he correct and disciplined in that it follows Allah's Ordinance and Shari'ah.
To reach this sincere devotion, one must concentrate on the impetus and aim of this deed rather than its outward appearance. Every deed has a body and a soul. Its body has seen or heard characteristics. Its soul has the intention which motivates it and sincerity which flows inside it, without which Allah will not accept the deed. He says: "And they have been commanded no more than this: to worship Allah, offering Him sincere devotion, being true (in faith)." (98:5)
For these reasons, scholars gave great importance to the famous and agreed upon hadith which states: "The reward of deeds depends upon the intentions and every person will get the reward according to what he had intended. So whoever emigrated for worldly benefit or for a woman to marry, his emigration was for what he emigrated for."
All scholars agreed upon the authenticity and importance of this Hadith to the extent that Imam Al-Bukhari placed it in the first volume of his Sahih as the very first Hadith. Many followed suit to stress the fact that it is of crucial importance that the intention behind the deeds must be void of scruples, personal and worldly desires he directed to wards the reward of the Hereafter. They went so far to say that this hadith encompasses one quarter or one third of the meaning of Islam. On reading Invitation and Intimidation (Al-Targhib Wa Al-Tarhib), by Imam Al-Mundhiri, we realize that he started by reciting a group of Hadiths which make one yearns for purification of one's intention and how to reach sincere devotion. He emphasizes their crucial importance in Allah's religion and His acceptance of one's deeds.
These Hadiths follow respectively. The first is by Ibn Umar, the Prophet said: "Three persons had to enter a cave to shelter from the rain. A large rock rolled over and blocked the mouth of the cave. They said to each other, invoke Allah with the best deed you have performed (so Allah might remove the rock). Each of them invoked Allah with the best and sincerely devoted deed he had done saying "O Allah! If you regard that I did it for Your Sake, then please remove the rock so that we may see the sky. Allah removed the rock completely from the mouth of the cave. They escaped death through their sincerity and blessed intentions." [Note: Agreed upon on the authority of Abu Hurairah.]
Abi Umamah reported that a man came to the Prophet (Peace be upon him) and asked him: "If a man went on an expedition to be endowed and become a celebrity, will he be rewarded by Allah." The Prophet (Peace be upon him) said: "He will not." The man repeated his question three times and the Prophet (Peace be upon him) said nothing more than "He will not." Then he added Allah, the Exalted does not accept a deed unless it is sincerely devoted for His Sake." [Note: Reported by Al-Nasa'i on a good authority.]
Abu Hurairah said that the Prophet (Peace be upon him) said: "Allah does not look at your bodies and looks, but at your hearts." [Note: Reported by Al-Nasa'i on a good authority]
Also, the Prophet (Peace be upon him) said: "A man said that he would give something in charity. He went out with his object of charity and unknowingly gave it to a thief. Next morning the people said that he had given his object of charity to a thief. On hearing that he said "O Allah! All praises are for You. I will give alms again. And so he went out again with his alms and unknowingly gave it to an adulteress. Then next morning the people said that "He had given his alms to an adulteress last night". The man said: "O Allah! All praises are for You, I gave my alms to an adulteress. I will give alms again." So he went out with his alms again and unknowingly gave it to a rich person. The People next morning said that "He had given his alms to a wealthy person. He said: "O Allah! All praises are for You, I have given alms to a thief, an adulteress and a wealthy man." Then someone came to him in vision and said "The alms which you gave to a thief might make him abstain from stealing, and that given to the adulteress might make her abstain from illegal sexual intercourse and that given to a wealthy man might make him take a lesson from it and spend his wealth which Allah has given him, in Allah's Cause." [Note: Agreed upon]
Thus his intention interceded for him and compensated for his error of judgement. Furthermore, Allah was certain of his sincerity as he did not want to give alms in public in day light. Contrary to this, Al-Mundhiri cited a number of Hadiths that warn against showing off: There is a hadith which reports that: "Three persons [Note: Reported by Muslim on the authority of Abu Hurairah.] were dragged on their faces to the Fire. Those three were; a warrior killed by disbelievers, a scholar who had learnt and taught people and read the Qur'an and a wealthy man who had spent his money and gave alms. However, their deeds were not done for Allah's Sake but were for the people's. They, as it were counter feited their intention before Almighty Allah. If deceiving a fellow man is a grave crime, then what about trying to deceive our Creator? Jundub Ibn Abdullah reported that the Prophet (Peace be upon him) said: "Whoever unveils the secrets of his felow brother, Allah will unveil his secrets on the Day of Resurrection, and whoever shows off his deeds, Allah will show him off on the Day of Resurrection." [Note: Agreed upon, see also our book, AL-Muntaqa min Al-Targizib wa Al-Tarhib, hadiths No.1 to 23]
In other words, he will be rewarded according to the degree of his sincerity and intentions on the Day of Resurrection and he will be exposed in public to receive his recompense. In the Qudsi hadith, Allah, the Almighty says: "I am so self-sufficient that I am in no need of having an associate. Thus he who does an action for someone else's sake as well as Me, will have that action renounced by Me to him whom he associated with Me." [Note: Reported by Muslim on the authority of Abu Hurairah, No.2985]
In another version, "Whoever did a deed with the intention of pleasing someone else besides Me, must know that I will not accept his deed because it is directed at someone else and not Me." [Note: Reported by Ibn Majah, No.4202]
There are many other Hadiths that advocate following the Glorious Book and the Sunnah to the letter and warn against ignoring the Sunnah and committing evil innovations or surrendering to one's whims and desires. In the hadith it says:
Ibn Mas'ud reported that the Prophet said that, "Moderation in Sunnah is better than ijtihad in evil innovation. [Note: Reported by Al-Hakim on a sound authoriy, Al-Mandhiri and Al-Dhanabi upheld the same, vol.1, p.103]
And `Aishah reported: "Whoever introduces something to this affair of ours will have it rejected" [Note: Agreed upon]
In another narration, "Whoever does something which does not belong to our affair will have it rejected." [Note: Reported by Muslim] "Rejected" means not accepted. These hadiths and others [Note: See our book, Al-Muntaqa Min Al-Targhib wa Al-Tarhib, No. 24 to 40] which talk on the same meaning, stress the second prerequisite for accepting one's deeds, namely, soundness and conformity with the Islamic Law that embodied in the Qur'an and Sunnah.
In consequence, scholars mentioned the hadith of, "The reward of deeds depends upon the intentions," as the internal scale (Al-Batin) [Note: The interanal motives behind one's intention in his deeds. As mentioned in the hadith they should be purely for Allah's Sake, otherwise one's deeds will be futile] for the acceptance of deeds. Further more, they mentioned the Hadith of, "Whoever introduces something into this affair of ours will have it rejected." as the external scale (Al-Zahir), [Note: What is meant by Al-Zahir is that one's deeds should adhere to the Islamic precepts and rules guided by the Qur'an and Sunnah] for the acceptance of deeds. For the deed to be accepted by Allah, it must be motivated by sincere intention and adhere to Islamic Law.
Imam Al-Zahid Al-Fudail Ibn `lyad expressed this idea in his interpretation of the verse which states: "That He may try which of you is best in deed." (67:2)
"The best deed is the most correct and sincere one. When asked about the meaning of "correct" and "sincere", He answered, "Allah does not accept the deed unless it is sincere and correct. If it is correct yet it is not sincere, Allah will not accept it and if it is sincere yet it is not correct, Allah will not accept it either. Adding to that, "sincere means that the deed must be done for Allah's Sake and "correct" means that it must follow the Sunnah."
Undoubtedly, what a true and clear explanation of the best deed which Allah wants from people. He does not want mere good deeds, rather He wants the very best deeds about which Al-Fudail said: "The most sincere and correct one."
I have nothing to add but that the absolute religious deeds must adhere to Allah's Ordinance in the. Shari `ah and that the worldly deeds must adhere to Allah's Ordinance in creation.