Sincerity and Conformity: The Two Prerequisites for Accepted Acts of Worship

Imām Ibn al-Qayyim

A discussion regarding the statement of the Salaf: No action, however small, should occur except that two articles are addressed, why and how?
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Allāh says:

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا لَا تُقَدِّمُوا بَيْنَ يَدَيِ اللَّهِ وَرَسُولِهِ ۖ وَاتَّقُوا اللَّهَ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ سَمِيعٌ عَلِيمٌ ‎﴿١﴾‏

‘O you who have believed, do not put [yourselves] before Allāh and His Messenger but fear Allāh.’
[Al-Ḥujurāt 49:1]

Imām Ibn al-Qayyim [d. 751 AH] said [concerning this verse]:

That is, do not speak until he has spoken, and do not take action until he has commanded you to do so. Some of the pious predecessors used to say: No action, however small, should occur except that two articles are addressed, why and how?

That is: Why have you taken part in this action? And how have you executed it?

Imām Ibn al-Qayyim

The first question concerns the reason behind the action, its motivation, and the one who calls towards it: Is it in pursuit of quick temporary reward for the executor? An achievement from among the achievements of this worldly life like the praise of mankind or out of fear of their blame. Or is it to attain a temporarily desired thing [in this worldly life], or to defend from that which is reviled [in this worldly life]? Or is the true motivator for this action the fulfilment of the responsibility of true worship [of Allāh], seeking love and closeness to the true Lord, the Exalted the Most High, seeking a means towards Him.

In place of this question [we ask]: Are you executing this action for the sake of your true Master? Or is it related to your own desire and gain?

The second [question] is regarding following the Messenger (may the peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) in that act of worship.

That is: Is this action from among those He (the Most High) has legislated for you on the tongue of His messenger? Or is it an action that He has not legislated, neither is it pleasing to Him?

Thus, the first [question] concerns sincerity, and the second relates to conformity [with the Sunnah]. For Allāh does not accept any action except that both are fulfilled.

The method of successfully answering the first question is to seek complete sincerity, while the second question is only addressed through the true fulfilment of conformity [with the Sunnah], and possessing a heart that is unadulterated by external desires that oppose sincerity [to Allāh], or that contradict the following of [His Messenger]. For such is the truly sincere pure heart that is guaranteed safety [from the Fire] and happiness [by entering Paradise].

Source: Ighāthah al-Lahfān: 14
Translated by: Riyāḍ al-Kanadī

Published: September 22, 2022
Edited: September 22, 2022

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