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Sunday, July 04, 2010

The Importance of Action/'Amal

The importance of action in Islam

Faith is a key to paradise but how can one increase their rank in paradise? Its action that makes one rise. This is the important part and the importance of action for a believer. There was a misguided group called murijah who were people who wrongly thought that faith alone was needed for salvation. They were rightly refuted by the Asharis and Maturidis, in their books. Faith needs to be combined with action to achieve salvation. Faith alone may get one into paradise but the journey will be much harder than those who have the requisite action such as five daily prayers. Action without faith has no point because only a believer benefits from their actions in the afterlife. 

We have spoken about the superiority of the character of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) was because, in part, of his practice of the commandments and prohibitions of the Quran. Allah (mighty and majestic) gives the greatest testimony to this when He said, “You possess the greatest character.” The Pen 67:4. One should remember that the Prophet (may Allah bestow peace and blessings be upon him) is great because Allah (the Exalted) made him great.

Imam Tabari said in Tafsir Al-Bayan, “The Exalted addresses his Prophet Muhammad (may Allah bestow peace and blessings upon him), “O’ Muhammad you possess excellent etiquette. This is the etiquette that Allah gave him and it is Islam and the sacred law.”

In the Tafsir/commentary of Ibn Kathir report a hadith narrated from Imam Ahmed that Abu Hurayrah states that the Messenger of Allah (may Allah bestow on him peace and blessings) said, “I was only sent to complete righteous character.”

Ibn Abbas (may Allah be pleased with them) states that this is the religion of Islam and Hassan Al-Basri states that this means the etiquette of the Quran (Ibn Al-Jawzi's commentary on this verse).

Hassan Al-Basri’s speech is very interesting because it is similar to what Aisha (may Allah be pleased her) said when asked about theItalic character of the Prophet (may Allah bestow peace and blessing upon him). “His character was the Quran.”

This is one of the major reasons why the character of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) is so great because of his application. Is there a greater testification than from the Lord of the worlds? No, there can never be any greater testification than that of the Creator (Mighty and Exalted).

When we have knowledge we must try to put it into practice. If we try and fail this is the least we can do. Putting knowledge into action is one the greatest means of drawing closer to Allah (Mighty and Majestic) as we are drawing closer by doing something we are recommended to do.

The first book of Imam Ghazali’s revival of religious sciences/Ihya Ulum Al-Deen is the book of knowledge. Our first step is knowledge, sacred knowledge that will help us clarify our religion. It could be said that this is the book that outlines the reason for the religion, practice. Practice also helps preserve the manner and the ways of those who have left us.

The Quran emphasises on action, “Blessed is the reward of the doer.” The Family of Imran 4:136

The doer in the verse is the one who carries out the action. In the Quran there are two places where people are cursed for not doing what they say and there are other places where the doer of the actions are blessed.

“The likeness of those who were charged with the Torah but who subsequently failed in those (obligations), is as the likeness of the donkey which carries books (but understands them not).” Al-Jum’ah 62:5

We do not want to be like those who carry knowledge and do not derive any benefit from it. I remember one person who was laughing when he transmitted some religious knowledge, saying that if that person acted upon the knowledge that he was given, he would be rewarded! I look back at this now and realise that this person was content with being a donkey! He passed on knowledge without performing the action himself!

Belief or Action?

Many of us, in this time, place over emphasis on belief. We make claims about who has the correct belief and which system should be followed. The correct belief systems are the recognised schools of Ashari's, Maturdi's and the Athari's. Once we have this clear in our minds we can now emphasis on action. We cannot be people who are deluded into thinking that because they have the right belief that they are safe and that there is no work to be done. We have met many who act like this! We have to be prepared to work hard in all our religious matters.

We cannot merely think that we have the correct belief  and so and so group do not; so I am safe. No, no way! We have to work; day in day out.

Consider these prophetic narrations:

Imam Ahmed narrates from Abdullah ibn Umair ibn Al-'Aas who heard the Messenger of God (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) say, "Allah (Mighty and Majestic) will infer a man from my nation from the heads of creation on the day of judgement. Ninety nine scrolls will be shown to him; each scroll will extent as far as the eyesight. He asks, "Do you reject anything? Has the record of my angels oppressed you?" He replies, "No, Oh Lord." He asks, "Do you have an excuse or good deed?" He went pale and said, "No, Oh Lord." He said, "You have with me one good action and there is no oppression for you today." A card was brought forward with 'I testify that there is no deity except Allah and I testify that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah' (recorded on it). "Bring it forward." He says, "Oh Lord, this card against all these scrolls?" He states, "You will not be oppressed." The scrolls are placed onto one scale and the card on the other; the scrolls are outweighed by the heaviness of the card. He said, "Nothing can outweigh; what contains 'in the name of Allah; the most merciful; the most compassionate."

This explains to us that belief will save us but do not neglect good actions because you never know!!

Abdullah ibn Mas’ud (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated that the Messenger of Allah (may Allah bestow peace and blessings be upon him) said, “I swear by he whom there is no deity other than him, one of you will perform the actions of the inhabitants of paradise until there is a cubit between him and paradise then what is written manifests; and he perform the actions of the inhabitants of hell until he enters it. One of you will perform the actions of the inhabitants of hell until there is a cubit between will overcome him; then what is written manifests; and he performs the actions of the inhabitants of paradise until he enters it.” (Bukhari 3207, 3332, 6594, 8454; Muslim 2643; Abu Dawood 4808; At-Tirmidhi 2137; Ibn Majah 76; Ahmed 1/382, 430 and 414)

I have often pondered over this hadith and though about its meaning. I used to think that this was aimed at Muslims but this is also aimed at non-Muslims. How? Look at some of the non-Muslims in our time and you can find them doing amazing actions of charity. Some are even doing the actions of the people of paradise but because of their belief they will not enter paradise. I do wish that these people would become Muslim and enter paradise. The flip side of this coin is the person doing the actions of the inhabitants of paradise. You can find some Muslims who doing some wretched actions but because of their belief they will enter paradise.

Suhail ibn Sa'ad (may Allah be pleased with him) narrates the Messenger of Allah (may Allah bestow peace and blessings upon him) said, "The servant will perform the actions of the residents of the fire but they are part of the residents of Paradise and (others) they will perform the actions of the residents of Paradise and they from the residents of the fire. Actions are only finished once completed." (Bukhari 11/499, Muslim 1/106 without, "Actions are only finished once completed.")

Remember belief places someone into paradise and action raises the person status in it. Also do not be fooled by non-believers doing the good actions because this will not avail them in the afterlife. Their reward is in the world and not in the hereafter. So don’t be distracted as there are many people who are doing the actions of the people of hell but will end up in paradise because of their belief and there are many people doing the actions of the people paradise but will end up in hell.

For myself?

One of my friends once said to me that being religious is something that is done just for oneself. Then you must be your own worst enemy if you are not prepared to do anything that you will benefit from eternally!!

Anyone who wants to please his Lord cannot please him with anything better than that was made obligatory upon one; the five pillars are everyone’s starting point.

When you pray it not only has effect on you but it effects your whole environment and the people who are around you, so praying is not for yourself. Note the highest level of obedience is for Allah (Mighty and Majestic) alone.


If someone, as we have stated, is a person who attends lessons and lectures then they should try to apply the knowledge learnt, as much as they can. So when you are in a situation and you remember something that your teachers have taught you then apply it. This can be difficult at times but you have to apply your knowledge. If you do not then you have missed the whole point of learning - application of knowledge.

It is only through the practice of this religion that a person can see a revival of themselves and then the society that they live in. The greatness of the early companions was because they practiced what they knew even if they knew little. Do you remember the story of the companion who saw the Prophet (may Allah bestow upon him peace and blessings) with his top button undone and then continued to wear his clothes in a similar fashion until he died?

We can only have sound practice with sound knowledge; so seek knowledge so that your practice can be sound and remember how much your Prophet (may Allah bestow upon him peace and blessings) used to do.

Don’t rely on your actions

One of the final points that we would like to make about this post is that a person should not rely solely on their actions because this is also foolish. As the hadith explains: Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him) said I heard the Messenger of Allah (may bestow peace and blessings upon him), "The good deeds of any person will not make him enter paradise." They asked, “Not even you, O’ Messenger of Allah?” He replied, "Not even me, unless Allah bestows His favour and mercy on me." (Bukhari BK70, NO 577)

Our reliance must be on Allah, our hopes must be for Allah. Yes, do the good actions as much as you are able but do not be attached to them and think that you have done enough to enter paradise. We can never do enough for Allah, ever, all the blessings that we receive in any moment is unfathomable.

There is a story of how a man of the previous nations worshiped Allah on a desert island for five hundred years and when he died. Allah told him to enter paradise because of his mercy. The man protested and said, “By my actions.” Then Allah ordered his actions to be weighed and when the blessing of the eye was weighted it was equivalent to five hundred years of worship. Then the man cried out, “By your mercy, by your mercy!”

Bottom line is that we do as much good actions as we can but we rely, ultimately, on Allah's mercy to help us.

Al-Wasti states, "When it comes to act of worship, it is [almost] more fitting to seek forgiveness for them than it is to seek reward." (Subtle Blessings by Ibn Ata Allah trans Nancy Roberts p.198).

We do not claim to be someone who practices knowledge nor am I a person who has good character. We are someone who has much bad character and need to do lots of work to purify himself from many sins. So do not be fooled I need this more than you...

Please see post about Tawakkul/ True reliance on God

1 comment:

  1. Asalamualaykum,
    Regarding the hadith above on the one who does the actions of the inhabitants of hell until there is a cubit between him and death, is the word Hell repeated twice?