Sincerity and Correctness in Worship

The purpose of our life is a topic that we seldom think about or it is a discussion that is put aside after occasional brief reflection. But it is extremely critical for us to know about this topic as it is having a purpose in life that pushes us to use our intellect and abilities in the right direction and it serves as a core factor to success and happiness. As Muslims, we believe that the great purpose for which we exist in this world is to worship our Lord, our Creator – Allah, Who says: “And I did not create the jinn and mankind except to worship Me.” (Qur’an, 51:56)

Indeed Allah created the creation so that they could worship Him alone, without associating any partner with Him. Whoever obeys Him will be completely rewarded, whereas whoever disobeys Him would be punished with a severe punishment. And He has informed that He is neither dependant, nor does He have any need for them. Rather, it is the creation that is in dire need of Him, in every condition and circumstance, since He is the One who creates, sustains and provides for them. Imam Ibn Katheer said: “Ibaadah (worship) is obedience to Allah by acting upon what He commands and abandoning what He forbids; and this is the reality and essence of Islam. And the meaning of Islam is: ‘istislaam’ (submission and surrender) to Allah – the Most High – along with the utmost compliance and submissiveness to Him.”

Whatever a servant of Allah does to seek His pleasure, in accordance with the Qur’an and Sunnah is Ibaadah. As Muslims we need to realize that from the conditions of our worship to be accepted by Allah, is that it needs to be sincerely for His sake. Allah says: “So whoever hopes for the meeting with His Lord let him work deeds of righteousness and associate none as a partner in the worship of His Lord.” (Qur’an 18:110). Similarly, the Messenger (peace be upon him) said “Indeed Allah does not look at your faces nor your wealth but He looks at your hearts (intentions) and your actions.” (Muslim) Also there is a Hadeeth Qudsi where the Messenger (peace be upon him) said that Allah 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 whom he associated with Me.” (Muslim)

After sincerity the second vital condition of worship is that it should be correct and therefore acceptable to Allah. Our worship of Allah should be as He and His Messenger (peace be upon him) have commanded us. Allah says: O you who have believed, obey Allah and obey the Messenger and do not invalidate your deeds.” (Qur’an 47:33)

The Messenger (peace be upon him) said regarding this: “Whoever does an action which we have not commanded will have it rejected.” (Muslim) He (peace be upon him) also said “Whoever does an action (of worship) in a way different from ours will have it rejected.” (Abu Dawood)

Action Rejected

It has been narrated that `Umar Al-Khattab once passed by the monastery of a monk. When the monk came out, `Umar looked at him and began to weep. When people asked him why he was weeping, he replied: “I remembered the statement of Allah, the Mighty and Majestic, in His Book: ‘Working [hard] and exhausted. They will [enter to] burn in an intensely hot Fire.’ [Qur’an 88:3-4] So that is what has made me cry.”  (Tafsir Ibn Katheer)

Hence, if an act of worship is correct but not sincere, it will not be accepted and if it is sincere but not correct it will not be accepted until it is both sincere and correct. Sincere means that nothing but the Face of Allah is sought by doing it and correct means that it is in conformity with the Sunnah.

Unfortunately, when we look around us today, we see a lot of people ignoring these two conditions; using worship as a tool to get worldly benefits or taking the way of their fathers, ancestors and other people as the yardstick of right and wrong. There exist in Muslim communities, several innovated cultural practices and beliefs which have no basis in the Qur’an and Sunnah. Innovated practices are actions like specifying words of Dhikr that are not prescribed in the Sunnah, or to say that a particular du’aa, a certain chapter/verse from the Qur’an or a specific Name of Allah should be recited a fixed number of times without any proof from the Hadith. These innovated actions also include singling out a day or night for worship and religious celebration that the Prophet (peace be upon him) or his companions never did (like the day of 12th Rabi’ ul Awwal, nights of 27th Rajab and 15th Sha’ban).

Yet, when these misunderstandings are brought to the attention of people, many respond in the exact words of the disbelievers of old times, “This is what our forefathers used to do so we will do the same.” People who make such statements should think about whether they are following the guidance of Allah or the way of the disbelievers. One of the key characteristics of Islam is the importance given to verification of information and to the prohibition of blindly following practices which are proven to be unislamic.

Islam is a complete way of life. All acts of worship that we need to get closer to Allah have already been revealed and explained to us by the Messenger (peace be upon him) who said, “I have left you upon the clear path, its night is like its day and no one deviates from it after me except that he is destroyed.”(Ahmad) This hadeeth should push us to acknowledge and accept the facts and not be careless, making our actions vain like Allah has mentioned regarding some people: “And We will regard what they have done of deeds and make them as dust dispersed.” (Qur’an 25:23) Rather let us become cautious and send something foreword for the Day of Judgment, the Day when we will be in great need for good actions, i.e., our sincere and correct Ibaadah.

-Mariam Anwer

Originally Published at Arab News

AN Sincerity

Humility is key to winning Allah’s favors

Greatness belongs to Allah alone. He is in control of all the affairs of every single thing created. He commands and prohibits, creates and provides, gives and takes. He raises and lowers people’s status, alternates night and day, causes nations to rise and fall, so that one nation vanishes and another emerges. His command and decree are carried out throughout the heavens and on earth, in the oceans and in the air. Human beings are just a creation of Allah — a creation which is pretty insignificant in comparison to the unimaginably vast universe. In a hadith qudsi, the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “Allah the Almighty said: ‘Pride is My cloak and greatness is My garment, so whoever competes with Me regarding these two will be thrown into the Hellfire.’” (Abu Dawud 4090)

Anyone who understands this will realize that our real status in the life of this world is only that of servants of Allah and this understanding gives root to the beautiful quality of humility which is one of the greatest blessings that Allah could bestow upon His servant because when a person becomes humble, he acknowledges his weaknesses and defects and submits wholeheartedly to the rulings of Allah and Allah in turn raises his status in both worlds.


The prophet (peace be upon him) said: “…No one humbles himself before Allah but Allah will raise him (in status).” [Muslim]

Humility makes a believer accept and believe in the greatness of Allah and makes him turn to Him sincerely by submitting to His commands, by taking care of His rights and also His servants’ rights. When Allah raises him in worldly status, the characteristic of humility protects a believer from self praise, pride and feelings of superiority over others. It makes him an individual whose only concern is the pleasure of Allah and not the approval and recognition of those around him

Even though being humble and confident are characteristics that we should acquire, we must be careful not to cross the line and trip into the sins of arrogance and self praise which are from the evil traits of the people who preceded us. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “No one who has an atom’s-weight of arrogance in his heart will enter Paradise.” A man said, “O Messenger of Allah, what if a man likes his clothes and his shoes to look good?” He said, “Allah is Beautiful and loves beauty. Arrogance means rejecting the truth and looking down on people.” [Muslim]

The story of Qarun is worth mentioning here. Qarun was a man of great wealth and the owner of great possessions. It is said that when he rode anywhere, the keys to his treasures would be carried on sixty mules. But his great fortune and status had made him haughty towards his own people and towards the truth. He refused to accept the message of Allah and instead, boasted about his possessions, while looking down at the common folk around him. Allah tells us in the Qur’an that when the knowledgeable ones around him advised him: “Do not exult. Indeed, Allah does not like the exultant. But seek, through that which Allah has given you, the home of the Hereafter; and [yet], do not forget your share of the world. And do good as Allah has done good to you. And desire not corruption in the land. Indeed, Allah does not like corrupters.” (Qur’an 28:76-77) He replied: “This has been given to me only because of the knowledge I possess.” (Qur’an 28:78) Instead of submitting to the One who gave him all that he possessed with humble gratefulness, Qarun totally ignored the favor of Allah on him and was defiantly arrogant. His arrogance brought him nothing but severe torment from the Almighty. Allah says: “And We caused the earth to swallow him and his home. And there was for him no company to aid him other than Allah, nor was he of those who [could] defend themselves.” [Qur’an 28:81]

Allah Ta’ala also tells us the story of Iblees in the Qur’an to warn us about this disease of arrogance and notion of superiority. Iblis was ordered by Allah to prostrate to Adam and he rejected because of his arrogance and envy towards Adam. Allah says in the Qur’an: “(Iblees said)  “I am better than him. You created me from fire and created him from clay.” [Qur’an 7:12]

The stories of Iblis and Qarun are somewhat similar and both teach us that we need to adopt the qualities of humility and submissiveness and avoid the destructive sins of arrogance and self praise as both would lead us to destruction in both worlds. The Prophet (peace be upon him) also said, “Shall I tell you about the people of Hellfire? They are every haughty, mean, and arrogant person.” (Bukhari 4634)

This hadeeth is enough to make a believer know his limits and guides him to never lose sight of his status as a humble servant of Allah. He knows that whatever Allah has given him by favoring him over others, is purely from His grace and mercy. Feeling proud and praising oneself is totally disliked by Allah. In fact it is a characteristic of those who rejected their scriptures and made changes in them. Allah says: “So do not claim yourselves to be pure; He is most knowing of who fears Him.” [Qur’an 53:32]

The Prophet (peace be upon him) even prohibited praising a person, especially while he can hear his praise. This is because such praise may encourage the praised person to overestimate himself and may lead him to be arrogant and overconfident regarding his status and deeds.

A believer possessing humility knows that his knowledge, talents and abilities are all from Allah and this keeps his feet on the ground, grateful to Allah and always kind to his servants. Humility increases a believer’s self confidence which motivates him to race to all that is good without putting others down.

Let’s take account of ourselves, strive to fix our attitudes and be of those who humble themselves for the sake of Allah, for if we do that then Allah will raise us in status in this world and in the Hereafter, Insha Allah.

 -Written by Mariam Anwer

Originally posted at Arab News