Answered by Shaykh Yusuf Weltch
Question: Assalamu alaykum
What is the ruling of doing a good deed seeking worldly benefit?
Answer: In the Name of Allah, the Most Merciful and Compassionate
Wa ‘Alaikum al-Salaam
Seeking From Allah Most High
It must be understood that even if someone seeks from Allah Most High worldly benefits the fact that they sought those benefits from Allah Most High is a testimony to their faith. This is especially true regarding the Tahajjud prayer.
The Prophet (may Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “Our Lord, blessed is He, descends every night to the lowest heaven when the last third of the night remains. He says, “Who is their to beseech me that I may respond to them? Who will ask of Me that I may give them? Who will seek forgiveness from Me that I may forgive them?” [Bukhari]
Even though asking for worldly things from Allah Most High is not ideal according to many scholars it is not sinful nor does it render the deed void.
This is contrary to the one who does a deed for the sake of people. For example, one who gives charity to be called generous or one who does a deed to get money or praise from people.
Commentary of Sura Hud verses 15 and 16
The verse that you quoted above must be understood contextually.
“Whoever desires the life of this world and its adornment, We shall pay them in full for their deeds therein, and they will not be wronged therein. (But) they are those for whom there is nothing in the hereafter but the Fire: and worthless is what they have done in it , and vain shall be what they were doing.” [Qur’an; 11:15]
Fakr al-Din al-Razi (May Allah have mercy on him) mentions regarding this verse that some scholars deemed this verse to be specifically for the disbelievers. This is due to the ending of verse 16 that ‘for them there is nothing in the hereafter but fire.’. He then mentions the other opinion that applies to everyone who does a good deed to be seen and praised by others. He also mentions that the verse could apply to someone who does a deed solely for the sake of worldly benefit with no intention for the Hereafter whatsoever.
According to this third opinion it necessary that we raise our intentions. Even if we have worldly needs, we should not seek them in and of themselves but we should combine them with higher intentions.
For example, if someone is in financial difficulty and they wish to pray to Allah Most High for money, they should intend that by fulfilling their financial need they will be able to worship Allah Most High better. And that they can fulfill the religious obligations upon them, such as taking care of their dependents.
In this way, their is a spiritual, religious, and other worldly undertone to even fulfilling our worldly needs. And it is by these intentions and this widened outlook that our entire life can be in the worship of Allah, even our mundane acts and responsibilites.
Regarding this ideal of elevating our intentions from the merely worldly that that which relates to the next world, Allah Most High teaches us how to ask of Him. ‘And from amongst them are those who say, ‘Our Lord! grant us good in this world and good in the world to come, and save us from the torment of the Fire’. [Qur’an; 02:201]
Hope this helps
[Shaykh] Yusuf Weltch
Shaykh Yusuf Weltch is a graduate from Tarim; student of Habib Umar and other luminaries; and authorized teachers of Qur’an and the Islamic sciences.