What Is the Meaning of the Hadith “Ruined Are the Extremists”?

Answered by Ustadh Salman Younas

Question: Is the hadith of Sahih Muslim, Book 34, Number 6450 accurately translated as “Ruined are the extremists”? Or is it “Ruined, were those who indulged in hair-splitting”? Are there other hadiths that forbid extremism? What exactly is meant by extremism, or even moderation?

Answer: assalamu `alaykum

The hadith in Sahih Muslim you refer to may in fact be translated both ways.

The original word used is “mutanati`”, a derived noun from “tanatu`” which indicates delving deeply into something and exorbitantly. Due to this meaning of deep engagement, the original term also refers to the sounds articulated from the back of the oral cavity, namely the throat. [Ibn Faris, Mu`ajam al-Maqayis; Ibn Athir, al-Nihaya]

Imam Nawawi states that in the context of the narration, it refers to “those who delve too deeply, are extreme, and go beyond bounds in their speech and actions.” [Sharh Sahih Muslim]

Some scholars interpreted this as applicable to those who research things of no benefit and which do not concern them, such as delving into matters of the unseen, inconsequential subtleties of law, and so forth. Others also included those who go beyond the legal bounds in their worship and fall into baseless misgivings. [Munawi, Fayd al-Qadir]

Thus, the wording of the narration indicates the blameworthy nature of all sorts of immoderate activity – excessiveness, hairsplitting, pedantry, fanaticism, and so forth.

Moderation: The Trait of the Believer

Moderation and balance are key traits of a believer and vividly present in the practice of the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace). Thus, one will find a number of verses and prophetic narrations emphasizing the praiseworthy nature of moderation and the harms of excessiveness.

Some of the Qur’anic verses that promote moderation and balance are:

The verse, “Likewise, We have made you a mid-most nation (wasatan).” (2:143) Imam Tabari states in his commentary, “Allah only attributed them with the term mid-most because of their balance in the religion.”

The verse, “Be steadfastly balanced witnesses (qawamin) for Allah in equity (qist), and let not hatred of any people seduce you that you deal not justly (la ta`dilu). Deal justly, that is nearer to your duty.” (5:8)

Within this verse, Allah Most High uses three very important words, “qawwam”, “qist”, and “`adl”, which indicate the meaning of uprightness, moderation, fairness, equity and balance, both in religious and worldly dealings, even with those whom one is at enmity with.

The verse, “Guide us to the straight path (sirat al-mutaqim)” (1:6), where the word “mustaqim” entails the meaning of balance and moderation, being from the same root as the word “qawwam” mentioned in the previous verse.

The verse, “those who, when they expend, are neither wastefully extravagant nor stingy, but between that is a justly balanced stand (qawaman).” (25:67)

The verse, “God loves the just (muqsitin).” (5:42)

The verse, “Oh People of the Book, do not go to excesses in your religion.” (4:171)

Among the prophetic narratives that promote moderation and prohibit extremism and excess are:

The Prophet (Allah bless him) stated, “None makes the religion difficult except that it overcomes him. So, aim for what is right, stick to the moderate way…” [Bukhari, Sahih]

Ibn Hajar in his Fath al-Bari quotes Ibn Munir as stating, “In this narration is a sign from the signs of prophethood for we and those before us have witnessed that every excessively immoderate person (mutanati`) in the religion is cut off. The purpose [of this narration] is not to prohibit seeking perfection in one’s worship since it is something praiseworthy.”

The Prophet (Allah bless him) stated, “Beware of excessiveness in religion for those before you only perished due to excessiveness in religion.” [Ahmad, Musnad]

What is Moderation?

Giving a precise definition of moderation is not easy. However, what we can be certain of is that anyone who sticks to the sunna of the Prophet (Allah bless him), outwardly and inwardly, will not fall into excess.

At the same time, our understanding of the way of the Prophet (Allah bless him) is not primarily gleaned from books but people who embody his way. These people, the rightly guided scholars, are examples of what it means to “stick to the sunna” in every action of life, from the apparently mundane to the spiritual. Almost all the time, it is our misunderstanding of the sunna that leads us to immoderation, but whoever follows a tried, tested, and accepted scholarly tradition will be safe from such error.

We should imitate these people in our own lives and seek out their advice to correct our own perceptions of the sunna fits into our lives.



Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani


Resources for Seekers:

How Do I Raise My Resolve to do Good & Overcome Hardness of the Heart?

Answered by Shaykh Muhammad Qaylish

Question: When I began practicing, I used to be very motivated to perform the good. Now, I feel a hardness in my heart and less motivated to do good deeds. Can you please give some advice on how I can raise my motivation?

Answer: Bismillah

Allah Most High says,

“O you who believe! Be careful of your duty to Allah, and be with the truthful.” [Qur’an 9.119]

Thus, with our taqwa (God-consciousness), it is necessary to keep the company of the truthful and righteous.

With this, we should supplicate often with the words of the Best of Creation (peace and blessings be upon him),

“O over-turner of hearts, make my heart firm on your religion.”

If our Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) used to make this supplication, it behooves us to follow his example (peace and blessings be upon him) and have fear of the overturning of hearts. And Allah Most Glorious is the Overwhelming over His creation, and He decrees whatever He wills for whoever He wishes. Thus, we ask Him to make us with the truthful and righteous, and to give us a good ending. And we seek refuge in Him from deception and being led astray, for He is the Hearing and Answering.

Worshiping Allah for His sake, not for illumination

When a believer obeys Allah Most High, they do so in obedience to the command of Allah. This good deed gives fruit to a light in the heart, and an increase in one’s spiritual resolve (himma). However, if our good deeds do not give apparent fruits, it is not allowed for us to leave them, because whenever we do the good, we will have obeyed the command of Allah—this is our duty.

Then, [having done our duty] if we find the apparent fruits of our deeds, then so be it. Otherwise, we at least obeyed the command of Allah, and we ask Him for acceptance. We are the servants of Allah, not the servants of illuminations that result from our deeds. The one who worships Allah for the fruits of their worship, such as the light and softness they find in their heart, are in need of sincerity to Allah alone in their worship.

What to do about hardness of heart and weakness of resolve

As for when one fears non-acceptance when they find hardness of heart and weakness in resolve, then one should make remembrance of Allah and istighfar (seeking forgiveness). It has been related in a hadith from the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) that he said,

“Truly, hearts rust just as iron rusts, and their polishing is La ilaha illa Allah (‘There is no god but Allah’) and seeking forgiveness.”

Thus, if a Muslim seeks to polish their heart, they should adhere to the remembrance of Allah until their heart is purified and illumined. If one makes remembrance of Allah but finds no light therein, then they should make themselves in a position to benefit from the winds of Allah’s beneficence.

It has been related in hadith that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said,

“You Lord has in the days of your lives winds of beneficence, so benefit from them.”

Among these winds of beneficence are the blessed days mentioned in the Prophetic hadiths, in which worship is especially virtuous.

Among them is to search for truthful and righteous believers and to keep their company.

Among them is to establish night worship at the end of the night, and to supplicate at that time.

Among them is to remain constantly in the remembrance of Allah. Sayyidi Ibn `Ata’illah says,

“Do not leave the remembrance because of your lack of presence of heart with Allah therein, because your heedlessness of the remembrance of Allah is more harmful than your heedlessness during the remembrance of Allah. It may well be that He take you from remembrance in which there is heedlessness to remembrance in which there is consciousness; and from remembrance in which there is consciousness to remembrance in which there is presence of heart; and from remembrance in which there is presence of heart to remembrance in which there is obliviousness to all but the One Remembered, “And that is not difficult for Allah.””

Loss of motivation and the importance of moderation

As for loss of motivation, this is natural to the human temperament, and is the reason why the acts of good and worship are variegated—so that the lower selves of creation not get weary. Thus, if one finds weakness in one’s resolve, then move to another type of good, while being wary—when given success—not to take on too many voluntary acts of worship, lest this lead to loss of motivation and a sense of being fed up. Allah Most High enjoined upon us certain obligations which we cannot leave. After this, He encouraged us to supererogatory works from which we should take that which our selves can handle, sustain, and remain avid for the good.

Imam Muslim related in his Sahih, in the chapter on ‘Moderation in Exhortation,’ from Shaqiq that he said,

“We were sitting before the door of Abdullah [ibn Masud (Allah be pleased with him), the great companion of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace)], waiting for him, when Yazid ibn Mu`awiya al-Nakha`i passed by us. We said to him, “Tell him about our presence.” He entered. Soon after, Abdullah [ibn Mas`ud] came out. He said, “I have been told about your presence. The only thing preventing me from coming out to you is my dislike of boring you. Verily, the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) used to carefully choose when to give us exhortation, out of fear of us becoming weary.”

We ask Allah to make our days rich with His obedience, and to increase love and desire of drawing closer to Him in our hearts, until we meet Him and He is pleased with us. Amin.

Muhammad Qaylish

(Translated by Faraz Rabbani, a student of Shaykh Muhammad Qaylish)

3- حينما بدأت ألتزم كنت أجد دافعاً قوياً في نفسي نحو الخيرات ونوافل العبادات وكثرة الذكر . وكنت أجد رقة في قلبي .. الآن لا أجد ذاك الدافع وأشعر بقسوة في قلبي وضعف في همتي .. لا أقع في معاص ظاهرة … لكن أخاف أن يزداد ضعفي … كيف أقوي عزمي نحو الخير وتنوير قلبي؟

الجواب: يقول الله تعالى : [يا أيها الذين آمنوا اتقوا الله وكونوا مع الصادقين]. فمع التقوى لا بد من مصاحبة الصادقين . ومع هذا وذاك علينا أن نكثر من دعاء سيد الوجود e : “يا مقلب القلوب ثبت قلبي على دينك” . فإذا كان نبينا e يدعو بهذا الدعاء فعلينا أن نقتدي به e ونخاف من تقليب القلوب . والله سبحانه هو القاهر فوق عباده يحكم بما يشاء على من يشاء . فنسأله أن يجعلنا من الصالحين وأن يختم لنا بخاتمة الحسنى . ونعوذ به من المكر والاستدراج. إنه سميع مجيب.

والمؤمن حين يطيع الله عز وجل فإنه يفعل ذلك امتثالاً لأمر الله . فتثمر هذه الطاعة نوراً في القلب، وزيادة في الهمة . ولكن إذا لم تثمر الطاعة ثمارها فلا يجوز أن نتركها، لأننا حين نعمل الخيرات فإننا نكون قد امتثلنا أمر الله. وهذه هي وظيفتنا. ثم إذا أتت ثمار الطاعة فأهلاً وسهلاً. وإذا لم تأت نكون قد امتثلنا أمر الله. ونسأله سبحانه القبول. فنحن عباد الله ولسنا عباد الأنوار التي هي ثمرة عبادتنا . وإذا كان المسلم يعبد الله لأجل أن ينال ثمار العبادة من نور في القلب ورقة فيه فإن عبادته تحتاج إلى إخلاص النية لله وحده.

وأما إذا كان يخاف من عدم القبول حين يجد في القسوة في قلبه والضعف في همته فعليه بذكر الله والاستغفار . وقد ورد في الحديث عنه e : إن القلوب تصدأ كما يصدأ الحديد وجلاؤها لا إله إلا الله والاستغفار .

فإذا أراد المسلم أن يجلو قلبه فعليه بذكر الله حتى يصفو ويتنور. وإذا كان يذكر الله فلا يشعر بالنور يدخل إلى قلبه فليتعرض لنفحات الله سبحانه . فقد ورد في الحديث : إن لربكم في أيام دهركم نفحات . ألا فتعرضوا لها. ومن النفحات الأيام المباركة التي وردت الأحاديث في فضل العبادة فيها . ومنها البحث عن الصالحين الصادقين والبقاء معهم . ومنها قيام آخر الليل والدعاء فيه…. ومنها المداومة على الذكر . يقول سيدي ابن عطاء الله السكندري : لا تترك الذكر لعدم حضورك مع الله فيه فغفلتك عن وجود ذكره أشد من غفلتك مع وجود ذكره . فعسى أن ينقلك من ذكر مع وجود غفلة إلى ذكر مع وجود يقظة ومن ذكر مع وجود يقظة إلى ذكر مع وجود حضور ومن ذكر مع وجود حضور إلى ذكر مع غيبة عما سوى المذكور وما ذلك على الله بعزيز .

وإن السآمة من طبع النفوس البشرية . ولذلك تنوعت الطاعات والعبادات كيلا تمل نفوس العباد . فإذا شعر المسلم بشيء من الضعف في الهمة فلينتقل إلى نوع آخر من الطاعة . وليحذر الموفق من حمل نفسه على كثرة النوافل حتى لا تمل وتسأم . فإن الله سبحانه قد فرض علينا فروضاً لا يجوز لنا أن نتركها . ثم ندبنا بعد ذلك إلى نوافل نأخذ منها ما تحتمله نفوسنا وتبقى معه راغبة في الخير . وقد أخرج الإمام مسلم في صحيحه في باب الاقتصاد في الموعظة عن شقيق قال: كنا جلوساً عند باب عبد الله – بن مسعود – ننتظره، فمر بنا يزيد بن معاوية النخعي فقلنا: أعلمه بمكاننا. فدخل عليه، فلم يلبث أن خرج علينا عبد الله فقال: إني أُخْبَرُ بمكانكم، فما يمنعني أن أخرج إليكم إلا كراهية أن أُمِلَّكُمْ. إن رسول الله e كان يَتَخَوَّلُنَا بالموعظة في الأيام مخافة السآمة علينا. نسأل الله أن يجعل أيامنا بالطاعات عامرة وأن يزيد في قلوبنا محبته والرغبة بالإقبال عليه حتى نلقاه وهو عنا راض . آمين.

MMVIII © Faraz Rabbani and SunniPath.

The Spiritual Death of the Heart Through Excessive Laughter & the Prophet’s Moderate Sense of Humor

Answered by Ustadh Faraz A. Khan

Question: I heard this narration from someone where the Prophet said if a person laughs excessively  it makes the person’s heart hard. I am not sure whether its authentic or not. I was wondering, does it really make the person’s heart heard physically or is it referring to the spiritual condition of the heart. I have also heard in contemporary times, that excessive laughter also has benefits as well, can you please clarify.

Answer: Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatullah,

I pray this finds you in the best of health and faith.

The Hadith in Question

It is narrated with a sound chain of transmission that our Beloved Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “Do not laugh too much, for verily excessive laughter kills the heart.” [Bukhari, Adab al-Mufrad; Sunan Tirmidhi; Sunan Ibn Maja; Musnad Ahmad]

And in some narrations, there is an addition, “For verily excessive laughter kills the heart and removes the light of one’s face,” or in another version, “For verily excessive laughter corrupts the heart.” [Bayhaqi, Shu’ab]

Scholarly Commentary

This latter version helps explain what is meant by the version of “killing the heart,” namely, that the death of the heart refers to its spiritual corruption. As Imam Mubarakpuri explains in his commentary of Sunan Tirmidhi, “For verily excessive laughter kills the heart, i.e., engulfs it in layers of darkness, akin to a dead person that cannot benefit from anything beneficial nor ward off from himself any harm. This is indeed from vast yet concise prophetic speech [jawami’ al-kalim].” [Tuhfat al-Ahwadhi]

Imam Munawi gives a more detailed explanation of the spiritual death of one’s heart as he states, citing various Imams, “Excessive laughter leads to a hardening of the heart, which in turn leads to heedlessness [of the Divine], and the death of the heart occurs not except by heedlessness.”

He further comments, “Getting accustomed to laughter distracts one from reflecting on matters of significance…one who laughs excessively does not have a respectful demeanor [hayba]; he does not command respect at all. One who is characterized by it has no meaningful thought nor worth.”

He adds, “Excessive laughter and excitement regarding worldly affairs is a lethal poison that flows in one’s veins and removes from the heart fear [of divine punishment], sadness [over one’s sins], and remembrance of death and the terrors of the Day of Arising; this, then, is the death of the heart. ‘And they rejoice over the life of this world, yet the life of this world with respect to the afterlife is nothing but temporary, paltry amusement’ (Qur’an 13:26).”

Elsewhere in his masterful commentary, Imam Munawi states, “Laughter that kills the heart is that which occurs due to rejoicing over this life and being prideful in one’s joy thereof. The heart has [spiritual] life and death—its life is by continuous obedience, while its death is by responding to the call of other than Allah, such as of one’s ego, stubborn whims, or Satan.”

Finally, Imam Munawi states that the reason why excessive laughter kills the heart is because the root of excessive laughter is love of this world, which is the cause of every sin; and once the heart is dead, it does not respond to Allah when He calls him [to obedience].

[Fayd al-Qadir Sharh Jami’ al-Saghir]

A Point of Reflection

On a side note, with minimal reflection one can readily appreciate how contemporary Western society revolves almost entirely around excessive amusement which, as we noted above from Imam Munawi’s commentary, “distracts one from matters of significance.” The plethora of grave maladies and ills that plague us today—including wars, disease, famine, crime, economic crises, the waning of the planet’s resources, corporate hegemony, moral degradation, and the looming catastrophe of global warming and overall environmental damage—are all lightly brushed aside from public discourse and mass media to make room for reality TV shows, football games, and unending advertising.

As the late cultural critic Neil Postman so insightfully titled his book, we as a society are “Amusing Ourselves to Death,” i.e., to the extent that we fail to benefit from the beneficial nor recognize and ward off real harms such as those just listed. And as Chris Hedges has titled his own recent book on the subject, we have unfortunately become an “Empire of Illusion,” too distracted to give serious thought to real problems, let alone anything related to our Creator, the afterlife, or the death of our spiritual hearts.

Humor in Moderation: A Prophetic Sunna

Having said that, we must bear in mind that the corruptive element of such amusement and laughter is the fact that it is extreme, and the fact that it stems from love of this world. On the contrary, a cheerful countenance and humor in moderation is an established sunna of our Beloved Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him).

He was known to have a wonderful sense of humor, as confirmed in many prophetic reports, yet without excess nor lying. Scholars mention that his intention thereby was always to please Allah Most High, as he would do so to cause happiness to enter the hearts of those around him; it was never for the sake of this fleeting life. [Muhammad ibn ‘Alawi al-Maliki, Muhammad al-Insan al-Kamil]

When our Mother Aisha (Allah be pleased with her) was asked how our Beloved Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) used to be when alone with her in the house, she responded, “He was the sweetest of people; always smiling and joyful.” [Musnad Ibn Rahawayh] Smiling and being in a pleasant mood are confirmed sunnas that are most pleasing to our Lord, to the extent that they are considered charity. Our Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “Do not deem any good deed as insignificant, even if only meeting your brother with cheerful face.” [Sahih Muslim]

It is narrated in one of the descriptions of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) that he was “always in a cheerful mood and very easy-going, ” yet “not excessive in joking.” [Bayhaqi, Dala’il al-Nubuwwa] And sometimes the Companions would mention things they would do before becoming Muslim and laugh together, to which the Messenger would smile. [Sahih Muslim]

Laughter and Good Health

What you allude to in your question with regards to some of the health benefits of humor and laughter, such as reducing stress hormones and increasing endorphins and overall strength of the immune system, is interpreted in the light of the Qur’an and Sunna as the cheerful personality and balanced, moderate sense of humor taught to us by the Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him).

That is, one can attain such positive health benefits by practicing the Prophetic Sunna of a noble intention and moderation, without having to resort to the excessiveness and trivial nature of amusement that leads to the aforementioned spiritual vices.

Examples of His Beautiful Yet Moderate Sense of Humor

(a) A man once came to the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) to ask for a riding animal, to which the Prophet responded, “I will give you a child of a she-camel.” The man said, “Oh Messenger of Allah! What will I do with a child of a she-camel? [i.e., it being too small to ride or carry things on]” To which the Prophet responded, “Isn’t every camel the child of a she-camel?” [Sunan Tirmidhi, Sunan Abu Dawud, Musnad Ahmad]

(b) Our Beloved Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) used to call his servant Anas, “Oh Possessor of two ears!” [Sunan Abu Dawud, Sunan Tirmidhi]

(c) An old woman once came to the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and asked him to pray to Allah to let her enter Paradise, to which he responded, “Oh Mother of so-and-so, verily old women do not enter Paradise.” So she left crying, and then he said to his Companions, “Tell her that she won’t enter it as an old woman, for verily Allah states, ‘Then We will make them [the female inhabitants of Paradise] virgins; loving; equal in age [i.e., young!]’ (56:36-7)” [Shama’il Tirmidhi]

(d) A woman named Umm Ayman once came to the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and said, “My husband wants to invite you,” to which he responded, “Who is he again? Is he the one with some whiteness in his eyes? [i.e., as if he had an eye defect]” She replied, “What Oh Messenger of Allah? By Allah, he has no whiteness in his eyes!” He said, “No, he does have whiteness in his eyes.” She replied, “No, by Allah!” He said, “Doesn’t everyone have some whiteness in their eyes? [i.e., the normal whiteness around the pupils]” [Ibn Bakkar]

(e) The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) was once with his two wives, ‘Aisha and Sawda, seated between the two. ‘Aisha had brought a dish of food that she had cooked, and said to Sawda, “Eat some.” Sawda refused, to which ‘Aisha responded, “I swear, you will either eat it or I’ll rub your face with it!” She still refused, and so ‘Aisha put her hand in the food and wiped Sawda’s face with it. The Prophet touched Sawda with his blessed leg and said, “Rub her face in return.” So Sawda did the same to ‘Aisha, and the Prophet started laughing. [Ibn ‘Asakir, Abu Ya’la]


To summarize, there is nothing at all wrong with light amusement and a balanced sense of humor, as such was from the noble character of our Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him). Our intention therein should be to fill the hearts of our brethren with happiness, for the sake of Allah.

Such a noble intention, coupled with moderation and balance, will surely be a means of illumination of our hearts, as with anything from the Noble Sunna. Yet we should be careful not to overindulge in amusement and trivial things, and not to laugh excessively for the sake of worldly matters, as doing so leads to corruption and heedlessness of the heart, eventually resulting in its spiritual demise.

May Allah Most High fill our hearts with light, joy, and happiness for His sake, out of emulation of our Master and Liegelord Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him.

And Allah alone gives success.


Faraz A. Khan

Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani

Good Deeds & Salvation: Putting Our Works Into Perspective

Answered by Sidi Salman Younas

Question: What role do actions play in salvation?  There are, of course, Muslims out there who have adopted ideas similar to the Christians that belief is all that you need to be saved. What would you advise that I tell them.

Answer: assalamu `alaykum

All that one needs to be saved is Allah. Neither actions nor beliefs alone guarantee one’s salvation.

`A’isha (Allah be well pleased with her) narrates that the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) said, “Perform your deeds properly and in moderation, and know that one’s deeds will not cause anyone of you to enter Heaven, and that the most beloved of actions to Allah are the most consistent ones even if little in amount.” [Bukhari]

Abu Hurayra (Allah be well-pleased with him) narrates that the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) said, “There is no one whose deeds will cause him to enter Heaven. It was said, ‘Not even you, Messenger of Allah?’ He (Allah bless him and grant him peace) said, ‘Not even me unless my Lord envelops me with His mercy.'” [Muslim]

In another narration the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) said, “There is no one whose deeds will cause his salvation. It was said, ‘Not even you Messenger of Allah? He (Allah bless him and grant him peace), ‘Not even me unless my Lord takes hold of me with mercy.'” [Muslim]

Understanding Allah’s Greatness:

In order to understand  the narrations properly, as well as the relation of one’s deeds to salvation, some key points of belief need to be outlined. The most essential is knowledge that Allah is not obligated to do anything.

Imam Nawawi, while explaining the above narrations, states, “Know that the position of Ahl al-Sunna is that reward, punishment, obligatoriness, impermissibility, and other than them two from the categories of moral responsibility, are not established by the rational intellect (`aql). All of this and other than it is not established except by recourse to divine revelation. The position of the Ahl al-Sunna is also that there is absolutely nothing obligatory on Allah Most High. Rather, the cosmos is His possession, and this world and the next are subject to His mastery; He does in them whatever He wills. So, if He punished every obedient and righteous slave and caused them to enter the Fire this would be considered equitable justice from Him, and if He honored them, blessed them, and entered them into Heaven then it is a gracious favor from Him. If He graciously favored the disbelievers and entered them into Heaven it would also be akin to this. However, He Most High has informed us – and His message is true – that He will not do so…” [Sharh Sahih Muslim]

Similarly, Imam Bajuri states, “So, the position of Ahl al-Sunna is that His rewarding us is due to pure gracious favor that is not admixed with compulsion or obligation [to do so].” [Tuhfat al-Murid]

Imam Haramayn al-Juwayni, the teacher of Imam Ghazali, states, “Similarly, with a person who is highly respected within his family, if he is generous with his son and provides all his needs, and the son honors him, respects him and seeks his approval and strives to earn it, therefore, that person is not owed in regard for his assistance anymore then he has already obtained from the beneficence that has accrued to his credit. If then this is the situation with a person who provides services to another like himself, a servant who tried to compare his own acts of service with God’s bounteous generosity to him in any single instance would find the beneficence of God completely acquitted and fulfilled in regard to any of his own good deeds.” [Kitab al-Irshad]

What Are Your Deeds? Allah’s Creation

The above becomes clearer when one realizes what one’s deeds really are: a creation of Allah. Unlike certain groups that believed that humans create their own choiceful acts, the Ahl al-Sunna unanimously agree that all of one’s actions are created by Allah. This is clear from the verse, “Allah created you and that which you do.” [37: 96] The commentators of the Qur’an agree that the vast majority constituted this as a proof of Allah’s being the creator of all actions. [Razi, Tafsir al-Kabir; Baydawi, Anwar al-Tanzil; Qurtubi, Jami` al-Ahkam al-Qur’an]

Similarly, the scholars defined “divinely given success” (tawfiq) as “Allah’s creating the ability to perform acts of obedience within the slave.” [Bajuri, Tuhfat al-Murid; Sawi, Sharh `ala al-Jawhara]

As such, since our actions are a creaton of Allah and only came into being due to His will and omnipotent power, the servant has no right to claim that his deeds will cause his salvation, or that he deserves salvation due to them, since his deeds properly belong to Allah who created them, not the servant himself. Deeds not only include outward rituals, but also inward belief and convictions, all of which are blessings bestowed upon us by Allah. As the Qur’an states, “Whatever blessing you have, it is from Allah.” [16:53]

Imam Nawawi, while explaining the verse “enter heaven enveloped in what you did [of good acts]” [16: 32], states that “entering heaven is due to actions, yet divinely give success (tawfiq) to perform those acts, being guided in having sincerity in them, and their acceptance is due to Allah’s mercy and gracious favor.” [Sharh Sahih Muslim] Ibn Hajar `Asqalani stated that some scholars, such as Ibn Battal and Qadi `Iyyad, stated that one’s entry into heaven is purely out of Allah’s mercy whereas the degree where one will be in heaven is commensurate with one’s deeds. This was also mentioned by Ibn al-Jawzi, who added that since actions are only for a limited earthly time-span, the eternal reward of heaven is not, strictly speaking, due to them but due to Allah’s blessing upon the servant. [Fath al-Bari]

The Goal is Allah: Putting Deeds Into Perspective

At the same time, this does not mean that one can leave performing the deeds that one has been commanded to perform. It remains an obligation on every morally responsible individual to fulfill the command of Allah Most High and strive to do so with excellence. This is not only decisively conveyed in the Qur’an but the narratives in question also state this unequivocally, such as the statement “perform your deeds properly and in moderation”. When closely looked at, it becomes clear that the purpose of these narratives is not to completely deemphasize the place of works, but to put them into correct perspective. The lessons that the narratives convey include:

[1] Being moderate and not excessive in one’s worship: The Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) said, “This religion is ease and none makes it difficult except that it will overwhelm him. So, perform your deeds properly and in moderation…” [Bukhari] The wording of this narration is akin to the wording of the narratives related to our discussion here.

Imam Sakhawi quotes `A’isha (Allah be well-pleased with her) as stating that the ploy of the devil in relation to the servants duty to perform certain acts revolves around making him go to excess or making him lax in fulfilling these duties. [Maqasid al-Husna] The best way is to take the middle path and do a moderate amount of work with presence and purity of heart. Bakr al-Muzani said, “Abu Bakr did not surpass the Companions of the Prophet with [abundant] fasts and prayers but due to something in his heart.” [Saffarini, Ghida al-Albab; Ghazali, Ihya’ `Ulum al-Din]

[2] Being consistent in one’s deeds (mudawama): Some of the narrations, after mentioning that deeds are not a guarantee of one’s entry into heaven, clearly state that the most beloved of works to Allah is the good deed that is done consistently.

[3] Reflecting on the mercy and generosity of Allah (tafkir): Qadi `Iyyad says that the purpose of stating that none will enter heaven except he whom Allah shows mercy and generosity towards is not to demean the status of righteous acts. Rather, it is to allow the servant to contemplate on the fact that actions are only carried out and completed by the favor and generosity of Allah. Good deeds are in fact a sign to the slave of Allah’s mercy pouring down upon him. [Munawi, Fayd al-Qadir; Ibn Hajar, Fath al-Bari]

[4] Thanking Allah for all of the blessings He has given one (shukr): The Qur’an states, “If you are thankful, I shall certainly increase you.” [14: 8] The scholars have defined “thankfulness” as “the slaves directing all that which he has been blessed with towards that which it was created for.” [Bajuri, Tuhfat al-Murid] This should be expressed with one’s heart, tongue, and all of one’s limbs. This should not only be for the continual bestowal of these blessings, which include acts of worship, but also out of realization that Allah is truly deserving of all thanks. Even the mere existence of a person is enough of a reason to thank Allah.

[5] Realizing one’s complete neediness towards Allah (faqr): This is the very definition of “God”, namely He whom all others are in utter need of and who Himself is in need of nothing. [Bajuri, Tuhfat al-Murid; Sawi, Sharh `ala al-Jawhara] Abu Bakr al-Shibli said, “Neediness is that a slave not be in need of anything other than Allah.” [Qushayri, Risala]

[6] Relying on Allah alone, not one’s works (tawakkul): The Qur’an repeatedly mentions reliance on Allah stating, “Place your reliance in the Living God, the Undying” [25: 58] and “Whoever places his reliance on Allah then He is his sufficiency.” [65: 3]

Reliance on Allah entails recognizing His oneness, which is a oneness in essence, attributes, as well as acts. When one realizes that the acts one performs are in reality not from oneself but from Allah then one ceases to rely solely on works. Rather, the servant then turns to the Creator of those works. Imam Ghazali states, “When this was unveiled to you, you did not cast a glance towards anything other than Him. Rather, your fear was now from Him, and your hope towards Him… If the doors of unveiling were opened to you this reality would be made patently clear to you with a clarity more complete than witnessing with actual sight.” [Ihya’ `Ulum al-Din]

Abu `Abdullah al-Qurshi was asked about reliance and he stated, “It is being attached to Allah in every moment.” Ibn Masruq stated, “It is submitting to the blows of fate and sacred rulings.” Abu Usman al-Hiri said, “It is sufficing with Allah while being dependent upon Him.” [Qushayri, Risala]

It was in this context that Ibn Ata’illah said, “One of the signs of relying on deeds is loss of hope when a misstep occurs.” [Hikam] Those who rely on Allah never lose hope, whereas those who rely on themselves eventually slip and plummet. The prophetic narratives regarding the insufficiency of deeds is a reminder of this point.

[7] Being sincere in servitude (ikhlas): All of the above indicates a higher reality, a reality seldom understood or consciously realized, which is that the reason why Allah is worshipped and should be worshiped is because He is Allah, the Master of everything. There is a difference, as scholars have stated, between an individual who carries out the command of a king because he wants to spend the night at his castle, or have some gift bestowed upon him, and between someone who does so because the king truly deserves such service, regardless of any benefits that may accrue from it.

Among the definitions of sincerity given are: “It is singularizing the Real in one’s obedience through resolve, and this is that one desires to seek closeness to Allah through his obedience and nothing else”; “It is forgetting that deeds exact reward in the next life”; “Lowering one’s gaze from catching sight of [one’s] actions”; “It is a secret between Allah and the slave”; “It is that its possessor not desire repayment for it in the two abodes [this world and the next]”; “That you not see in your acts other than Allah”. [Qushayri, Risala]

Conclusion: Opening the Doors to Allah’s Bounty

The conclusion to all of this is that neither faith alone nor deeds suffice in guaranteeing salvation for one. Rather, it is only though Allah’s mercy and favor that any individual will enter heaven. This is indicated by numerous prophetic narratives.

Yet, at the same time, this does not absolve anyone of the duty to believe and perform righteous deeds, as commanded by Allah. Doing so is a sign of Allah enveloping the slave in His mercy and blessing him with divine success. The narrations of the Prophet (Allah bless him) seek to make people understand the role and place of deeds in our Islamic tradition, and to turn hearts towards the one favoring one with those acts, towards the one who is sought through those acts.. When this is done and the heart attaches itself to Allah through purity, complete reliance, thankfulness, need, sincerity, and faithful following of the sunna, one will be blessed with righteous works and divine favors, both in this world and the next.

In essence, the prophetic words and teachings are a means for us to find increase in our worship, to optimize it, and to allow us to be submerged in the immense bounties of Allah Most High. It is a key to the door that leads to divine bestowals, if followed and understood correctly.

May Allah grant us success in this life and the next.

And Allah Knows Best

Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani

Six Reasons Why the Fort Hood Killings by Nidal Hasan Are Clearly Impermissible (Haram) in Islamic Law

1. Betrayal of covenant (`and).
2. Impermissible deceit (ghadr).
3. Killing those not actively engaged in combat.
4. Doing something without clear religious sanction.
5. Doing something of manifest greater harm for Muslims.
6. The basis of taking human life is that it is decisively haram, unless there is clear and manifest sanction to the contrary.

It is also a misreading of political realities. The US isn’t in a “war with Islam”–though there are those both in the US and in the Ummah who want to view things this way–and “fighting back” in these angry, reactive ways is just explosions of ego rather than principled action on Prophetic guidance.

By Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

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