Reward only from Allah

The Spirit Of Islam

Khalid Baig

ONE of the most important teachings of Islam has been captured in a well-known hadith in a few words. Sayyidna Umar bin Al-Khattab (RA) narrates I heard Allah’s Apostle (PBUH) saying, “The reward of deeds depends upon the intentions. And every person will get the reward according to what he has intended.” Because of the great significance of this hadith, many hadith compilers including Imam Bukhari have chosen to begin their compilations with this hadith. It reminds us to keep our intentions pure, to avoid contaminating our motives, and to seek Allah’s pleasure and nothing else when performing an act of virtue.
The message is central to all Islamic teachings and is repeated at many places in the Quran. For example: “So whoever looks forward to the meeting with his Lord, let him work righteousness and associate none as a partner in the worship of his Lord.” [Al-Kahaf, 18:110]. A few verses earlier we are told that the worst losers in the hereafter will be the people whose efforts were lost in this world while they were thinking that they were doing good. Their actions might have been good, but their intentions were not and so those actions would carry no weight in the hereafter.
It is a terrible possibility that all of our good deeds might be wiped out because of a corruption of our motives. To avoid that fate, one must know the danger and be on the lookout for it at all times. Every believer knows that we should be performing the acts of worship solely to seek Allah’s pleasure. We may begin a good deed for the sake of Allah alone.
But there may be other worldly rewards associated with the same act and we may start enjoying them and even seeking them without any realisation that a switch has taken place internally. Many such rewards are intangible: fame, glory, appreciation, recognition and honor. They satisfy our deepest hidden desires. They are hard to detect and harder to repel. Besides, the chance of getting caught by others is so small. The net result is that we may be under the illusion that we are performing a certain act of virtue for the sake of Allah, but we might actually be in it for the praise from people.
Quran and hadith warn us that that is shirk, or associating partners with Allah. And shirk is the most severe and unforgivable sin anyone can commit. A hadith informs us that such people would be asked to go get their rewards in the hereafter from the people for whose sake they were performing those virtues. Another hadith tells us that the first three people to be thrown in the hell would be believers, known for their virtue. One would be a scholar of the Quran who had learnt and taught it. Another would be a philanthropist who had spent tremendous wealth in charity. The third would be a mujahid who fought and gave his life in the path of Allah. But in reality all were looking for fame and recognition instead of truly seeking Allah’s pleasure.
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