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CONTENTS
PUBLISHER’S NOTE .................................................................... 7

INTRODUCTION ........................................................................... 9

Importance of the Objective and Its Necessity ................................ 9


The Aim Set by Islam is Indispensable for Humanity................... 15
Natural Instincts Versus Religious Instincts.................................. 18

CHAPTER ONE............................................................................ 21

The End to Which the Legally Capable Muslims


Strive is Solely One ....................................................................... 23
Devotion (al-Ikhlā) is the Sole Aim in Qur’anic
Terminology .................................................................................. 24
The Difficulty of Attaining Sincerity and Devotion..................... 28
Why is Allah () the Ultimate Aim and None Other
than Him?....................................................................................... 36
Islam’s Position Concerning Devotion in Acts of Worship ......... 52

CHAPTER TWO ........................................................................... 55

Erroneous Ideas Concerning Devotion.......................................... 57


The Multiplicity of Good Intentions.............................................. 88

CHAPTER THREE ...................................................................... 89

Ill-Intentions .................................................................................. 91
Whoever Seeks From Worship Other Than What has Been
Intended by the Shari‘ah, Then He Will be in Violation
of the Shari‘ah ............................................................................... 91
Misguidance................................................................................... 94
Hypocrisy..................................................................................... 114
Worshipping With the Intent to Become Aware of the Unseen
Realm........................................................................................... 156
Escape From Worship.................................................................. 164

CHAPTER FOUR ....................................................................... 171

The Influence of Intentions Upon Deeds..................................... 173


The Impact of Intent on the Permissible...................................... 173
The Influence of Intent in Forbidden Acts .................................. 181
Achieving Closeness to Allah () Through
Innovated Worship....................................................................... 187

GLOSSARY ................................................................................ 191


SYMBOLS’ DIRECTORY ......................................................... 194
TRANSLITERATION CHART.................................................. 195
Devotion 6

PUBLISHER’S NOTE

Praise be to Allah, the Originator of the earth and heavens, the


Creator of life and death, the Disposer of the affairs of all
organisms. May the Prayers and Blessings of Allah be upon His
Prophet Muhammad () and upon his Kin and Companions until
the Day of Judgment.
Prophet Muhammad () said, “Deeds depend upon intentions, and
every person receives but what he has intended. Therefore, whoever
emigrated for worldly benefits or for a woman to marry, his
emigration is rewarded for what he emigrated for.” [Bukhārī, 1, 1/1]
Thus, intentions must be devoted to Allah Alone because the
correctness and the rewards of deeds depend upon intentions, and
Allah () only accepts intentions and deeds which are solely
devoted to Him.
Professor ‘Umar al-Ashqar presents Devotion, which is a
comprehensive research on sincerity and faithfulness in Islam.
Al-Nafaes House for Publishing and Distribution is blessed to have
the opportunity to publish this book and hopes the knowledge
contained therein will be beneficial to our English readers who seek
Allah’s Acceptance for their deeds.
We ask Allah () to reward the author, the translator, and all those
associated with the publication of this work for the efforts they
exerted for this valuable book.
Praise be to Allah, the Lord of the Worlds.
General Manager
An-Nafaes House for Publishing & Distribution
Amman, Jordan
Devotion 7
Devotion 8

INTRODUCTION

Importance of the Objective and Its Necessity

The volitional deeds performed by humans inevitably have what


motivates them, impelling the human into action and actualizing
them. Those motivations may stem from the basic human need for
a particular thing such as food, drink, and procreation; or they
might be aims which have been embellished for him and have
become urgently desired, driving him to actualize them given that
his belief indicates that it would be beneficial to seek to realize
them.
Those movers (reasons), inasmuch as they are impulses and
visions, are considered as motivations, given that they are external
things which a human seeks to actualize and obtain. Thus, in the
process, it becomes an aim and a purpose. Among the scholars are
those who mean by motivations the totality of the mover that is an
integral part of a human and the aim which he strives to actualize.
Mainly we shall consider it as the purpose, because we perceive it
from this aspect more than any other aspect even though there is an
indissoluble connection between them.
The purpose that is conceived by a human has a great influence
upon him such as those who voluntarily exert themselves in the
arenas of war and combat are eager to achieve martyrdom.
Rulers, politicians, leaders, teachers, economists, and others have
studied motivations and purposes with great care. Due to its
importance and great benefit, the academic field of “Social
Psychology” has dealt with this aspect through extensive studies.
Devotion 9

We readily recognize, by observing ourselves and others around us,


that the purposes which we depict in our conceptualizations capture
our attention with intensity, perpetually engage our minds, and are
continuously palpable to us no matter however preoccupied we are
with life. We do not rest or surrender until we apprehend them;
otherwise our hearts would ache and become a pain within our
souls.
It is for this reason that researchers of all disciplines have devoted a
lot of attention to this aspect. Their purpose has been to identify
and unravel what motivates human behavior towards its aims.
Thus, scholars in the field of education wish for the young
generation to move forward individually to achieve the aims which
they draw up and define.
In a similar manner, economists strive for optimal productivity
which can only be achieved when employees engage in work
voluntarily and enthusiastically. Believing that such work helps to
achieve what is best for their interests and welfare, they are
motivated to work harder.
Islam emerged to reform the human soul and psyche. The One Who
revealed it knows all of the inner workings of this soul. Hence,
humans have not been forced to embrace and apply it, because
compulsion runs counter to human instincts and the wisdom behind
the creation of man. This is why the path of Islam elucidates the
purpose which man must strive to fulfill, the reasons for this, and
the positive results reaped by humans who follow this path. It
explains the harmful and grave consequences that might result from
not pursuing the Divine Purpose Allah () has drawn up. When we
read the Islamic texts contained in the Qur’an and hadith, we
Devotion 10

realize the extent of attention given to elucidating the aim and


depth of focus on its various dimensions.
It suffices us to know that the purpose sought by a Muslim from his
deeds is the criterion through which he evaluates his actions. Deeds
are valued or are worthless depending on the purpose which the
person intends by his actions. Thus, one who performs prayer to
please Allah () shall have committed the best of deeds, while one
who prays in order to gain honor and prestige among people shall
have committed the worst of deeds. One who migrates in obedience
to the Command of Allah () and for the sake of His Religion shall
have achieved a high standing. Whereas the one who migrates (or
does any thing) for reasons of worldly benefit such as striving for
wealth or to marry a woman, his deeds will not be accepted. On
this, Allah Almighty says:

 P O  N  M   L  K  J  I  H  G  F  E  D  C  B  A  m
 \   [  Z  Y  X  W  V   U  T  S  R  Q
l  `  _  ^  ]

Whoever wishes for the quick-passing [transitory enjoyment


of this world], We readily grant him what We will for whom
We like. Then, afterwards, We have appointed for him Hell,
he will burn therein disgraced and rejected, [are away from
Allah’s Mercy]. And whoever desires the Hereafter and
strives for it, with the necessary effort due for it [i.e. do
righteous deeds of Allah’s Obedience] while he is a believer
[in the Oneness of Allah Islamic Monotheism], then such are
the ones whose striving shall be appreciated, thanked and
rewarded [by Allah ()]. (Qur’an 17: 18-19)
Devotion 11

Prophet Muhammad () said, “Deeds depend on intentions and for


each shall be what he intends. Hence, the one who migrates for
Allah and His Prophet, his migration shall be for Allah and His
Prophet; and the one whose migration is for the sake of a worldly
reward or a woman that he wishes to marry, then his migration
shall be reckoned in terms of what he migrated for.”1
The key is knowing the human psyche and actual purpose which
evokes into taking action. The human psyche was and continues to
be considered a strange mystery or a complex enigma which has
tired minds and puzzles philosophers and thinkers since the oldest
eras of history. In fact, scholars and thinkers have put forth
laborious efforts in order to unravel the core of the human psyche
and fathom its depths. The studies of scholars have oftentimes
faltered simply because they sought to discover something which
humans have not been endowed with: the ability to know
everything.2 However, the spirit of man and the secret of life are
within the exclusive domain of Divine Knowledge:

l  Ï  … È  Ç  Æ  Å  Ä  … m

…Say: ‘The Rū [the Spirit]: it is one of the things, the


knowledge of which is only with my Lord…’
(Qur’an 17: 85)

1
Related by Muslim, Bukhārī, and others.
2
Lucien, the French psychologist said, “Human knowledge used to acquire the
attribute of being scientific to the extent that it descended to (delves into the)
sectors of human life, and likewise loses the said scientific attribute to the
extent that it ascends and fathoms the complex essence and the authentic
aspects of human nature.” ‘Ilm a-ibā‘, p. 27.
Devotion 12

Today, many scientists have averred that the human soul does not
exist but is merely a machine that responds to surrounding stimuli
and is not moved by any internal motivations. It is the view of
many scientists that what is referred to as instinct and natural
impulses may be analytically ascribed to a series of reflexes.1
Materialist scientists view the human in a purely worldly
perspective. Indeed, they do not recognize that there is a
transcendental aspect within humans. Freud2 portrayed the human
being as merely a set of desires which do not transcend the material
reality or escape from their fetters. The human being is a creature
that is tied to this earth which is his habitat, his ultimate hope, and
his desired aim.
Unfortunately, the human being has gone off target in the quest for
the closest thing to himself, his soul. He lost his soul while
searching for it. One group of scholars denied the reality of man by
denying the spirit which permeates his being. Another group could
not acquire a true knowledge of the spirit, albeit believing in its
existence. The impending result was that the aim which he strove to
fulfill remained unidentified and the paradigm which he followed
remained absent. Hence, the human carelessly continued to live his
life in an endless labyrinth.
The correct view is to stop the quest to expose the reality of the
human soul simply because it is a path that has been proven to be
unproductive. In fact, we have been informed by Allah () that it
is unattainable. The proper approach, once it is defined, is to
identify the ideal purpose with which the human soul can interact

1
Human Behavior, p. 126.
2
Al-Insān Bayn al-Mādiyyah wal Islām, p. 31.
Devotion 13

and act in accordance with it. In this way, happiness can be


attained. This is what the Holy Qur’an essentially enjoins and
espouses. This is the simple solution Islam uses to solve the puzzle
which humans have spent lifetimes searching for. Islam unraveled
it through the simplest method. To define the aim and strive to
achieve it, man must find it acceptable and in this way, he will
discover himself, fulfill his role, and proceed to what he desires. He
will be relieved of the immense burdens which have accumulated
due to the blatant ignorance of error and darkness which have
enveloped humanity across the centuries. This is what we shall try
to explain in the next chapter, Allah Willing.
Devotion 14

The Aim Set by Islam is Indispensable for Humanity

There is no dispute that the common goal of people is the


achievement of happiness. For happiness, people strive and
endeavor day after day, month after month, and year after year.
This is a fact that has been affirmed by thinkers, scholars,
sociologists, and psychologists. In this regards, Ibn Ḥazm said, “I
strove for an aim which all people aspire to and consider as
positive. I discovered that the goal of this aim is to expel grief.
Upon pondering the matter further, it became evident to me that not
only all people consider it desirable, but I have found in all their
actions, irrespective of their desires, wishes, and varied aims, that
they are motivated by the said aim.
Hence, expelling grief is something all nations have worked
towards since Allah Almighty created the world and will continue
to strive for until the end of the world. People are held to account
for it in case they strive for anything other than that. Any other aim
is not considered praiseworthy by people.”1
What Ibn Ḥazm called the expulsion of grief is actually what we
call happiness, for happiness is only attainable by the expulsion of
the worries that envelope the soul.
Even though people concurred on this view, they differed
considerably regarding the definition of happiness which the
human strives for and seeks to realize in his life.
The basis for this controversy lies in the ignorance of which no
human can disentangle himself from regardless of the depth of

1
Kitāb al-Akhlāq was Siyar, pp. 13-14.
Devotion 15

knowledge he may have acquired. Many people seek the attainment


of things which causes their perdition. Others reason that the
misery of humans is caused by carrying out certain actions; thus
they flee from these actions as wild donkeys flee from a lion when
in fact, happiness and righteousness rest in the attainment of those
things.
This ignorance is attributable to the deficiency of knowledge
regarding real matters and their concealed aspects coupled with a
lack of knowledge of the consequences and results. Furthermore,
what lies beyond the present world is not perceptible by man given
that the view of humans is governed by this world. If man solely
relies upon himself, this view does not exceed beyond the obvious
due to the deficiency of the knowledge of man regarding what lies
beyond the seen world.
Coupled with ignorance is the oppression of the soul. Souls, in
terms of what is attractive to them in transient and visible
pleasures, are heedless of the real good they must strive for:

l  E  D  C B  A m

Nay, you prefer the life of this world. (Qur’an 87: 16)
It is for this reason that many people have preferred material
benefits and gratification of the worldly senses which satiate the
appetites and whims of souls. Forsaking the Hereafter requires
exerting extra effort and contradicting human passions.
Due to the inability of man to identify the straighter path and the
loftier aim, religions were revealed. Prophets were sent to elucidate
the facts and to enlighten humans in regards to the ultimate purpose
of life.
Devotion 16

Natural Instincts Versus Religious Instincts

There are natural instincts impelling man to achieve his purpose.


Not all natural instincts are bad or blameworthy, for many of them
were placed in man by Allah (). Thus, man seeks to attain the
purpose upon which his life depends. In fact, if Allah () did not
create those instincts within man, he would not have striven to
generate a livelihood, nor would he have hunted or cultivated his
provisions or engaged in marriage. Indeed, a group of scholars1
have noted that the feelings that are anchored in natural instincts
are instilled in the depths of the human soul. They did not
(sometimes) explicitly refer to them given that they are natural
impulses, for they are solely sufficient to impel man to fulfill them.
While some people have sought to suppress and prohibit natural
instincts and desires, such as indulging in marriage and the delights
of nourishment, Allah (), the Legislator, is averse to such an
orientation and considers it a reprehensible crime.
As for those acts that souls are averse to or repelled by, Allah, the
Legislator, wishes for man to carry out He specifies rewards and
incentives so that man can overcome such aversions. It is sufficient
to refer to the books of at-targhīb wa at-tarhīb (the invitation and
the intimidation) in order to know what Allah () has prepared for
those who perform their duties and strive for the great rewards
When the hearts sense those rewards, they respond positively and
embark on performing what is requested of them.
A person who reflects on the stories of the righteous of this nation
can only admire their patience and endurance in the face of
1
See Maqālāt al-Islāmiyyīn, 2/114; Ad-Dā’ wad Dawā’, p. 159.
Devotion 17

affliction, their exertions for the sake of Allah (), their


fearlessness in the face of death, and their willingness to endure
suffering and pain.
One can only admire the great endurance and strong will of the
righteous who supplicate to Allah () for His Forgiveness, perform
prayers by night, offer small and great sacrifices neither asking for
reward nor recognition, abstain from the desires attractive to the
souls, and fast long days during the hot summer months. All of
these achievements occur because of the knowledge they acquired
from Allah () and His Prophet (), which encourages them to
follow Allah’s Law uprightly. Thus, they strive to obey the Will of
Allah () in order to attain the fulfillment of His Pledge to them.
We have observed how Allah () has promised rewards that, in
scope, surpass what the nafs (self) and Satan call to. Thus, the nafs
(self) that commands evil and the devil who embellishes all that is
evil are overcome and yielding to them is prevented.
Concerning the acts which the souls find repulsive and are difficult
for humans to perform, Allah () actually provides incentives
whereby those acts become easier to execute. They embark upon
these acts in total obedience and with contentment. This is a
manifest and clear paradigm for those who read the texts of the
Qur’an and Sunnah. Hence, Allah () has described His Book as
containing glad tidings as well as warnings:

 Å  Ä Ã  Â  Á À  ¿  ¾  ½ ¼   »  º m
l  É  È Ç  Æ

[He has made it] Straight to give warning [to the


disbelievers] of a severe punishment from Him, and to give
Devotion 18

glad tidings to the believers [in the Oneness of Allah, Islamic


Monotheism], who work righteous deeds, that they shall have
a fair reward [i.e. Paradise]. (Qur’an 18: 2)
Moreover, Allah () described His Prophet () in terms of the
following two qualities:

l  ±  °  ¯ ®   ¬ «  m

Verily, We have sent you [O’ Muhammad ()] as a witness,


as a bearer of glad tidings, and as a warner. (Qur’an 48: 8)
CHAPTER ONE
THE END TO WHICH THE
LEGALLY CAPABLE
MUSLIMS STRIVE
ULTIMATELY ONE
The End to Which the Legally Capable
Muslims Strive is Ultimately One

There is only one ultimate aim by which Muslims are obligated to worship. This
goal is to worship only One God without associating any partners with Him. Hence,
work that is not solely devoted to Allah () is done without value. Surely, one who
ponders the texts of the Qur’an and Sunnah will realize it is the sole aim which Islam
recognizes. This is why the first command in the Book of Allah () is contained in
the following Qur’anic verse:

l w  v  u t s  r q p  o n m  lm

O’ mankind! Worship your Lord [Allah], Who created you and those who
were before you so that you may become al-muttaqūn [pious].
(Qur’an 2: 21)
Moreover, Allah () said:

l y … l  k j  i  h m

And they were commanded not, but that they should worship Allah, and
worship none but Him Alone…
(Qur’an 98: 5)
Devotion (al-Ikhlā) is the Sole Aim
in Qur’anic Terminology

The Holy Qur’an assigns the term, devotion (al-ikhlā) to this aim.
l  o … lk   j  i  h  g  f  e … m

…‘O’ my people! Worship Allah! You have no other Ilāh [God] but Him
[Islamic Monotheism]… (Qur’an 23: 23)
It is not intended for devotion to be directing a particular act to Allah (), but rather,
it is intended that a Muslim devotes all of his deeds solely to Allah (). A Muslim
should not consecrate his worship to an angel or a king, nor should he worship trees,
rocks, the sun, or the moon. Devotion denotes directing one’s physical actions
exclusively to Allah (), just as a Muslim would in terms of apparent deeds.
Devotion is the basis of the religion which Allah () entrusted to all of the Prophets,
representing the axis and crux of their missions. Likewise, it is the religion the
Prophets asked their nations to believe in:

l  y  …po n m  l  k j  i h m

And they were commanded not, but that they should worship Allah, and
worship none but Him Alone [abstaining from ascribing partners to Him]…
(Qur’an 98: 5)
Indeed, each Prophet informed his nation:

l o …lk  j  i  h  g f  e …m

…‘O’ my people! Worship Allah! You have no other Ilāh [God] but Him
[Islamic Monotheism]… (Qur’an 23: 23)
Allah () corroborated this truth:

l  P  O   N  M     L  K  J  I  H G  F  E  D  C B  A  m

And We did not send any Messenger before you [O’ Muhammad ()] but We
inspired him [saying]: Lā ilāha illā Anā [none has the right to be worshipped
but I (Allah)], so worship Me [Alone and none else]. (Qur’an 21: 25)
Furthermore, Allah () said:

l  b …on m  l k  j  i h  g  f e d m

And verily, We have sent among every ummah [community, nation] a


Messenger [proclaiming]: ‘Worship Allah [Alone], and avoid [or keep away
from] āghūt [all false deities, etc. i.e. do not worship āghūt besides Allah].’
(Qur’an 16: 36)
The definitions of devotion or sincerity which the scholars offer are similar, revolving
around devoting worship to Allah without any partners. Abu al-Qāsim al-Qushayrī
defined it as, “Devoting oneself solely to the True Almighty in one’s acts of
obedience, namely, to intend, by obeying and worshipping Him, to be nearer to Allah
to the exclusion of any other creature either in terms of being pretentious in front of
them or being praised by people, or in terms of any intention other than drawing near
to Allah Most High.”7
On his part, al-‘Izz bin ‘Abd As-Salām defined it as follows: “Devotion is for the
Muslim to perform acts of worship with all his sincerity solely aimed towards Allah,
without seeking the deference of people, to acquire religious benefit, or to ward off
worldly damage.”8
In works of philology and lexicography, al-ikhlā or devotion is purity and
distinctness from accretions which mar something. It is said: This is solely for you,
that is, none shall share it with you. The Arabs assign the meaning of al-ikhlā to milk
if it is free from foam.
Al-ikhlā, in Arab linguistic usage is the gold and silver that is purified by fire.
These meanings occur in the Qur’an:

l  e…  b  a  `  _ ^  ]  \  [  Z  Y …  m

…We give you to drink of that which is in their bellies, from between
excretions and blood, pure milk…
(Qur’an 16: 66)
That is, it is not mixed with blood or dung.
Concerning adornments and worldly possessions, Allah Almighty said:

 g  f e  d c  b  a `  _  ^]  \  [  Z  Y X  W  V  U  T  Sm
l o…ih

Say [O’ Muhammad ()]: ‘Who has forbidden the adoration with clothes
given by Allah, which He has produced for his slaves, and a-ayyibāt [all kinds
of alāl (lawful) things] of food?’ Say: ‘They are, in the life of this world, for
those who believe, [and] exclusively for them [believers] on the Day of
Resurrection [the disbelievers will not share them].’…
(Qur’an 7: 32)
Thus, the unbelievers do not have a share in them.
Hence, we find there is consonance and compatibility between the linguistic and
idiomatic meaning. Devotion aims to purify the orientation towards Allah Almighty

1
Ar-Risālah al-Qushayriyyah, p. 95; Al-Majmū‘, 1/29; Dalīl al-Fāliīn, 1/42.
8
Qawā‘id al-Akām, 1/146.
from corruption, pollutants, and accretions which mesh with it, whereby the intention
is purely towards Allah () without any partners in all acts of worship.