Take the example of two people. Assume they have both been granted with sufficient opportunity here on earth to earn the pleasure of Allah, and that they had been informed about what is good and what is evil; that they fulfilled their religious duties and obligations until the time of death, and spent their lives seeming as devout Muslims; and that they succeeded in all areas, that is, had good jobs and families and became respected members of the society. If people were to be asked who was the most successful of the two, in response, you might receive answers such as,"the one who was more hardworking or tenatious or who strove most strenuously." However, if we were to consider these responses carefully, we would then recognize that these defininitions of "success" are based not according to the Qur'an, but according to worldly criteria.
According to the Qur'an, neither working hard, nor growing weary, nor achieving respect or love from others is regarded as criteria of superiority. Rather, it is their belief in Islam, their good deeds done in order to gain Allah's consent, and their goodwill, nurtured in the depths of their hearts, that are regarded as the criteria of superiority in Allah's presence. Allah states this fact in the Qur'an, in regards to sacrificial offerings, as follows:
Their flesh and blood does not reach Allah but your heedfulness does reach Him. In this way He has subjected them to you so that you might proclaim Allah's greatness for the way that He has guided you. Give good news to the good-doers. (Surat al-Hajj: 37)
As mentioned, the deed done by one slaughtering a beast for the sake of Allah is appreciated by Him depending on one's devotion, or fear of Him. The meat or blood of any beast slaughtered by man calling Allah's name could not be of any value in His presence if the deed were not performed for His sake. Here, the important factors are the goodwill and sincerity felt towards Allah while performing the deed or act of worship. Therefore, a man does not ascend in virtue in the sight of Allah only by his acts of charity, his worship, his attitude, and his kind words. Of course, all these are deeds that must be accomplished by Muslims during their life times, and for which one may hope to attain great rewards on the Judgment Day. But, the most essential factor to be guarded while fulfilling all such deeds is the extent of the nearness one feels towards Allah. What is important is not the quantity of deeds accomplished, but that one turns to Allah with purity and sincerity of heart.
Sincerity is "acting by complying to Allah's orders and without considering any personal benefits or any expectations in return." A sincere person turns to Allah with his heart and aims only at winning His consent by his every single deed, step, word and prayer. Thus, he strongly believes in Allah, attaining righteousness. According to the Qur'an:
... The noblest among you in Allah's sight is the one who best performs his duty. Allah is All-Knowing, All-Aware. (Surat al-Hujurat: 13)
In many verses of the Qur'an, attention is called to good deeds performed "only to gain Allah's consent." However, some people tend to undervalue this fact. They never reflect upon the purity of the intention in their hearts in taking on a job, offering a speech, helping people or making sacrifices; all the while believing their actions to be sufficient by assuming that "they are fulfilling their religious duties." However, in the Qur'an, Allah tells us about those who strove all their lives but to no avail. If such were the case, these would be confronted with the following situation on the Day of Judgment.
Some faces on that Day will be downcast, labouring, toiling endlessly. (Surat al-Ghashiyya: 2-3)
Therefore, people will encounter one of two situations in the hereafter. Two people who had pursued similar jobs, expended similar effort, and worked with the same determination during their lives, could receive different treatment in the hereafter, because of the matter of their intentions. On the Day of Judgment, those who purified themselves will be awarded with the glad tidings of Paradise, whereas those who underestimated the value of sincerity while in this world will suffer the endless torments of Hell.
In this book, we will be referring to these two aspects of belief that render the deeds one does meaningful and worthy in Allah's sight, namely self-purification and sincerity. This book aims to warn those who fail to live their lives merely to gain Allah's consent that all their efforts could be in vain, and therefore to invite them to purify themselves before the Day of Judgment. In addition, we would also like to once again remind all believers that any thoughts, words or deeds that may diminish one's sincerity are of great consequence because of their possible consequences in the hereafter. Therefore, we would like to show all the way to guard their sincerity, by the light shed by the verses of the Qur'an.