The Righteous Action

Author: Imaam Muhammad Naasir-ud-Deen al-Albaanee

Published: Saturday 29th October, 2005

What Benefits the Dead

Aboo Hurayrah narrated that the Prophet (sal-Allaahu ‘alayhe wa sallam) said:

“The likeness of wealth, family and the actions of the son of Aadam is of a man who has three companions. One of the man’s companions says: I am with you as long as you live; when you die, you have taken your share of yourself and you have taken your share of me - this is his wealth. The second companion says: I am with you until you reach that tree; you have had your share of yourself and your share of me - this is his family. The third companion says: I am with you in life and in death.” [Saheeh: Related by al-Bazzaar and al-Albaanee authenticated it]

The above authentic hadeeth is in fact like the following hadeeth in meaning and in subject matter. Anas said that the Prophet (sal-Allaahu ‘alayhe wa sallam) said:

“The dead person is followed (to his grave) by three: His family, his wealth and his actions. Two of them return and only one remains. His family and wealth return, but his actions remain.” [Related by al-Bukhaaree and Muslim]

These two ahaadeeth show that actions alone endure and enter the grave with their doers. Both these ahaadeeth also affirm the fact that anything other than actions - such as wealth, servants or relatives - are of no benefit at all. Rather, they all return (to this world). His wealth becomes the property of his inheritor, whilst his relatives and family do not grant him anything from Allaah.

These ahaadeeth intend to direct Muslims to be concerned with actions which will stay with them forever; and not to strive for wealth and position for the sake of relatives, family and servants. Apparently, the Prophet (sal-Allaahu ‘alayhe wa sallam) wanted to show us the value of good actions when he related these ahaadeeth to us, (which can be found) in the books of Zuhd (renouncement of the world). He pointed out to us that because actions will last rather than wealth, you have to make your actions righteous. Part of making ones actions righteous is through good wealth that is earned lawfully and spent in a good manner. Then one gains the rewards of ‘amalus-saalih (a righteous action).

The Acceptable Action

Therefore, in these ahaadeeth, the Prophet (sal-Allaahu ‘alayhe wa sallam) encouraged us to make our actions righteous, whether gaining wealth or other things. However, we must remember a certain fact about this action, a fact that many people neglect. The explanation of this fact should actually be a complete lesson in itself; and it is that only a righteous action is beneficial, not just any action.

So what are the conditions that a Muslim must fulfil in order for the action to be righteous? This is shown in the statement of Allaah - the Exalted and Sublime:

“Say (O Muhammad sal-Allaahu ‘alayhe wa sallam): Verily I am only a man like yourselves, but revelation has been revealed to me that the One whom you should worship is only One Deity. And whoever hopes to meet his Lord, let him do righteous actions; and in the worship of your Lord, do not associate anyone along with Him.” [Soorah Kahf 18:110]

Two Important Conditions

The Scholars of Tafseer have said that the end of this verse is an indication that there are two conditions for an action to be righteous and acceptable: [1]

Firstly: That the action must be in accordance with the Sunnah. Therefore, if the action is done as an act of worship, but is not in accordance with the Sunnah, it is not a righteous action. The reason is that compliance with the Sunnah is one of the conditions for the action’s righteousness. The proofs of this are many, but it is enough to state one: The hadeeth of the Prophet (sal-Allaahu ‘alayhe wa sallam) in which he said:

“Whoever innovates in this matter of ours what is not upon it, it shall be rejected.” [Related by al-Bukhaaree (5/301) and Muslim (no.1718) – from ‘Aa’ishah (radi-Allaahu ‘anhaa)]

Therefore, any action that was not part of Islaam when Allaah revealed it upon the heart of the Prophet Muhammad (sal-Allaahu ‘alayhe wa sallam) is not a righteous action. About this, Allaah - the Most High - says:

“This day I have perfected your Deen for you and completed My favour upon you and I have chosen Islaam as your Deen.” [Sooratul-Maa’idah 5:3] [2]

It must be remembered that Bid’ah (innovation) [3] is not divided into five categories, as some Scholars say. A proof for this is that the Prophet (sal-Allaahu ‘alayhe wa sallam) said:

“Every innovation is misguidance, and every misguidance is in the Hellfire.” [Saheeh: Related by Muslim (6/153) from Jaabir Ibn ‘Abdullaah]

Secondly: That after being in accordance with the Sunnah, the action has to be sincere, purely seeking the Face of Allaah - the Most High - because Allaah says at the end of the aforementioned verse: “And in the worship of your Lord, do not associate anyone along with Him.” This means that the person seeks, by his righteous action, only the Face of Allaah - the Exalted and Sublime. However, if he seeks other than Allaah, then he has setup partners with Allaah (made shirk with Allaah), therefore his action is rejected.

This is confirmed by Allaah in an authentic hadeeth Qudsee:

“I am so self-sufficient that I am in no need of having any partners. Thus, whosoever does an action for the sake of someone else as well as Me, will have that action rejected by Me, to him whom he associated with Me.” [Related by Muslim (no.2985) and Ibn Maajah (no.4202) - from Aboo Hurayrah (radi-Allaahu ‘anhu)]

Consequently, if the action is righteous but not sincere for the sake of Allaah’s Face, it is rejected. Moreover, if the action is purely for the sake of Allaah’s Face, but not in accordance with the Sunnah, it is likewise not accepted.

The Worthless and Sinful Action

So these are the two conditions for every action to be a righteous action. If one of these conditions is not present, the action does not become a righteous action, rather, it becomes an evil one. Had the person not done this action, it would have been better for him.

If a man prays two rak’aat of prayer at night, while others sleep, then even if he prays them according to the Sunnah - without addition or deletion - but he does this so that people may talk about him and say: “This Person is a righteous man. He prays at night when the people are asleep,” then his action becomes baatil (null and void), since he did not sincerely seek the Face of Allaah alone, but rather he sought the praises of people, thus becoming sinful by associating partners with Allaah in his action.

However, if his action only became null and void, then the following hadeeth would apply to him; and he would not be punished for this action:

“How many fasting people obtain nothing from their fasting except hunger and thirst. And how many people who stay up at night (praying), obtain nothing from their being awake except sleeplessness and tiredness.” [Saheeh: Related by Ibn Maajah (1/539) and Ahmad (2/441) from Ibn ‘Umar (radi-Allaahu ‘anhu).]

But this is not the case, for this person’s action has changed into a sin. The two rak’aat that this person performed without intending to seek only the Face of Allaah - the Exalted and Sublime - are the same as if he had disobeyed Him, that is to say: He will be punished for these two rak’aat because he associated others along with Allaah - the Exalted and Sublime - in his action.

If a man prays eleven rak’aat at night with the intention, in this worship, that his brothers would say about him: “This man is correctly following the Prophet; he does not add to the Sunnah,” his action becomes null and void; and his action changes to a sin against him. Rather, he must pray according to the Sunnah but sincerely seeking only the Face of Allaah - the Most High. He must be absolutely free of seeking the pleasure of others along with Him in this worship.

This has been but a summary about the action that does not leave the person but enters the grave with him - whether the action was good or bad - and that what is of benefit is the person’s righteous action. What is a righteous action and what are its conditions? The two conditions are: Muwwaafaqah (compliance) with the Sunnah; and Ikhlaas (sincerity and purity of intention) to Allaah. Therefore, one must remember these two conditions and act upon them so that one may become righteous and pious.

Safeguarding against Insincerity

Many people unfortunately neglect the first condition (complying with the Sunnah) because they are astray and believe that bid’ah (innovation) is good in the religion. [4] But there are those upon whom Allaah has granted His favour, by guiding them to the Sunnah of the Prophet (sal-Allaahu ‘alayhe wa sallam). They are those who know the reality of this condition and adhere to it the best they can. Yet they must pay attention to the second condition, which either group may fail to fulfill, and that is riyaa’ (insincerity and showing-off). No one is exempt from riyaa’ and all people are susceptible to it in their actions.

This matter is a very serious one and must be stressed here, so that we may know that we are in need of making our actions correct and purely for the Face of Allaah - the Exalted and Sublime. Part of this is that we are tested even while making Da’wah to the Qur’aan and the Sunnah, for trials are not only in evil matters, but also in the good matters:

“And We test you with evil and good, by way of fitnah (trial).” [Sooratul-Anbiyaa 21:35]

This da’wah has been neglected by Muslims throughout the world so that the du’aat (the callers) have become strangers. Not only are they strangers in foreign countries, but they are strangers even in their own countries; amongst their relatives and brothers. This makes them praiseworthy, but they must not stand up to be praised for this da’wah. This is the reality, for the Prophet (sal-Allaahu ‘alayhe wa sallam) said:

“Verily Islaam started as something strange and it will return as something strange, so Toobaa is for the Strangers.” [Related by Muslim (2/175-176) and Ibn Maajah (2/320) from Aboo Hurayah (radi-Allaahu ‘anhu)]

Toobaa and the Strangers

The meaning of Toobaa in the Arabic language is: “Praise and thanks.” The meaning according to the Sharee’ah refers to a tree in Paradise, which would take a rider a hundred years to traverse its shade. [5] This hadeeth gives glad tidings to the newcomers of Paradise in which there is:

“What no eye has never seen, no ear has ever heard, and no heart has ever imagined.” [6]

This tree is mentioned in the Qur’aan in the statement of Allaah:

“Toobaa is for them, and the best abode.” [Soorah Ra’d 13:29]

Therefore, Toobaa is for the Ghurabaa (the Strangers), but who are they? The answer to this is in the reply of the Prophet (sal-Allaahu ‘alayhe wa sallam):

“Those who correct [themselves and others], when the people have become corrupt.” [Saheeh: Related by al-Aajurree in al-Ghurabaa (pp.15-16) from Ibn Mas’ood. The isnaad is Saheeh as al-Albaanee states in as-Saheehah (no.1273)]

The Need for Care

These Strangers call the people to the revival of the Sunnah and eradication of all that differs from it. However, they must still pay attention to the second condition of the righteous action: To be sincere in their da’wah. They must neither seek fame, pride, nor arguments from their da’wah.

They must not seek anything that an-Nafs ul-Amaarata bis-Soo’ (the soul that calls them to evil) orders them to do. Whatever they call to is as a result of Allaah - the Most High - having ordered them to make da’wah to the Qur’aan and the Sunnah and to make da’wah to what the Muslims have neglected. They must take care of this da’wah. However, they stand in danger. It can happen that one may say a word seeking only to have fingers of praise pointed at him, not sincerely advising the people and desiring to guide them. Rather, to do that for fame.

Here we mention a saying of some Soofees, who have some wise sayings that can not be denied: “The love of fame breaks backs.” Therefore, I insist, that we who make Da’wah to the Sunnah be sincere in our actions so that when our actions enter the grave with us, it will help us to answer correctly when we are asked: “Who is your Lord? Who is your Prophet? What is your religion?” If the deed is evil, when the person enters the grave, he will deny it. His deed will come to him in the worst of forms. He will ask it: “Who are you?” It will say: “I am your deed.”

Wealth - its Reality and Purpose

The next Hadeeth is also authentic. Aboo Hurayrah said that the Prophet (sal-Allaahu ‘alayhe wa sallam) said:

“The servant says: My wealth! My wealth! However, he gets from his wealth three things: What he eats and finishes. What he wears and makes shabby; and what he gives away and pleases others with. Whatever else is besides this, goes and is left for the people.” [Related by Ahmad and Muslim from Aboo Hurayrah (radi-Allaahu ‘anhu)]

This Hadeeth also emphasises the subject of the previous ahaadeeth. It shows us the care taken by people in amassing wealth. Allaah pointed this out in the Qur’aan by His statement:

“And for the love of good he is strong.” [Sooratul-’Aadiyaat 100:8]

The Prophet depicted the nature of mankind for us in his saying: “The servant says: My wealth! My wealth!” Nevertheless, what is the amount that remains left over for him from his wealth? Is all his wealth for him? No! He gains from his wealth only the examples that the Prophet (sal-Allaahu ‘alayhe wa sallam) specified. The first is defined by the Prophet’s statement: “What he eats and finishes.” From his wealth is that which is necessary for him to survive and that which enables him to accomplish the rights of Allaah. These rights are the rights of His Tawheed (singling out Allaah alone for worship), as Allaah said:

“And I have not created the jinn and mankind except to worship Me.” [Sooratudh-Dhaariyaat 51:56]

The second is what a person wears until it becomes shabby. Add to this that which he volunteers and does good with, which is mentioned in the statement of the Prophet: “Or what he gives away and pleases others with.” He got rid of his wealth by giving it away to another in charity. Therefore, the wealth that is for the servant is the amount that he eats and the amount that he wears in order to survive. However this is not an end in itself. Rather, one exists solely to accomplish the obligation of worship, as we pointed out previously.

The third kind of wealth that returns with a benefit is not only the obligatory charity, but it also includes non-obligatory charities. Then the Prophet (sal-Allaahu ‘alayhe wa sallam) explained what is left after these categories. He said: “And other than that is gone, and is left, for the people.”

The relation of this Hadeeth with the previous one is: Why do people exhaust themselves in amassing wealth, when this is the reality of wealth? They do not benefit from there wealth except the amount that they eat, drink and with which they help other people. All else will be left and it will remain for the people who inherit it.

The following Hadeeth is also Saheeh (authentic). Abdullaah Ibn ash-Shikhkheer said: I came to the Prophet whilst he was reciting:

“Seeking increase diverted you.” [Soorat at-Takaathur 102:1]

The Prophet (sal-Allaahu ‘alayhe wa sallam) said:

“The son of Aadam say My wealth! My wealth! What do you obtain, O son of Aadam, from your wealth except that which you eat and consume, or wear until it becomes shabby, or what you give as charity and accomplish.”

This hadeeth is also similar in meaning to the previous one, though some of its words are different; and was recorded by Muslim, at-Tirmidhee and an-Nasaa’ee. This hadeeth is clear in its wording, however, the statement of the Prophet at the end of the hadeeth: “or what you give as charity and accomplish” may not be clear to some people.

Generosity and Miserliness

This statement aims at drawing one’s attention to the fact that what is intended for charity is that which he actually gives away. It is not sufficient that a person should just make out a will, that he should give such and such to the poor, or such and such for a specific masjid. However, the Prophet calls our attention to the fact that benefit is in that wealth which a person actually gave away during his lifetime, since he did not really know what would happen with his wealth after he died, if he had made a will.

With this word, the Prophet points to a hadeeth in the Saheeh of al-Bukhaaree - the meaning of which is that the miser is one who when death comes to him makes a will and says: “Give so and so such amount and for so and so such and such amount.” The Prophet said: “This was already for so and so and so and so.”

What the Prophet (sal-Allaahu ‘alayhe wa sallam) meant was that the deceased did not own anything anymore. He had left this dunya (life of this world) and had entered into the Aakhirah (the Hereafter) and his inheritance will remain for those people who are still alive. Then should not the person have made his will earlier? Should he not have given charity whilst he was strong, hoping to be rich and fearing poverty?

This is the nature of the people today, they say: “Hoard your white Dirham for your black day.” They hoard this money for themselves for when they become old. They are covetous of this wealth. The generous person is the one who gives away his own wealth when his own soul is attached to it.

As for the one who is on the brink of death and who says: “Give so and so such and such amount,” he is a miser and is not generous. Rather, a truly generous person is one who gives charity whilst he holds onto his life and also whilst he loves this wealth very much.

The Insignificance of this World

The next hadeeth is narrated by Jaabir Ibn ‘Abdullaah:

The Messenger of Allaah (sal-Allaahu ‘alayhe wa sallam) passed by the market place coming from the direction of ‘Aaliyah and people were around him. He passed by a dead kid goat (i.e. a baby goat) which had very short ears. He held it by its ears and said: “Who amongst you would like to have this for a dirham?” They (the Companions) said: We would not want it even for less than that! What can we do with it? He said: “Do you wish to have it (for any price)?” They said: By Allaah, even if it were alive it (we would not want it), as it has very short ears, let alone now when it is also dead! The Messenger of Allaah (sal-Allaahu ‘alayhe wa sallam) said: “By Allaah, this world is more insignificant to Allaah than this (goat) is to you all.” [Related by Muslim and Ahmad]

Let us return to the hadeeth. He passed by the market place “and the people were around him.” Here I would like to pause a little in order to remind people about some of the guidance of the Prophet (sal-Allaahu ‘alayhe wa sallam) that most of the Shaykhs of today have neglected.

The Shaykhs of today walk with their students behind them. This was not the way of the Messenger of Allaah (sal-Allaahu ‘alayhe wa sallam). The ahaadeeth describing this are many and the following is from them: “He used to walk side by side with Aboo Bakr and side by side with Aboo Hurayrah; and they all walked with each other.”

Moreover, it is authentically proven that the Messenger of Allaah (sal-Allaahu ‘alayhe wa sallam) used to say to his Companions (radi-Allaahu ‘anhu)m, when he used to walk with them:

“Walk in front of me and leave my back for the angels.” [Saheeh: Related by Aboo Nu’aym in Hilyatul-Awliyaa (7/117) from Jaabir (radi-Allaahu ‘anhu). It was authenticated in as-Saheehah (no.1557)]

Here he highlights two matters from one saying. People do not see angels, they see only people. Therefore, if anyone saw the Messenger (sal-Allaahu ‘alayhe wa sallam) walking, they would only see people walking in front of him. The Prophet (sal-Allaahu ‘alayhe wa sallam) said in the authentic hadeeth:

“He who humbles himself for the sake of Allaah, Allaah will raise him.” [Related by Muslim (16/141), ad-Daarimee (l/396) and others - from Aboo Hurayrah (radi-Allaahu ‘anhu)]

His humbleness raised him to a degree whereby the angels walked behind him. Therefore, is a noble person one behind whom people - good or bad - walk; or is he the one who is followed by those described by Allaah in the following verse:

“They do not disobey what Allaah ordered them to do and do precisely what they are commanded.”

The nobility of the Prophet manifested itself in a visible and an invisible side. The visible side is that the Companions used to walk in front of the Prophet and not behind him. The invisible side is that the angels walked behind him.

Of course, the first phenomenon is the one in which we are ordered not to act proudly with our companions and our brothers in faith, even those who may be less than us in knowledge, morals, worship and righteousness. This is enough for us, because Allaah says:

“Do not sanctify yourself. He knows best the ones who are pious.” [Sooratun-Najm 53:32]

It is sufficient for us at least, to walk with people side by side. Whosoever intentionally goes against this Sunnah, without doubt, does not truly love the Messenger of Allaah (sal-Allaahu ‘alayhe wa sallam). This is because one’s degree of love from him, is based upon following him. This is established in the Qur’aan by the statement of Allaah:

“Say (O Muhammad sal-Allaahu ‘alayhe wa sallam): If you do love Allaah then follow me; Allaah will love you and forgive you your sins.” [Soorah Aal-Imraan 3:31]

So, if this was the case with the Prophet who was infallible and protected from the whispering of the Shaytaan and this was an indication of the level with his Companions, then what can we say about ourselves? We are not infallible and are not protected from the Shaytaan. We must adhere to this Sunnah as if it were obligatory. It is better for us to walk with people around us than to walk looking with our eyes at the backs of their shoulders. The statement of the Prophet, at the end of the hadeeth: “By Allaah, this world is more insignificant to Allaah than this (goat) is to you all,” is to be reflected upon by people of intellect!

The next authentic hadeeth is similar to the previous hadeeth. Ibn ‘Abbaas said: The Prophet passed by a dead goat that had been thrown away by its owners. He said:

“By the One in Whose Hand is my soul, this world is more insignificant to Allaah than this is to its owner.”

Sahl Ibn Sa’d said that the Messenger of Allaah (sal-Allaahu ‘alayhe wa sallam) said:

“If this world was worth as much to Allaah as the wing of a mosquito, He would not have given a disbeliever even a sip of water.” [Saheeh: Related by at-Tirmidhee (no.2436) and al-’Uqaylee in ad-Du’afaa (no.250) and it was authenticated in as-Saheehah (no.943)]

Salmaan said:

Some people came to the Prophet (sal-Allaahu ‘alayhe wa sallam) and he asked them: “Do you have food?” They said: Yes. He asked: “Do you have drink?” They said: Yes. He said: “Verily their outcome is like the outcome of this world, one of you stands behind his house holding his nose from their bad smell.”

This is the similitude of this world. What is the eventual outcome of food and drink? They change to stool and urine. Therefore, a person hates the smell for himself. This is the similitude of the outcome of this World.

The following hadeeth has the same meaning. Ubayy Ibn Ka’ab said that the Messenger of Allaah (sal-Allaahu ‘alayhe wa sallam) said:

“Indeed the food of the son of Aadam is like the example of the world. Even if he puts spices and season into it, see what becomes of it.” [Hasan: Related by Ibn Hibbaan in his Saheeh (no.2489) and at-Tabaraanee in al-Kabeer (1/27/2) and authenticated in as-Saheehah (no.382)]

What is the eventual outcome of spices and seasoning in his food? Look at what it becomes! Likewise, this world becomes a similar thing except that which is for Allaah. The next hadeeth explains this.

Aboo Hurayrah narrated that the Prophet (sal-Allaahu ‘alayhe wa sallam) said:

“The world and all that it contains is cursed, except for the remembrance of Allaah and what supports it; or a Scholar and a student.” [Hasan: Related by Ibn Maajah (no.4112) and authenticated in Saheehul-Jaami’ (no.3414)]

In Conclusion

This is the reality of this world in the Sharee’ah, it has no value. The similitude of this world is like good food and drink: its outcome is decay. The exceptions arc those things which are done for Allaah whether remembrance of Allaah, knowledge or even food because it helps to support the worship of Allaah. These things are among the deeds of man that endure in this fleeting life. The goal behind these ahaadeeth is that a person should not be overly concerned about this world, except with which is sufficient to keep him alive and strong; and sufficient enough to be able to accomplish the worship of his Lord. For if his wealth is greater than this, it will only benefit him by the amount of good that he does by helping others; otherwise, he is going to leave this wealth behind and it will not benefit him at all. However, what will benefit him are the righteous actions that he has done.

We ask Allaah not to put love of this world in our hearts, but to guide us to earn in this life what helps us to worship and obey Him. And all praise is for Allaah, Lord of the Worlds.


[1] Ibn Katheer says in Tafseer Qur’aan ul-’Adheem (3/114):

“Thus, for an action to be acceptable it has to fulfil two conditions. Firstly: It must be sincere for Allaah alone. Second: It must be correct and in accordance with the sharee’ah. So if the action is sincere, but not correct, it will not be accepted.”

[2] Imaam ash-Shaatibee relates in al-‘ltisaam (l/49):

“Imaam Maalik - rahimahullaah - said: Whosoever introduces into Islaam an innovation has lied against the message of Muhammad (sal-Allaahu ‘alayhe wa sallam). Since Allaah has said: “This day have I completed your Deen for you.” So whatever was not Deen that day, cannot be considered as part of the Deen today.”

[3] Ash-Shaatibee says in al-‘ltisaam (1/37) about the Sharee’ah definition of Bid’ah:

“A newly invented way in the Deen, in imitation of, or corresponding to the sharee’ah, through which nearness to Allaah is sought. This action not being supported by any authentic proof - neither the action itself, nor the way in which it is performed.”

[4] The evidence to refute the notion of Bid’ah Hasanah (good innovation) are many. However, for the sake of brevity, only one will be mentioned:- The Sahabee ‘Abdullaah Ibn ‘Umar (radi-Allaahu ‘anhu) said - as is related by ad-Daarimee in al-Madhkal ilas-Sunan (no.191) with a Saheeh isnaad:

“Every innovation is misguidance, even if the people regard it as something good.”

[5] Saheeh: Related by Ahmad (3/71) and authenticated by al-Albaanee in as-Saheehah (no.1241) that the Prophet was asked: What is Toobaa? So he (sal-Allaahu ‘alayhe wa sallam) said:

“A tree in Paradise, which would take one hundred years to traverse. The clothes of the people of Paradise are taken from it.”

[6] Part of a hadeeth Qudsee related by al-Bukhaaree and Muslim from Aboo Hurayrah (radi-Allaahu ‘anhu) in which the Prophet (sal-Allaahu ‘alayhe wa sallam) said that Allaah said:

“I have prepared for my righteous slaves what no eye ... ”


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