Ramadaan 1438 series: DUA OF MAKARIMUL AKHLAQ – SUPPLICATION FOR NOBLE MORAL CHARACTER
By Mowlana Syed Aftab Haider on 1 June 2017 at the Ahlul Bait (a.s) Islamic Centre, Ottery, Cape Town
We continue with our discussion on the Supplication for Nobal Moral Character of the 4th Imam Zainul Aabideen (a.s).
After discussion of Salawaat, Imaan and Yaqeen, the Imam now turns our attention to the issue of intention and prays as follows:
و انتَهِ بِنِيَّتِي إلَى أَحْسَنِ النِّيَّـاتِ،
“And take my intention to be the best of intentions.”
WHAT IS THE DEFINITION OF INTENTION?
Intention is basically an act of determination – when you decide to do something. If I ask you did you make niyyah to fast in Ramadaan, then what do I mean? I mean did you decide to fast during this month. It’s your decision to do something.
In Islam, Quran and Divine Ideologies which is based on belief in that which is beyond matter, the issue of intention is very important.
In materialistic ideologies, there’s no particular value for intention. They don’t really look at what was your intention, rather they look at what you did, not why you did it or what your motivation was.
But in Divine Ideologies and the metaphysical approach, intention is more important than what you did. Sometimes there’s even no action or outcome but you get reward for your intention.
Jabir ib Abdullah Ansari narrates that Prophet Muhammad (sawa) used to say:
“There are 2 people who are equal in reward, a Muslim man who was given wealth by Allah that he uses for obedience of Allah, and is equal to a poor man (who has nothing) but says “Oh Allah if you gave me what you gave my brother, I would have used it for the pleasure of Allah.”
He does not have, but his reward is equal! The issue is not whether you have, but what do you intend to do if you did have.
VALUE AND QUALITY OF ACTION PURELY DEPENDS ON INTENTION
This intention of wishing to give “if only I had” must be a real intention – not just a claim!
There’s a well known narration of Prophet Muhammad (sawa) that states:
“Actions are fixed by their intentions, so if someone goes to war for sake of pleasure of Allah, then Allah will reward him, and one who went for pleasure of this world will not receive any reward.”
So it’s easy to claim that one has pure intentions to do something for the pleasure of Allah but in reality it might be that Almighty Allah is only one of a number of reasons that motivates us to do something.
We thus learn from Ahlul Bait (a.s) that to achieve purity or sincerity of intention (khuloos), you need exercise or Riyazat as this road to achieving pure intention is filled with obstacles.
TWO MAIN CHALLENGES TO GOOD INTENTIONS
Riya or Showing off
This is when a person does not do something for the pleasure of Almighty Allah but does things to please other people. In Islamic text this disease is regarded as an example of shirk or associating partners with Allah (which is a major sin).
This is due to, for example, when standing for prayer your intention is for pleasure of Allah but at the same time you think others will consider you pious.
The same goes when doing charity and you think others will praise you for your generosity.
This is a serious challenge.
Prophet (sawa) said: “Have fear of Allah and avoid riyaa, because it is associating partners with Allah. Someone who does things to show off will be called by 4 different names on the Day of Judgement:
– Oh Kaafir (unbeliever);
– Oh Faajir (transgressor);
– O Ghaadir (rebel);
– Oh Khaasir (loser) – all your actions are nullified and your reward has been reduced to zero.”
This gives you an idea of how riyaa destroys the value of your good actions!
In any ibaadat – haj, fasting, charity etc, if someone has this problem it is a huge problem. But actually the problem goes further, beyond ibaadat, even in matters relating to this world, when your motivation is to show off, this is a big problem and not acceptable.
Prophet Muhammad (sawa) says: “if someone builds a nice big house to show off, then that same house will become like a ring of fire around his neck on day of Judgement”.
Normally we think that only our ibaaadat should be pure, but having the mindset of wanting people to praise you and having no regard for what others have or are capable of, this is a disease and problematic for the sustainability of your good intention.
In response to this hadith, someone asked “how does someone build a house to show off”. Prophet (sawa) said: “He builds a house which is more than his needs and his intention is to show off to his neighbours and family that he has something that they don’t have”.
But yes you can do great things in this world, but your motive must be the right one.
Someone passed by Prophet (sawa) who was a strong and active person, so the companions said “we wish his energy was for the sake of Allah”. They thought that his sense of being active and energetic was a waste and thus made this comment.
Prophet (sawa) replied “if he is active and hard working for the purpose of his family then he is in the path of Allah, And if he is active and energetic due to having parents who are old who require support, then he also on the path of Allah. And even if he struggling for a good life for him and his family then he is also on the path of Allah, BUT if his effort was to show off then he is on the path of shaytaan”.
Another challenge of intention is ujb – self conceit
While riya is showing off to others, sometimes you don’t worry about others and it does not bother you.
However, you could still have an even worse challenge and that is Ujb which is when you are happy with yourself or have self conceit. This is when you have an excessively favorable opinion of yourself when thinking you are really great.
This is a serious challenge for purity of intention.
Imam Khomeini (r.a) used to say all problems of this world have their root cause in ujb or self conceit.
It’s all about “I, me, myself,” – one’s ego is the root of all trouble. You cannot travel toward Allah if you have anything by the name of ego left. You first have to free yourself from this disease before travelling towards Allah.
Imam Khomeini’s approach was that all the arrogant powers in politics act like they do out of excessive self love.
Hadith says that if someone has the disease of ujb, he is definitely destroyed.
LEVELS OF INTENTIONS
So when Imam Zaninul Abideen (a.s) says “take my intention to be the best of intention”, he is indirectly saying that even your good intentions are of different types and levels and he thus wants the best of them.
Sometimes we have some level of sincerity, but to have complete sincerity is very difficult.
Thus in Munajat Shabaniyyah, the Imams say:
“Oh Allah grant me complete submission to you“…the word used in this sentence is “inqitaa” which means to be cut off, which refers to wanting to be cut off from everything other than Allah.
In a well known hadith of Imam Ali (a.s), he says “there are people who worship Allah due being afraid of Jahannam. And this the worship of slaves. And there are people who worship Allah out of desire of Jannah. This is the worship of businessmen. There are people who worship Allah as they find Allah most deserving for Ibaadat. And that is the Ibaadat of free people.”
Slaves are always scared of their master and thus do as he says and in the case of Allah they fear Jahannam and thus worship him.
Businessmen are always interested in making a profit and are driven by profit, they thus worship with the desire of getting the perks of Jannah.
Truly free people on the other hand worship due to love of Allah and this is the highest level of worship.
BUT, there’s nothing wrong with worshiping as a slave or businessmen as that is the capacity of normal people, that is fine and acceptable. But the quality of such worship is not the highest quality of worship.
DESIRING TO HAVE THE BEST OF ACTIONS
Imam Zainul Abideen now moves on to the next request in Dua Makarimul Akhlaq when he says:
وَبِعَمَلِي إلى أَحْسَنِ الأعْمَالِ.
“And take my actions to the best of actions”
Even though we earlier placed a lot of emphasis on purity of intention, action is also very important. One can’t just have good intention and do nothing!
In Surah Mulk Verse 2 we read:
الَّذِي خَلَقَ الْمَوْتَ وَالْحَيَاةَ لِيَبْلُوَكُمْ أَيُّكُمْ أَحْسَنُ عَمَلًا
“The Lord who created death and life so that He may test you that which of you is best in actions”.
The best of action has best of intention, best of expression by tongue and best of actions enacted by the organs and parts of our body.
Thus the Imams say there is no benefit of good intention without amal and there’s no benefit of amal without good intention.
GOOD ACTIONS GIVES GOOD INTENTIONS A LIFT
In Surah Faatir Verse 10 we read:
اِلَيْهِ يَصْعَدُ الْكَلِمُ الطَّيّـِبُ وَالْعَمَلُ الصَّالِحُ يَرْفَعُهُ
“To him ascends the good word, and good actions raises it.”
“Good word” has different meanings – it refers to Tauheed, Imaan, Aqeedah – this all ascends to Allah.
But how does it fly higher and get raised up higher? Your good conduct gives it a further lift.
If you only have good words, but no good conduct, then your good intention won’t fly.
SUSTAINING GOOD ACTION IMPACTS ON INTENTION
Many people can do something good as it’s not that difficult to do good once in a while, but to sustain it is difficult.
A hadith from the 6th Imam Saadiq (a.s) says:
“sustaining of a good deed until the end is more difficult than the good act itself”.
The 5th Imam Baqir (a.s) narrates from Prophet Muhammad (sawa) that:
“if someone says Subhanallah (Glory be to Allah), Allah plants a tree for him in Jannah, and if someone says Alhamdulillah (Praise be to Allah), then Allah plants another tree for him in Jannah, and if someone says ‘there’s no god except Allah’ then Allah plants for him another tree in Jannah, and if someone says Allahu Akbar (Allah is the greatest), then Allah plants for him another tree in Jannah.”
In other words, Prophet Muhammad (sawa) wanted to say the value of this seemingly simple action of reciting this short thikr is so great that you get 4 trees in Jannah.
One person who was present then said we should then have many trees in Jannah?! Prophet (sawa) said “yes, but be careful not to burn those trees down”!!
In other words Prophet Muhammad (sawa) was reminding us to protect our good deeds after performing it, else it will be reduced to ashes.
A practical example in our daily life is when you maybe help someone with maybe R500 secretly to assist that person – that action is great.
This example of amal being like planting a tree in Jannah is for us to realize that it is an asset that you acquiring which is an organic asset in that it requires protection and watering, else it will die.
So if after a while you speak about your good act then the tree starts to fall.
And later if you meet the same person you helped and make the person feel insulted due to helping him, your reward is lost and now you even converted it into a punishment for yourself.
Thus the best of actions are actions that are protected over time and not left to wither away.
A bad action can also have the opposite effect. Sometimes one does bad and incur punishment for yourself, but then you feel bad and immediately seek forgiveness and return to Allah – in this case your bad is converted into good.
This phenomenon also has a philosophy. Prophet (sawa) says sometimes “negligence appears in a pious servant and this wakes him up”. This is to ensure that arrogance does not appear in the life of the pious servants of Allah.
So sometimes negligence can be a blessing in that it reminds us of our weakness.
May Almighty Allah grant us the purest of intention and the ability to sustain it.
To be continued……