As the end of Ramazan approaches, it is good to remember that our deeds will be weighed and not counted. Many Muslims find the answer to ‘which deed will carry the greatest weight?’ surprising. First it is not necessarily the big deeds, like spending one’s whole life on good causes, such as the search for knowledge, or spending generously on others in need. As a well-known Hadith states, these deeds will go to waste if they are done for seeking fame and popularity. In contrast, a very small deed, such as giving a date to the needy, if done with a sincere desire to please Allah, will carry great weight. This is why it is important to work on our sincerity, to ensure that our deeds are not contaminated with the desire for fame, popularity, or the seeking of any kind of reward in this world. This understanding illuminates the Hadith: Do not regard any good deed as insignificant, even meeting your brother with a cheerful face.
The contrast between the teachings of Islam and the current understanding of piety appears to be very large. The Companions of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) asked about a woman who would fast every day, and stand up in worship every night. Upon being informed that her housework was done by friendly neighbours, to allow her to do this, he said that the neighbours were superior, since by their act of service, they received the rewards of the worship performed by her, in addition to the rewards of serving others. Service to others is a deed of great value. On many occasions, the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) himself did many acts of service towards his companions, stating that the leader of the people is their servant.
Small acts of kindness towards others receive great emphasis in the teachings of Islam. In another striking narration, Hazrat Ibn Abbas, a paternal uncle of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him), was sitting Aitkaf (seclusion for the sake of worship) in the Mosque in Medina. He saw another man come in to the Mosque and said that he appears to be worried. The man said that he had a debt to pay, but had no means to pay it. Hazrat Ibn Abbas offered to go and talk to the person to whom the debt was owed. The man accepted the offer, but asked “Have you forgotten that you are sitting in Aitkaf?” Hazrat Ibn Abbas said that the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) had stated that to take a few steps to help a brother in need was superior to 10 years of Aitkaf. This is true even though Aitkaf is a highly recommended and extremely valuable deed of worship. Note that the man did not ask for help; rather, Hazrat Ibn Abbas noticed his worry from his appearance. In addition to service, being sensitive to the concerns of others is an important part of Islamic teachings. Causing distress to a fellow Muslim is considered to be even worse than destroying the Ka’aba, the sacred house of God. A Hadith states that if you buy fruit, share them with your neighbour. If you cannot afford to do so, then bury the peel so that the neighbour will not know and feel regret. A verse of the Holy Quran asks us to respond to evil with good acts, as that will turn enemies into friends.
It was prophesied that Islam came as a stranger, and will become a stranger. Today these teachings are barely remembered, let alone acted upon. Yet, these small acts of kindness and service have a powerful effect and can transform our homes, families and ultimately society. In each meeting with our near and dear ones, let us avoid saying anything which is hurtful, and make an effort to say something kind and appreciative. Children are powerfully affected by encouragement, and equally powerfully hurt by unkind words. If someone has 99 faults and one virtue, we should praise the virtue, and ignore the faults. Appreciating the good in others, and looking at our own faults, has a transformative effect. It encourages others to acquire virtues and motivates us to shed our faults. Seemingly insignificant acts, like appreciating the gifts we enjoy instead of grousing about what we lack, can enrich our hearts and bring about the big changes that we all want to see.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 13th, 2015.
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