The Righteous Action – Shaykh al-Albani

Shaykh Muhammad Nasirud-Din al-Albani – al-Hijra magazine (vol.4 no.2)
Al-Ibaanah Magazine Issue No.1 – Dhul-Qa’dah 1415H / April 1995

What Benefits the Dead

Abû Hurayrah narrated that the Prophet sallallâhu ’alayhi wa sallam said: “The likeness of wealth, family and the actions of the son of Âdam 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.” [2]

The above authentic hadîth is in fact like the following hadîth in meaning and in subject matter. Anas said that the Prophet sallallâhu ’alayhi 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.” [3]

These two ahâdîth show that actions alone endure and enter the grave with their doers. Both these ahâdîth 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 Allâh.

These ahâdîth 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 sallallâhu ’alayhi wa sallam wanted to show us the value of good actions when he related these ahâdîth 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-sâlih (a righteous action).

The Acceptable Action

Therefore, in these ahâdîth, the Prophet sallallâhu ’alayhi 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 fulfill in order for the action to be righteous? This is shown in the statement of Allâh – the Exalted and Sublime: “Say (O Muhammad): 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.”

Two Important Conditions

The Scholars of Tafsîr have said that the end of this verse is an indication that there are two conditions for an action to be righteous and acceptable: [5]

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 hadîth of the Prophet sallallâhu ’alayhi wa sallam in which he said: “Whoever innovates in this matter of ours what is not upon it, it shall be rejected.” [6]

Therefore, any action that was not part of Islâm when Allâh revealed it upon the heart of the Prophet Muhammad sallallâhu ’alayhi wa sallam is not a righteous action. About this, Allâh – the Most High – says: “This day I have perfected your Dîn for you and completed My favour upon you and I have chosen Islâm as your Dîn.” [7] It must be remembered that Bid’ah (innovation) [8] is not divided into five categories, as some Scholars say. A proof for this is that the Prophet sallallâhu ’alayhi wa sallam said: “Every innovation is misguidance, and every misguidance is in the Hellfire.” [9]

Secondly: That after being in accordance with the Sunnah, the action has to be sincere, purely seeking the Face of Allâh – the Most High – because Allâh 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 Allâh – the Exalted and Sublime. However, if he seeks other than Allâh, then he has setup partners with Allâh (made shirk with Allâh), therefore his action is rejected.

This is confirmed by Allâh in an authentic hadîth Qudsî: “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.” [10]

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

The Worthless and Sinful Action

So these arc 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’ât 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 bâtil (null and void), since he did not sincerely seek the Face of Allâh alone, but rather he sought the praises of people, thus becoming sinful by associating partners with Allâh in his action.

However, if his action only became null and void, then the following hadîth 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.” [11]

But this is not the case, for this person’s action has changed into a sin. The two rak’ât that this person performed without intending to seek only the Face of Allâh – 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’ât because he associated others along with Allâh – the Exalted and Sublime – in his action.

If a man prays eleven rak’ât 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 Allâh – 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:- Muwwâfaqah (compliance) with the Sunnah; and Ikhlâs (sincerity and purity of intention) to Allâh. 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.[12] But there are those upon whom Allâh has granted His favour, by guiding them to the Sunnah of the Prophet sallallâhu ’alayhi 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 riyâ’ (insincerity and showing-off). No one is exempt from riyâ’ 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 Allâh – the Exalted and Sublime. Part of this is that we are tested even while making Da’wah to the Qur‘ân 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).” [13]

This da’wah has been neglected by Muslims throughout the world so that the du’ât (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 sallallâhu ’alayhi wa sallam said: “Verily Islâm started as something strange and it will return as something strange, so Tûbâ is for the Strangers.” [14]

Tûbâ and the Strangers

The meaning of Tûbâ in the Arabic language is: “Praise and thanks.” The meaning according to the Sharî’ah refers to a tree in Paradise, which would take a rider a hundred years to traverse its shade. [15] This hadîth 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.” [16] This tree is mentioned in the Qur’ân in the statement of Allâh: Tûbâ is for them, and the best abode.” [17] Therefore, Tûbâ is for the Ghurabâ (the Strangers), but who are they? The answer to this is in the reply of the Prophet: “Those who correct [themselves and others], when the people have become corrupt.” [18]

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-Amârata bis-Sû’ (the soul that calls them to evil) orders them to do. Whatever they call to is as a result of Allâh – the Most High – having ordered them to make da’wah to the Qur’ân 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 Sûfîs, 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 Hadîth is also authentic. Abû Hurayrah said that the Prophet sallallâhu ’alayhi 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.” [19]

This Hadîth also emphasises the subject of the previous ahâdîth. It shows us the care taken by people in amassing wealth. Allâh pointed this out in the Qur‘ân by His statement: “And for the love of good he is strong.” [20]

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 sallallâhu ’alayhi 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 Allâh. These rights are the rights of His Tawhîd (singling out Allâh alone for worship), as Allâh said: “And I have not created the jinn and mankind except to worship Me.” [21]

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 sallallâhu ’alayhi 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 Hadîth 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 Hadîth is also Sahîh (authentic). Abdullâh ibn ash-Shikhkhîr said: I came to the Prophet whilst he was reciting: “Seeking increase diverted you.” The Prophet sallallâhu ’alayhi wa sallam said: “The son of Âdam say My wealth! My wealth! What do you obtain, O son of Âdam, 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 hadîth is also similar in meaning to the previous one, though some of its words are different; and was recorded by Muslim, at-Tirmidhî and an-Nasâ‘î. This hadîth is clear in its wording, however, the statement of the Prophet at the end of the hadîth: “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 hadîth in the Sahîh of al-Bukhârî – 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 sallallâhu ’alayhi 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 Âkhirah (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 hadîth is narrated by Jâbir ibn ’Abdullâh: The Messenger of Allâh sallallâhu ’alayhi wa sallam passed by the market place coming from the direction of ‘Âliyah 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 Allâh, 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 Allâh sallallâhu ’alayhi wa sallam said: “By Allâh, this world is more insignificant to Allâh than this (goat) is to you all.” [23]

Let us return to the hadîth. 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 sallallâhu ’alayhi 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 Allâh sallallâhu ’alayhi wa sallam. The ahâdîth describing this are many and the following is from them: “He used to walk side by side with Abû Bakr and side by side with Abû Hurayrah; and they all walked with each other.”

Moreover, it is authentically proven that the Messenger of Allâh sallallâhu ’alayhi wa sallam used to say to his Companions radiallâhu ’anhum, when he used to walk with them: “Walk in
front of me and leave my back for the angels.”

Here he highlights two matters from one saying. People do not see angels, they see only people. Therefore, if anyone saw the Messenger sallallâhu ’alayhi wa sallam walking, they would only see people walking in front of him. The Prophet sallallâhu ’alayhi wa sallam said in the authentic hadîth: “He who humbles himself for the sake of Allâh, Allâh will raise him.” [25] 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 Allâh in the following verse: “They do not disobey what Allâh 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 Allâh says: “Do not sanctify yourself. He knows best the ones who are pious.” [26] 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 Allâh sallallâhu ’alayhi wa sallam. This is because one’s degree of love from him, is based upon following him. This is established in the Qur’ân by the statement of Allâh: “Say (O Muhammad): If you do love Allâh then follow me; Allâh will love you and forgive you your sins.” [27]

So, if this was the case with the Prophet who was infallible and protected from the whispering of the Shaytân 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 Shaytân. 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 hadîth: “By Allâh, this world is more insignificant to Allâh than this (goat) is to you all,” is to be reflected upon by people of intellect!

The next authentic hadîth is similar to the previous hadîth. Ibn ’Abbâs 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 Allâh than this is to its owner.”

Sahl ibn Sa’d said that the Messenger of Allâh sallallâhu ’alayhi wa sallam said: “If this world was worth as much to Allâh as the wing of a mosquito, He would not have given a disbeliever even a sip of water.” [28]

Salmân said: Some people came to the Prophet sallallâhu ’alayhi 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 hadîth has the same meaning. Ubayy ibn Ka’b said that the Messenger of Allâh sallallâhu ’alayhi wa sallam said: “Indeed the food of the son of Âdam is like the example of the world. Even if he puts spices and season into it, see what becomes of it.” [29]

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 Allâh. The next hadîth explains this.

Abû Hurayrah narrated that the Prophet sallallâhu ’alayhi wa sallam said: “The world and all that it contains is cursed, except for the remembrance of Allâh and what supports it; or a Scholar and a student.” [30]

In Conclusion

This is the reality of this world in the Sharî’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 Allâh whether remembrance of Allâh, knowledge or even food because it helps to support the worship of Allâh. These things are among the deeds of man that endure in this fleeting life. The goal behind these ahâdîth 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 Allâh 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 Allâh, Lord of the Worlds.


1. Taken from al-Hijra magazine (vol.4 no.2) Shawwâl 1411/August 1990. Footnotes are from the Editors of al-Ibânah.
2. Sahîh: Related by al-Bazzâr and al-Albânî authenticated it.
3. Related by al-Bukhârî and Muslim.
4. Sûrah Kahf 18:110.
5. Ibn Kathîr says in Tafsîr Qur’ân ul-’Adhîm (3/114): “Thus, for an action to be acceptable it has to fulfill two conditions. Firstly: It must be sincere for Allâh alone. Second: It must be corrcct and in accordance with the sharî’ah. So if the action is sincere, but not correct, it will not be accepted.”
6. Related by al-Bukhârî (5/301) and Muslim (no.1718) – from
’Âishah radiallâhu ’anhu.
7. Sûratul-Mâ’idah 5:3. Imâm ash-Shâtibî relates in al-’ltisâm (l/49): “Imâm Mâlik – rahimahullâh – said: Whosoever introduces into Islâm an innovation has lied against the message of Muhammad sallallâhu ’alayhi wa sallam. Since Allâh has said: “This day have I completed your Dîn for you.” So whatever was not Dîn that day, cannot be considered as part of the Dîn today.”
8. Ash-Shâtibî says in al- ’ltisâm (1/37) about the Sharî’ah definition of Bid’ah: “A newly invented way in the Dîn, in imitation of, or corresponding to the sharî’ah, through which nearness to Allâh is sought. This action not being supported by any authentic proof – neither the action itself, nor the way in which it is performed.”
9. Sahîh: Related by Muslim (6/153) from Jâbir ibn ’Abdullâh. The additional wording “and all that misguides, misguides to the Fire.” is related by an Nasâ‘î (l/224) with a Sahîh isnâd – as Ibn Taymiyyah has mentioned in al-Fatâwâ (3/58).
10. Related by Muslim (no.2985) and Ibn Mâjah (no.4202) – from Abû Hurayrah radiallâhu ’anhu.
11. Sahîh: Related by Ibn Mâjah (1/539) and Ahmad (2/441) – from Ibn ‘Umar radiallâhu ’anhu.
12. 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 Sahabî ’Abdullâh ibn ’Umar radiallâhu ’anhu said – as is related by ad-Dârimî in al-Madhkal ilas-Sunan (no.191) with a Sahîh isnâd -: “Every innovation is misguidance, even if the people regard it as something good.”
13. Sûratul-Anbiyâ 21:35.
14. Related by Muslim (2/175-176) and Ibn Mâjah (2/320) – from
Abû Hurayah radiallâhu ’anhu.
15. Sahîh: Related by Ahmad (3/71) and authenticated by al-Albânî in as-Sahîhah (no.1241) that the Prophet was asked: What is Tûbâ? So he sallallâhu ’alayhi 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.”
16. Part of a hadîth Qudsî – related by al-Bukhârî and Muslim from Abû Hurayah radiallâhu ’anhu – in which the Prophet said that Allâh said: “I have prepared for my righteous salves what no eye … ”
17. Sûrah Ra’d 13:29.
18. Sahîh: Related by ad-Âjurrî in al-Ghurabâ (pp.15-16) from Ibn Mas’ûd. The isnâd is Sahîh as al-Albânî states in as-Sahîhah (no.1273).
19. Related by Ahmad and Muslim – from Abû Hurayah radiallâhu ’anhu.
20. Sûratul-’Âdiyât 100:8.
21. Sûratudh-Dhâriyât 51:56.
22. Sûrat at-Takâthur 102:1
23. Related by Muslim and Ahmad
24. Sahîh: Related by Abû Nu’aym in Hilyatul-Awliyâ (7/117) from Jâbir radiallâhu ’anhu. It was authenticated in as-Sahîhah (no.1557).
25. Related by Muslim (16/141), ad-Dârimî (l/396) and others – from Abû Hurayrah radiallâhu ’anhu.
26. Sûratun-Najm 53:32.
27. Sûrah Âl-Imrân 3:31.
28. Sahîh: Related by at-Tirmidhî (no.2436) and al-‘Uqaylî in ad-Du’afâ (no.250) and it was authenticated in as-Sahîhah (no.943).
29. Hasan: Related by Ibn Hibbân in his Sahîh (no.2489) and at-Tabarânî in al-Kabîr (1/27/2) and authenticated in as-Sahîhah (no.382).
30. Hasan: Related by Ibn Mâjah (no.4112) and authenticated in Sahîhul-Jâmi’ (no.3414).

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