Keeping to the Minimum in Worship - A Bad Idea

Sheikh `Alî A. al-Jumu`ah
Allah created us to worship Him. That is our true purpose in life. In spite of this, the religious duties that Allah has imposed upon us are few indeed. They are enumerated in the following hadith:

Talhah b. `Ubayd Allah relates that once a man came to the Prophet (peace be upon him) from Najd with a great bush of hair on his head. We could hear the loudness of his voice but could not understand what he was saying. He approached the Prophet (peace be upon him) and asked him about Islam.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Offer five prayers in the day and night.”

The man asked: “Do I have to pray something else?”

The Prophet (peace be upon him) replied: “No, unless you volunteer.”

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Fast the month of Ramadan.” The man asked: “Do I have to fast something else?”

The Prophet (peace be upon him) replied: “No, unless you volunteer.”

The Prophet (peace be upon him) told him about paying Zakâh.

The man asked: “Do I have to pay out something else?”

The Prophet (peace be upon him) replied: “No, unless you volunteer.”

The man left saying: “By Allah, I will do no more nor less than this.”

Then the Prophet (peace be upon him said): He will find salvation if he is telling the truth.”

This is an authentic hadîth related in Sahîh Muslim. Its meaning is valid and will remain valid up to the Day of Judgment. Anyone abiding by this hadîth will be fulfilling all of the requirements of worship needed for one who hopes to be admitted into Paradise.

However, it is worth mentioning that this comes in the context of a person who witnesses that there is no God but Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah and eschews sin and iniquity. What the hadīth is telling us is that such a person will not be neglecting an obligatory act of worship as long as he or she carries out what is enumerated. There will be no sin or blame on such a person for failing to perform any additional act of devotion.

This hadîth, in fact, enumerates the essential pillars of Islam, and abandoning of any of them is a major sin and denying their obligatory nature is an act tantamount to disbelief.

If a person abandons any of these essential religious duties -- or perpetrates any sinful acts --then that person’s faith will be reduced and that person will be a sinner. However, if he or she repents truly, Allah is forgiving. As for someone who dies while persisting in what is wrong, then that person is subject to Allah’s will – Allah in His mercy might forgive that person, or He might in justice punish that Person.

Allah says: “Allah does not forgive (the sin of) associating other gods with Him, but He forgives any other sins for whom He pleases.”

Moreover, the duties enumerated in the above-mentioned hadîth will not be acceptable and valid for a person to enter Paradise unless two conditions are met.

The first is sincerity, which is the most important; as the Muslim should perform every deed having in mind that it is done solely for the sake of Allah’s pleasure. Allah says: “And they have been commanded no more than this; to worship Allah, offering Him sincere devotion being true (in faith)”. The person should never seek any praise from people or aim to have good reputation among them but look forward for the rewarding from Allah only.

The second condition is that these works should be in compliance with Islamic teachings as established by the Qur’ân and Sunnah. Otherwise, such worship will be rejected and will not entitle the person to enter Paradise.

Our Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Whoever innovates in this matter of ours something that is not part of it, it well be rejected.” [Sahih al-Bukhârî and Sahîh Muslim]

Finally, we should remind ourselves that the duties enumerated in the above-mentioned hadîth may be compromised by a person’s failure to performing them in a way that is satisfactory.

Voluntary deeds will compensate for any deficiencies in the performance of these duties, and the performance of such voluntary duties will entitle the obligatory deeds for the acceptance of Allah. The voluntary prayers are thus a complementary part of the obligatory prayers. This is even more the case for prayers that are sunnah mu`akkadah.

Likewise, voluntary fasting compensates for deficiencies in our performance of our obligatory fasts. Voluntary charity covers any deficiency in our Zakâh and the same in case for `Umrah and Hajj.

Moreover, when a Muslim performs voluntary works, it gives him a higher rank in Paradise and the more righteous deeds a person performs, the closer he becomes to Allah.

Though a person will not be held accountable except for the duties that he failed to perform and the sins that he commits, he must realize that he cannot help but fall short of the mark.

The mother of the believers, `Aishah, was asked a similar question and replied by saying: “By Him in whose hand is my soul, you will not be held accountable except for your duties. But you commit wrong day and night and the wrong will be expiated by repentance and praying to Allah for forgiveness and increasing in good deeds.”

Allah says: “And establish regular prayers at the two ends of the day and at the approaches of the night for those things that are good remove those that are evil. This is a reminder for the mindful”.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Fear Allah wherever you are and follow a bad deed with a good one, for it will remove it, and treat people kindly.”

We all need to go far beyond the bare minimum of what is prescribed for us. We should rather strive to engage in as many righteous deeds as possible

Sheikh `Alî A. al-Jumu`ah, professor at al-Imâm University, Qasîm Branch

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