It has been related that a man was used to praying
in the first row in the mosque. One day he was late for the prayer, so he prayed in the
second row. Feeling embarrassment when people saw him in the second row, he realised that
the pleasure and satisfaction of the heart that he used to gain from praying in the first
row were due to his seeing people seeing him there and admiring him for it. This is a
subtle and intangible condition and actions are rarely safe from it. Apart from those whom
Allah has assisted, few are aware of such delicate matters. Those who do not realise it
only come to see their good deeds appearing as bad ones on the Day of Resurrection; they
are the ones referred to in Allah's words:
"And something will come to
them from Allah which they had never anticipated, for the evil of their deeds will become
apparent to them. (39:47-48)"
"Say: Shall We tell you who
will lose most in respect of their deeds? Those whose efforts were astray in the life of
this world, while they thought that they were doing good works. (18:103-104)"
Yaqub said: "A devout person is someone who
conceals things that are good, in the same way that he conceals things that are bad."
As-Sousi said: "True devotion is to lose the
faculty of being conscious of your devotion; for someone who identifies devotion in his
devotion is a person whose devotion is in need of devotion." To contemplate devotion
is to admire it, and admiration is an afflication; and that which is pure is whatever is
free of all afflictions. This means that one's deeds should be purified from any
self-admiration concerning the actions they entail.
Ayyub said: "It is much harder for the people
of action to purify their intentions than it is to execute any of their actions."
Some people have said: "To be devout for a
short while is to survive for ever, but devotion is rare."
Suhail was asked: "What is the most difficult
thing for the self? He said: "Devotion, when the self does not have the good fortune
of being endowed with it."
Al-Fudayl said: "Forsaking action for the sake
of other people is to seek their admiration. To act for the sake of their admiration is to
associate others with Allah. Devotion is when Allah frees you from both of these states.
1. Sahih, an-Nisa'i, Kitab al-Jihad, 6/25; al Hafidh ibn Hajar, Fath al-Qadir, 6/28.
2. Sahih, Ibn Ma'jah; also Ibn Hibban, Marwarid adh-Dham'an, p.47, on the authority of
Zaid ibn Thabit.