General / Motivational

Hastening to Perform good Deeds

 ‘Hastening to Perform Good Deeds’


  • There are many verses (ayat) in the Qur’an exhorting to perform good deeds or righteous actions.
  • One verse for example, is where Allah (swt) says:

{…and rush towards the good…} Q. 2:148.

  • One of the meanings of this verse is given by Imam al-Tabari in his monumental commentary of the Qur’an al-Jami` al-Bayan (‘The Comprehensive Exposition’):

يعني تعالى ذكره بقوله : “فاستبقوا”، فبادروا وسَارعوا، من “الاستباق”، وهو المبادرة والإسراع…

حدثني يونس قال، أخبرنا ابن وهب قال، قال ابن زيد في قوله : “فاستبقوا الخيرات” قال، الأعمال الصالحة…

“The meaning of His statement – may His remembrance be exalted – {rush} is ‘to hasten’ or ‘to hurry without delay’ from the word ‘istibaq’ meaning ‘to hurry’ and ‘to hasten without delay’ […]

Yunus related to me and said: Ibn Wahb reported to us and said: Ibn Zayd said regarding [the verse] {rush to towards the good} that it means ‘good deeds’ (al-a`mal al-saliha)…”[1]

  • So, ‘al-khayrat’ (‘the good’, ‘what is best’) is in one interpretation, ‘good actions’.
  • Allah then is urging the believers to hasten or swiftly move to perform actions that are good and full of reward.
  • Another verse of the Qur’an reads as follows:

{And rush forth to that which leads to forgiveness from your Lord and for Paradise as wide as are the heavens and the earth, prepared for the pious} Q. 3:133.

  • One meaning of this verse is given by Imam Ibn al-Jawzi in his tafsir:

ومعنى الآية بادروا إلى ما يوجب المغفرة وفي المراد بموجب المغفرة هاهنا عشرة أقوال:
أحدها أنه الاخلاص قاله عثمان بن عفان رضي الله عنه
والثاني أداء الفرائض قاله علي بن أبي طالب رضي الله عنه والثالث الإسلام قاله ابن عباس والرابع التكبيرة الاولى من الصلاة قاله أنس بن مالك والخامس الطاعة قاله سعيد بن جبير والسادس التوبة قاله عكرمة والسابع الهجره قاله أبوالعالية والثامن الجهاد قاله الضحاك  والتاسع الصلوات الخمس قاله يمان والعاشر الأعمال الصالحة قاله مقاتل.

“And the meaning of the verse is ‘rush without delay towards that which leads to forgiveness’. What is meant by the phrase ‘that which leads to forgiveness’ are said to be ten as follows:

[1.] Sincerity (ikhlas); this was the opinion of `Uthman ibn `Affan (ra) [2.] obeying all the obligations; this was the opinion of `Ali ibn Abi Talib (ra) [3.] Islam itself as held by Ibn `Abbas [4.] the first takbir in the salah as held by Anas ibn Malik [5.] full obedience (al-ta`a); this was the opinion of Sa`id ibn Jubayr [6.] repentance; this was `Ikrama’s view [7.] Migration (hijra); this was Abu ’l-`Aliya’s opinion [8.] Jihad; this is the view of al-Dahhak [9.] the five daily prayers as held by Yaman [10.] performing good actions; this was held by Muqatil.”[2]

  • From the above verse it is clear that rushing to perform good deeds is a means of direct maghfira (‘pardon and forgiveness’) and there are many meanings to this according to different interpreters of the Qur’an.
  • It is up to the believer and indeed more so with the da`wa carrier to seize all means of enabling forgiveness.
  • With respect to point 10 above in the commentary, it is important to remember that just as a Muslim or the da`wa carrier more specifically engages in private worship and no doubt will be rewarded for it, h/she must also engage in public worship and actions that are social or communal or collective.
  • So, in the same way as a Muslim/da`wa carrier prays extra devotional prayers, makes additional fasts, makes dhikr of Allah, enters `uzla (‘seclusion’), etc. likewise h/she should be assisting in those actions that forward the cause of Islam and its message like helping in organising halaqat, durus, study circles, talks, discussions, platforms and forums for debating Islamic ideas and solutions from the Islamic perspective, challenging the misconceptions against Islam, stand for Islam against attacks, lies and propaganda against its values, laws and culture, etc. ALL these are good actions and neither should be left at the expense of the other.
  • The da`wa carrier more specifically must remember the criteria of his actions for it to be acceptable to Allah.
  • Imam Ibn Kathir explains the conditions for actions to be accepted in the last verse of surat al-Kahf:110:

{ فَمَن كَانَ يَرْجُو لِقَآءَ رَبِّهِ } أي: ثوابه وجزاءه الصالح، { فَلْيَعْمَلْ عَمَلاً صَـٰلِحاً } أي: ما كان موافقاً لشرع الله { وَلاَ يُشْرِكْ بِعِبَادَةِ رَبِّهِ أَحَدَا } وهو الذي يراد به وجه الله وحده لا شريك له، وهذان ركنا العمل المتقبل، لا بد أن يكون خالصاً لله، صواباً على شريعة رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم.

“{So, whoever hopes for the Meeting with his Lord} meaning his reward and righteous and just recompense {then let him work righteous deeds} meaning that which is in accordance with the law of Allah. {associating none as a partner in the worship of his Lord} where the intended meaning is seeking the Countenance of Allah alone, with no partner or associate. These two conditions are the basis of acceptable deeds, which must be sincerely for the sake of Allah alone and correct according to the Shari`a of the Messenger of Allah (saw)…”[3]

  • Thus, it is important that the da`wa carrier be extra vigilant over his actions to see whether they accord with the stipulations and dictates of the Shari`a before he admonishes others to do the same.
  • He must be even more careful and concerned to know the ruling (hukm) of Allah before embarking upon any action.
  • The correct attitude is to have a strong desire to hasten in performing good deeds because of a number of reasons:
  1. Time is short.
  2. Death is always immanent.
  3. Our actions may not be enough.
  4. Lost opportunity.
  5. Regret.
  • This last point is beautifully captured in an anecdote of one of the early devotees, renowned admonisher and jurists of Kufa Abu Usama Ibrahim ibn Yazid al-Taymi (Allah have mercy on him) who is reported to have had a dialogue with his nafs (‘ego-soul’) where he said:

وقال ابن عيينة : قال ابراهيم التيمي مثلت نفسي في الجنة آكل من ثمارها وأعانق ثنا أبكارها ثم مثلت نفسي في النار آكل من زقومها وأشرب من صديدها وأعالج سلاسلها وأغلالها فقلت لنفسي أي شئ تريدين قالت أريد أن أراد إلى الدنيا فأعمل صالحا قال فقلت فأنت في الأمنية فاعملي!

“Ibn `Uyayna said: Ibrahim al-Taymi said: I imagined myself in Paradise eating from its fruits and embracing (u`aniqu) the paradisal virgins. Then I imagined myself in the Fire eating from its poisonous and bitter fruits as well as drinking from its molten hot water bound by its chains and burning iron collars. So I asked Myself: ‘what is it you desire?’ It replied: ‘I desire what i desired in the world which is to do good actions.’ [Ibrahim al-Taymi] said: I said ][to Myself]: you have what you wish. So act!”[4]
  • In another version recorded by Imam Ibn Qudama in his Wasiyya, it has al-Taymi asking himself what he desired when he saw himself in Paradise and it replied, ‘I want to return to the world to do more of what made me obtain this [bliss].’ And when he asked himself what he desired when he saw himself in Hell, it replied, ‘to return to the world and perform actions by which I can deliver myself from this [torment of Hell].’[5]
And with Allah is all success.

[1] See al-Tabari, al-Jami` al-Bayan Ta’wil Ay al-Qur’an, 3:195-196.

[2] See Ibn al-Jawzi, Zad al-Masir, 1:459-460.

[3] See Ibn Kathir, Tafsir al-Qur’an al-`Azim, 4:432.

[4] Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali, al-Takhwif min al-Nar, p.47.

[5] Ibn Qudama, al-Wasiyya, pp.22-23.


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