Priority of the Deeds of the Heart to the Deeds of the Limbs
In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.
(Friday speech delivered by Imam Mohamed Baianonie at the Islamic Center of Raleigh, NC on October 31, 1997)
The deeds of the heart, according to Islam, are prior to and more important than the deeds of the limbs and senses. Regardless whether the deeds are good or bad, because the heart is the essence of the human being, and the deciding entity of man's righteousness or corruption. This becomes clear when we realize that the prophet emphasized this important role of the heart. The prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.) said in a hadith reported by Imams Bukhari and Muslim," …In the body, there is a "mudghah" piece of flesh, if it is good, the whole body is good, and if it is bad, the whole body is bad; truly it is the heart."
For this reason, we have to be concerned about the deeds of our hearts more than the deeds of our limbs and senses. This is because the deeds of the limbs and senses may be apparently good - like praying, fasting, and reciting Qur'an - If there is no righteousness in the hearts, going-astray will definitely be the result, starting from showing off to hypocrisy.
So, the deeds of the limbs are dependent on the deeds of the hearts. The deed of the limbs and the senses itself will be judged as good or bad according to the judgment on what is in the heart, and so the deeds are either accepted or rejected by Allah (S.W.T.). This also becomes clear when the prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.) said in an authentic hadith, reported by Imams Bukhari and Muslim, "The actions are not (judged) but with intentions, every person would get according to his intention. If his migration is for the sake of Allah and his messenger, then his migration is for Allah and his messenger. And if his migration is for a worldly affair or for a woman to marry, then his migration is for what he migrated for." The prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.) clarifies that the migration with him from Makkah to Al-Madinah and which was among the greatest sacrifices for the sake of Allah after believing in Him. A deed that is apparently from the deeds of the limbs and senses, and that is judged upon according to a deed of the heart and that is the intention.
The Muslim scholars considered this hadith among the very important ahadith that are fundamental to the deen of Islam because it is the base of the deen and based on which the majority of Islamic rules are made. Imam Abu
Dawud said about this hadith, "It is half of Islam, because The deen is either on the outside like the deeds of the limbs and senses or hidden on the inside which is the intentions." Imam Ahmad and Imam As-Shafi'i said, "In this hadith, there is a third of knowledge because the deed of a person can come from the heart, from the tongue or from the limbs and senses. The intention is one of three parts." Other scholars of hadith have mentioned this hadith in the beginning of their books like Imam Bukhari and Imam An-Nawawi and others so that they remind the Muslim to correct his intention and make it purely for Allah in seeking knowledge and good deed.
Allah (S.W.T.) does not accept the good deeds except those that are done exclusively for his sake. The prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.) has emphasized this in a good hadith reported by Imam An-Nassa'I, "Allah does not accept among the deeds except what is exclusively done for His sake."
Also, Allah (S.W.T.) did not order his servants to only to submit to Him but also to submit exclusively to Him with sincerity. Allah (S.W.T.) says in surat Al-Bayena, (Verse 5), what can be translated as, "And they were not ordered but to submit exclusively sincerely to Allah."
The prophet (S.A.W.) has clarified that the heart is the place where Allah (S.W.T.) looks into, and what the heart does is what is considered by Allah, not the outside deeds and the outside appearance of the body. Imam Muslim reported that prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.) said that, "Allah does not look at your bodies nor does he look at your images, but He looks into your hearts." What is meant by looking into the heart, is that the acceptance or rejection of deeds depend on what is in the heart.
Allah (S.W.T.) has clarified that salvation in the Hereafter, and gaining paradise will be only for those whose hearts are free of Shirk, hypocrisy, and
other diseases. Allah (S.W.T.) says in surat As-Shua’ara’, (Verse 88 & 89), what can be translated as, "On that day when money and children do not benefit anyone except the one who comes with a good and pure heart." Also, Allah (S.W.T.) says in surat Qauff, (Verse 31-33), what can be translated as, "And Paradise will be brought near to the (Muttaqun) not far off. (It will be said): "This is what you were promised, (it is) for those oft-returning (to Allah). Who feared the Most Beneficent (Allah) in the unseen, and brought a heart turned in repentance to Him."
This is what the (taqwa) righteousness is the base of doing what Allah
(S.W.T.) has commanded and refraining from what Allah (S.W.T.) has forbidden.
Also, the (taqwa) righteousness is really something that is in the heart and that's why the prophet (S.A.W.) pointed to his own chest three times and repeated "The (taqwa) righteousness is here"
Also, the love for Allah and His messenger is an enticement to do good deeds. This love is from the deeds of the hearts and is the base of (Iman) belief and its sweetness and its strength. Imams Bukhari and Muslim reported that the prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.) said, "None of you will become a believer until I am more loved to him than his father, his child and all the other people." And the first thing the prophet (S.A.W.) mentioned is that Allah (S.W.T.) and His messenger be more loved to that person than anything else." In another hadith reported by Imams Bukhari and Muslim that the prophet (S.A.W.) said, "Three things which if they are within a person, he will find the sweetness of (Iman) belief."
Also, the love for Allah and His messenger is a reason for entering paradise on the Day of Judgment even if the deeds are small. Imams Bukhari and Muslim reported that a man asked the prophet (S.A.W.), When is the "Hour"? The prophet replied, "What deed have you prepared for it?", the man answered: "I have not prepared much praying or fasting or charity, but I love Allah and His messenger! The prophet (S.A.W.) said, "You are with whom you love (in the Day of Judgment)." In another hadith reported by Imams Bukhari and Muslim that the prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.) was asked, "A person loves some people, but he did not have good deeds like theirs? The prophet (S.A.W.) replied, "The person is with whom he loves (in the Day of Judgment)."
Also, The love for the sake of Allah and the hatred for the sake of Allah are
a prerequisite for the completion of (Iman) belief, and they are from the deeds of the heart. The prophet (S.A.W.) said in an authentic hadith reported by Imam Abu-Dawoud, "Whosoever loves for the sake of Allah, and hates for the sake of Allah, and gives for the sake of Allah, and withholds for the sake of Allah, He has completed his (Iman) belief." Also, the prophet (S.A.W.) said in another authentic hadith reported by Imam Ahmad, "The strongest knot of (Iman) belief.." (And mentioned among what he mentioned) "The love for the sake of Allah and the hatred for the sake of Allah."
From these many verses and ahadith, it is clear to us how important are the deeds of the hearts and their priority to the outside deeds, so we should pay utmost attention to these deeds and nourish them, and not to be attentive only to the outside deeds.