Ep. 12 The Forties – Sincerity – A Condition for Validity of Worship

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Al-Salam ‘Alaykum, this is Syed Ali Imran – and you are listening to the Forties podcast, brought to you by Mizan Institute.

This is episode 12 – Sincerity – The Condition for Validity of Worship

قَالَ وَ تَصْعَدُ الْحَفَظَةُ بِعَمَلِ الْعَبْدِ أَعْمَالًا بِفِقْهٍ وَ اجْتِهَادٍ وَ وَرَعٍ لَهُ صَوْتٌ كَالرَّعْدِ وَ ضَوْءٌ كَضَوْءِ الْبَرْقِ وَ مَعَهُ ثَلَاثَةُ أَلْفِ مَلَكٍ فَيَمُرُّ بِهِ إِلَى مَلَكِ السَّمَاءِ السَّابِعَةِ فَيَقُولُ قِفْ وَ اضْرِبْ بِهَذَا الْعَمَلِ وَجْهَ صَاحِبِهِ أَنَا مَلَكُ الْحِجَابِ أَحْجُبُ كُلَّ عَمَلٍ لَيْسَ لِلَّهِ إِنَّهُ أَرَادَ رِفْعَةً عِنْدَ الْقُوَّادِ وَ ذِكْراً فِي الْمَجَالِسِ وَ صَوْتاً فِي الْمَدَائِنِ أَمَرَنِي رَبِّي أَنْ لَا أَدَعَ عَمَلَهُ يُجَاوِزُنِي إِلَى غَيْرِي مَا لَمْ يَكُنْ خَالِصا

Hadith #11: Prophet (p): in a lengthy narration, the Prophet explains how an angel carries up the acts of worship performed by the servants of Allah through the seven heavens where on each stage there is an angel who allows for the act to be carried on further or it is to be rejected. So in the initial levels you have an angel that checks if the act was done by a backbiter, if so, then the deed is returned back and not accepted. If it passes through that angel, then a later angel checks for whether the act was done by an arrogant person who also shows around his arrogance, then it goes through an angel that checks for conceit and then jealousy, and then even for those who show no mercy to others in this world.

Finally once it passes through all these angels, we come to the relevant portion for our episode today, where the Prophet continues and says, this angel continues to carry the act of worship and reaches the angel of the 7th heaven – the angel says: Stop and throw his deed back onto the face of the individual. I am the angel of veils, I veil and cover all deeds that were not performed solely for Allah and instead what this person wanted to achieve with this worship was to attain a position in the community, be remembered in the gatherings of people and wanted his name to be loudly mentioned in public places. My Lord has commanded me to not allow a deed to cross me to Him except if it is sincerely done for him.

According to this ḥadīth, we learn that not everyone’s act of worship even reach the 7th level. The deeds of many people will be rejected and sent back way before it reaches the 7th level – the deeds of those who are known as backbiters, those who are known for their arrogance and jealousy, or even those who are oppressive and show no mercy to others. All of their deeds will be sent back and not accepted. The only deed that will actually be accepted by Allah are by those whose deeds were not polluted by these vices.

If a person doesn’t have any of these vices, their deeds will be carried all the way to the 7th angel, but just because they didn’t maintain sincerity in their act, they did it to show off and to become famous, even then this deed will be thrown back on their face.

All these 7 angels have a similar role to play and that is to accept or reject the deed – they all have the ability to reject the acceptance of a deed. But the 7th angel is also different from the other 6 in one way. You see, in the first 6 levels, yes it’s true that the deeds of a backbiter or a conceited person may not be accepted by these angels, but this doesn’t mean the act of worship – in the realm of legality – wasn’t valid. To explain, let us say – God forbid – someone is a backbiter and they are known for this quality, you see if they pray 5 times a day, the prayers is valid. They don’t have to perform its qaḍā, they aren’t considered someone who abandons their Salat. But is their Salat accepted? According to this tradition, the Salat is not accepted as it doesn’t even cross the first angel.

There’s a difference between acceptance of one’s worship and the validity of one’s worship. As per all the previous traditions we’ve gone through so far, we’ve understood that sincerity is the very basic condition for the validity of our acts of worship. When it comes to acts of non-worship it perfects those acts, and if it is an act of worship it validates it and also is accepted by Allah (swt).

So if you look at the hadith of these 7 angels, we will come to the conclusion that when a backbiter or conceited person performs an act of worship, the act is valid, but they do not receive a reward for it since it is not accepted. However, they aren’t considered as someone who abandons the acts of worship either. But when it comes to someone who is insincere in their worship, then not only is the act not accepted, but rather it is also invalid, so of course they do not receive any reward for it. In addition, they are considered someone who abandons the acts of worship! Because they haven’t performed it to begin with.

In conclusion we can summarize our point as follows: Ikhlāṣ is the condition for the validity of our worship, but not being a backbiter or arrogant or merciless is not a condition for the legal validity of the act of worship, but rather those are conditions for the acceptance of the worship by Allah.

In the next episode we’ll read a ḥadīth from Imam Sadiq (a) who explains how a person who continuously maintains sincerity in their deeds, will be given protection from Allah on the Day of Judgement, when there will be no one else to give anyone any protection.

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