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 29 – Protecting a Good Deed is More Difficult than Performing it
عِدَّةٌ مِنْ أَصْحَابِنَا عَنْ سَهْلِ بْنِ زِيَادٍ عَنْ عَلِيِّ بْنِ أَسْبَاطٍ عَنْ بَعْضِ أَصْحَابِهِ عَنْ أَبِي جَعْفَرٍ ع أَنَّهُ قَالَ: الْإِبْقَاءُ عَلَى الْعَمَلِ أَشَدُّ مِنَ الْعَمَلِ قَالَ وَ مَا الْإِبْقَاءُ عَلَى الْعَمَلِ قَالَ يَصِلُ الرَّجُلُ بِصِلَةٍ وَ يُنْفِقُ نَفَقَةً لِلَّهِ وَحْدَهُ لَا شَرِيكَ لَهُ فَكُتِبَ لَهُ سِرّاً ثُمَّ يَذْكُرُهَا وَ تُمْحَى فَتُكْتَبُ لَهُ عَلَانِيَةً ثُمَّ يَذْكُرُهَا فَتُمْحَى- وَ تُكْتَبُ لَهُ رِيَاء
Hadith #28: Imam Baqir (a) says: “Remaining steadfast on an act is more difficult than performing it.” He (a) was asked, “what does it mean to remain steadfast on an act?”. He (a) replied: “That a person does good to his relatives, and spends financially solely for Allah (swt), without associating any partners with Him. In this case, this deed is written down for him as a hidden good deed, but then if the person makes it publicly known, this deed is erased from the records and written as a good deed that was publicly announced, but then if the person mentions it again, the deed is erased and riyā’ is written down for him.”
This episode may sound similar to episode 6, but it is in fact slightly different. In episode 6 we spoke about how keeping an act pure is more difficult than performing it, and in that episode we were primarily speaking about a person’s intentions while they are in the process of performing an act.
In our episode today, what the Imam (a) means here is that keeping an act sincere even after you have performed it and completed it, is not that easy, it is more difficult than the initial performance of that act. That’s because a person may have initially performed the act sincerely, in that exact moment they may have expelled the love of wealth or fame and popularity out of their heart, and done the act sincerely, that is easier to do.
What is difficult is to now make sure this act remains untarnished by insincere intentions and remarks.
Consider someone does a good deed sincerely, without making a public scene out of it – but after doing so, it is a lot more difficult now to keep this act in your heart, just between you and Allah (swt). That’s because temptations will always surround you, Shaytan will always try to make you fall, and these thoughts and temptations will make you want to express and tell people about the good deeds you’ve done. This is the struggle the narration is speaking about, this struggle lasts everyday, even once the act is done. It’s a struggle of the heart and at times it can become so difficult that a person may slip up at the end.
The narration says, that if this does happen, the good deed which was initially written down as a hidden good deed, that’s erased and its re-written as a publicly announced good deed, whose value is less by 70-degrees than the hidden good deed – as we will also see in the next episode. But the narration goes on to say that if this person mentions this same good deed again to people, then at that point the deed is erased from his record of good deeds, and written down in the record of bad deeds and that’s why it is written down as riyā’ – an act of show off.
This narration shows us that riyā’ is not something restricted to just the time when a person is about to begin an act or while he is busy engaged in an act, but rather it can pollute and invalidate some acts, or at least it can cause them to be rejected by Allah (swt) even once the act is complete.
In the next episode, a tradition from Imam Riḍā (a) will show us how keeping good deeds concealed and hidden is of a higher value than deeds which are done publicly in front of people, and likewise evil deeds which are done in front of people publicly are far worse than evil deeds done out of sight of the public.
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Sayyid Ali studied in the seminary of Qom from 2012 to 2021, while also concurrently obtaining a M.A in Islamic Studies from the Islamic College of London in 2018. In the seminary he engaged in the study of legal theory, jurisprudence and philosophy, eventually attending the advanced kharij of Usul and Fiqh in 2018. He is currently completing his Masters of Education at the University of Toronto and is the head of a private faith-based school in Toronto, as well as an instructor at the Mizan Institute and Mufid Seminary.