Not Pursuing Personal Benefits
Striving purely in obedience to the Will of Allah, and not seeking self-interests are clear manifestations of sincere faith. A believer who is well aware that all favours are given to him by Allah and who accordingly offers sincere devotion to Him and fears Him, would surely never pursue minor personal profit while striving in Allah’s cause.
Seeking personal benefits from one’s services in the way of Allah can never tally with one’s faith. A person who is conscious of the existence of Allah and the Hereafter would definitely attach no importance to simple benefits and, at the behest of Allah, would never try to satisfy his own desires. Conversely, those who confine themselves to a world of minor interests, ideas and thoughts only degrade themselves.
The Qur’an repeatedly reminds believers not to seek any personal benefits in service rendered for the cause of Allah. All the prophets referred to in the Qur’an communicated the message of Allah without asking for any reward in return. Some of the verses extolling this virtue of the messengers are as follows:
To the ‘Ad People We sent Hud, one of their own brethren. He said: “O my people! worship Allah! you have no other god but Him. Your other gods are mere inventions. “O my people! I ask of you no reward for this message. My reward can be from none but my Creator. Will you not then understand?” (Hud, 50-51)
As the verses suggest, no worldly gain is aimed at in the struggle made for the cause of Allah. A believer does not aim to have a lot of money or attain great status or appreciation of other people—also considered as worldly gain—in return for his services to Allah. The only end is approval of Allah. However, provided that Allah wills, He grants victory, relief and favours to believers in this world.
Consequently, the value of the services rendered for the cause of Allah depends not on the appreciation of people but on the intention, namely the will to earn the pleasure of Allah. All through their lives, messengers unceasingly communicated the message of Allah to their people. There have been many messengers who were neither appraised nor obeyed, but rather opposed. However, this is, by no means, a “failure” on their part. In the Qur’anic sense, success is actually not to impress people but to earn the pleasure of Allah. A believer is responsible for praying, building up his consciousness of Allah through reflection, and being a servant to Him. The decision on victory, on the other hand, rests with Allah. A believer should fulfill his own duty and not question what is destined for Him.
Those who follow the good pleasure of Allah ceaselessly worship Him. Believers are fully aware that this world has an alluring, yet deceptive nature. That is why, money, luxury cars, opulent houses, jewels, precious stones, prestige and status never impress them. This is in accordance with Allah’s commands in the Qur’an:
And keep your soul content with those who call on their Lord morning and evening, seeking His pleasure. Do not let your eyes pass beyond them, seeking the pomp and glitter of this Life; nor obey any whose heart We have permitted to neglect the remembrance of Us, one who follows his own desires, whose case has gone beyond all bounds. (Al-Kahf, 28)
One point is important here: in one’s approach to religion, one should ask, “what other services can I perform to earn the pleasure of Allah?” rather than “how can I benefit from religion?” The latter approach would indicate sheer insincerity. In the Qur’an, those assuming such a cunning attitude are defined as hypocrites. These are the people who pretend to be faithful and simply make use of religion to satisfy their selfish ambitions. Actually, they are the type of people who deserve the fire and severe punishment in the hereafter. In the Qur’an, Allah gives an account of their case:
They declare: “We believe in Allah and in the messenger, and we obey.” but no sooner do they utter these words than some of them turn away: they are not (really) believers. When they are summoned to Allah and His messenger, in order that He may judge between them, behold some of them decline (to come). Had right been on their side, they would have come to him in all submission. (Al-Noor, 47-49)
As is apparent from the verse, hypocrites do admit to belief if there is anything to their interest but later retract. These people may look like devoted believers for some time, but, as the Qur’an puts it, they are actually those who “lay their foundation on an undermined cliff ready to crumble to pieces.”
Which then is better? - one who laid his foundation on piety to Allah and His good pleasure? - or one who laid his foundation on an undermined sand-cliff ready to crumble to pieces? and it did crumble to pieces with him, into the fire of Hell. And Allah does not guide people who do wrong. (At-Tawba, 109)
There are numerous other verses in the Qur’an which stress the significance of gaining the pleasure of Allah:
Is the man who follows the good pleasure of Allah like the man who draws on himself the wrath of Allah, and whose abode is in Hell?- A woeful refuge! (Al-Imran, 162)
A believer’s ultimate purpose is to earn the good pleasure of Allah and to attain heaven.
Therefore while referring to the believers, Allah says: “Indeed, We chose them for a special purpose—proclaiming the Message of the Hereafter.” (Sad, 46) Indeed, remembrance of the hereafter is the essential attribute of a believer.
The real grace and favours that a believer would like to attain exist in the hereafter. This world is a temporary residence for believers; more importantly, the blessings of this world are inherently limited and temporary. With these features, this world actually offers an incomplete example of the hereafter. It is indeed created as a reminder of the hereafter.
Fair in the eyes of men are the love of things they covet: women and sons; heaped-up hoards of gold and silver; horses branded (for blood and excellence); and wealth in cattle and well-tilled land. Such are the possessions of this world’s life; but in nearness to Allah is the best of goals. (Al-E-Imran, 14)
A believer takes the benefit of the goods and favours of this life. But in the course of doing so, he keeps himself occupied with the remembrance of Allah and the hereafter, and never forgets his real purpose in life. Allah warns believers against the alluring nature of the things in this world:
Say: If it be that your fathers, your sons, your brothers, your mates, or your kindred; the wealth that you have gained; the commerce in which you fear a decline: or the dwellings in which you delight - are dearer to you than Allah, or His Messenger, or the striving in His cause; then wait until Allah shall fulfil His decree. Allah does not guide the rebellious. (Al-Tawba, 24)
In the Surat al-Jumua, Allah informs us about an attitude believers should avoid:
No sooner do they see some bargain or some amusement, than they disperse headlong to it, and leave you (the prophet) standing. Say: “The (blessing) from the Presence of Allah is better than any amusement or bargain! and Allah is the Best to provide (for all needs).” (Al-Jumua, 11)