Know your priorities and how to keep them straight

Islam Contributor

Sheikh Ahmad Ibn Ataa’ullah a famous scholar from Sakandar said in his well-known book, Al-Hikam:

“The sign of following one’s whims is to be lazy with required obligations while being active with optional good deeds”

The first step in our journey to Allah requires sound knowledge and deep understanding. The Prophet(peace be upon him) said:

“If Allah wishes good for someone, He grants him knowledge (fiqh) of faith”. (Al-Bukhari)

In principle, Fiqh means the full comprehension and deep understanding of Islamic law and its different rulings. This deep understanding of Islamic law is very important towards journey to Allah.

How does Law of Priorities work?

In Islamic law, there are two important terms called principals and secondary issues. Principals have priority over secondary issues. There are two kinds of worship. One is required obligations and another is optional good deeds. Obligations have priority over optional good deeds.

There are two kinds of sin in Islam. Major and minor. Major sins have priority over minor sins in terms of avoiding them.

The action of heart is more important than the action of other organs of the body. And thus the action of heart have higher priority than action of other organs of the body. The sins committed by heart is more dangerous than the sins committed by the other organs. And so on.

One should be aware of these differences and their implications. Otherwise, it will be said that he is following his whims and he has not gained proper understanding of the Islamic law. Without the knowledge of priorities, one will be following the outward appearances and not the essence of faith.

Hajj or Mosque decorations, is it required?

For example, if you have some money by which you can either perform Hajj or help in improving or beautifying the building of a mosque. A proper understanding of priorities entails that you perform Hajj first.

Hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam and thus an obligation. So, it has to be performed first. On the other hand, improving or beautifying the building of a mosque is an optional good deeds and in fact it is not so necessary. If you give priority to the optional deeds over the principle obligations then, the according to the Sheikh’s saying, you will be following your whims; but not the right path.

However, if this money is needed for medication for your elderly mother, then you should spend this money on her and delay the performance of Hajj.

Taking care of your elderly mother is an immediate obligation. But Hajj is an obligation that could be delayed. If you do the opposite, then this is a sign of following whims but not the right path.

We have both obligatory and optional prayer

Another example can be given. If you have a little time either to perform the obligatory prayer on time or perform the two rak`ah of greeting the mosque. In this situation if you perform the optional prayer, you will miss the obligatory one. Then what should you perform first?

The answer is straightforward. You have to perform the obligatory prayer first. If you first perform the prayer for greeting to the mosque and thus you miss the obligatory prayer, this is a sign of misunderstanding and following whims.

Unfortunately, many people in our society are keen on performing optional good deeds and especially ritual formalities. But they are careless with basic obligations of the faith. Thus they are not in the right path; but they are following whims.

How to Truly Follow the Prophet (peace be upon him)

Now a days, we find some peoplein our societies and communities who claim that they follow the Prophet’s way of life. (i.e. his outward appearance, his way of

dressing, his way of sitting, the color of his clothes, etc.) Yet, you find the very same people misbehaving with their parents, using corruption as means to make fortunes, misusing the public resources or backbiting other people.

In other words, they are fulfilling the outwards looks but miss the obligations.

There is another example of following whims. You may find some people who may not perform the obligatory prayers, but they perform the Eid prayer even under the most difficult circumstances. Though the Eid prayer is optional.

We often hear a hadith in which Allah speaks about optional good deeds.

“And my servant continues to draw near to Me with optional works so that I shall love him. When I love him I am his hearing with which he hears, his seeing with which he sees, his hand with which he strikes and his foot with which he walks”. (Al-Bukhari)

But we forget that “And my servant” is not the beginning of that hadith. The beginning of the hadith in all of its different narrations goes like that:

“My servant draws not near to Me with anything more loved by Me than the duties I have enjoined upon him.”

If we perform the obligations such as five daily prayers, zakah, fasting and Hajj, giving up sins, being kind to parents, treating the old gently and so on, we shall enter Paradise InshaAllah.

Path to Paradise

Remember that moment when the Prophet (peace be upon him) was asked about Islam. He did not begin with the formalities or outward looks. A rural people came to the Prophet and said, “O messenger of Allah! Inform me what Allah has made compulsory for me as regards prayers.”

The Prophet replied, “You have to offer perfectly the five obligatory prayers in a day and night, unless you want to pray optional prayer“.

The rural people further asked, “Inform me what Allah has made compulsory for me as regards fasting.”

The Prophet replied, “You have to fast during the whole month of Ramadan, unless you want to fast more as optional fasting.”

The rural people further asked, “Tell me how much zakah Allah has enjoined on me.”

Thus, the Prophet informed him about all the fundamentals of Islam.

The rural people then said, “By Him Who has honored you, I will neither perform any optional deeds nor will I decrease what Allah has made compulsory for me.

After listening this The Prophet said, “If he is saying the truth, he will succeed and will be granted Paradise”. (Al-Bukhari)

The Prophet’s last words in this hadith imply that if we are sincere with Allah in performing the obligations without ever performing the optional deeds, we will be succeed and be granted Paradise.

We pray to Allah to grant us correct understanding and sound knowledge so that we can journey to Him in the most guided way.