Of the most important things that Muslims are to be concerned with after offering any act of obedience is whether it has been accepted or not. A person’s being enabled to offer an act of obedience is principally a great blessing in itself, but in order for this blessing to be complete it is to be coupled with a far greater blessing, that is, acceptance on part of Almighty Allah. This is clearly apparent in the case of performing Hajj. Pilgrims exert exhausting efforts while offering the rituals of Hajj; what a loss would it be if their pilgrimage was not accepted!
When people’s supposed-to-be good deeds are not accepted, their loss in this world and the Hereafter is manifest! Being aware that there are many reasons for acts of obedience being rendered unacceptable, people become increasingly concerned with knowing the means by which they can get their acts of obedience accepted. Those who find themselves able to attain these means are to praise Almighty Allah for this, and earnestly seek to remain steadfast in fulfilling them. On the other hand, those who have failed to have their deeds accepted are to give priority from now on to sincerely doing their best to attain the means to do so.
The following are among the means that may render your acts of obedience acceptable:
Belittle the deeds that you offer and do not take pride in being able to do them. However many acts of obedience you may be able to offer, view them always as unequal to the ample blessings that Almighty Allah bestows on you. You will never be able to express the gratitude that befits the blessings and bounties Almighty Allah confers on people, nor will you be able to observe all the duties that you owe to Almighty Allah. That is why it is a characteristic of pious worshipers to always belittle their acts of obedience and regard them as nothing, lest they may admire what they do and take pride in it and thus have their deeds rendered unacceptable.
In order to develop this characteristic in yourself, seek to deeply know Almighty Allah, praise Him Most High for the abundant blessings that He bestows on you, and always remember the sins that you commit and the shortcomings of your acts.
Contemplate the words that Almighty Allah directs to His Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him): [O thou enveloped in thy cloak, arise and warn! Thy Lord magnify, thy raiment purify, and all abomination shun! Nor expect, in giving, any increase (for thyself)!] (Al-Mudathir 74:1-6). Explaining the last verse, Al-Hassan Al-Basri, an eminent scholar, said that it warns the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) against regarding what he offered of acts to Almighty Allah as great and ample.
Always be concerned about whether the acts that you offer will be accepted or not. Righteous predecessors, knowing that they would return to their Lord, used to be very afraid that the good deeds they offered in this world might not be accepted.
Allah Almighty says: [And those who give that which they give with hearts afraid because they are about to return unto their Lord, these race for the good things, and they shall win them in the race] (Al-Mu’minun 23:60–61).
The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said that the reference in this verse is to those pious persons who pray, fast, and give charity, and yet are extremely afraid that these acts may not be accepted from them.
`Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) was reported to have said “Be concerned about the acceptance of a deed more than you are concerned about the deed itself. Do you not meditate upon Allah’s words: [Allah accepteth only from those who are righteous] (Al-Ma’idah 5:27)?”
Simultaneously, hope that Almighty Allah accepts your deeds. You should combine in yout heart both fear and hope. Experiencing only fear in this respect may lead you to despair of Allah’s mercy; while anticipating that Almighty Allah will accept your deeds without experiencing any fear of the contrary, may lead you to be overconfident that you can escape Allah’s punishment. These are negative and undesirable qualities for a true believer to have.
In fact, combining both fear and hope makes the believers modest and increases their faith and submission to Almighty Allah. The believers’ hope here is represented in their humbly beseeching Almighty Allah to accept their deeds, for it is He alone Who can render their deeds acceptable. Prophet Ibrahim and his son Prophet Isma`il (peace and blessings be upon both of them) would pray Almighty Allah to accept their deeds. This is referred to in Almighty Allah’s words: [And when Abraham and Ishmael were raising the foundations of the House, (Abraham prayed): Our Lord! Accept from us (this duty). Lo! Thou, only Thou, art the Hearer, the Knower] (Al-Baqarah 2:127).
Ask Allah for forgiveness every now and then. However earnest you may be in doing your best in offering acts of obedience, there will always be something missing, for no one is perfect. Hence, Almighty Allah directs His worshipers to compensate for this inevitable shortcoming by always beseeching Him to forgive them after offering acts of worship. That is why He Most High says after mentioning the rituals of Hajj [Then pass on at a quick pace from the place whence it is usual for the multitude so to do, and ask for Allah’s forgiveness. For Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful] (Al-Baqarah 2:199).
Almighty Allah also ordered Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) to conclude his life—which was full of acts of worship and striving in His cause—with asking Him Most High for forgiveness. This is referred to in the following verse: [When comes the Help of Allah, and Victory, and thou dost see the People enter Allah’s Religion in crowds, celebrate the Praises of thy Lord, and pray for His Forgiveness: for He is Oft-Returning (in Grace and Mercy)] (An-Nasr 110:1–3).
Seek to offer as many good deeds as you can. Good deeds are like a tree that needs watering and care so that it bears fruits. It is a sign of your good deed being accepted that you offer extra good deeds. In fact, it is a great bounty from Almighty Allah that He enables a person to offer further good deeds. This is Allah’s way of drawing a person closer to Him Most High.
It benefits the believers to know some examples set by the Prophet’s Companions in this regard, and to know also the significance and merit of regular observance of good deeds, as well as the benefits and rewards they may get in this connection.
Examples of the Companions
It was reported that `A’ishah, Mother of the Believers (may Allah be pleased with her), would offer eight rak`ahs of Duha Prayer. She (may Allah be pleased with her) would say, “(even) if I had been threatened to be killed unless I gave up offering Duha Prayer, I would never have abandoned it” (Malik; regarded as authentic by Sheikh Al-Albani).
Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him) reported that at the time of the Fajr Prayer the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) asked Bilal, “Tell me of the best deed you did for which you hope to receive good reward after embracing Islam, for I heard the sound of your footsteps in front of me in Paradise.” Bilal replied, “I did not do anything worth mentioning except that whenever I performed ablution during the day or night, I would pray after that ablution as much as was decreed for me (to pray)” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim).
It was also reported that `Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) said that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) came to his house when he and his wife Fatimah had gone to bed. `Ali said: The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) put his feet between me and her till I felt the coldness of his feet on my abdomen. He (peace and blessings be upon him) then taught us what to say on going to bed: “Subhan Allah (Glory be to Allah) thirty-three times, Al-hamdu lillah (Praise be to Allah) thirty-three times, and Allahu Akbar (Allah is the Greatest) thirty-four times.” `Ali added, “I have never failed to say so ever since.” Somebody asked him, “Even on the night of the battle of Siffin?” `Ali answered, “No, even on the night of the Battle of Siffin” (Al-Hakim). Mind that `Ali did not give up saying this dhikr even in the midst of battles, let alone peace time.
The Significance and Merit of Regular Voluntary Acts of Worship
It is of a paramount importance for worshipers to keep observing good deeds regularly for several reasons:
It is a sunnah of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) also to offer voluntary acts of obedience regularly. `A’ishah (may Allah be pleased with her) reported: When the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) would offer an act of obedience, he would keep doing it regularly (Muslim).
Regular acts of obedience are the most beloved acts to Almighty Allah and His Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him). The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “The most beloved deed to Almighty Allah is the most constant even though it were little.”
It is desirable for those who have missed a voluntary act of worship that they offer regularly to make it up. This asserts the significance of the regular observance of acts of obedience.