September 19, 2015
The best actions are those that benefit others. The Prophet (p) [emphasized] many acts of selflessness, like feeding others, bringing a smile to someone, going out of your way to help someone with their challenges… Many acts of worship that benefit others have more weight than acts that are solitary. A good deed ripples around you, and you may not know where it ends.
Islam has always placed a significant emphasis on acts of worship that benefit others. While solitary acts of worship are, no doubt, rewarded, the deeds that impact those other than yourself are given more weight. In fact, if you look through hadith where the Prophet (p) says what the best of actions are, many of them—if not most—focus on communal deeds. While spiritual seclusion (i’tikaf) is sometimes necessary, it can’t be our norm. Islam is not a monastic religion.
Prior to revelation, Prophet Muhammad (p) would seclude himself in the cave of Hira to contemplate creation and to be away from the idolatrous practices of his people. After revelation started, he did not return to Hira. Instead, he expended his efforts to not only call his people to Islam, but also to help people in his society. He was already known as Al-Ameen—the Trustworthy. But now he was An-Nabi—the Prophet. His message and his actions were one and the same.
Some of his sayings include:
- The most beloved dish according to Allah is that which most hands feed from.” [Ibn Hibban, Hasan]
- “The best of people are those who are best in fulfilling [rights].” [Ibn Majah, Sahih]
- The best of you is he from whom good is anticipated and safety from his evil is assured; the worst of you is he from whom nothing good is expected and one is not safe from his evil.” [Tirmidhi, Sahih]
- “The best of people are those that bring most benefit to the rest of mankind.” [Daraqutni, Hasan]
A good deed done to others have effects beyond yourself. That’s why we were encouraged to do them, even if it’s just greeting someone with a smile. That smile can brighten someone’s day, and their smile can reach others. We sometimes neglect the small gestures, thinking them to be trivial.
Umar ibn Al Khattab said that “Those who live with people are those who Allah has tested their hearts for taqwa (God consciousness).” When dealing with others, we must learn how to navigate many temperaments, egos, flaws and more. Dealing with others is a test, not only for how we react to them, but also how we act. It’s easy for Muslim minorities to play the victim card—racism, bigotry and oppression take many forms. But we are tested not only by how people treat us, but how we treat them.