The most important issue to pay heed to when serving religion is sincerity. It is known that “sincerity” means asking only the good pleasure of Allah in every deed, and not including anything else within that intention. For instance, rendering a service to make people say one is “very devout”, “very hard working” or “very diligent” does serious harm to sincerity. Or if the person concerned adds other purposes besides gaining the pleasure of Allah, such as showing his intelligence to others, being appreciated or putting himself ahead of others, this may prevent that service from being rendered with pure intentions. Expecting a return from efforts exerted for Islam, anticipating appreciation or praise, desiring one’s service to be known by everyone, or putting other Muslims under obligation are totally wrong. Such things do considerable damage to sincerity. In many verses of the Qur’an, it is stated that believers have sincerity in their faith. One of these verses says:
Say: “I am commanded to worship Allah, making my religion sincerely His.” (Surat az-Zumar: 11)
If a person knows Allah will be pleased with his service and efforts, and that this service will significantly benefit Islam, then there is no need for him to strive to be appreciated. It is sufficient for the believer that only Allah knows and appreciates what he does. This makes the person more excited and draws him closer to Allah. The reason is that this person is aware that by this deed he simply and sincerely intends the pleasure of Allah, without adding the pleasure of people or any other purpose.
Besides, because each one of the services rendered by believers has a separate value, behaviour such as differentiating between services done, disfavoring a certain responsibility, and seeing other believers as rivals to attain a certain responsibility are also among those elements that may damage sincerity. Therefore one should seek refuge with Allah and attach importance to sincerity in every deed. The measure for the believer should always be solely the pleasure and mercy of Allah, and His Paradise. In all the services the heart should be tied only to Allah, and the pleasure of Allah should be considered the greatest return of all.
Besides, one should not forget that what is important is not the size of the work, its nature or status in the eyes of people; but that it be rendered with sincerity. Moreover characterizing an effort as big or small is a reflection of worldly values. Only Allah knows which efforts are great or small, because it is the intention of the person who renders it that makes an effort great or small. If a piece of work is done with sincerity, it has value in the sight of Allah, no matter what it is. Allah informs us of this fact:
Nor will they give away any amount, whether large or small, nor will they cross any valley, without it being written down for them so that Allah can recompense them for the best of what they did. (Surat at-Tawba: 121)
In this case, believers should only attach importance to their intentions. In another verse, Allah reveals that it is not the kind of work done, but the intention behind it that is notable:
Their flesh and blood does not reach Allah but your devotion does reach Him. (Surat al-Hajj: 37)
Allah has also informed us of the status of deeds done without sincerity, and has revealed in the following verse that demanding gratitude in return for a good deed will nullify it:
You who believe! Do not nullify your acts of charity (sadaqa) by demands for gratitude or insulting words, like him who spends his wealth, showing off to people and not believing in Allah and the Last Day. His likeness is that of a smooth rock coated with soil, which, when heavy rain falls on it, is left stripped bare. They have no power over anything they have earned. Allah does not guide disbelievers. (Surat al-Baqara: 264)
Satan Tries to Prevent Voluntary Services
Obviously, the biggest enemy of voluntary services rendered by believers in the cause of Islam is Satan. We know that when he was driven out from Allah’s presence, he promised to lie in ambush for believers on Allah’s straight path, and to come at them from in front and behind, and from right and left. Throughout history, Satan and his supporters have done their best to make people stray from the path of righteousness.
In accordance with this task, Satan wants to hinder every kind of action and service that might benefit the religion of Allah. He strives to discourage Muslims in their services, inculcating in them a love of this world, damaging their sincerity, making them rivals to each other, pushing them to expectations of self-interest and leading them to expect peoples’ pleasure. Or he may try to make believers lose their enthusiasm by whispering insidiously into their hearts, and attempt to make them slacken. He whispers various groundless worries and misgivings, and attempts to make them believe these insidious words.
Therefore, believers struggling in the way of Allah should be on their guard against these whisperings from Satan. When any slackness during the performance of a service, any loss of enthusiasm because of a feeling of competition, or any other factor that might slow down the effort arise, that person should seek refuge in Allah against Satan. Besides, one should never forget that Satan has no power over truly sincere believers, since believers have the inner sight and understanding to ward off any whispering or tempting from Satan. And they never abide by anything they know to be from him.
As we have mentioned above, the behavior of someone who performs voluntary services is an indication of his full and correct comprehension of the Qur’an. Someone who strives for Allah’s way with true sincerity shows that he has actually given up the world, has belief in the Hereafter, and measured Allah with His true measure. Otherwise, one could not render service with such steadiness and enthusiasm. What makes believers eager to render service and allows them to achieve success in their efforts is their trust in and submission to Allah. Believers are aware that Allah is always with them and witnesses all their deeds. They also know that Allah has promised He will repay those who do good with the very best, and that Allah’s promise is absolutely certain. Therefore, they turn only to Allah in every deed.