Sometime in 1998, when I first attended the Annual General Meeting of an Islamic NGO (RICOI), I was introduced to a Chinese-Muslim who a week later approached me in my office suggesting that I team up with him to carry out da’awah (missionary) work on our own and that I should forget about that Islamic NGO as such organizations hinder one from carrying out real and effective da’awah because of its structure and rigidity. I ignored his suggestion and in fact found it odd that someone who barely knew me and had recently met me at a function of an NGO should so shortly thereafter suggest that I should abandon that NGO.
Later, I asked around and was informed that this Chinese-Muslim had two wives and whilst carrying out da’awah work failed to cater to the needs or provide for both his families and frequently asked for monetary donations from others.
What do we make of such a person who ignores the needs of his family but ventures out daily to preach to others? Does not the maxim “Charity begins at home” apply in this case? What good does all his preaching do if he first fails to tend to the needs at home? Will God reward him for all the preaching he does when he fails to fulfil his responsibilities? I think the answers to these questions are obvious to anyone.
What exactly did this person fail in? He was performing creditable work in preaching to others but he failed in his primary duty to first “perform charity at home”, and in that way, as far as his own person was concerned, nullified all the good he was doing in preaching.
Why do I relate all this?
I do so because there is a fairly common perception amongst many that so long as one does good, one is fine so far as the Hereafter and one’s Creator is concerned---that it does not matter whether one relates to God and fulfils His commands and wishes, so long as one does good. In such a case is not then failing to heed God’s messages and wishes and merely contenting oneself with doing good works analogous to the instance of that Chinese-Muslim who also did good but ignored his family? Is not God owed more than any of us can ever owe our family? Has he not given us life and everything that we have or own? Do we not owe everything to him---our sight, our hearing, our ability to reason, our sustenance, the air we breathe, the water we drink---in short, everything?
So often I have heard it being asked, “But what of good people like Mother Teresa who dedicated her life for the poor and downtrodden? Her faith may not have been right but she did so much good”.
My answer will be that we would be no different from that Chinese-Muslim who by neglecting “Charity at home” nullified all his good works. Mother Teresa nullified all her good works by failing to do “charity at home” by ignoring Gods’ signs and messages and instead committed the one unforgivable sin in giving partners to Him.
In Surah Az Zumar verse 65 (39:65) Allah swt tells us:
“But it has already been revealed to thee, as it was to those before thee― "If thou wert to join (gods with Allah), truly fruitless will be thy work (in life), and thou wilt surely be in the ranks of those who lose (all spiritual good)."
How is it right or possible for us to ignore Him (to whom we owe everything) and assign partners to Him? How is it right to content ourselves with just doing good to others and ignore Him? Do we not then, in a manner of speaking, fail to do “charity at home” just like that Chinese-Muslim?
What does God tell us about persons who merely do good but otherwise ignore or fail to heed God’s signs and messages?
In Surah Al Kahf verses 103-107 (18:103-107) of the Holy Qur’an God makes the position abundantly clear. He tells us:
“Say: ‘Shall we tell you of those who lose most in respect of their deeds?(103)
‘Those whose efforts have been wasted in this life while they thought that they were acquiring good by their works?’ (104)
They are those who deny the Signs of their Lord and the fact of their having to meet Him (in the Hereafter): vain will be their works, nor shall We on the Day of Judgment, give them any Weight. (105)
That is their reward, Hell; because they rejected Faith, and took My Signs and My Messengers by way of jest. “(106)
In Surah Ibrahim verse 18 (14:18) Allah swt tells us:
The parable of those who reject their Lord is that their works are as ashes, on which the wind blows furiously on a tempestuous day: No power have they over aught that they have earned: That is the straying far, far (from the goal). (18)
Many will contend that they do not deny having to meet God in time to come and do not reject Him and therefore do not come within the ambit of those verses. If we examine the conduct of some of them however, it will not be far-fetched to arrive at the conclusion that when they espouse that they believe in their meeting with God and do accept Him, it is only words that their lips speak but not their ‘heart’ and therefore they do not truly believe.
How is it possible for one who says he believes in the meeting with God when he shall have to account to God for all his actions and inactions and accepts God to nonetheless live a life ignoring God’s commands, signs and messages? Does it not then smack of a person who is hypocritical who says one thing but does another? Does not action speak louder than words? Is it not analogous to a person who professes aloud that he certainly believes in the path to safety or salvation but nonetheless blissfully and without regret keeps walking towards the pit of fire?
To those who believe that merely doing good works without due acknowledgment to one’s Creator in the form of heeding His messages, it is plain that Satan has in fact deceived them into believing that good works alone do suffice and that one need not have faith. Having faith does not mean one merely professes it but means to live one’s life in accordance with such faith.