In the Name of God, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful
There is a very interesting story of one man who lived in the generation after the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) named Abu Nasr As-Sayyad, He was a fisherman that had very little money and his family were starving because of the lack of food. So Abu Nasr went to Ahmad bin Miskin and asked him what he should do, explaining that he really needs to feed his family. His Sheikh tells him to pray two rakaats to Allah (SWT) and to go to the ocean.
When he is there, he catches a huge fish which he then sells and later buys two plates of food for his family.
He goes back to Sheikh to give him thanks and offers one of the plates. Ahmad bin Miskeen says something very important, “O Abu Nasr As-Sayyad, had I helped you for the sake of getting any worldly benefit, the fish would have never come out, Allah (SWT) would never have put barakah in my advice and in your day. Go and feed your family”.
On his way home, he passes by a widowed woman with her child, out on the streets. They are both hungry and their eyes catch the plates of food that Abu Nasr has. Abu Nasr said, “I swear by Allah, I forgot about the hunger of my family. And I felt like Paradise came down to Earth offering herself to whoever would feed that mother and her child”. He gives them the food and returns home.
Abu Nasr goes home and he starts feeling worried and concerned about his family that are still left hungry. Suddenly there comes a knock at the door and someone yells out “Where is Abu Nasr As-Sayyad? I have come to repay my loan, I borrowed money from your father 20 years ago and I’ve been looking for him.They told me he has passed and you are the only remaining son. Here is your money back”. That night, Abu Nasr As-Sayyad becomes extremely wealthy.
After this, Abu Nasr starts donating thousands of dirhams in charity in a bid to thank Allah (SWT). However Abu Nasr says that during this time, there arose a problem. He became over confident in his good deeds and he felt like Allah (SWT) will accept them all so he started being extravagant and showing off in his donations. This meant giving more in quantity just for the people to see how rich he is and to make himself look great and merciful yet he Abu Nasr could feel in his heart, he wasn’t being sincere.
Abu Nasr had a dream one night. Yawm-ul-Qiyamah (The Day of Judgement) had begun and he was there before his scales of deeds in front of Allah (SWT) just like all the other people who had gone in masses before his turn. When it came to the weighing of his deeds, he had some bad ones but Abu Nasr was hopeful that the massive amount of charity he gave would save him. This sadaqah was put on in the scale of good deeds.
It weighed nothing. This charity had no value and no barakah. All of this came to zero because it was mixed with corrupt intentions, the intention of showing off (Riya) and it was done for the people to see and not for the true sake of Allah (SWT). Abu Nasr was left standing there in hopelessness, regret and in disappointment.
Then the Angels started asking, “Does he have anything remaining?”
They bring the two plates of food, all the way from the beginning that he gave to the starving mother and son, over his own hungry family in a merciful act of kindness. Abu Nasr cries, “What will these do for me?”
The two plates of food balance out the scales but he still needs more hasanat (good deeds).
By the will of Allah (SWT), the mother that he gave the plates of food to, her tears turn into physical objects. As does the smile on the baby’s face when the pain of his hunger was overcome. And these are put on Abu Nasr’s scales of deeds, on the side of the hasanat and the tears become like a big pond out of which a giant fish comes out and tips the scales completely. The Angels proclaim, “He made it, he made it’.
This dream startles Abu Nasr and when he wakes up, he says, “Had we done any of these deeds for any worldly benefit, the fish would never have come out”. He had learnt his lesson in what it means to do things for the sake of Allah (SWT) and the heavy price of impure intent.
The story of Abu Nasr contains an important lesson of the virtue of sincerity- something that we collectively have forgotten about whilst also distorting its meaning. Countless times, I’m sure that we have been told to, “Do things for the sake of Allah” and that, “Everything you do is for Allah”. But in all practicality what does that mean? Does it mean to turn to Allah with a lengthy intention (Niyah) before doing a good deed? There is that line of confusion in all of us when we are told these things but we know that within ourselves, Allah (SWT) is not at the forefront of our minds when we do good deeds, rather we are immediately thinking of how it positively affects another person. As an example, if you give money to a homeless person purely because you want them to have a meal that night or if you helped out with things at home because you knew your mother was tired, if these things were not done to please Allah but rather to please someone else, is this still considered for the sake of Allah?
Because to do things for the sake of Allah (SWT) is to do them with a pure heart, with clean intentions. When Abu Nasr gave the food to the starving woman and her child, he wasn’t seeking validation or praise from anyone, he did it purely for the reason he did not want them to go hungry or to die. This clarity in intention is what saved him in the end for just these two plates of food, the mother’s tears and the child’s smile laid heavy on his scales. This is what counted as for the sake of Allah (SWT). But all those later times he gave charity in abundance (which seems an amazing good deed) could not suffice for his salvation because of the state of mind and heart he had and that was for the people’s eyes and acclamation.
A great notion lies in this story because in our time, the youth now have social media and a greater desire for attention and validation. It is not honorary for us as Muslim youth to engage in premeditated acts of kindness for likes, views or praise. Our good deeds must be sincere, our love for others must be pure and whatever generosity or kindness that we show, must reflect a clean heart. If you look for fame and commendation from people for what you have done, you may gain it in this life but your hereafter will be reduced to nothing. To make Jannah our resting place, we need to cleanse our soul of the thoughts of which can hinder our path.
True reward is only from Allah.