Acceptability in the Sight of Allah: A Criterion
Ayah 125 lays down a criterion to help determine correctly as to who is acceptable in the sight of Allah, and who is not. This criterion has two components. Any shortfall in either of the two components makes all efforts go waste. Whenever one deviates from the right path it’s triggered because of a shortfall in one of these two components – any deviation from either is bound to land one in disgrace.
وَمَنْ أَحْسَنُ دِيناً مِمَّنْ أَسْلَمَ وَجْهَهُ لله وَهُوَ مُحْسِنٌ واتَّبَعَ مِلَّةَ إِبْرَهِيمَ حَنِيفاً وَاتَّخَذَ اللَّهُ إِبْرَهِيمَ خَلِيلاً
“And who is better in religion than he who submits his face to Allah and he is a good doer and follows the religion of Ibraheem – the upright? And Allah took Ibraheem as a friend.”
Submitting face to Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala means performing good actions in sincerity to Him and awaiting reward solely from Him alone.
Muhsin is the one who follows correct guidance that Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala legislated in the religion of truth which He sent His Messenger with.
The ayah tells us that there can be no way better than the way of the person who is an embodiment of two virtues:
Firstly, “surrenders his or her self to Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala” i.e. acts for His pleasure will all sincerity at one’s command without ever contaminating one’s deeds with hypocritical or materialistic motives.
Secondly, “and is good in deeds”; meaning the way in which one acts should also be correct. According to ibn Katheer, the way in which one acts, the correct way, means that it will not be some self-invented way. On the contrary, this will have to be the unalloyed way of Islam as based on the injunctions of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala and the teachings of His Messenger.
Thus, we can see that there are two conditions for any deed to be acceptable. These are sincerity of intention and soundness of action i.e. being in according with the Shari’ah and Sunnah. The first of the two conditions ihklas relates to the heart, the inner most human dimension. The second condition, the compatibility with Shari’ah relates to the human exterior. Whoever fulfills both these conditions finds his or her exterior and interior perfectly synchronized. But, the moment one of the two conditions is found missing, that which is done becomes imperfect and unsound. The loss of sincerity makes one hypocrite in practice while the failure in following the Shari’ah makes one go astray.