The history tells that all deviant groups of people either lacked sincerity or didn’t act right. These two groups have been identified in Surah al-Fatihah, as those who have deviated from the straight path. Those referred to as maghdoobi alayhim are people who lack sincerity, and those called dalleen are those who have not acted right. The first group is a victim of desires while the other, that of doubts.
Everyone generally understands the first condition i.e. the need for sincerity and the futility of acting without it. But, good conduct i.e. following the Shari’ah is the condition even many Muslims ignore. They think a good deed is a good deed and could be done at one’s choice although the Qur’an and the Sunnah have made it perfectly clear that good conduct demands exclusively on the teachings of the Prophet sallAllahu aalyhi wa sallam and on following the Sunnah, the example set by him. Doing less than that and doing more than that are both crimes. For example, no one can offer three raka’ah at Zuhr time. The prescribed raka’ah is four. Similarly, offering five would also be wrong. The rule is, “the condition set by Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala and His Messenger sallAllahu aalyhi wa sallam for any act of worship is final. Any addition of conditions or restrictions from one’s own side or taking to some form other than the one laid out by him are all impermissible and patiently against the norms of good conduct, no matter how attractive they may appear to be on the surface.
All new alterations in the established religion which the Prophet sallAllahu aalyhi wa sallam declared to be straying into error, and against which he left behind emphatic instructions for Muslims so that they can stay safe, are all of this nature. Ignorant people do this with sincerity as an act of worship worthy of the reward and pleasure of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala, but the deed of such a person goes waste or becomes even sinful in the light of the Shari’ah bequeathed by the Prophet sallAllahu aalyhi wa sallam. It is for this reason that the Qur’an has repeatedly stressed on good conduct i.e. following the Sunnah. It appears in Surah Mulk ayah 2,
“So that He tests you as to who among you is good in deed”.
And a good deed is nothing but what is done in accordance with the Sunnah of the Prophet sallAllahu aalyhi wa sallam. This very concept of good conduct and the practical adherence to the Sunnah of the Prophet sallalahu aalyhi wa sallam has been identified in another ayah, [Surah al-Isra : 19]
“But whoever desires the Hereafter and exerts the effort due to it while he is a believer – it is those whose effort is ever appreciated [by Allah].”
It means that Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala accepts the efforts and deeds of those who intend to have the good of the Hereafter, pure and unadulterated by any temporal considerations, and that they are making the needed effort, and that the effort they are making is proper as well, and the proper effort is exactly what has been explained to the community by the Prophet sallAllahu aalyhi wa sallam through his word and deed. Any shift from this ideal of effort – whether increased or decreased – will not be accepted as the proper effort.
Let us now recapitulate the acceptance of any deed with Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala depends on the fulfillment of two conditions. These are sincerity and good deed. Good deed is another name of the act of following the Sunnah of the Prophet sallAllahu aalyhi wa sallam. Therefore, everyone who intends to do a good deed with full sincerity must first find out how it was done by the Messenger of Allah and what instructions he has left behind for us in that connection. We must understand any deed of ours which stands removed from the course set by our Prophet sallAllahu aalyhi wa sallam i.e. his Sunnah, will stand unacceptable. Therefore, in all our deeds relating to Salah, Sawm, Hajj, Zakah, Sadaqah, Dhikr, etc. it is necessary to keep in mind the way these were done by the Messenger himself and how he told his Ummah to do them.
At the end of ayah 125, an example has been cited, the example of sincerity and good conduct set Prophet Ibraheem aalyhi sallam the following of which has been declared as mandatory. By saying,
وَاتَّخَذَ اللَّهُ إِبْرَهِيمَ خَلِيلاً
“And Allah took Ibraheem as a friend”
it has been hinted that this high station bestowed on Ibraheem aalyhi sallam has good reason behind it for he was absolutely and superbly sincere and his deed too was sound and correct with intimation from Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala.