In my previous post I touched upon the importance of correct action to assist in elevating an individual to the highest stations of perfection, which happens after the articles of faith have settled within the individual’s essence and have become part of his reality. The best way to achieve this goal is by following this verse:
وَإِذْ تَأَذَّنَ رَبُّكُمْ لَئِن شَكَرْتُمْ لأَزِيدَنَّكُمْ وَلَئِن كَفَرْتُمْ إِنَّ عَذَابِي لَشَدِيدٌ
‘And when your Lord proclaimed: If ye give thanks, I will give you more; but if ye are thankless, lo! My punishment is dire’ [14:7]
Indeed it is a mercy upon mankind which has been granted permission to thank Him for his blessings! When you receive a gift, the lowest form of courtesy and morality is to thank that person. And, the more one has knowledge of the reality of that gift, and the true value of it, the more one feels appreciative and obligated in showing increased gratitude. And in the case of Allah swt, thanks only adds to our blessings and gifts. The opposite is also true, where thanklessness and ingratitude towards such blessings will result in those blessings to be taken away.
And what does is Islam mean by ‘give thanks’ with respect to blessings from God? How does one ‘give thanks’ to the Eternally Rich and Self-Existing?
طه; مَا أَنزَلْنَا عَلَيْكَ الْقُرْآنَ لِتَشْقَى
‘Ta. Ha; We have not revealed unto thee (Muhammad) this Qur’an that thou shouldst be distressed’ [20:1-2]
To which the Holy Prophet responded:’Shouldn’t I be a thankful slave?’ So the answer to the question is, that when one reaches a certain level of belief and conviction, a corresponding level of correct action is necessary, and the higher that knowledge, the higher (and harder) the responsibility becomes. This applies foremost in the realm of jurisprudence, where we have the permissible, avoidable, recommended and forbidden actions and transactions in our relationship to God; so for an average believer things can be permissible, yet become forbidden for someone else; a thing can be recommended (like night prayers, Salaat-ul Layl) for us, but becomes obligatory for the likes of the Prophets and Imams (‘as).
In the end, we will be judged based on our intentions and sincerity of our deeds, where a deed acquires moral value only when it arises from a pure motive. The criteria is basing one’s choices and acts on pure motives, pleasing to God, that enables man to develop himself morally, and it is according to those motives that he is judged.
Our actions and intentions, dissolved in the atmosphere in the form of energy, are not annihilated (the proof for this statement will be dealt with later), and it is they that will rise up and judge us on the day of accountability. Then how does one know in this world the reality of an action, when externally they appear one and the same? As in the day of Ashoura both the attacking army of Omar ibn Sa’ad, and Imam Hussein (‘as) prayed at the helm of their fighters before the battle. Yet one prayer was a perquisite for eternal damnation in hell, and the other to martyrdom and eternal bliss. So what was the differentiating factor for those two very different results? The answer is as mentioned before; one group had a certain wrong conviction, and that resulted in one effect. They had attained the wrong knowledge from the wrong people, whose intentions were based on their short-sightedness and material desires. And to the other this verse applies:
مَّثَلُ الَّذِينَ يُنفِقُونَ أَمْوَالَهُمْ فِي سَبِيلِ اللّهِ كَمَثَلِ حَبَّةٍ أَنبَتَتْ سَبْعَ سَنَابِلَ فِي كُلِّ سُنبُلَةٍ مِّئَةُ حَبَّةٍ وَاللّهُ يُضَاعِفُ لِمَن يَشَاء وَاللّهُ وَاسِعٌ عَلِيمٌ
‘The likeness of those who spend their wealth in Allah’s way is as the likeness of a grain which groweth seven ears, in every ear a hundred grains. Allah giveth increase manifold to whom He will. Allah is All-Embracing, All-Knowing’.[2:261]
The importance of doctrines in day-to-day actions between Man and God, and Man and his surrounding environment, becomes clear whence we understand the role correct doctrines sincerity in giving those actions value. The more exact and accurate that doctrine is, the better the action. The higher the sincerity in performing those deeds, the better the outcome.
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ اتَّقُواْ اللّهَ حَقَّ تُقَاتِهِ وَلاَ تَمُوتُنَّ إِلاَّ وَأَنتُم مُّسْلِمُونَ
‘O ye who believe! Observe your duty to Allah with right observance, and die not save as those who have surrendered (unto Him)’.[3:102]
In this verse ‘observe your duty’ means to safeguard oneself with awareness of the boundaries (physical, moral and spiritual laws) laid down by God so as to keep clear of sins and transgressions, thanking Him for His blessings, being steadfast when calamities befall him. Yet all of this is based on different levels of capacities in different people, based on their level of knowledge or physical ability or other personal circumstances. But when observance of our duties to God are with ‘right observance’ (i.e. giving that observance its due), and it becomes complete submission to His will, with no sign of egoism, unconsciousness, or sinning, and is accompanied by thanking Him without disbelieving, and remembering Him without forgetting, and with consistency and sincerity. This is Islam (submission) in it’s highest form.
Other verses (there are many) that supplement the above:
وَلِكُلٍّ دَرَجَاتٌ مِمَّا عَمِلُوا وَلِيُوَفِّيَهُمْ أَعْمَالَهُمْ وَهُمْ لَا يُظْلَمُونَ
‘And for all there will be ranks from what they do, that He may pay them for their deeds; and they will not be wronged’.[46:19]
أُولَئِكَ هُمُ الْمُؤْمِنُونَ حَقًّا لَهُمْ دَرَجَاتٌ عِنْدَ رَبِّهِمْ وَمَغْفِرَةٌ وَرِزْقٌ كَرِيمٌ
‘Those are they who are in truth believers. For them are grades (of honour) with their Lord, and pardon, and a bountiful provision.’[8:4]
 Tafseer Al Mizan, Vol. 3, pg. 63.