Islam is a Religion of Works

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ ,

Originally published 21/ 23/ 2013 @ 7:03 PM.
Updated 01/ 04 /2013.

The argument is as follows:

“Islam is a religion of works, rituals, you do works to gain heaven. Christians do works because they already have salvation.”

The response is as follows:

In Islam, there are two requirements for the amal (action/ work) to be valid. Iman (faith in Allaah) and Niya (intention). So if a person does a work not to please Allaah or does a work to please others, without intending it to be for the sake of God, then his action is considered to be corrupted and thus becomes rejected by God. We read this in Jami’ al-Ulum wa al-Hikam ( جامع العلوم و الحکم)by Imam Ibn Rajab Hanbali (‘alayhi rahma). The hadith his sharh is based on, is as follows:

‘Umar b. al-Khattab narrated that the Prophet (S) said: Deeds are [a result] only of the intentions [of the actor], and an individual is [rewarded] only according to that which he intends. Therefore, whosoever has emigrated for the sake of Allah and His messenger, then his emigration was for Allah and His messenger. Whosoever emigrated for the sake of worldly gain, or a woman [whom he desires] to marry, then his emigration is for the sake of that which [moved him] to emigrate.” Narrated by Bukhari and Muslim.

This hadith has only one path to ‘Umar: Yahya b. Sa’id al-Ansari on the authority of Muhammad b. Ibrahim al-Taymi, on the authority of ‘Alqama b. Abi Waqqas al-Laythi, who narrated it from ‘Umar b. al-Khattab. Large numbers of people narrated this hadith on the authority of Yahya b. Sa’id, including Imam Malik, al-Thawri, al-Awza’i, Ibn al-Mubarak, al-Layth b. Sa’d, Hammad b. Zayd, Shu’ba, Ibn ‘Uyayna and others.

Concerning this hadith, he says (translation by Br. Mohammed Fadel):

The first question regarding this hadith is whether it refers to all actions, or only those actions whose validity requires an intention (niyya)? Thus, if it refers only to the former, it would not apply to the customary areas of human life, e.g., eating, drinking, clothes, etc., as well as transactional matters, e.g., fulfilling fiduciary duties and returning misappropriated properties. The other opinion is that the hadith refers to all actions.

(Note: Ibn Rajab attributes the first position to the later scholars whereas the second position he attributes to earlier scholars.)

The first sentence of the hadith, “innama al-a’mal bi-l-niyyat,” is a declaration that the voluntary actions of a person are a consequence only of that person’s purpose to perform the act or bring it into existence (“la taqa’ illa ‘an qasd min al-‘amil huwa sabab ‘amaliha wa wujudiha.“). The second sentence, “wa innama li-kulli imri` ma nawa,”is a declaration of religion’s judgment of the act in question (“ikbar ‘an al-hukm al-shar’i“). Thus, if the intention motivating an act is good, then performance of the act is good and the person receives its reward. As for the corrupt intention, the action it motivates is corrupt, and the person receives punishment. If the intention motivating the act is permissible, then the action is permissible, and the actor receives neither reward nor punishment. Therefore, acts in themselves, their goodness, foulness or neutrality, from the perspective of religion, are judged according to the actor’s intention that caused their existence.

Niyya is used in two senses by the scholars of Islam. The first is to distinguish some acts of worship from others, e.g., salat al-zuhr from salat al-‘asr or to distinguish acts of worship (‘ibadat) from mundane matters (‘adat). This is the primary usage of the term in the books of the fuqaha. The second usage is to distinguish an action that is performed for the sake of Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala, from an act done for the sake of Allah and others, or just for the sake of other than Allah. This second meaning is that which is intended by the gnostics (‘arifun) in their discussions of sincerity (ikhlas) and related matters. This is the same meaning that is intended by the Pious Ancestors (al-salaf al-salih) when they use the term niyya. Thus, in the Qur`an, the speech of the Prophet (S) and the speech of the Salaf, the term niyya is synonymous, or usually so, with the term desire (irada) and related terms, e.g., ibtigha. The texts of the shar‘ testifying to this usage are too numerous to be cited in this posting, but include such verses as “Among you are those who desire (yurid) the profane world and among you are those who desire (yurid) the next,” and “You desire (turidun) the profit of the profane world but Allah desires [for you] the next,” and “Whosoever desires (yurid) the harvest of the profane world, etc.” and “Whosoever desires (yurid) the immediate [gratification of the profane world], we hasten it to him what We wish to whom We desire,” and “Do not expel those who call out to their Lord in the early morn and in the evening, who are seekers (yuridun) of His face and let not your eyes wander from them out of covetous desire (turid) of the frivolity of the profane world.”

Despite the importance of having a good niyya, and its centrality to Islam, it is among the most difficult things to achieve. Thus, Sufyan al-Thawri is reported to have said, “Nothing is more difficult for me to treat than my intention (niyya) for indeed it turns on me!” Yusuf b. Asbat said, “Purifying one’s intention from corruption is more difficult for persons than lengthy exertion (ijtihad).”

An act that is not done sincerely for the sake of Allah may be divided into parts:

The first is that which is solely for display (riya`) such that its sole motivation is to be seen by others in order to achieve a goal in the profane world, as was the case of the Hypocrites in their performance of prayer, where Allah described them as “When they join prayer, they go lazily [with the purpose] of displaying [themselves] to the people.”

At other times, an action might be partially for the sake of Allah and partially to display one’s self in front of the people.? If the desire to display one’s self arose at the origin of the action, then the action is vain. Imam Ahmad reports that the Prophet (S) said, “When Allah gathers the first [of His creation] and the last [of His creation] for that Day for which there is no doubt, a crier will call out, ‘Whosoever associated with Me another in his actions let him seek his reward from other than Allah, for Allah is the most independent of any association (fa-inna allaha aghna al-sharaka` ‘anal-shirk).”? Al-Nasa`i reported that a man asked the Prophet (S), “What is your opinion of one who fights [in the way of Allah] seeking fame [in the profane world] and reward [from Allah]?” The Prophet (S) replied, “He receives nothing [by way of reward from Allah’.” The Prophet (S) repeated this three times and then said, “Allah accepts no deeds other than those that are performed solely for His sake and by which His face is sought.” This opinion, namely, that if an act is corrupted by any desire to display one’s self (riya`) then that act is rejected, is attributed to many of the Salaf, including, ‘Ubada b. al-Samit, Abu al-Darda`, al-Hasan al-Basri, Sa’id b. al-Musayyib and others.

Therefore acts in Islam by themselves, done with Iman and the proper Niyya, are wholly rejected. If Islam was a religion of mere repetitive – robotic works, then merely doing the work would equate reward but this is clearly not the case. Therefore, the claim that Islam is a religion of works has been duly debunked.

One Muslim scholar states very succinctly:

Sahl Ibn ‘Abdillaah at-Tustaree رحمه الله said,

“The worldly life is ignorance and lifelessness except for knowledge. And all knowledge is a proof against you except for that which is acted upon. And all actions are floating particles of dust (i.e. invalid) except for those done with sincerity (i.e. for the sake of Allaah سبحانه و تعالى). So sincerity is of extreme consequence such that the action becomes complete with it.”

[al-Khateeb al-Baghdadi رحمه الله: Iqtidaa ul-‘Ilm al-‘Amal]

As for the claim that Christians do works as a consequence of their salvation, the following arguments puts this assertion to rest:

  • If works are a consequence of salvation and a person has faith but does no works, is he truly saved?
  • If the above is true (works are a consequence of salvation), then are works required to be saved?
  • If the above is false (works are not required), then why do works count as a surety of salvation?
  • If a person sins, but claims to be saved after having accepted Christ, is this a sign of not being saved?
  • If works are not needed, why are they a consequence of being saved?
  • A person does not have to be saved to do good works, i.e. Muslims do good, Hindus do good, Atheists do good, thus Christianity is not needed to do good – ergo, the premise of needing to be saved to do good is negated.

wa Allaahu ‘Alam.




  • one who looks at christianity can see that their diety had to do WORKS/DEEDS to himself to appease himself . god did the final works of murdering himself , in the flesh, because works of humans are not impressive or deserve reward , only god rewards his OWN flesh for his own WORKS IN the flesh.

    if god does not REWARD deeds because good deeds are MIXED with bad deeds and good deeds cannot EAT up bad deeds in christianity, then who rewards christians?

    christianities second god called humanity.

    “If works are a consequence of salvation and a person has faith but does no works, is he truly saved?”

    i said before that christians claim that thier works are STAINED with sin,
    even if they BELIEVE that god did works to himself, their works are STILL AND CONTINUE TO be stained by sins.

    or do they wish to believe that gods works to himself magically eats up thier sins and only has thier GOOD works shinning in gods eyes?

    if that is the case, then why can’t they allow the same for ISLAM?

    i.e BELIEVING IN GOD and His creative power and His works through the heavens and earth , eats up bad deeds



    I guess this is what I am confused about.

    Is there room for a conscience in islam? Everything seems so legislated that I may as well not have a conscience at all.

    So weighty is the argument of the moral conscience in the Quran, that Allah calls it one of the fundamental proofs of the Day of Judgement. In surah Adiyat, the insatiable greed that dominates the very being of man has a witness against it and that is man’s own self. Allah states about man that when he perfected him, he ordered the angels to bow down before him. This perfection is tied to the ‘soul’ that was ‘breathed’ into him by the Almighty himself, showing that man’s greatness lies in something beyond ‘ritualism’. In Surah Shams, the success of man is tied in with the purification and development of this conscience that lies in the depths of one’s soul.

    When you look at the Quran, you will find that less than 1/10th of religion deals with law. Further, the majority of the law are clarifications of certain injunctions. For example, Allah refers to the laws of divorce in multiple places, dealing with certain subtle aspects taht were not mentioned before, and had arisen in unusual circumstances. A close study of the Quran reveals that these laws are tied into certain moral and spiritual aspects, which are called hikmah in the Quran. What this means is that they are decreed to engender certain qualities.

    If I follow formula Salaah + Zakaah + Sawm – I will go to heaven.

    You see, that is the problem.All prophets talked about the law, and they stated that it lied on two core principles, which is to love God with all your heart, soul and mind. Prayer and zakaah are nothing but the practical manifestations of this concept, and are the very foundation and purpose of the religious law. Prayer connects man with God ALmighty, and it is the core expression of love, gratitude and humility before God. Zakaah is the connection to humanity, where Allah commands men to spend on society, which not only includes the poor, but inherent in it, is the concept of social justice.

    “And they were not enjoined anything except that they should serve Allah, being sincere to Him in obedience, upright, and keep up prayer and pay the poor-rate, and that is the right religion.”

    If one perceives of prayer and zakaah as formulas, then one has already lost the very spirit of the religious law. Salaah itself is embued with meaning, even with respect to the times it is enjoined on people. When this meaning is understood, then the fruits of prayer become more than ritualism. When one begins to study the Quran and it’s meaning, the idea of ritual is no longer present in prayer. When the Quran relates prayer to life, one truly understands the point regarding how great a feeling prayer can generate.

    The categories of zakaah embibe concpets of elevating the poor and widow, as well as protecting the freedom of each individual. Allah ordered men to free slaves from the very beginning of the revelation of the Quran, whom the majority were Africa, imbibing in it’s followers the idea of an egalitarian society, where things like race and creed have no bearing on the dignity of man.

    Even in fasting, the concept is tied to the Quranic revelation, showing that retsraint is one of the exemplaries qualities needed to follow this law. Through fast, one should imbibe the idea that one should submit to the law, even if it means quelling one’s own self and desires. But the Quran also corrects any mis-conceived notions that may arise out of the discipline, thinking that the purpose of the fast is to relay the world isn’t beneficial to piety.

    These things are all meant to be taught by the religion, but these things are only truly appreciated when one puts the emphasis on religion as expressed by the words of God, not the ideas of men. That emptiness you feel is because you are taking religion from men, and not the rope of Allah, which extends from heaven to earth. Allah is likening the safety and security provided by Quran with the imagery of a people that are drowning or falling off a cliff, and their way of being saved is by hanging on to the rope God has thrown out to man tightly. All one has to do is hold onto the rope tightly, and Allah will pull the person to safety.

    Absolutely, without a doubt an incorrect understanding. When Allah has blessed you with fortune, then you should express gratitude.

    And when Musa said to his people: Call to mind Allah’s favor to you when He delivered you from Firon’s people, who subjected you to severe torment, and slew your sons and spared your women; and in this there was a great trial from your Lord.

    And when your Lord made it known: If you are grateful, I would certainly give to you more, and if you are ungrateful, My chastisement is truly severe.

    And Musa said: If you are ungrateful, you and those on earth all together, most surely Allah is Self-sufficient, Praised;

    Everyday you should be thanking Allah, and part of that gratitude is expressed in helping others who are in difficult circumstances. Allah often uses this type of advice in the Quran when He desires to engender good in the Quran. When referring to leaving behind a will, the Quran states that, if their or prhans or needy present to give them something as well, arguing that a person may have children in that same circusmtance one day and he would desire that they too be helped. Allah states things like, “Do good, as God has done to you.” The Prophet (S) warned his followers not to pray for hardships and to constantly thank Allah for his bounties. In fact, this whole religion’s entire edifice rests on gratitude, for the very first surah starts off with the Al-Hamd of Allah, and the primary connotation of this hamd is gratitude. Prayer’s first proclamation and the Quran’s first statement is that of gratitude. Muhammad’s (S) name springs from this very same word as well as his other name, Ahmed (S). One time a man complained to the Prophet (S) about the hardness of his heart, i.e. the fact that he wasn’t always in tune with the religion and it’s teachings. In order to rectify this, the Prophet (S) advised him to stroke the head of the orphan. Even the cocnept of the Day of Judgement springs from this concept, because with all the bounties man has been given by God, it is only reasonable that their should be responsibilities associated with it.

    You should definitely stick to the five pillars of Islam, but understand the philosophy behind them. Further, read and ponder over the Quran and try and understand it, so that when you pray, you know what your reciting. Spend money on the poor as well, for Allah ties this in with attaining wisdom. This is a secret alluded to by the Almighty to gain a better understanding of life and true wisdom.

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