In what case does Allah not accept a salah performed by a person?

The Details of the Question

In what case does Allah not accept a salah performed by a person?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

“Allah does not accept any deeds apart from those done only for His own sake.” (Nasai, Jihad, 24)

In accordance with this hadith, it is useful to explain the issue in some items.

Ibadah (worship) has a formal aspect and an internal aspect.

As is known, fiqh gives judgment by looking at the zahiri (apparent) aspects of deeds and behavior. It is not interested in batini (internal) aspects of them.

“We give judgment according to the apparent aspect of a deed; we refer the internal aspect to Allah.”

It acts in accordance with the principle above. This means:

Fiqh makes a decision whether a fard is valid or not bylooking its conditions admitted by ilm (scholarly knowledge). It is not and cannot be interested in the internal aspect of a deed, which is not known by people.

For example, fiqh decides that a salah is valid if it is performed in accordance with its conditions. However, this decision cannot know if it is acceptable in terms of good-bad niyyah of the salah, which is secret, and it cannot give judgment on that issue. Drawing attention to pharisaism described as shirkal-khafiyy in hadiths is not for the fiqh aspect of the deed but to the assessment in the eye of Allah.

For example, a qadi – by looking at shari’ah’s zahiri aspects - demands someone to perform his/her salah again if he sees that he/she has not fulfilled a condition of the salah; however, he cannot demand him/her to perform the salah again by alleging that he/she shows off  in the salah whose conditions are fulfilled.

As a matter of fact, there are narratives indicating that Prophet Muhammad demanded some people who did not pray in accordance with ta’dil al-arkan to perform their salahs again – once he demanded this three times. For, the apparent aspect of the rule is violated here. However, he did not demand munafiqs to perform their salahs again, who performed their salahs in accordance with the external conditions of salah and in fact who did not even believe that salah was fard though he knew about them. For, this matter is hidden; it is a secret that remains between Allah and the person. A qadi cannot treat them as “tariku’s-salas/ the ones who abandon salah”

Certainly, Allah will give the judgment in the other world and will invalidate all of the ibadah (worship) of munafiqs. This is the explanation of the narratives mentioned in some hadiths and meaning “Allah does not accept any deeds apart from those done only for His own sake.”

The sum of the subject is as follows: According to Islam, the one who is in fact a kafir (unbeliever) secretly but tells that he/she is a mu’min (believer) verbally is treated as a mu’min in the world. He/she is treated as a kafir in the other world. The person who performs his/her salah in accordance with the rules, is assessed as a mu’min who has performed his/her salah in the world. If he/she has performed his/her salah just for show off, he is treated as someone who has not performed his/her salah in the afterworld. In a sacred hadith reported by Abu Huraira from the Messenger of Allah (pbuh), this reality is indicated:

“Allah says, 'I am the One, One Who does not stand in need of a partner. If anyone does anything in which he associates anyone else with Me, I shall abandon him with one whom he associates with Allah (Muslim, Zuhd, 46).

According to Imam Nawawi,  the meaning of this hadith is as follows: the deeds of the one who worships only for show off will not be accepted; he/she will gain sins –let alone gaining thawabs. (The explanation of the relevant hadith, Nawawi)

It is necessary to carry out the fards of the ibadah fully if we want them to be valid formally. For example, if the sajdah which is a fard is not performed while performing salah, the salah does not become valid.

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