On the authority of Abu Hurayra, who said that the Messenger of God, [Peace and Blessings be upon Him] said: God [Glorified and Exalted be He] said: “I am so self-sufficient that I am in no need of having an associate. Thus he who does an action for someone else’s sake as well as Mine, will have that action renounced by Me to him whom he associated with Me.”
(Muslim, from: Forty Hadith Qudsi)
This Hadith reminds me that the foundation for actions in Islam lies in pure and sincere intentions to please God. It applies to everything a Muslim says, does, hides or reveals. When actions are performed for the sake of pleasing God they become acts of worship. Daily chores such as cooking and cleaning, which are sometimes perceived as burdens, are now turned into honorable acts, because they are done with a higher goal in mind. Of course, performing an action without reaching the highest level of sincerity is still considered beneficial and good. On the other hand, when Muslims give charity and volunteer their time for the sake of impressing others with their generosity and gaining higher status, these actions—which appear on the surface to be honorable—may not be accepted by God. This Hadith illustrates the praiseworthiness of renouncing worldly reward and gratification while maintaining pure intentions and acting with the utmost sincerity.
Yasmina, I know I will want to continue this conversation beyond the scope of our online post! I believe our faiths reach a similar conclusion through different ways of seeing. Christian faith teaches that Almighty God does not need an associate, but that through God’s great love for all humanity, God has chosen not to set himself apart but to come among us, to claim each of us as beloved children, and to show us The Way. Thus, we are taught to glorify God by remaining in intimate association with God; we seek to recognize, affirm, and humbly serve “God incarnate” in all persons. Like the Hadith you cite, Christian scriptures emphasize the need to do and give generously, not for the world’s approval, but with sincere intent to serve God, in humble gratitude to God for the gift of God’s very self to us.
I am intrigued by your choice of this Hadith, Yasmina, and struck by the way this teaching balances philosophy and practice. Jews similarly believe that God is completely self-sufficient and needs no associate. Many regard this to be the founding principle of Judaism, and refer to the essence of the Jewish religion as “ethical monotheism.” However, since the destruction of the Temple in 70 C.E., the rabbis emphasized action over faith and established the mitzvot (commandments) as the primary vehicle for religious observance. Recognizing that only behavior or actions can be legislated, they refined the system of Halakhah (Jewish law) to make the practice of Judaism accessible, and seldom focused on belief as the reason underlying one’s actions. The rabbis went so far as to suggest that it was better to do a mitzvah for the “wrong” reason than to forgo its observance, because they believed that through the performance of the deed itself the proper intention or belief would eventually follow.