60+ Branches of Faith: How to Prioritize

Essence of the Deeds 

We can also categorize the actions (or even parts of the actions) that we do into two categories: those which have to do with the form and another which is related to the essence.

An example is the appearance of a Muslim. Men grow their beard following the Prophet’s tradition. It is, indeed, an expression of the Muslim identity. However, the essence of the Muslim identity is more than just the appearance.

Telling the truth, dealing with honesty, or helping the ones in need express the essence of Islam more. Women and men are obligated to dress in a way that reflects modesty. Yet, modesty is beyond clothing.

Reciting the Qur’an with proper rules and with beautiful voice is required, but what is more required is following the guidance of what we recite.

Essence of prayers

Performing five daily prayers requires certain moves and words without which it is invalid. However, humility, submissiveness, and the presence of the heart are more essential. Abstaining from acts of disobedience is the essence of prayers,

{Indeed Prayer (salah) forbids from obscenity and iniquity…} (Al-`Ankbut 45:29)

Abstaining from food and drink is what constitutes fasting; yet abstaining from lies and foul language is the essence of fasting. Abstaining from all sort of sins is actually the fruit of a successful fasting.

Very often we find Muslims focusing of the form or shape of the actions neglecting both the essence of these actions and even more essential actions. This important tool teaches us to put more focus on the essence of the actions and on actions that are related to the essence of our faith.

The form and the shape are important. That is why we must abstain from food and drink for our fasting to count. However, the essence of fasting is not just this. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said,

 “Whoever does not quit false fabricated words and actions, Allah does not need him to quit food or drink.” (Al-Bukhari)

The Prophet here draws our attention to the very important and very high priority of the deeds; that is their essence.

More prioritization criteria in part 2: So Many Good Deeds… How to Prioritize?