To Move Forward to God, Keep Your Priorities Straight

(Ibn Ata’s Words of Wisdom: Part 23)

“A sign of following one’s whims is to be active with optional good deeds while being lazy with required obligations.”

This is a very important step in the way of Allah.

Sometimes, we feel more fulfilled when we do the optional things, when we pray at night; when we pray extra prayers, when we give extra charity, when we do extra things and be active in the Islamic work and all of that…

But these are all optional deeds. We should be concerned about the obligations.

You should not be good to your friends and bad to your parents; you should not give charity and you forget your zakah; or you should not do taraweeh while you are falling short of the required five prayers.

Prioritize Your Life

When we focus on the requirements before we focus on the optional deeds, then we have the right set of priorities.

Priority setting is one important step towards Allah.

We see communities around the world, where they are very careful with very small things, in Islam.

They try to dress in a certain way, have the beards in a certain way, and put the perfume that Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) put; and they try to say the dua that Prophet Muhammad said…

But they don’t treat their parents well as Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) did; they don’t treat people well; and they are not honest in their trade and business; they steal the public money; and they do disasters while they are keeping a certain outlook that has to do with the optional deeds!

The sheikh here is saying that this is: “following one’s whims rather than following shariah proper.”

Because the Shariah proper actually orders deeds in a certain order; there are things that are more important and things that are less important; and we should know that order of the Shariah, and therefore we follow the requirements before we do the optional deeds.

Focus on Obligations First

The Islamic law has a priority setting that is set, as is well known, and every Muslim knows that.

When you have five minutes left for the fajr prayer, you’re not supposed to pray the optional prayer, you’re supposed to pray the obligation because you only have a limited time for that. And our effort is limited by time and the resources we have and the personal effort we can put…

Therefore, we should prioritize our effort, our time and our resources properly.

Sometimes we waste our resources while there are obligations that we are not taking care of.

People go on Umrah after Umrah… and Umrah is optional anyway and they don’t take care of their parents which is required, or they don’t take care of the poor next door, which is required, and so forth.

People pray taraweeh and the masjid is full, but the masjid is fuller than Friday prayer, which is required, and the other prayers which are more required than taraweeh…

A Step Forward

This kind of lack of prioritization and lack of balance when we deal with issues that are required versus issues that are not required is something that we have a problem with, individually and as a community.

And one of the steps towards Allah is to focus on this matter and prioritize our actions well, and prioritize our ideas well; focus on the required and less focus on the optional.

We ask Allah to give us this kind of fiqh and understanding, and we ask Allah to accept our deeds in any case.

A Journey to God (Folder)


About Dr. Jasser Auda
Jasser Auda is a Professor and Al-Shatibi Chair of Maqasid Studies at the International Peace College South Africa, the Executive Director of the Maqasid Institute, a global think tank based in London, and a Visiting Professor of Islamic Law at Carleton University in Canada. He is a Founding and Board Member of the International Union of Muslim Scholars, Member of the European Council for Fatwa and Research, Fellow of the Islamic Fiqh Academy of India, and General Secretary of Yaqazat Feker, a popular youth organization in Egypt. He has a PhD in the philosophy of Islamic law from University of Wales in the UK, and a PhD in systems analysis from University of Waterloo in Canada. Early in his life, he memorized the Quran and studied Fiqh, Usul and Hadith in the halaqas of Al-Azhar Mosque in Cairo. He previously worked as: Founding Director of the Maqasid Center in the Philosophy of Islamic Law in London; Founding Deputy Director of the Center for Islamic Ethics in Doha; professor at the University of Waterloo in Canada, Alexandria University in Egypt, Islamic University of Novi Pazar in Sanjaq, Qatar Faculty of Islamic Studies, and the American University of Sharjah. He lectured and trained on Islam, its law, spirituality and ethics in dozens of other universities and organizations around the world. He wrote 25 books in Arabic and English, some of which were translated to 25 languages.