Many people complain that their iman is low and the sweetness of actions that they once tasted as they did when they first started their journey upon the Deen, is no longer there. The prayer has decreased to obligatory ones only, the effort to memorise the Quran is nonexistent. The Quran is only read during the month of Ramadhan. Acts of worships reduced to mechanical actions and now falling into sins is much easier as time goes by. These are all symptoms of weak iman. So what is the solution?
One answer is to sit by yourself and think about an action that no one, not one’s spouse, family or friends know except Allah. The Prophet (Sallahu ‘alayhi wa salam) said ‘whoever among you can afford to have good deeds stored in secret, let him do it.’ In a time when it is difficult to do actions away from the sight of people, whether it be on the streets, in the masjids, with our children at home or even on social media, there is always an avenue for us to hide our actions even if people are around us and that is through the actions of our hearts. While someone may see us do an act of worship outwardly, they cannot see the internal worship we may do as a result. This is best explicated by the example given by the scholars who said that perhaps two people pray besides each other performing the very same action, however their reward is like the difference between a mountain and a molehill based on their levels of sincerity.
So in this perspective – this open act can still have a form of anonymity which is the ibadah of the heart. However, this is not what is being discussed here as this is something that we should all be doing anyway. But the hidden deed we should strive to attain is the one in which we do a physical act that is far from the sight and expectations of the people, an action that no one knows except Allah. It is this action that gives rise to sincerity. It is this action, which we are offering to Allah alone that is in no way diluted with the disease of ostentation (riyaa). It is this action that could ignite the fire of iman that is within us. It is this action that will renew our relationship with Allah. It is this action that will rejuvenate the sweetness of worship. It is this action in which there is no barrier between the slave and the Master. This is the secret worship.
The reward and special place that secret worship has is mentioned in a number of ahadith.
The Messenger of Allah (Sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said:
“Indeed Allah loves the pious, self-contented and hidden servant.”
“There are seven whom Allah will shade with His shade on the day when there will be no shade except His… a man who remembers Allah when he is alone, and his eyes fill up.”
Sufyan Ath-Thawri said: ‘I advise you to remain unknown, since this is the age for remaining anonymous (khumul).’ This is advice to live by. However, this statement can be misunderstood. Despite the anonymity that Imam Ath-Thawri and others mentioned here, it did not contradict them doing actions publicly, being productive and being involved in various aspects of da’wah. Perhaps their popularity after their deaths is a testimony of their sincerity. But the real emphasis is that in a time when it is very difficult not to know what others are doing, we should reserve at least one action that no one knows but Allah. As one of the Arabs said: Put your treasure in a place where you will not lose it.