Quranic Reflection No 565. Āyat 25:23 – Inner Substance of Actions


It has been reported by Qāsim b. Yahyā from his grandfather al-Hasan b. Rāshid, “Imam Ja‘far b. Muhammad (a) said: do not abandon the fasting of the 27th Day of Rajab, for it is the day on which the prophethood was bestowed upon Muhammad (a); and its reward is equivalent to [fasting for] sixty months for you.”   (Al-Sadūq, Al-Faqīh 2:90; Hurr al- ‘Āmilī, Wasā’il, H 13808)

In another Hadīth it has been mentioned: Al- Rayyān b. al-Salt narrates that when Imam Abū Ja‘far II (al-Jawād) ‘alayhissalām was in Baghdad, he fasted in the middle of Rajab and on the 27th Day of Rajab, and so did his entire clan of [Banī] Hāshim.   

(Al-Tūsī, Misbāh 2:814; Ibn Tāwūs, Iqbāl 676; Hurr al- ‘Āmilī, Wasā’il, H 10196)


وَقَدِمْنَآ إِلَىٰ مَا عَمِلُوا مِنْ عَمَلٍ فَجَعَلْنَاهُ هَبَاءً مَّنثُورًا

Waqadimnā ilā mā ‘amilū min ‘amalin faja‘alnāhu habā’an manthūrā

Then We shall attend to the works they have done and then turn them into scattered dust.

(Sūrat al-Furqān, No 25, Āyat 23)

Everything we do on earth remains and will be seen in the other world. Nothing we do disappears; it just stays on in a form that we do not perceive with our senses. The form our actions take depends on how the action is done. Hence Islam stresses the importance of the intention and attitude behind the action. They determine how beautiful or ugly the form will be.

The above verse refers to the actions of those who are guilty of disobedience to God. They performed many actions in the world but the form these actions took was empty of any substance. This is because of the intention behind them. Doing an action for God makes it take on a solid form. But doing it for reasons other than God makes it empty and meaningless. The verse describes such actions as scattered dust. Dust particles are usually not visible. But when bright light falls on a room, for example, the dust becomes visible. 

Many verses of the Quran talk about the hollowness of actions done for other than God. It says: A parable of those who defy their Lord, their deeds are like ashes over which the wind blows hard on a tempestuous day: they have no power over anything they have earned. That is extreme error (Q 14:18). And it also says: As for the faithless, their works are like a mirage in a plain, which the thirsty man supposes to be water. When he comes to it, he finds it to be nothing; but there he finds Allah, who will pay him his full account, and Allah is swift at reckoning (Q 24:39).

What gives an action form and substance is a pure intention and the goal of pleasing the Creator. Amīrul Mu‘minīn Imam Ali (a) says: A good deed is not perfected except through a good intention (Ghurar al-Hikam, H 363). He also says: Habituate yourself to having a good intention and a beautiful motive, you will be successful in your goals (Ibid. H 5,797). When an action is done with faith, God-consciousness, sanctity, and is a part of a holistic way of life striving for nearness to God, the action becomes weighty and valuable. Without these inner realities of a good action, the action is not solid and falls apart easily. It is not the amount of time and effort spent on an action that ensures its eternal worth. Rather, it is the pure essence of the action that matters. Small actions that remain solid forever are much better than those done with a lot of fanfare, but which evaporate quickly.

One of the regrets on the Day of Judgment will be watching one’s actions dissipate and disappear. A lifetime of effort can have the potential of becoming nothing when the correct intention is not there. It is a huge loss for the person who experiences it, a loss mentioned many times in the Quran as a clear and evident loss. There can be nothing worse for the human being than to realize that his entire time on earth and the opportunity he had has been squandered and he is left with nothing to show for it. Tafsīr Majma‘ al-Bayan says that just as we approach something we don’t like and fix it, this verse tells us that Allah ‘azza wajall will turn to the actions of the unbelievers and will adjust them to reflect their inner reality. All that they thought they had built for themselves will be razed to the ground.  Actions are the currency of the Hereafter. For those whose actions are like dust, there will be no gain or benefit on that Day. They will not be able to ‘purchase’ anything for themselves. 

Āghā Muhsin Qarā’atī says in his book, The Radiance of the Secrets of Prayer

  • The element that gives importance to a person’s action is his intention, motive, or objective. So, in the verses of the Quran, the phrase ‘in the way of Allah’ – fi sabīlillāh, is often used (seventy times), and thus is a warning for people to ensure that their actions and intentions be in the way of God, and not for the sake of other than God or their own carnal desires. Intention is the pillar of worship. If an action is done without intention, or has an ungodly intention behind it, it will be invalid. Intention is the essence and foundation of action. The most sacred acts are spoiled because of the mixed intentions behind them, while the simplest acts gain in value on account of the purely good intentions behind them.

Let this verse be a reminder to purify our intentions so the form of our actions will remain substantial and beautiful – more so in the Holy months of Rajab, Sha‘bān and Ramadan. We will be needy of these when we return to our Lord.

 Sources: Allāmah Muhammad Husayn Tabātabā’ī, Tafsīr al-Mīzān; Āyatullāh Nāsir Makārim Shirāzī (Ed.), Tafsīr-e Namūneh