Understanding Islamic principles: What does Islam teach about concealing good deeds?


A missionary […] wrote to Hazrat Amirul Momineen, Khalifatul Masih Vaa, enquiring about concealing voluntary good deeds [nawafil] from people. He expressed that he was not seeking a formal religious edict, or fatwa, but rather desired the personal viewpoint of Huzooraa. Huzoor-e-Anwaraa, in his letter dated 11 May 2022, provided the following response to his query:

“A fundamental point here is that you, despite being a missionary of the Community, have asked me for my personal opinion rather than a religious ruling, or fatwa. I will certainly only say what is correct and aligns with Islamic teachings. It will not merely reflect my personal views but will accord with the fatwa of the Jamaat.

“As far as your question is concerned, Islam prohibits prying into others’ affairs. Therefore, no one else has the right to poke their nose into the nature of a person’s fasts undertaken for the sake of God Almighty and ask whether they are supererogatory or intended to compensate for missed obligatory fasts.

“Moreover, Islam has instructed its followers to perform good deeds both publicly and privately. Various Islamic modes of worship embody both overt and covert actions, and both kinds of righteous deeds have their unique advantages. For instance, Allah the Exalted says in the Holy Quran regarding financial sacrifices:

“‘If you give alms openly, that is indeed good, but if you give them secretly to the poor, it is even better for your own selves.’ (Surah al-Baqarah, Ch.2: V.272)

“He further states:

“‘Those who spend their wealth in the cause of Allah by night and day, secretly and openly, have their reward with their Lord; on them shall come no fear, nor shall they grieve.’ (Surah al-Baqarah, Ch.2: V.275)

“The Promised Messiahas, comparing this Quranic commandment of performing both open and hidden acts of goodness with the teachings of the Gospel and explaining its wisdom, states:

“‘Similarly, the Gospel instructs that you should not perform good deeds so that they should be seen by others. But, the Quran admonishes against concealing all your actions from others. Instead, when wisdom dictates, perform certain actions secretly when you deem it better for your soul, and display certain actions when you believe they will benefit others in general. Thus, you will have two rewards, and as a result of your actions, those weaker people who find it difficult to muster the courage to commit good acts, might be inspired to follow your example. God himself has elaborated on the wisdom of this teaching in His Word by saying سِرًّا وَّ عَلَانِيَةً. That is to say, do good works both secretly and openly. This means that not only should one counsel others verbally but encourage by example as well. Mere words are not always adequate in every situation; one’s practical example often has a greater impact on others.’ (Kashti-e-Nuh, Ruhani Khazain, Vol. 19, pp. 31-32)

“Hence, if the intent of the doer of good is pure, that is, the intention is that others may also be inspired by this open act of goodness, or if his act of goodness inadvertently becomes apparent to people, then there is no need to worry or resort to pretexts to hide this goodness. This is because the Holy Prophetsa has instructed that the reward and punishment of human actions depend upon the intent of the doer of good. (Sahih al-Bukhari, Kitab bad’i l-wahy) However, such a person should continue to pray to Allah Almighty that He protects him from Satan’s attacks, that instead of hypocrisy and ostentation, humility and submission are inculcated in him, and that his overt act of goodness also grants others the ability to perform good deeds, so that he may also partake in the rewards of their good deeds, because the Holy Prophetsa has also said:

إِنَّ الدَّالَّ عَلَى الْخَيْرِ كَفَاعِلِهِ

“‘Indeed, the one who guides others to do good deeds is like the one who does them.’ (Sunan at-Tirmidhi, Kitab al-‘ilmi ‘an rasulillahsa, Bab ma ja’a ‘ad-dal-lu ‘ala l-khayri ka fa‘ilihi’)”

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