Undoubtedly, Allah the Almighty is All-Knowing and acquainted with all that is happening in the heavens and earth. In His Holy Book, the Most Exalted says,
“Indeed, Allah is Knower of the unseen [aspects] of the heavens and earth. Indeed, He is Knowing of that within the breasts.” [Al-Quran, surah Fatir, verse 38]
Allah knows all that His servants do, whether in public or in secret, for He says,
“Indeed, from Allah nothing is hidden in the earth nor in the heaven.” [Al-Quran, surah Ali ‘Imran, verse 5]
Allah, the Most High, has enjoined upon His servants to perform righteous deeds and hasten to do acts of kindness, both secretly and in the open. The good deed that is done secretly is described as the act that is done in the back since its doer refrains to disclose it. It is like when one hides something behind his back in order to conceal it from the eyes of others. Doing good unseen is something that Allah the Almighty likes and, thus, multiplies the reward He grants for such deed. The Most Gracious says,
“If you disclose your charitable expenditures, they are good; but if you conceal them and give them to the poor, it is better for you, and He will remove from you some of your misdeeds [thereby]. And Allah, with what you do, is [fully] Acquainted.” [Al-Quran, surah Al-Baqarah, verse 271]
In this noble verse there is an indication to the fact that unrevealing the charitable acts is better than disclosing them, except in the case that through disclosure, one would set an example for others to emulate. This is because when someone performs an act of kindness in the way of Allah without disclosing it, it would be more sincere since its doer would not be expecting any praise or gratitude from the others in return for their kindness. For this reason, the Prophets ensured that part of their deeds is done secretly; unseen and unknown to others.
For instance, Allah the Almighty tells us about His Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham):
“Then he went to his family and came with a fat [roasted] calf.” [Al-Quran, surah Adh-Dhariyat, verse 26].
That is to say: he sneaked quickly and returned to his family without letting them know that which he has done. For another, it was narrated that Aisha, may Allah be pleased with her, said,
“I noticed the Messenger of Allah pbuh was missing from his bed one night, and when I sought him, I found him when he was prostrating with his feet held upright, and he was saying, ‘I seek refuge in Your pleasure from Your anger, and in Your pardon from Your punishment. I cannot count Your praises. You are as You have praised Yourself.”
More to the point, Islam has urged Muslims to do plenty of righteous deeds without letting people know about them. In this regard, Al Zubair Ibn Al Awwam, may Allah be pleased with him, said,
“Whoever among you is able to carry out a hidden good deed, he should do it.”
This means to do a righteous deed without others knowledge. This brings us to advise one another about the deeds that Islam has commanded us to do secretly.
Amongst the acts that Allah, the Most Exalted, has commanded us to do in secret is giving alms and spending for charity. Truly, the one who spends for the sake of Allah in a hidden manner will see themselves drawing closer to their Lord and Allah will shade them under the shade of His throne on the Day of Resurrection. On this account, the Messenger of Allah said,
“Seven people will be shaded by Allah under His shade on the day when there will be no shade except His.” One of them he mentioned, “is a person who practices charity so secretly that his left hand does not know what his right hand has given (i.e. nobody knows how much he has given in charity).”
Following such glorious guidance, the righteous ancestors strived to spend in charity secretly so that no one will ever know about their kind acts. A good example of this is the story of a young man who used to visit Abdullah Ibn Al Awwam often and assist him with his needs and also listen to Hadith from him. Once, Ibn Al Mubarak returned (from a travel) and did not see the young man. When he asked about him, he was told that he has been jailed for not paying a debt of ten thousand dirhams. Ibn Al Mubarak went to the creditor and paid out the amount and took oath from him (the creditor), that he would not inform anyone of this act as long as he was alive. So, the young man was released and he did not know about this until Ibn Al Mubarak had passed away.
Another righteous act that is conducive to earn the Muslim the love of Allah the Almighty is to love others for the sake of Allah. The Messenger of Allah emphasised this when he said,
“When two men love each other for Allah’s sake secretly, the better of them is the one who has the strongest love for his companion.”
In this sense, if one person loves another one he will, surely, talk about him respectfully whether in his presence or when is absent. In fact, this is one of the rights of a person on their friends. The Messenger of Allah said,
“The believer owes six duties toward his fellow believer, and of them he mentioned: to be sincere to him, whether he is absent or present.”
This means to respect his right to be mentioned in a noble way and protect him from injury. He should defend him when he is absent as the Prophet said,
“Whoever defends the honour of his brother in his absence, will be entitled to Allah’s protection from the Fire.”
So, those who possess such a good character will, by Allah’s favour, attain His satisfaction and the appreciation of other people too. To this, Ibn Abbas, may Allah be pleased with him, said,
“There are three whom I cannot pay back, even if I strived to do so, and of them he mentioned: A man who protected me in my absence.”
Amongst the other good deeds that Allah the Most Giving rewards generously is the supplication for others in their absence. For this righteous act, Allah the Almighty endows the reimbursement to both, the one who invokes Him and the one to whom he is invoking for. This was accentuated by the Messenger of Allah as he said,
“The supplication of a man for his brother in his absence will be answered. By his head there is an angel who says Amin to his supplication, and every time he prays for his brother, he says: “Amin, and the same for you.”
The reason for this is that when one prays for someone else in his absence, his prayers would be more sincere and more loving, and thus more likely to be answered. This was part of the guidance of the Messenger of Allah for he has set a pattern to follow when he supplicated to Ibn Abbas in his absence and said,
“O Allah! Make him (Ibn Abbas) a learned scholar in religion (Islam) and the (correct) interpretation of the Book.”
The companions of the Prophet, may Allah be pleased with them, followed in his footsteps, with a good example being the one of Abu Ad-Darda. When he completed his night prayer, he would invoke Allah the Almighty for his fellow Muslims and say,
“O Allah, please grant your forgiveness to so-and-so.” So, it was said to him, “If only you pray for yourself.” He said, “If the Muslim supplicates for his brother Muslim in his absence, the angels would say Amin to his supplication. And I like the angels saying this (for my supplications).”
It was also narrated that Abu Ad-Darda said,
“A Muslim may be forgiven while he is asleep, and praised while he is awake.” He was asked, “How can this be possible?” He said, “A man establishes night prayer and supplicates for his brother Muslim, while he is asleep, and ask forgiveness for him. So, he is forgiven while asleep. And the other one (who supplicated) would be praised.”
Bearing this in mind, we seek Allah’s grace to make amongst those who worship Him in secret and in the open. O Allah, may we ask You to provide for us in the Hereafter the best [reward] and extra.
May Allah guide us all to obey Him and obey His Messenger Muhammad and obey those He has commanded us to obey in line with His orders:
“O you who have believed, obey Allah and obey the Messenger and those in authority among you.” [Al-Quran, surah An-Nisaa, verse 59).
May Allah direct us all to the blessings of the Glorious Quran and the Sunnah of His Messenger.