Merits of different deeds and their ranks

The merits of different deeds and their ranks are to be learned from the Quran and the Sunnah, not from kashf and miraculous performance (tasarruf).

Whoever has knowledge and faith is a learned Believer; he is better than one who has faith but does not have knowledge. This is a basic principle which must be kept in mind. There is another principle also: The actions that produce revelations (kashf) or enable one to work wonders (tasarruf) in the objects of nature are not necessarily better than the actions which do not. For the kashf or tasarruf which does not promote the cause of Islam is only one of the goods of this world. Even the pagan unbelievers and the People of the Book may have them while true Believers may not, though they are destined for Paradise and the others are destined for Hell.

The merit of a deed or its rank is not to be learned from kashf and tasarruf; it is to be known from the Quran and the Sunnah. Different deeds bring power and money to their agents. But the people that enjoy honor in the sight of God are those who are pious. Those who worship and serve God without knowledge may cause greater harm than good, even though they may have miraculous revelations, work wonders, or command a large following among the people. We have discussed this point elsewhere in detail, to which the reader may refer.

The third principle is that one deed may in itself be better than another deed. For example, the basic principles of religion are better than the details, but sometimes a deed is better only under certain conditions. For example, a certain deed may be better for X than for Y, while another deed may be better for Y than for X, and both may be equally good for Z. It is also possible that what is inferior is better under certain situations than that which is superior. A person would better off doing an inferior deed that he can do well and profit from than taking up a superior deed which he cannot do properly.

Reading the Quran as such is better than dhikr. This is supported by a hadith527 of the Prophet as well as the consensus of the ummah. Obviously, the opinions of ignorant people to the contrary carry no weight. Even then the Quran is not to be read while one is bowing or prostrating to God. In these states we are asked only to make dhikr. Similarly, dhikr and du `a’ in tawaf around the Ka’bah are better than reading the Quran. Again, the dhikrs which have been prescribed for various occasions, like those at the time.of hearing the call (adhan) for salah, entering the mosque or the House, or coming out of them, or hearing the voice of a rooster or donkey, etc., are better than reading the Quran on these occasions.

Many Sufis who read the Quran are not able to understand it; consequently they do not get the joy and pleasure of faith which one gets when one understands the Quran. When such people engage in dhikr they get the joy and pleasure of faith which dhikr produces. In their case, therefore, dhikr is better than reading the Quran, which they do not understand. They do not have the faith that increases with reading the Quran. If they had it, it would certainly have increased and been enhanced by reading the Quran; this, to be sure, cannot be had through dhikr. This is the third principle.

The fourth principle is that in the case of a person who can do a superior deed but cannot do it properly and sincerely, or cannot fulfill its requirements, an inferior deed which he can do properly is certainly far better.

Author: Ibn Taymiyyah


Source: Book: [Fatawa 11:398-400]  / Also mentioned in “Ibn Taymiyyah Expounds on Islam