Between a “Valid” and “Accepted” Worship
Once upon a time, there was a pilgrim who, after completing several pilgrimage rituals, went to a place that was set up by the government of Saudi Arabia kingdom for the purpose of accepting question regarding pilgrimage. He then asked a sheikh who was in charge at that place, “O sheikh, I did so and so, will Allah the Exalted accept my pilgrimage?.” The sheikh didn’t answer his question, instead, he advised him, saying, “I could only know whether your deed was valid or not, as for whether it was accepted or not, I do not know, for it is the knowledge of Allah the Exalted alone.”
It is true that the duty of the scholars is to explain about the ruling of a person’s deed from jurisdiction perspective. Fiqh or jurisprudence discusses matter of law regarding outward deed, that is, whether it is valid or not, which consequently lead to whether an obligation declared as done or it must be repeated.
As in shalat/prayer, a scholar may be able to assess with the standard of jurisprudence, whether a person’s prayer is valid or not. From ablution until salaam, the validity might be assessed in detail. As for the knowledge of whether or not his prayer is accepted, it is a matter of unseen, which assessment belongs to Allah the Exalted alone, since acceptance of deed requires inward deed to be accounted either. And only Allah the Exalted alone Who knows about human’s heart, whether he performed his worship solely for Allah the Exalted, or he mixed his intention with riya’ (wishing to be seen by others), or he wished for worldly reward with it, and so on.
Therefore, don’t be confused if you read jurisprudence book particularly in chapter about law of fasting. Usually, after explanations about requirement, pillar, and nullifier of fasting, at the end of it, the writer will elaborate about sunnah that is suggested during fasting. Among the sunnah is a suggestion for person who fasts to hold his tongue from uttering lie, lewd expression, and gossip.
The question is, wasn’t the Messenger of Allah said, “Whoever doesn’t abandon lie in his words and deed, then Allah the Exalted need nothing of his fasting.” (Narrated by Bukhari).
It means that abandoning lie is obligatory, and not just sunnah. Because the fasting of a liar is worthless. Whereas the writer (expert in jurisprudence) said that abandoning lie is sunnah. The reason is because he is discussing it from the perspective of law, that is, whether the fasting is valid or not.
The fasting of a person who still committing lies is still valid according to the law, and it doesn’t need to be repeated, because lie is not a nullifier of fasting. However, lie is a nullifier of reward of fasting. Even though the fasting is valid, it is worthless to Allah the Exalted.
To assess whether our deed is valid or not is easy, just by studying the jurisprudence, we’ll know about it. But there’s something of greater importance than validity, that is, to know how to make our deed accepted by Allah the Exalted; how to get reward from it; how it’ll increase the balance of our deed in the Hereafter.
We could learn about it too, by learning the sciences of creed, hadith, stories of the past scholars, so that we’ll have the knowledge and the method of purifying our hearts from anything that might damage our righteous deed.