Salam Alaykum. I've been reading about living and acting for the sake of pleasing Allah. I definitely understand why that's important and have been getting into the mindset whenever I can remember. My issue is, I initially reverted for ultimate salvation (Jannah) as well as Allah's blessings in the dunya. I realize that the second reason is unwise but that is for another question in the future Insha'Allah. My issue is, occasionally, I've been feeling guilty about worshipping for the sake of salvation vs. for the sake of pleasing Allah. Can anyone please give me the Islamic opinion on whether we should keep the desire for salvation in our hearts while acting to pleasing Allah?
As‘salaamu alaikum, brother!
You have absolutely no reason to feel guilty about your motivation for doing good deeds. Yearning for the Jannah is a legitimate motive according to the teachings of the Qur‘an....
“Say: ‘Is that (the agony of Hellfire) best, or the Gardens of Eternity, promised to the righteous?‘ For them that is a reward AS WELL AS A GOAL. For them there will be therein all that they wish for. They will dwell in it forever, A PROMISE TO BE PRAYED FOR FROM YOUR LORD.” Qur‘an 25:15-16
I think the above passage makes it abundantly clear that Allah‘s promise of Jannah IS MEANT TO BE A MOTIVATION FOR US TO PRODUCE RIGHTEOUS CONDUCT. Again, there is no need to feel any guilt for being motivated by desire for the Jannah.
I think I have answered your question, but I want to leave you with somethng to ponder over.
There is a doctrinal truth called the “darajat” (ranks and degrees) that teaches us muslims that we are not all on the same level with regard to the strength and quality of our faith and the extent of our piety to Allah.
“It is He Who has raised you in ranks and degrees, some above others, that He may try you in the gifts He has given you.” Qur‘an 6:165
Imaam Hamza Yusuf once described the darajat as a positive word indicating ascending by way of climbing stairs. As you ascend, your “ikhlaas” (sincerity and loyalty to Allah and His Deen) becomes purer and much more potent, which causes your motives for doing good evolve.
I know of 3 Islamically sound motives for doing good deeds:
wanting to avoid the Hellfire (which is the same as fearing Allah‘s Wrath); and/or
wanting to make it to Jannah (which is the same as desiring His “Ni‘mat” = Approval and Favor); and/or
wanting to please Allah (which happens naturally when one begins to fall in love with Him).
Brother, all three motives are legitimate, good, and acceptible to Allah!
With regard to fearing Allah, the Book says:
“Verily, those who live in awe FOR FEAR OF THEIR LORD, those who believe in the ayah of their Lord, those who do not join partners with their Lord, and those who give their charity WITH THEIR HEARTS FULL OF FEAR because they will return to their Lord -- IT IS THESE WHO HASTEN IN EVERY GOOD WORK, AND THESE WHO ARE FOREMOST IN THEM.” Qur‘an 23:57-61
Please note that in these ayah, the Arabic words translated as fear is NOT “taqwa”. In ayat 57 the words used are “khashiyah” (which means afraid or scared), and “mushfiq” (one who is anxious and worried). In ayat 60 the word used is “wajilah” (which means to be full of dread).
So fear is a legitimate motive for doing good deeds.
I personally believe that, yes, wanting to please Allah is a higher and more handsome motive for doing good, but I also believe that we have to grow into that. Do the good that you are able to do right now, SEEKING THE JANNAH. When Allah sees fit He will raise you up through the darajat.
I hope you found this answer useful.