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Is Doing Good Deeds for the Sake of Allah Selfish?

Answered as per Hanafi Fiqh by Seekersguidance.org

Question: Is doing good deeds for the sake of Allah selfish? Often people say that religious people don’t really help others out of selflessness but because they hope for a reward from Allah.

Answer: In the Name of Allah, the Most Merciful and Compassionate

May Allah bless you


It is not selfish to do good deeds for the sake of Allah. In fact, the opposite could be argued. Many people do good deeds for various motives. Some do good deeds for fame and notoriety. Others even do good deeds to feel good. Both of these motives are for a direct benefit to the self, thus selfish.

But it is the one who does for the sake of Allah, that has really removed the self from the equation.

Doing Deeds for the Next Life

With that being said, if one were to do good deeds, in order to gain personal rewards that would benefit them in the next life. This could be seen as selfish from one angle but we have to consider the nature of our existence in this world.

Allah Most High says, “(He is) the One who created death and life to test you which of you is most beautiful in deeds” [Qur’an, 67:02].

This life is a test. And time is limited. Allah has promised success for those who believe and do good deeds (for His sake). And He has promised otherwise for those who reject and do evil deeds. Thus doing good deeds, out of mindfulness of Allah and seeking His good pleasure, is the fulfillment of our existential purpose in life.

Three Levels of Worship

Imam Abu Hamid al-Ghazali mentions in his classic work – The Revival of Religious Sciences – that worshippers are of three types:

(1) The one who does good deeds in order to attain Paradise. These worshippers are like traders.
(2) The one who does good deeds in order to be saved from Hell-Fire. These worshippers are like slaves.
(3) The one who does good deeds just because they love Allah. These worshippers worship out of love. They are the elite. However, all three types are considered saved.

The first type does good deeds for a tangible return. The second, in order to avert some harm. But the highest level of the worshipper is the one who does good deeds, not for any reciprocal benefit nor to avert any harm, but solely out of love for Allah and knowledge that Allah deserves to be worshipped.

As one of the Righteous mentioned, “If Allah never created Heaven or Hell, He still deserves to be worshipped.”

Selfishness is a Deficiency

Thus the selfishness that you mentioned is not, in and of itself, wrong, as long as the deeds are done for the sake of Allah and not for the sake of name and fame. However, it is still considered a deficiency to the attainment of true slavehood and servitude of Allah Most High.

Pure Selflessness

There are many examples where the Companions, those who followed them, and the Righteous of the past did good deeds sacrificing therein their own personal worldly interests, seeking the loftiest of goals, the Divine Pleasure.

This is the pinnacle of selflessness and a sign of true sincerity. As Allah Most High mentions, regarding the Companions (may Allah be pleased with them all), “They prefer (others) to themselves, even though they are in dire need” [Qur’an, 59:09].

The Intelligent Person

The Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “The intelligent person is the one who takes themselves to account and does deeds (in preparation) for that which is after death. And the incapacitated one is the one who allows their self to follow its desires whilst holding false hopes with Allah” [Tirmidhi].

Hope this helps. May Allah bless us and you with utmost sincerity in all that we do.
Allahu A’alam

[Shaykh] Yusuf Weltch

Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

This answer was collected from Seekersguidance.org. It’s an online learning platform overseen by Sheikh Faraz Rabbani. All courses are free. They also have in-person classes in Canada.

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