It is completely natural and inherent in humans – a phenomenon recurring through history. We all want status; we all want to be recognized. Often we may yearn to be among the ranks of the great people that tread the Earth before us; people who made a difference and changed the world for the better. Sometimes we then focus on our bigger deeds, the deeds we feel will hold more weight with Allah `azza wa jal (mighty and majestic is He). The intention can be well placed; we simply want to benefit the most and do the best we possibly can with our time. So long as our intention is sincerely and purely for Allah `azza wa jal, in His service and not for status or recognition, this can be admirable; in fact, it is something we need as Muslims today.
Our ultimate goal is the pleasure of Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala (glorifed and exalted is He) in the eternal abode of Jannah (paradise). In trying to benefit the world around us in the best way possible, we sometimes forget the small stuff.
“He admits whom He wills into His mercy; but the wrongdoers – He has prepared for them a painful punishment.” [Qur’an, 76:31]
Allah `azza wa jal points out that in fact it is not our deeds that get us into Jannah, but rather it is by His mercy. We can see this manifested in that Allah does not judge us on the size of our deeds, but rather the purity of our intentions. The Prophet ﷺ, “Verily actions are by their intentions…” [Bukhari]
Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala also says:
“Whoever does righteousness, whether male or female, while he is a believer – We will surely cause him to live a good life, and We will surely give them their reward [in the Hereafter] according to the best of what they used to do.” [Qur’an, 16:97]
Wa alhamdu lil Lah (and all praise is for Allah) that Allah will reward us according to the best of our deeds!
Since deeds are judged by their purity of intention and the best of deeds are those with purest intention, this naturally leads us to try our best in every deed. We never know which deed might be the sincerest and by which deed Allah might decide to grant us His mercy; it may be that $5 donation, the time that you were patient with your parents, or even the piece of trash you picked up off of the ground.
‘A’isha radi Allahu `anha (may Allah be pleased with her) reported:
“A poor woman came to me along with her daughters. I gave her three dates. She gave a date to each of them and then she took up one date and brought that to her mouth in order to eat that, but her daughters expressed desire to eat it. She then divided the date that she intended to eat between them. This (kind) treatment of her impressed me and I mentioned that which she did to Allah’s Messenger ﷺ. Thereupon he said: ‘Verily Allah has assured Paradise for her, because of (this act) of her, or He has rescued her from Hell-Fire.'” [Sahih Muslim, Number 6363.]
Surely then, no good deed, no matter what it is, is worth passing over.