Bismillahi Al-Rahmani Al-Rahim
Choosing Between Good Actions
Examine which one most benefits your
heart, and do it.
There are times when we are faced with having to
choose between two mutually-exclusive meritorious actions. The
general principle is that the action with the highest benefit is
given precedence. So
When one of the actions is obligatory
[wajiba] and the other recommended [sunnah],
precedence is given to the obligatory. An example of this is when
an obligatory prayer begins it is not permissible to initiate a
prayer that is voluntary.
When both actions are obligatory, the most
obligatory one is given precedence. So, one of the five daily
prayers is given precedence to a pray one has made made
obligatory through an oath.
When both actions are recommended
[masnunah], precedence is given to be most meritorious.
So, the sunnah prayers associated with specific times
[al-sunan al-ratibah] are given precedence over general
voluntary prayers; and something that also benefits others is
given precedence over things that benefit only oneself.
There are factors that sometimes change the order of
precedence. Such as
The act with lower precedence being specific for
a given time or place, such as dhikr--instead of reciting
Qur'an--while bowing, prostrating, and moving during prayer.
The act with lower precedence including a benefit
not included in the act of higher precedence, such as spreading
harmony between people, and being beneficial to others.
The act with higher precedence resulting in
something negative that the act of lower precedence is free
The act with lower precedence being more
beneficial to the heart. When Imam Ahmad was asked about some
performing deeds he replied, "Examine which one most benefits
your heart, and do it."
And Allah knows best.
(Source: Al-Qawa'id al-fiqhiyyah, Sheikh `Abd al-Rahman bin Nasir bin `Abd Allah al-Sa`di
(1376 - 1307 AH). Dar Ibn al-Jawzi: 1423 AH. pp22-23)
Wa al-salamu `alaykum