During one of our lessons my Ustadh, Maulana Anwar Sahib, mentioned an incident which he experienced whilst offering Salaah in the Masjid.
My Ustadh would mention this story on many occasions to inform us and educate in regards to the religion and to show us the importance to understand the teachings of religion to ensure that the individual is actually following the true teachings of the religion and not just his whims and desires.
He mentioned, on one occasion when I was offering Salaah in the Masjid I saw an individual whose back was exposed whilst in Sajdah due to the short top he was wearing. I was offering Salaah behind him and when I completed my Salaah and he had completed his I approached him and told him politely, 'brother, I believe that your Salaah has become invalidated because your back was visible during Sajdah. However, it is best if you seek advise from a learned scholar just to confirm.'
Hearing this the brother became very annoyed and said, 'Dil Saaf Hona Chahye', translated as 'the heart needs to be pure'.
By this statement the individual was implying that these 'small' things don't matter, what actually matters is your intentions and the purity of your heart. If within your heart you have a clean intention then these things are trivial.
My Ustadh would relate this story and then inform us how many people's understanding religion is misplaced and through this misplaced understanding how people's actions become invalidated.
Indeed, one's heart needs to be pure and clean. Yet this does not mean that the teachings of the Prophet صلى الله عليه و سلم can be overlooked and misinterpreted. It is therefore essential that one learns the teachings of Islam in light of the Qur'an and Sunnah; an important lesson for any individual but more so for a student of knowledge.