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Should We Do Good Only for Reward?

Questioner

Junaid

Reply Date

Sep 09, 2018

Question

Salam, despite my best efforts, I'm starting to lose my faith and am questioning the existence of the afterlife. These three questions have been troubling me lately: 1. How can people be truly ethical if they are just being motivated by God's punishments and rewards? I mean no disrespect, but if that were the case, people would only be motivated by 'self-interest' and not something greater. I feel like I should be doing good deeds because I care about other people, or because I value kindness as an end in itself, or because I believe that everyone deserves the same basic rights. 2. Or put another way: I want to love Allah, but why should I expect anything in return? We've already been given so much in this life. Wouldn't it work if I'm just content with all I've been given in the here and now? 3. Why should people be judged on their (sometimes mistaken) beliefs? Especially if they have good intentions and are trying their best to find truth, would Allah still leave them misguided? Thanks, and Jazakumallah Khairan for your valuable work.

Consultant

Answer


only for reward

Short Answer: Allah has given us everything; and even those things we give to the poor or the needy are really His gift to them. And as we have chosen to be a channel for that gift, we get reward. If we reject that reward, it is somewhat of a rebellion against God. Allah will certainly reward them on the basis of their intention and effortsAllah’s judgment is faultless. Never does He do injustice to anyone.

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Asalamu Alaikum Junaid,

Thank you for your questions.

First, imagine that there really is no afterlife.

In that case, your life ends once and for all with your death.

All the good deeds you have done simply vanish with your death.

But Allah the All Merciful does not want the good deeds of any of us to go to waste. 

Indeed, the afterlife is a logical conclusion to this life, whatever may be our ideas about good deeds. 

The Quran answers the question how there can be a life after death:

{[…] He gives life to the earth after it had been lifeless! Verily, this Selfsame [God] is indeed the One Who can bring the dead back to life: for He has the power to will anything!} (Quran 30:50)

If God can send down rains to revive the completely lifeless land, why can’t we see that it is possible for Him to revive humans after their death? 

After all, it is He Who created us in the first place.

Action and Intention

Psychologists tell us that even in our most natural expressions and actions, there are hidden motives. Or consider the theory that all the actions of people are motivated by self-interest even when they appear to be otherwise.

For instance, a soldier who risks his life to save his companions might be moved by a secret desire to be honored a hero.

This does not mean that there cannot be an action that is free from self-interest. Yet, it would be difficult to determine whether a particular action of a particular person is free from self-interest.

After all, the goodness or badness of a deed is determined by the intention or motive of the doer.

It is possible for you to care for others merely for the sake of caring for others; or you can show kindness to people, as kindness is a great value.

But in these cases, your self-interest is in disguise; as you are pampering your own ego, as you delude yourself into believing that you are a cut above others by being selfless.

In this world, there are persons who are motivated to do good deeds because of the promise of rewards, and there are persons who do good deeds to make themselves feel like they are good, and there are the few who do good for an ideal greater than these self-interests.

And it is obvious that an overwhelming majority of people belong to the first two categories.

So, the rewards-punishments scheme would work better for our workaday world than for the idealist scheme. 

Human psychology is such and Allah Who created all of us knows this and His scheme is the best.

Reward from Allah

Your supposition about reward is that if someone wants any reward from Allah for his good deeds, he doesn’t love Allah.

That is, the real test for one’s love for Allah is not asking for any reward.

But Allah Almighty Himself says in the Quran that He bestows the greatest rewards to those who believe in Him and strive in His Way:

{[But,] verily, as for those who attain to faith and do righteous deeds – the gardens of paradise will be there to welcome them.} (Quran 18:107)

Such is Allah’s Mercy that His rewards far outweigh our feeble efforts. But when we imagine that we can do without His generosity or mercy, it is not a good attitude.

One point to remember is that if you do not want anything from Allah, it is not a generosity to Allah Almighty. Because you cannot do any favor to Allah or lessen the least bit of His treasures by taking any gift from Him.

Certainly, you can be content with whatever you have; and Allah will reward you for that. But you take the position that you don’t want any reward from Allah even when Allah generously offers it.

Besides, your arguments for acting out of higher ideals imply that these are better than what Allah has commanded in His Quran!

Allah has given us everything; and even those things we give to the poor or the needy are really His gift to them. And as we have chosen to be a channel for that gift, we get reward.

If we reject that reward, it is somewhat of a rebellion against God.

Judged on Beliefs

Allah Almighty has this to say about those who do (supposedly) good deeds, which have no weight with Allah:

{Say: “Shall we tell you who are the greatest losers in whatever they may do? [It is] they whose labor has gone astray in [the pursuit of no more than] this world’s life, and who none the less think that they are doing good works; it is they who have chosen to deny their Sustainer’s messages and the truth; that they are destined to meet Him.” Hence, all their [good] deeds are in vain, and no weight shall We assign to them on Resurrection Day.} (Quran 18:103-105)

That is to say, for our good works to have any weight with Allah, we should believe in the final meeting with Him, when all of our good works will be weighed, and their rewards determined against our bad deeds.

Indeed, the criteria for judging which work is good, which is bad, come from Allah.

Our own criteria for judging our works are erratic, unreliable; and can be easily influenced.

You suggest that the beliefs of people are not to be taken into consideration, for the reason that they may be sometimes mistaken. But you think that the intentions behind actions can be considered.

In fact, the intentions of people are based on their beliefs.

For instance, a person who believes in Islam has the intention of going for Umrah next month. Thus, the intentions of people can be seen to be based on their beliefs.

You suppose that Allah may leave a person with the good intention of trying to find truth, in a state of misguidance. Allah will not leave them in the lurch. He will certainly reward them on the basis of their intention and efforts.

Allah’s judgment is faultless. Never does He do injustice to anyone.

I hope this helps answer your question.

Salam and please keep in touch.

(From Ask About Islam archives)

Please continue feeding your curiosity, and find more info in the following links:

How to Improve Our Purity of Intention?

How Do I Fix My Relationship With Allah?

Entering Paradise: Grace or Good Deeds?

 

 

 




About Professor Shahul Hameed

Professor Shahul Hameed is an Islamic consultant. He also held the position of the President of the Kerala Islamic Mission, Calicut, India. He is the author of three books on Islam published in the Malayalam language. His books are on comparative religion, the status of women, and science and human values.


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