Surah Hud Ayat, 15, 16:

Whoever desires the life of this world and its adornments - We fully repay them for their deeds therein, and they therein will not be deprived.

Those are the ones for whom there is not in the Hereafter but the Fire. And lost is what they did therein, and worthless is what they used to do.

Based on Quran, good deeds of people without faith won't help them go to the paradise after death. Otherwise, what would be the purpose of faith? This is what the Shia believe. By "faith", I mean believing in God/Allah.

Now, Let's say somebody believes in God. Do they know God perfectly? No, no one does(?). Let's assume that persons A and B have achieved 1% and 2% of perfect knowledge of God, respectively. If both A and B give identical amount of money to the poor (a similar good deed), will person B be rewarded more than person A, because he/she knows God better? Or will they be rewarded the same?

In other words, does Islam have black-and-white thinking? That is, if somebody doesn't believe in God, their good deeds won't get accepted. On the other hand, if somebody believes in God, their good deeds will be rewarded no matter how imperfect their understanding of God (i.e. their faith) is.

2 Answers 2


As'salaamu alaikum.

You ask if Al-Islam has black-and-white thinking. About some matters, yes, the Islamic ruling is pretty clear cut, but, as you should know, life is not always a black-and-white experience. There are plenty of examples I could cite but I'll stay on point with the particular topic that you raised.

If someone hears the basic message of Al-Islam, understands it, and then rejects to embrace it then on the Day of Judgment, Allah is not going to give any of their good deeds any weight. That is not just a Shia teaching; it is a QUR'ANIC teaching. See, e.g., Surat-ul-Kahf (18), ayah 103-106.

That is a black-and-white ruling from Allah Himself.

However, after a person embraces the Islamic message and way of life, what determines how much ajr (reward) he gets -- that is a multifaceted matter that does not lend itself to black-and-white arithmetic.

In the Qur'an, Allah tells us about something that He calls the Darajat, or "the ranks and degrees", that basically means that we are not all on the same level as Muslims. Some Muslims are more serious about Islam than others. Some are more loyal, more willing to make sacrifices for it, more diligent in keeping up with prayers and other worships, more certain in their belief, more desiring of a spiritual experience (a love affair) with Allah -- and more. All of these factors (and others) distinguish us from one another in the Sight of Allah, and He will reward us for our deeds based on all of these things taken together, PLUS His Rah'mat and Ni'mat (Grace and Favor).

"It is He (Allah) Who has made you His Khalifahs on Earth, and He has raised some of you above others by ranks and degrees, that He may try you in the gifts He has given you. For your Lord is quick in punishment, yet He is indeed Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful." Surat-ul-An'am (6), ayat 165.

"Not equal are the Believers who sit at home and receive no hurt, and those who strive and fight in the Cause of Allah with their goods and their persons. Allah has granted a grade higher to those who strive and fight with their goods and their persons than to those who sit idle. UNTO ALL HAS ALLAH PROMISED GOOD, BUT THOSE WHO STRIVE AND FIGHT HE HAS DISTINGUISHED ABOVE THOSE WHO SIT IDLE BY A SPECIAL REWARD -- RANKS AND DEGREES SPECIALLY BESTOWED BY HIM, AND FORGIVENESS AND MERCY. FOR ALLAH IS OFT-FORGIVING, MOST MERCIFUL." Surat-an-Nisaa (4), ayah 95-96.

That last quote highlights just one of the things that brings about elevation in the Darajat. There are many others.

Fasting regularly, rising by night and performing salat, showing kindnesses to anyone in need or distress, showing beautiful patience at times of your own distress, HAVING PURE MOTIVES FOR YOUR GOOD DEEDS -- all of that helps and matters.

What we know is that a person who is highly developed as a devotee of Allah get rewarded way more for deeds that appear to be equal or even lesser than deeds done by a less developed person.

I cannot cite a reference to this Hadith, but it well known. I invite anyone who can give you an exact cite to do so. Towards the end of his mission, after the conquest of Mecca, a newly converted Meccan was speaking rudely to one of the Prophet's (alaihi salaam) Companions (R.A.). The Prophet (A.S.) told that Meccan: "Be careful how you talk to my Companions, for you are not his equal. A crust of bread given in charity by him is more precious in the Sight of Allah than an entire mountain of gold given by you."

Brother, in Al-Islam, what really matters is purity. "By the soul and the proportion and order given to it, and its enlightenment as to its wrong and its right -- VERILY, HE SHALL SUCCEED THAT PURIFIES IT, AND HE FAILS THAT CORRUPTS IT." Surat-ush-Shams (91), ayah 7-10.

We must first purify our minds and hearts of false ideas about Allah. Then we must purify our relationship with our Lord. Then we must purify our relationship with Deen-ul-Islam (meaning we need to learn it correctly and then practice it intelligently and diligently). Then we must do all that we can to tune in and fall in love with Allah, and then we must practice our Islam from that place of love.

That is how we purify ourselves, elevate through the Darajat, and thereby increase our ajr earning power in preparation for the Day of Judgment. Allah knows best.

"And the Jannah will be brought near to the righteous -- no more a.thing distant. (A voice will say:)'This is what was promised for you -- for everyone who turned in repentance and guarded (his Faith), who feared the Most Gracious One unseen, and brought to Him a hearted turned in devotion. Enter there in peace and security. This is the Day of Eternal Life!' There will be for them therein all that they wish -- and more besides in our presence." Surat-ul-Qaaf (50), ayah 31-35.

I hope you find this answer helpful. Maa'as'salaam, brother.

  • Some Shia scholars/philosophers argue that if a person with no faith, does something good, it actually has some reward (Ajr). They say it is because of the nature of the deed itself. For example, if somebody with no faith, helped an orphan kid out of humanity and compassion, there would be some reward for them. This is because their action is in line with Fitra, which is considered as some kind of worship. What is your opinion?
    – user40089
    Aug 26, 2020 at 21:33
  • I posted another answer to respond to the question you asked in these comments. Aug 28, 2020 at 1:14

As'salaamu alaikum, brother.

You asked me a question in your comment that the "comments" section does not give me enough room to answer, so I'm writing another answer here. Here goes....

Allah is the Lord of cause and effect. By that I mean that it is He who has ordained that certain actions will give rise to certain reactions in this Dunya (present world). Allah has attached Barakat (blessings) to good deeds that are done in this world (NO MATTER WHO DOES THEM), and He has attached Museebah (punishment) to bad deeds. This phenomenon is most well known as "the law of karma". Indeed, it IS a law and it is binding on all people living on planet Earth.

This is precisely why a person without faith but who is nevertheless just, kind, decent, respectful, hardworking, devoted to the principle of excellence in all things, and is morally upright will receive all kinds of good things IN THIS WORLD. Conversely, a person who has faith but is cruel, treacherous, deceitful, unjust, lazy, and mediocre in his endeavors will have to suffer the consequences for being that kind of person IN THIS WORLD. No one is exempt from the law of karma, so if someone wants blessings they have to do the actions that give rise to those WORLDLY blessings.

But the AJR (rewards) of the Day of Judgment? That is governed by a different law. Brother, anyone who comes to Allah on the Day of Judgment with their hearts blackened by kufr (unbelief) will receive no ajr for their good deeds. Any so-called scholar who says different needs to make tawbah (repentance), for they are speaking contrary to something that is plainly stated in the Qur'an NUMEROUS TIMES.

"And We shall turn to whatever deeds they did, and We shall make such deeds as dust scattered about." See, Surat-ul-Furqaan (25), ayah 21-23 (the quoted part is ayat 23).

"Say: 'Shall we tell you of those who lose most in respect of their deeds -- those whose efforts have been wasted in this life, while they thought they were acquiring good by their works?' They are those who deny the ayah of their Lord and the fact of their having to meet Him. VAIN WILL BE THEIR WORKS, NOR SHALL WE, ON THE DAY OF JUDGMENT, GIVE THEM ANY WEIGHT." Surat-ul-Kahf (18), ayah 103-105.

There are two things that Allah is going to Judge us on on the Day of Judgment: 1) the condition of our hearts; and 2) our conduct during our lives on earth. The condition of the hearts factor is the weightier of these two things.

Kufr is a crime against Allah. If a faithless person does every good thing you can think of for CREATED THINGS, he still stands guilty of a heinous crime against THE CREATOR. That crime invalidates all of the APPARENT "good" that he/she did, BECAUSE THE CREATED THING CAN NEVER BE MORE IMPORTANT THAN THE CREATOR. Ponder over Surat-ul-Imraan (3), ayah 116-117. The Faithless person's kufr is a destructive force that is going to destroy the weight that their good deeds should have on the Day of Judgment.

A person with Faith, on the other hand, has hope. I like to think of it like this:

Imaan opens a window from this Dunya to the Akhirah for us. The good deeds we do -- we get the blessings that they bring in this world (in accordance with the law of karma), AND those good deeds pass over to the Akhirah, where we will find them waiting for us, Insha'Allah.

Now, we Muslims still must face a reckoning for the bad we do in this Dunya. That is a fact, but even in that, Imaan might come to our rescue, BECAUSE ALLAH MIGHT FORGIVE US FOR THOSE BAD DEEDS. The forgiveness of Allah, that is also ajr. We have hope of receiving it. The kafir has none.

There's a big difference between the transitory blessings of this world and the everlasting rewards of the Hereafter.

"Of the bounties of your Lord We bestow freely on all -- these as well as those. The bounties of your Lord are not closed to anyone. See how We have bestowed more on some than on others? But, truly the Hereafter is more in rank and gradation, and more in excellence." Surat-ul-Israa (17), ayah 20-21.

"The things you are given are but the conveniences of the Dunya and its glitter, but that which is with Allah is better and more enduring. Will you not then be wise?" Surat-ul-Qasas (28), ayat 60.

I hope I answered your question.

  • Thank you for your detailed answer.
    – user40089
    Aug 29, 2020 at 9:38
  • Alhamdulillah! Maa'as'salaam, brother. Have a good day. Aug 29, 2020 at 15:02

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