Acquiring heaven through deeds alone

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Hazrat Mir Muhammad Ishaqra

It is mentioned in a hadith that the Holy Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said:

لَا یُدْخِلُ اَحَدًا الْجَنَّۃَ عَمَلُہُ قَالُوا وَلَا اَنْتَ یَا رَسُولَ اللہِ قَالَ وَلَا اَنَا اِلَّا اَنْ یَتَغَمَّدَنِی اللہُ بِفَضْلٍ وَرَحْمَۃٍ

The translation of this hadith is, “One’s good deeds will not make him enter Paradise.’ They [the Companions] asked, ‘Even you, O Allah’s Messenger?’ He replied, ‘Even I, until and unless Allah bestows His grace and mercy on me.’”

God forbid, this hadith does not mean that the Holy Prophet’ssa deeds were not sufficient for him to enter paradise. On the contrary, the hadith stresses how the acquisition of eternal paradise solely depends on God Almighty’s grace and mercy. The reason for this is because man’s deeds are [naturally] limited and being bestowed eternal and limitless paradise in exchange for limited deeds is irrational.

Even in terms of recompense, it would be impossible for limited [good] deeds to be granted eternal paradise. No matter how much a minute good act is rewarded, as man’s life is limited, his deeds are inadvertently also limited. Therefore, a life that is limited in deeds cannot be granted a limitless and eternal paradise. Thus, the word “heaven” mentioned in this hadith refers to an “eternal” and limitless heaven.

What the Holy Prophetsa indicated is that a person, even if they were a prophet, cannot acquire eternal paradise (through his limited deeds alone) without the grace and mercy of God almighty. Islam therefore does not teach that no matter how many sins someone commits, Allah will not punish him, nor does Islam advocate that God will only reward according to the amount of good deeds and nothing more. Rather, Islam says:

لِلَّذِیْنَ اَحْسَنُوا الْحُسْنیٰ وَزِیَادَۃٌ

[For those who do good deeds, there shall be the best reward and yet more blessings. (Surah Yunus, Ch.10: V.27)]

This means that God will bestow much more as compared to our deeds alone. We hold the belief that He will grant us more than just what our deeds will reap. After all, what [good] deeds did we carry out that Allah gave us the earth, the sky, oxygen, water, fire, the Moon, the Sun, the stars, mountains, vegetation and animals etc., all to serve us? If this is not a gift from God Almighty, then what is it?

There is absolutely no deed, small or big, on our part that led us to these bounties; they were all created prior to our birth, before any [good] deed we committed. A rational person, keeping this in mind, can draw the conclusion that God can and does grant an unimaginable amount as compared to the reward of human deeds alone.

Thus, an eternal life and an eternal heaven is not based on deeds, rather it relies solely on God’s grace and mercy. Our deeds can allow us to enter heaven but will never be enough for us to stay there eternally. To stay in heaven forever, God’s grace and mercy is mandatory.

(Originally published in Al Fazl on 7 February 1940 in the form of notes taken by Mahmood Ahmad Khalil Sahib from the lectures on hadith by Hazrat Mir Muhammad Ishaqra, brother-in-law of the Promised Messiahas)

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