Aspects Of Islamic Faith — 89: Being Charitable Before Adopting Islam
Islamic Perspectives - Muslim Journals
Arab News & Information - By Adil Salahi
Some people are good and kind-hearted by nature. Their
upbringing may enhance these qualities. This applies
to all mankind, Muslims and non-Muslims. Even among
idolaters you will find those who are kind-hearted,
good to their fellow human beings, willing to help the
poor and to relieve other people's distress. In Makkah,
during the Prophet's lifetime, there were such people.
These did not take part in the most hostile actions of
those who tried hard to suppress Islam, kill the
Prophet (peace be upon him) or torture Muslims. When
the Prophet was asked about the best people, he said:
"The best of them in un-Islamic environment are the
best when they adopt Islam, provided that they
understand Islam well."
One of those who were compassionate, generous and
kind-hearted was Hakeem ibn Hazam. He was a latecomer
to Islam, declaring himself a Muslim only two years
before the Prophet passed away. Yet in his pre-Islamic
days, one aspect of his kindness was to set free 100
slaves and to give to the poor 100 camel-loads of food
and clothing. When he became a Muslim, he realized
that every good action must be offered to God, seeking
His acceptance. It was natural for him, therefore, to
wonder about his past good actions and whether he will
be rewarded for them by God. He reports that he spoke
about this to the Prophet, saying: "Messenger of God,
those good actions I used to do in my pre-Islamic
days, such as charity, freeing slaves and my kindness
to relatives: will I earn a reward for them? The
Prophet answered: You have adopted Islam with all your
past good deeds." (Related by Al-Bukhari).
This answer, which admits more than one
interpretation, was good enough for Hakeem. He decided
that he needed to match his past good actions, so that
his Muslim days are not less commendable than his
pre-Islamic ones. So he again set 100 slaves free, and
gave to the poor 100 camel-loads of food and clothing,
which perhaps explains why the Prophet phrased his
answer in this way. Knowing Hakeem well, the Prophet
wanted him to try to excel his past. He gave him the
motivation to do that.
The question remains: Will a convert to Islam be
rewarded for his good deeds when he was an unbeliever?
Some scholars argue that such actions are not granted
any reward from God, because the person concerned was
unaware of God when he did them. However, a greater
number of scholars maintain that reward is granted.
They say that although those good deeds did not
fulfill the conditions for Islamic good deeds that are
accepted by God and rewarded generously by Him, there
is nothing to prevent granting reward for them. God is
most gracious and He gives in abundance. It is stated
in the Qur'an that a sinner who genuinely repents will
have his sins replaced by good deeds. It is highly
probable then that God will reward the good deeds a
sinner does when he is involved in sin. True, the
reward of such a sinner is less than that earned by a
devout, God-fearing person, but it remains a generous
reward given by God whose generosity knows no limit.
Moreover, God may bestow His grace on someone who has
not done a good deed, in the same way as He grants
reward to a believer who is unable to maintain his
past good deeds. To reward a good deed that has not
fulfilled all conditions is even more likely.
Be that as it may, we believe that God's grace is
limitless, and His reward is most generous. He knows
the intention behind every deed and His grace is not
denied to anyone who prefers to do good at any time.