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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.

 

  EsinIslam.Com

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