That Islam is a merit/demerit based religion is beyond question. One’s eternal destiny hinges (as far as any human actions can sway the will of Allah) on how well or poorly one obeys the divine commands, now conveniently gathered in what is known as Shari’ah law (in one approved version or another). The goal of Muslims is to stack up as many “merit points” as possible while avoiding the demerits that accrue from disobedience to Allah. At the Day of Judgment Allah will use a pan balance to weigh the totality of one’s good deeds against his bad deeds. Although Allah in his sovereign freedom is not obligated to follow the results, the Muslim hope is that he will have accrued enough good over evil to sway Allah’s judgment toward Paradise rather than hellfire.
One doesn’t need to read much in Islamic literature to see the obsession with reward and punishment based on deeds. Many scholars and hadith traditions weigh in on the specific rewards (in quality and quantity associated with particular good deeds or intentions. For example:
- “The example of those who spend their wealth in the way of Allah [i.e., in jihad] is like a seed which grows seven spikes, in each spike is a hundred grains. Allah multiplies His reward for whom He wills, for Allah is vast and knowing” (Sura 2:261)
- “Verily, Allah has recorded good and bad deeds and He made them clear. Whoever intends to perform a good deed but does not do it, then Allah will record it as a complete good deed. If he intends to do it and does so, then Allah the Exalted will record it as ten good deeds up to seven hundred times as much or even more. If he intends to do a bad deed and does not do it, then Allah will record for him one complete good deed. If he does it then Allah will record for him a single bad deed” (Sahih Bukhari, 6126)
- “Whoever reads a letter of the Book of Allah will be credited with a good deed, and a good deed gets tenfold reward. I do not say that Alif-laam-meem is a letter, rather alif is a letter, laam is a letter and meem is a letter” (Tirmidhi, 2910)
- Reading or reciting Surat al-Ikhlas (Sura 112, composed of only 4 verses) gains the reward otherwise associated with reading or reciting 1/3 of the whole Qur’an (Bukhari, 4628)
- According to Muhammad, “Whoever sends blessings upon me once will have Allah send blessings upon him ten times” (Sahih Muslim, 408)
- Even better, according to Sunan Timidhi 2689, “Imran ibn Hussein reported: A man came to the Prophet and he said, ‘Peace be upon you.’ The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said: ‘Ten good deeds.’ Then another man came to the Prophet and he said, ‘Peace be upon you and the mercy of Allah.’ The Prophet said: ‘Twenty good deeds.’ Then another man came to the Prophet and he said, ‘Peace be upon you and the mercy of Allah and His blessings.’ The Prophet said: ‘Thirty good deeds.’” (Apparently it really pays out well to heap praises upon Muhammad!)
- “Every [good] deed of the son of Adam is multiplied from ten to seven hundred times. Allah the Exalted says: Except for fasting, for it is done for my sake and I will reward it” (Sahih Muslim 1151). The implication of this is that fasting is in an exalted category all by itself, and earns mountains of blessings from Allah.
- Providing food for one breaking his fast earns you as much reward as that achieved by the one fasting, without detracting from his reward in any way.
- The Prophet said: “Prayer in congregation is superior to praying individually twenty-seven times.” (Sahih al-Bukhari and Sahih Muslim)
- “Allah’s Messenger (Peace be Upon Him) said: ‘Whoever says ‘Subhaanallaahi wa bihamdihi’ [Glorified is Allah and praised is He] one hundred times a day, will have his sins forgiven even if they are like the foam of the sea.’” (al-Bukhari and Muslim)
- Perhaps the “jackpot command” is: “The Prophet said: “Whoever enters a market and says: ‘Laa ilaaha ill Allah waHdahu laa shareeka lah, lahul mulku wa lahul Hamdu yuHyi wa yumeetu wa huwa Hayyun laa yamoot, bi yadihil khayr, wahuwa 'alaa kulli shay’in qadeer’ [there is nothing worthy of worship but Allah, He is alone without partner, to Him belongs dominion and praise, he causes life and death and He is the Living and does not die. In His Hand is all the good, and He is over all things competent.] Allah will write for him a million good deeds, erase a million of his bad deeds and raise him a million levels.” (at-Tirmidhi)…