Do good deeds
within the time available — purpose of life and religion
Khutba by Dr Zahid Aziz,
Ahmadiyya UK, 12 January 2024
“Blessed is He in Whose hand is the Kingdom, and He
is Powerful over all things, Who created death and life that He might try you
(as to) which of you is best in deeds. And He is the Mighty, the
Forgiving.” — ch. 67, Al-Mulk, v. 1–2
وَ ہُوَ عَلٰی
عَمَلًا ؕ وَ
“Say: I am only a mortal like you — it is revealed
to me that your God is one God. So whoever hopes to meet his Lord, he
should do good deeds, and make no one a partner (with God) in the service
of his Lord.” — ch. 18, Al-Kahf, v. 110
وَّاحِدٌ ۚ فَمَنۡ
وَّ لَا یُشۡرِکۡ
know that the Holy Quran frequently and repeatedly emphasises the need to do
good deeds. Most often this is mentioned in connection with having belief, as
in the recurring expression “those who believe and do good deeds”. However, the
doing good deeds is so essential that it is sometimes mentioned by itself,
without referring to belief. The verses I recited above are of this kind.
passage occurs right at the beginning of a Sūrah,
which shows that it is declaring a fundamental principle. And that principle is
that the very purpose of human life is that humans may be tried and test to see
who is best in doing good deeds. The same idea is repeated at the beginning of
the Sūrah known as al-Kahf, or ‘The Cave’ in these words:
“Surely We have made whatever is on
the earth an embellishment (zīnat) for
it, so that We may try which of them is best in deeds” (18:7).
given resources on this earth with which they make the planet beautiful and
comfortable. We see this in the shiny buildings, roads, parks, etc. that are
around us. Even the deserts, for example in the UAE countries, have been beautified.
Yet the purpose of all this material beauty is to test humans to see if they do
good deeds while enjoying this beauty. But the next verse says:
“And We shall surely make what is on
it (i.e. on the earth) dust, without vegetation” (18:8).
fail the trial and test of doing good deeds, then the beauty with which they
embellished the earth is reduced to dust, without vegetation. This may happen
directly by their own hands or through the operation of some law of nature.
Examples are numerous, from the past history and the present, where you can see
photos of how a city flourished before and what it looked like after its
the very purpose of creating human life, and giving it wonderful resources, is
that humans do good deeds, similarly the reason for God to send religious
teachings is to enable humans to do good deeds. This is stated in the second
verse which I recited above, which is at the end of the same Sūrah al-Kahf.
That verse sums up the whole of Islam in a short and simple sentence. God tells
the Holy Prophet Muhammad to declare to people: I am nothing but a mortal like
you. This means that the Holy Prophet has the same duties and responsibilities
of doing good deeds and worshipping Allah as what he teaches other people to
difference between him and other mortals is just that he has received a message
from God to say that He is the one and only God, and he has received the
teachings by following which a person can, so to speak, experience God in this
life and the Hereafter. The verse then says that the first and foremost thing
which a person must do to “meet God” is to do good deeds. Merely holding
certain beliefs cannot take anyone to God. Nor can belonging to a certain
so-called chosen people or calling yourself by some name or label, take anyone
good deeds it is mentioned that, in his worship and service of God, he must not
take anyone else to be a partner of God. Now prophets and sacred figures of
religions came to show the way to reach God. So there is a natural human
tendency to consider and revere them as partners of God. After all, it is said
that you cannot reach God except through them, so in that sense they might be
looked upon by their followers as part and parcel of God Himself. It is to
remove this wrong idea that this verse begins with the statement by the Holy
Prophet that “I am only a mortal like you”. This brings about a separation and
distinction between a prophet as a human and the teachings of that prophet.
Muslims, of course, prayed behind the Holy Prophet, but they did not pray to
the Holy Prophet, rather they joined him in praying to God. Another meaning of
not making someone else as a partner of God in this verse, which talks about
good deeds, is that a good deed should not be done for any lower motive or
gain, or for show or pleasing someone else, but only for attaining nearness to
point out that it is believed by Muslims, on the basis of Hadith, that on
Fridays they should read this Sūrah
al-Kahf, ch. 18 of the Quran, or some part of it.
And as I have said above, this chapter tells us at its opening that the purpose
of creating life on earth is that humans should do good deeds, and it tells us
in its last verse that the purpose of sending religion and revelation is the
same: that humans should do good deeds.
other places in the Quran where the primary stress is on the doing of good
deeds. For example, we read:
“And the judging on that day will be
just; so as for those whose good deeds are heavy, they are the successful. And
as for those whose good deeds are light, those are they who ruined their souls
because they were unjust to Our messages” (ch. 7, Al-A‘rāf,
us that on the Day of Judgment everyone will be judged by the extent and amount
of good deeds they performed in this life. That is described here as a just or
true judgment. The judgment will not be on the basis of what someone said or
claimed about himself in this life, but the practical good he or she did. Those
who have a lot to their credit will be successful in developing their souls in
this life and in reaching God in the next life. Those who have only a little to
their credit cause a loss to their own souls because, it says here, they failed
to do justice to the teachings and message sent by God. In other words, the
purpose of those messages from God was that people learn to do good deeds in
abundance, and therefore those whose good deeds were only a tiny fraction of
all that they did in their lives, they did not treat those messages with the justice
that those messages deserved.
representation of heavy good deeds and light good deeds is found also in two
other places in the Quran:
“Then those whose good deeds are
heavy, those are the successful. And those whose good deeds are light, those
are they who have lost their souls, abiding in hell” (23:102–103),
“Then as for him whose good deeds are
heavy, he will live a pleasant life. And as for him whose good deeds are light,
the abyss (or the great depth) is a mother to him” (101:6–9).
these places, only good deeds are mentioned, whether they are many or few.
There is no mention here that having the right beliefs will take someone to
heaven and paradise, and having the wrong beliefs will result in going to hell.
This does not mean that having the right beliefs is unimportant and it doesn’t
matter if you entertain wrong beliefs. It is because the very purpose and idea
of rights beliefs is to only enable a person to do good deeds.
obvious, of course, that good deeds can only be done by someone while they are
alive, and we all have a limited period in this life. The Quran, at least three
times, depicts the scene of a person close to death, or having just died, who
realises that he did not do the good deeds he ought to have done. He
desperately calls on God to send him back and give him another chance. The
“Until when death catches up with one
of them, he says: My Lord, send me back, that I may do good in that which I
have left. By no means! It is only a word that he speaks. And before them is a
barrier, until the day they are raised (on the Day of Judgment)” (23:99–100).
addressing Muslims it says:
“And spend (on good works) out of
what We have given you before death comes to one of you, and he says: My Lord,
why did You not grant me respite for a little while (longer), so that I should
have given in charity and been among the doers of good deeds? But Allah does
not respite a soul, when its term comes” (63:10–11).
In a third
place, it says that those in hell will say: “Our Lord, take us out! we will do
good deeds, not those which we used to do!” and God will reply: “Did We not
give you a life long enough, for him to be mindful who would mind? And the
warner came to you” (35:37). In fact, hell is only the state of realisation and
regret by a person that he missed doing the good deeds which he ought to have
A few days
ago, a highly valued member of our Lahore Ahmadiyya community, Mr Arshad Alvi,
died suddenly in Lahore. He had done much work for many years in publishing mostly
the Urdu, but some English, books of our Movement. He had compiled in book form
a massive number of valuable articles which had appeared in our Movement’s
journal over a period of decades on various topics, stretching back more than a
hundred years. Only three weeks ago he outlined his plans for the coming year
to produce more such compilations on various subjects.
did all this great work humbly and quietly, in a self-effacing manner, without
seeking praise or publicity for himself. Besides this, he was helpful, kind,
courteous and hospitable to everyone whom he met. In fact, he was waiting at
home to receive a friend whom he had offered to help with a personal need when
he passed away before his friend arrived. To him the words of the Quran that I
quoted apply fittingly: فَمَنۡ
الۡمُفۡلِحُوۡنَ — “Then those whose good deeds are heavy, those are
the successful” (23:102), and he did indeed obey the advice of the Quran
mentioned above: “spend (on good works) out of what We have given you before
death comes to one of you”. He should have no regrets on this score.
grant him forgiveness, admit him into His mercy, accept all his services, join
him with the righteous who passed away before, and give help and comfort to his
bereaved relatives, Ameen. And may Allah enable all of us to fill the
limited time we have in this life with good deeds of all kinds, Ameen.