In Sura Luqman, Allah has mentioned the advice that Hazrat Luqman gives to his son. He says:
يَا بُنَيَّ إِنَّهَا إِن تَكُ مِثْقَالَ حَبَّةٍ مِّنْ خَرْدَلٍ فَتَكُن فِي صَخْرَةٍ أَوْ فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ أَوْ فِي الْأَرْضِ يَأْتِ بِهَا اللَّهُ إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَطِيفٌ خَبِيرٌ
[31:16] O my son! surely if it is the very weight of the grain of a mustard-seed, even though it is in (the heart of) rock, or (high above) in the heaven or (deep down) in the earth, Allah will bring it (to light); surely Allah is Knower of subtleties, Aware;
This post will consider the following:
Allah swt is Al Aleem, the All Knowing, the Khabeer, All Aware: there is nothing that is in the innermost of the innermost thing which is hidden from Him. Even if what we do or think is as small as a mustard seed which is hidden in a big bolder, the whereabouts of which are unknown, He is aware and He will make us face it. There will be a total resurrection, nothing will escape the accounting. If we would be convinced of that, then our innermost thoughts and outward actions would match our claim of faith.
Luqman’s advice to his son to be conscious of his actions, big and small, applies equally to good and evil actions. In this post, however, we will focus on the good deeds and specifically small acts of kindness towards others. In this plane of existence, we will never know the true impact of our small acts of kindness and charity. In the hereafter, however, Allah swt tells us that we will encounter their full impact. In Sura Zilzal, He says:
فَمَن يَعْمَلْ مِثْقَالَ ذَرَّةٍ خَيْرًا يَرَهُ
[99:7] So he who has done an atom’s weight of good shall see it
وَمَن يَعْمَلْ مِثْقَالَ ذَرَّةٍ شَرًّا يَرَهُ
[99:8] And he who has done an atom’s weight of evil shall see it.
Both the ayat of Sura Luqman and Sura Zilzal mention the weight of deeds and scholars explain that the weight of deeds depend upon the intention or niyya that they are undertaken with. We are all aware of the role of niyya in changing our actions to worship. If we are having a shower to cool off, for example, it is just a shower. The same act of showering, however, becomes an act of worship if we convert it into a ghusl for spiritual purification and do it qurbatan illallah, to get close to Allah.
The weight of an action will only be known to Him – even though two people may do the same outward action, the weight of that action may be very different due to different intentions. So intention is the essence and the foundation of any action and an action done for His love is very weighty in His estimation, even if we and other people consider it small. In fact, we are told that small good actions done purely for His sake also have a great impact on others. Imam Jaffar Sadiq (as) said: Anyone who performs a small act for the sake of God, God will make it bigger than he wishes in the sight of others. And anyone who performs a great act for the sake of people, God will make it trivial in the sight of others.
He is the All Generous and the All Merciful. He has created a system of cause and effect whereby any act of goodness or charity gives us immediate and lasting rewards. Up until recently, social science research has been focused on the impact of receiving acts of generosity or kindness. For example, when physicians are kind to patients, they are more likely to recover faster. Marital love is a protective factor against heart disease, depression etc. It is only in recent years, however, that interest has shifted to benefits accruing to the performer of small acts of kindness and altruism. Research has shown that regularly doing small acts of kindness, good deeds or altruism has major impacts on our own health and wellbeing and that on the larger society as well.
There is very interesting research conducted through Case Western University by Stephen Post, PhD, a professor of bioethics. He studied altruism, kindness and its impact on the giver as well as the recipient of acts of kindness.
The research also studied the impacts of volunteering on the volunteers themselves. Post found that volunteering and serving others was a significant protective factor for women against major illness and premature death.
Other studies have suggested a link between acts of altruism and the release of oxytocin, also known as the ‘healing hormone’ for its effect on the immune system and mood. It appears that doing acts of kindness and being generous of spirit mediates stress and results in improvement in both physical and emotional wellbeing.
When we look at all this research, what comes to mind is what Allah swt tells us in the Quran:
إِنْ أَحْسَنتُمْ أَحْسَنتُمْ لِأَنفُسِكُمْ وَإِنْ أَسَأْتُمْ فَلَهَا
[17:7] If you do good, you will do good for your own souls, and if you do evil, it shall be for them.
Doing good deeds and acts of kindness also appears to encourage viewers and recipients of good deeds to follow suit and to ‘pay it forward’ by being kind to others. We may have experienced this ourselves. When someone is in need of a hand, people around him may be oblivious to the need until someone stops to lend a hand. After this, suddenly lots of people join and start helping. The upward spiral of goodness goes something like this:
We are told to seize opportunities to do good actions because opportunities are like clouds, they leave just as soon as they come. We can capitalize on these opportunities by making an intention every day to engage in acts of kindness and generosity. When we start each day with this intention, it is much more likely that we will be open to opportunities for kindness and will act on them in the moment.
At the end of the day, we need to take a moment to reflect:
Can you say tonight in parting
with the day that’s slipping fast
that you helped a single person
of the many that you passed?
Is a single heart rejoicing
over what you did or said?
Does the one whose hopes were fading
now with courage look ahead?
(from At A Day’s End By John Hall)