On the authority of ibn Abbaas (may Allah be pleased with both of them): On the authority of the Messenger of Allah (may Allah’s blessing and peace be upon him) from among the sayings that he related from His Lord (glorified and exalted be He) is that He said, “Verily, Allah recorded the good deeds and the evil deeds. Then He clarified how [that recording should occur:] whoever decided to do a good deed but he did not do it, Allah records it with Him as a complete good deed. And if he decided to do it and actually did it, Allah records it with Him as ten good deeds up to seven hundred up to many times over. If he decided to do an evil deed but he did not do it, Allah records it with Him as one complete good deed. If he decided to do it and he actually did it, Allah records it as one evil deed.”[Recorded by al-Bukhari and Muslim]
“… from among the sayings he relates from His Lord (glorified and exalted be He)”
This statement shows us that this is a qudsi hadith, in which the Prophet, SallAllahu Alayhi Wa Sallam, directly related words of Allah, all praises and glory be to Him, that were not to be contained in the Qur’an.
”Verily, Allah recorded the good deeds and the evil deeds.”
Allah, all praises and glory be to Him, has already recorded and decreed which deeds are deserving of reward and which are deserving of punishment. In this narration of the hadith the wording is “Allah recorded” implying that Allah Himself recorded these things. In other narrations it states that the angels record the deeds at the command of Allah, which is the more common understanding, supported by other hadith.
These two understandings have been reconciled by ibn Uthaimeen who stated that the recording by Allah implies two matters. One is the recording of the good and bad deeds by Allah in the Preserved Tablet (al-Lauh al-Mahfoodh), which took place before any of the deeds were actually performed, according to Allah’s knowledge of when they will occur. The second recording is when the person actually performs the deeds, at which time they are recorded by the angels according to Allah’s justice and mercy.
The fact that all our good and bad deeds are recorded should be a reminder to us that anything we do and say should not be taken lightly. Nothing escapes Allah’s knowledge, and everything will be recorded as either a good or bad deed. This should cause us to pause before we act and ask ourselves, ‘Will this be recorded for me as a good deed or an evil deed?’ Call yourself to account before you are called to account.
“Then He clarified how [that recording should occur:] whoever decided to do a good deed but he did not do it, Allah records it with Him as a complete good deed.”
We can see from this hadith that Allah, all praises and glory be to Him, has divided deeds into four categories: deciding to do good deeds and then not doing them, doing good deeds, deciding to do evil deeds and then not doing them and doing evil deeds.
This post will discuss the issue of deciding to do a good deed, and then not doing it. In order to completely understand this concept, Jamal al-Din Zarabozo point out in his commentary on this hadith that we must understand the meaning of hamm, which translates as considered or decided and the differences between this and other similar terms.
The first concept to understand is al-haajis, which is a fleeting thought that occurs in one’s mind but does not stay. This kind of thought can occur to anyone and its content may be quite evil, but we are not held accountable for this. This hadith is not referring to this type of thought.
The second concept to understand is al-khaatir, which is a thought that comes into one’s mind, that a person gives some thought or consideration to, but then dismisses. This thought can also be quite evil, coming either from shaitan or one’s own soul, but once it has passed the person does not give anymore consideration to it. We are not held responsible for this type of thought either.
The third concept is ‘the speech of a person to himself’ and this goes beyond the other levels to contemplate whether or not we should actually perform this action. If we do not act on this then we will not be held responsible for this thought.
By the mercy of Allah we are not held accountable for any of the above listed type of thoughts. The Prophet, SallAllahu Alayhi Wa Sallam, advised us:
“Verily, Allah has overlooked for [the members of] my nation what their souls think about as long as they do not act on it or speak about it.”[Recorded in al-Bukhari and Muslim]
Although we are not held accountable, if evil thoughts do come to our minds we should refuge in Allah from the accursed Satan.
The next level is a decision or al-hamm, and that is what this portion of the hadith is referring to. This is where the heart is determined to do a specific act. It is a decision that is just short of a complete resolution to act. It is this type of intention that this hadith is referring to.
So whoever decides in their heart, and becomes determined to do a good deed, but they are unable to do it, will have a reward with Allah that is equal to a complete good deed. This determination in the heart, it should be noted is different to having a fleeting thought, or lightly contemplating something. This special reward is reserved for those who had resolved in their hearts to do a good deed, for the sake of Allah, but were unable to do it. And Allah knows best what is in the hearts.