LESSON FIFTY-SEVEN: THE MISCARRIAGE BY EVIL ACTS (Habt) AND REMITTANCE OF SINS AFTER GOOD DEEDS (Takfīr)

Introduction

One point in relation to the interaction between faith and good deeds on one side and eternal prosperity on the other, or between disbelief and rebellion on one side and eternal adversity on the other, is (to know) whether the relationship between any moment of faith or disbelief (in one’s life) and its result in the Hereafter, or any good or evil deed and its reward or punishment, is certain, fixed and unchangeable or whether it can be changed in one way or another. Is it, for instance, possible to recompense for a sin by performing a good act or vice-versa? Or will those who spend part of their lives in apostasy and rebellion and another part in faith and obedience be involved in punishment for some time and reward for the other? Or will the algebraic sum of the two parts determine one’s good or bad luck in the eternal world? Or is there something else involved?

The above point is known as “Habt and Takfīr” (‘Habt’ and ‘takfīr’ are two Qur’anic terms; the former means good deeds becoming inefficient or miscarried and the latter means remitting sins), which has been a topic of discussion and dialogue amongst the Ash’arite and Mu’tazilite scholars since ancient times. However, in this lesson I will briefly explain the issue from the Shi’ite point of view.

The relationship between faith and disbelief

In previous lessons, I pointed out that where there is no faith in the principles of belief, no good deed can end in eternal prosperity; in other words, disbelief will remove the effect of deserving deeds. However, I add in this section that man’s faith at the end of his life removes the evil effects of his previous disbelief just as a bright light removes the effect of previous darkness. Similarly, disbelief at the end of one’s life destroys the effect of his previous faith; it spoils his record (of good deeds) and annihilates his fate just like a fire destroys wood.

As another example, faith resembles a bright light, which makes one’s heart and soul bright and clear and puts an end to their darkness. On the other hand, disbelief resembles switching the same light off, removing the brightness and causing darkness. Therefore, as long as man’s soul belongs to the material world and varying or changing universe, it will be subject to brightness and darkness or increase and decrease of light and darkness until he passes away and the opportunity of choosing between faith and disbelief terminates. Then he may wish to have the opportunity to go back to the world and remove the darkness (of his soul) but this will not materialize (See lesson 49). There is no doubt about this kind of interaction between faith and disbelief in the Holy Qur’an; there are many pieces of evidence in this relation such as:“And whoever has faith in Allah and acts righteously, He shall absolve him of his misdeeds” (al-Taghābun:9) Or the following Qur’anic verse maintains:

“And whoever of you turns away from his religion and dies faithless -they are the ones whose works have failed in this world and the Hereafter. They shall be inmates of the Fire and they shall remain in it [forever].” (al-Baqarah:217).

The relationship between good and evil deeds

The relationship between good and evil deeds is very similar to the relationship between faith and disbelief; however, it is not general, so that one’s record will always include deserving acts and the previous evil deeds will be destroyed (as Mu’tazilite scholars believe), or the algebraic sum of past deeds including their quality and quantity will always be reflected in one’s record (as some others speculate). Nevertheless, with reference to deeds we should consider separation; in other words, some deeds, if performed in a deserving way and (if they) please God, will destroy the effect of past evil deeds, for instance repentance will forgive one’s sins if performed properly (Refer to al-Nisā:110, Āl-‘Imrān:135, al-An’ām:54, al- Shūra:25, al-Zumar: 57).

This is exactly like a ray of light, which illuminates a dark space. However, not all good deeds remove the effect of sin; therefore, it is possible for a believer to be punished for some time as a result of his sins and then enter eternal Paradise. It seems that man’s soul has different dimensions to which different groups of deeds - good or evil - are related. For example, a good deed related to dimension (A) will not remove the effect of an evil deed related to dimension (B) unless the good deed is so bright that it can penetrate other dimensions of the soul. On the other hand, an evil deed may be so unpleasant that it can defect other dimensions of the soul. That is why it is been claimed in the noble traditions that God-pleasing prayers wash the sins away and forgive them. The Holy Qur’an also maintains:

“Maintain the prayer at the two ends of the day, and during the early hours of the night. Indeed good deeds efface bad deeds.” (Hūd:114) Moreover, some sins including being undutiful to parents, and the consumption of alcohol will prevent the acceptance of worship for some time, and reproaching others for what one has done to them will remove its good effect. As the Holy Qur’an claims:

“Do not render your charities void by reproaches and affronts” (al- Baqarah:264) However, to determine the type and extent of the interaction between good and evil deeds, one should refer to Revelation and the traditions of the Imams, as it is impossible to draw a general rule for all of them.

At the end of this lesson it seems reasonable to claim that good and evil deeds may often affect one’s joy, sadness, or success in some work and failure in others in this world. For example, being kind to others, particularly parents and relatives, lengthens one’s life and destroys harm and misfortunes. Or being irrespective towards the great people particularly one’s teachers and professors will remove success; however, this type of interaction does not postpone real reward or punishment as the true origin of rewards and punishment is in the Hereafter.

Questions

  1. Explain what ‘Habt and Takfeer’ mean.

  2. What are the manifestations of the relationship between faith and disbelief? Which of them is right?

  3. What are the manifestations of the relationship between good and evil deeds?

Which of them is right?

  1. Can the worldly effects of good and evil deeds replace their reward and punishment in the Hereafter or not?