Are Sins Just a Credit System??

In the Qur’an, there are plenty of clear guidance or rule on specific things. If we break them, then we’ll have specific punishments. But then, almost always after the punishments are mentioned, the Qur’an says that Allah is most forgiving. My question is, is it really that easy to get away with the bad things we do? And by still punishing the sinners are we as humans contradict the forgiving nature that Allah teaches us?

In Indonesia, some Muslims treat pahala and sins as a kind of “credit system.” They keep on saying like “this will bring 1000 pahala, that will lose us pahala…” People are also seeking these pahala points from the likes of performing prayers or other good deeds (which makes it look insincere). Is that really how it works?

former What Would a Muslim Say visitor

In the Name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful

I like to start off with a good statement from interfaith author Reyaz Nadeem. While I do NOT agree with many of his esoteric views, I DO agree with this particular answer he gave:

Allah has made it binding upon all the believers Haqooq-ul-Allah (Duties owing to Allah) and Haqooq-ul-ibaad (Rights of the people). If someone has violated Haqooq-ul-Allah, i.e. skipped some namaz (prayers), didn’t gave zakat (to charity), etc., then Allah may forgive his/her sins as He says in the Holy Qur’an: ‘[O Prophet] say: “O My Servants who have wronged their own souls!…Do not despair of Allah’s Mercy! Surely Allah forgives all sins. He indeed is the All Forgiving, All Merciful. Return to your Lord and submit to Him before the scourge overtakes you; for then you may get no help.”’ (39 : 53–54)

Amongst all the rights due to Allah, He may forgive any shortcomings on the part of His slaves in fulfilling these rights. But He will never forgive one who dies in the state of shirk (i.e. associating other deities with Allah). As He says in the Holy Qur’an: ‘Whoever commits shirk, Allah shall forbid for him/her Paradise, and Hell shall be his/her abode. And for such wrongdoers there will be no one to help.’ (5:72)

As for Haqooq-ul-ibaad, Allah will not forgive its violation unless and until the oppressed himself/herself forgives the wrongdoer. So it is better for the wrongdoer to ask for forgiveness from the oppressed in his/her lifetime only. On the Day of Judgement no soul will be wronged. Everyone will get justice from the Supreme Authority as our beloved prophet has said: ‘If one has wronged his brother’s dignity or assaulted his assets unrightfully, he must have himself forgiven before the Doomsday where there is no gold or silver to pay. Otherwise, some of his good deeds [equal to the rights of that person] will be taken away from him and given to that person. If he has no good deeds then the sins of the wronged one will be given to him.’ [Bukhari, Mazalim (Persecutions), 10]

One may not get proper justice in the courts of this world but he/she is sure to get full justice in the court of the Most Exalted Judge.

S​o yes, it is true that a sinner who did many horrible things can repent before dying and Allah will accept that repentance and remove those deeds from his or her record. However, that is IF AND ONLY IF the sinner was 100% sincere in his or her remorse and repentance. Only Allah knows that. Nobody, not even the sinner him/herself, knows if their seeking of forgiveness has been accepted.

This is a common accusation from Christian missionaries who try to argue with me that Allah (God) in Islam does not care for justice because sinners can “get away with murder” just by repenting. I always reply that they missed the whole point of God creating humanity and this earthly life. The point is NOT to set up the earth and put people in it and then give them a score on how good or bad they were in His Divine Eyes. This worldly life is not a soccer match. It is not about how many good or bad “points” we accumulate.

The point of this earthly life is to “purify and cultivate a sound heart.” This is clear from the Qur’an (26:89) and (37:84) and (91:9-10). So God’s justice is always tempered by God’s mercy and His PURPOSE for the earthly life and the afterlife: to cultivate a community of human beings who freely choose to love and worship Him and whose hearts have been purified of all rancor and negative attributes so that they may dwell in His Divine Presence for all eternity.

Therefore, there is no “credit system.” You cannot play nickel-and-dime with God. He is the Creator, the Aware, the All-Knowing. He KNOWS if you are sincere or not. Nobody –not the angels, not even yourself– knows the true status of your deeds. Some people will be shocked on the Day of Judgment; they will wonder what happened to all my good deeds? God will inform them that because they were insincere when they did the good deeds, those good deeds have no weight today. Others will be told that those good deeds would have counted but because they persistently did minor sins in secret, God nullified them. Others will be shocked to find evil deeds on their record; they will wonder why is this still here when I repented for these? God will inform them that because they were insincere when they repented, those evil deeds are still on the record and will be reckoned against them.

Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad said, “The tension between justice and forgiveness is given an iconic representation by this account of the Blessed Prophet’s approach to the defeated Meccans, a moment which is the political culmination of his career. The Meccan elite had sought to assassinate him, and to eliminate his fledgling community in Medina. Now helplessly in his power, they must have expected annihilation, in accordance with the accepted Arab principles of vendetta. Instead, they are freed, and are not taken to task for their actions. Even Hind, wife of the Meccan leader Abu Sufyan, a woman who had paid for the assassination of the Prophet’s uncle Hamza and had then chewed on his liver on the battlefield of Uhud, was not punished. Instead, the Prophet chooses to quote Joseph’s words, spoken as he forgave his errant brothers who were finally in his power in Egypt.”

You can find his full article here:

This I believe is how we as Muslims should reconcile between God’s mercy and His wrath/justice.

May peace be with you,

One more example, some say that 1 prayer in the Mecca Mosque is equivalent to 100,000 regular prayers (5 x 365 days, which makes it 1825. And 100,000 / 1825 = 55 years), in that case if someone did prayer only 2 times in there, is he “covered” for the rest of his life? 
This might be an extreme example, but what would happen to a serial killer that have killed people more than a dozen times, and in the last moment before his death sentence he converted to Islam and practice all of the 5 pillars piously, and even teach the rest of the inmates about the right guided path on Islam? Would he go to heaven or hell?

former What Would a Muslim Say visitor

In the Name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful

We start by clarifying what it means that a prayer counts 10 times, or 1000 times, or 100,000 times. To set the background for this, you must know that Islam defines five categories of human behavior: that which is obligatory, recommended, permissible, disapproved, and forbidden. 

  1. Obligatory: A Muslim is required to do this act. Doing the act earns that Muslim a good deed in their record. Neglecting the act earns that Muslim a bad deed in their record.
  2. Recommended:  A Muslim is encouraged to do this act. Doing the act earns that Muslim a good deed in their record. Neglecting the act has no negative consequences.
  3. Permissible: A Muslim may or may not do this act. Doing or neglecting this neutral act has no impact on that Muslim’s record.
  4. Disapproved: A Muslim is discouraged from doing this act.  Doing the act has no negative consequences. Avoiding the act earns that Muslim a good deed in their record. 
  5. Forbidden:  A Muslim is prohibited from doing this act. Doing the act earns that Muslim a bad deed in their record. Avoiding the act earns that Muslim a good deed in their record. 

Salat or formal ritual prayer is Obligatory in Islam. So when the time for prayer comes, the Muslim that prays it on time earns his good deed for that particular prayer obligation. If he prays it late, then he does not get the good deed for that prayer, but at least he does not get a bad deed on his record either. If he does not pray it at all, then he does not get the good deed for that prayer, and he gets a bad deed on his record.

Therefore, if a Muslim does not pray for an extended period of time, he is accumulating many bad deeds as each prayer time comes and goes without him or her fulfilling their obligation. If that Muslim were to suddenly go and pray in one of the holy mosques, they would gain the multiple good deeds for prayer in their record, but they would not be “all set” from all the bad deeds for their neglected prayers.

Likewise, if a Muslim prayed in one of the holy mosques (getting the multiple good deeds on their record) and then neglected the prayers for the next 55 years, they would still have 55 years x 365 days x 5 prayers of bad deeds on their record.

More importantly, as we said before, you cannot play “nickel-and-dime” with God. He expects us to set aside times during the day when we stop our earthly pursuits and worship Him. Failing to do that shows a lack of devotion. Since Islam means peaceful surrender, submission, and devotion to God, the sin of skipping, neglecting, or avoiding prayers is a major one. The only situation where a person would not have all these bad deeds on their record is for example a person does not pray for a long time (accumulating multiple bad deeds on their record), then they feel remorse and make pilgrimage, and on that pilgrimage they repent and ask God to forgive them. .. if that Muslim is sincere, then all their previous bad deeds (neglected prayers and everything else) will be wiped from the record and their journey to God begins anew. If that Muslim is sincere, then obviously, he or she will be devoted to their prayer and not miss any of them as much as humanly possible. Repentance also includes the idea of “turning over a new leaf” and changing one’s lifestyle to align with God’s commandments, which brings us to your next question. . .

For the serial killer case, there is actually a Saying of the Prophet that exactly matches this scenario. . .

Abu Sa`id Al-Khudri (May Allah be pleased with him) reported that the Prophet of Allah (sallallahu alayhi wassallam) said: “There was a man from among a nation before you who killed ninety-nine people and then made an inquiry about the most learned person on the earth. He was directed to a monk. He came to him and told him that he had killed ninety-nine people and asked him if there was any chance for his repentance to be accepted. He replied in the negative and the man killed him also completing one hundred.He then asked about the most learned man in the earth. He was directed to a scholar. He told him that he had killed one hundred people and asked him if there was any chance for his repentance to be accepted. He replied in the affirmative and asked, `Who stands between you and repentance? Go to such and such land; there (you will find) people devoted to prayer and worship of Allah, join them in worship, and do not come back to your land because it is an evil place.’So he went away and hardly had he covered half the distance when death overtook him; and there was a dispute between the angels of mercy and the angels of torment. The angels of mercy pleaded, ‘This man has come with a repenting heart to Allah,’ and the angels of punishment argued, ‘He never did a virtuous deed in his life.’ Then there appeared another angel in the form of a human being and the contending angels agreed to make him arbiter between them. He said, `Measure the distance between the two lands. He will be considered belonging to the land to which he is nearer.’ They measured and found him closer to the land (land of piety) where he intended to go, and so the angels of mercy collected his soul”. [Al Bukhari and Muslim]

Benefits derived from this Hadith:
1. It does not matter how great the sins of the servant of Allah is, the doors of repentance is always open. As Allah says in the Holy Quran: Say, ‘O my servants who have transgressed against themselves! Despair not of the Mercy of Allâh, verily, Allâh forgives all sins. Truly, He is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.’ [Chapter 39 Verse 53]
2. To give up hope on the mercy of Allah increases one in the disobedience of Allah as the man in the hadith killed the worshiper as he lost hope in the mercy of Allah and completing by it the hundred.
3. To give verdicts (fatwa) without knowledge can be the cause of your destruction and the destruction of others.
4. The one that is seeking legal verdicts should approach learned scholars and not just any pious person without any knowledge.
5. Pious companionship aids to the obedience of Allah.
6. The eagerness of the Angels to fulfill the commandments of Allah.
7. The one that seeks repentance should leave the evil place he is in, in order that he doesn’t fall in the same sin again.

Again, so long as the intention is sincere, Allah (God) will accept it and guide the repentant sinner to forgiveness and salvation. However, if sincerity is not there, then God will not accept the sinner’s repentance and the sinner will be held accountable for his or her deeds. And God knows best. . .

May peace be with you,

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