…Can Good Deeds Be Continuously Rewarded?…
Abu Hurairah narrated that Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) said,
“When a man dies, his good deeds come to an end except three: ongoing charity, beneficial knowledge, and righteous offspring who will pray for him.” (Muslim)
Commenting on this hadith, Imam An-Nawawi (may Allah have mercy on him) said,
“The scholars said, the meaning of this hadith is that the deeds of the deceased come to an end as soon as he or she dies, and the renewal of reward ceases for him or her, except in these three cases because he or she is the cause of them:
• his or her offspring is counted among his or her earnings,
• the knowledge that he or she leaves behind through teaching or writing,
• ongoing charity, i.e., a waqf (Islamic endowment).”
The narration below adds further details:
Abu Hurairah narrated that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said,
“The good deeds that will reach a believer after his death are: knowledge which he learned and then spread; a righteous son whom he leaves behind; a copy of the Qur’an that he leaves as a legacy; a mosque that he built; a house that he built for wayfarers; a canal that he dug; or charity that he gave during his lifetime when he was in good health. These deeds will reach him after his death.” (Ibn Majah )
As a matter of fact, anyone who has ever been on an out-of-town journey would testify to the pre-travel stress and jitters. One aspect of the preparations is to make sure that the packing is done properly and that the travel arrangements are adequately made. Another aspect of planning a journey, however, is to ensure that everything the traveler leaves behind, from his or her belongings, to his or her family, to his or her house, is well-protected and cared for, until he or she returns.
This analogy can be appropriately applied to the life of believers. Not only do they prepare for their journeys to the hereafter, which begins with their deaths, but they also ensure that what they leave behind in the world is also beneficial for them after they has gone. In the Qur’an Almighty Allah says,
(What is with you passes away and what is with Allah is enduring.) (An-Nahl 16: 96)
It was narrated that a sheep was slaughtered at the time of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and given in charity, except for its thigh. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) asked ‘A’ishah, “What is left of it?” She said, “Nothing is left except the thigh.” He said, “All of it will remain except its thigh.” (At-Tirmidhi)
Consequently, a Muslim must not just persist in doing good deeds while alive but should also pursue projects that will reap benefits for him or her after death. The following are some examples of these deeds:
• Constantly Remembering Death: One of the best ways to actively do good deeds and leave behind avenues that will continue to benefit after death is to remember death itself, often and consistently.
• Investing Money in Welfare Projects: Whether it’s a hospital, school, mosque, domestic shelter, or a welfare organization that generally helps the needy, Muslims should invest some money in it in order to ensure that the rewards for charity will keep coming even after they have died, when the money they invested continues to benefit others in different ways.
• Spreading Beneficial Knowledge: Educate another person or teach others a skill; contribute in starting a regular Islamic class. The more students you have, the farther your trail of good deeds will extend after you have left this world.
(Surely We give life to the dead, and We write down what they have sent before and their footprints, and We have recorded everything in a clear writing.) (Ya-Sin 36:12)
All it takes is an hour once a week to start teaching others what you know. The point is — just start! Helpingly, here are some practical endeavors:
• Sponsor the printing and distribution of the Qur’an or Islamic books.
• Record and distribute Islamic classes and lectures; audios of Islamic lectures can be recorded on various formats and spread physically among people or uploaded on the worldwide web.
• Write articles and books; e-books now make it easier for writers to get published.
• Build and maintain an Islamic website, or write Islamic content for other websites: If you are tech-savvy, you can start your own Islamic website!
• Else, small articles can be easily self-published on the Internet by registering to write on websites.
• Start and maintain an Islamic blog; many sites now allow individuals to upload their personal content for the world to see.
Even, if you write something just once a month, after several years, you may have accumulated a vast pool of content for others to read. Be it personal reflections on the Qur’an, tips, and advice on acting upon Islam, or general musings.
• Getting Married and Bearing Children; Muslims should be very concerned about instilling high Islamic values in their children. All the more so because they know that if their children grow up to be righteous, they’ll benefit them even after death, but if they grow up to be disobedient to Allah, their evil actions will bring punishment to them in the hereafter. Therefore, a Muslim tries his or her best to marry a pious person and to start and raise a family according to the Islamic values. They are upright and firm in keeping the influence of Satan out of their homes.
• Trees and Water-sources for Travelers: Planting trees and other vegetation, particularly that which yields produce such as fruit, vegetables, or grains, which provides shade to the passersby and oxygen to the environment, is a great ongoing act of charity. Having wells dug, or water coolers installed on wayfarers’ paths is also the most excellent charity.
Anas ibn Malik narrated that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said,
“There is none among Muslims who plants a tree or sows a seed, and then a bird, a person, or an animal eats from it, but it is regarded as a charitable gift from him.” (Al-Bukhari)
• Leave no Dues Unpaid: The Muslim also worries about whether he or she owes anyone any debts at the time of death — this is because when they die, their debts will still have to be repaid. Consequently, the pious Muslim makes up qada’ fasts of yesteryears (makes up missed days), gives qada’ zakah (makes up unpaid zakah) of assets that he was heedless of in the past, and makes sure he lives as debt-free as possible.
Since Muslims constantly think about, and prepare for, their death — they ensure their transition from this world is as smooth as possible, and when they return to their Lord, they have no dues — either that of His, or of people — left to be repaid.
Using all available resources, tools, and technologies to benefit others, to facilitate the growth and spread of Islamic knowledge, and to help alleviate the misery and suffering of those who are less fortunate enables Muslims to prepare for their exit from the transient life of this world in such a way, that even after they’ll be gone, the “ripple effects” of their fruitful actions will be still felt by the succeeding generations.