Good deeds are our investment for the everlasting future and the returns are defined – it is our defined benefit plan.
All of us should be looking to live, not just ‘a good life’, but a life of goodness.
‘A good life’ is generally understood as having a successful career, a stable job, a house, a family, a car etc.
As a believer in God we understand that ‘a good life’ includes living a life of goodness - a life oriented towards doing good deeds.
“˹He is the One˺ Who created death and life in order to test which of you is best in deeds. And He is the Almighty, All-Forgiving.” (Qur’an, 67:2).
We should have the awareness that our actions and deeds here will affect our place and condition in the Hereafter where there will be the unveiling of our record.
“Keep up the prayer and pay the prescribed alms. Whatever good you store up for yourselves, you will find it with God: He sees everything you do.” (Qur’an, 2:110).
“On that Day, people will come forward in separate groups to be shown their deeds; whoever has done an atom’s-weight of good will see it; but whoever has done an atom’s-weight of evil will see that.” (Qur’an, 99:6-8).
However small and however concealed our deeds are they will be revealed on the Day of Reckoning, an advice given by Luqman to his son:
“[And Luqman continued], ‘My son, if even the weight of a mustard seed were hidden in a rock or anywhere in the heavens or earth, God would bring it [to light], for He is all subtle and all aware.” (Qur’an, 31-16).
As such, all deeds, large and small, are to be valued and have the potential of becoming our ticket to paradise.
The Prophet, peace be upon him, said “Do not belittle any good deed, even meeting your brother with a cheerful face.” (Hadith, Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim).
A big hang up of our times is to focus on doing something big - ‘Go big or go home’ - we want to be associated with big projects; we want to have a big impact.
This thinking assumes that the reward for a good deed is based on its value as perceived by us.
But we should know that the reward for every good deed is based on the actual goodness in it and only God can judge that.
That is why even after performing meritorious acts, small or large, the righteous predecessors used to be worried about whether or not it would be accepted.
At the same time they approached even the smallest act with the enthusiasm of a desperate person who knows he needs all the help he can get.
They had fully understood that many seemingly great deeds may not carry much weight in the Hereafter because of some inherent flaw that the doer may not be aware of.
Yet it is possible that some apparently minor good or charitable act may have great merit because it was done with good intention and with the utmost sincerity.
One of the pious predecessors said, “Intention may aggrandize a small deed or lessen a great deed.”
A Prophetic tradition relates the case of a woman of ill-repute who once helped a thirsty dog by making extra effort to fetch water from a well to quench the animal’s thirst.
According to this tradition of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, she will be saved from hell for that small act of kindness.
When we do good deeds we are doing them for our own selves knowing that our good deeds will determine our condition in the everlasting afterlife.
“If you do good, you do good for yourselves; and if you do evil, [you do it] to yourselves.” (Qur’an, 17:7).
A believer in God is one who is foremost and consistent in doing good deeds.
The Prophet: “The most beloved actions to God are those performed consistently, even if they are few.” (Hadith, Bukhari).
Helping a destitute person with small amount of money or just some kind words, greeting a stranger, visiting the sick, joining in a funeral, consoling someone going through difficulty, removing something harmful from the pathway, making a quiet prayer for someone in need of help, forgiving a person who has hurt us --- none of these will make big headlines but all of them can bring about major change in our lives, here and in the Hereafter.
Each good deed is a window to the world of virtue.
The goodness generated in the heart by a seemingly small good deed may lead us to a much bigger good deed later.
Thus through the multiplicative process, even small acts may gradually bring a total change in one's life.
The essential ingredient for a good life is to sincerely engage in good deeds that are loved by God. Once that is established, then God loves our consistent actions more than our compulsive ones.
“Our Lord, give us good in this world and in the Hereafter, and protect us from the torment of the Fire.” (Qur’an, 2:201).