Karma is a concept of (causality) that is vividly present in almost all religions of the Fareast (Indus Valley); Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Shintoism, Sikhism and others. Karma literally means action, work or deed. However, Karma spiritually refers to the principle of cause and effect where intents, thoughts, words and actions of an individual (cause) influence the life and future of that individual (effect). In simpler words; everything comes back at you in some way or another. PRETTY DEEP!
Is Karma True?
Since dawn of humanity, people have realized this concept; there are always consequences to every thought, word and deed. That’s why – no matter how primitive the society is – people always have had their penal systems along with some sort of theological consequences principal. “Consequences” is a fact of life that all humans, at all times and in all places have agreed upon, along with the fact of “Death”.
“Consequences and Death;” those two facts go hand in hand when it comes to religions. one’s intentions, thoughts, words and deeds return to hit him one way or another in this life and the one after. So, it is true … Karma is true … but, how does it work in Islam?
Karma at Stake
All man-made religions have given explanations of good and bad that happen in this life. Also, they explain how life is entirely up to us to decide, then we simply die. Religions of the Far East gave Karma and rebirth till one gets it (life) right according to their understanding of “Consequences and Death.”
On the other hand, Divine-Origin religions; Judaism, Christianity, as did Islam, provide “life is a trial and the reward and punishment systems in life and after death” concept, as a more convincing understanding than Karma of “Consequences and Death”. Good and bad that happen in this life are not entirely up to us but only partially. This is because things do happen with the Will of Allah. To illustrate, Allah takes complete control over decree, reward and punishment. We control our intentions, thoughts, words and deeds as well as our reactions to what Allah Decrees (destiny). That is actually why we are held accountable on Judgment Day.
In Islam, we find Quran (the Divine Arabic Word of God ‘Allah‘), is preserved completely un-falsified for more than fourteen hundred years. In it we read,
… So be patient; indeed, the [best/fair] outcome (‘aqibah) is for the righteous” [Qur’an 11-49](1)
The best of good ends, returns and outcomes (in this life and the afterlife), are for those who do good, fear Allah, have patience and persevere. That is the real Karma. true rewards and punishments are bestowed by the One who is truly Able to reward and punish; the All-Powerful Allah.
‘Aqibah Is the Real Karma
The word ‘aqibah means consequence, outcome, return or end as a result of something said or done. This life is a time and place for doing (good and/or bad) and earning (recorded good and/or bad). Some deeds are rewarded and some are punished by Allah in this life. For example, disobedience to parents is punishable in this life as well as Hereafter. Also, people have a say over each other’s in this life depending on authorities; one may get reward, punishment, praise or criticism from people, depending on one’s deeds. In contrast, in Hereafter only Allah rewards and punishes.
More about ‘aqibah
The word ‘aqibah (consequence of our deeds) was mentioned twenty seven times in Qur’an, in this form, and in other forms many more times. The most of mentions are in relation to tales of previous nations that disbelieved. They wronged themselves and were punished in this life;
… And it was said, ‘Away with the wrongdoing people’.” [Qur’an 11-44](2)
Even in Qur’an we find mention of their punishment in their graves and in Hereafter. For example, about the pharaoh and his people, Allah says in Qur’an,
…and the people of Pharaoh were enveloped by the worst of punishment they are exposed to the Fire [in their graves] morning and evening. And on the Day the Hour will be established [it will be said], ‘Admit Pharaoh’s people into the harshest punishment [of Hell]’.” [Qur’an 40-46](3)
They are in their graves being exposed to the Fire of Hell mornings and evenings till Judgment Day when they will be admitted to the harshest punishment of Hell.
Good ‘aqibah is also mentioned where there is that direct exhortation to do good to earn the rewards in both this world and the next one and in fear of retribution. It is in so many places in Qur’an and Sunnah (deeds and sayings of Muhammad Peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). For example, we find in Qur’an,
Whoever fully submits themselves to Allah and is a good-doer, they have certainly grasped the firmest hand-hold. And with Allah rests the outcome of [all] affairs.” [Qur’an 31-22](4)
It is a clear guidance to maintain righteousness and piety; teaching that only God is responsible for outcomes and returns.
‘Ubada bin As-Samit (a companion of Muhammad PBUH) narrated:
Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) said to us while we were in a gathering, “Give me the oath (Pledge of allegiance) for:
(1) Not to join anything in worship along with Allah,
(2) Not to steal,
(3) Not to commit illegal sexual intercourse,
(4) Not to kill your children,
(5) Not to accuse an innocent person (to spread such an accusation among people/aspersion),
(6) Not to be disobedient (when ordered) to do good deeds.
The Prophet (PBUH) added: ‘Whoever amongst you fulfill his pledge, his reward will be with Allah, and whoever commits any of those sins and receives the legal punishment in this world for that sin, then that punishment will be an expiation for that sin, and whoever commits any of those sins and Allah does not expose him, then it is up to Allah if He wishes He will punish him or if He wishes, He will forgive him.’ So we gave the Pledge for that’.” [Al-Bukhari](5)
Thus, be good and do good to get good in return from Allah and vice versa.
Only the One Allah decrees, forgives, rewards, and punishes. We are responsible for our intentions, thoughts, words and deeds, and then we all will be held accountable before Allah on Judgment Day. That is the true understanding of consequence of our deeds (‘aqibah) in Islam, not Karma.
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(1) Verse (11-49) of Quran (English interpretation of meaning).
(2) Verse (11-44) of Quran (English interpretation of meaning).
(3) Verse (40-46) of Quran (English interpretation of meaning).
(4) Verse (31-22) of Quran (English interpretation of meaning).
(5) Saying of Messenger Muhammad (Hadith).