Predetermination: Course in life changed at last minute

Q504 :The last verse of the short surah entitled The Earthquake states "that whoever does an atom's weight of good will see it (on the day of judgment) and whoever does an atom's weight of evil will see it then." To my mind, this suggests a fair method of accountability, taking into consideration even the smallest of actions, whether good or bad. However, I have recently read a Hadith which says, that "a person may behave like the people of paradise until there is but an arm's length between him and it, and that which has been written overtakes him and so he behaves like the people of hell-fire and thus enters it." The same thing applies in reverse, ensuring heaven for a person who does good only at the last stage of his life, having been an evildoer for a very long time. According to my limited knowledge, there are only three sins which Allah does not pardon: Suicide, murder and associating partners with Allah. Committing any of these crimes, abrogates any other good deeds the person may have made. Other actions are weighted and the destiny of people is determined by the result of such balance. Could you please explain whether there are any particular good deeds which ensure heaven in the same way as these three ensure hell? Could you also throw some light on this whole question?

A504 : Let me correct you on your point that there are three actions which abrogate all good deeds which ensure hell for their perpetrator. You have named these as suicide, murder and associating partners with Allah. This statement of yours is not correct. Allah states in the Qur'an that the only sin or act of disobedience which cannot be forgiven is the association of partners with Allah. He says: "Allah does not ever forgive the association of the partners with Him. He may forgive whomever He wills whatever else may be committed." This means that he forgives such cardinal sins as murder and suicide. The Prophet has explained this by relating the story of a man who had killed 99 people. He then went to a scholar and asked whether Allah would accept his repentance. The scholar told that he could not see that he could ever be forgiven after having committed all those murders. The man, then, killed the scholar and completed the number of his victims to 100. He then went to another scholar and asked him whether Allah would accept his repentance. This scholar told him that there was no reason why his repentance could not be accepted. He advised him to repent immediately and not to do any more crimes. When the man complied, the scholar advised him to go to a particular town which was full of good people. He would have there a good environment which would enable him to strengthen his resolve not to disobey Allah anymore. The man was on his way to that town when Allah caused him to die. The Prophet then explains that the angel of paradise and the angel of hell disputed among themselves to which party the man belonged. The angels who are charged with administering punishment to sinners argued that the man never did a good deed, but the others argued that he repented and started acting on his repentance by traveling to this city. Allah sent to them an angel who advised them to measure the distance between the city of evildoers which the man had left and the distance to the city of good believers to which he was going. If he was nearer to the first, then he was still a sinner and should be punished. If he was nearer to the city of good believers, he should be counted among them. The Prophet then says: "When they began to make their measurements, Allah ordered the city of evil to move away and ordered the city of goodness to draw nearer. He was found to be closer to it [the city of goodness] and his soul was taken by the angels of mercy. He was forgiven." This Hadith gives a clear example that Allah forgives all types of sins, with the exception of associating partners with Him. Forgiveness may be granted on the day of judgment through the intercession of the Prophet on behalf of his followers. The Prophet says that he extends his intercession "to those of his followers who commit cardinal sins". Let us then broaden our minds and not give a narrow interpretation of anything that Allah has willed to keep unrestricted. The Hadith which you have mentioned about a change of direction in people's deeds which causes the eventual change of destiny in the hereafter is an authentic one. It may be given in translation as follows: "A person may do the deeds of the people of heaven until he is only a yard or so away from it, but then his destiny overtakes him and he does what the people of hell do and he is thrown in it. On the other hand, a person may do what the people of hell do until he is only a yard or so away from it, and his destiny overtakes him and he does what the people of heaven do which ensures his admittance into it." How can we reconcile this Hadith with the principle of balancing people's action? The first point to make is that, this process of balancing of the good deeds against the bad ones benefits only the believers, because their faith ensures that they have their good deeds credited to them. As for non-believers, their lack of faith means that their good deeds avail them nothing. Allah does not accept any good action unless it is founded on faith. A person who denies Allah and associates partners with Him may do as many good deeds as he wishes, but he will receive no credit for them, because he lacks the very basis which ensures that he receives any reward from Allah. On the other hand, a person who has faith always hopes for Allah's forgiveness. We can understand from the first Hadith on the basis of this principle. The first person who has done many good deeds betrays himself at the end of his life and shows that he really lacks faith. Hence, his actions do not merit any credit. Yet, he would have benefited by them, had he moved towards the establishment of faith in his heart. Instead, he chooses the opposite way and does something which takes him away from the faith altogether. He condemns himself and renders all his past good deeds worthless. His action must be of the type which cannot be reconciled with having any degree of faith. That is the only way to condemn him to hell-fire. As for the other person, he moves in the diametrically opposite direction. Toward the end of his life he realizes that he had spent all his time in error. He believes in Allah and allows faith to establish itself within him. As you know, when one accepts Islam and believes in Allah, all his past sins are forgiven. He opens a new page and he is given a chance to prove himself. Allah does not question anyone who accepts His message and believes in Him about what he had done prior to that. Since this person has become a true believer at the end of his life, he is assured of being admitted into heaven.

Our Dialogue ( Source : Arab News - Jeddah )