Essay by Akhtar Hameed Khan From the book: Orangi Pilot Project, Reminiscences and Reflections With due acknowledgement to Oxford University Press, Pakistan

Koranic Faith and Good Works

By: Akhtar Hameed Khan

I. What is Faith?

Usually we are enchanted by our present life. Faith reveals the transient and illusory nature of our present life (hayat-ud-dunya). It also reveals an abiding reality-the hereafter (akhirat).

(The following quotations are taken from the translation of the Holy Koran by A.J.Arberry, published by OUP, 1988.)

They say, 'There is nothing but our present life; we die, and we live, and nothing but Time destroys us. Surah 45, (24)

They rejoice in this present life; and this present life, beside the world to come, is naught but passing enjoyment. Surah 13, (26)

Surely those who look not to encounter Us and are well-pleased with the present life and are at rest in it, and those who are heedless of Our signs. Surah 10, (7)

Decked out fair to men is the love of lusts -- women, children, heaped-up heaps of gold and silver, horses of mark, cattle and tillage. That is the enjoyment of the present life; but God -- with Him is the fairest resort. Surah 3, (13)

surely this present life is but a passing enjoyment; surely the world to come is the abode of stability. Surah 40, (39)

The transient nature of our present life is described by similitudes:

And strike for them the similitude of the present life: it is as water that We send down out of heaven, and the plants of the earth mingle with it; and in the morning it is straw the winds scatter; and God is omnipotent over everything.

Wealth and sons are the adornment of the present world; but the abiding things, the deeds of righteousness, are better with God in reward, and better in hope. Surah 18, (45-46)

The likeness of this present life is as water that We send down out of heaven, and the plants of the earth mingle with it whereof men and cattle eat, till, when the earth has taken on its glitter and has decked itself fair, and its inhabitants think they have power over it, Our command comes upon it by night or day, and We make it stubble, as though yesterday it flourished not. Surah 10, (24)

Faith invites us to contemplate the short duration of this life, the inevitable decay and death, and the abiding reality of the hereafter.

Every soul shall taste of death; you shall surely be paid in full your wages on the Day of Resurrection. Whosoever is removed from the Fire and admitted to Paradise, shall win the triumph. The present life is but the joy of delusion. Surah 3 (185)

God is He that created you of weakness, then He appointed after weakness strength, then after strength He appointed weakness and grey hairs. Surah 30 (54)

Faith convinces us that just as there are inexorable physical laws, there are inexorable morals laws.

and whoso has done an atom's weight of good shall see it, and whoso has done an atom's weight of evil shall see it. Surah 99 (5-8)

Faith urges us to follow the higher path of good works (morality):

Have We not appointed to him two eyes, and a tongue, and two lips, and guided him on the two highways? Yet he has not assaulted the steep; and what shall teach thee what is the steep? The freeing of a slave, or giving food upon a day of hunger to an orphan near of kin or a needy man in misery; then that he become of those who believe and counsel each other to be steadfast, and counsel each other to be merciful. Surah 90 (Successful People)

Faith teaches us the mental discipline of prayer and meditation to overcome our baser instincts and follow the way of truth.

and perform the prayer; prayer forbids indecency and dishonor. Surah 29 (45)

And say: 'My Lord, lead me in with a just ingoing, and lead me out with a just outgoing. Surah 17 (80)

The life of faith and good works is steadfast, like a good tree, firmly rooted, with high branches, not like rotten weeds.

And whosoever does a righteous deed, be it male or female, believing, We shall assuredly give him to live a goodly life. (Surah 16 (97)

Hast thou not seen how God has struck a similitude? A good word is as a good tree -- its roots are firm, and its branches are in heaven;

it gives its produce every season by the leave of its Lord. So God strikes similitudes for men; haply they will remember. And the likeness of a corrupt word is as a corrupt tree -- uprooted from the earth, having no establishment. Surah 14 (24-326)

II. The Fruits and Signs of Faith and Good Works

Faith and good works free us from fear and anxiety

Surely God's friends -- no fear shall be on them, neither shall they sorrow. Surah 10 (62)

Nay, but whosoever submits his will to God, being a good-doer, his wage is with his Lord, and no fear shall be on them, neither shall they sorrow. Surah 2 (112)

Those who believe and do deeds of righteousness, and perform the prayer, and pay the alms -- their wage awaits them with their Lord, and no fear shall be on them, neither shall they sorrow. Surah 2, (277)

Signs of faithful: they are humble, sedate, charitable, chaste, and honest.

Prosperous are the believers who in their prayers are humble and from idle talk turn away and at almsgiving are active and guard their private parts save from their wives and what their right hands own then being not blameworthy (but whosoever seeks after more than that, those are the transgressors) and who preserve their trusts and their covenant and who observe their prayers. Surah 23 (1-11)

Signs of servants of God: they are modest, peaceful, frugal, non-violent, and chaste.

The servants of the All-merciful are those who walk in the earth modestly and who, when the ignorant address them, say, 'Peace'; who pass the night prostrate to their Lord and standing; who say, 'Our Lord, turn Thou from us the chastisement of Gehenna; surely its chastisement is torment most terrible; evil it is as a lodging-place and an abode'; who, when they expend, are neither prodigal nor parsimonious, but between that is a just stand; who call not upon another god with God, nor slay the soul God has forbidden except by right, neither fornicate. Surah 25 (62)

Such men are found in all religions.

Surely they that believe, and those of Jewry, and the Sabaeans, and those Christians, whosoever believes in God and the Last Day, and works righteousness -- no fear shall be on them, neither shall they sorrow. Surah 5 (69)

Mere observance of rituals is not piety. True piety consists in sincere faith, doing good works and following moral laws.

It is not piety, that you turn your faces to the East and to the West. True piety is this: to believe in God, and the Last Day, the angels, the Book, and the Prophets, to give of one's substance, however cherished, to kinsmen, and orphans, the needy, the traveler, beggars, and to ransom the slave, to perform the prayer, to pay the alms. And they who fulfill their covenant when they have engaged in a covenant, and endure with fortitude misfortune, hardship and peril, these are they who are true in their faith, these are the truly God-fearing.  Surah 2 (177)

Woe to those who perform prayers but refuse charity.

So woe to those that pray and are heedless of their prayers, to those who make display and refuse charity. Surah 107

III. The Moral Laws

We should be just and kind and generous and abstain from indecency, dishonest , and insolence.

And what you give in usury, that it may increase upon the people's wealth, increases not with God; but what you give in alms, desiring God's Face, those -- they receive recompense manifold.

Surely God bids to justice and good-doing and giving to kinsmen; and He forbids indecency, dishonor, and insolence, admonishing you, so that haply you will remember.

We should abstain from acquisitiveness, pride, and boastfulness. We should be kind and generous to parents, to kinsmen, orphans, the needy, neighbors, and servants.

Be kind to parents, and the near kinsman, and to orphans, and to the needy, and to the neighbor who is of kin, and to the neighbor who is a stranger, and to the companion at your side, and to the traveler, and to that your right hands own. Surely God loves not the proud and boastful We should be modest and abstain from sexual misconduct and flirtation. Surah 4 (36)

We should be honest and just in our public dealings. We should abstain from cheating and stinting.


We should abstain from extravagance.


We should not be insolent, proud and boastful.


We should abstain from malicious mockery, slander, and backbiting.


We should suppress our aggressiveness and consult others, and practice amity.


We should promote peace, concord, and piety.




Read about his life

Akhtar Hameed Khan

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