The Universal Law of al-Jazā min Jins al-ʿAmal
It is an unchanging universal law, from Allāh’s (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) justice and wisdom, that the outcome or recompense for an action befits the nature of the action itself. Sometimes the outcome of an action appears in a person’s lifetime. Mistreating parents is a good example of this as seen in the treatment received by that person’s children. Oppressors almost always suffer the same fate as their oppression. Another time this concept, known as ‘al-Jazā min Jins al-ʿAmal‘—the recompense fitting the nature of the act—will occur is in the Hereafter. A knowledge and appreciation of this concept is one of the most powerful incitements towards good action and greatest deterrents from oppression and sin, and the ultimate solace for the oppressed. A thorough review of the Qur’ān, Sunnah and history reveals this concept consistently.
We will now explore where this notion is exhibited, asking Allāh for His Tawfīq and assistance.
The People of Lūt overturned their natural disposition and, unsurprisingly, the town of Sodom was literally overturned:
“We turned the place completely upside down and rained down on them stones of hard-baked clay.”
The Pharaoh long mocked at Mūsā’s (ʿalayhi al-Salām) speech impediment:
“Am I not better than this one [Mūsā (Moses)] who is despicable and can scarcely express himself clearly?”
He was then tossed and turned in the depths of the sea and had Jibrīl (ʿalayhi al-Salām) filling his mouth with mud to prevent him from saying anything that would cause the mercy of Allāh to reach him. The Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said:
“When Allāh drowned the Pharaoh he said: ‘I believe that there is no God except the One that the children of Isra’īl believe in.’ So Jibrīl said: ‘O Muḥammad! If you could only have seen me, while I was taking (the mud) from the sea, and filling his mouth out of fear that the mercy would reach him.'”
Al-Namrud b. Kan’ān claimed to give life and death. A mosquito tested his claim, finding a way into his nostrils. The endless, uncomfortable buzz would not cease until al-Namrud b. Kan’ān delivered physical blows to his own head. He did this so much that he died himself whilst the insect remained alive.
Ibrāhīm (ʿalayhi al-Salām)
Picture the mighty messenger Ibrāhīm (ʿalayhi al-Salām) sitting patiently, waiting to be launched into a smouldering fire, stripped of his clothes. Imagine the eyes set on this colossal Prophet, alone and isolated in his custodianship of Islām. And now imagine Ibrāhīm (ʿalayhi al-Salām) once again, with eyes set on him, and yet now he is clothed whilst the rest are naked on the Plain of Resurrection. The Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said:
“You will be gathered, barefoot, naked, and uncircumcised (as Allāh says): ‘As We began the first creation, We shall repeat it.’ And the first human being to be dressed on the Day of Resurrection will be Ibrāhīm.”
When Ibrāhīm (ʿalayhi al-Salām) patiently endured the sight of the huge fire pit without revoking his Islām, Allāh saved him from its heat:
“We said, ‘Fire, be coolness and peace for Ibrāhīm!’”
When he migrated from his homeland to another safer for his īmān, Allāh gave him residence in the blessed land of Palestine. He also built the first Masjid, the only where Tawāf is legislated. The Messenger (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) saw him reclining on al-Bayt al-Ma’mūr (the Visited House in the seventh heaven) around which 70,000 angels make Tawāf every day.
Khadījah (raḍiy Allāhu ʿanha)
She was our Messenger’s home and the jewel of his eye. She was his champion and support, having believed in him without a moment of hesitation, debate or objection. She stood beside him in the three-year siege enforced by the Quraish until she died from exhaustion. When the Prophet withdrew to the cave of Hira for a purpose not necessarily clear to her, she would climb behind him on the 270m rocky terrain. Imagine her, standing fatigued with the Prophet’s plate of food, at the mouth of a dark, desolate cave, accepting and content that her beloved husband and messenger seclude himself for moments otherwise spent with her. Picture Jibrīl (ʿalayhi al-Salām) arriving with news of a reward personally tailored to this remarkable woman, Khadījah (raḍiy Allāhu ʿanha):
“Here is Khadīja coming to you with a dish of food or a tumbler containing something to drink. Greet her with Salām on behalf of her Lord and on my behalf, and give her the glad tidings of having a palace of hollowed pearls in Paradise wherein there will be neither any noise nor any fatigue (trouble).”
Maryam (ʿalayha al-Salām)
Standing as the greatest woman ever, she was a symbol of guarded purity and chastity, and dedicated her life to her creator. Such was her modesty that when Jibrīl (ʿalayhi al-Salām) stood at a distance from her we are told:
“She said, ‘I seek refuge from you with the All-Merciful if you have Taqwa.’”
So Allāh gave her a child without a man, the word of Allah ‘Isa ‘alayh asalam, speaking on her behalf in the cradle, defending her purity and chastity and promising that he will dedicate his Birr, his motherly honouring to her and uphold her status completely:
“And [Allāh made me] dutiful to my mother. He has not made me insolent or arrogant.”
Āsia (ʿalayha al-Salām)
She was the wife of the Pharaoh and amongst the elite in her society. She had an exquisite home and abundant wealth, but she lived a life tainted by the miserable company of a tyrant who tortured her for her belief in Allāh and in Mūsā (ʿalayhi al-Salām). Her fitting reward was categorised by what she suffered. She will be given a home in Jannah in company of the Greatest:
“My Lord, build for me in Your presence a house in Jannah.”
The Concept in almost everything
Other deeds and sins can likewise be seen through the lens of this universal law. Take arrogance; it is a trait that incapacitates its holder from seeing the status or size of others, causing him to trample over their value and advice. The Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) told us:
“The arrogant will be gathered on the Day of Judgement resembling tiny particles in the image of men. Humiliation will surround them from everywhere.”
Fornicators relished their undressed communion, enveloped by the heat of sin. They will likewise be in each other’s company but undressed in a baking pit. Each time the fire ignites beneath them, they scream. A usurer bathes in their victims’ poverty, destroying their wealth and livelihoods. In the hereafter he will be made to swim in a river of blood. Every time he nears its banks a stone will be hurled into his mouth before he turns and continues to paddle.
The backbiter enjoys besmirching the reputations of their brothers or sisters in their absence. With regards to them the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said:
“When I was taken up to heaven I passed by people who had nails of copper and were scratching their faces and their breasts. I said: Who are these people, Jibrīl? He replied: They are those who were given to back biting and who trampled on people’s honour.”
When the wealthy withhold from giving their Zakāh, the poor’s guaranteed right, it will be heated and branded on their foreheads, cheeks and sides. Perhaps appropriate as they were wont to frowning at the poor with their foreheads when asked, turning their cheeks without pity, and then presenting their backs in abandonment.
“As for those who hoard gold and silver and do not spend it in the Way of Allāh, give them the news of a painful punishment. On the Day it is heated up in the fire of Hell and their foreheads, sides and backs are branded with it: ‘This is what you hoarded for yourselves, so taste what you were hoarding!’”
What of those who covered their eyes from seeing, their ears from hearing and even their hearts from inclining towards what displeases Allāh? Suitably, their reward is something they have not seen before, heard before or could have imagined. The Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said:
“Allāh says: ‘I have prepared for My pious servants that which no eye (has ever) seen, no ear has (ever) heard and no human heart has ever perceived.'”
Others sacrificed their sleep and left their warm beds for a few moments of solitude and secrecy with their creator. The King of Kings says about such people,
“Their sides forsake their beds as they call on their Lord in fear and ardent hope. And they give of what We have provided for them. No self knows the delight that is hidden away for it in recompense for what it used to do.”
They held off from food and drink during Ramaḍān and at other times in the year. Their thirst unquenched, not due to the scarcity of water, but the abundance of īmān. For the uniqueness of their deed, they will enter Jannah through a gate unto their own. The Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said:
“For those who fast there is a gate in Paradise called al-Rayyān, through which no one but they will enter. When the last of them has entered it, it will be closed. Whoever enters through it will drink, and whoever drinks will never thirst again.”
They guarded their limbs from indulging into the Harām, so Allāh guarded their limbs. Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali reports that the famous Shafi’ī scholar of Baghdad, Abū al-Tayyib al-Tabari enjoyed mental alertness and physical strength. One day he jumped off a boat. When gently reproached for doing as such he replied: “We protected these limbs in our youth, so Allāh protects them for us in our old age.”
They safeguarded the Qur’ān through recitation and memorisation so Allāh safeguards their memory and common sense. “Those who read the Qur’ān are not sent back to senility…”
And there are those who will be shaded under the throne of Allāh on a day when there is no shade but His. Abū Hurayra reported that the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said,
“There are seven persons whom Allāh will shade on a day when there is no shade but His. They are a just ruler, a young person who grew up in the worship of Allāh, a person whose heart is attached to the mosques, two persons who love each other and who meet and depart from each other for the sake of Allāh, a man whom a beautiful woman of high status seduces but he rejects her by saying ‘I fear Allāh’, a person who spends in charity and conceals it such that his right hand does not know what his left hand has given, and a person who remembered Allāh in private and he wept.”
In light of the concept Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali mentions:
“These seven on the exterior did different actions, but each gather under a single meaning. This is their struggle against their own selves, and their opposing their desires. This firstly needs intense practice alongside prevention against what one’s desire, irritation or greediness calls towards. Enduring this inflicts severe hardship on oneself and immense pain. Rather the heart almost burns from the fire of desire or rage when it billows, if it is not extinguished by carrying out what it needs.
“Without doubt the reward of being patient when the heat intensifies in that standing (the Day of Judgement), when there is no shadow in which people can shade themselves and find protection from the sun, those seven will be in the shade of Allāh. Correspondingly, they will not experience pain as a result of that day’s heat, as a reward for their patience when they experienced the fire of desire or rage in the Dunya.”
From a Reversed Perspective
Above are just a few examples, with possible associations to the concept of ‘al-Jazā min Jins al-ʿAmal‘ by reflection. Let us briefly approach it from the perspective of reward to reflect over what this may infer our lives should look like. If we recognise, for instance, that Jannah is categorised by ‘eternal comfort’ reclining on raised couches without a concern on our minds, the implication is that the Dunya is strenuous. However, there must be a point of satisfaction in our pursuit of comfort as absolute comfort is unattainable, particularly with the duties a Muslim is charged with. Being Muslim is the sweetest spiritual experience, but this cannot be confounded with expectations of utter physical and mental relaxation. If we recognise that in Jannah we will not suffer hunger or thirst, the implication is that both of these experiences in the Dunya are inevitable. Similarly, the gratification of the believer with many beautiful spouses and companions in Jannah implies that a believer’s life should be one of modesty, decency and avoidance of promiscuity.
Washing with cold water before Fajr, walking to the Masjid in the cold and dark, fasting the long summer days, giving up your wealth, nurturing a household of īmān, honouring and taking care of the parents in their old age, lowering the gaze, covering yourself with the Hijāb and standing out, or remaining resolute despite being jeered at on the street, is hard work. But patience in the face of many of these inevitabilities is what necessitates the appropriate, corresponding outcome, one that reflects the nature of that struggle. If you tire, you will relax, if you fear, you will be granted security, and sweetness is greater tasted with a soured mouth.
“Be on your guard that the commodity of Allāh is precious. Verily the commodity of Allāh is Jannah.”
 Al-Qur’ān, 78:26
 Al-Qur’ān, 55:60
 Al-Qur’ān, 15:74
 Al-Qur’ān, 43:52
 Hadīth; Jami’ at-Tirmidhi on the authority of ʿAbdullāh b. ‘Abbas
 See Tafsīr Ibn Kathīr
 Qurtubi mentioned this in his Tathkirah, mentioned in the commentary of al Suyuti on at-Tirmidthi
 Al-Qur’ān, 21:104
 Hadīth; Bukhāri on the authority of ʿAbdullāh b. ʿAbbās
 Al-Qur’ān, 21:69
 See the Hadīth of the night journey, Saḥīḥ Muslim on the authority of Anas b. Mālik
 Hadīth; Bukhāri on the authority of Abū Hurairah
 Al-Qur’ān, 19:18
 Al-Qur’ān, 19:32
 Al-Qur’ān, 66:11
 Hadīth; Jami’ at-Tirmidhi on the authority of ʿAmr b. Shuʿaib
 Hadīth; Bukhāri on the authority of Samurah ibn Jundub
 Same Hadīth as reference 16
 Hadīth; Sunan Abī Dāwūd on the authority of Anas b. Mālik
 See Tafsīr al Baghawi and others
 Al-Qur’ān, 9:35
 Hadīth; Bukhāri on the authority of Abū Hurairah
 Qur’an 31-32:17
 Hadith; Sunan an-Nasa’i on the authority of Sahl ibn Sa’d
 Majmu’ Rasaa’il ibn Rajab
 Mentioned in Tafsir al-Tabari, al-Qurtubi and others.
 Hadith; Bukhari and Muslim on the authority of Abu Hurairah
 Fath al-Baary
 Hadīth; Jaami’ at-Tirmidhi on the authority of Abū Hurairah