“What you give is what you get”, or some variation thereof, is one of the most-common expressions we encounter in our lives about the consequences of our actions. This idea gives the impression that when we act virtuously we get an equal helping of good in return, and accordingly, our acts of cruelty eventually “come back around” to bite us.

Yet the reward-punishment equation is not as simple as this expression may suggest because in fact, the recompense of our good deeds is far greater than the reprisal for our bad deeds.

Throughout the day, Muslims, those striving to live in submission to the one almighty God, will say “Bismillah Al-Rahman Al-Raheem”, meaning “In the name of God, the Most-Gracious, Most-Merciful”. It is probably the most-common invocation for God that we utter, yet we may not always think over what these qualities of benevolence and compassion mean for us in our daily lives.

God is constantly willing to multiply the rewards we receive for the energy we focus toward performing good deeds— charity to those in need; kindness to family, friends, colleagues and strangers; honesty, loyalty and sincerity in our conduct; keeping promises and working hard.

As for our negative acts of cruelty, cheating, dishonesty and jealousy, God will limit the return of these actions to a degree that is strictly equal to the deed we did—no more, no less.

“Whoever does a good deed will be repaid tenfold, but those who do a bad deed will only be repaid with its equivalent and they shall not be wronged,” the Holy Quran informs us very clearly. (Quran, The cattle, 6:160)

Meaning “Recitation” in English, the Quran is a composition of God’s message to humanity charting out the path we should take to strive toward eternal peace. In its pages, we are repeatedly reminded about the importance of doing good deeds and acting with kindness and mercy. When we give in charity, for instance, we learn that our wealth will be multiplied and have greater “baraka” (blessing) in it.

Similarly, when we display kindness and mercy to our parents even in their old age, and when we pray sincerely and fast regularly with the goal of giving thanks to God for the blessings in our lives, we are promised innumerable benefits that will reach us in this life as well as, more importantly, the next life.

Sometimes it can be difficult to believe with sincerity that good deeds are generously rewarded because in our daily lives, there appears to be limited incentive to act in an unselfish way. When we do something good, we will quite frequently seek benefits and rewards with immediacy from our family members, spouses, friends, colleagues, etc. And yet when we feel these deeds have not been appreciated or reciprocated adequately, we can often feel devalued and frustrated.

Over time, this may discourage us from acting altruistically, with great care and thoughtfulness because the benefits of magnanimity are not always directly apparent. What we should realise is that it is God who has the power to return the good we do back to us at the time and in the manner He chooses.

Sea at sunset, courtesy Flickr

There is an Arabic proverb that my mom will say quite frequently that goes: “عمل خير و إرميه في البحر”, which translates as, “Do good–and throw it into the sea”. In other words, we should do good for the sake of God, and not expect reward for our virtuous deeds.

As someone who has consistently striven to act with sincerity in her life, my mom will often say that while she has endeavoured to perform good deeds for others, she will often find that those deeds are not received with gratitude nor returned back.

By pronouncing this proverb, she is relieving herself of expectation that those around her should recognise and reciprocate any act of goodness she has done. Throwing good deeds “into the sea” so to speak is her way of performing acts of kindness and justice for God alone, being confident that God is collecting these deeds with Him, and that He will return them to her in a way that is greatly multiplied.

“For whatever good deed you send on before your souls, you will find it with God. It will be improved and richly rewarded by Him” (Quran, The wrapped one, 73:20)

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