A person who has worked many, great deeds must not become complacent; rather he must busy himself with showing gratitude. The ability to be grateful is one of Allāh’s greatest blessings that He confers on His servant. It is obligatory upon him to return the deeds he has done with gratitude and realise his deficiency in displaying due gratitude.
Wahb b. al-Ward, when asked about the reward of a particular deed, said, ‘Ask not about its reward, but ask about the gratitude due upon a person who was guided to it.’1
Abū Sulaymān would say, ‘How can an intelligent person be impressed with his deeds? Deeds are one of Allāh’s blessings, as such it is upon him to show gratitude and humility. It is only the Qadariyyah who are impressed with their deeds!’2 i.e. those who do not believe that the actions of the servant are created by Allāh, Mighty and Magnificent.
How excellent is the saying of Abū Bakr al-Nahshalī on the day that Dāwūd al-Ṭāʾī died. After his burial, ibn al-Sammāk3 stood and praised him for his good deeds and wept, causing all present to weep as well and testify to the truth of what he said… Abū Bakr al-Nahshalī stood and said, ‘O Allāh, forgive him and show mercy to him, and do not leave him to his deeds!’4
Abū Dāwūd records on the authority of Zayd b. Thābit (RA) that Allāh’s Messenger (SAW) said, “Were Allāh to punish the inhabitants of the heavens and the earth, He could do so without having oppressed them in any way. Were He to show them mercy, His mercy would be better for them than their deeds.”5
Ḥākim records on the authority of Jābir (RA) that a man came to the Prophet (SAW) and said, ‘Sins, sins!’ repeating this two or three times. The Messenger of Allāh (SAW) said, “Say: O Allāh, Your forgiveness is vaster than my sins and I have more hope in it than I do my deeds.” He said this and the Messenger of Allāh (SAW) ordered him to repeat it. He did so and was ordered to repeat it again which he did. Then he (SAW) said, “Stand for you have been forgiven.”6
My sins, were I but to ponder them, are copious.
But greater yet is my Lord's forgiveness:
In my righteous deeds lies not my expectation,
But in the mercy of Allāh have I anticipation.
1 Abū Nuʿaym, vol. 8, p. 155.
2 Ibid., vol. 9, p. 276 #13896.
3 Ibid., vol. 8, p. 223 #11949, records that he used to say, ‘Astounding it is that the eye can take delight in sleep when the Angel of Death is standing by one’s pillow!’
4 Ibid., vol. 7, p. 396 #10977.
5 Abū Dawūd #4699 and ibn Mājah #77. It was declared ṣaḥīḥ by ibn Ḥibbān #727 and Albānī, Ṣaḥīḥ al-Jāmiʿ #5244 Allāh, Most High, says, “If Allāh took mankind to task by that which they deserve, He would not leave a living creature on the surface of the earth; but He grants them reprieve unto an appointed term, and when their term comes - then verily Allah is ever Seer of His bondsmen.” (Q35:45) Ibn Ḥibbān #659 records on the authority of Abū Hurayrah that the Messenger of Allāh (SAW) said, "Were Allāh to take me and ʿĪsā to account for our sins, He could punish us without wronging us in the least!" It was declared ṣaḥīḥ by ibn Ḥibbān and Albānī, Ṣaḥīḥ al-Targhīb #2475
6 Ḥākim #1994. It was declared ḍaʿīf by Albānī, Ḍaʿīf al-Jāmiʿ #4101.