Quranic Reflection No. 393. Ayat 42:23 – Enhancing good deeds

وَمَنْ يَقْتَرِفْ حَسَنَةً نَزِدْ لَهُ فِيهَا حُسْنًا ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ غَفُورٌ شَكُورٌ
Waman yaqtarif hasanatan nazid lahu fīhā husnā; innallāha ghafūrun shakūr
Whoever performs a good deed We shall enhance its goodness for him. Indeed Allah is all-forgiving, all-appreciative
(Sūrat Al-Shūrā, No.42, Āyat 23)

This is part of the verse that commands believers to love the family of the Prophet sallāhu ‘alayhi wa-ālihi wasallam. At the end of the verse Allah subhānahu wata‘ālā talks about the good that a believer does. A good deed is increased in value and enhanced by Allah ‘azza wa-jall. To understand that better it is necessary to look at the words used in the verse:
• ‘Yaqtarif’ means to earn or to deserve.
• ‘Hasanah’ refers to an action that pleases Allah which will be rewarded. It is an action that is in line with the pursuit of happiness and success for the human being. Note that the word ‘hasanatan’ is indefinite here, thus including every small and big good action.
• ‘Nazid lahu’ i.e. ‘We increase for him’ the goodness of the action by perfecting it and removing or overlooking the flaws in the action.

When a believer does a good deed earning for himself the pleasure and reward of the Almighty, Allah not only accepts the good deed but also improves its quality. This increases its value and earns more reward for the person, taking him to a higher status than he deserved originally through his deed. This magnanimity of Allah (swt) with the human being is also attested to in other verses of the Quran. Allah says: We will surely reward them by the best of what they used to do (Q 29:7) and so that Allah may reward them by the best of what they have done and enhance them out of His grace (Q 24:38).

The two qualities of Allah at the end of the verse relate to this action of increasing the goodness of good deeds. Allah is Forgiving, He overlooks the flaws that are present in the deed. And He is Appreciative of the deed and the intention behind it. He completes and perfects the deed. Allah ‘azza wa-jall knows that human being is greatly flawed and the quality of his deeds are often not on par with what the Creator Lord deserves. But He accepts with grace and nobility.

Some commentators of the Quran say the good deed here refers to the love of the family of the Prophet (s) as mentioned in the first part of the verse. A Hadith from Imam Hasan Al-Mujtabā (a) about this verse quoted in Tafsīr Namūne says: The performing of good deed is the love for us, the Ahlul Bayt. The Tafsīr says this does not restrict the good deed to only mean the love of Ahlul Bayt. But because it has come as part of that verse that is the most manifest of good deeds.

Let this verse remind you of the magnanimity of Allah (swt). Of how He wishes success for the human being and He opens up many doors which the human being can enter through to reach a high rank with Him. One of those doors is increasing is enhancing of good deeds. Without this the deeds of the human being may remain very small and insignificant. There is much to be grateful to God for.

Sources: Allāmah Muhammad Husayn Tabātabā’ī, Tafsīr al-Mīzān; Āyatullāh Nāsir Makārim Shirāzī (Ed.), Tafsīr-e Namūneh; http://www.alketab.org