wa-man yaqtarif hasanatan nazid lahū fīhā husnā. Innallāha ghafūrun shakūr
Whoever performs a good deed, We shall increase its goodness for him.
Indeed Allah is all-Forgiving, all-Appreciative.
(Sūratush Shūrā No.42, Āyat 23)
The Grace of the Almighty envelopes the human being, allowing him to ascend towards him despite his meager actions. It is this Grace that forgives sins (Q 39:53), annuls evil deeds (Q 66:8), and multiplies reward (Q 4:40). Without these bestowals of Grace reaching an esteemed status with the Almighty would be difficult, if not impossible.
Part of this Grace is to grant increased good for the good that a human being does, as mentioned in the above verse. The increase in good is interpreted as perfecting it or removing the defects that may be present in it and beautifying it. Refining of the good done by the human being makes it worthy of acceptance by Allah, and propels the doer to higher ranks.
Other verses of the Quran also talk about an increase in goodness of good deeds. Allah says: and We shall reward them according to the best of their deeds (Q 29:7).And That Allah may give them the best reward of what they have done, and give them more out of His grace (Q 24:38). These verses show that Allah does not only reward good with good, He increases the goodness of the good action and then rewards it accordingly.
The word hasana in this verse is indefinite, meaning any type of good. It is not a specific type of good and hence not restrictive. Any good deed, small or big, falls under this verse and will receive the increase in good promised here. The part before this verse talks about love of the Prophet’s family as the reward for his mission. Thus one of the best types of good deeds in this verse is interpreted as the love of the Ahlul Bayt. Whoever has that in the heart will receive a lot of increase in goodness. It is from this Wilayah that all other good deeds arise. A Hadith from Imam al-Hasan (a) says: Performing good deeds is love for us the Ahlul Bayt(quoted from Tafsīr Namūneh).
The two qualities of Allah that end the verse are connected to the good that the human being performs:
a) Forgiving – He overlooks the flaws and forgives them so that the deeds becomes perfect, divested of all that diminishes its quality. This is because Allah is aware of the weakness of the human being and his inadequacies. He is willing to overlook those and reward him with a worthy reward. This is proof of His great love for the human being and His desire for his success.
b) Appreciative – The root is from gratitude. When God is Shakur it does not have the same meaning as when a human being is Shakur. Names and qualities take on a different hue when talking about God. Yasin al-Jibouri in his book Concept of God in Islam explains this name: Al-Shakūr – Allah, appreciates even the few good deeds His servants do, doubling His rewards for them. His way of thanking them is by giving them of His bounties though He was the One Who enabled them to do such good deeds in the first place. He planted in their hearts the desire to do them, then He provided for them all the means to carry them out . . . He rewards them even for small acts of obedience to Him with an abundance of His good things. He grants for a few days’ endeavor a bliss in the hereafter that never ends.
Recite this verse to remind yourself of the abundant Grace of God. Remember that He gives increase in reward, much more than we deserve. That remembrance will bring you closer to Him and help you appreciate His love for you. Let it also be a lesson on how to treat others, returning favors with more than what is deserved.
Sources: ‘Allāmah Muhammad Husayn Tabātabā’ī, Tafsīr al-Mīzān; Āyatullāh Nāsir Makārim Shirāzī (Ed.), Tafsīr-e Namūneh; Yasin T. Al-Jibouri, Concept of God in Islam; http://www.alketab.org/الشورى_