Will you explain the issue of the good deeds of the People of the Book not being rejected mentioned in verse 115 of the chapter of Aal-i Imran?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

"Not all of them are alike: Of the People of the Book are a portion that stand (For the right): They rehearse the Signs of Allah all night long, and they prostrate themselves in adoration. They believe in Allah and the Last Day; they enjoin what is right, and forbid what is wrong; and they hasten (in emulation) in (all) good works: They are in the ranks of the righteous. Of the good that they do, nothing will be rejected of them; for Allah knoweth well those that do right." (Aal-i Imran, 3/113-115)

Ummah qaimah (a portion that stand for the right) means a group that is just, honest, stands (up) for Allah, is straightforward and fair.

According to the preference of the majority of tafsir scholars, what is meant by the People of the Book here is those who believe in Musa (Moses) and Isa (Christ). There are a few narrations about why this verse was sent down:

1. When people like Abdullah b. Salam, Sa'lab b. Said and Usayd b. Ubayd became Muslims, the other Jews talked negatively about them and mentioned their unbelief and being losers. That verse was sent down in order to express their virtues.  

2. Forty people of Najran, thirty-two Abyssinians and three Byzantines, a total of seventy-five people, approved of the Prophet Muhammad and believed in him. The verse was sent down about them.  

3. Before the Prophet (pbuh) migrated to Madinah, some people of Madinah like Asad b. Zurara, Barar b. Ma'rur, Muhammad b. Maslama and Abu Qays b. Sirma b. Anas believed in one Allah. When they became junub, they would make ghusl. They acted in accordance with the religion of hanif to the extent that they knew about it. When the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) arrived, they believed in him and helped him.

4. The People of the Book are criticized in the previous verses; after that, it is stated that not all of them are alike; it is stated that this verse was sent down to explain it.

According to the explanation of some tafsir scholars, the phrase the People of the Book here is used in a general sense that includes Muslims too. It is clear from the context that the verse describes believers.

Those who believe among the People of the Book are like that. As for the unbelievers in general, the believers should not be worried about their wealth and their spending a lot of money for the worldly life. 

It is understood from the context and style that this verse is a continuation of the previous verses. The People of the Book are criticized in the previous verses due to their bad deeds and attributes; attention is drawn to the fact that not all of them are alike and that there are some people who have high ethics and do good deeds among them. Elmalılı Hamdi Yazır holds the view that those verses explain the following statement in verse 110 of the same chapter: "…Among them are some who have faith, but most of them are perverted transgressors."

According to the criteria of the Quran, anyone who has done an atom´s weight of good will receive its reward in the hereafter and anyone who has done an atom´s weight of evil will be punished for it. As a matter of fact, after praising those who believe and do good deeds among the People of the Book in verses 113 and 114, Allah states in verse 115 that their good deeds will not be lost and will not be rejected. The last sentence of the verse "for Allah knoweth well those that do right" indicates that hypocrites and sincere believers will be discriminated and that the apparent belief of the hypocrites will be of no good. This graceful treatment of Allah to the People of the Book who believe sincerely is very significant in terms of the universality of Islam. For, the Quran states that even the slightest good deed of the sincere believers will not be left unrewarded in the hereafter unlike the egoistic claims of the People of the Book who regard themselves as Allah’s children and His beloved ones and who regard the hereafter as a place prepared only for Jews or Christians.

(Prof. Dr. Hayrettin Karaman, Prof. Dr. Mustafa Çağrıcı, Prof. Dr. İbrahim Kafi Dönmez, Prof. Dr. Sadrettin Gümüş, Kur’an Yolu: I/485-486.)

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