Yet this is only a yardstick. The true assesment is made by God. His bounty and generosity are limitless. A verse in the Qurâan mentions that a pure act of charity, given only for Godâs sake, could earn a reward multiplied 700 times. Yet, the number 7 and its multiples are said not to denote an exact figure; rather they indicate plenty. In other words, when God mentions 700 times, He means even more. The verse states immediately after that that âGod multiplies His reward to whomever He wills.â
A Hadith that mentions a rich reward by God is reported by Hudhaifah, a companion of the Prophet (peace be upon him), who quotes him as saying: âThe angels received a man who belonged to an earlier nation. They asked him: âHave you done any good deed?â He said: âI used to order my staff to give time and forebear with those debtors who were in comfortable circumstances.â God said: âForgive himâ. (Related by Al-Bukhari).
The Prophet often used such examples, telling that a person was taken for account, or was admitted into heaven or thrown into hell. He used the past tense, although he was talking about the Day of Judgment, which takes place in future. This is to indicate that the hereafter is close at hand, as if it has happened already and people were receiving their reward or punishment. Yet he is talking about real cases, which will suffer the fate he indicated, or enjoy the reward.
The example he gives us in the present case is that of a man who has not done much good. On the Day of Judgment the angels will ask him about his good deeds. They know that these were very little, if any. Hence their question whether he had done anything good whatsoever. The man does not have much to offer. He cannot try to invent anything, because on that day everyone will state the truth in the full knowledge that no lie would ever be believed. He says plainly that he did not have much. Yet, he points out that he was well off, and people borrowed money from him, either in business dealings or normal loans. When it was time for repayment, he instructed his workers not to press his debtors, even if they had money. He preferred to wait for the debtors to have enough to repay him.
When the angels heard his answer, they sought Godâs judgment. Since Godâs generosity knows no limit, He forgave the man all his sins. The point here, as illustrated in other Hadiths, is that the reward is of the kind of the action itself. The man was patient with his debtors, ready to wait for them until they could repay comfortably. God said that He is the One to forbear with offenders, and He forgave the man.
What is to be done in the case of a debtor who is genuinely unable to repay? The requirement stated in the Qurâan is to wait until he is in better circumstances. What is better than that is to write off the debt altogether and seek Godâs reward. There is no doubt that God will reward such action very generously. It is often the case that the reward is granted in this life, in addition to what God may give in the life to come.