Back in high school, my Quran teacher argued it was harder to end up in Hell than Heaven. My class of sixteen-year-olds did not immediately agree with her. Oftentimes, Islam is portrayed as a list of dos and do-nots. Lots of rules and lots of things that are impermissible, so really, could we be blamed for our disagreement?
But my teacher presented her case. She mentioned God’s mercy outweighs His wrath, and how that fact is clearly proven by the multiple opportunities of forgiveness He provides us. Sins are wiped away between ablutions, prayers, and Friday congregations. In addition, she explained how our actions are not necessarily rewarded or punished on a one-to-one ratio. The following Hadith explains:
“Messenger of Allah (may the peace and blessings of God be upon him) said that Allah, the Glorious, said: ‘Verily, Allah has ordered that the good and the bad deeds be written down. Then He explained it clearly how (to write): He who intends to do a good deed but he does not do it, then Allah records it for him as a full good deed, but if he carries out his intention, then Allah the Exalted, writes it down for him as from ten to seven hundred folds, and even more. But if he intends to do an evil act and has not done it, then Allah writes it down with Him as a full good deed, but if he intends it and has done it, Allah writes it down as one bad deed.’” (Bukhari)
The system is rigged…in our favor! This type of reward system cannot exist in this world between people. We simply do not have the means to reward to such a degree—but for Allah, this is how He chooses to deal with us. He roots for our success.
This is further highlighted in another Hadith of the Prophet (may the peace and blessings of God be upon him), in which he shares a story about a man who killed ninety-nine people. The man went to a monk and asked if there was any hope for his repentance to be accepted by Allah, and the monk said no. The man then killed him for a grand total of one hundred victims. He went outside of his comfort zone once again to seek help, realizing he could not set out on the right path by himself. He met a scholar, asked him the same question, and received an affirmative reply.
We must understand the man himself was extremely sincere about his repentance. On the outside, he was an evil murderer, but inside his heart, he felt horrible and wanted to change. He did not know how. That is why he needed to seek help from the scholar.
The scholar saw the man’s sincerity and advised him to leave his homeland where he was bogged down by his past and travel to a place where the people were righteous. Hardly completing half the distance to this new place, the man died. The Hadith continues:
“The angels of mercy pleaded, ‘This man has come with a repenting heart to Allah,’ and the angels of punishment argued, ‘He never did a virtuous deed in his life.’ Then there appeared another angel in the form of a human being and the contending angels agreed to make him arbiter between them. He said, ‘Measure the distance between the two lands. He will be considered belonging to the land to which he is nearer.’ They measured and found him closer to the land (land of piety) where he intended to go, and so the angels of mercy collected his soul.” (Bukhari)
Another version of this Hadith states Allah actually commanded the land of the starting point to move away and the destination to move closer. Only after this command was the distance measured to find the man nearer to his goal by a handspan resulting in his forgiveness.
When sharing this Hadith, one of my teachers said none of us had killed one hundred people, so how could we not also receive Allah’s mercy? There may be sins we have done one hundred times—drugs, lies, pornography, interest, whatever—and we feel hopeless and Hell-bound in the aftermath. If there are struggles you cannot overcome alone, remember there are people to help. Seek out religious figures who are like the scholar, giving hope and new light. Even if you bump into a person like the monk along the way, know a judgment like that is not a person’s to give.
God says in his Quran, “Say, ‘O My servants who have transgressed against themselves [by sinning], do not despair of the mercy of Allah. Indeed, Allah forgives all sins. Indeed, it is He who is the Forgiving, the Merciful.”
After taking into account Allah’s reward system and infinite forgiveness that saved even a man who killed one hundred people, it is easy to see how yes, maybe Heaven is actually easier for us to attain. That does not mean we have a free ride; good deeds take work! But to get on God’s bad side takes a whole lot more effort when He puts all the odds in our favor because He wants to see us win.