The Balance in the Holy Sunnah
The Prophet ﷺ referenced the balance and its derivatives in many Hadiths. In these Hadiths, the balance refers to scales used for measuring weight, criteria for judgment, and balance in this life and in the hereafter. In the Holy Sunnah, the balance refers to the apparatus used for measuring weight, the scale that will be used on Doomsday, and the criterion for judgment used by the Almighty.
Al-Bukhari and others narrated that Abu Hurraira narrated that the Prophet ﷺ said, “And in His Hand there is the balance (of justice) whereby He raises and lowers (people).”
In his Collection of Hadiths (Musnad), Ahmad also narrated that the Prophet ﷺ said, “The balance is in the Hand of the Most Merciful.”
Imam al-Bukhari concluded his Authentic Collection of Hadiths (Sahih al-Bukhari) with a chapter entitled ﴾We will set up the scales of justice for the Day of Resurrection﴿ (Holy Quran 21: 47) and said that all of what the children of Adam do and say will be weighed. The last Hadith of his collection, number 7563, is:
“There are two words that are very easy for the tongue to say, and very heavy in the balance (of reward,) and the most beloved to the Gracious Almighty. They are Subhan Allah wa bi-hamdihi (Glory and praise be to Allah) and Subhan Allahi-l-’Azim (Glory be to Allah the Mighty).”
In the Holy Sunnah, the term the balance is used with the definite article, without the definite article, as a singular noun, and as a plural noun. Moreover, it is used approximately 1500 times in the Holy Sunnah and the books of interpretation of Hadiths.
In short, in both the Holy Quran and the Holy Sunnah, the balance represents justice. The scale used for measuring weight and the criteria for judging ideals and morals is the same scale that will be used for measuring deeds and the books that will be given to all people on the Day of Resurrection. Some exegetes, however, suggest that in some contexts the balance refers to pure human nature and sound reason.
For this book, we are concerned with the balance of Islamic jurisprudence, the balance of understanding, judgment, rights and duties which ensures equitable rights for everyone and complementary obligations.
It should be noted that most exegetes do not refer to this last suggested meaning. Although very few exegetes hint at this meaning, they do not discuss in detail.
Muslims are required to believe in the balance and the scale that will be used for measuring people’s deeds, as Allah says, ﴾We will establish the scales of justice for the Day of Resurrection, so that no soul will suffer the least injustice. And even if it be the weight of a mustard- seed, We will bring it up. Sufficient are We as Reckoners﴿ (Holy Quran 21: 47). Allah also says: ﴾Those whose scales are heavy—those are the successful. But those whose scales are light—those are they who have lost their souls; in Hell they will dwell forever﴿ (Holy Quran 23: 102-3).
Muslim scholars suggest that people’s deeds will be measured when they are called to account for them. As the purpose of weighing people’s deeds is the reckoning, it should be done after the call to account, which is aimed at proving that they deserve reward or punishment. However, measuring people’s deeds is intended to account for each and every deed, so that they get punished or rewarded according to the weight of their deeds.
In the Explanation of the Creed of Imam Tahawi, Ahmad Shakir says,
“There is evidence in the Holy Sunnah that the scale that will be used for measuring people’s deeds has two tangible scale pans for measuring deeds as decreed in the criteria of the balance established by the Almighty, a sign of His absolute justice.”
Based upon this, it could be argued that the balance on the Day of Resurrection is true, and that all Muslim scholars, especially the Sunnis, agree on that. However, they have various viewpoints on the characteristics of this balance.
Major exegetes’ claims have been reviewed in this chapter. As other claims by other Muslim scholars are considered, we come to conclude the following:
First, they disagree about whether there is just one balance or more than one.
Some Muslim scholars suggest that there is only one balance that will be used for measuring all people’s deeds. This means that the types of balance vary according to whose deeds are measured and the nature of such deeds. Alhafiz bin Hajar says, “The fact that there are various types of deeds (that will be measured) is evident in the following verse: ﴾But those whose scales are light﴿ (Holy Quran 101: 6-8).”
By contrast, other Muslim scholars suggest that the balance refers to multiple scales that will be used on the Day of Resurrection, as discussed above.
Second, exegetes differ about the nature of the balance.
People of the Sunni branch believe that a real scale will be set up on Doomsday for measuring the weight of people’s deeds, and that it has two scale pans and a tongue. This is evident, they claim, in the apparent meaning of the Holy verses and Hadiths mentioned above. However, they differ about some details related to the balance, as explained above.
Followers of the Mu’tazilah deny the existence of a tangible scale on the Day of Resurrection. They suggest that it is a metaphor for divine justice, and that it is impossible to measure the weight of deeds, as they are not physical objects.
This claim violates the jurisprudence of the balance. The scales that will be used on the Day of Resurrection are different from those used in worldly life. Generally speaking, comparing something we do not know to something we do know is impermissible. The view that the balance represents divine justice and arbitration is adopted by several righteous predecessors. Al-Hafiz ibn Hajar says,
“Several righteous predecessors believe that the balance refers to justice and judgment.
Commenting on the verse of ﴾We will establish the scales of justice for the Day of Resurrection﴿ (Holy Quran 21: 47), al-Tabari narrates that bin Abi Najih says that Mujahid says, ‘It is just a symbol. It goes both ways. The Almighty is able to measure deeds, and the scales is just a symbol.’
Al-Tabari also narrated that Laith bin Abi Sulaim said that Mujahid says, ‘The scales means justice.’
Al- Hafiz also says, ‘It is most likely that the view adopted by the majority of Muslim scholars is the valid one.’”
Third, exegetes differ about what will be measured with the scale and the scales.
Some exegetes suggest that people’s deeds will be measured with the scale although they are not solid mass that can be weighed. They argue that the Almighty will transform people’s deeds into objects that have solid mass. Albaghawi says,
“Ibn Abbas narrated that the Prophet ﷺ says, ‘The chapter of al-Baqara and the chapter of al-Imran will be embodied in the form of two clouds - or shadows - or two flocks spreading their wings.’ There is also another authentic Hadith in which the Prophet ﷺ says that the Quran will be embodied in the form of a pale-faced man whom a believer will ask, ‘Who are you?’ The man will reply, ‘I am the Quran for which you used to stay up all night and fast during the day.’ In another Hadith, the Prophet ﷺ relates how a handsome young man wearing perfume visits believers after they are buried in their graves. When asked who he is, the young man will say, ‘I am your good deeds.’ The Prophet ﷺ also describes how the hypocrites and the unbelievers will be visited by a young man with disgusting features.’”
Al-Hafiz ibn Hajar says in Fath al-Bari, “Deeds will be measured as they will be transformed into physical objects that can be weighed with the scale.’”
It is also argued that the books in which people’s deeds will be recorded are the things whose weight will be measured, as discussed above.
It is also argued that people themselves will be placed on the scale. The Prophet ﷺ says, “On the Day of Resurrection, huge fat men will come who will not weigh the weight of the wing of a mosquito in Allah's Sight,” and then the Prophet ﷺ cites the verse ﴾We shall not give them any weight on the Day of Resurrection﴿ (Holy Quran 18: 105). The Prophet ﷺ also says, “How can you make fun of Ibn Masud’s thin legs? I swear to Allah that his legs are heavier than the Mount of Uhud in the scale.”
Al-Hafiz ibn Kathir says, “All this evidence may be valid. Deeds, the books in which they are recorded, and people will all be measured at a time.”
There are some scholars who believe that deeds are what will be measured on the Day of Judgement. Al-Hafiz ibn Hajar, for example, says,
“It is most likely that people’s deeds will be measured. A Hadith, documented by Abu Dawod and al-Tirmidhi, and deemed authentic by Ibn Hibban, states that Abi al-Darda heard the Prophet ﷺ say, ‘On the Day of Judgement, good manners are the heaviest thing on the scale.’
Jabir narrated that the Prophet ﷺ said, “The scales will be established on the Day of Judgement for measuring good and evil deeds. Those whose good deeds are greater than their evil deeds will go to Heaven, while those whose evil deeds are greater than their good deeds will go to Hell.’ Then the Prophet ﷺ was asked, ‘What about those whose good deeds and evil deeds are the same weight?’ He ﷺ said, ‘Those are the people of the Elevations.’”
There are many sound and good Hadiths that can be cited as evidence for the claim that a scale with two scale pans will be established on the Day of Judgement.
Al-Nawawi said, “Texts from the Quran and Sunnah complement each other concerning the measurement of deeds, and the differences between heavy scales and light ones.”
Al-Hafiz ibn Hajar suggests that there are two groups of people whose deeds will not be weighed, as he says,
“Two groups will be singled out. Some unbelievers have no evil deeds, other than disbelieving in Allah, so they will go to Hell without being called to account or having their deeds weighed, as they have no good deeds. On the other hand, some believers have so many good deeds that they go to Heaven without being called to account. The evidence for this is the Hadith that relates how seventy thousand believers will go to Heaven without being called to account."