The book of deeds is a record of all the deeds a human being performs in their lifetimes, and is the basis for which people are held accountable by Allah on the Day of Judgement. While some scholars believe that the ‘book’ of deeds may not necessarily be a physical book, but rather a metaphorical explanation for the record of one’s deeds, it is possible to explain the book of deeds as being a physical record of the actions we performed in this world. Overall, the Quranic descriptions of the Day of Judgement may seem to ignite fear in one’s heart, but it serves the purpose of bringing awareness of the future to the believers, allowing them to act accordingly in this world.
What is the Book of Deeds?
In simple terms, the book of deeds is a record of all the deeds a human being performs in their lifetime on the basis of which they are held accountable by Allah (s) on the Day of Judgement.
Allah (s) says in the Quran, “And most surely there are keepers over you. Honourable recorders, they know what you do” (The Quran 82:10-12).
“And We have made every man’s actions to cling to his neck, and We will bring forth to him on the resurrection day a book which he will find wide open: Read your book; your own self is sufficient as a reckoner against you this day” (The Quran, 17:13-14).
According to these verses, it is clear that Allah (s) has appointed angels to be the recorders of the actions of every human being during this lifetime. The words, “every man’s actions clinging to his neck” (The Quran 17:13-14) here can remind us that just as a person cannot survive being separated from their neck, the records of one’s deeds will never be separated from him or her until the Day of Judgement, where they will be able to witness what it was that they did in this life. It reminds one of the inseparability of one’s deeds from oneself when it comes to accountability in front of Allah (s). This in itself is an example of God’s justice.
Is the Book of Deeds a Physical Book?
The word “book” in the above verse may raise the question of whether this record signifies a physical book in which the deeds of a human being are recorded? Some scholars believe that it is symbolic of one’s deeds in their complete form, embodied exactly how they were done in this world. On the other hand, others believe that based on the Quranic verses above, the term “book” can simply be understood as a physical “record” of our deeds. Given the amount of information physical handheld electronic devices can store in the twenty-first century, envisioning an even more advanced physical record that holds all one’s deeds seems quite plausible and can easily be comprehended.
The Quran also states, “And the Book shall be placed, then you will see the guilty fearing from what is in it, and they will say: Ah! woe to us! what a book is this! it does not omit a small one nor a great one, but numbers them (all); and what they had done they shall find present (there); and your Lord does not deal unjustly with anyone” (The Quran 18:49). This means that on the Day of Judgement, the deeds of a human being will be presented to them in a way whereby they will be able to observe what happened as if it were currently taking place (Amini, 2011). In this way, the veil would be lifted off of the eyes of the human being and they would not be able to deny any detail.
Putting Understanding Into Practice
These verses are not meant to solely ignite fear within one’s heart, but to encourage human beings to become aware of the importance and weight of every action carried out in this lifetime. While this allows one to remove themselves from ignorance, it is also important to recognize the compassion, mercy, and forgiveness of Allah (s) and turn to Him through repentance.
Amini, I. (2011). Resurrection (Ma’ad) in the Quran. https://www.al-islam.org/resurrection-maad-quran-ayatullah-ibrahim-amini/scroll-deeds
Gulpaygani, A. R. (2015). Discursive Theology (Volume 2).