That is one having deeds from which he hopes good but they end up scattered dust and are altered to evil deeds.
Allàh, Exalted is He says,
وَٱلَّذِينَ ڪَفَرُوٓاْ أَعۡمَـٰلُهُمۡ كَسَرَابِۭ بِقِيعَةٍ۬ يَحۡسَبُهُ ٱلظَّمۡـَٔانُ مَآءً حَتَّىٰٓ إِذَا جَآءَهُ ۥ لَمۡ يَجِدۡهُ شَيۡـًٔ۬ا وَوَجَدَ ٱللَّهَ عِندَهُ ۥ فَوَفَّٮٰهُ حِسَابَهُ ۥۗ وَٱللَّهُ سَرِيعُ ٱلۡحِسَابِ (٣٩
As for those who disbelieve, their deeds are as a mirage in a desert. The thirsty one thinks it to be water till he comes to it and finds it naught, and finds, in the place thereof, Allàh Who will pay him his due; and Allàh is swift at reckoning. [24:39]
وَقَدِمۡنَآ إِلَىٰ مَا عَمِلُواْ مِنۡ عَمَلٍ۬ فَجَعَلۡنَـٰهُ هَبَآءً۬ مَّنثُورًا (٢٣
And We shall turn unto the work they did and make it scattered motes. [25:23]
Fudayl said concerning this verse, “And there will appear unto them, from their Lord, that wherewith they never reckoned,” ‘They worked deeds thinking them to be good when in reality they were evil.’
Close to the above: a servant commits an evil deed to which he pays no regard, thinking it insignificant, and that sin will be the cause of his perdition as Allàh says,
وَتَحۡسَبُونَهُ ۥ هَيِّنً۬ا وَهُوَ عِندَ ٱللَّهِ عَظِيمٌ۬ (١٥
…you counted it a trifle but in the sight of Allàh it is very great. [24:15]
One of the Companion said,
‘You are doing deeds that are, in your eyes, more insignificant than a hair, whereas at the tim of the Messenger of Allàh ﷺ we would consider them to be destructive sins!’¹
Worse than the previous case: one to whom the evil of his conduct seems pleasing. Allàh, Exalted is He says,
قُلۡ هَلۡ نُنَبِّئُكُم بِٱلۡأَخۡسَرِينَ أَعۡمَـٰلاً (١٠٣) ٱلَّذِينَ ضَلَّ سَعۡيُہُمۡ فِى ٱلۡحَيَوٰةِ ٱلدُّنۡيَا وَهُمۡ يَحۡسَبُونَ أَنَّہُمۡ يُحۡسِنُونَ صُنۡعًا (١٠٤
Say: Shall We inform you who will be the greatest losers by their works? Those whose efforts go astray in the life of the world, and yet they reckon that they do good work. [18:103-104]
Ibn ‘Uyaynah said,
When death came to Muhammad ibn al-Munkadir he became apprehensive and so the people summoned Abù Hàzim and he came. Ibn al-Munkadir said to him, “Allàh says, ‘And there will appear unto them, from their Lord, that wherewith they never reckoned,’ and I fear that things will become clear to me and confront me that I never expected.” Then both of them broke down in tears.
Recorded by ibn Abì Hàtim and ibn Abì al-Dunyà adds in his report,
So his family said, “We called you that you may console him but you have only increased his apprehension!” He then told them of what he has said.²
Fudayl ibn ‘Iyàd said,
I have been informed that it was said to Sulaymàn al-Taymì, “You! Who is there like you!” He said, “Quiet! Do not say this! I do not know what will appear before me from Allàh, I have heard Allàh saying, “And there will appear unto them, from their Lord, that wherewith they never reckoned.”‘³
Sufyàn al-Thawrì would say upon hearing this verse, ‘Woe to the people of ostentation.’4 This can be seen in the hadith about the three who would be the first to be hurled into the Fire: the scholar, the one who gave charity, and the mujàhid.5
The one who has worked righteous deeds but has also wronge others and he thinks that his deeds will save him, so there confronts him that which he was not expecting. All of his deeds are apportioned amongst those he wronged, then some wrong still remains to be requited, and so their evil deeds are piled onto his and as a result he is hurled into the Fire.6
His account could be scrutinised at which it will be asked of him to show how he was grateful for the blessings granted him. The least blessing would be balanced against his deeds and outweight them with the remaining blessing yet to be weighed! This is why the Prophet ﷺ said, “Whoever’s account is scrutinised will be punished,” or, “will be destroyed.”7
He could have evil deeds that destroy some of his deeds or the deeds of his limbs, save Tawhid, as a result of which he will enter the Fire.
Ibn Majah records the hadith on the authority of Thawban that the Messenger of Allàh ﷺ said,
“There are people amongst my nation who will come with deeds like mountains and Allàh will render them as scattered dust.”
This hadith goes on to mention,
“They are a people who have your skin, (they speak your language),8 they spend part of the night in prayer as you do, but they are people who, when they are alone, violate the prohibitions of Allàh.”9
Ya’qub ibn Shaybah and ibn Abì al-Dunyà record on the authority of Salim, the freed-slave of Abù Hudhayfah, that the Messenger of Allàh ﷺ said,
“A group of people will be brought on the Day of Judgment with deeds like Mount Tihamah and Allàh will render their deeds to dust and they will be thrown face first in the Fire.”
Salim said, ‘I fear I am one of them!’ He ﷺ said, “They would fast, pray, and apportion some of the night for worship, but in secret, when an opportunity to do something forbidden presented itself, they would take it and as such Allàh will invalidate their deeds.”
A person could have his deeds annulled because of showing off or arrogance and the likes yet not even be aware of it!
1. Bukhari #6492 on the authority of Anas
2. Ibn al-Jawzì, vol.2, p. 167 #185
3. Dhahabì, Tadkhiratu’l-Huffàz, vol.1, p. 151
4. Qurtubi, vol. 15, p. 265
5. Muslim #1905/4923 on the authority of Abù Hurayrah with the words, ‘The first man (whose case) will be decided on the Day of Judgment, will be a man who died as a martyr. He shall be brought forth and Allàh will recount His blessings (which He had bestowed upon him) and he will acknowledge them. Then Allàh will ask, “What did you do with them?” He will reply, “I fought for Your sake until I died as a martyr,” Allàh will say, “You lie. You fought so that you might be called a ‘brave warrior’ and you were called so.” Then a command will be given and he will be dragge on his face and cast into Hell.
And a man who acquired knowledge and taught it and recited the Qur’àn. He will be brought forth and Allàh will recount His blessings (which He had bestowed upon him) and he will acknowledge them. Then Allàh will ask, “What did you do with them?” He will say, “I acquired knowledge and disseminated it and recited the Qur’àn for Your sake.” Allàh will say, “You lie. You acquired knowledge so that you might be called ‘a scholar,’ and you recited the Qur’àn so that it might be said, ‘He is a Qàri’,’ and it was said.” Then a command will be given and he will be dragged on his face and cast into Hell.
And a man whom Allàh had made abundantly rich and had granted every kind of wealth. He will be brought forth and Allàh will recount His blessings (which He had bestowed upon him) and he will acknowledge them. Then Allàh will ask, “What did do you with them?” He will say, “I spent money in every cause in which You wished that it should be spent for Your sake.” Allàh will say, “You lie. You did so that it might be said, ‘He is generous,’ and it was said.” Then a command will be given and he will be dragged on his face and cast into Hell.’
6. Muslim #2581/6579 records on the authority of Abu Hurayrah that the Messenger of Allàh ﷺ asked, “Do you know the bankrupt person is?” They said, ‘A bankrupt man amongst us is one who has neither dirham with him nor wealth.’ He ﷺ said, “The bangkrupt person of my nation would be he who comes on the Day of Resurrection with prayers and fasts and Zakat but he hurled abuses upon this person, brought calumny against that person, unlawfully consumed the wealth of that person, shed the blood of that person, and beat that person. So his good deeds would be credited to the deeds of those people (by way of retaliation) and if his good deeds fall short to clear the account, their sins would be added to his and he would be thrown in the Fire.”
Muslim #2582/6580 records on th authority of Abu Hurayrah that the Messenger of Allàh said, “All rights will be restored to their owners on the Day of Judgment. Even a hornless goat that is butted by a ram will have justice.”
7. Bukhari #6537 and Muslim #2876/7727,7728 on the authority ‘A’ishah. The wording of Bukhari has ‘A’ishah then asking, ‘Does not Allah say, “Then he who is given his Record in his right hand, soon will his account be taken by an easy reckoning,” [al-inshiqaq (84):7-8] ?’ He replied, “That is not the scrutiny that is a presentation, whoever’s account is scrutinised will be punished.”
Bukhari #6536 and Muslim #2876/7225 on the authority ‘A’ishah. The wording mentioned above is also recorded by Tirmidhi #3338 on the authority of Anas.
Hakim #8728 and Dhahabi said the isnàd contained a weak narrator. Ibn Abì Shaybah, vol. 13, p. 360, has the wording, “…will not be forgiven,” and Ibn al-Mubarak, al-Zuhd #1324 also records this wording as a statement of ‘A’ishah.
8. This sentence is not found in the hadith of ibn Majah
9. Ibn Majah #4245
Busayri said, ‘Its isnad is sahih’ and it was declared sahih by Albani, #2346
Taken from the book “THE JOURNEY TO ALLAH”, An Explanation of the Hadith, ‘Your action alone will not save any of you,’ (Bukhari #6463), written by AL-HAFIZ IBN RAJAB AL-HANBALI, translated from the original Arabic by Abu Rumaysah, Daar us-Sunnah Publisher, Birmingham, p. 82-87