GOOD DEEDS IN CHRISTIANITY AND ISLAM:
COMPARING THE PERSPECTIVES OF AUGUSTINE AND AL-GHAZALI
A COMPARATIVE ANALYSIS
Both Augustine and al-Ghazali have bequeathed great and abiding contributions through
their analysis of the inner dimension of good deeds, focusing not just on faith, but on
intention, inner meaning and inner preconditions. For Augustine this is formulated in
terms of the will, while for al-Ghazali emphasis is placed on the heart. In their different
ways, they both explore inner meaning and inner preconditions of good deeds, essential
in their view for the improvement of the soul, and thus for enhancing the relationship
between man and God. Both Augustine and al-Ghazali place great emphasise on the
observance of this kernel of good deeds, without which they would appear only as
outward actions that are devoid of real value. Some aspects of these issues will be
analysed in this chapter, beginning with a brief comparison of the general position and
approaches of Christianity and Islam to good deeds, and their relationship to faith. Next,
it compares aspects of the thought of Augustine and al-Ghazali that are related to good
deeds. This includes their theological foundations, their general views of faith and good
deeds, their spiritual insights and goals, as well as their analyses of the inner dimension
of good deeds.
While in both Christianity and Islam faith has always been recognised as
important alongside good deeds, however, both Augustine and al-Ghazali introduce a
psychological element into their understanding of good deeds. They believe that
professions of faith alone are not enough, as the worth of any activity depends on inner
disposition. Nevertheless, the necessary inner dimension of good deeds is not simply faith (as traditionally emphasised in both Christianity and Islam), but a disposition of what
Augustine calls the will, or al-Ghazali the heart. In this respect both thinkers deepen the
psychological dimension of their respective theological traditions and religious
observance, providing new depth of teaching, in the framework of their respective
Thus, despite the evident doctrinal differences between their religious traditions,
Augustine’s focus on the will as underpinning the spiritual value of good deeds can be
usefully compared to that of al-Ghazali on the heart. Each thinker is interested in the
psychology of good deeds, prioritizing the notion of intention in their own way. While
Augustine’s thought has been much studied by Christian scholars, just as that of al-
Ghazali has been much studied by Muslims, understanding of both common ground and
differences between these two thinkers is potentially of great value in deepening
7.1 Faith and Good Deeds in Christianity and Islam
The Biblical and Qur’anic concepts of faith are not confined to a passive intellectual
assent, but they require an active participation or commitment from a believer, signified
in proper performance of good deeds. Since both Christianity and Islam have their own
history, development, and theology, there are differences in their theological frameworks
and degree of emphasis on the question of faith and good deeds. In Christianity faith
centres on Christ’s salvific work in redeeming mankind from sin. This doctrine is absent
in Islam, which focuses more on faith in an absolute monotheistic concept of God known
as Tawhid. Indeed, Islam rejects the Christian doctrine of the identity of Jesus Christ as
both Son of Man and as the eternally begotten Son of God (the Qur’an, 5:72-73, 116-
117), for this contradicts the foundation of Tawhid which teaches that God is unique and
one in His essence, attribute, action, and power. Islam teaches that Jesus was among the righteous prophets (the Qur’an, 3:45-48; 5:75) as well as one of the five Ulul ‘AzmProphets (Arch-Prophets) (the Qur’an, 33:7; 42:13). There is, therefore, no concept of “Christ’s salvific work” in Islam. Jesus is revered in Islam more for his message in calling people back to the One God. Islam teaches that the performance of good deeds should be devoted directly to God, and therefore, the concept of mediator, such as Christ, the church or priesthood is not acceptable in Islamic theology. As such, some specific types of good deeds are different, particularly those in the form of specific observances, such as sacramental practices in Christianity.
Christianity responds to the potential legalism of the Jewish tradition by
devoting much emphasis to faith or the spiritual dimension of religious observance. In the New Testament, this approach is demonstrated by Jesus and Paul, where both are reacting against empty ritualism and legalism, whether of contemporary Jews or Judaizing Christians. Both criticise those who are purely dependent on the Law or pious action.
Nevertheless, they do not reject the necessity of good deeds. In fact, they attempt to
explain the right way good deeds or religious Law should be performed, emphasising
their inward observance. They believe that too much dependence on outward observance can diminish the essence of good deeds, which is spiritual and conducive to spiritual development. Such action reduces the spiritually fruitful dimension of good deeds to mere physical motion of outward performance. Because of this, both Jesus and Paul censure those who depend on the sufficiency of good deeds or religious observance alone. In another context, when faith has already been internalised, then good deeds cannot be overlooked. This is signified in James’ contention that “faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”
Islam similarly warns against the danger of empty legalism, or reliance only on
faith, and seeks to restore the balance between outward and inward observance, as shown by its emphasis on both faith and good deeds. Many Qur’anic verses and Prophetic traditions as well as commentaries support this contention, indicating that both faith and good deeds are the essential requirements of being a Muslim, and that there are various great rewards and severe punishments for both good and evil deeds respectively.
In both religions, the relationship between faith and good deeds has generated
several interpretations, generating both controversies and heresies. These alternate
interpretations are mainly related to the relationship and connection of faith and good
deeds to salvation. In the New Testament, different positions on this issue are represented by Paul and James. In the time of Augustine, they are exemplified by those movements such as Manichaeanism, Donatism, and Pelagianism. This issue was again exacerbated and reached its culmination in the 16th century, resulting in the schism between Protestantism and Catholicism.
In the early centuries of Islam, this issue captured the attention of the Kharijites,
Murji’ites, and Mu‘tazilites, each being regarded as heretical by mainstream thinkers. In
al-Ghazali’s time, there were other groups whom he calls the “seekers after truth,” some
of whom he perceived as holding inaccurate or misleading interpretations on the issue.
As a Sunnite scholar, al-Ghazali was opposed to the Shi‘ite doctrine of the Isma‘ilites,
whom he described as the Batinites. Indeed, there is a slight difference of opinion on the
issue in the Sunnite tradition itself, as represented by the view of the Hanafites and the
other three schools of law (the Malikites, Shafi‘ites, and Hanbalites). All of these
demonstrate that the issue of faith and good deeds is not only important in capturing the
attention of many groups, but is also complex in generating different interpretations,some of which developed into controversies and heresies.
Although differing in theological framework and degree of emphasis, it cannot
be doubted that both Christianity and Islam perceive good deeds as essential to the perfection of one’s faith. In fact, this analysis suggests that the concept of faith in both
Christianity and Islam is dynamic in requiring good deeds. Nevertheless, the Biblical and
Qur’anic accounts of the nature and different dimensions of good deeds are rather general.
This provides an opportunity for different interpretations. Augustine and al-Ghazali are
among the leading scholars who attempt to understand, practise, and share what they
believe is the essence of the Biblical or Qur’anic concept of good deeds.
7.2 The Theological Foundations of Augustine and al-Ghazali: A Comparison
Augustine and al-Ghazali were writing within the context of their religious traditions.
Both introduce a psychological element that goes beyond outward performance of good
deeds or external professions of faith. While there are significant differences on their
theological frameworks, they share profound similarities especially on their sophisticated
analyses of the psychology of good deeds as well as their spiritual insights into certain
issues, and both devotedly attempt to synthesise them into their religious traditions. As
will be examined further below, the most notable differences are that Augustine’s
theology accords a central role to Christ as the means for returning to God, whereas alGhazali’s is focused on the principle of Tawhid (the Absolute Oneness, Primacy, and
Unity of God). Augustine places great emphasis on man’s corrupted nature and deformed free will which necessitate absolute need for divine grace. Al-Ghazali by contrast is concerned more with the impure heart that needs to be purified and beautified which forms a crucial step in spiritual journey back to God. In short, Augustine’s analysis of human nature, at least in his later writings against the Pelagian heresy, became more pessimistic than that of al-Ghazali, as he responded to various heresies. Despite these differences, they both share profound similarities particularly on the spiritual aspect of the relevant issues.
Both Augustine and al-Ghazali are considered as among the most prominent
proponents and defenders of their religious traditions, systematising certain theological
and spiritual doctrines. Their thoughts about good deeds evolved significantly after
engaging with different interpretations and most importantly after an experience of
Augustine was living during the formative period of Latin Christianity, the first
century without persecution of Christians, when orthodoxy was not clearly specified, and
when there were still a wide range of interpretations concerning what constituted
orthodox belief. As a bishop he saw his role as a defender of orthodoxy and he felt
different interpretations and heresies to be the challenge to his authority. Al-Ghazali on
the other hand was writing at a time of great diversity of interpretation, with Islam being
mostly understood and practised in purely ritual and legalistic approaches, and with
Sufism having evolved quite separately from intellectual reflection. Although Islam was
already long established, he observed that the essence of Islamic teachings had mostly
diminished during his time, and therefore, there was a need for a revival. As a Sunnite
Scholar, he was opposed to Shi‘ite doctrine, and opposed their views. He came to see his primary role, however, not as reacting to heresy (like Augustine), but in creating a
synthesis between Sufism and traditional ritual practices. Nevertheless, he still devoted
his time to criticise views that he disagreed with, especially those of the Batinites.
Thus, both Augustine and al-Ghazali maintain that widespread dry or even
misleading interpretations and practices in their time have mostly reduced religion to
either pure esotericism, or pure ritualism and legalism. Because of this, they—especially
Augustine—responded critically to some of them, defending what they believed as the
orthodox position and right interpretations of the issues. Nonetheless, they were also not
satisfied with certain views and practices found within their own contemporary traditions.
Hence, they both delved deep into the psychological aspect of the issues that they
addressed, looking for the satisfaction of their minds and hearts. They observed that there was something missing or diminishing, namely, the inner or spiritual dimension of
religious life and the spiritual relationship with God. Their fervent searching for these
spiritual elements and truth paved the way to the evolution of their thoughts and interest
in the psychological foundation of good deeds. Both of them underwent spiritual
transformation, through which they attained what they believed to be the knowledge of
the reality of things. Both thinkers evolved in their ideas, both before and after
experiencing moments of profound spiritual transformation.
Against the Manichean fatalism, Augustine offered positive views of free will
and good deeds. In the later Pelagian controversy, however, he focused more on the inner or spiritual dimension of relevant issues, developing his mystical views of deformed free will and the soul’s absolute need for God’s grace.
Al-Ghazali’s thinking about good deeds similarly evolved both before and after
his seclusion. Initially, there were no significant differences between al-Ghazali and other
jurists, with the exception that Ghazali’s discussions are much more systematic and
extensive. Starting from his seclusion phase, however, Ghazali focused more on Sufism, offering a profound spiritual insight into relevant issues. He emphasised the real meaning of Tawhid which asserts that God is alone in all actions (munfarid bi al-af‘al kulliha), and that the whole life should be devoted to Him alone. His goal was totally spiritual and other-worldly, oriented towards spiritual union with God. Both Augustine and al-Ghazali were convinced that it was God who endowed them this spiritual realisation and they believed that they should share their spiritual insights with their respective communities and readers. Therefore, they actively engaged in their societies and religious activities, breathing into them the warmth of spirituality.
Although both share profound similar spiritual insights, each was writing within
a particular context. As an active bishop and pastor often overburdened with controversy, Augustine’s spiritual transformation developed through a series of debates with several groups. Most of his writings, therefore, are apologetic or polemic in nature. Al-Ghazali on the other hand underwent spiritual transformation through seclusion, abandoning his prestigious position and luxury life to be a detached spiritual thinker. Since Augustine was actively engaged in social and religious activities, and involved directly in different controversies, he did not have enough time to systematise his thought on good deeds. He was busy defending views which were extremely contested at the time. In contrast, freed from social and political pressures, al-Ghazali was able to produce extensive systematic treatises on various issues including on good deeds. Although differing in context, each of them breathes fruitful spiritual insight into relevant issues in their own ways.
In order to furnish their thoughts, both Augustine and al-Ghazali resort to various
sources. As several scholars have observed, Neo-Platonism is by far the most influential foundation of Augustine’s thought. Although al-Ghazali is critical of philosophy, he still synthesises certain ideas from Greek philosophy—particularly those of Aristotle—into his discussion, especially in ethics. Both firmly believe in the authenticity of their respective religious scriptures and traditions, and they offer some unique and profound interpretations of those relevant sources. Augustine draws on both the Old and New Testaments, attempting to synthesise the two. His relevant interpretations depend heavily on Paul and are also influenced by Ambrose. Although al-Ghazali follows his own spiritual path—as Smith has observed—he is still indebted to some prominent thinkers or spiritual masters, such as al-Junayd (830-910 CE), al-Makki (d. 996 CE), al-Muhasibi
(781-857 CE), and al-Isfahani (d. 1108/1109). His sources are not limited to the Qur’an
and sound Prophetic traditions, but he also furnishes his discussion with other types of
Prophetic traditions, various reports, and some other sources. Nevertheless, what is more important is that both Augustine and al-Ghazali underwent radical spiritual
transformations and utilised their personal spiritual experiences as the primary source and approach to relevant discussions. This led them to personalise and internalise the
discussion of good deeds, infusing into them their personal spiritual insights.
Firmly believing in the authenticity of the Biblical narrative and Paul’s views
regarding Adam, Augustine developed further and formulated certain doctrines, such as
Original Sin and grace, offering a sophisticated analysis of what underpins them, namely, an acute awareness of the psychological drama of the human condition. Indeed, as Wetzel has affirmed, the story of the disobedience of Adam and Eve, as narrated in Genesis, is Augustine’s favourite drama.
He uses it to justify his formulation of interrelated doctrines of Original Sin, deformed will, and absolute need for divine grace through Christ. His analysis focuses very much on human psychology and/or the inner self particularly on the importance of the will and its corruption through Adam’s fall or Original Sin, and the essential role of Christ in providing an opportunity for the soul to return to God. This justifies the absolute need for divine grace in whatever condition.
Kenney has observed that Augustine’s books (particularly the Confessions) involve a
deep reorientation of contemplation of the inner self which leads to inner journey towards
God.7 A key objective for Augustine is to eliminate spiritual pride that can pave the way
towards recognition of Divine Transcendence. Thus, Augustine emphasises man’s
weaknesses and helpless state as a way to acknowledge God’s grace through Christ. His later theology relates almost all doctrines and theological issues to Christ and divine
grace. Christ is considered as the central determining factor of various kinds of good
deeds as well as theological doctrines, and grace as the essential element towards that realisation. Therefore, good deeds should be able to lead Christians towards the
acknowledgement of divine grace through Christ.
Within the framework of Islamic theology, which is Tawhidic, whereby the One
and Absolute God is the centre of all issues, and all good things should be devoted to Him alone, al-Ghazali focuses on the importance of an intimate relationship to God. This
theological framework is Qur’anic, and is the core essence of Sufism. Thus, good deeds should be done for the sake of God alone, such as to please Him or to attain nearness to Him. At a higher spiritual level, the performance of good deeds should reflect an intimate relationship with God, and therefore, they should be performed sincerely and attentively.
Following Islamic teaching, al-Ghazali does not offer any negative view about Adam and
Eve, and therefore, their story does not play any great role in his theological formulations, as it does for Augustine. Al-Ghazali believes that human beings are born in fitrah, namely, a good and pure state which inclines man towards goodness. The nature of human beings is therefore good, and all of them are given free will to carry their tasks. Nevertheless, like Augustine, al-Ghazali also acknowledges the weakness of man, but not as drastically as Augustine. Although al-Ghazali believes that man is naturally inclined to goodness (fitrah), he does maintain that there are lower or bad qualities (i.e., the beast, brutish, and satanic qualities) in man which indicate that—in addition to good inclination—there is also an instinctual inclination towards wrong desires. This concept could be compared to Augustine’s thought of concupiscence which is regarded as evil quality and the real cause of vices or bad deeds. Yet, there are still significant differences relating to the theological foundation of the concept of sin or lower quality between Augustine and al-Ghazali. For instance, while Augustine explains it as resulting from the effect of Original Sin still remaining after baptism, al-Ghazali regards it as among human natural lower qualities that should be controlled, which has no relation to the disobedience of Adam and Eve.
Because of these conceptions, both of them affirm that no one is free from sin or evil
deeds, except Jesus or (in Islamic perspective) the prophets. This justifies the need for
divine intervention, in the form of divine grace.
If in his later phase Augustine focuses on man’s corrupted nature and deformed
free will as always in need of grace, al-Ghazali in his later period focuses on the impure
heart and the need for its purification and beautification (i.e., with praiseworthy character) as the foundation of his Tawhidic theology. Among the core assumptions of Augustine’s thought is his belief in the grave consequences of the disobedience of Adam and Eve (e.g., Original Sin, the ruined relationship between human and God, deformed nature and deformed free will), restored through Christ’s salvific work, but still in need of redeeming grace. Al-Ghazali on the other hand focuses on the heart or soul as the real essence of man and his deeds. He sees most of the ethical and spiritual problems come not from outside, but from within one’s heart. He believes that man has free will and therefore is able, and indeed is compelled, to purify his heart or soul from its spiritual diseases (e.g., blameworthy character, vices, and evil deeds or sins). Therefore, he places a great importance on the need for purification and beautification of the heart. He argues that the right performance of good deeds should be able to accomplish this noble task. Thus, unlike the mature Augustine, al-Ghazali has a more optimistic view of human nature, contending that man is born with a good nature and is able to work out his own happiness, a view once defended by the young Augustine in his Manichaean debate. Nevertheless, he also maintains that man needs God’s help or grace, yet, the degree of his emphasis is not as radical as that of Augustine. What is drastic in al-Ghazali’s theology is the urgent and essential need for the purification of the heart or the soul from bad character and vices as well as its beautification with good character, good deeds, and other beautiful or lordly qualities. He insists that these are essential preconditions towards the realisation of the essence of religious life.
Another interesting point is that Augustine carefully employs a Biblical account
which might suggest that God created Adam in His likeness, always interpreted as a
reflection of God’s beautiful attributes. Although this concept is not present within
traditional orthodox Islam, and may be perceived as an anthropomorphic doctrine, alGhazali is aware of some Prophetic traditions on this concept, and both he and Augustine believe that it is not to be interpreted literally. Unlike certain literal and anthropomorphic interpretations of this concept, Augustine’s interpretation relates it to the inner spiritual substance of man, particularly the mind. Sufis including al-Ghazali believe that this concept indicates that man is a great reflection of the wonderful arts of God’s creation, where the spiritual heart plays a central role, such as that man can know God through knowing his reality (e.g., his own nature and heart).
Although the particular interpretation of this concept is different, there is a
profound similarity in the thought of Augustine and al-Ghazali. They argue that the
concept indicates that there are quasi-divine beautiful qualities in man which should be
nurtured. They are described as virtuous, lordly or angelic qualities, good character, inner self, pure heart, or mind.8 They contend that although man is composed of different elements and qualities, he is able to develop his own self and progress towards attaining spiritual union with God. This is because man was initially created in a good condition, but later was polluted with vices—according to al-Ghazali—or corrupted by Original Sin—according to Augustine. With this conception in their minds, therefore, they advise readers to purify their own selves from vices, to control lower qualities, as well as to nurture the good ones. Among other ways to achieve this state is through right observance of good deeds that retains the balance between outer and inner dimensions. Realising the lack of inward observance in the life and practices of their contemporary societies, therefore, they focus their discussion on the inner spiritual dimension of good deeds, addressing their deeper meaning, real purpose, and certain inner preconditions. They both insist that only through the balanced observance of outer and inner dimensions can good deeds be conducive to spiritual growth and able to nurture divinely beautiful qualities, reflecting the perfect attributes of God.
Being spiritually transformed, they both develop deep interest in the psychology of religious observance, and internalise their discussions of good deeds, addressing what
they see as their neglected inner dimensions. They analyse the psychological state of man and his nature in relation to God, establishing their own different state and nature. They both acknowledge that man is a weak creature who is in need of divine grace, and God is all-powerful who is free to help (or not to help) any man. They also believe that the acknowledgement of man’s weakness is conducive to spiritual growth, for it will open
the way towards the realisation of the sovereignty of God and the necessity of grace. For
Augustine, it is also the affirmation of the necessity and adequacy of Christ through his
Another important similarity is that both Augustine and al-Ghazali maintain that the realisation of man’s nature and his religious psychological state is a practical spiritual
approach to eradicate the self-centredness or self-pride, as well as vices or sins. They
assert that those states or vices are harmful to spiritual growth and can become barriers
towards establishing an intimate relationship with God. For instance, Augustine argues
that those who put trust in man or in his deeds could render Christ dead in vain,10 and this state is among the factors that lead to pure ritualism or legalism, a position that he earnestly refuted. Al-Ghazali contends that this state and other kinds of vices and sins
bring harmful effects to the heart or soul,11 which is the centre of spirituality, a position
shared by Augustine.12 In terms of their approaches on this, although both place quite
similar great emphasis on it, Augustine is bolder than al-Ghazali. This is perhaps because Augustine is involved directly in debates with those he perceived as adopting the views of legalist Jews and Judaizers relying on good deeds. He believes that this legalistic attitude would negate the sufficiency of God’s grace and Christ’s salvific work which could render “Christ is dead in vain.”
In summary, Augustine and al-Ghazali theorize the psychological element which
they introduce into their religious traditions in different ways. While Augustine speaks
about the primacy of will, al-Ghazali speaks about the primacy of the heart. Augustine’s
theology was shaped by his understanding of Paul’s notion that corruption of the human
will was part of the human condition, what he calls “Original Sin.” Only through the grace
of Christ can man return to God. In Islam by contrast, theology is Tawhidic, oriented
towards spiritual union with One and Absolute God. For al-Ghazali, this spiritual union
can be realised through the balanced observance of both inner and outer dimensions of
good deeds, achieved through a pure heart. Because of that al-Ghazali earnestly invites
readers to purify and beautify their hearts, an important spiritual practice in Sufism.
Although differing in degrees of emphasis, both acknowledge the weakness of
man and the necessity of divine intervention, particularly in the form of God’s grace.
Augustine’s emphasis on this is greater than al-Ghazali. This is because of his doctrine of Original Sin and his sense of human sinfulness. These conceptions further contribute to different views of man’s nature, in that Augustine offers a more pessimistic view than
that of al-Ghazali.
Yet even though both Augustine and al-Ghazali employ different theological
frameworks, they share profound similarities in spiritual insight. Both are concerned with
spiritual growth, leading towards establishing an intimate relationship with God, the
eternal happiness. They believe that the theological frameworks that they employ are not only conducive to such a purpose, but also reveal the essence of their religious
teachings. Other aspects are analysed further below.
7.3 The General Views of Faith and Good Deeds
Augustine and al-Ghazali offer dynamic views of good deeds and their relationship to
faith, arguing that a constant performance of good deeds (and avoidance of evil deeds) is a necessary complement to an active faith. This is exemplified in their views that faith
consists of theoretical and practical aspects, or inner and outer dimensions. They advise readers to retain a balance between these aspects or dimensions, and criticise those whom they perceive to hold extreme views of overemphasising or being indifferent to one over the other. For both, faith alone is not sufficient, but the notion of good deeds without faith is certainly rejected. Augustine insists that faith needs to be accompanied by hope and love, and it must be furnished with good deeds. Without them—especially love—faith profits nothing.This suggests that they are an indispensable part of a true faith. AlGhazali shares quite a similar view. Nevertheless, his analysis of the relationship between faith and good deeds is more comprehensive, yet complex in certain contexts. This is because he is analysing different contexts or usages of faith in relation to others’
interpretations, attempting to grasp their true meaning. He regards good deeds as a
“superaddition” (mazid) of faith, just as limbs give perfection to man’s body. His
argument that the gift of imperfect or handicapped servant to a king—as the allegory of
imperfect religious observance—is considered as a form of humiliation indicates that
imperfect faith and good deeds are not sufficient, and indeed, are still at risk.
The emphasis placed by Augustine and al-Ghazali on good deeds cannot be
doubted in that they both encourage readers to observe religious duties, to lead a good
life, and to inculcate or practise moral actions. Warning against a tendency in their
societies to focus purely on external observance and ethical conduct, they are both
concerned with their inner spiritual dimensions, which they regard as their essence. They believe that good deeds are not mere rituals or commands, but are the means towards the spiritual journey to God, filled with spiritual mystery and wisdom. Just as man consists of physical body and soul, they both maintain that good deeds also have the outer and inner dimensions. Al-Ghazali’s discussions of this issue, however, are much more detailed and systematic than those of Augustine. His analyses of different kinds of good deeds always cover both the outer and inner dimensions. This systematic approach provides al-Ghazali enough space to analyse relevant issues in more details.
Augustine on the other hand, tended to produce many of his writings in response
to different controversies, and therefore, did not have enough opportunity to systematise
his analyses scattered in different treatises. Notwithstanding, both al-Ghazali and
Augustine offer profound spiritual insights into relevant discussions of good deeds. In
addition to outward observance, they highlight the need to observe the inner dimension
of good deeds, through which the soul can effectively relate to God. Therefore, the right
performance of good deeds should contribute to strengthening an intimate relationship
between man and God.
In their time, realising widespread misunderstanding of the practice of good
deeds, they urge readers to have deeper understanding of their real meaning and purpose.
They also explain some inner preconditions that should be observed when performing
good deeds. These will be analysed further below.
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