Concept of Karma in Islam & Other Religions (Comparison)

“Karma” has become a trendy term, which generally means “what goes around, comes around.” Like most people, several Muslims also tend to believe in the existence of the concept of Karma in Islam.

However, this isn’t entirely true. The Karmic concept originated from religions like Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism.

The concept actually sheds light on the famous belief “As you sow, so shall you reap,” or the principle of “Cause and Effect.”

This is where the misconception of the existence of Karma in Islam comes from because Islam also talks about the concept of consequences of one’s actions and sowing and reaping, more commonly known as “Makafat e Amal.

In this article, we’ll explore the difference between the concept of Karma in Buddhist religions and the concept of divine justice in Islam; also, we’ll explore the foundations of Karma, such as reincarnation and cause and effect.

The Concept of Karma

As Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism mention, the concept of Karma is an all-encompassing concept about cause and effect and the consequences of one’s action.

While many believe it to be as simple as “As you sow, so shall you reap,” emphasizing how solely our actions are responsible for consequences that shape and influence our future, it talks about a lot more.

The following are the core foundations of karmic belief:

  1. The Law of Cause and Effect: Karmic force is driven by the universal law of cause and effect, where one’s Karma (Actions) gives rise to certain Phala (Reaction). This cosmic scale balancing system of action and its consequences usually leads to positive outcomes for good deeds, while negative actions can bring challenges or setbacks.
  2. Reincarnation: This is the essential foundation of Karma, reincarnation, or rebirth. If you tend to have good deeds (Punya Karma) in one life, it’ll lead to a better birth in the next life. However, evil deeds (Papa Karma) result in lowly life or lower birth. The ultimate goal in some traditions, like Hinduism, is to achieve liberation (moksha) from this cycle of rebirth.
  3. The Nature of Karma: Karma isn’t just about what we get back from the world; it’s also about how it changes us inside. Good actions leave a mark or mental imprints (samskaras) that make us want to do more good things, and we’ll be good in the next life as well, while evil actions can make us feel stuck in negativity, and we’ll be bad in the next life. It’s like a cycle that shapes who we are and how we act, not just in this life but in future ones.

There are different types of Karma, such as Kriyamana Karma, Prarabdha Karma, Sanchita Karma, and Agami Karma, and the end goal of Karma is the Path to Liberation (Moksha).

The liberation can be attained either through fulfilling ethical and social duties, performing good deeds, meditating, or doing selfless acts, and finally gaining the spiritual knowledge to understand reality and break from the cycle of reincarnation.

It’s important to note that the concept of Karma in Hinduism, a karmic concept in Buddhism, and the Karmic concept in Jainism can also vary from one religion to another.

Karma and the Islamic Faith

Karma is a self-contained system of cause and effect where actions and their consequences happen automatically within the system without any deities or external influence.

Moreover, There’s no need for any external judgment or intervention. The consequences are inherent in the actions themselves.

Central to Karma is the concept of reincarnation, the cycle of rebirth. Good karma determines a better birth in the next life, while bad karma results in a lower one.

In contrast to Indian religions, Islam doesn’t state that whatever a person gets is a consequence of his/her actions without the influence of any external force or God.

The Muslim faith requires you to believe in Allah and the fact that nothing can happen without the will of Allah. If Allah wills, a person can be forgiven for his bad deeds upon asking for forgiveness. And of course Allah is the best of planners.

Secondly, the core aspect of Karma is reincarnation. After biological death, the soul of a living being is transmitted into a different physical form or body.

But Islam doesn’t believe in reincarnation; it only talks about Afterlife (Not in this world – but a world beyond) as stated in several Quranic Surahs, including Surah Al Imran.

Concept of Karma in Islam & Other Religions (Comparison)

So it becomes clear that there’s no concept of Karma in Islam and reincarnation, and these concepts and aspects are highly contrasting with the foundational beliefs of Islam.

Concept of Divine Justice in Islam that’s Beyond Karmic Concept

Karma believes in Impersonal laws, Liberation, and Reincarnation; however, in Islam, there’s a vast system of Divinity that is the greatest judge and responsible for judging all the actions of the people, evaluating the intentions behind each action and influencing their present and future as per his will, and that divinity is of Allah (SWT).

Also, divine Justice includes not just immediate consequences but also the totality of our actions and their long-term impact on ourselves and others.

Unlike Karma, which has the ultimate goal of liberation in Islam and under divine law and justice, the ultimate goal is to live a life pleasing to Allah and achieve paradise in the afterlife. This involves submitting to God’s will and following His teachings, as revealed in the Quran.

Moreover, the primary focus of Divine Justice is the afterlife, but it is not restricted to it; you can still get blessings, rewards, and punishments in this world, as Allah wills.

Islamic Concept of Makafat e Amal

Within the wider concept of Divine justice comes another concept of Makafat e Amal (rewards of deeds) in Islam, which is often compared to Karma from Eastern religions.

The similarities between the Makafat e Amal and Karma are between the points of Consequences of Actions; Both Makafat e Amal and Karma acknowledge that our actions have consequences. Good deeds lead to good outcomes, and bad deeds lead to bad outcomes. Another similarity is to live a righteous life with ethical and moral values.

However, some Muslims interpret Makafat e Amal in a twisted way and confuse it with some concept of Karma in Islam, focusing on immediate worldly consequences. This understanding, while not entirely incorrect, misses the core emphasis of the Islamic concept.

Like Karma’s foundations, Makafat e Amal also has some foundational points, which are mentioned below:

1. Individual Accountability: Central to Makafat e Amal is the concept of individual responsibility. As the Quran states (17:15 & 41:46) each person is accountable for their own actions and intentions.

Concept of Karma in Islam & Other Religions (Comparison)

2. Focus on the Hereafter: While some good deeds might bring blessings and protection in this life, the true reward comes in the afterlife.

The Quran emphasizes the final judgment by Allah (SWT) (Surah An-Nisa, Verse 173). Our deeds in this life determine our eternal fate in paradise or hell.

3. Actions and Intentions: The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) emphasized that actions are judged by intentions (Sahih Muslim). This adds depth to Makafat e Amal. It’s not just the act itself but the sincerity and motivation behind it that matters.

4. Worldly Consequences: While the primary focus is on the hereafter, the Quran acknowledges that some actions can have immediate worldly consequences. This can include societal unrest resulting from injustice or blessings for righteous living.

5. Mercy and Forgiveness: Divine Justice is not simply a system of rewards and punishments. Allah possesses infinite mercy and forgiveness, offering opportunities for repentance and guidance.

Concept of Karma in Islam & Other Religions (Comparison)

Final Thoughts

The concept of Karma in Islam is a common misconception. Without any doubt, Islam also talks about the “Consequences of one’s action,” like some Eastern religions. However, the core values or the foundations of these concepts differ.

Karma operates as a self-contained system with reincarnation, whereas Islam emphasizes Divine Justice by Allah (SWT) in the afterlife.

Makafat e Amal in Islam focuses on individual accountability based on intentions, with rewards and punishments primarily in the hereafter.

Understanding these distinctions allows Muslims to appreciate the Islamic concept of reaping what they sow without misconceptions about the concept of Karma in Islam.

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