Do the Verses 3:113-115 indicate that the people of the book, despite them not accepting Islam, can be rewarded for their good deeds? Do they not contradict 3:85?
Wa ‘alaykum assalam wa rahmatullah wa barakatuh.
I pray you are well.
No, these verses do not contradict verse 3:85, which states: “Whoever seeks a religion other than Islam, it will never be accepted from them, and in the Hereafter they will be among the losers.” (Qur’an, 3:85)
The meaning of that verse is that any religion other than Islam will not be accepted from anyone. Religion is a means to draw closer to God and to worship Him according to His dictates. Therefore, the religion has to come from Him, and its beliefs and laws must be in accordance with what He has decided. Otherwise, it is not a valid religion.
The later verses you mentioned are:
“Yet they are not all alike: there are some among the People of the Book who are upright, who recite Allah’s revelations throughout the night, prostrating ˹in prayer˺. They believe in Allah and the Last Day, encourage good and forbid evil, and race with one another in doing good. They are ˹truly˺ among the righteous. They will never be denied the reward for any good they have done. And Allah has ˹perfect˺ knowledge of those mindful ˹of Him˺.” (Qur’an, 3:113-115)
They are actually a reference to people who were Jews, such as Abdullah b. Salam and Tha’laba b. Shu’ba, who accepted Islam upon recognising the truth of the Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace). This is the explanation of the Companion Abdullah b. ‘Abbas. (Alusi, Ruh al Ma’ani)
There are many means of metaphor in the Arabic language, and it could be that referring to them here with the title ‘People of the Book’ that previously applied to them could be to indicate the possibility of this sort of change – that leads to great rewards – being open to anyone from them. They are not the same as those who stubbornly reject the truth after recognising it.
Non-Muslims are rewarded for the good they do. However, it is given to them in this life, and not the Akhira. These rewards are from the pure generosity of God, and He has saved the best of them for the Believers in the Afterlife.
May Allah grant you the best of both worlds.
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani