Paradise Is Not The Equivalent Of Deeds
Paradise is something of immense value; a person cannot earn it by virtue of his deeds alone – Muslim reported from Abu Hurayrah (ra) that the Prophet (saw) said,
“No one of you will enter Paradise by his deeds alone.” They asked, “Not even you, O Messenger of Allah?” He said, “Not even me, unless Allah covers me with His Grace and Mercy” [Saheeh Muslim, 4/2170, no. 2816]
The fact that some texts indicate that Paradise is the equivalent reward for deeds could be problematic, for example:
“No person knows what is kept hidden for them of joy as reward for they used to do.” [32:17].
However there is no conflict between these aayaat and the meaning of the hadith. The aayaat indicate that good deeds will be a reason, not the price, for admission to Paradise. The hadith say that good deeds are not the price.
Two groups were misled in this matter: The Jabaariyyah, who took the hadith to mean that the reward is not connected to deeds, because man has nothing to do with deeds [i.e. everything is foreordained]; and the Qaadariyyah who took the hadith to mean that Paradise was the equivalent of good deeds, and man has the right to enter by virtue of his good deeds.
The commentator on at-Tahhaawiyyah said, “As for the idea that recompense results directly from one’s deeds, the Jabaariyyah and the Qaadariyyah are misled, and Allah has guided Ahl as-Sunnah. The ba’ of negation [nafyi] is not like the ba’ used for affirmation. The negation in the hadith “No one will enter Paradise by virtue of his deeds” [bi’ amaalihi] is the ba’ of substitution or exchange, as if good deeds were not the price of a man’s admission to Paradise. This is like the [false] Mu’tazili claim that good deeds will give a person the right to enter Paradise, whereas the truth is that admission to Paradise is by the Grace and Mercy of Allah. The bi’ in the aayah “a reward for what they used to do [jazaa’an bi maa kanoo ya’maloon]” [32:17] is known in Arabic grammar as the bi’ of causation, i.e. because of their deeds. But Allah is the Creator of Cause and Effect, so everything is referred back to His Grace and Mercy” [Sharh at-Tahhaawiyyah, 495]