Chapter Two: The Cow (Al Baqara)
Chapter 2, Verse 94
Say: "If the abode of the Hereafter with God is reserved for you alone, excluding other people, then long for death, if you are sincere and truthful in your claim."
(Chapter 2:Verse 94)
This verse presents a true test for the children of Israel. In the previous verses, we learned that some had altered the scriptures in exchange for worldly gain, while others denied and even killed God's prophets. These acts were done, not out of ignorance, carelessness, or because they fell prey to deception, rather they were committed with careful planning. They are well aware that verses were fabricated and falsely attributed to God. Therefore, Allah instructed prophet Muhammad to challenge them.
The verse opens with the command ‘say’ addressing Muhammad (peace be upon him). The phrase ‘If the abode of the Hereafter with God is reserved for you alone’ is a direct response to their claim that paradise in the hereafter with God is exclusively for them. The word 'reserved' is translated from the Arabic origin ‘Khalis’ which means something pure, exclusive, and free of any sharing. Usually, if something is reserved exclusively for you, you would really look forward to getting and enjoying it. Similarly, if the Israelites claim that they alone will earn God's pleasure and paradise in the hereafter, then they should be living an ascetic life, disregarding any worldly greed, and looking forward to the hereafter. They, after all, claim to be guaranteed paradise. Why would you want to fight over the temporary pleasures and authority of this world? Wouldn't you long to meet your Lord and look forward to death? The Israelites were the ones claiming to be assured paradise as the following verse illustrates:
They say that none will enter Paradise unless he be a Jew or a Christian. That is their own wishful thinking. Say: "Produce your proof if you are truthful!" (02:111)
They claim that no one will enter paradise unless he or she is of the Jewish faith. Christians also made a similar claim. Both parties claimed heaven exclusively for them. These two contradicting statements should lead any person to wonder: who is right? Which of them will enter paradise, the Jews or the Christians? Allah gives us the truth in the following verse:
The Jews say, ‘The Christians have no ground whatsoever to stand on,’ and the Christians say, ‘The Jews have no ground whatsoever to stand on,’ though they both read the Scripture, and those who have no knowledge say the same. God will judge between them on the Day of Resurrection concerning their differences. (02:113)
Here is the most accurate and factual statement each party made regarding the other: when it comes to who will earn paradise, Christians have no true claim to stand on and the Jews have nothing to stand on either. No one can judge people's faith or deed except Allah. He, the just and the merciful, will determine your fate, my fate and everyone else's. This brings us back to the verse: the claim that the hereafter belongs to the Jews is a false fabrication. God provides further proof in the following verse:
The Jews and the Christians say, ‘We are the children of God and His beloved ones.’ Say, ‘Then why does He punish you for your sins? You are merely human beings, part of His creation: He forgives whoever He will and punishes whoever He will. Control of the heavens and earth and all that is between them belongs to Him; and to Him is the return.’ (05:18)
There are some people -even to this day- who assume that no matter how they behave, God will never punish them on the day of resurrection. Moreover, they feel assured that they will earn His mercy and paradise simply because they belong to a certain faith. But God’s justice is free from such inequity. How can He forgive a group while He punishes others for the same exact wrongdoings? How can Allah specify paradise for one group regardless of their deeds? He Almighty says:
God said, ‘I bring My punishment on whoever I will, but My mercy encompasses all things. ‘I shall ordain My mercy for those who are conscious of God and pay the prescribed alms; who believe in Our Revelations; who follow the Messenger- the unlettered prophet they find described in the Torah that is with them, and in the Gospel- who commands them to do right and forbids them to do wrong, who makes good things lawful to them and bad things unlawful, and relieves them of their burdens, and the shackles that were on them. So it is those who believe him, honour and help him, and who follow the light which has been sent down with him, who will succeed.’ (07:156-157)