Chapter Two: The Cow (Al Baqara)
And If they had believed and been mindful, their reward from Him would have been far better, if only they knew. (Chapter 2:Verse 103)
In the previous verse, we learned about those who seek to gain advantage in life by learning magic and subjecting the Jinn. Allah informed us that such knowledge will lead only to loss in this world and even greater loss in the next. In this verse, Allah gives you the true keys to success and shows you how to gain great advantage. God always leaves the doors of repentance and mercy wide open for his servants. True reward and advantage come through being mindful of Allah, not through seeking magic to outclass others. Recall the words of the two angels warning anyone who wanted to learn from them: "We are a trial, so do not disbelieve." The angels invited people to be God fearing so they would benefit in this world and in the hereafter.
The word 'reward' is translated from the Arabic origin: ‘Mathuba’ which means gain from doing righteous deeds. Its opposite ‘Uqooba’ is the punishment one receives for committing evil deeds. It is interesting to learn that the word ‘Mathuba’ shares the same root with the word ‘Thawb’ -Arabic for knitted clothes-. In old times, people used to gather the wool of their sheep and send it to experts who would process it, turn it into yarn, and make nice clothes out of it. So the raw wool was returned back to the owner in the form of beautiful clothes called 'Tahwb'. Likewise, the word ‘Mathuba’ means that your good deeds will return back to you in a much better form so you may greatly benefit from them in the hereafter. Moreover, your clothes or 'Thawb’ are used to cover your imperfections and private parts. So are your good deeds, they cover your sins and shortcomings. God will save your good deeds, and grow them for you for when you need them most. He says:
Children of Adam, We have given you garments to cover your nakedness and as adornment for you; However, the garment of piety and righteousness – it is the best of all. That is from God’s signs, that they may reflect and be mindful. (07:26)
There are two types of cover that are necessary. First, you need to cover your body to protect it from hot and cold, and second, you need to cover your soul and protect it from punishment. What type of clothes would you choose for yourself? of course, you want the best clothes, the ones made from the best fabrics by top designers. The ones that are most beautiful and comfortable. Wouldn't you want the same for your spirit? Wouldn't you want the best cover from the very best designer? God gives you the answer: 'the garment of piety and righteousness – it is the best of all.'
Similarly, in the verse under discussion God says: ‘if they had believed and been mindful, their reward from Him would have been far better.' If a top designer can take string and yarn and turn it into a beautiful embellished and attractive dress, then imagine what the Lord of creation can do with your good deeds and piety when He returns them back to you. Nothing would even compare in beauty and benefit.
The verse continues: ‘If they had believed and been mindful.' The word 'been mindful' is translated from the Arabic origin 'Itaqau.' This word is very rich in meaning, and the translation “been mindful” does not quite do it justice. In fact, If you were to look up this Arabic word in a dictionary you will find it encompassing all the following meanings: to be mindful of, to shield yourself from, to guard yourself, to be vigilant, and to fear. Some people have questioned the Quranic verses that ask us to ‘fear and be mindful of God’ and the verses that ask us to ‘fear and be mindful of hellfire.’ How can this be? How can the same word apply to both God and Hellfire? We answer that in order to shield yourself from hellfire, you would avoid that which angers God. Mindfulness and good deeds are the best tools to build this shield between you and the fire.
Note that in this verse, God left the phrase 'been mindful' generalized. In other words, He did not assign it to anything. The verse did not say 'been mindful of God' or 'been mindful of fire.' Allah wants to draw your attention that you need to be mindful of all your decisions and actions. If those who were warned against learning magic took heed and were mindful of their decisions, they would have earned great rewards from their Lord. That is why, right after advising us to be mindful, He Almighty says: ‘their reward from Him would have been far better, if only they knew.'
Let's take a few moments to look into the meaning of the word 'better.' It is translated from the Arabic origin 'Khair.' ‘Khair’ is the only word in Arabic which is used as a noun and as a comparative and superlative adjective. In other words, 'Khair' can be used as the word 'good', and can be used as the word 'better.' We say so and so is good, but so and so is even better. If ‘Khair’ is not used to compare one thing to another, then it means 'good' which is the opposite of bad or evil. If you say so and so is Khair than so and so, then this would mean that both share the quality of goodness but one is better than the other. So the word ‘Khair’ always brings benefit to you, but the scale of benefit maybe different. Take the example of two brothers; one of them wakes up early every day and goes to school while the other sleeps till noon then hangs out in the neighbourhood café. Both of them want good for themselves, but the lazy one prefers immediate gratification and ignores the future. The other one believes in a postponed more lasting good, so he works hard during his school years in order to reap the benefits and build a successful future. Another example is that of two farmers. One goes to his farm in the early mornings, sows seeds and waters. He may exhaust himself for a few months but at the end of the year he reaps great harvest. While the other farmer spends his day watching TV and enjoying his share of comfort; but at the hour of harvest he will have nothing but regret and remorse. Keep these examples in mind because when Allah asks you to do good, and promises you immense rewards, you often have to do hard work and sacrifice some comforts in order to reap eternal pleasures and everlasting paradise. True good is that which comes from your Lord, Why? Because true good is that which does not change or decrease. It is good that you do not have to ever worry about. This pure good and reward is only available in paradise.
The verse ends with ‘…if they only knew.’ Here, God negates knowledge from those who chose to learn magic, while in the previous verse He, Almighty, mentioned that they knew. He says: 'though they certainly knew that anyone who buys it has no share in the Hereafter.' How can this be? How can one verse negate something while the very next verse affirms it? We answer that the knowledge that you do not apply or act upon is like no knowledge at all. In fact, the knowledge that you ignore becomes evidence that will be used against you on the day of judgement. You will wish that you had never learned it. God says:
The example of those who were entrusted with the Torah, and did not carry out its commands, is like the donkey carrying books; what a wretched example is of the people who denied the signs of Allah; and Allah does not guide the unjust. (62:05)