Chapter Two: The Cow (Al Baqara)
And establish the prayer and pay the prescribed alms. Any good that you send ahead for your souls, you shall find it with Allah. Indeed Allah sees best what you do.
(Chapter 2:Verse 110)
In the previous verse, Allah exposed the ill wishes of the disbelievers and some of the people of scripture. They wanted to turn the believers away from faith and turn them back to disbelief out of envy. What had enraged them was God's bounty and the truth the Muslims are blessed with. In this verse, God gives us the best way to respond to these ill feelings. He commands the believers to adhere to faith, and to fulfil their obligations in the best manner possible.
Let's look into some of the obligations that form the core of faith. You will note that some of them are only required to be done once, and some require minimal time and effort. Moreover, some of these obligations may not be required at all. Let's take them one by one:
Bearing testimony that 'There is no deity worth of worship but Allah, and Muhammad is his servant and messenger' is only required once in a lifetime. Paying the prescribed alms -zakat- is obligatory once a year, and only for those who earn above the minimum level. Pilgrimage to Mecca -Hajj- is required once in a lifetime, and only obligatory for those who are physically and financially able. Take the example of a poor person, with no savings, who is in poor health. In order to become Muslim, he or she has to testify that 'There is no deity worth of worship but Allah, and Muhammad is his servant and messenger' once. After that, this person, because of poverty, does not have to pay zakat. He or she is not obligated to perform Hajj, nor fast during Ramadan due to poor health.
There is, however, one obligation that cannot be overlooked under any circumstance. The five daily prayers are the fuel that keeps the believer’s faith strong. There is no excuse to miss your prayers even if you suffer from severe illness. You can pray while sitting down if you are unable to stand, or lying down if you are unable to sit, and if that is not possible, then prayer should be performed through eye gestures. This duty is paramount, and that is why Allah started the verse with ‘and establish prayer.’
Moreover, prayers are your solace when life gets tough. Each time the Prophet (peace be upon him) was disturbed by a matter, he would resort to prayers. This means that whenever circumstances are difficult, and you have exhausted all the means available to you, you can always turn to God and seek His help. Hence, ‘and establish prayer’ is the most appropriate solution to face the people of scripture's efforts to sway you away from you faith. Five times every day, you leave everything in the world behind you and turn to God in prayer; it is the basis of Islam and its main pillar.
The next command is to ‘pay the prescribed alms.’ Zakat is only obligatory if your wealth is above your basic needs. Allah wants you to work and apply yourself and earn a living so you can fulfil your needs, and the needs of those who are under your care. Through this process the Muslims community can become self sufficient with no one living without their basic needs being met. Zakat helped the Muslims of Medina break free from economic hardship and from the predatory loans the Jewish elites used against them to exert influence and gain power. The poor were able to fulfil their needs through the spare wealth of their fellow Muslims. All that while everyone was earning great reward form Allah.
Some may feel that Zakat will decrease their wealth, but in reality it causes an increase in both wealth and blessings. Similarly, earning usury and interest may seem to increase wealth, but in reality it dose the exact opposite. The Messenger of God, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Charity does not decrease wealth; If you forgive another, Allah will increases you in honour, and if you humble yourself for the sake of Allah, Allah will raise you in status.”
God deprives interest of any blessing, and blights it, but blesses charitable deeds with multiple increase. He does not love the ungrateful sinner. (02:276)
The verse continues with: ‘Any good that you send ahead for your souls, you shall find it with Allah.' this is to reassure all of us that any good deed in this world will turn into great rewards with God. Thus, when you pray, you receives rewards; when you give alms, you receive rewards; and you fast, you also receive rewards. In fact, any of your actions that is done while keeping God's teachings in mind are a means of earning rewards. Best of all, the rewards are not measured by the action that you do, rather it is measured by God's mercy and generosity and multiplied many times over. Take the following beautiful example from the Quran:
The example of those who spend their wealth in God’s cause is like that of a grain that sprouts seven ears, and in every ear there are a hundred grains. God multiplies for whom He wills. God is All-Embracing, All-Knowing. (02:261)
Rewards are granted according to God’s power, not according to human measures. This means that any good deed that you do is not only multiplied in number, but it is also multiplied in power. As for the disbeliever, the reward that he or she will earn in this world is usually proportional to the work that he or she does, and there is no reward from God in the hereafter.
Do you want to entrust your reward to people? People may cheat you, deny your favour, or be unable to pay you back. However, when you are mindful of God in all your deeds, you entrust your rewards with Him. You entrust your rewards with the One who does not neglect anything, and has the power over everything. Most importantly, your rewards will be paid back to you in the hour of need, on the day of judgement when every soul will be accounted for what it has put forth.
The verse ends with the phrase: ' Indeed Allah sees best what you do.' God says:
"Our Lord! Surely You know all that we keep secret as well as all that we disclose; nothing whatever, whether it be on earth or in heaven, is hidden from God. (14:38)