Chapter Two: The Cow (Al Baqara)
And Abraham said, ‘My Lord, make this land secure and provide with produce those of its people who believe in God and the Last Day.’ God said, ‘As for those who disbelieve, I will grant them enjoyment for a short while and then subject them to the torment of the Fire- an evil destination.’ (Chapter 2:Verse 126)
Prophet Abraham supplicated the Lord to make the city of Mecca, and the surroundings of the sacred Mosque safe. Here, you may recall that in the previous verse, God mentioned that He 'made the House a place of return and a sanctuary for people.' So what is the point of Abraham's supplication, if God had informed him that the place is a safe sanctuary? We answer that when you see a person asking for something that he or she already have, the request is actually for it to continue and not to stop. Take the example of the following verse. God says:
O You who believe, believe in God and His Messenger and in the Scripture He sent down to His Messenger, as well as what He sent down before. Anyone who does not believe in God, His angels, His Scriptures, His messengers, and the Last Day has gone far, far astray. (4:136)
How can God ask those who He is calling believers to believe? We answer that Allah is asking the believers to be steadfast, and not waver from their faith. Similarly, Prophet Abraham (peace be upon him) is asking Allah to protect the sacred mosque and its surroundings until the last day. In the old times, people were afraid to travel to Mecca because the roads leading to it were unsafe, and the lands in that area were barren with little to no food. Thus, Abraham continued with ‘and provide with produce those of its people’ which is one of the requirement of security. When food is scarce, people often flee the place, or may even turn violent.
However, Abraham added a stipulation; He said: ‘provide with produce those of its people who believe in God and the Last Day.’ praying for provision only for the believers. Why? Because Abraham remembered that when he supplicated Allah to bless his descendants with prophethood and leadership, God answered: ‘My pledge does not hold for those who do evil.’
Abraham worried that if he asked Allah to provide for those who will live in Mecca -but had no faith- that God’s response would be similar. He thought that God may answer that His provisions do not include the wrongdoers; Thus Abraham prayed only for the believers. But Allah wanted Abraham to understand the entire picture. There is a clear distinction between Allah's gifts of divinity and His gifts of Lordship. The gifts of prophethood and spiritual leadership are from amongst the gifts of divinity; and these are exclusively reserved for the believers. The believers entrust the Lord with their way of life and adhere to the obligations of faith and the duties of worship. As a result, they enjoy the bounties of God's message and the fruits of adhering to his path in this world and the next.
The gifts of sustenance, food, talents and life opportunities are from amongst the gifts of Lordship, and they are available to the believers and disbelievers alike. God created all of us, and he provides for all of us regardless of our faith, and without any obligation. The sun rises on all mankind, the earth yields crop for everyone, and animals and livestock serve the believer and disbeliever alike.
If you want to enjoy both God’s gifts of lordship and His gifts of divinity, then make sure to value God's instruction and adhere to His message. While the gifts of divinity come attached to duty and obligation in this world, their true and immense reward will be given free in the hereafter exclusively to the believers as mentioned in this verse:
Say, ‘Who has forbidden the adornment of Allah which He has brought forth for His servants, and the good things of provision?’ Say, ‘These are for the faithful in the life of this world, and exclusively for them on the Day of Resurrection.’ This is how We make Our revelation clear for those who understand. (7:32)
This brings us back to the verse. When God said: ‘My pledge does not hold for those who do evil.’ He was referring to the precious blessings of prophethood and scripture which will only be granted to the believers. As for providing produce and the necessities of life, these will be granted to both the believers and the disbelievers. Thus, when Abraham asked: ‘My Lord, make this land secure and provide with produce those of its people who believe in God and the Last Day.’ the Lord corrected him and answered: ‘As for those who disbelieve, I will grant them enjoyment for a short while and then subject them to the torment of the Fire- an evil destination.’ Good in this world is for everyone; it is in the hereafter that true rewards and distinction are granted.
Here you should note that God described the enjoyments of this world as short, regardless of its type. Every blessing comes with its own enjoyment, food and drink have their enjoyment; intimate relations have their own enjoyment; money has its enjoyment and so on. But God described all of them as small and short-lived, because either you will leave the enjoyment when you die, or the enjoyment might leave you through loss and life events. God says: I will grant them enjoyment for a short while and then subject them to the torment of the Fire- an evil destination.’ indicating that the final destination on that day will be up to the Lord. On the Day of Judgment your freedom of choice will stop. Even your limbs -which are subject to your will now- will no longer serve you on that day. They will be subject to God's authority. The Almighty says:
on the Day when their own tongues, hands, and feet will testify against them about what they have done- (24:24)