Chapter Two: The Cow (Al Baqara)
Verses 127 & 128
Verses 127 & 128
As Abraham and Ishmael build up the foundations of the House, ‘Our Lord, accept from us. You are the All Hearing, the All Knowing. (Chapter 2: Verse 127)
Allah wants you to recall the moment when both Abraham and Ishmael (peace be upon them) were raising the foundation of the sacred house. In this verse, Allah used the present tense for the verb 'build' because he wants you to relive and visualize that moment. Abraham did not have a ladder to climb nor a scaffold, but the absence of equipment did not prevent him from working as hard as he could to raise the house high. Prophet Abraham and his son Ishmael searched for a rock, both light in weight and large in size, so the two could carry it to the construction area. Then Abraham stood on it while Ishmael passed him the rocks to use for raising the foundation.
Despite the hard work, the two were happy and eager to complete the task. This is clear from their supplication: ‘Our Lord, accept from us' Take note that Abraham and Ishmael were not arrogant, or acting as if they were doing a great deed that deserves recognition and praise; rather, they belittled their deed, and all they wanted was for God to accept from them, and shower them with mercy for the implementation of His command.
‘You are the All Hearing, the All Knowing.' is recognizing that Allah is the one who listens to our supplications, and the One who knows of our intentions and sincerity. Prophets Abraham and Ishmael were only doing this to seek God's love. Our deeds are judged by our intentions. Take the example of two people doing the exact same deed -such as giving money to charity- but only one of them is rewarded. The person who gives wealth for the sole purpose of helping the needy and pleasing God will receive his or her reward many times over, while the person who gives money to show off and be recognized by people will earn nothing from the Lord. Who, other than Allah, is best aware of our intentions?
Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “All actions are judged by motives and each person will be rewarded according to his or her intention. Thus, the person who migrates to God and His Messenger, then his migration is to God and His Messenger; but the person whose migration was for some worldly gain, or for a spouse to marry, then his migration is to that for which he migrated.”
Abraham and Ishmael continue their supplication in the next verse:
Our Lord, make us devoted to You; make our descendants into a community devoted to You. Show us how to worship and accept our repentance, You are the Accepting of repentance, the Most Merciful. (Chapter 2:Verse 128)
In general, there are two types of believers: The first type performs religious obligation willingly and out of love for God, while the second performs out of formality and duty. In other words, one looks forward to the enjoyment and tranquillity of meeting with the Lord in worship, while the other looks forward to crossing the burden of worship off the to do list of the day. In this verse, we see Prophets Abraham and Ishmael (peace be upon them) praying to God as they raise the foundations of the sacred house: ‘Our dear Lord, we did what you ordered us to do, but this does not mean that we have sufficed. We want to taste the sweetness of obligation from you again and again. Our Lord, make us devoted to You as we submit all our affairs to You.’
It is impossible for a person to complete an obligation and then ask God for another one unless he or she had felt the sweetness of God’s path and the pleasure of implementing His teachings. Moreover, a person cannot feel the pleasure of God’s obligations unless he or she keeps in mind the rewards in store in the hereafter. When you put the reward of mercy, love and paradise foremost in your mind, you will always look forward to more ways to achieve your goal.
When prophets Abraham and Ishmael were raising the foundations of the house they said: ‘Our Lord, make us devoted to You'; but they did stop there, they wanted this blessing to extend to their children and grandchildren. So they prayed: 'make our descendants into a community devoted to You.' Show us how to worship and accept our repentance, You are the Accepting of repentance, the Most Merciful.' Not only did they want their children to enjoy the fruits of following God's path, but they also wanted faith to continue on earth from descendant to descendant until the day of resurrection.
Then they asked: ‘Show us how to worship' indicating again their longing to attain nearness to Allah. They wanted more doors of obligation to open before them, because they saw obligation as means of purifying the soul, and a blessing for their descendants in this world and the next. Thus, prophets Abraham and Ishmael asked the Lord right after that to ‘accept our repentance; You are the Accepting of repentance, the Most Merciful.' Keep in mind that their request for forgiveness is not limited to their own shortcomings, but it also encompasses sins yet to be done by their descendants. Prophet Abraham was aware that future generation will transgress against their Lord, and maybe deprived of mercy. How did he know? Because Prophet Abraham's heart ached after the Lord replied to his supplication in verse 124 of 'The Cow':
Abraham asked, ‘And will You make leaders from my descendants too?’ God answered, ‘My pledge does not hold for those who do evil.’
Allah loves when His servants seek forgiveness. Our beloved Prophet Muhammad said: "God is happier with the repentance of His servant than one of you finding your horse after it had strayed away in the middle of the desert." This narration illustrates a traveling man with all his possessions of wealth, food and water, packed on the back of his animal. In the midst of a barren desert, the horse gets away from him. He searches for days to no avail. Not only has he lost the horse, but he also lost all the necessities for survival. Suddenly, he turns around and finds it standing before him. Imagine the amount of happiness, joy and relief this man feels. This pales when compared with God's happiness when you repent to him and seek forgiveness for your sins.
This is why if you ask God’s forgiveness out of deep regret, God will not only forgive your sins, but He will also turn your evil deeds into good deeds. He says:
except those who repent, believe, and do good deeds: God will change the evil deeds of such people into good ones. He is most forgiving, most merciful. (25:70)
Allah legislated repentance in order to protect the entire community from great harm and evil, because if a single sin meant that the sinner would never be forgiven, then the sinner would lose hope and increase in evil doings. Without repentance and forgiveness, the whole community would suffer and people would despair. The Messenger of God says: “All of the children of Adam are sinners, and the best of sinners are those who repent.”