Chapter Two: The Cow (Al Baqara)
When you have completed your rites, remember God as much as you remember your own fathers, or even more. There are some who pray, ‘Our Lord, give us good in this world,’ and they will have no share in the Hereafter (Chapter 2: Verse 200)
The phrase ‘have completed’ is translated from the Arabic origin ‘Qadaytum’. The root ‘Qada’ has various meanings; all share the core meaning of completing a task with proficiency and wisdom. Here are two examples of the use of the word ‘Qada’ in the Quran. In the following verse, ‘Qada’ it is translated into 'to decide,' or 'to rule':
So decide whatever you will: you can only decide matters of this present life- (20:72)
In another verse, it means: to issue a ruling. God says:
When God and His Messenger have decided on a matter that concerns them, it is not fitting for any believing man or woman to claim freedom of choice in that matter: whoever disobeys God and His Messenger is far astray. (33:36)
In the verse under study, ‘And when you have completed your rites, remember God,” the word ‘rites’ includes all places of worship. ‘Arafat’ is the place of standing before God in remembrance and supplication; Muzdalifa is where the pilgrims spend the night in remembrance afterward. Mena is also a place where the pilgrims spend the night. Every place has a particular rite attributed to it.
You have probably noted that the remembrance of God is repeatedly mentioned throughout the verses of the Hajj pilgrimage. As though God is reminding you that the hajj trip was made possible for you through His blessings and favors. In other words, you must not be deluded by your own abilities, and wealth. Rather, remember God who blessed you with Islam, legislated worship for you, gave you the physical and financial strength to perform the pilgrimage, and supported you thought-out the entire process.
Allah wanted to put an end to what the Arabs had become accustomed before Islam. During the pre-Islamic Hajj season, all the tribes would get together in Mena and each would bring forward their best poets and speakers to boast about their feats and the feats of their ancestors. They would announce all the things they were proud of, and use the gathering to pay blood money on behalf of members of their clan, then brag about their wealth and generosity. The gathering would also turn into a display of wealth. Prophet Muhammad recalled that there were food pots large enough to provide him with shade from the sun when he was young. Thus, God wanted to stop this arrogance and wasteful lavishness. He says: “remember God as much as you remember your own fathers, or even more.”
Allah wanted the pilgrims to attribute all matters to Him. You remember your parents and your ancestors because they did so much for you and provided you with everything. But, who is the Creator of your parents and ancestors? Who is the provider of all good –whether wealth, strength or knowledge-? All good in this world is due to God. So if you remember your fathers for the favors they did for you, then you owe God –The real provider- more praise and more remembrance. Every person deserves to be remembered according to the good work her or she has done. Without God, there would be no good in this world. Hence you must reserve the highest praise and tribute to God Almighty.
Islam discourages you from taking pride in your lineage; rather pride of a believer should stem from within; more specifically from the good deeds he or she does to serve others. In the Arabic tradition, a person who takes pride in his or her forefathers is taking pride in bones and graves. God wants you to be proud in the good deeds you have done, not in what your predecessors have done. Your ancestor’s deeds are for themselves, and you will only have your own deeds on the Day of Judgment.
A poet said:
Do not ascribe yourselves to bones,
Taking pride in their past, while your life is in ruins
Nobility inherited from the past does no good
Save for those who are eager to maintain this nobility
If a tree bears no fruit, no matter how high it grows
The people see it as nothing but firewood
Another poet said:
Our youth are not the ones who say: ‘My father was so and so’,
But rather the ones who say: ‘Here I am!’
Pride comes from humility in serving others. Pride comes from feeding the poor, helping the weak and treating the sick. Most importantly, pride is to provide something enduring and influential to the disenfranchised in the world. It comes from spreading God’s teachings to humanity. God says: ‘remember God as much as you remember your own fathers, or even more’ because Allah alone is the one capable of providing you with genuine support to become a leader in your community. He alone can guide you to help establish justice, peace, and mercy to those around you. These values are something a person can be proud of.
This brings us back to the verse: God says: ‘There are some who pray, ‘Our Lord, give us good in this world,’ and they will have no share in the Hereafter.’ When the pilgrim completes the rites, he or she should turn to God in supplication. People ask God for countless things. Each person asks depending on his or her desires and aspirations. Allah is guiding you not to preoccupy yourself with worldly material needs. In other words, do not supplicate: ‘O Lord, give me cars, give me wealth, and give me a farm and livestock. O Lord, give me as you gave my father.’ Allah wants you to think about the things that are eternal in their benefit and pleasure. Here, the true advantage of faith is on display. If you were only to ask God for the pleasures of this world, then what is the difference between you and the people of ignorance?
After you have spent days completing the rites of worship, you get the chance to stand before God and supplicate. Make sure to ask for things in accordance with the status and ability of the Giver. Let’s clarify this point further. Say, for example, that you wanted to ask a person for money. If this person is a multi-millionaire, would you ask him or her for a $10? Or would you ask for tens of thousands? The richer the person, the more you can ask of him or her. Allah is the provider of all good, He is the creator of all good, to him belongs the heavens and the earth. When you ask of your Lord, make sure you ask according to His ability. Ask for the ultimate everlasting rewards; ask for forgiveness and paradise in the hereafter.