Chapter Two: The Cow (Al Baqara)

Verses 201, 202 & 203

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Session 209

Chapter 2

Verses 201, 202 and 203

And there are others who say, ‘Our Lord, give us good in this world, and good in the Next World, and safeguard us from the punishment of the Fire.’ (Chapter 2: Verse 201)

Allah wants to elevate you to higher levels.  By performing the Hajj pilgrimage rituals, you have purified yourself for supplication to God.  It is your chance to ask for the most beneficial things.  Do not fall to a level where you show a lack of spirit and faith by exclusively asking for worldly and temporary matters.  Allah wants to elevate the spirits of your faith, and in this verse, He teaches you the best supplication.  The All-Merciful says:

And there are others who say, ‘Our Lord, give us good in this world, and good in the Next World, and safeguard us from the punishment of the Fire.’ (Chapter 2: Verse 201)

Take note of the beauty of God’s teachings.  In the verse under study, Allah is guiding you towards the finest supplication.  Yet, He –the All-Merciful- did not omit “give us good in this world” from the prayer.  The supplication combines both, blessings in this world and blessings and protection in the hereafter.  We find that all scholars agree on what is meant by good in the Hereafter; it includes all things that lead to forgiveness, mercy, and Paradise.  There is, however, some differences in opinion in regards to the good in this world.  Some scholars have narrowed the meaning down to a righteous spouse and a good family.  Others have said that ‘good in the world’ means proper knowledge because deeds are built upon it.  I say: Why don’t we take the good in this world in more general terms.  Thus, it would mean: O Lord, give us all that which is good for the worldly life in Your sight.   

The verse ends with: “safeguard us from the punishment of the Fire.” God’s favors on the Day of Judgment are on two levels.  First, Allah saves His servants from Hellfire; and second He admits them into Paradise.  This picture comes into full display when you read the descriptions of the Day of Judgment.  On that day, after each person has been taken to account.  A bridge will be erected across hellfire for everyone to cross.  Every person will travel on this terrible bridge at a speed determined by his or her good deeds.  Some will cross it with the speed of light, while others will cross it slowly and so on.  The disbelievers, on the other hand, having no good deeds to carry them across, will fall into the fire.  Here you may ask: why are the believers asked to cross such a bridge? We find the answer in the following verse talking about hellfire:

but every single one of you will approach it, a decree from your Lord which must be fulfilled. We shall deliver those who took heed for themselves, and leave the evil-doers kneeling there. (19:71-72)

             While entrance into paradise is a great blessing, the believers cross this bridge to witness the terrible torment their faith has protected them from.  They will sense the great blessing and immense mercy of their Lord.  The believer would say: ‘Praise be to God, for faith has saved me from the torment of fire.'  Then a short while later, he or she will again say: ‘Praise be to God, for He has blessed me with Paradise.’  God says:     

Every soul will taste death and you will be paid in full only on the Day of Resurrection. Whoever is kept away from the Fire and admitted to the Garden will have triumphed. The present world is only an illusory pleasure (03:185)

Now, let’s move to the next verse in ‘The Cow.’  God says:

Those will have a share of what they have earned, and God is swift in account.

(Chapter 2: Verse 202)

The phrase ‘have earned’ is translated from the Arabic origin ‘Kasabu.’  The verb 'Kasaba' is usually used to describe lawful, beneficial earnings, while the verb 'Iktasaba' is used to describe unlawful or harmful earnings.  Why the different verbs, you may ask?  We answer that unlawful gains do not come natural and usually require extra effort; thus we use the longer verb 'Iktasaba' to convey this meaning.  Take the example of a person stealing for the very first time.  He or she would plan for days and may hesitate whether to steal or not.  After the theft is committed he or she would worry for days about every sound and every movement.  You can say that this person 'Iktasaba' the stolen goods and money.  As for good deeds, they occur more naturally and do not involve excessive concern.

Of what they have earned” in this verse is referring to what they have earned by completing the rituals of Hajj such as ihram, remembrance, circumambulation, visiting Mena, standing in Arafa, stoning the Jamaraat and so on.  Each of these rites is a step for the servant towards earning the honor of the Hajj pilgrimage.

The phrase “God is swift in account” should remind you that speed is to use less time to do a certain task.  More importantly, recall that the time needed to do a task is inversely related to the power, ability, and resources of the doer.  Let’s clarify this point with some examples.  It may take you five hours to walk from your house to the airport, but if you take a car which has much more power, the trip would take 30 minutes; if you use a helicopter, the same exact trip may take less than 10 minutes.  In essence, the more power and resources under your control, the less time you need to perform the same task.  Likewise, it may take you a whole day to manually add a thousand four digit numbers, but if you have a calculator that time is cut by more than half.  If you use a computer, the same task would take a few seconds because of the power at your disposal.  God Almighty is the All-Powerful, All-Knowledgeable, All-Encompassing, the Bountiful, thus, by the same principal, God requires no time at all to complete a task.  He only commands it ‘be’ and it becomes.  Allah is swift in judging people to the degree of immediacy.  Moreover, God is neither distracted nor preoccupied with one task over another.  You and I may not be able to perform well when we multitask, and our abilities are even less when we are distracted.  God Almighty’s abilities are above all abilities.  God is infinite in power and speed. 

Imam Ali bin Abi Talib was asked: How will God take all of his creation to account at the same time on the Day of Judgment? Ali answered: just as He provides for all of them at the same time in this world.

We now move to the next verse.  God says:

Remember God on the appointed days. If anyone is in a hurry to leave after two days, there is no blame on him, nor is there any blame on anyone who stays on, so long as they are mindful of God. Be mindful of God, and remember that you will be gathered to Him. (Chapter 2: Verse 203)

Here again, the remembrance of God is common in all Hajj pilgrimage rituals.  The ‘appointed days’ are the known as Days of Tashreeq –The Eastern days-.  They are the eleventh, twelfth and thirteenth of the month of Thu'l-Hijjah­.  On the ninth day, the pilgrims stay in Arafa, and the night of the tenth is spent in Muzdalifa.   Then the pilgrims depart and head to the Jamarat where the symbolic stoning of the devil takes place.  After this point, some people head back to the Ka’ba to perform the circumambulation of Ifadha and that completes their Hajj.  Others choose to stay behind, slaughter their animal sacrifice, and then head to the Ka’ba for the circumambulation of Ifadha.   

The ‘appointed days’ which are the Days of Tashreeq or The Eastern days were named so because in the olden times, whenever the animals were slaughtered, the pilgrims would hang the meat facing eastward to dry up and be preserved under the sun rays.   

The verse continues: “If anyone is in a hurry to leave after two days, there is no blame on him, nor is there any blame on anyone who stays on, so long as they are mindful of God.’  The phrase ‘If anyone is in a hurry to leave after two days’ suggests that the “appointed days” are greater than two.  But God Almighty has applied the same ruling for a two day and three day stays.  Whether pilgrims stay two or three days, they will earn their reward in full.  How can this be, you may ask? We answer that the issue here is not the time you spend, rather it is having the right intention of worship and purity of faith.  For example, you may remain there for three days without being mindful of God or without being focused on worship.  In this case, is the longer stay beneficial? Of course not! God made the condition of your stay clear:  He says: ‘nor is there any blame on anyone who stays on, so long as they are mindful of God.’  So be cautious against measuring deeds in minutes, hours or days.  It is the intention and piety that counts.   

The verse ends with: “Be mindful of God, and remember that you will be gathered to Him.’  Allah is referring to the gathering on the on the Day of Resurrection.  He used the word ‘gathered’ because the enormous crowds during Hajj should remind you of the gathering of all creation on the Day of Judgment.