Chapter Two: The Cow (Al Baqara)
Verses 204 & 205
Verses 204 & 205
And from among the people are those whose words about worldly life please you, and he cites God as witness to what is in his heart. Yet he is the fiercest of opponents. And when he turns his back, he strives about the earth to foment disorder and corruption; destroying crops and future generations. God does not like corruption. (Chapter 2: Verses 204, 205)
God presents us with a very important issue: every human interaction has two sides: an apparent side and a hidden one. It is possible for some of us to master appearances and deceive others by hiding our true motives. How would you protect yourself from such people? The answer is simple: Always be in the company of Allah who has knowledge of everything: hidden and apparent.
Even better yet, if each and every individual in the society is God conscious, and if each and every individual believes in the Lord who knows all our secrets, then we would all commit ourselves to honesty and respect. There would be no deception or corruption. It is often said: “if you manage to evade the justice of this world, rest assured that you will never evade the justice of the world to come.” We thank God and praise Him for His knowledge of the unseen, because He is the One who will protect each one of us from others and He will be the judge on the Day of Resurrection.
Moreover, it is a true bounty from God that He concealed our inner thoughts from one another because we are impulsive beings. Suppose, for example that you and I were long time friends. At one point of time, I might have been annoyed by something you did. Had you learned what I truly thought about you at that very moment, you might detest me. You may never forget or forgive a bad opinion I had about you once. My opinion about you, and yours about me, are mere thought that often change over time. Had we known each other’s inner thoughts, life would have become very difficult.
Allah warns us about a certain type of people. He says: ‘And from among the people are those whose words about worldly life please you, and he cites God as witness to what is in his heart.‘ They pretend to be good but conceal evil within. Is it wrong to be impressed or to like what someone else is saying, you may ask? No, but do not be deceived by speech related to worldly things; true good is in the speech related to hereafter, and that is the conversation that should attract and please you.
There are many examples of those who come up to their boss or to a person from the opposite sex with kind words of praise, while harbouring ill feelings and bad intentions. Some people may praise their co-workers in a meeting, and then mock them behind their backs minutes later. Allah is alerting you to an important matter: If someone flatters you through his or her words, remind yourself that the best of speech is that which reminds you of good deeds and the everlasting life in the hereafter.
The Caliph of the Muslims wrote to Imam Jaffar As-Sadiq saying: ‘Why don’t you visit us as other people visit us O’ grandson of the prophet?’ Imam As-Sadiq wrote back: ‘I have nothing in this world which I fear losing and you have nothing of the Hereafter which I seek.’ As if Imam Jaffar wanted to tell the ruler: leave me alone; all that you are looking for are more people who sit around you in praise and eulogy, while ignoring the fact that most of them harbor ill feelings towards you.’
The verse: ‘And from among the people are those whose words about worldly life pleases you, and he cites God as witness to what is in his heart’ was revealed in regards to Al-Akhnas Ibn Shareeq Al-thaqafi who turned back and abandoned the Army of Quraish on the day of the battle of Badr. He excused himself from fighting the Muslims saying that the caravans of Quraish had escaped the Muslims safely, so there was no need to fight. He was a good looking well spoken man; when he would run into the prophet later, he would pretend to be a Muslim, soften his speech and claim love for God and the Messenger. However, he was a hypocrite who burnt the crops of the Muslims and killed their livestock when he had the chance. Although this verse was revealed in regards to al-Akhnas, it is general and applies to all the hypocrites.