Chapter Two: The Cow (Al Baqara)
Surely those who believe, those who emigrate and strive in God’s cause – they are the ones who may hope for the mercy of God. God is All-Forgiving, All-Compassionate.
(Chapter 2: Verse 218)
The verse lists three types of people: the first type are those who have believed, second are those who emigrated, and the third type are those who have struggled and fought in God’s cause. In essence, they are people who were sincere in their faith, held God above all their affairs and worldly possessions, and strived to spread the word of God. They did all of that hoping for Allah’s pleasure and mercy. Here you may ask: Why did they go to such lengths? Weren’t they sure about God’s love and forgiveness? We answer that a believer takes nothing for granted. You may have forgotten about some of your sins; you may not have repented from other sins properly. You should approach each task you do with God in mind. You should perform your daily job to the best of your ability and be an excellent example of a good Muslim. Don’t allow your whims and desires get in the way and spoil your deeds. Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him used to supplicate: “Dear God, I seek refuge in you from knowledge that is wasted, from a deed that is not worthy to be raised to you, and from a supplication that is not worthy to be heard.”
Our beloved prophet took the utmost care to assure that his deeds were done with pure intentions. He taught us that our thoughts and desires could sometimes spoil our work; he –peace be upon him- also taught us to be hopeful of the mercy of our Lord. A true believer would never say: ‘I did my prayers and worship, so God owes me reward and mercy.’ We answer that our worship is a display of gratitude for all God has blessed us with. Any reward we get from God for worship is a bounty and mercy from Him far above what we deserve. Allah gave us life, health, a beautiful world to live in; He guided us with clear signs, messengers, and heavenly books. He grants us food, water, family, and countless blessings. Our worship is mere gratitude and appreciation for all God has done for us. Even if you spend every minute of your life in worship and remembrance, it won’t be enough to pay for a fraction of what God had blessed you with. So, whatever good comes to you after worship, whether it is an increase in blessings or mercy and paradise in the Hereafter, is a bounty from God that you did not really earn. That is why a believer is always hopeful -not certain- of God’s mercy. God says:
They think they have done you a favour by entering Islam. Say, ‘Do not consider your submission a favour to me; it is God who has done you a favour by guiding you to faith, if you are truly sincere.’ (49:17)
Your relationship with Allah should be a relationship of love equally balanced between hope and fear. Let’s clarify this with an example of a child who loves her father. She looks up to him and hopes that he helps her achieve her dreams, yet she fears him getting upset with her if she misbehaves. Both emotions are necessary for a healthy relationship between the daughter and her father, and if one emotion overtakes the other, the child’s life goes out of balanced.
So is your relationship with Allah. If you fear God and do not trust His mercy, then your faith is unbalanced. Likewise, if you feel that the mercy of your Lord is guaranteed, then your faith is unbalanced. Both: reverence and aspiration should coexist within your heart. Take a moment to think about the religious obligations God asks of you. You will soon realize that you receive countless benefits from God, far beyond what you ought to have. God’s blessings are something you can hope for, not something that you are entitled to. God says:
Call on your Lord humbly and privately- He does not like those who transgress His bounds. Do not cause disorder and corruption on the earth seeing that it has been so well ordered, and call upon Him with fear and hope. Indeed, God’s mercy is to those devoted to doing good. (7:55-56)
This brings us back to the verse. God says: ‘they are the ones who may hope for the mercy of God.’ What is Mercy, you may ask? Mercy is to be spared suffering and pain. In other words, it is to be free from troubles to begin with. God says:
We send down the Quran as healing and mercy to those who believe; as for those who disbelieve, it only increases their loss. (17:82)
Take note that healing means to be cured of a disease that you are already afflicted with. Mercy, on the other hand, means that you are spared the affliction entirely. Allah knows that none of his servants are free from sin. If every nitty gritty is counted and have to be repaid, then we will all suffer. Thus, I advise you to recite the following prayer: “Dear Lord, treat us with your bounty, not your justice; treat us according to your kindness, not according to our deeds; and treat us with your leniency, not according to what we deserve.”
Prophet Muhammad taught us that it is not our deeds that grant us Paradise, but it is Allah’s grace, mercy, and forgiveness. He -peace be upon him- said: “None of you shall enter paradise because of your deeds.’ They said, ‘Not even you, O Messenger of God?’ He said, ‘Not even me shall enter paradise unless God showers me with His mercy.”