Chapter Two: The Cow (Al Baqara)
In this world and the next. They ask you about orphans: say, ‘It is good to set things right for them. If you combine their affairs with yours, remember they are your brothers and sisters: God knows those who spoil things and those who improve them. Had He so willed, He could been hard on you: He is Almighty and Wise.’ (Chapter 2: Verse 220)
God begins this verse with the phrase “In this world and the next” to remind you that religious obligations and prohibitions have consequences now and later. Do not fall under the illusion that punishment or reward for what you do is only in the Hereafter; you will also experience some in this world. You can probably think of many examples of righteous people around you who have committed themselves to the truth. You often find that they were rewarded with contentment, happiness and safety in this world to the extent that people question: how did so and so raise his children and educate them, even though he was poor? So and so is very lucky because his or her children were lovely teenagers who did not rebel or cause headaches. What people often overlook is that God’s blessings were with the righteous as he or she worked and raised the children. Allah takes care of His servants in this world and the next.
In the hereafter, the rewards would be multiplied many times over and would be clear for all to see. It is a gift and a blessing from our Creator. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “None of you will enter Paradise by his or her deeds alone’ The companions asked, ‘Not even you, Messenger of God?’ He replied, ‘Not even me, unless God showers me with mercy.”
In the phrase “In this world and the next” Allah is reminding you that the Islamic teachings He sent will help you get the most out of life and help save you from the psychological and material troubles you would fall into if you follow your whims and desires.
In fact, in the previous verses, God compared two categories of people from the society: the first category is the hypocrites who put out an appearance that does not match what is in their hearts. God 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. 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. (2:204, 205)
Perhaps if such people realized their mistake, they would return to the truth. Sadly, this is not the case. If a hypocrite is approached by a sympathetic and compassionate person, he or she would often go deeper into sin. God says:
When he is told, ‘Beware of God,’ pride in sin takes hold of him. Hell is sufficient for him: a dreadful resting place. (2:206)
In contrast, God highlighted the second category of people who sell themselves for the sake of God. They dedicate all there is: whether material possessions or time and effort to God’s cause. The Almighty said:
And among the people is the one who sells himself in pursuit of God’s good pleasure. God is All-Compassionate towards His servants. (2:207)
Then Allah invited all to enter into peace and faith altogether. Embracing Islam means to bring all kinds of peace in your life and your hereafter. Islam brings you peace with yourself because your actions are in harmony with your beliefs; peace with nature because you and all the creation around are on the same path to God; and peace with the society as you invite those around you to submit to the creator and not to each other or their desires. God says:
You who believe, enter wholeheartedly into submission to God and do not follow in Satan’s footsteps, for he is your sworn enemy. (2:208)
All of this provides proof that God did not leave the creation uncared for; rather He –the All-merciful- sent messengers, books and teachings to guarantee our safety and salvation in this world and the next. If you see disorder and fear in the world, then know that people have not adhered to some of God’s teachings. Allah commands us to enter into peace entirely. There is no alternative because Allah is the All-Wise the Almighty that cannot be overcome; He is the All-Powerful, the All Competent who does everything with perfect wisdom. Those who think that they are insulting God by not adhering to His teachings are actually insulting themselves and demeaning their intelligence.
The most important warning God reminds us of over and over is the coming of the hour and the Day of Judgment. It will occur suddenly, and it will be a shattering catastrophe. Be careful of being struck by the hour unprepared. The words of the Quran are not mere historical events and legal theories. They are the words of God who ruled over the universe long before the call of Muhammad -peace be upon him-. God says:
People, be mindful of your Lord, for the tremor of the Last Hour will be a mighty thing: on the Day you see it, every nursing mother will think no more of her baby, every pregnant female will miscarry, you will think people are drunk when they are not, so severe will be God’s torment. (22:1-2)
How many of God’s signs did the children of Israel turn away from? How did they and their families fare when they ignored God’s teachings? Allah wants you to look deeply into history, and to study matters rather than take everything at face value. You must not be fooled and distracted by the adornments of this life because life is short and unpredictable. How many years will you live in strength and good health? 20? 40? 80?
People before us differed and lost their way when they ignored God’s teachings and followed their own whims and desires. Despite that, Allah did not abandon them; He sent Messengers and prophets, one after the other. Every time people immersed in immorality and corruption, God sent a Prophet. Muhammad, the final Messenger, was sent with the comprehensive message of Islam as the seal of all messengers. He, peace be upon him, is distinguished from all other Prophets because his teachings are to remain until the last day. His nation is also distinguished by its responsibility to carry this message and preserve it for all future generations.
God warns us of another pitfall: the pleasures of paradise are not attained easily. The road to heaven is surrounded by tough tasks and hard work; so you must keep your eye on the goal and keep your motivation up on a daily basis. Just like a top athlete has to go through hard training and pain daily to attain the championship. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: "Paradise is surrounded by hardship while Hellfire is surrounded by desires." Allah, however, did not leave you to face this challenge without proper tools. He granted you a high status in the universe; He gave you a thoughtful mind, an able body, and He subjected matter, plants, and animals to your service. So all the tools needed for the job are at your disposal.
Allah also reminds you to work and provide for your needs and the needs of your family and not to forget about your relatives in poverty. Make sure to give them a share of your excess effort and wealth. In this way, the divine doctrine secures the entire society by providing the weak with a safety net earned from the efforts of their able Muslim brothers and sisters. Keep in mind that Zakat is not only an obligation that takes from you; it is –in fact- a safety net for you and for your family in case you run into trouble and need help.
The circumstances of life are ever changing; the powerful do not remain powerful forever; the rich do not stay rich forever. God Almighty rotates the good days and the bad days among people. Thus, everyone is asked to do their part. God only asks you to do extra when you are able; likewise, He will ask others to give you when you are in need. The more work and investment you do, the more you keep for yourself. You have the responsibility of spending on poor relatives and neighbors. This is the small sector of society that you are responsible for; whereas the responsibility of the orphans should be shared by all members of the community whether they are related or not. Orphans are our relatives because God has entrusted us to nurture and care for them. Indeed Allah’s teachings are our salvation ‘In this world and the next.’