Chapter Two: The Cow (Al Baqara)
Verse Two.......Part 3
Chapter 2, Verses 2. A continuation
This is the Book in which there is no doubt, containing guidance for those who are mindful of God (2:2)
In the previous session we discussed how true guidance only comes from God. However, this is only half the equation. The other half has to do with each one of us. What qualities do you need to have in order to be guided?
To answer this question, we should first examine God’s guidance. More specifically, we should highlight the difference between God's general guidance and His divine guidance. Let’s take them one by one:
First, God guides His entire creation, regardless of their faith and actions, towards His path. God sentprophets and scriptures for the benefit of everyone. This guidance is known as general guidance. It is available to everyone, and you have the freedom of choice to follow it or not. God Almighty says:
As for the tribe of Thamud: We showed them guidance but they preferred blindness over guidance. (41:17)
If you choose to reject faith and God’s general guidance, He will leave you to go astray. On the other hand, if you choose to follow the Quran, the Lord will provide you with abundant support and protection. This is known as God’s divine guidance as the following verse illustrates:
As for those who follow true guidance, He leads them far ahead in their right ways and grants them piety and restraints from evil suited to their condition.(47:17)
Divine guidance is specific for the believers who follow God’s path. You can further see the distinction between God’s general and divine guidance in the following two verses. God says addressing the Prophet:
You cannot guide everyone you love to the truth; it is God who guides whoever He will: He knows best those who will follow guidance. (28:56)
And in another verse He says:
and you certainly guide them to the right path(42:52)
At first glance, these two verses seem to be in contradiction. One affirms guidance to Prophet Muhammad, and the other denies him guidance. When you take a closer look, however, things become clear. Our beloved prophet Muhammad is the means of delivering God’s book and general guidance to humanity. More specifically, the Prophet (peace be upon him) delivers God’s message and lights the path to paradise. God, on the other hand, is the one who makes guidance penetrate into the heart of a person and showers the believers with support. God says:
Say, ‘Indeed it is the guidance of Allah which is the true guidance.’ (2:120)
Perhaps the most important point to remember is: while God sends his general guidance to entire humanity, it is up to you…..it is your choice, to follow it and to seek His divine guidance.
Here you may ask: What actions can I take to be among those who God guides and supports? Allah reaches out to you with the answer in the first five verses of “the Cow”. He describes the qualities you and I must possess and practice in order to receive His divine guidance and support. God says:
This is the Scripture in which there is no doubt, containing guidance for those who are mindful of God; who believe in the Unseen, and maintain the prayer, and spend out of what We have provided for them; those who believe in the revelation sent down to you, and in what was sent before you, those who have firm faith in the Hereafter. They are the people guided by their Lord. They are the ones who have success. (2:2-5)
Let’s go over these six qualities one by one.
The first quality, “those who are mindful of God”, is translated from the Arabic word “mutaqeen.” This word is very rich in meaning, and the translation “being mindful of God” does not quite do it justice. In fact, If you were to look up this Arabic word in a dictionary you will find it encompassing all the following meanings: (to be mindful of, to shield yourself from, to guard yourself, to be vigilant, and to fear). It is mentioned numerous times in the Quran. Let’s look at two examples:
O you who believe! Guard yourselves and your families against a Fire whose fuel is human beings and stones (66:6)
And twice in the following verse:
You who believe! Be mindful of God, and let every soul consider carefully what it sends ahead for tomorrow; and fear God, for God is well aware of everything you do.(59,18)
Here we have two verses, one is asking us to be mindful and shield ourselves from hellfire, and the other is asking us to shield ourselves from God. How can this be? How can the same word apply to both God and Hellfire?
The answer is simple. To shield yourself from hellfire, you would avoid that which angers God so you would not be punished in hellfire. Mindfulness and good deeds are your best tools to build this shield between you and the fire.
The second verse states ‘to be mindful of, and to fear God’. How is that possible? How do we shield ourselves from God while we are connected to Him?...while we always ask from his blessings? How do you fear and shield yourself from the one you love? God Almighty has both the attributes of majesty and the attributes of beauty. His qualities of majesty are apparent in his names: the Mighty, the Compeller, the Avenger and so on. On the other hand, the attributes of beauty are apparent in his names: the most Forgiving, the Most Compassionate, the most merciful and many more. Hence, we should fear God’s attributes of majesty because they could result in punishment in hellfire. And when we guard ourselves from God’s attributes of majesty through good deeds; we reap the immense benefits of His attributes of beauty.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “when the last night of Ramadan approaches, the Compeller unveils himself with forgiveness’’. At first glance, this does not make sense. Logic requires the Prophet to have said: ‘the Most Merciful unveils himself with forgiveness’. Remember; however, that God’s punishment for sin comes from his attribute of majesty ‘the compeller’, and God’s forgiveness comes from his attribute “the most merciful”. It is as though God’s mercy and forgiveness supersede his anger and punishment. The beauty of this paradox is apparentwhen the compeller approaches with all his might and power to forgive. Imagine the happiness and joy in your heart when you repent to God and realize that the one who is capable of severe punishment has forgiven and rewarded you.