Chapter Two: The Cow (Al Baqara)
Chapter 2, verse 5
Those are upon guidance from their Lord, and those are the successful (2:5)
In this verse, the pronouns 'those' refer to the believers who earned God’s support and guidance. They are mindful of God; they believe in the unseen, maintain prayer, and spend their wealth in God’s cause. They believe in all heavenly revelations, and work for the hereafter. As a result, they receive God’s support on the straight path, and attain the ultimate success in the hereafter.
Please take note that in the phrase ‘Those are upon guidance’, God chose to use the pronoun ‘upon’ which indicates elevation and stature. At times, you may feel that following God’s guidance gets in the way of your daily life, prevents you from enjoying yourself and from satisfying the urgent needs of the moment. However, this view is superficial, and when you look at the big picture, you quickly realize that God’s guidance elevates you, protects you from harm, and more importantly, protects the entire society from corruption.
Let’s take an example. God’s commands you not to commit theft. If you like something that does not belong to you, such as a nice piece of jewelry, you cannot just take it. At the same time, however, God commanded millions of other people not to steal from you. Hence, Allah did not restrict your actions; rather He protected your wealth from the society. He instructed you as an individual not to steal, and at the same time He instructed millions of people not to steal from you. Who is the true winner in this case? No doubt you are! So do not fall under the false impression that God is robbing you of your freedom and placing restrictions on your way of life. On the contrary, as the pronoun ‘upon’ suggests, you are honored and elevated by God’s guidance as it protects and moves you from one good deed to another. The prophet (peace be upon him) said "The person who treats people with humility will be elevated by God, and the person who repents begets honor, and charity will never decrease a person’s wealth”. From this narration, you can clearly see that you attain honor and high status when all your affairs come from the highest most honorable source: God Almighty.
On the other hand, if you choose to follow your own desires, or entrust your affairs to others, you may lose your way. Misguidance comes from within yourself and from within the society. That is why, when you examine the Quran, you will find that God employs the pronoun ‘in’ when He refers to misguidance as illustrated in the following verse:
Surely, either we or you are upon right guidance, or in manifest error (34:24).
When a person becomes a habitual sinner and loses all connection to his or her creator, the trap of being in misguidance encompasses him or her. God says:
Truly those who do evil and are surrounded by their sins will be the inhabitants of the Fire, there to remain (2:81)
So do not surround yourself by deception and error, and do not engage in constant sin because you will not be able to find guidance and attain success.
At the end of the verse we are discussing, God described the believers who are guided as the successful ones. Let’s take a moment here to define success. In a general sense, it means to win. In the Arabic language, just like in English, the word success has many synonyms (such as winning, victory, triumph and so on). God chose to use the Arabic word for success ‘Muflehoon’ ‘مفلحون ‘ in this verse. The linguistic root of this word “fa la ha ح” means to plow the land for sowing. God Almighty used this word to reference something tangible to us.
In order to reap fruits and crops, you have to dig deep into the soil and plant seeds. We have learned this process from our forefathers. If you go up this chain from son to father to grandfather, you will find that God was the one who taught Adam (peace be upon him) the skills of plowing and sowing so he can carry out his tasks in the world. The reality which has never change since the beginning of time is that beyond sowing and seeding, man plays no part in the growth of the plant. God Almighty says:
Consider the seeds you sow in the ground, Is it you who make it germinate or are We the Germinator?, If We wished We could have made it broken stubble. You would then be left devoid of crops, distraught: ‘We are ruined, Rather we have been left with nothing’ (56:63-67)
In agriculture you have to put in some effort and time to plow, sow and water. God put within each seed the appropriate amount of nutrients to allow for its survival and for the growth of the root shoots when it is planted in a fertile soil. Similarly, God has placed within each one of us what is needed for success and growth. All you have to do is to put in some time and effort and surround yourself with good deeds and a righteous healthy environment. Allah will take care of the rest. The word 'muflehoon' indicates that obligation in this world, and its reward in the hereafter, resemble the process of the planting a seed and reaping great crops. In fact one seed, when properly planted and cared for, can produce many in return. God Almighty says:
The metaphor of those who spend their wealth in the Way of Allah is that of a grain which produces seven ears; in every ear there are a hundred grains. Allah gives such multiplies and increases to whomever He wills. Allah is All-Encompassing, All-Knowing. (2:261)
Let’s take a moment to ponder the beauty of this verse. If the earth -which is a creation of God- grants you many multiples for every single seed you plant……….what kind of multiple do you think Allah –the creator of the earth and heavens- will give you for each good deed you sow? The duties and obligations of faith require some effort from you, but that pales when you consider the truly immense reward you will get in return. This is reason why God Almighty said describing the believers: 'they are the successful'.