Chapter Two: The Cow (Al Baqara)
Chapter 2, Verse 25
And give glad tidings to those who have faith and do righteous deeds, that for them shall be Gardens with rivers flowing under them. When they are given fruit as provision, they will say, ‘This is what we were given before.’ But they were only given a simulation of it. There, they will have spouses of perfect purity and will remain timelessly, forever. (25:2)
After describing the destination of the disbelievers who doubt the Quran and fabricate excuses for not accepting faith, Allah presents us with a verse describing heaven. It is the style of the Quran to describe the pleasures of paradise and bring it in sharp contrast to the torment of hell in adjacent verses. This sort of comparison promotes faith within the soul. When you recite a few verses detailing punishment, and immediately recite ones describing pleasures and mercy, you become motivated to work twice as hard to succeed. In fact, your success is double. On one level, being removed from fire and escaping its torment is great success in by itself. And yet on a higher level, the success of being admitted into paradise is immense. Let's take an example from the Quran. God says:
Every soul shall taste death, and you will indeed be paid your full rewards on the Day of Resurrection. Whoever is delivered from the Fire and admitted to paradise has certainly succeeded. The life of this world is nothing but the wares of delusion. (3:185)
God did not say that whoever enters paradise has attained success, because that leaves out the success of being spared the torment of hell. This picture comes into full display when you read the descriptions of the day of judgment. On that day, after each person has been taken to account, a bridge will be erected across hellfire for everyone to cross. Every person will travel on this terrible bridge at a speed determined by his or her own good deeds. Some will cross it with the speed of light, while others will cross it slowly and so on. The disbelievers, on the other hand, having no good deeds to carry them across, will fall into the fire. Here you may ask: why are the believers asked to cross such a bridge? We find the answer in the following verse:
But every single one of you will approach it, a decree from your Lord which must be fulfilled. We shall deliver those who took heed for themselves, and leave the evil-doers kneeling there. (19:71-72)
While mere entrance into paradise is a great blessing, the believers cross this bridge to witness the horrendous torment their faith has protected them from. They will sense the great blessing and immense mercy of their Lord. Likewise, when the inhabitants of hell see the people of paradise, they will feel the wrath of God upon them depriving them of this pleasure.
This verse starts with the phrase: ‘and give good tidings.’ 'Good tidings' is the news of the approach of something pleasant. It is the opposite of a warning, which give the news of an upcoming terrifying matter. Thus, if you give someone good tidings, you are in fact announcing the arrival of something gratifying. This phrase is used in the Quran to deliver a message to the believers and to the disbelievers. Here is an example of a verse addressing the disbelievers:
Woe to every sinful liar, who hears God’s revelations being recited to him, yet persists in his arrogance as if he had never heard them. So give him the glad tidings of a painful punishment. (45:7-8)
'Glad tidings' in this example works as sarcasm. God wants to increase the torment of the disbelievers. Thus, when they hear the phrase ‘give them good tidings’, they unconsciously expect good news, but, when the bad news of a painful punishment is delivered, it only serves to increase their anguish.
In the 25th verse of 'The Cow' good news is delivered to the believers carrying the beautiful promise of paradise. Allah says: “and give good tidings to those who believe and do righteous deeds, that for them shall be Gardens with rivers flowing under them”.
Faith is the emotional compass for our behaviour. When you have firm belief in something, you will work for it with passion. If you love teaching, for example, and you believe that a degree in education will help you reach your dream, then you will study and work hard for that degree. Every deed you and I do stems from an ideas we believe in. Similarly, faith is a belief that rests within your heart, and it is displayed when your action are in accordance with the will of God. Faith acts like a spring and the good deeds are the stream of water coming from it. Without actions, faith loses all meaning. Allah says:
Hereby God swears by time. that mankind is most definitely in loss. except those who have faith and do righteous deeds, and enjoin one another to the truth, and enjoin one another to patience. (103:1-3)
And in another verse:
And Who speaks better than someone who calls people to God, does what is right, and says, ‘I am one of those devoted to God’? (41:33)
God Almighty wants us to realize that our proclamation that ‘there is no deity except God and that Muhammad is His Messenger’ is not enough. It must be accompanied by sincere actions. Our proclamation of faith does not increase anything in God's dominion. Allah bears witness of His oneness of divinity. And so do the angels because they are in the presence of Allah. And then comes the testimony of those who were granted knowledge. God says:
Allah bears witness that there is no god but Him, as do the angels and those who have knowledge. He upholds justice. There is no god but Him, the Almighty, the All Wise. (3:18)
God wants the believers to adhere to the doctrine of faith and practice Islam so that life can move in harmony. And as long as life's movement is upright it will be powerful and beneficial for everyone. When Islam spread to different corners of the world, the aim was not for people to accept faith for the sake of believing. It was meant for the betterment of people's lives and for the spread peace and justice.
When you act in a way that does not correspond to God's teachings, belief loses all meaning and becomes irrelevant to the society. That is why Allah always emphasises the link between faith and righteous deeds in the Quran. He says: ‘those who believe and do righteous deeds’.
Keep in mind that the opposite of 'righteous deeds' is corruption. The very least amount of righteousness that is expected of us as Muslims, and as human beings, is to leave what is right and good as it is. If you want to strengthen your faith and earn a higher degree in paradise, then make sure you do righteous deeds every chance you get.