Chapter Two: The Cow (Al Baqara)
Verse 40........Part 2
Chapter 2, Verse 40
O' Children of Israel, remember the favors I bestowed on you. Honor your pledge to Me and I will honor My pledge to you: I am the One you should fear. (Chapter 2: Verse 40)
Remembrance is a guard against forgetfulness. Our daily routine often makes us forget the provider of the blessings in our lives. The sun rises every day providing life and warmth, but how many of us take time to remember that it does not rise without the God's permission and mercy? Likewise, it rains every now and then, but how often do we stop to thank God for this great bounty? Allah maybe unseen, but His favors are not. They are ever present to confirm His existence and mercy. It is through remembrance that we keep Allah in mind and remain ever grateful for His blessings. Remembrance of God is done by both, the tongue and the heart. It takes you to a safe haven where no trouble or evil can harm you. It generates reverence in the heart, decreases sin, and makes the movement of life upright.
Similarly, when God asked the children of Israel to remember the favors He blessed them with, it should have been natural for them to remember and obey the provider of these favors.
The verse continues: ‘Honor your pledge to Me and I will honor My pledge to you’ the word pledge comes from the Arabic origin 'غمد ' which means covenant. It is an agreement between the servant and his Lord. God says:
Assuredly We had made a covenant with Adam, but he acted forgetfully. We did not find resolve in him (20:115)
The natural question to ask is: Which covenant is God asking the children of Israel to fulfill? To properly answer this question, we have to consider the three pledges between man and God that are mentioned in the Quran. Let's take them one by one.
First: the pledge referred to in the verse could be the pledge of faith. It is the covenant to believe in God and show gratitude for His blessings. It is the innate instinct within each one of us that urges the search for our creator, and the feeling of gratitude for all we have. Let's clarify this with an example. If a person gets lost in the desert and cannot see anything alive around him for miles. Then he lays down to rest and takes a short nap. When he wakes up, he finds a table filled with all kinds of food, drink and sweets right in front of him. Before even touching the food, wouldn't he ask himself: who did this? Wouldn't he, before taking a single bite, try to find out and thank whoever set this table up? It is within our human nature. Similarly, each one of us comes into this world to find everything set up for our survival and comfort. The sun, earth, soil, animals and all that is around us are perfectly suited to support our lives. Isn't it also part of our natural instinct to wonder about the maker of all that is around us? If you take a moment to ponder, you would have to conclude that there is a creator. Even more telling: all these creations are beyond the powers and abilities of humans. Thus, it should be no surprise to anyone when Allah sends a Messenger or a prophet, supported by miracles, to inform mankind that He is the one who created.
Accordingly, taking time to remember and be mindful of Allah, to be grateful for all his favors and gifts is a must. It does not require any complex theories or philosophies. Fulfilling your pledge to God demands that you worship Him and pay your gratitude to Him. He says:
So remember Me; I will remember you. Be thankful to Me, and never ungrateful. (2:152)
and in another verse:
O you who believe! If you help God’s cause, He will help you and make your feet firm (47:7)
What is the most important point in these verses? It is that Allah has placed the key to paradise in your hands. Right at this minute, you hold in your hand the key to the path that will lead you to heaven, and the key to the path that will end in hellfire. If you fulfill your promise to God, He will fulfill His promise to you. If you remember Him, He will remember you, and if you help His cause on earth, He will be with you in this world and the next…….You have to take the first step.
Allah says in a sacred narration: "I treat My servant as he hopes that I would treat him. I am with him whenever he remembers Me: if he remembers Me in his heart, I remember him in Mine; if he remembers Me in a gathering, I remember him in a gathering far better; if he draws near towards Me a hand's span, I draw near towards him an arm's length; if he draws near to Me an arm's length, I draw near to him a mile; and if he comes to Me walking, I go to him running."
Second: We also have to consider the covenant God took from the Prophets. They pledged that when a new Prophet comes to them confirming what is within their own scriptures, it will be their duty to follow and aid the new prophet. God took a covenant from all His messengers to support prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). He says:
God took a pledge from the prophets, saying, ‘If, after I have bestowed Scripture and wisdom upon you, a messenger comes confirming what you have been given, you must believe in him and support him. Do you affirm this and accept My pledge as binding on you?’ They said, ‘We do.’ He said, ‘Then bear witness and I too will bear witness.’(3:81)
And third: There is the covenant God took from the scholars of the children of Israel at the time of prophet Moses. They pledged to receive the Torah, learn it, preserve it, and most importantly, they pledged not conceal anything from it as the following verse illustrates:
God took a pledge from those who were given the Scripture- ‘Make it known to people; do not conceal it’- but they tossed the pledge over their shoulders, they bartered it for a small price: what a bad bargain they made! (3:187)
Part of the objective of this promise was not to conceal what the Torah and the gospel mentioned about Islam and about the attributes of the coming Messenger Muhammad. God had described the characteristics of Prophet Muhammad in both Torah and Gospel. He says:
Now that God has sent them this Book, which confirms their Scriptures, they deny it! even though before that they were praying for victory over the disbelievers Yet when it was sent to them, they recognized it and chose to disbelieve in it! The disbelievers are cursed by God. (2:89)
Having studied the Torah, the scholars of the children of Israel were certain of the authenticity of the Quran, but they insisted on disbelief because Muhammad was not from their ranks. Similarly, the scholars of the scriptures were convinced that the Quran revealed to Muhammad (peace be upon him) was the seal of all heavenly scriptures. They knew that it was their duty to support the new message. Sadly, not only did most of them abandon their convictions, but they also led their followers astray.
Whether the verse at hand refers to the pledge of faith within each one of us, or to the pledge God took from His prophets, or the pledge of the people of the scriptures, they all converge to one central point: Belief in Allah, gratitude for His bounties, and support for His new message, the message of Islam.
God promises that when the children of Israel fulfill their part of the pledge, He will do the same. God says: ‘I will honor My pledge to you’ referring to His promise of paradise and great reward in the hereafter. More specifically, Allah promised His mercy to those who believe in Muhammad (peace be upon him) after the revelation of Islam. Listen to the following verse as Allah responds to Moses and his people supplicating for mercy after they experienced an earthquake.
Grant us good things in this world and in the life to come. We turn to You.’ God said, ‘I bring My punishment on whoever I will, but My mercy encompasses all things. ‘I shall ordain My mercy for those who are conscious of God and pay the prescribed alms; who believe in Our Revelations; who follow the Messenger- the unlettered prophet they find described in the Torah that is with them, and in the Gospel- who commands them to do right and forbids them to do wrong, who makes good things lawful to them and bad things unlawful, and relieves them of their burdens, and the iron collars that were on them. So it is those who believe him, honour and help him, and who follow the light which has been sent down with him, who will succeed.’ (7:156-157)
The last part of the verse ends with a warning. God says: ‘I am the One you should fear.’ When honoring your pledge and duty toward Allah, you should keep in mind that there is no power or force in the universe other than that of God. Nothing happens outside His control. Most importantly, you are destined to meet your Lord on the day of judgment, and you will be asked about your deeds and your commitments.