Chapter Two: The Cow (Al Baqara)
Chapter 2, Verse 41
And believe in what I have sent down which verifies what is already with you; and do not be the first to deny it, and do not exchange My signs for a small price; and beware of Me. (Chapter 2: Verse 41).
In the previous verse God reminded the children of Israel of the covenants they made. We discussed the covenant of faith, the covenant to preserve the Torah from alterations and share it in its entirety, and the covenant to believe in the Messenger of God whose characteristics are described in the Torah and the gospel. In fact, the description of Prophet Muhammad was so specific that the Jewish rabbi Ibn Salam used to say to his people of Medina: I recognized Muhammad the moment I laid my eyes on him. I recognized him with the certainty I recognize my own son with.
In this verse God refers to this knowledge and says ‘And believe in what I have sent down which verifies what is already with you.’ The Quran is a confirmation of the Torah -The true complete Torah before parts of it were altered and concealed.-
God continues: 'and do not be the first to deny it.' The Jewish tribes of Arabia were not the first to disbelieve in Muhammad (peace be upon him), rather, it was the prophet's own tribe: Quraysh. The verse, however, is referring to the first to disbelieve from amongst the people of the scripture. Why? Because Quraysh had no link to the heavens, neither were they aware of the previous revelations, or the coming of a prophet. The Jewish rabbis, on the other hand, knew the truth and used to invoke support from the coming Prophet over their enemies in Medina. They used to say: ‘The time for a messenger from God is very near; we shall believe in him and we shall fight you with him, and rule over you’. But when Islam came, rather than being the first to haste towards it, they were the first to disbelieve in it.
Allah foretold the people of the book about the coming of a prophet; He did not conceal or surprise them with the new message. That is why it was incumbent upon them to be the first to believe and the first to support the new message.
The verse continues: ‘and do not exchange My signs for a small price.’ Whenever God talks about the transaction of faith, He uses the words ‘selling, buying and trading’. Take the example of the following verses:
God has bought from the believers their selves and wealth because Paradise is for them. They fight in God’s cause, and they kill or are killed. This is a promise with which God has bound Himself in the Torah and in the Gospel and in the Qur’an. Who could be more faithful to his covenant than God? So glad tidings to you because of the bargain you have made with Him! That indeed is the supreme triumph. (9:111)
and in another verse:
O you who have faith! Shall I show you a trade that will deliver you from a painful punishment? Have faith in God and His Messenger and struggle for His cause with your possessions and your persons––that is better for you, if only you knew- (61:10-11)
We know that trade is a mediation between the producer and the consumer. The producer wants to sell a product, and the consumer is in need of that product. It is within our human nature to want a good deal, and to search for the biggest profit. Here, Allah utilized trade to turn our attention towards a great deal and a sure way of earning huge profit. Worldly gain in business is based on the effort you put in, your competitors, and the advantages you have. Earning a profit from God, on the other hand, is based on God's ability, so it is limitless and eternal. Here is the deal: In exchange for self-restraint and a small part of your freedom in life, Allah will grant you immense pleasure and eternal freedom in Paradise.
Take a moment to think about your short time on earth. How many years will you live? Fifty.. sixty.. a hundred and ten? You quickly realize that the wise person is the one who sacrifices some freedom in this short and fleeting life in exchange for a share of eternal happiness in the hereafter. For this small investment, you receive great returns. The deal is in fact outrageously profitable. Remember that the pleasure in this world is according to the capabilities of humans while pleasure in the hereafter is according to the powers of God.
Let's look at the opposite deal which is popular nowadays. Some say: I want to take advantage of my short time on earth......I want to enjoy life to the fullest.....Why should I deprive myself of anything? We will all die anyway. We answer that the torment and punishment in the afterlife is not equal to the small gain you earn by transgressing in life. Hence, you are earning yourself a terrible deal, and your loss is huge. Anyone who exchanges something valuable and permanent for a something invaluable and temporary has made an awful business deal.
This brings us back to the verse. God is advising the children of Israel against making this terrible deal. He says: ‘and do not exchange My signs for a small price’ meaning do not give away faith, and the gift of the scriptures in exchange for temporary advantage and status in this world. When a person attains much less than that what he gave, then he or she is a loser.
God's signs and words are invaluable. If you alter His words, take them out of context, or conceal them to satisfy a need or to gain an advantage, then you have reversed the deal of faith. The outcome is clear and eternal: hellfire. In fact this verse is very accurate in describing the reversal of the deal. In our daily trade, we pay a price and receive goods in return. However, in the verse: ‘and do not exchange My signs for a small price’ the opposite has happened: A price is bought and the goods are paid. It is a true repudiation of the covenant with God.
Price is always tangible, such as paper money, gold and silver. It is a mean not an end. Suppose, for example, that you owned millions of dollars, but you were stranded in the desert starving. Is that money of any benefit to you? Can you eat it? Drink it? Won't you at that moment give it all away for a small meal? Hence, wealth should not be made the purpose of life. If you consider it as your purpose, you will waste your time amassing large amount of it, not for any good use, nor for the benefit of your family. Money becomes an obsession, and this can only lead to greed and corruption.