Chapter Two: The Cow (Al Baqara)
Chapter 2, Verse 45
And seek help through patience and prayer, and indeed, it is difficult except for the humble (Chapter 2: Verse 45)
In the previous verse, Allah stressed to the children of Israel, and to all believers, that faith has to be equally expressed in actions and words. He also reminded them to practice what they preached and follow Prophet Muhammad. In this verse, God is giving us the tools to properly perform this task. 'And seek help through patience and prayer' reflects that difficulties and hardship will occur. Things will not be easy for those who follow the new message.
Patience helps us tolerate tough times. The children of Israel were used to exchanging God’s signs for the small price of worldly enjoyments; and they were accustomed to usury and other means of unlawful earnings. Thus, returning to the right path, and letting go of these bad habits would not be easy. They need help through patience.
This concept is general as it applies to any person regardless of their religion. Anyone who wants to return to the true fold of Islam needs to seek help through patience in order to break away from old habits and adhere to religious obligations. He or she will have to face the strong urges to go back to comfortable prohibitions.
Some scholars said that patience in this verse refers to fasting. According to their interpretations, God is asking His servants to starve themselves and tolerate the pain of hunger. However, when you consider the phrase at the end of the verse that says: ' it is difficult except for the humble,' you realize that God is referring to something different. The hardships of faith lie in expelling all pride from the heart. When you stand before The Lord in prayer, you have to express devotion, humbleness and submission. It was pride that prevented many Israelites from believing in a religion that was not revealed upon one of their leaders and rabbis.
‘And seek help through patience and prayer’ highlights two elements that we can use for help during tough times: patience and prayer. The next part states: ' it is difficult except for the humble,’ Is the word 'it' referring to patience being difficult, or is it referring to prayer? In order to properly study this verse we have to look at it in the Arabic origin. In Arabic grammar, there are pronouns that address the singular, pronouns that address the plural, and pronouns that address the dual. Meaning, when you address two people, you do not use the singular nor the plural, but a special pronoun. For example: the Arabic verb for write 'katab' is in the singular form, 'katabu' is used for plural, and 'kataba' is used when referring to two people who wrote. In this verse, patience and prayer is a dual. However, when Allah said 'it is difficult except for the humble' He used the singular pronoun. Does that mean that only one of them is referred to? Is it prayer or patience that is difficult?
We answer that when two things are mentioned together, often they both are meant. Let’s cite a few examples from the Quran:
They swear by God for you, to please you, and God and His messenger are more worthy to please Him, if they were believing. (9:62)
In this verse ‘please him’ is mentioned with the singular pronoun instead of ‘please them’ (the dual pronoun). This is because both God and the Messenger have one right and represent a single truth.
God says in another verse:
Yet they scatter towards trade or entertainment whenever they observe it, and leave you standing there. Say, ‘God’s gift is better than any entertainment or trade: God is the best provider.’ (62:11)
Grammatically, the dual pronoun should have been employed because the verse is talking about two items: trade and entertainment. This is because both trade and amusement are similar to each other as they occupy a believer from worship and remembrance.
Likewise, patience and prayer complement each other as they represent a cure against lying and self-pride. Initially, both place a burden on the sole as they interfere with our daily activities. Patience is used to keep you away from the worldly pleasures, and prayer is used to fight arrogance and pride. Patience cannot be complete without prayer and prayer cannot be mastered without patience.
The last part of the verse states 'it is difficult except for the humble'. What is meant by humbleness? It is to recognize and obey the one who is above you in status. People vary in talents and rank. Each one tries to boast about his talents and claim 'I am better than so and so’. A person can be proud of his or her talents, but will always be humble when he or she needs the talent of another person. If you act arrogantly to the ones you need, they may shun you and hold their services from you. God granted humans different talents so each one of can be proud of his or her talents, while at the same time is humbled by the talents of others. True humbleness, however, is only due to Allah the Creator of all things in all His attributes of perfection.
God is free from need, and humbleness causes a person to acknowledge his or her own trivial importance, constant need and weakness. Whatever you may own can be taken away from you by God at the glance. Our world is subject to change and in order to protect yourself from these changes, you must submit and humble yourself before the One who does not change. Allah is the only constant.
Many people are deceived by means and causes. We say to them, worship and humble yourselves before the ultimate Benefactor and the Creator of these means and causes. A well know proverb says ‘This too shall pass.' Whatever you may have for now will for sure change. A leader may take pride in his or her powers, but then another person comes who is more powerful. A person who boasts off about his or her wealth may declare bankruptcy next week. God says:
if you have suffered a blow, they too have suffered one like it. We deal out such days among people in turn, for God to find out who truly believes, for Him to choose martyrs from among you- God does not love evildoers- (3:140)