Chapter Two: The Cow (Al Baqara)
Chapter 2, Verse 62
Indeed the faithful, the Jews, the Christians, and the Sabeians —those of them who have faith in Allah and the Last Day and act righteously— they shall have their reward near their Lord, and they will have no fear, nor will they grieve. (Chapter 2: Verse 62)
In the previous verses, God presented us the case of the Israelites, who through lack of faith and through repeated wrongful deeds had earned God's anger and punishment. Every person is judged by his or her own faith and deeds. In this verse, Allah reveals that the nations who lived before the time of Prophet Muhammad, who had true faith, and practiced it through good deeds are guaranteed their reward on the day of judgment. This verse is very similar to verse 69 of Surat Al-Maida, (chapter 5 of the Quran), with a slight difference in the arrangement of words. God says:
Indeed the faithful, the Jews, the Sabeians, and the Christians —those who have faith in Allah and the Last Day and act righteously— they will have no fear, nor will they grieve.
Again we find a similar verse in chapter 22 (al-Hajj):
Indeed the faithful, the Jews, the Sabeians, the Christians, the Magians and the polytheists —God will indeed judge between them on the Day of Resurrection. Indeed God is witness to all things. (22:17)
Let’s study these verses. When God created Adam and sent him to earth as a successor, He sent guidance with him as mentioned in following verse:
He said, ‘Get down both of you from it, all together, being enemies of one another! Yet, should any guidance come to you from Me, those who follow My guidance will not go astray, nor will they be miserable. (20:123)
Adam taught God's message to his children, who in turn passed it on to their children and so on. As time passed, people got distracted by worldly affairs and chased their desires leaving God's teachings behind. Allah wants to spread mercy and justice on earth, so He sent Messengers to remind people and bring them back to the righteous path.
In the verse under discussion, the phrase: ‘Indeed the faithful’ points to people who followed God's path since the time of Adam. Time and again, Allah sent guidance to mankind, but when people rejected faith and distorted religion, they were punished and wiped off the face of the earth. Take the examples of the people of Noah, Lot, Pharaoh and many others.
Some religions had a large number of followers such as Judaism, and Christianity. However, overtime the scriptures were changed and people lost their path. Allah wants to purify us and gather all of us under one faith, under one scripture that cannot be changed, so He sent Prophet Muhammad with the message of Islam. He was sent to renew faith, and give us a system that would treat the ills of society till the day of judgment. Islam is the final message to encompass all previous religions. It is required from the followers of all other faiths to believe and support the message of Muhammad (Peace be upon him). God 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)
God's rules today are the same they were at the time of the Israelites: The path to salvation requires two conditions: proper faith and good deeds. If you lack one of these elements, you need to seriously reconsider, as you may face dire consequences in the hereafter. Based on these two conditions, those who remained on their previous religions, and did not follow God’s final message will not earn salvation.
Indeed, God wants to correct the perceptions of those who love the Lord, have faith, but do not follow the teachings of Islam. He says:
Whoever seeks a religion other than Islam, it will never be accepted from him, and in the Hereafter he will be among the losers. (03:85)
and in another verse:
True Religion, in God’s eyes, is Islam. Those who were given the Scripture disagreed out of rivalry, only after they had been given knowledge- if anyone denies God’s revelations, God is swift to take account- (03:19)
Keep in mind that Islam does not dispense with or reject previous heavenly messages. In fact, Islam builds on previous religions, and corrects what was distorted or omitted by people. Those who accept Islam inherit the proper faith from all the Messengers and Prophets since the time of Adam. So whoever believes in Muhammad’s message will have no fear or grief on the day of resurrection. God says:
The Messenger believes in what has been sent down to him from his Lord, as do the faithful. They all believe in God, His angels, His scriptures, and His messengers. ‘We make no distinction between any of His messengers,’ they say, ‘We hear and obey. Grant us Your forgiveness, our Lord. To You we all return!’- (2:285)
Similarly, the Quran is the book that envelopes all the previous heavenly scriptures and clarifies many matters that were omitted or changed by people. So whoever holds the Quran as his or her book have actually inherited all the treasures of previous heavenly revelations since the time of Adam. God says:
We sent to you the Scripture with the truth, confirming the Scriptures that came before it, and with final authority over them: so judge between them according to what God has sent down. Do not follow their whims, which deviate from the truth that has come to you. We have assigned a law and a path to each of you. If God had so willed, He would have made you one community, but He wanted to test you through that which He has given you, so race to do good: you will all return to God and He will make clear to you the matters you differed about.(5:48)
and in another verse:
Truly, this Quran explains to the Children of Israel most of what they differ about (27:76)
It is interesting to note that the name of each faith reflects the fact that it was sent to correct the deviations and ills of society at the time. In the Arabic language, the name for the Jewish people is 'Al Yahood.' This name is derive from the verb 'Hudna' which means ‘we turn back to you, God, after we had gone astray as the following verse illustrates:
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 (7:156)
Christians are known as 'Al Nasara' in Arabic. The name is derived from the word Annsar meaning supporters. As Prophet Jesus was being fought and prosecuted, the disciples pledged to help and support God's cause as the following verse illustrates:
When Jesus realized they did not believe, he said, ‘Who will help me in God’s cause?’ The disciples said, ‘We will be God’s helpers; we believe in God- witness our devotion to Him. (03:52)
Lastly, There is a difference of opinion over the identity of the Sabeians. According to some scholars, they were the followers of Prophet Noah. While others believe that the word is derived from the verb saba’a which refers to leaving one religion and entering another; this is most likely the correct interpretation.
Throughout history there were many people who saw the corruption and ills of society, and decided to distance themselves from it seeking justice and seeking the Creator. Thus, in this verse, they are also included among those who will be forgiven and earn the reward on the day of judgment.
Keep in mind that Allah always combines good deeds with proper faith. He says 'those of them who have faith in Allah and the Last Day and act righteously' because if faith is not practiced through righteous deeds, it becomes worthless. If you say that you are a Muslim, and then act otherwise, then you are doing harm to yourself and to Islam. If you declare that you are a Muslim, while at the same time you lie, cheat, commit acts of violence or harm others, then you are earning God's anger not reward. If, on the other hand, you believe, do good deeds, and benefit those around you, then you will never have anything to fear in this world and nor will you grieve in the hereafter.