Chapter Two: The Cow (Al Baqara)
Chapter 2: Verse 64
Even after that you turned away. Had it not been for God’s favor and mercy on you, you would certainly have been lost. (Chapter 2: Verse 64)
In the previous session, we discussed how God -out of mercy for the Israelites- required them to take His teachings as a whole. He advised them to hold on to these values and apply them with determination. Keep in mind that part of the complete package the children of Israel agreed to uphold included the support of a new prophet to appear in Arabia carrying the final revelation for all humanity. After all this advice.....after they were given what guaranteed the rewards of this world and the next, what was their response? God says: ‘Even after that you turned away.' meaning, either the Israelites dismissed God's teachings, or they forgot what they should have remembered and practiced.
God continues: 'Had it not been for God’s favor and mercy on you, you would certainly have been lost.' What is meant by favor and mercy? A Favor is something beyond what you deserve. For example: when you go to work, you collect a set salary at the end of the month. If you receive a bonus on top of your salary, then your employer has done you a favor.
Ayesha (the prophet's wife, may God be please with her) narrated that the Messenger said, "Follow the Right Path, be good to those around you, and be steadfast; but keep in mind that none of you can achieve salvation through his or her own good actions alone.'' Someone asked, "Not even you, Messenger of Allah?'' He said, "Not even me, unless God showers me with Mercy and Grace".
You may think to yourself: how is that possible? How can it be that our good deeds are never enough to earn paradise? It is because God's favors and bounties to each one of us are so plentiful and immense that our good deeds are barely enough to show gratitude for one of them. In other words, if you put one of God's bounties -for example, the gift of eyesight, or that of one kidney- on one side of a scale, and all your good deeds on the other side, the side of God's bounty will tip over. We always remember our good actions, but rarely give gratitude for God's favor. That is why, when you enter paradise, it will only be through the sheer mercy and favor of God. He says describing those in paradise:
happy with what God has given them of His favor; rejoicing that for those they have left behind who have yet to join them there is no fear, nor will they grieve; (03:170)
In fact God's favors extend to every single person on this earth, regardless of faith or deed. God says in the 243rd verse of 'The Cow'
Allah shows great favor to mankind, but most people are not grateful
This brings us back to the verse, God is reminding the Israelites that if not for His favor and mercy, they wouldn't have had the opportunity to return to their covenant and scripture. They would have lost their way in this world, and suffered greatly in the hereafter. More importantly, Allah guided them towards the path of Islam and the Quran which He protected against alteration. The previous scriptures were great bounties from God, however, it was the responsibility of the faithful to preserve and protect the Holy books from changes, additions and omissions. With the gift of the Quran, God unburden all of us from the task of preserving the book. He says:
Indeed We have sent down the Reminder, and indeed We will preserve it. (15:9)
and in a verse about prophet Muhammad:
We did not send you but as a mercy to all the nations. (21:107)
The Israelites were blessed by having the characteristics of Prophet Muhammad and the time of his advent in the Torah, and blessed with the opportunity to embrace Islam. Those who ignore such gifts are destined to great loss.