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Lesson 41

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Lesson - 41


"O you who believe, spend out of what We have given you before the day comes in which there is no bargaining, nor friendship, nor intercession. And the disbelievers — they are the wrongdoers.

Allah — there is no god but He, the Ever-Living, the Self-subsisting by Whom all subsist. Slumber over-takes Him not, nor sleep. To Him belongs whatever is in the heavens and whatever is in the earth. Who is he that can intercede with Him but by His permission? He knows what is before them and what is behind them. And they encompass nothing of His knowledge except what He pleases. His knowledge extends over the heavens and the earth, and the preservation of them both tires Him not. And He is the Most High, the Great."

Ch. 2:254-255

Monetary sacrifice required for striving in the way of Allah

These are the first two verses of section thirty four of Al Baqarah. In the two sections prior to this the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) is informed about the battles that the prophets before him had to participate in and it is then stated:

"These are the messages of Allah. We recite them to thee with truth ; and surely thou art of the messengers."
The truth referred to is that these messengers were forced to take up arms, and the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) being a messenger will also find it necessary to take part in battles. After the reference to the battles, Prophet Jesus (Isa) is mentioned. He did not have to take part in fighting with the sword, but had to participate in another kind of striving in the way of Allah ( jihad) which was by means of arguments and reasoning. It is, therefore stated:

"And We gave clear arguments to Jesus son of Mary, and strengthened him with the Holy Spirit" (2: 253).
Since Prophet Jesus had to strive in the way of Allah by means of arguments, the strengthening with the Holy Spirit is mentioned to indicate that his striving was spiritual in nature and the Divine help given to him was also spiritual. In mentioning Jesus son of Mary, there is also an indication that when the one like him in spirit and power will come, i.e., the Promised Messiah, he too will not have to fight with the sword, but will carry out a mighty spiritual striving in the way of Allah.

Striving in the way of Allah (jihad), whether it is by means of the sword, or with arguments (in the form of published literature), requires financial resources. This is the reason why the reference to battles and Jesus is immediately followed by the first verse of this lesson:

"O you who believe, spend out of what We have given you."
In this verse, the holy Quran points out to the Muslims, that it was only through Allah's grace that they were born to Muslim parents, or blessed with the acceptance of Islam. These favors were bestowed upon them not only in the time of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), when this verse was revealed and when the whole world had succumbed to the worst form of idol worship, but also hold true in the context of modern times when atheism is rampant. It therefore behooves them as believers in Allah to act upon His guidance which enjoins them to "Spend", i.e. , make monetary sacrifice for the Divine cause.

On basis of my lifelong experience I can assure you that ordinarily it is not as difficult for people to accept and carry out other forms of injunctions and worship, as it is to spend money in the way of Allah. A Persian poet has described this human weakness very well in a couplet:

If you ask me for my life I am ready to give it.
Your asking for money is what I object to.

It is for this reason that the Holy Quran requires that verbal confession of belief be supported by the act of spending wealth, which is so dear to a person, in the way of Allah. The Holy Quran requires us to spend "Out of what We have given you." Allah does not require us to spend all of our money, but only a portion of it according to need. It is also pointed out that it is rather strange that a person becomes niggardly when Allah asks him to spend in His way some of the wealth out of what He has given him. For example, if you give someone a thousand rupees (currency) and ask him to spend a hundred rupees out of it on a certain job, would it not be extremely ungrateful of the person to refuse to do so?

Spiritual development is the purpose of spending in Allah's way

There should be no misgivings about the veracity of the statement, "out of what We have given you," for Allah is the one who gives sustenance to mankind. Man comes empty handed in this world from his mother's womb, and leaves empty handed when he is put in the grave. The wealth and the treasures of this world belong to the one who has created them. If someone earns wealth, it is because of Allah's grace, for if He had not given him the intelligence and capabilities to do so, he would have been helpless. Quite often we observe that some very intelligent people remain poor, while people with ordinary capabilities become wealthy. I have myself observed this very frequently. When Allah wants to take away some one's wealth then no capability, or skill can assist him. We can therefore conclude that whatever is given to mankind is out of Allah's grace.

In addition, the purpose for which Allah enjoins the spending of wealth is the best way in which wealth can be spent, i.e., the defense and propagation of truth. If Allah had pleased, He could have made his messengers and reformers (mujaddids) independently wealthy, so that they would not have had to stretch out their hands before sinful beings like us to give in His way. The reason He has not done so to give people like us, who are lost in the worldly ways, and oblivious of the Hereafter, an opportunity to make some provision for it. The only resource we can carry with us into the everlasting life Hereafter is what we have spent in the way of Allah in our temporal existence. In the Holy Quran Allah has promised to reward ten times, or more for such spending. Is there a worldly business or enterprise which gives a thousand percent (ten times the return on a hundred comes out to be a thousand) return on investment?

Belief and righteous actions are both complementary

The injunction to confirm belief with action has dual wisdom. The first is that belief leads to good actions. The person who does not have belief in accountability of actions, or the Hereafter lacks the moral imperative for righteous action. The second is that belief itself is nurtured by, and blooms with the performance of good deeds. The Holy Quran likens belief to the gardens of paradise and pure deeds to the streams which flow beneath these gardens. Just as streams provide water to the garden and enhance its growth, righteous actions also strengthen belief and make it grow. For example, the belief of a person who does not do good deeds after believing, will eventually weaken and die, like a plant deprived of water. The person who does good, his belief will thrive and strengthen with every good deed.

The true meaning of intercession

Then follow the Divine words:

"before the day comes in which there is no bargaining, nor friendship, nor intercession."
When faced with accountability, or punishment for misdeeds in this world, people can often save themselves by bribing officials. In this verse it is stated, that such a deal would not be possible in the life Hereafter. For those who have not spent in Allah's way, there will be nothing to spend in the Hereafter for redemption, nor will there be any crooked officials there who would accept money in return for favors. Besides bribery, contacts either directly or indirectly with those in positions of power, or the ability to buy their influence can save a person from facing punishment for his misdeeds. Friendships in the Hereafter, we are told, will be of no benefit. From the Hadith we learn that if Allah permits intercession on anybody's behalf in the Hereafter, it will only be from the prophets, the righteous, and the angels. Those who have not done any good deeds would not have made friends with the prophets, the righteous, the angels (who inspire the human heart towards goodness), or with Almighty Allah (Who becomes the friend of believers as we shall learn later on in this section). How can these people then expect any benefit from them in the Hereafter? In this worldly life, intercession by an influential person on behalf of a guilty party can lead to acquittal. In the Hereafter, according to the Hadith only the Prophets, the true believers, and the angels will be able to intercede, and that too only with Allah's permission, as the subsequent portion of these verses indicate:

"Who is he that can intercede with Him but by His permission?"
Those who did nothing to deserve the bounty of Allah, nor lent support to the messengers and the true believers, nor paid heed to the inspiration of angels towards goodness, will have nobody to count on for intercession on their behalf.

Many Muslims, misunderstand the real meaning of intercession, and consider it a license to act as they desire, without fear of consequences. It is essential, therefore to shed some light on the real meaning of intercession. The Arabic word, sha-fa, means pair. Shafaat, or intercession is, therefore only possible, when a person by his belief and action bonds with the true believers, the messengers and the angels, and not otherwise. Allah will only allow intercession when He deems that a person, in spite of his shortcomings and weaknesses is excusable. This is stated in the verse:

"and they intercede not except for him whom He approves" (21:28).
In the matter of such a person, when Allah sees a desire in the heart of a prophet, a true believer, or an angel to intercede on his behalf, Allah will honor such a righteous being by asking him if he would like to intercede for the sake of such a person? He will then grant him permission to ask for His mercy.

Wrongdoing of the disbelievers

It is then stated:

"And the disbelievers — they are the wrongdoers."
This verse indicates that the disbelievers against whom the injunction is given to strive (jihad), and spend one's wealth, are the wrongdoers because they want to destroy the truth, and those who believe in it. If the believers do not spend their wealth in striving against them, the disbelievers will destroy them and their faith. In the time of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), the disbelievers tried to destroy the truth, and its followers with the sword. The nineteenth century of the Christian Era was also a dangerous time for Islam, when the disbelievers tried to destroy Islam, and the Muslims by means of raising a storm of objections, innuendo and false propaganda. Allah, Who is Himself the Supporter, and Helper of His faith, ordained Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmed as the Reformer (Mujaddid) of the age and charged him to meet this challenge. He and his followers sacrificed their life, and property to fulfill this charge and strive in the way of Allah in an exemplary manner. History, and the valuable literature produced by him and his followers, and circulated all over the world, attest to this. This literature not only contains the answer to all the objections against Islam, it proves its truth and beauty like the light of the day. It presents the remedy for materialism and atheism that has plagued this age. There is still a great need to propagate this literature all over the world.

The interpretation of the verse, "And the disbelievers — they are the wrongdoers," that our late president Maulana Muhammad Ali (may the mercy of Allah be upon him) has done in the Bayan-al-Quran (Urdu translation and commentary of the Holy Quran) is also commendable. He comments:

"Not spending in the way of Allah is a wrongful deed because one shirks from fulfilling his duty towards God. This is the way of the disbelievers which is beneath the dignity of the believer. It is also a warning for the believer to avoid behavior resembling disbelief."

The writer would like to add that the Arabic word Kufr (disbelief) also means ingratitude. It is therefore ingratitude, not to spend in the way of Allah out of what He has given to mankind. It is also an injustice to one's own self not to make provision for the life Hereafter.

The meaning of, Allah — there is no god (ilah) but He

The next verse is:

"Allah — there is no god but He."
I have discussed the meaning of the Arabic word ilah in some of my previous lessons. It conveys three meanings. First, it stands for the One Who is worshipped i.e., deserves complete submission. Allah has made the whole creation submissive to the Divine command, but has given freewill to mankind. However, mankind should also submit to its Creator and Lord, out of its freewill, because Allah is the Creator of man, and also nurtures him unto perfection. Man can only take advantage of this nurturing if he submits to Him. One can give the analogy of a child who can benefit from his parents guidance, and nurturing only by being obedient to them.

The second meaning of ilah is the One who deserves our love. Who is more deserving of love than Allah? Not only is He the possessor of all perfect attributes, but He also gives to man the benefit of these attributes by nurturing him. As the Creator, and the One Who nurtures unto perfection (Rabb), He is the greatest Benefactor of mankind. It is this benefaction that creates the feeling of true love in the heart of man. It is also necessary to obey Allah because He is the Master of the Day of Requital, and man will be called to account before Him on the Day of Judgment.

The third meaning of ilah is of the One Who is the purpose, or objective of existence. The purpose of man's creation is, therefore to search for God, and strive for His pleasure, and to become close to Him. Who is a greater Benefactor of mankind than Allah? Man can acquire His pleasure, and get closer to Him by being colored in His coloring, i.e., by giving to others like He does.

Those who do not spend in the way of Allah, their objective or ilah, is not Allah, but wealth. Their whole existence revolves around the acquisition of wealth, which thus becomes the object of their worship. They utilize all means, lawful or unlawful, to acquire the maximum amount of wealth. Wealth becomes their beloved, for its love exceeds all other affections. In fact, love of wealth leads to the demise of all other affections. Earning wealth becomes the objective and the desired purpose of their lives. This verse of the Holy Quran tells us that the search and greed for wealth, its acquisition and its love, are not the purpose of man's life. In fact, recognition of the Divine Being, and getting close to Him is the purpose of man's creation. Other religions have declared the acquisition of wealth to be detrimental to salvation. They encourage their followers to become monks, nuns, or ascetics. Islam, on the other hand considers wealth as a worldly blessing of Allah, and gives permission to earn it legally without limits. It lays down only two preconditions, that it should be earned honestly, and instead of becoming the object of one's worship, it should be spent in the way of Allah. Spending in the cause of religion, which is mentioned here, is the best, and most excellent way to spend money. Every individual should, therefore, appropriate a suitable amount of their earnings for this purpose.
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