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Lesson 62

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Lesson - 62

Aal Imran (Family of Imran)

"And hasten to forgiveness from your Lord and a Garden, as wide as the heavens and the earth; it is prepared for those who keep their duty." (Ch. 3:132)

Forgiveness of the Lord and the Garden of Paradise

In this verse the Holy Quran has enjoined man to hasten. The question that needs to be answered is under what circumstances is the human behavioral pattern of haste manifested? We observe that man either hastens away from danger, or towards something that he keenly desires. Also, he may hasten to complete a task which is essential, but for which the time is running out. As human beings we face all these circumstances in our lives. Before I discuss these, I would like to point out that in the verse above two things are mentioned towards which man is enjoined to hasten, i.e., the forgiveness of his Lord and the Garden of Paradise. The real manifestation of this garden is prepared for man in his life after death in the heavens. He is, however, given the like of it in this world if he guards against evil and keeps his duty. This is the meaning of the verse, "it is prepared for those who keep their duty."

I have mentioned earlier that man hastens away from extreme danger, for example if he is being pursued by a rabid dog, or is being attacked with a knife, or the city in which he resides is under threat of enemy attack, or it is in danger of being flooded etc. Such hazards, however, only occur periodically. The ever present danger is that of the devil and the nafs al-ammarah or the animal soul of man. In the preliminary stages of man's spiritual development his soul is liable to be overwhelmed by his animal desires. The devil and the animal soul of man are thus his worst enemies, consistently bent upon leading him astray and leading him to his spiritual demise. The individual who does not therefore expeditiously enter the forgiveness or protection of Allah, the Most High, is in constant danger.

This forgiveness or protection is of two kinds. Firstly, it is from the harmful effects of the sins already committed. Secondly, it is the seeking of protection from repetition of such behavior, for it becomes easier to repeat and keep on doing an evil deed. For example, a person who takes a bribe faces double jeopardy. He may be apprehended for his misdeeds in this world, but even if this is not the case, he certainly will face the consequences of his actions in the life Hereafter. Another adverse effect of such behavior is that it facilitates repetition. Thus, it becomes easier to accept a bribe the second time around. Even if no one else is, Allah certainly is a witness to man's sin. A thief or a murderer hastens away in desperation from the scene of crime to avoid getting caught by earthly authorities. In spite of this, man commits one sin after the other and fears not Divine apprehension. However, when Allah takes him to task, no worldly authority can save him. In any case, he has nowhere to flee from the grip of the angel of death sent by Allah. In this verse, the Holy Quran enjoins man that before he has to face such consequences, he should repent and seek the refuge of Allah from the devil, from one's own animal soul, from the consequences of one's evil deeds, and from the danger of repeating them. This is the course of action taken by those who guard against evil.

The other situation in which a man makes haste is when there is something so attractive before him that he wants to acquire it as soon as possible. A mother's love for her child exceeds everything else. That is why if she has something good in her possession, she at once calls for her child to give it to him. Who has created this love for her child in the mother's heart? It is Allah, the Most High, Who has created such affection. If one were to gather all the love and caring that the mothers of this world have for their children, it would pale into insignificance before the love and affection of Allah for mankind. That is why He calls upon us to hasten so that we may acquire the good things such as His protection and the Garden He has prepared for us.

The Holy Quran then informs us that this Garden encompasses the heavens and the earth. The actual Garden of Paradise is in the life Hereafter. It is spread over the seven spiritual heavens where man is to advance spiritually in his life after death, for the moral and spiritual progress of man continues after death. Man can, however, also acquire a Garden in his earthly sojourn. The Holy Quran states:

"And for him who fears to stand before his Lord are two Gardens" (55:46).
There is a consensus of opinion amongst various commentators that this refers to the Garden of this earthly abode and to that of the Hereafter. The paradise or Garden of the Hereafter will obviously include all those good things that the Holy Quran describes in detail. In this world, however, the righteous seldom acquire such material comforts as mansions, gardens with flowing streams, fine foods and choicest fruits. There is one Garden though which comes in the possession of every person who guards against evil, and that is the serenity and contentment of the heart. The Holy Quran has frequently described this paradise as to where:

"No fear shall come upon them, nor shall they grieve."
Fear arises before the occurrence of an evil action, and grief follows it. For example, when a thief commits a robbery, fear of getting apprehended arises in his heart and when he does get apprehended or punished by the law, a feeling of grief overtakes him. We thus come to the conclusion that whosoever commits a crime or any other misdeed, the chastisement which he faces in this very life is the loss of serenity of his heart. A person who guards against evil, may go to bed hungry, but his sleep is restful. A thief, or a corrupt person, on the other hand may have his hunger satisfied, but his heart is devoid of contentment. In my Quranic lesson on the incident of Prophet Adam and Eve, I have pointed out that the Garden in which every human being is born is the serenity of the contented heart. This serenity is reflected by the innocence in the face of a child. The devil, by tempting towards evil and leading man astray, deprives him of this Garden of contentment.

Our youth who are under the influence of the western materialistic culture do not realize the worth of the serenity of mind. They are under the misconception that if the needs of their material comfort are satisfied, they have entered the Garden of paradise. As I have learnt, and so will they from life's bitter experiences that this is not so. If one has serenity in his heart he is in a Garden of heavenly bliss, even though he may be facing adversity in life and is deprived of material comforts. On the other hand, if a person's heart is full of grief, or it is consumed with the fire of greed, as expressed by the Quranic verse:

"On the day when We say to hell: Art thou filled up? And it will say: Are there any more?" (50:30),
he is in hell, although externally he may be living in the lap of luxury.

What accompanies man on his spiritual journey after death are not the luxuries of this worldly life, but the spirit that is within him. This spirit while inside the human body evolves through different stages as it is influenced by the effects of good and evil deeds and forms a personality of its own, which in Quranic terms is called the nafs or soul. If this soul evolves to the highest level which is, the soul at rest or the nafs al-mutmainnah, it will enter the Garden as the Holy Quran states:

"O soul that art at rest, Return to thy Lord, well-pleased, well-pleasing, So enter among My servants, And enter My Garden!" (89:27-30)

In short, only the soul which in this worldly life is in a state of contentment, will enter the higher external form of paradise in the life after death. The last verse of this lesson states that the Garden whether it is that of internal serenity in this life or of a more external and palpable form in the life after death, has been prepared only for those who keep their duty and guard against evil. I will discuss this more in detail and also comment further on this verse in the next lesson.
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