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Lesson 63

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Lesson - 63

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. Those who spend in ease as well as in adversity and those who restrain (their) anger and pardon men. And Allah loves the doers of good (to others)." (Ch. 3:132,133)

Summary of the previous lesson

I have almost completed my discussion on the first verse of this lesson. In order to understand the remaining portion of this discussion, I will briefly summarize the points already discussed so that it is easier to understand the subject matter to be presented here. This verse enjoins man to hasten towards a certain goal. Ordinarily man is inclined to hasten under the following circumstances.

1. If he is facing danger. Besides the ordinary dangers of physical existence which man has to face occasionally, there are two persistent threats to his spiritual well being. These include the devil and man's own animal soul or the nafs al-ammarah. This is the beginning level of man's spiritual existence in which the soul is subject to control of his animal desires. Man is in constant danger of being overwhelmed and led astray, even to the point of spiritual demise by the devil and his own animal soul. The Holy Quran informs us that refuge from both of these elements can be obtained by seeking the protection of our Lord, and urges us to hasten towards it.

2. Another situation in which a man hastens is when the task he has undertaken is important and the time to complete it is short. Nothing can be of greater importance then man's own spiritual salvation and success. The time to achieve this great task is, however, very short and can run out at any moment.

3. Man also hastens towards something which is so very attractive and supreme par excellence as to be a great blessing for mankind. The protection of Allah is certainly such a blessing for man. Besides it, this invitation is also for the great blessing which is the Garden of paradise and is to be experienced in the Life after Death as seven levels of heavenly life. It can, however, also be acquired in this life in the form of the Garden of serenity of the heart. Whosoever has contentment of heart, he is in heaven, although he may not have the luxuries of life at his disposal. Moreover the one who achieves the serenity of heart in this life is also the one who enters paradise in the Life Hereafter.

The Paradise of the heart and the Hereafter only for the dutiful

This verse tells us that the Garden, whether it be that of the serenity of the heart or of the paradise in the Hereafter, is prepared only for those who keep their duty. These are the ones who guard against evil. What an excellent Book of Wisdom is the Holy Quran! It tells us that if we desire the paradise of contentment of the heart in this life or its more palpable form in the Hereafter, the way to acquire both these states is only by guarding against evil. Evil is what the Holy Quran forbids us to do, and that is why the Holy Quran is called the complete guide for those who guard against evil. When the evil elements are eliminated from a man's deeds, they becomes righteous.

For example, man strives around the clock in pursuit of wealth which can be earned both by fair and foul means. If a person safeguards against dishonest practices, he will be earning wealth through honest means, which then becomes a righteous deed. Those who earn an honest living are the ones blessed with contentment, which is the paradise of the heart. Another aspect of the great wisdom that underlies the Garden of paradise being prepared only for those who guard against evil is that it would cease to exist as such if it were the abode of murderers, thieves, dishonest, corrupt and immoral individuals where they could commit such evil deeds. The Garden of paradise, will therefore, be free of crime and evil, without police or prisons, an abode where there will be peace and order, as the Holy Quran states:

"And are met therein with greetings and salutation". (25:75)
This would only be possible if entry to this dwelling is restricted to those who are so firm in the commitment to their duty that they cannot do criminal or evil acts. Such strength demands a striving of a lifetime. To achieve excellence in the performance of one's duty is a difficult task and takes time. Man is therefore enjoined to hasten towards the protection of Allah, for he has a tendency to waste his life time in pursuit of evil, thus leaving little time behind for good.

Time for reformation is limited

Every human being is under the misconception that he is innocent and free of evil. Even those who are aware of some of their shortcomings, do not know what other faults are latent within them. These may show up only at the opportune time or when one is subjected to trial. To achieve perfection in guarding against evil, requires a lifelong effort and striving. It is not only that one may waste his life in misdeeds and remain oblivious to his spiritual calling, but also no one really knows how much longer he has to live. A child, a young person or an older individual, is unaware of when an accident, illness or death itself may strike.

That is why the Holy Quran draws our attention to the immensity of the task of reformation, the very limited time we have at our disposal and urges us to hasten and seek the refuge and protection of our Lord (Rabb — One Who Nurtures us unto perfection). The one who has the good fortune of doing so, enters the Garden of serenity of the heart in this life. In fact, man was created in this state of tranquillity which we observe so manifestly in the innocence of a child. Involvement in worldly life, however, makes him lose this serenity. The question that comes to mind is how in this life can man remain in a state of contentment, or repossess such a state after its loss? The answer to this secret has also been unveiled by Holy Quran, the Book of Wisdom, in the two subsequent verses.

The Garden of Paradise achieved through spending of wealth

It states:

"Those who spend in ease as well as in adversity,"
i.e., the dutiful are those who spend in ease as well as adversity. Ease and adversity are two extreme conditions within which are included all other states of variable intensity. Thus for example when we state that someone works day and night, it also includes the period in between.

The most time consuming affair of this world is the earning of wealth. Everyone spends his hours of the day and night in this pursuit. This desire for wealth may reach the degree of hellish proportions described 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).
The greed of man for more and more is described as a sign of hell in the verse quoted above and is never satisfied. One who is earning a hundred thousand is anxious to make a million and so on and so forth. This desire for material possession and consumption deprives a man's heart of its contentment. Thus we come to the conclusion that the peace of mind and contentment which are the signs of the Garden of serenity of the heart are lost by the unchecked desire for more and more material possession and consumption. Other religions have spoken against the earning of wealth and prescribed monasticism, nunnery and asceticism as a remedy to combat this illness. Such a course would, however, lead to the end of hard work, which is a great human asset, and lead to the demise of all human progress. Thus avoiding marital relationship which is part of this monastic commitment would cause the demise of the human race in a few years. The teaching of such religions to abstain from worldly life and earning of wealth cannot therefore be an appropriate one.

Islamic teachings regarding wealth, a unique means of spiritual development

Islam is the only religion that has sanctioned worldly pursuits and the earning of wealth by honest means. Even while earning wealth, the greed and fire for the acquisition of more and more can be ignited in the human heart. What then is the remedy for this? The answer to this question lies in what the Holy Quran has stated over here. It enjoins us to spend in the way of Allah no matter what our state of finances may be. The Holy Quran describes in detail all the matters in which such spending is enjoined. In the time of need, the companions of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) would give all their wealth in the way of Allah. Hazrat Abu Bakr manifested this spirit of sacrifice by giving up all that he had in his house in the way of Allah on one occasion, leaving behind his house as he put it in the hands of Allah and His Apostle. Hazrat Usman, another noble companion similarly gave large amounts of his wealth in the way of Allah, including hundreds and thousands of camels for the use of the Muslim forces. The poor on the other hand would exhibit a similar spirit of giving and sacrifice. Out of the pittance in dates that they earned as wages for a days hard work, they would feed the family with half of it, and give up the remaining portion in the way of Allah. This was how the early Muslims complied with the Quranic injunction of spending in the way of Allah in ease as well as adversity.

Spending one's wealth only for the benefit of oneself, or one's wife and children is a basic animal quality. We observe that most animals share food with their mate and offspring. To rise from this animal to a human or a spiritual level is to spend ones wealth for the upkeep of widows, orphans, the needy, those burdened by credit and the sick, in other words to lessen the burden of the poor. Above all, to spend one's wealth in the way of enhancement of the religion of Allah. Thus, practically give thanks to ones greatest Benefactor, Who incessantly provides for us throughout our lives. In the hearts of those who save their wealth only for their spouses and children, worship of low desires, niggardliness and the love of wealth ignite the quality of greed and hellish fire described by the Holy Quran as, "Are there any more?" (50:30).

In contrast, those who sacrifice the fiery elements of these low desires and open up their hearts for God and His creatures, their hearts are blessed with the coolness and joy which is the Garden of contentment of the heart. Thus, the earning of wealth which carries the risk of loosing ones serenity not only becomes a means of enhancing it, but also at the same time puts out the fire of greed in one's heart.

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