Surah 2. Al-Baqarah (254-286)

 

Surah 2. Al-Baqarah (254-286)

 
 
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ أَنفِقُواْ مِمَّا رَزَقْنَاكُم مِّن قَبْلِ أَن يَأْتِيَ يَوْمٌ لاَّ بَيْعٌ فِيهِ وَلاَ خُلَّةٌ وَلاَ شَفَاعَةٌ وَالْكَافِرُونَ هُمُ الظَّالِمُونَ﴿2:254﴾ 
(2:254) O Believers, spend of the wealth We have bestowed upon you *276 (in Our way) before the Day comes when there shall be no buying and no selling: when neither friendship nor intercession will be of any avail. Those, who adopt the way of disbelief are indeed the *277 wrongdoers. '
*276. This means spending in the way of God. The instruction given here is that those who have adopted the cause of the true faith should undertake financial sacrifices for its sake.
*277. Here the expression 'they who disbelieve' signifies either those who refused to obey God and held their property to be clearer than God's good pleasure, or those who did not believe in the Day of which they had been warned, or those who cherished the false i11usion that in the Hereafter they would somehow be able to secure their salvation and that their association with men devoted to God would stand them in good stead for they would intercede with God on their behalf.
 
اللّهُ لاَ إِلَـهَ إِلاَّ هُوَ الْحَيُّ الْقَيُّومُ لاَ تَأْخُذُهُ سِنَةٌ وَلاَ نَوْمٌ لَّهُ مَا فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَمَا فِي الأَرْضِ مَن ذَا الَّذِي يَشْفَعُ عِنْدَهُ إِلاَّ بِإِذْنِهِ يَعْلَمُ مَا بَيْنَ أَيْدِيهِمْ وَمَا خَلْفَهُمْ وَلاَ يُحِيطُونَ بِشَيْءٍ مِّنْ عِلْمِهِ إِلاَّ بِمَا شَاء وَسِعَ كُرْسِيُّهُ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالأَرْضَ وَلاَ يَؤُودُهُ حِفْظُهُمَا وَهُوَ الْعَلِيُّ الْعَظِيمُ﴿2:255﴾ 
(2:255) Allah: the Everlasting, the Sustainer of the whole Universe; there is no god but He. *278 He does neither slumber nor sleep. *279 Whatsoever is in the heavens and in the earth is His. *280 Who is there that can intercede with Him except by His own permission.? *281 He knows what is before the people and also what is hidden from them. And they cannot comprehend anything of His knowledge save whatever He Himself pleases to reveal. *282 His Kingdom *283 spreads over the heavens and the earth and the guarding of these does not weary Him. He alone is the Supreme and the Exalted. *284
*278. Irrespective of the number of gods or objects of worship set up by ignorant people, the fact remains that godhead in its entirety, belong's exclusively to the Eternal Being, Who is indebted to no one for His existence. In fact, He is not only self-existent, but upon Him rests the entire order of the universe. He alone wields all sovereign authority over His dominion. None shares either His attributes or His power and might, and no one has the same claims against the creatures as He. Hence, if anywhere in the heavens or the earth someone sets up anything or anybody as an object of worship and service (ilah) either instead of or in addition to the One True God this amounts to declaring war on reality.
*279. This is a refutation of the ideas of those who, in formulating their concepts of God, are inclined to consider God analogous to their own imperfect selves and hence ascribe to God the weaknesses characteristic of human beings. An instance at hand is the famous Biblical statement that God created the heavens and the earth in six days and on the seventh day He rested (see Genesis, chapters 1 and 2).
*280. To God belongs the heavens and the earth and everything therein. There is no one who shares anything with God in governance either of the heavens or of the earth. Any conceivable being other than God would necessarily be a part of the universe and thus belong to, and be a subject of, God rather than His partner and equal.
*281.This is a refutation of the ideas of those polytheists who consider either saints, angels or other beings to be so influential with God that if they were adamant in demanding something of Him, their demand would prevail. They are being told that, far from anyone having the power to impose his will on God, none - not even the greatest Prophets and the most highly esteemed angels - will dare utter one word in the majestic court of the Lord unless they are expressly permitted to do so.
*282. Here another blow is struck against polytheism. On the basis of the concept of God's unlimited sovereignty and omnipotence it was stressed, in the foregoing verses, that no one shares independently in God's governance of the universe, and no one is so powerful with God that his intercession would decisisely influence His judgement. The same point is stressed here but in a different manner. It is pointed out that no one possesses the knowledge that would enable him to comprehend the order of the universe and the considerations underlying it, so no one can legitimately interfere in its governance. The knowledge of human beings, of jinn, of angels and of all other creatures is limited and imperfect. No one's knowledge embraces all the facts of the universe. If someone did have the right to interfere even in only a part of the universe, and if his suggestions were of necessity to be put into eflect, the entire order of the universe would be disrupted. Creatures are incapable of understanding what is best for them, and do not have the capacity to know how best the universe should be governed. It is God alone Who knows everything.
*283. The Arabic term kursi signifies sovereignty, dominion and authority.
(The word Kursi has been variously interpreted by Muslim scholars. The literal meaning is obvious; it signifies that which one sits on. Scholars have differed, however, as to whether the word has been used in the Qur'an literally or figuratively. They have also disagreed whether the Kursi and 'Arsh Which occur in the Qur'an have one and the same meaning or are different. The main opinions expressed by the scholars are the following: (i) that Kursi signifies God's knowledge, a view attributed to Ibn 'Abbas; (ii) that it is identical with 'Arsh (Throne), a view attributed to Hasan al-Basri; (iii) that it signifies God's power (iv ) in opposition to such views a large number of scholars insist that Kursi should be considered a reality rather than be understood figuratively. In addition to many earlier scholars, this was vigorously championed by Ibn Taymiyah. It should be remembered, however, that Ibn Taymiyah and others who hold this opinion, side by side with affirming that Kursi is a reality, also emphasize that man has no knowledge about the nature and modality of Kursi and that it ought to be treated as something unique, being related to God Who is unique both in His essence and attributes. (See the commentaries of Alusi. Tabari, Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir and Shawkani on this verse. See also Ibn Taymiyah, Majmu al-Fatawa 1bn Taymiyah, vol. 5, pp. 55-8 and vol. 6, pp. 584-5. It is interesting to note that Sayyid Qutb, (martyred 1386 A.H/966 C.E.), a contemporary of Mawdudi and one of the most influential Islamic thinkers of our time, has interpreted the verse exactly, as Mawdudi did - Ed.)
*284. This verse is generally known as the 'Verse of the Throne' and it provides in one piece a knowledge of God without parallel.
The question that arises here is: What is the occasion for describing the Lord of the Universe and His attributes? In order to appreciate this one should rehearse the discourse beginning with verse 243 and continuing up to this point. In this discourse the believers were urged to strive with their lives and belongings to establish the true faith and were warned to get rid of the weaknesses which had characterized the conduct of the Israelites. A fundamental fact about war - that victory and success do not depend upon superiority in either numbers or weapons - was then indicated. They depend rather on faith, fortitude, discipline and firm resolution. Thereafter the Divine wisdom underlying fighting was disclosed, namely that God removes one set of people by means of another in order to maintain the good administration of the world. For were one group's dominance to be assured in perpetuity, the lives of all other human beings mould become miserable.
This was followed by the clarification of a misunderstanding which often arises in the minds of ignorant people. This misunderstanding arose from the false assumption that God had sent His Prophets so that all diversity and disagreement might come to an end. The people who accepted this premise, however, saw considerable diversity and disagreement, and were aware that falsehood existed side by side with Truth. They were agitated by the thought that this state of affairs might suggest helplessness on God's part, that He had failed to stamp out the evils He wanted to. In reply to this it was pointed out that it was not God's will to compel all human beings to follow one and the same way. Had it been so, man could not have deviated from the course set for him by God. This observation was followed by a passing reference to the subject with which the discourse opened. Finally, the point is made that no matter how many divergent beliefs, viewpoints, ways of life and conduct exist in actual life, the reality underlying the order of the universe is the one stated in this verse, and it remains unaffected by the misconceptions of people. On the other hand, however, it is not God's purpose to compel people to accept it. Whoever accepts it will find it to his own benefit; whoever rejects it, will find the result harmful.
 
لاَ إِكْرَاهَ فِي الدِّينِ قَد تَّبَيَّنَ الرُّشْدُ مِنَ الْغَيِّ فَمَنْ يَكْفُرْ بِالطَّاغُوتِ وَيُؤْمِن بِاللّهِ فَقَدِ اسْتَمْسَكَ بِالْعُرْوَةِ الْوُثْقَىَ لاَ انفِصَامَ لَهَا وَاللّهُ سَمِيعٌ عَلِيمٌ﴿2:256﴾ 
(2:256) There is no compulsion and coercion in regard to religion. *285 The right thing has been made distinct from the wrong thing: now whoever rejects taghut *286 and believes in Allah has taken a firm support that never gives way.
*285. Din here signifies the belief about God embodied in the above 'Verse of the Throne' and the entire system of life which rests upon it. The verse means that the system of Islam, embracing belief, morals and practical conduct cannot be imposed by compulsion. These are not things to which people can be yoked forcibly.
*286. Literally taghut means anvone who exceeds his legitimate limits. In the Qur'anic terminology, however, it refers to the creature who exceeds the limits of his creatureliness and arrogates to himself godhead and lordship. There are three stages of man's transgression and rebellion against God. The first stage is that one acknowledges in principle that obedience to God is right, but disregards it in practice. This is fisq (transgression). The second stage is that one not only disobeys but also rejects obedience in principle, and thus either refuses to become the subject of anyone at all or adopts someone other than God as the object of service and devotion. This is kufr (infidelity). The third stage is that one not only rebels against one's Lord but also imposes one's own will (in disregard of the Will of God - Ed.) on God's world and God's creatures. Anyone who reaches such a point is termed taghut and no one can be a true believer in God unless the authority of such a taghut (evil one) is rejected.
 
اللّهُ وَلِيُّ الَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ يُخْرِجُهُم مِّنَ الظُّلُمَاتِ إِلَى النُّوُرِ وَالَّذِينَ كَفَرُواْ أَوْلِيَآؤُهُمُ الطَّاغُوتُ يُخْرِجُونَهُم مِّنَ النُّورِ إِلَى الظُّلُمَاتِ أُوْلَـئِكَ أَصْحَابُ النَّارِ هُمْ فِيهَا خَالِدُونَ﴿2:257﴾ 
(2:257) And Allah (Whose support he takes) hears everything and knows everything. Allah is the Helper and Protector of those who believe in Him: He brings them out of the depths of darkness *287 into the light. As for the disbelievers, they have taghut *288 as their patron, who drives them out of light into the depths of darkness. These are the people who are doomed to the Fire, wherein they shall live for ever.
*287. The 'darkness' mentioned here means the darkness of Ignorance, which throws man off the path of salvation and well-being and directs his energies and efforts to wrong directions in defiance of reality. 'Light' here means the knowledge of Truth with the help of which man comes to know his own realitv and that of the universe; this knowledge also shows him the purpose of his life, and thus leads him consciously, to adopt the Right Way.
*288. Here taghut (see n. 286 above) has a plural connotation. It implies that by turning away from God a man is subjected not to the tyranny of one, but to the tyranny of many tawaghit (evil one). One of these is Satan, who throws up new temptations and allurements. Another potential taghut (transgressor) is man's own animal self, which seeks to subjugate him to his appetites and desires. There are many more taghut in the world outside oneself ; one's wife and children, one's relatives, one's family and one's community, one's friends and acquaintances, one's social environment and one's people, one's leaders and guides, one's government and rulers are all potential taghut, each one of whom seeks to have his purposes served. Man remains subjected to these innumerable masters throughout his life, not knowing precisely whom he should please and whose displeasure he should avoid.
أَلَمْ تَرَ إِلَى الَّذِي حَآجَّ إِبْرَاهِيمَ فِي رِبِّهِ أَنْ آتَاهُ اللّهُ الْمُلْكَ إِذْ قَالَ إِبْرَاهِيمُ رَبِّيَ الَّذِي يُحْيِـي وَيُمِيتُ قَالَ أَنَا أُحْيِـي وَأُمِيتُ قَالَ إِبْرَاهِيمُ فَإِنَّ اللّهَ يَأْتِي بِالشَّمْسِ مِنَ الْمَشْرِقِ فَأْتِ بِهَا مِنَ الْمَغْرِبِ فَبُهِتَ الَّذِي كَفَرَ وَاللّهُ لاَ يَهْدِي الْقَوْمَ الظَّالِمِينَ﴿2:258﴾ 
(2:258) Have *289 you not considered the case of the person who had an argument with Abraham *290 as to `Whom Abraham acknowledged as his Lord?' The dispute arose because Allah had given him the kingship, *291 (which had made him arrogant). When Abraham said, "My Lord is He Who gives life and causes death," he answered, "I give life and cause death." Then Abraham said, "Well, Allah brings the sun from the east: just bring it from the west." At this the disbeliever was confounded: *292 (yet he did not believe), for Allah does not show guidance to unjust people.
*289. It was stated earlier that God is the protector and supporter of the man of faith and brings him out of darkness into light whereas the protectors and supporters of the unbelievers are taghut who lead him out of light into darkness. It is to illustrate this that three examples are cited here. The first is that of a person before whom truth was put with such clear and impressive arguments that he could not refute it, but since he had placed his reins in the hands of taghut, he still could not believe in it. The two subsequent examples are those of two people who clung to God as their support, and God drew them out of darkness so that they were enabled to perceive directly those realities which are beyond the reach of man's perception.
*290. Here the reference is to Nimrod the ruler of the land of Abrahams birth, Iraq. The event which is referred to here is not mentioned at all in the Bible. However, the whole story occurs in the Talmud and is largely in harmony with the Qur'anic version. In the Talmudic version it is said that the father of Abraham occupied the highest office in Nimrod's government. When Abraham denounced polytheism, preached the doctrine of the unity of God and smashed the idols of the temple, his own father lodged a complaint against him before the king. This was followed by a conversation which is mentioned here.
*291. The dispute was over the question: Whom did he acknowledge as his Lord? The reason why this dispute arose was that God had granted kingship to the remonstrator, namely Nimrod. In order to comprehend fully the nature of the dispute hinted at in these statements, it is necessary to bear in mind the following:
(1) All polytheistic societies from the earliest times till today share one characteristic: they acknowledge God to be the Lord of lords, the greatest of all deities. They are unwilling to acknowledge Him, however, as the only God, the only object of man's worship and service.
(2) Polytheists tend to divide godhead into two categories. One of these belongs to the supernatural stratum. The being invested with godhead at this stratum rules over the entire system of causation and is the one to whom man turns for the fulfilment of his needs and for solutions to his problems. With this godhead the polytheists associate spirits, angels, jinn, heavenly bodies and several other beings. To them they address their prayers. They regard them as the objects of their worship. It is at their altars that offerings and sacrifices are placed. The second category of godhead belongs to the social and political stratum, and refers to the being who has the privilege of absolute sovereignty: the one who is entitled to make the rules of conduct for human life, the one who is entitled to unreserved obedience, the one who has unlimited authority to command in worldy matters. Polytheists of all ages have either wrested this godhead from God altogether, or they have had this godhead distributed, in addition to God, among many others such as royal dynastics, religious divines and the venerated personalities of society, whether they belonged to the past or to their own times. Many royal families have laid claim to godhead of the second category and, in order to consolidate their claim, they have pretended to be the offspring of gods in the former sense. In general there has been collusion between the religious and the ruling classes on this question.
(3) Nimrod's claim to godhead belong to this second category. He did not deny the existence of God, and he did not deny that He was the creator of the heavens and the earth, and that He alone governed the entire universe. Nimrod did not claim for himself that he held the reins of the entire realm of causation in his hands; he claimed rather that he was the absolute sovereign of Chaldaea and its inhabitants, that in his realm his word was law, that there was no authority superior to his own to which he was answerable. Any Chaldaean who did not either acknowledge him to be his lord or took anyone other than him to be so, was a rebel and a traitor.
(4) Abraham asserted that he acknowledged none else but the creator of the universe as his God, the only object worthy of his worship. He also denied categorically the godhead and overlordship of anyone else. This raised the question of how far the new creed could be tolerated, in so far as it was opposed to the tenets of the national religion and rejected the current ideas regarding the deities it worshipped. It also alerted the establishment in so far as Abraham's ideas might constitute a serious threat to the national state and to the position and privelege of its ruling coterie.
*292. Even though it was clear from Abraham's very first sentence that none other than God could legitimately be regarded as the Lord, Nimrod resorted to an unreasonable reply. But Abraham's second statement left no room even for Nimrod's brazenness. He knew well enough that the sun and the moon were subjected to the overlordship of the same God as Abraham had acknowledged as his Lord. What, then, could he say in reply? To accept the Truth which Abraham had made crystal clear by his argument meant that Nimrod ought to part with his absolutist despotism. The devil within him was not prepared for that. Hence he was left wonderstruck, unable to get out of the darkness of self-adoration to the light of Truth. If he had taken God rather than the Evil One as his patron and supporter, the true path would have been opened to him after Abraham's preaching.
According to the Talmud, Abraham was interned in prison on the orders of this king. He remained in prison for ten days, after which the king decided to have him burnt alive. It was then that the famous incident of Abraham being thrown into the fire took place (see Qur'an 21:51 f f.; 29:16; 37:83).
 
أَوْ كَالَّذِي مَرَّ عَلَى قَرْيَةٍ وَهِيَ خَاوِيَةٌ عَلَى عُرُوشِهَا قَالَ أَنَّىَ يُحْيِـي هَـَذِهِ اللّهُ بَعْدَ مَوْتِهَا فَأَمَاتَهُ اللّهُ مِئَةَ عَامٍ ثُمَّ بَعَثَهُ قَالَ كَمْ لَبِثْتَ قَالَ لَبِثْتُ يَوْمًا أَوْ بَعْضَ يَوْمٍ قَالَ بَل لَّبِثْتَ مِئَةَ عَامٍ فَانظُرْ إِلَى طَعَامِكَ وَشَرَابِكَ لَمْ يَتَسَنَّهْ وَانظُرْ إِلَى حِمَارِكَ وَلِنَجْعَلَكَ آيَةً لِّلنَّاسِ وَانظُرْ إِلَى العِظَامِ كَيْفَ نُنشِزُهَا ثُمَّ نَكْسُوهَا لَحْمًا فَلَمَّا تَبَيَّنَ لَهُ قَالَ أَعْلَمُ أَنَّ اللّهَ عَلَى كُلِّ شَيْءٍ قَدِيرٌ﴿2:259﴾ 
(2:259) Or take the case of the one who passed by a township that had fallen down upon its roofs. *293 He exclaimed, "How shall Allah bring back to life this township that has become dead?" *294 At this Allah caused him to die and he lay dead for a hundred years. Then Allah brought him back to life and asked him, "How long have you lain here?" He answered. "I might have lain here for a day or a few hours." Allah said, "Nay, you have been lying here in this state for a hundred years: now, just have a look at your food and your drink; they have not become spoiled in the least. Then have a look at your ass, (and see that his very bones have become rotten) and We have done this in order to make you a Sign for the people. *295 Look, how We raise up the skeleton and set the bones (of the ass) and cover them with flesh and (put breath of life into them)." And when the Reality became manifest to him, he said, "I know that Allah has power over everything."
*293. It is irrelevant to ask who the person was and the place where this incident occurred. The real purpose in mentioning this event is to show how God showed light to the one who had chosen God as his protector and supporter. As for determining the name of the person and the locality, we neither possess the means to do so, nor is such an endeavour in any way beneficial. What seems to be evident from the statement that follows is that the person concerned must necessarily have been a Prophet.
*294. This question does not signify that the person concerned denied or entertained any doubts regarding life afterdeath. His enquiry merely indicates his wish to have direct knowledge of reality, like the Prophets of the past.
*295. The restoration of life to a man considered to have died a hundred years ago was in itself sufficient to make him, for his contemporaries, a living testimony.
 
وَإِذْ قَالَ إِبْرَاهِيمُ رَبِّ أَرِنِي كَيْفَ تُحْيِـي الْمَوْتَى قَالَ أَوَلَمْ تُؤْمِن قَالَ بَلَى وَلَـكِن لِّيَطْمَئِنَّ قَلْبِي قَالَ فَخُذْ أَرْبَعَةً مِّنَ الطَّيْرِ فَصُرْهُنَّ إِلَيْكَ ثُمَّ اجْعَلْ عَلَى كُلِّ جَبَلٍ مِّنْهُنَّ جُزْءًا ثُمَّ ادْعُهُنَّ يَأْتِينَكَ سَعْيًا وَاعْلَمْ أَنَّ اللّهَ عَزِيزٌ حَكِيمٌ﴿2:260﴾ 
(2:260) Call to mind the other event also, when Abraham said, "My Lord, show me how Thou bringest the dead back to life?" He said "Have you no faith in this?" Abraham humbly replied, "I do believe but I ask this to reassure my heart." *296 Allah said, "Well, take four birds and tame them with yourself and then (cut them into pieces) and place a piece of each of them on each hill. Then call them and they will come running to you; know this for certain that Allah is All-Powerful, All-Wise." *297
*296. That is, the rest and inner peace that one attains as a result of direct personal observation.
*297. People have subjected this incident and the one above to very strange interpretations. If one bears in mind, however, God's dealings with the Prophets, one will not feel any need to strain one's energies in hammering out such artificially-contrived interpretations. The truth of the matter is that the kind of function that ordinary believers are required to perform requires of them no more than believing in certain truths without perceiving them through their senses. The function entrusted by God to the Prophets is such that they ought to have direct knowledge of the truths, the acceptance of which they are required to invite others to.
Thanks to the nature of their mission, the Prophets had to tell the world that while others resorted to conjecture and fancy, they spoke from personal direct observation and experience; that while others could claim to possess only imagination, they possessed reliable knowledge; that while others were blind, they alone had the God-given capacity to perceive the Truth. It is for this reason that the angels come to the Prophets and they see them with their own eyes. It is for the same reason that the Prophets were allowed a glimpse of the system of governance of the heavens and the earth. It is for the same reason, again, that they were enabled to observe Heaven and Hell and witness scenes of resurrection.
The Prophets are in possession of faith in the Unseen at the time they are invested with prophethood. After being designated to prophethood, they are further honoured by special favours and privileges, and initiated into what may be termed as 'faith in the seen' (for the 'Unseen' is changed for them to the 'seen'). This favour is a special prerogative of the Prophets. (For a further explanation see Suah 9, nn. 17, 18, 19 and 34.)
مَّثَلُ الَّذِينَ يُنفِقُونَ أَمْوَالَهُمْ فِي سَبِيلِ اللّهِ كَمَثَلِ حَبَّةٍ أَنبَتَتْ سَبْعَ سَنَابِلَ فِي كُلِّ سُنبُلَةٍ مِّئَةُ حَبَّةٍ وَاللّهُ يُضَاعِفُ لِمَن يَشَاء وَاللّهُ وَاسِعٌ عَلِيمٌ﴿2:261﴾ 
(2:261) The charity *298 of those who expend their wealth in the way of Allah *299 may be likened to a grain of corn, which produces seven ears and each ear yields a hundred grains. Likewise Allah develops manifold the charity of anyone He pleases, for He is All-Embracing, All-Wise. *300
*298. Here the discourse turns to the subject touched upon in verses 244 ff. above. Believers were urged to sacrifice life and property for the sake of the great cause in which they believed. It is difficult, however, to persuade those whose standard of judgement in respect of economic matters has not completely changed, to rise above either personal or narrow group interests and dispense their wealth wholeheartedly for the sake of a righteous cause. People who have a materialistic outlook and whose life constitutes an uninterrupted pursuit of money, who adore every single penny they have, and who can never stop thinking about their balance sheets can never have the capacity to do anything really effective for the sake of higher ideals. When such people apparently do spend money for the sake of higher moral ideals, it is merely an outward act which is performed after carefully calculating the material benefits which are likely to accrue either to them, to their group or to their nation. With this outlook a person cannot go one step forward along the path of that religion which requires man to become indifferent to cosiderations of worldly profit and loss, and constantly to spend time, energy and money to make the Word of God reign supreme.
To follow such a course requires a moral outlook of an altogether different kind; it requires breadth of vision and magnanimity and, above all, an exclusive devotion to God. At the same time it requires that man's collective life should be so re-moulded as to become conducive to the growth of the moral qualities mentioned above rather than to the growth of a materialistic outlook and behaviour. Hence the three succeeding sections (i.e. verses 261-81 - Ed.) are devoted to enunciating instructions designed to foster such an outlook.
*299. A great many expenditures fall under the category of spending 'in the way of Allah', as long as this is done according to the laws of God and with the intention of seeking His good pleasure. This includes spending one's wealth to fulfil one's legitimate needs, to provide for one's family, to look after the needs of relatives, to help the needy and to contribute to the general welfare and to spread the true religion and so on.
*300. The greater the sincerity and the more intense the feeling with which one spends for the sake of God, the greater will be God's reward. It is not difficult at all for God, Who blesses a grain so that out of it seven hundred grains grow, to allow one's charity to grow in like manner so that the unit of money one spends will return seven hundred fold. This statement is followed by a mention of two of God's attributes. First is His munificence. His Hand is not clenched so as to restrain Him from recompensing man for his deeds to the fullest extent that he deserves. Second, God is All-Knowing. He is not unaware of what one spends and the spirit in which one spends. So there is no reason to fear that one will not receive one's due reward.
 
الَّذِينَ يُنفِقُونَ أَمْوَالَهُمْ فِي سَبِيلِ اللّهِ ثُمَّ لاَ يُتْبِعُونَ مَا أَنفَقُواُ مَنًّا وَلاَ أَذًى لَّهُمْ أَجْرُهُمْ عِندَ رَبِّهِمْ وَلاَ خَوْفٌ عَلَيْهِمْ وَلاَ هُمْ يَحْزَنُونَ﴿2:262﴾ 
(2:262) Those people who expend their wealth in the way of Allah, and then do not follow up their charity with reminders of their generosity nor injure the feelings of the recipient, shall get their reward from their Lord; they will have no fear and no sorrow of any kind. *301
*301. They need not fear that they will not be amply rewarded or that they will have any reason to feel remorse for spending in the way of God.
 
قَوْلٌ مَّعْرُوفٌ وَمَغْفِرَةٌ خَيْرٌ مِّن صَدَقَةٍ يَتْبَعُهَآ أَذًى وَاللّهُ غَنِيٌّ حَلِيمٌ﴿2:263﴾ 
(2:263) A kind word and forbearance is better than that charity which is followed up by insult or injury. Allah is Self-Sufficient and Forbearing. *302
**302 This implies two things. First, Allah does not stand in need of anybody's charity, for He is Self-Sufficient. Secondly, He likes those people who are generous and large-hearted, but does not like frivolous and narrow-minded people, for He Himself is Generous, Clement and Forbearing. How, then Allah, Who bestows on the people the necessities of life without stint, and forgives and pardons them over and over again in spite of their errors, would like those who mar the self-respect of a person by sending repeated reminders of their charity and making pointed references to it even though they might have given only a farthing. A Tradition of the Holy Prophet says that on the Day of Resurrection, Allah will neither speak a word nor even so much as look at a person who makes pointed references to the gift he gave to some one.
 
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ لاَ تُبْطِلُواْ صَدَقَاتِكُم بِالْمَنِّ وَالأذَى كَالَّذِي يُنفِقُ مَالَهُ رِئَاء النَّاسِ وَلاَ يُؤْمِنُ بِاللّهِ وَالْيَوْمِ الآخِرِ فَمَثَلُهُ كَمَثَلِ صَفْوَانٍ عَلَيْهِ تُرَابٌ فَأَصَابَهُ وَابِلٌ فَتَرَكَهُ صَلْدًا لاَّ يَقْدِرُونَ عَلَى شَيْءٍ مِّمَّا كَسَبُواْ وَاللّهُ لاَ يَهْدِي الْقَوْمَ الْكَافِرِينَ﴿2:264﴾ 
(2:264) O Believers, do not spoil your charity by taunts and injury to the recipients like the one who practises charity to be seen by men, while he neither believes in Allah nor in the Last Day. *303 His charity may be likened to the rainfall on a rock which had only a thin layer of soil upon it. When heavy rain fell on it, the whole of the soil washed away and the rock was left bare *304 Such people do not gain the reward they imagine they have earned by their seeming charity; Allah does not show the Right Way to the ungrateful . *305
*303. The desire to display one's good deeds itself proves that the person concerned does not truly believe in God and the Hereafter. One who does good merely in order to impress people with his righteousness clearly regards those persons as his god. Such a person neither expects reward from God nor is he concerned that his good deeds will some day be reckoned to his credit.
*304. In this parable, 'heavy rain' signifies charity, and 'rock' the wicked intent and motive which lie behind external acts of charity. The expression, 'with a thin coating of earth upon it' signifies the external aspect of charity which conceals the wicked intent and motive of a man. These explanations make the significance and purport of the parable clear. The natural effect of rainfall should be the growth of plants and harvest. But if the earth, which is the repository of fertility, is insignificant in quantity, for example only a coating of it on some rock, the result will be that instead of yielding any beneficial result the rainfall may even prove harmful. Similarly, charity has the capacity to generate goodness and benevolence in human beings. Man's potential for goodness, however, is conditional on sincerity. Devoid of that charity leads to sheer loss and waste.
*305. Here the term kafir is used in the sense of the ungrateful person who refuses to acknowledge benevolence. People who either make use of the bounties of God in order to seek the gratitude of God's creatures rather than God's good pleasure, or who spend on others and then hurt them by stressing their acts of benevolence and kindness, are ungrateful to God for His bounties and favours. Since such people do not seek to please God, God does not care to direct them to the way that leads to His good pleasure.
 
وَمَثَلُ الَّذِينَ يُنفِقُونَ أَمْوَالَهُمُ ابْتِغَاء مَرْضَاتِ اللّهِ وَتَثْبِيتًا مِّنْ أَنفُسِهِمْ كَمَثَلِ جَنَّةٍ بِرَبْوَةٍ أَصَابَهَا وَابِلٌ فَآتَتْ أُكُلَهَا ضِعْفَيْنِ فَإِن لَّمْ يُصِبْهَا وَابِلٌ فَطَلٌّ وَاللّهُ بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ بَصِيرٌ﴿2:265﴾ 
(2:265) In contrast to them, the charity of those, who expend their wealth sincerely with the sole desire of pleasing Allah, may be likened to a garden on a plateau. If heavy rain falls, it yields its produce twofold: and even if there is no heavy rain but only a light shower, that too, is sufficient *306 for it: whatever you do is in the sight of Allah.
*306. 'Heavy rain' signifies here charity motivated by a high degree of benevolence and sincerity. 'Light shower' refers to charity deficient in sincerity and goodness, though not altogether devoid of them.
 
أَيَوَدُّ أَحَدُكُمْ أَن تَكُونَ لَهُ جَنَّةٌ مِّن نَّخِيلٍ وَأَعْنَابٍ تَجْرِي مِن تَحْتِهَا الأَنْهَارُ لَهُ فِيهَا مِن كُلِّ الثَّمَرَاتِ وَأَصَابَهُ الْكِبَرُ وَلَهُ ذُرِّيَّةٌ ضُعَفَاء فَأَصَابَهَا إِعْصَارٌ فِيهِ نَارٌ فَاحْتَرَقَتْ كَذَلِكَ يُبَيِّنُ اللّهُ لَكُمُ الآيَاتِ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَتَفَكَّرُونَ﴿2:266﴾ 
(2:266) Would anyone of you wish that he should have a green garden of palm trees and vines, watered by canals and laden with all sorts of fruit and then it should be consumed by a fiery whirlwind at the very time when he himself has grown very old and his small children are too feeble to earn anything? *307 Thus Allah makes His revelations clear and plain to you that you may ponder over them.
*307. It is obvious that a man does not like to see the earnings of his lifetime destroyed in his old age, when he needs them badly and when he can no longer earn. How is it, then, that he can contemplate stepping into the realm of the Hereafter and finding suddenly that he is empty-handed; that he has sown nothing from which he can reap the fruit? In the Next World there will he no opportunity to begin earning anew. Whatever one can do towards ensuring one's well-being in the Hereafter must he done in this world. If one devotes oneself totally to the pursuit of the riches of this world rather than to the Hereafter, one's situation will be as pitiable as that of the age-stricken man whose orchard (his source of income in his old age) is reduced to ashes too late for him to produce a new one.
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ أَنفِقُواْ مِن طَيِّبَاتِ مَا كَسَبْتُمْ وَمِمَّا أَخْرَجْنَا لَكُم مِّنَ الأَرْضِ وَلاَ تَيَمَّمُواْ الْخَبِيثَ مِنْهُ تُنفِقُونَ وَلَسْتُم بِآخِذِيهِ إِلاَّ أَن تُغْمِضُواْ فِيهِ وَاعْلَمُواْ أَنَّ اللّهَ غَنِيٌّ حَمِيدٌ﴿2:267﴾ 
(2:267) O Believers, expend in Allah's Way the best portion of the wealth you have earned and of that We have produced for you from the earth, and do not pick out for charity those worthless things which you yourselves would only accept in disdain by connivance, if they were offered to you. Understand it well that Allah does not stand in need of anything whatsoever and has all the praise-worthy attributes. *308
*308. It is obvious that He Who is invested with the best attributes cannot be appreciative of those possessed of low and evil qualities. God is, for instance, Generous and Beneficent, and constantly showers His favours and bounties on His creatures. How is it possible for Him, then, to love those who are mean, niggardly and vicious?
 
الشَّيْطَانُ يَعِدُكُمُ الْفَقْرَ وَيَأْمُرُكُم بِالْفَحْشَاء وَاللّهُ يَعِدُكُم مَّغْفِرَةً مِّنْهُ وَفَضْلاً وَاللّهُ وَاسِعٌ عَلِيمٌ﴿2:268﴾ 
(2:268) Satan holds out to you the threat of poverty and prompts you to adopt a shameless niggardly conduct, but Allah holds out from Himself the promise of pardon and bounty: Allah is All-Embracing, All-Knowing.

 
يُؤتِي الْحِكْمَةَ مَن يَشَاء وَمَن يُؤْتَ الْحِكْمَةَ فَقَدْ أُوتِيَ خَيْرًا كَثِيرًا وَمَا يَذَّكَّرُ إِلاَّ أُوْلُواْ الأَلْبَابِ﴿2:269﴾ 
(2:269) He bestows wisdom upon anyone He wills, and he who is given wisdom is in fact given great wealth, *309 but only those who have common sense learn lessons from these things.
*309. 'Wisdom' signifies sound perception and sound judgement. The purpose of this statement is to point out that one who is possessed of wisdom will follow God's path rather than that of Satan. The followers of Satan believe that it is the height of wisdom and shrewdness to be constantly concerned with saving out of one's earnings, and to be perpetually on the look-out for higher income. But for those endowed with Divine perception such an attitude is sheer folly. True wisdom consists in using one's resource moderately to meet one's needs and in spending whatever is left for charitable purposes. It may be possible for a person who does not spend for charitable purposes to attain a much greater degree of worldy prosperity than others. The life of this world, however, is only a fraction of man's total life which is not limited to the confines of this world. One who risks the well-being of his eternal existence for the sake of highly transient well-beingin this world is indeed a fool. The truly wise person is he who makes full use of the tenure of this life and invests his resources in prosperity in this life that will never cease.
 
وَمَا أَنفَقْتُم مِّن نَّفَقَةٍ أَوْ نَذَرْتُم مِّن نَّذْرٍ فَإِنَّ اللّهَ يَعْلَمُهُ وَمَا لِلظَّالِمِينَ مِنْ أَنصَارٍ﴿2:270﴾ 
(2:270) Surely Allah knows whatever you may have spent and whatever vow you may have made, and the wrong-doers (who spend in the way of Satan) shall have no helpers. *310
*310. Whether or not a man spends in the way of God, and whether or not he vows to spend in the way of God, God is fully aware both of his intentions and deeds. All those who either spend for the sake of God or vow to spend for the sake of God will be adequately rewarded. As for those who have either spent or have vowed to spend for others than God, no one will save them from God's chastisement.
'Vow' means either a man's pledge to spend something or to perform some act of goodness which is not obligatory on him providing a particular wish of his is fulfilled. Provided that this vow is related to some wish which is in itself permissible and good and that the person concerned makes it to none but God and for the sake of God, then such a vow will be reckoned as an act of obedience to God and its fulfilment will be worthy of reward. Otherwise such a vow will be seen as an act of disobedience and sin and its fulfilment will invite punishment from God.
 
إِن تُبْدُواْ الصَّدَقَاتِ فَنِعِمَّا هِيَ وَإِن تُخْفُوهَا وَتُؤْتُوهَا الْفُقَرَاء فَهُوَ خَيْرٌ لُّكُمْ وَيُكَفِّرُ عَنكُم مِّن سَيِّئَاتِكُمْ وَاللّهُ بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ خَبِيرٌ﴿2:271﴾ 
(2:271) If you practise charity publicly, it is good; but if you give charity secretly to the needy, it is much better for you, *311 for this will expiate many of your sins. *312 Anyhow, Allah is well aware of whatever you do.
*311. If charity is of an obligatory nature it is preferable to dispense it openly. Non-obligatory charity should preferably be dispensed secretly. This principle applies to all acts. As a rule, it is more meritorious to perform obligatory acts openly and non-obligatory acts of goodness, secretly .
*312. The performance of good deeds in secret leads to the continual improvement of one's life and character. One's good qualities develop fully and one's bad qualities gradually wither away. This makes a man so acceptable to God that He pardons the sins that he might have committed.
 
لَّيْسَ عَلَيْكَ هُدَاهُمْ وَلَـكِنَّ اللّهَ يَهْدِي مَن يَشَاء وَمَا تُنفِقُواْ مِنْ خَيْرٍ فَلأنفُسِكُمْ وَمَا تُنفِقُونَ إِلاَّ ابْتِغَاء وَجْهِ اللّهِ وَمَا تُنفِقُواْ مِنْ خَيْرٍ يُوَفَّ إِلَيْكُمْ وَأَنتُمْ لاَ تُظْلَمُونَ﴿2:272﴾ 
(2:272) O Prophet, you are not responsible for their guidance; Allah Himself shows guidance to anyone He pleases. And whatever wealth you spend in charity, it is for your own good. As you spend of your wealth to win Allah's pleasure, you will be given full reward for whatever you spend and you will not be deprived in the least of your rightful due. *313
*313. In the beginning Muslims tended to hesitate in helping either their non-Muslim relatives or other non-Muslims who were in need. They thought that helping Muslims only constituted 'spending in the way of Allah'. This verse rejects this attitude. The purpose of this verse is to point out that Muslims are not responsible for forcing true guidance down the throats of people; conveying the message of Truth to people absolves them of the obligation incumbent upon them. It is, then, for God either to favour the recipients of the message with true perception or not. In addition Muslims should not shrink from helping their relatives in the affairs of the world on the ground that they are not following the true guidance; they will he rewarded by God for whatever help they render to needy persons for the sake of God.
 
لِلْفُقَرَاء الَّذِينَ أُحصِرُواْ فِي سَبِيلِ اللّهِ لاَ يَسْتَطِيعُونَ ضَرْبًا فِي الأَرْضِ يَحْسَبُهُمُ الْجَاهِلُ أَغْنِيَاء مِنَ التَّعَفُّفِ تَعْرِفُهُم بِسِيمَاهُمْ لاَ يَسْأَلُونَ النَّاسَ إِلْحَافًا وَمَا تُنفِقُواْ مِنْ خَيْرٍ فَإِنَّ اللّهَ بِهِ عَلِيمٌ﴿2:273﴾ 
(2:273) Those who are engaged so much in the cause of Allah that they cannot move about in the land to earn their livelihood and are, therefore, in straitened circumstances, specially deserve help. An ignorant person would suppose them to be well off because of their self-respect; you can know their real condition from their faces, for they are not the ones who would beg of people with importunity. And Allah will surely know whatever you will spend on them. *314
*314. The people referred to here are those who, because they had dedicated themselves wholly to serving the religion of God, were unable to earn their livelihood. In the time of the Prophet there was a group of such volunteer workers, known as Ashab al-Suffah, consisting of about three or four hundred people who had forsaken their homes and gone to Madina. They remained at all times in the company, of the Prophet, always at his beck and call to perform whatever service he required of them. They were dispatched by the Prophet on whatever expeditions he wished. Whenever there was nothing to do elsewhere, they stayed in Madina and devoted themseleves to acquiring religious knowledge and imparting it to others. Since they were full-time workers and had no private resources to meet their needs, God pointed out to the Muslims that helping such people was the best way of 'spending in the way of Allah'.
الَّذِينَ يُنفِقُونَ أَمْوَالَهُم بِاللَّيْلِ وَالنَّهَارِ سِرًّا وَعَلاَنِيَةً فَلَهُمْ أَجْرُهُمْ عِندَ رَبِّهِمْ وَلاَ خَوْفٌ عَلَيْهِمْ وَلاَ هُمْ يَحْزَنُونَ﴿2:274﴾ 
(2:274) Those who spend their wealth secretly and openly by day and night, will have their reward with their Lord, and they have nothing to fear nor grieve.

 
الَّذِينَ يَأْكُلُونَ الرِّبَا لاَ يَقُومُونَ إِلاَّ كَمَا يَقُومُ الَّذِي يَتَخَبَّطُهُ الشَّيْطَانُ مِنَ الْمَسِّ ذَلِكَ بِأَنَّهُمْ قَالُواْ إِنَّمَا الْبَيْعُ مِثْلُ الرِّبَا وَأَحَلَّ اللّهُ الْبَيْعَ وَحَرَّمَ الرِّبَا فَمَن جَاءهُ مَوْعِظَةٌ مِّن رَّبِّهِ فَانتَهَىَ فَلَهُ مَا سَلَفَ وَأَمْرُهُ إِلَى اللّهِ وَمَنْ عَادَ فَأُوْلَـئِكَ أَصْحَابُ النَّارِ هُمْ فِيهَا خَالِدُونَ﴿2:275﴾ 
(2:275) But those who devour interest *315 become like the one whom Satan has bewitched and maddened by his touch. *316 They have been condemned to this condition because they say, "Trade is just like interest”, *317 whereas Allah has made trade lawful and interest unlawfu1. *318 Henceforth, if one abstains from taking interest after receiving this admonition from his Lord, no legal action will be taken against him regarding the interest he had devoured before; his case shall ultimately go to Allah. *319 But if one repeats the same crime after this, . he shall go to Hell, where he shall abide for ever.
*315. The term riba in Arabic means 'to grow, to exceed, to increase'. Technically, it denotes the amount that a lender receives from a borrower at a fixed rate of interest. At the time of the revelation of the Qur'an several forms of interest transactions were in vogue and were designated as riba by the Arabs. Of these one was that the vendor sold an article and fixed a time limit for the payment of the price, stipulating that if the buyer failed to pay within the specified period of time, he would extend the time limit but increase the price of the article. Another was that a man loaned a sum of money to another person and stipulated that the borrower should return a specified amount in excess of the amount loaned within a given time limit. A third form of interest transaction was that the borrower and vendor agreed that the former would repay the loan within a certain limit at a fixed rate of interest, and that if he failed to do so within the limit, the lender would extend the time limit, but at the same time would increase the rate of interest. It is to transactions such as these that the injunctions mentioned here apply.
*316. The Arabs used the word majnun (possessed by the jinn) to characterize the insane. The Qur'an uses the same expression about those who take interest. Just as an insane person, unconstrained by ordinary reason, resorts to all kinds of immoderate acts, so does one who takes interest. He pursues his craze for money as if he were insane. He is heedless of the fact that interest cuts the very roots of human love, brotherhood and fellow-feeling, and undermines the welfare and happiness of human society, and that his enrichment is at the expense of the well-being of many other human beings. This is the state of his 'insanity' in this world: since a man will rise in the Hereafter in the same state in which he dies in the present world, he will be resurrected as a lunatic.
*317. The unsoundness of this view lies in not differentiating between the profit one gains on investment in commercial enterprises on the one hand, and interest on the other. As a result of this confusion, the proponents of this view argue that if profit on money invested in a business enterprise is permissible, why should the profit accruing on loaned money be deemed unlawful? Similar areuments are advanced by those who thrive on interest in our own times. Their argument runs as follows: A person who could have profitably invested his money in a commercial enterprise loans it out to somebody who, in turn, makes a profit out of it. In such circumstances why should the borrower not pay the lender a part of the profit? Such people, however, disregard the fact that no enterprise in which a man participates, whether it is commercial, industrial or agricultural, and whether one participates in it with one's organizing skill or capital, or by both, is immune from risk. No enterprise carries absolutely guaranteed profit at a fixed rate. What is the justification, then, for the fact that out of all the people in the business world, the financier alone should be considered entitled to a profit at a fixed rate in all circumstances, and should be protected against all possibility of loss?
Let us set aside for a moment the questions of non-profitable loans and vacillations in the rate of profit. Let us consider only the question of loans for profitable enterprises, and confine our consideration to loans made at non-exorbitant rates of interest. The question, however, remains: Which rational principle, which logic, whch canon of justice and which sound economic principle can justify that those who spend their time, energy, capacity and resources, and whose effort and skill make a business thrive, are not guaranteed profit at any fixed rate, whereas those who merely lend out their funds are fully secured against all risks of loss and are guaranteed profit at a fixed rate? And which principle can justify the fact that a man lends out his funds to an industrial concern and fixes, say for the next twenty years, that he will be entitled to receive each year a given per cent interest on his capital, while the proprietors of the industrial concern have no means of foretelling the price changes affecting their commodity, and hence their profit? Let us consider another case, namely that of war loans. How can it be appropriate that all classes of people endure all kinds of losses and are exposed to all kinds of risks and dangers connected with war, whereas the financiers, simply by having made loans, continue to receive Interest on them for long periods of time, sometimes even for a whole century?
*318. The essential difference between non-interest business transactions and interest-bearing transactions rests on the following grounds:
(1) In ordinary business transactions there occurs a mutually equitable exchange of benefits between the buyer and the seller. The buyer derives benefit from the article which he purchases from the seller; the seller receives compensation for the effort, ingenuity and time spent on making the article available to the buyer. In interest-bearing transactions, on the other hand, the exchange of benefits does not take place equitably. The interest receiving party, receives a fixed amount as a payment for using the loan he advances and thus his gain is secured. The other party to the transaction has only one thing at his disposal - a period of time during which he can make use of the funds loaned, and which may not always yield a profit. If such a person spends the borrowed funds on consumption, there is obviously no question of profit. Even if the funds are invested in trade, agriculture or industry, one stands the chance both of making a profit and of incurring a loss during the period of time in question. Hence an interest-bearing transaction entails either a loss on one side and a profit on the other, or an assured and fixed profit on one side and an uncertain and unspecified profit on the other.
(2) In business enterprises the profit that a person makes, however large it may be, is made only once. The person who lends out money on interest receives, on the contrary, an on-going profit which multiplies with the passage of time. Moreover, however large the extent of the profit made by the borrower from the loaned money it will still be within certain limits, while the claims of the lender in return for this profit are unlimited. It is even possible that the lender may seize the entire turnover of the borrower if he defaults on payment, thus depriving him of all the resources from which he makes his living. It is also possible that even after the lender has seized all the property of the borrower, his claims will still remain unsatisfied.
(3) In a business deal, the transaction ends with the exchange between a commodity and its price. After this exchange has taken place, no obligation remains on either party towards the other. If the transaction is that of rent, the thing rented (e.g. land or building) is not consumed but is rather used and remains intact, and is returned to the owner after a stipulated period of time. In a transaction involving interest, however, what actually happens is that the borrower first spends the loaned funds, then reclaims them with his efforts, returning them to the lender together with a surplus.
(4) In agriculture and industry, and in trade and commerce, one makes a profit after having expended one's effort, intelligence and time. In an interest-bearing transaction, on the contrary, one becomes entitled to a sizeable share in the earnings of others without any toil and effort, by merely allowing someone to make use of one's surplus money. The lender is neither a 'partner' in the technical sense of the term, for he does not share both the profit and the loss, nor is his share in proportion to the actual profit.
There is thus a tremendous difference from an economic point of view between business transactions as such and interest- bearing transactions. Whereas the former plays a highly constructive role in human society, the latter leads to its corrosion. This is in addition to its moral implications. By its very nature interest breeds meanness, selfishness, apathy and cruelty towards others. It leads to the worship of money and destroys fellow-feeling and a spirit of altruistic co-operation between man and man. Thus it is ruinous for mankind from both an economic and a moral viewpoint.
*319. What is said here is not that man will be pardoned by God for the interest taken in the past, but that it is for God to judge him. The expression: 'may keep his previous gains' does not signify absolute pardon from God for the interest one has taken, rather it points to the legal concession that has been made. It only means that no legal claim will be made for the interest taken in the past. For were such claims to be entertained, an endless succession of litigation would ensue. From a moral point of view, however, the earnings made by way of interest would continue to be impure. If a person is really God-fearing and if his economic and moral viewpoint has really undergone a change under the influence of Islam, he will try to abstain from spending on himself the income which he has obtained by illegitimate means. He will also try to seek out those from whom he has derived illegitimate earnings and will try to return those earnings to such people; if he is unable to locate them, he will try to spend them on collective welfare rather than on himself. It is this conduct alone which can save him from the punishment of God. As for one who continues to enjoy his illegitimate earnings, it is not unlikely that he will be subjected to God's punishment.
 
يَمْحَقُ اللّهُ الْرِّبَا وَيُرْبِي الصَّدَقَاتِ وَاللّهُ لاَ يُحِبُّ كُلَّ كَفَّارٍ أَثِيمٍ﴿2:276﴾ 
(2:276) Allah deprives interest of all blessing and develops charity; *320 and Allah does not like an ungrateful, sinful person. *321
*320. The fact stated in this verse is a truism from a moral and spiritual as well as from an economic and social viewpoint. For, although wealth apparently multiplies through interest and shrinks as a result of charity, in actual fact the opposite is the case. By God's decree, the law of nature is such that interest not only serves as a strain on moral and spiritual well-being, and social and economic growth, it also causes actual regression and decline. Charity, however, (including such acts as lending money to people with the stipulation that they should return it if they can. and at their convenience) leads to the growth and expansion of man's moral and spiritual qualities and to the growth of human society and economy.
Looked at from moral and spiritual standpoints, it is evident that interest is not only the outcome of selfishness, miserliness and callousness but also encourages their growth. Charity, on the other hand, is the outcome of generosity, compassion, large -heartedness and magnanimity, with the result that the more one practises charity the more these qualities develop. It is obvious that if there is a society whose individuals are selfish in their dealings with one another, in which none is prepared to assist the other without self-interest, in which every person considers the other's need an opportunity to capitalize and exploit, in which the interests of the rich are directly opposed to the interests of the common people, that society does not rest on stable foundations. In such a society, instead of love and compassion there is bound to grow mutual spite and bitterness, apathy, indifference and callousness. The elements which compose such a society are bound to remain inclined towards disintegration and chaos; acute internal conflict and strife are sure to occur.
Contrast this with the society which is based on mutual sympathy and co-operation, whose individuals deal with one another magnanimously, in which, when a person is in need, people willingly come forward to accord generous help, in which the 'haves' assist the 'have-nots' with compassion and at least engage in just and equitable co-operation. In such a society mutual cordiality. goodwill and fellow-feeling are bound to flourish. The various components of such a society will be closely knit together and prove a source of mutual support. In such a society internal conflict and strife will make few inroads. Also, owing to mutual co-operation and goodwill the pace of development should be faster than in the other kind of society.
Let us now look at the matter from an economic viewpoint, from which inte rest- bearing loans are seen to be of two kinds. The first category, consists of loans incurred by people in genuine need, who are compelled to borrow for their personal consumption requirements. The second consists of the loans incurred by businessmen for investment in trade and industry or agriculture.
The first category is generally acknowledged to lead to ruin. Nevertheless, there is not one country in the world where financiers and financial institutions are not sucking the blood of poor labourers, peasants and ordinary low-income people through interest on consumption loans. The burden of interest makes it extremely difficult, often impossible, for borrowers to pay off the original loan. They may even have to resort to fresh borrowing from elsewhere to pay if off. Because of the way interest works, the sum outstanding against them often remains even after they, have paid twice or three times its amount in interest. The bulk of the income of labourers is snatched away from them by lenders, leaving them without enough for the bare necessities of life for themselves and their families. This situation steadily erodes their interest in their jobs. For if someone else is to reap the benefit of a man's hard work, why should he work hard at all? Moreover, oppressed by the worries of debt, the health and strength of labourers is gradually destroyed by undernourishment and lack of medical treatment.
In short, a minority of people continually fatten themselves by sucking the blood of millions of ordinary people, but the total production level of the people remains much lower than its optimum potential. Ultimately, of course, these exploiters are seldom spared the evil consequences of their actions. Their callous selfishness causes such widespread misery among the masses that anger and resentment against the rich smoulder in their hearts ready to erupt in times of revolutionary unrest. The exploiters then have to pay very dearly: their ill-earned riches are not only wrested from them, they are either killed mercilessly or subjected to ignominy and humiliation.
The second category of loans, those invested in productive enterprises, also cause harm because of the infliction of a predetermined rate of interest on such borrowings. The most significant are the following:
(1 ) Projects which do not promise a higher rate of profit than the current rate of interest fail to attract sufficient funds, no matter how useful and necessary they may, be from the viewpoint of larger national interests. Loanable funds flow towards those business enterprises which are likely to yield at least the same, if not a higher rate of profit on investments than the current rate of interest, even though they may be of very little or no benefit to the nation at large.
(2) There can be no guarantee that a business investment, whether it is in trade, industry or agriculture, will always yield a rate of profit which is higher than the rate of interest. Not only can there be no such assurance, there can never be an assurance about any business that it will always remain profitable. What really happens, therefore, is that the financier is assured interest at a predetermined rate whereas the business in which the loan is invested is exposed to risk and possible losses.
(3) Since the lender does not share the profit and loss of the business but lends out funds on the assurance of a fixed rate of interest, he is in no way concerned with the fortunes of the business itself. He is solely concerned, and in a totally selfish spirit, with his own pecuniary benefit. Hence, whenever the lender senses the faintest sign of depression, he begins to withdraw money from the market. The result is that sometimes imaginary fears and anxieties spark off an actual depression in the economy. And if the economy is depressed owing to other factors, the excessive selfishness of the financiers tends to escalate the situation into a full-scale economic crisis. These three evils of interest are obvious to every student of economics. Can anyone then deny the truth of the Natural law, enunciated by Allah that interest decreases the national economic wealth?
Let us now look at the economic effects of charity. Suppose the general attitude of the prosperous members of a society, is that within the limits of their means they spend generously on the fulfilment of their own requirements and on the requirements of their family, and then devote the surplus to helping the poor. After that they, either use their funds to provide interest-free loans to businessmen, invest them in business with the stipulation that they shall be co-sharers in both the profit and loss of the business, or deposit them with the government so that it may use them on projects of public welfare. A little reflection will make it obvious that trade, industry, and agriculture in such a society, will attain maximum prosperity; the standard of living of its people will continually rise and production in it will be much higher than in societies where economic activity is fettered by interest.
*321. It is clear that only those who have a surplus of earnings over their basic requirements can lend out money at interest. This surplus, according to the Qur'an, constitutes God's bounty. And true thankfulness for this bounty requires that a person should be bountiful towards other creatures of God even as the Creator has been to him. If, instead of doing this, the person tries to become richer at the expense of those whose present earnings are insufficient to meet their needs, he is at once guilty of ungratefulness to God, and blatantly unjust, cruel and wicked.
 
إِنَّ الَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ وَعَمِلُواْ الصَّالِحَاتِ وَأَقَامُواْ الصَّلاَةَ وَآتَوُاْ الزَّكَاةَ لَهُمْ أَجْرُهُمْ عِندَ رَبِّهِمْ وَلاَ خَوْفٌ عَلَيْهِمْ وَلاَ هُمْ يَحْزَنُونَ﴿2:277﴾ 
(2:277) As to those who believe and do good deeds, establish the Salat and pay the Zakat, they will most surely have their reward with their Lord and they will have nothing to fear nor to grieve. *322
*322. In this section God brings into sharp relief two contrasting characters. One is selfish, Mammon-worshipping, a kind of Shylock. He is totally preoccupied with making and accumulating money in total disregard of his obligations to God and his fellow-beings. He counts the money he has saved and is so consumed by the desire to see it multiply that he spends much time estimating how much it will grow in the weeks, months and years to come. The other character is a God-worshipping, generous and compassionate person, ever conscious of the claims of both God and man, ready to spend whatever he earns by the sweat of his brow on himself as well as on other human beings, and devotes a good part of it to philanthropic purposes.
The first character is strongly denounced by God. No healthy society can exist on the basis of such men, and in the Hereafter, too, they are destined to meet grief and affliction, torment and misery. The latter, by contrast, is a character highly extolled by God, a character which will serve as the basis of a sound and healthy society in this world and will lead man to salvation in the Next.
 
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ اتَّقُواْ اللّهَ وَذَرُواْ مَا بَقِيَ مِنَ الرِّبَا إِن كُنتُم مُّؤْمِنِينَ﴿2:278﴾ 
(2:278) O Believers, fear Allah and give up that interest which is still due to you, if you are true Believers;

 
فَإِن لَّمْ تَفْعَلُواْ فَأْذَنُواْ بِحَرْبٍ مِّنَ اللّهِ وَرَسُولِهِ وَإِن تُبْتُمْ فَلَكُمْ رُؤُوسُ أَمْوَالِكُمْ لاَ تَظْلِمُونَ وَلاَ تُظْلَمُونَ﴿2:279﴾ 
(2:279) but if you do not do so, then you are warned of the declaration of war against you by Allah and His Messenger. *323 If, however, you repent even now (and forego interest), you are entitled to your principal; do no wrong, and no wrong will be done to you.
*323. This verse was revealed after the conquest of Makka and has been placed here because of its contextual relevance. Although interest was considered objectionable earlier, it had not been legally prohibited. After the revelation of this verse interest-bearing transactions became a punishable offence within the realm of Islam. The Prophet (peace he on him) warned the Arab tribes through his officials that war would be declared against them if they did not give up interest-bearing transactions. It was specified, for instance, in the agreement under which the Christians of Najran were granted internal autonomy under the suzerainty of the Islamic state, that if they continued to use interest, the agreement with them would be considered void and their action an act of belligerency. On the basis of the last words of the verse, Ibn 'Abbas, Hasan al-Baari, Ibn Sirin and Rabi' ibn Anas are of the view that anyone who takes interest within the boundaries of the Islamic State (Dar al-Islam) should be pressed to repudiate the transaction and recant and, if he persists, should be put to death. Others consider it sufficient to imprison such people and keep them in prison until they pledge to give up taking interest. (See Jassas's commentary, on verse 2: 278; see especially vol. 1, pp. 471 f. - Ed.)
 
وَإِن كَانَ ذُو عُسْرَةٍ فَنَظِرَةٌ إِلَى مَيْسَرَةٍ وَأَن تَصَدَّقُواْ خَيْرٌ لَّكُمْ إِن كُنتُمْ تَعْلَمُونَ﴿2:280﴾ 
(2:280) If your debtor be in straitened circumstances, give him time till his monetary condition becomes better. But if you remit the debt by way of charity, it would be better for you, if you only knew it. *324
*324. This verse is the basis of the Islamic regulation that if a person has become incapable of paying off his debt, the court will force the creditors to grant him respite for payment. In fact, under certain circumstances, the court is entitled to remit a part of his debt and, at times, the whole of it. It is mentioned in the Hadith that once a person suffered loss in his trade and became greatly burdened with debt and the case was brought to the notice of the Prophet. The Prophet urged the people to help their brother in his distress. They came to his assistance but the amount of help was not enough to wipe out his debts. Then the Prophet approached the lenders and asked them to accept whatever amount was available and to grant remission to the borrower because of his inability to make further payments. Muslim jurists have made it clear that a debtor's residential house, eating utensils, clothes and the tools which he uses for earning his livelihood may not be confiscated in any, circumstances whatsoever for non-payrment of loans. (For relevant discussion and textual evidence see the commentaries on this verse in Ibn Kathir, Jassas, and Qurtubi - Ed.)
 
وَاتَّقُواْ يَوْمًا تُرْجَعُونَ فِيهِ إِلَى اللّهِ ثُمَّ تُوَفَّى كُلُّ نَفْسٍ مَّا كَسَبَتْ وَهُمْ لاَ يُظْلَمُونَ﴿2:281﴾ 
(2:281Guard against the disgrace and misery of the bay when you shall return to Allah: there everyone shall be paid in full, for the good or evil one has earned and none shall be wronged.
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ إِذَا تَدَايَنتُم بِدَيْنٍ إِلَى أَجَلٍ مُّسَمًّى فَاكْتُبُوهُ وَلْيَكْتُب بَّيْنَكُمْ كَاتِبٌ بِالْعَدْلِ وَلاَ يَأْبَ كَاتِبٌ أَنْ يَكْتُبَ كَمَا عَلَّمَهُ اللّهُ فَلْيَكْتُبْ وَلْيُمْلِلِ الَّذِي عَلَيْهِ الْحَقُّ وَلْيَتَّقِ اللّهَ رَبَّهُ وَلاَ يَبْخَسْ مِنْهُ شَيْئًا فَإن كَانَ الَّذِي عَلَيْهِ الْحَقُّ سَفِيهًا أَوْ ضَعِيفًا أَوْ لاَ يَسْتَطِيعُ أَن يُمِلَّ هُوَ فَلْيُمْلِلْ وَلِيُّهُ بِالْعَدْلِ وَاسْتَشْهِدُواْ شَهِيدَيْنِ من رِّجَالِكُمْ فَإِن لَّمْ يَكُونَا رَجُلَيْنِ فَرَجُلٌ وَامْرَأَتَانِ مِمَّن تَرْضَوْنَ مِنَ الشُّهَدَاء أَن تَضِلَّ إْحْدَاهُمَا فَتُذَكِّرَ إِحْدَاهُمَا الأُخْرَى وَلاَ يَأْبَ الشُّهَدَاء إِذَا مَا دُعُواْ وَلاَ تَسْأَمُوْاْ أَن تَكْتُبُوْهُ صَغِيرًا أَو كَبِيرًا إِلَى أَجَلِهِ ذَلِكُمْ أَقْسَطُ عِندَ اللّهِ وَأَقْومُ لِلشَّهَادَةِ وَأَدْنَى أَلاَّ تَرْتَابُواْ إِلاَّ أَن تَكُونَ تِجَارَةً حَاضِرَةً تُدِيرُونَهَا بَيْنَكُمْ فَلَيْسَ عَلَيْكُمْ جُنَاحٌ أَلاَّ تَكْتُبُوهَا وَأَشْهِدُوْاْ إِذَا تَبَايَعْتُمْ وَلاَ يُضَآرَّ كَاتِبٌ وَلاَ شَهِيدٌ وَإِن تَفْعَلُواْ فَإِنَّهُ فُسُوقٌ بِكُمْ وَاتَّقُواْ اللّهَ وَيُعَلِّمُكُمُ اللّهُ وَاللّهُ بِكُلِّ شَيْءٍ عَلِيمٌ﴿2:282﴾ 
(2:282) O Believers, when you contract a debt for a fixed; *325 term, you should put it in writing. *326 Let a scribe write with equity the document for the parties. The scribe whom Allah has given the gift of literacy should not refuse to write. Let him write and let the one under obligation (the debtor) dictate, and he should fear Allah, his Lord, and should not diminish from or add anything to the terms which have been settled. But if the borrower be of low understanding or weak or unable to dictate (for any reason), then let the guardian of his interests dictate it with equity. And let two men from among you *327 bear witness to all such documents. But if two men be not available, there should be one man and two women to bear witness so that if one of the women forgets (anything), the other may remind her. The witnesses should be from among such people whom you approve of as witnesses. *328 When the witnesses are asked to testify, they should not refuse to do so. Do not neglect to reduce to writing your transaction for a specified term, whether it be big or small. Allah considers this more just for you, for it facilitates the establishment of evidence and lessens doubts and suspicions. Of course, there is no harm if you do not put in writing the common transactions you conclude daily on the spot, *329 but in case of commercial transactions you should have witnesses. The scribe and the witnesses should not be harassed: *330 if you do so, you shall be guilty of sin. You should guard against the wrath of Allah; He gives you the knowledge of the right way for Allah has the knowledge of everything.
*325. This is the basis of the rule that the time for the repayment of a loan should be fixed at the time when the loan is transacted.
*326. When friends and relatives borrow from one another it is generally considered unseemly either to commit these loans to writing, or to have them attested by witnesses. Such an act is considered a sign of distrust. But God enjoins that whenever loans or business transactions take place, their conditions should be recorded in black and white and should be attested by witnesses so that there remains no ground for misunderstanding or dispute. It is mentioned in the Hadith that three kinds of people who air their grievances to God go unheeded. The first is the man who does not divorce his wife despite her being of bad character. The second is the guardian of the orphan who hands over the latter's property to him before his having attained the age of majority. The third is he who loans out his money to a person without making anyone a witness to that transaction. (Cited by Jassas. Ahkam al-Qur'an, vol. 1, p. 481; also Ibn Kathir, in commentary on 4: 5, citing this as a Tradition from Abu Musa al-Ash'ari mentioned bv Ibn Jarir al-Tabari - Ed.)
*327. That is, from among Muslim males. This shows that wherever one has a choice, one should appoint only Muslims as one's witnesses. In the case of non-Muslim subjects of the Islamic State (ahl al-Dhimmah), however, they may appoint witnesses from among themselves.
*328. What is implied is that every Tom, Dick or Harry is not worthy of acting as a witness. Rather, persons of high integrity enjoying public credibility should be appointed as witnesses.
*329. The purpose of this directive is to stress that it is better for even day-to-day sales to be written down, as has become customary nowadays (viz. the issuance of invoices). Such a procedure, however, has not been made obligatory. Likewise, it is not objectionable if neighbouring shopkeepers do not record the frequent transactions that take place between them.
*330. This means that no person should be compelled to write the document or be its witness. It also means that no party of a dispute should persecute either a scribe or witness for witnessing against the interests of that party.
 
وَإِن كُنتُمْ عَلَى سَفَرٍ وَلَمْ تَجِدُواْ كَاتِبًا فَرِهَانٌ مَّقْبُوضَةٌ فَإِنْ أَمِنَ بَعْضُكُم بَعْضًا فَلْيُؤَدِّ الَّذِي اؤْتُمِنَ أَمَانَتَهُ وَلْيَتَّقِ اللّهَ رَبَّهُ وَلاَ تَكْتُمُواْ الشَّهَادَةَ وَمَن يَكْتُمْهَا فَإِنَّهُ آثِمٌ قَلْبُهُ وَاللّهُ بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ عَلِيمٌ﴿2:283﴾ 
(2:283) If you are on a journey and cannot find a scribe to write the document, then transact your business on the security of a pledge in hand. *331 And, if any one transacts a piece of business with another merely on trust, then the one who is trusted should fulfil his trust and fear Allah, his Lord And never conceal evidence *332 for he who conceals it, has a sinful heart: Allah knows everything that you do.
*331. This does not mean that pledge transactions are confined to journeys alone. These transactions have been specially mentioned in the context of journeys because during journeys people often have to resort to pledge transactions. Moreover, it has not been laid down that pledge transactions may be entered into only when a scribe is not available to write down the transaction. It is also permissible, if the lender is not satisfied merely with the written promise of the repayment of the loan, for the borrower to seek a loan by pledging some property to the lender. But since the Qur'an urges its followers to be generous in their dealings, and since it is inconsistent with high standards of moral excellence not to make loans to needy persons without keeping some property in custody, the Qur'an has abstained from mentioning this form of dealing even though it is permissible.
It should also be noted that the purpose of taking a pledge is merely to assure the lender the return of his loan. He has no right at all to benefit from the pledged property. If a person lives, say, either in the building which has been pledged, or pockets its rent, he is guilty of taking interest. There is no essential difference between charging interest directly and using the pledged property. If, however, either cattle or beasts of burden have been pledged, they can be milked and used for transport in lieu of the fodder that one provides them during the period of custody.
*332. Concealing true evidence applies both to a person not appearing to give evidence and to his avoidance of stating facts.
لِّلَّهِ ما فِي السَّمَاواتِ وَمَا فِي الأَرْضِ وَإِن تُبْدُواْ مَا فِي أَنفُسِكُمْ أَوْ تُخْفُوهُ يُحَاسِبْكُم بِهِ اللّهُ فَيَغْفِرُ لِمَن يَشَاء وَيُعَذِّبُ مَن يَشَاء وَاللّهُ عَلَى كُلِّ شَيْءٍ قَدِيرٌ﴿2:284﴾ 
(2:284) To Allah belongs whatever *333 is in the heavens and the earth. *334 " Allah will call you to account for what is in your minds whether you disclose it or hide *335 it. He, however, had full authority to pardon or punish anyone He pleases, for Allah has complete power over everything. *336
*333. These are the concluding observations on the subject. Just as this surah opened with an enunciation of the basic teachings of religion, so the fundamentals upon which Islam rests are reiterated in the concluding section of the surah, It is useful to go through the first section of this surah (see verses 1-5) while reading these concluding verses.
*334. This is the first fundamental principle of Islam. That God is the Sovereign of the heavens and the earth and all they contain, and that it is improper for man not to bend himself in obedience and service to God.
*335. This sentence mentions two other matters. First, that man is individually responsible to, and answerable before, God. Second, that the Lord of the heavens and the earth, before Whom man is answerable, is All-Knowing. Thus, nothing is concealed from Him, not even intentions and thoughts which lie hidden deep in the hearts and minds of people.
*336. This refers to God's absolute authority. He is not bound by laws framed by others which might limit Him to operating in a certain manner. He is an absolute sovereign and has the full power either to punish or pardon people.
 
آمَنَ الرَّسُولُ بِمَا أُنزِلَ إِلَيْهِ مِن رَّبِّهِ وَالْمُؤْمِنُونَ كُلٌّ آمَنَ بِاللّهِ وَمَلآئِكَتِهِ وَكُتُبِهِ وَرُسُلِهِ لاَ نُفَرِّقُ بَيْنَ أَحَدٍ مِّن رُّسُلِهِ وَقَالُواْ سَمِعْنَا وَأَطَعْنَا غُفْرَانَكَ رَبَّنَا وَإِلَيْكَ الْمَصِيرُ﴿2:285﴾ 
(2:285) The Messenger has believed in the Guidance which has been sent down to him from his Lord, and those who believe in the Messenger have also sincerely accepted the same. They all believe in Allah, His Angels, His Books and Messengers. And they say, "We do not discriminate against any of His Messengers. We have heard the Message and submitted to it. Our Lord, we look up to You for forgiveness, for to You we shall all return." *337
*337. This verse outlines what one is required to believe in and what should be the distinguishing characteristics of one's conduct. They consist of the following: belief in God, in His angels, in His Books, in all His Messengers (instead of some rather than others), and in the fact that ultimately one will have to stand before God's judgement. These are the five fundamental articles of faith in Islam. Having accepted them, the only proper attitude for a Muslim is to cheerfully accept and follow whatever directives he receives from God. Instead of exulting in his moral excellence he should be humble and should constantly seek God's forgiveness and mercy.
 
لاَ يُكَلِّفُ اللّهُ نَفْسًا إِلاَّ وُسْعَهَا لَهَا مَا كَسَبَتْ وَعَلَيْهَا مَا اكْتَسَبَتْ رَبَّنَا لاَ تُؤَاخِذْنَا إِن نَّسِينَا أَوْ أَخْطَأْنَا رَبَّنَا وَلاَ تَحْمِلْ عَلَيْنَا إِصْرًا كَمَا حَمَلْتَهُ عَلَى الَّذِينَ مِن قَبْلِنَا رَبَّنَا وَلاَ تُحَمِّلْنَا مَا لاَ طَاقَةَ لَنَا بِهِ وَاعْفُ عَنَّا وَاغْفِرْ لَنَا وَارْحَمْنَآ أَنتَ مَوْلاَنَا فَانصُرْنَا عَلَى الْقَوْمِ الْكَافِرِينَ﴿2:286﴾ 
(2:286) Allah does not burden any human being with a responsibility heavier than he can bear. *338 Everyone will enjoy the fruit of the good that one has earned and shall suffer for the evil that one has committed. *339 (O Believers, pray like this to Allah: "Our Lord, take us not to task if we forget and lapse into error inadvertently. Lord! lay not on us the kind of burdens that You had lain on the people before us. *340 Lord, lay not on us the kind of burden that we have not the strength to bear. *341 Be kind to us, forgive us and show mercy to us. You are our Protector : help us against the disbelievers." *342
*338. Man's answerability to God is limited by the extent of his ability. If a man does not have the ability to do a certain thing, God will not take him to task for not having performed it. In the same way, if it is really beyond a man's ability to abstain from something, God will not blame him for having failed to abstain from it. It should be noted here that man will not be the final judge as to whether he had the ability to do something or not. Such judgement will be made by God alone.
*339. This is the second fundamental principle of God's law of retribution. Every man will be rewarded for the services he has rendered, none will be rewarded for services rendered by others. The same applies to punishment. It is the one who is guilty who will be punished. It is possible, however, that if a man has initiated either good or bad practices, they will continue to affect people's lives. The resulting good and bad deeds of people will be reckoned either to their credit or against them, since they are clearly related to their efforts and actions. It is impossible, however, that a map should be either rewarded for an act of goodness or punished for an act of evil in which he has had no share - neither by intent nor practical action. The requital of acts is not transferable.
*340. The prayer made here is that God should not subject them to the severe tests and the terrible persecutions and hardships undergone by their predecessors. It is God's law that those who commit themselves to follow Truth and righteousness are subjected to severe tests and tribulations, and it is a believer's duty to meet them with patience and fortitude. At the same time, the believer should always pray that God may make it easy for him to follow the path of Truth and righteousness.
*341. Believers pray to God not to place unon them a burden beyond their capacity of endurance, and to subject them only to those tests from which they may emerge triumphant. May it not happen that the hardships are too much for them to bear, and that their feet falter and are turned away from the path of righteousness,
*342. In order to appreciate fully the spirit of this prayer, one should remember that these verses were revealed on the occasion of the ascension of the Prophet, a year before his migration to Madina. At that time the struggle between Islam and unbelief had reached its climax. Not only in Makka, but throughout the Arabian peninsula, there was no place where the lives of those who wished to follow the religion of God had not been made extremely difficult. In these circumstances the Muslims were told in what manner they ought to pray to their Lord. It is obvious that if the bestower himself tells one how to present one's request, the granting of the request becomes virtually assured. Hence, this prayer greatly strengthened the hearts of the Muslims. Moreover, this prayer implicitly taught the Muslims not to allow their feelings to flow along undesirable channels. They should instead mould them into a prayer to their Lord.
Think of the heart-rending cruelties to which the Muslims were subjected merely because of their devotion to Truth, and then turn to the contents of this prayer, where there is no trace of bitterness against the enemies. Consider the physical afflictions and material losses which the Muslims suffered, then note how this prayer does not contain the slightest hint of worldly ambition. Compare the wretchedness and misery of these devotees of Truth with the pure, exalted feelings with which this prayer is overflowing. This comparison will enable us to appreciate the nature of the spiritual and moral training provided to men of faith.