Volume 7: Surah Ale-Imran, Verses 130-138
O you who believe! Do not devour interest making it double and redouble, and fear Allah, that you may be successful (130). And guard yourself against the fire which ahs been prepared for the unbeliever (131). And obey Allah and the Messenger, that you may be shown mercy (132). And hasten to forgiveness from your Lord, and a Garden, the extensiveness of which is (as) the heavens and the earth; it is prepared for the pious ones (133). Those who spend (benevolently) in ease as well as in straitness, and those who restrain (their) anger and forgive men; and Allah loves the doers of good (to others) (134). And those who when they commit an indecency or do injustice to their souls remember Allah and ask forgiveness for their faults and who forgives the faults but Allah? and (who) do not knowingly persist in what they have done (135). (As for), these their reward is forgiveness from their Lord, and gardens beneath which rivers flow, to abide in them, and excellent is the reward of those who act (righteously) (136). Indeed there have been examples before you; therefore travel in the earth and see what was the end of the rejecters (137). This is a clear statement for men, and a guidance and an admonition for the pious ones (138).
The verses call to the good and restrain from the vice and evil. Yet they are not without some connection with the preceding and following verses dealing with the battle of Uhud. They describe some undesirable conditions and reprehensible traits which were found in the believers at that time and which Allah was not pleased with. It were such things which had made them vulnerable to weakness and infirmity and led them to disobedience of Allah and His Messenger. The verses thus focus on the events of Uhud from another angle.
Also, the verses guide the believers as to how they can protect themselves from these devastating entanglements and ruinous obstacles; they invite them to piety, fear of Allah and trust in Him and exhort them to be firm in obedience of the Allah's Messenger. These nine verses therefore contain exhortation and warning: they awaken in the believers longing to hasten towards good, that is, spending in the way of Allah in ease as well as in straitness, restraining their anger and forgiving the people's faults; all is joined together under the heading of spreading good in the society, patience in face of grievance and injury, and refraining from repaying evil with evil. It is the only way of preserving the society and making it strong and energetic. Refraining from interest is a very important concomitant of this spending benevolently and doing good to others. That is why the verses begin with it; it paves the way for exhortation to good-doing and spending. We have already explained — under the verses of spending and interest in the chapter of The Cow — that spending in all its aspects is the cornerstone of society; it is the virtue that vitalizes the human society with the spirit of unity; it channels its scattered resources to achieve happiness and felicity in this life, and strengthens it to ward off every pernicious perversion. Interest is diametrically opposed to benevolent spending in this respect.
Allah exhorts them to these virtues. Then He encourages them to return to their Lord again and again even if they have committed sins and errors; they should not lose hope of His mercy even if they have done something which is not liked by Him; they must repent and seek pardon from Him repeatedly without indolence or negligence.
By doing good to others and returning to Allah in time and again, they would proceed on the straight path of happy life; they will never go astray nor will they stop at any dangerous point.
This Qur'anic description is the best way for guiding man to perfect himself when he finds some defects in his life; the finest means of curing spiritual ailments which sometimes creep into otherwise good souls and threaten man with downfall and ruin.
QUR'AN: O you who believe! do not devour interest . . . that you may be shown mercy:
We have explained how "devouring" is used for "taking ". The phrase, "making it double and redouble ", points to overriding characteristic of interests; interest, per se, multiplies and increases the lender's wealth many-fold by depleting debtor's money adding it to the creditor's capital.
The sentence, "And guard yourselves against the fire, which has been prepared for the unbelievers", indicates that the interest-taker is unbeliever, as has been explained under the verses of interest in the chapter of The Cow: And Allah does not love any ungrateful sinner (2:276).
QUR'AN: And hasten to forgiveness from your Lord, and a Garden ....
"al-Musara 'ah" (to rush, to make haste); it is commendable in good deeds and reprehensible in bad ones.
The Qur'an, in most of the places, joins forgiveness with the Garden. It is because the Garden is a place of purity and cleanliness; the impurities of sins and filth of vices cannot enter it, nor can a person tarnished by them except after forgiveness and removal of that filth.
The forgiveness and the Garden described in this verse run parallel to what is mentioned in the following two verses. The forgiveness corresponds with the verse, "And those who when they commit an indecency or do injustice to their souls . . . "; and the Garden stands face to face with the verse, "Those who spend (benevolently) in ease as well as in straitness..."
The clause, "and a Garden, the extensiveness of which is (as) the heavens and the earth ". "al-Ard " (lit: width) denotes here spaciousness, extensiveness; it is a common usage; the expression metaphorically implies that it is spacious to the utmost, or to an extent that human imagination cannot reach it. Also, it has another meaning, which we shall explain under the "Traditions ".
The clause, "it is prepared for the pious ones", paves the way for description of the characteristics of the pious ones which is given in the coming verses. The main idea is to describe those characteristics of the believers which are relevant to the present situation, i.e., after the battle of Uhud (when they had displayed, and suffered from, weakness and disobedience), because they were expected to participate in other similar battles and undergo similar situations, where they would be in great need of unity, harmony and solidarity.
QUR'AN: Those who spend (benevolently) in ease as well as in straitness, and those who restrain (their) anger, and forgive men; and Allah loves the doers of good (to others):
as-Sarra' and addarra (that which pleases man or displeases him) i.e., ease and difficulty. al-Kazm literally means to tie the mouth of water-skin after filling it; then it was metaphorically extended to a man filled with anger or sorrow who restrains or suppresses his emotions. al-Ghayz (translated here as "anger") denotes stirring of feeling of revenge, when one faces many unpleasant things; it is different from al-ghadab (generally translated as "wrath") which refers to the intention of revenge or punishment. That is why we say "Allah afflicted them with His wrath", but do not say, "Allah was angry with them".
The sentence, "and Allah loves the doers of good (to others)", indicates that the preceding characteristics define "the doers of good", i.e., to other people. As for doing good in relation to Allah is concerned, it is defined in the following verse: . . . and as good news for the doers of good. Surely those who say, Our Lord is Allah, then they continue on the right way, they shall have no fear nor shall they grieve. These are the dwellers of the Garden, abiding therein: a reward for what they did (46:12-14).
The doing of good, mentioned in the verse under discussion, is delineated by the preceding words, "Those who spend (benevolently) in ease as well as in straitness . . . "; these good characteristics have no value in the eyes of Allah if they were not done "for Him", as has been described in many preceding verses, e.g.: The likeness of what they spend in this life of the world is as the likeness of wind . . . (3:117).
The above reality may also be inferred from ch. 29, vr. 69: And (as for) those who strive hard for Us, We will most certainly guide them onto Our way; and Allah is most surely with the doers of good. One may be said to be striving hard only if one does something against one's desires and natural instincts. It may happen only when a man firmly believes in matters, which demand such sacrifice and steadfastness in face of natural desires and longings. It requires firm faith and true belief they must say, Our Lord is Allah, and then continue steadfastly on it and demands relevant action, i.e., they must strengthen this belief by striving in sincere worship of Allah, spending benevolently in His way and living in the society with good conduct and irreproachable behavior. It appears from it that doing good, means performing all actions in proper way by remaining firm and steadfast in the divine faith, in the belief in Allah.
QUR'AN: And those who when they commit an indecency. . . and excellent is the reward of those who act (righteously):
"al Fahishah" (indecent, shameful action) it is generally used for fornication. As the word, az-zulm (injustice) has been used parallel to indecency, it should denote all other big or small sins. Alternatively, if "indecency" is taken to mean big sins, then "injustice" would mean small sins only. The clause, "remember Allah and ask forgiveness for their faults", indicates that the plea for forgiveness should emanate from remembrance of Allah — it should not be just a verbal repetition, based on habit. The sentence, "and who forgives the faults but Allah?", encourages man to return to Allah, and reminds him to take refuge, and seek shelter, in Him. The proviso, "and (who) do not knowingly persist in what they have done", is an essential part of asking forgiveness from Allah. Persistence in sins distorts the psyche to such an extent that remembrance of Allah does not bring any benefit to it; such behavior shows that the person concerned gives no importance to divine command, dishonors the sanctity of religion and behaves arrogantly against Allah; in such a situation neither servitude can survive nor remembrance can be of any use. For the same reason was added another proviso, i.e., "knowingly". This phrase indicates that "injustice" (in the preceding clause) includes small sins too; persistence in sins — whether big or small — shows disregard to the divine command, indifference towards His authority. The phrase, "what they have done", therefore covers big as well as small sins, and refers to the indecency and injustice mentioned in the beginning of the verse: but small sin is not included in indecency, therefore it is injustice to one's soul indeed.
Their great reward is described in the next verse, "(As for) these their reward is forgiveness from their Lord, and gardens . . ." It is the same things which the believers are exhorted to hasten to: "And hasten to forgiveness from your Lord and a Garden. . ." Looking at this beginning and end, it may be seen clearly that they have been enjoined to hasten to spending benevolently, restraining their anger, forgiving the people and asking forgiveness for their faults.
QUR'AN: Indeed there have been examples before you; therefore travel in the earth and see what was the end of the rejecters:
"as-Sunan" is plural of as-sunnah (the way or tradition followed by the society). The believers have been told to travel in the earth, in order that they could learn lessons from archeological remains of ancient people and bygone generations. They should ponder about those pharaohs and nimrods, those kings and emperors - where did all of them go to? Their towering palaces, their accumulated treasures, their gilded thrones and their fully-equipped armies - nothing could avail them in the least; now they are just a few names to serve as examples and lesson for those who meditate, and as tourist attraction for the carefree and oblivious persons.
As for protecting their monuments, preserving their statues and endeavoring to find out how great they were in their times and how magnificent their splendor was in that era, it is a matter which the Qur'an does not care about. It is nothing but idolatry in a new disguise. We shall explain this topic, God willing, in a separate discourse in which we shall analyze the meaning of idolatry.
QUR'AN: This is a clear statement. . . for the pious ones:
The classification looks at the degrees of its effect. It is just a clear statement, a faithfully transmitted message for some people, while for others it is an admonition and guidance.
The Prophet was asked about the words, a Garden, the extensiveness of which is (as) the heavens and the earth: "If the extensiveness of the Garden is as the heavens and the earth. then where will the Fire be?" He (s.a.w.a.) said: "Glory be to Allah! When the day comes, where does the night go?" (Majma'u 'I-bayan)
The author says: as-Suyuti has narrated in, ad-Durru 'I-manthur, from at-Tanukhi that (the Byzantine Emperor) Heraclius had written to the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.a.) a letter in which, inter alia, he had asked about this verse, and the Prophet had replied it as described above. He has also narrated through another chain from Abu Hurayrah that someone asked the Prophet this question and he replied as above.
The above reply has been interpreted as follows: The Fire is in the Knowledge of Allah as night remains in the Knowledge of Allah when day comes.
COMMENT: If it means that the Fire is not away from the Divine Knowledge, then it does not solve the problem, because the question was about the place of the Fire, not about the Knowledge of Allah. If, on the other hand, it means that possibly there could be another place for the Fire beyond the heavens and the earth, then it might be tenable, but then the comparison of the Garden and the Fire with day and night would be out of place — because the night does not go out of the heavens and the earth when the day comes. Obviously this interpretation does not offer an acceptable explanation of the hadith.
I believe that the tradition points to another theme: The hereafter (with all its felicity and infelicity) is similar to this world with all its happiness and sorrow. Likewise, the man in the hereafter will be the same man who was in this world — as appears from the Qur'an and traditions. Nevertheless, the system governing the hereafter will be different from the ones permeating this world. The hereafter is the place of eternity and infinity, while this world is transitory and evanescent. That is why man would eat and drink, marry and enjoy all comforts of the Garden but would not undergo the consequences attendant to those enjoyments in this world. In the same way, man would burn in the fire of the Hell and suffer pain and agony in food and drink, abode and companions, yet would not be affected by it in the way he would have been in this life. In the hereafter, he would live eternal life without being affected by middle or old age or becoming senile or decrepit. It is because these effects and concomitants are products of the system of this world; they are not essential parts of every system - they would not be found in the next world's system. It is this world, not the hereafter, which is the place of conflict and struggle, contrast and contradiction.
Now ponder on our own observation of the events. When we look at current happenings, we cannot see the previous events; if we see the night, then the day is absent from us. But nothing is absent from Allah; past, present and future - all is present before Allah, and there is no contrast or contradiction between them on that level. It means that the day and the night and their concomitant events contradict and cancel each other when they are governed by material system and movement. But when the same day and night and their concomitants are put under another system, there remains no contrast and contradiction among them. It may be inferred from the words of Allah: Have you not considered (the work of) your Lord, how He extends the shade? And if He had pleased He would certainly have made it stationary; then We have made the sun an indication of it; Then We take it to Ourselves, taking little by little (25:45-46).
If it is possible in contradictory things like day and night, it may equally be possible for the heavens and the earth to house the Garden equal in size to themselves and then accommodate another thing like the Hell of the same size; it will be possible, not under this worldly system, but according to the system prevailing in the hereafter. There may be found similar expressions in traditions. For example: "Verily grave is an orchard from the orchards of the Garden, or a pit from the pits of the Fire." Or, "The grave of a believer is widened for him to the extent of his sight."
In the same way should be explained these words of the Prophet. Otherwise, if it is taken to mean that Allah is not oblivious of the night when He knows the day, it would not dovetail with the question. Likewise, if it were to mean that the night exists somewhere else when the day comes, it would invite another objection: The night cannot co-exist with the day at any place; and if we look at its reality then the night is a conic shade of the earth resulting from the sunlight — the light and shade rotating around the earth. Thus the day and the night are continuously revolving around the earth without one merging into, or canceling, the other.
There are other traditions of similar style. For example, it has been narrated about the Qur'anic words: That Allah may separate the impure from the pure. . . (8:37): "When the sun sets, where does this light, spread on the earth, go?" We shall explain it later on.
It has been narrated in, ad-Durru'l-manthur, about the words: and those who restrain (their) anger and forgive men: al-Bayhaqi has narrated from 'Ali ibn al-Husayn (a.s.) that a slave girl was pouring water on him in preparation for prayer. The pitcher fell from her hand on his face contusing it. He raised his head (looking) at her. She said: "Verily Allah says: 'and those who restrain (their) anger.' " He said: "I have restrained my anger. " She recited: "and forgive men." He said: "Allah has forgiven you." She recited: "and Allah loves doers of good (to others)." He said: "Go, you are free."
The author says: It is narrated also from the Shi'i chains. The tradition obviously shows that the Imam (a.s.) interprets "good-doing" as something more than the preceding two virtues, and in fact it is so in its general terms, although the above virtues are concomitants of good-doing, and possibly they may be used for defining the "good-doing".
There are very numerous traditions on good manners and virtuous conduct, i.e., spending benevolently, restraining anger and forgiving faults, narrated from the Prophet and the Imams of the Ahlu 'l-bayt (a.s.); we shall quote them later in a more appropriate place.
It is narrated from 'Abdu 'r-Rahman ibn Ghanm ad-Dawsi that the verse, And those who when they commit an indecency . . ., was revealed about Bahlul, the grave-digger. He used to dig graves (to steal shrouds). Once he dug the grave of a girl from the Ansar, took out her body and removed her shroud. She was beautiful and of fair complexion; so the Satan tempted him and he committed fornication with her. Then he felt remorse and came to the Prophet, but he turned him out. Then the people dissociated from him; and he too secluded himself from others, spending his time in worship and repentance in some mountains of Medina - until Allah accepted his repentance and revealed this verse about him. (al-Majalis, as.-Saduq)
The author says: It is a detailed tradition, which we have abridged here. If it is a correct hadith, and then it would be a separate cause for the verse's revelation apart from the general reason, which covers all the verses of the story of Uhud.
al-Baqir (a.s.) said concerning the words, and (who) do not knowingly persist in what they have done: "Persistence is that a sinner commits a sin and does not ask Allah for forgiveness nor does he make up his mind to repent - so that is persistence." (at- Tafsir, al-'Ayyashi )
Ahmad has narrated from the Prophet that he said: "Iblis said: 'O Lord, by Thy Honor! I shall not cease leading children of Adam astray as long as their souls shall remain within their bodies.' Allah then said: 'By My Honor! I shall go on forgiving them as long as they ask Me for forgiveness.' " (ad-Durru 'I-manthur )
as-Sadiq (a.s.) said: "There is no small (sin) with persistence, and there is no big (sin) after seeking (Allah's) forgiveness." (al-Kafi)
The same Imam (a.s.) said, inter alia, in a hadith: " . . . and there is in the Book of Allah a deliverance from ruin, an insight from blindness, and a healing for what is in the breasts; (found) in what Allah has enjoined you to seek (His) forgiveness and to repent. Allah says: 'And those who when they commit an indecency or do injustice to their souls remember Allah and ask forgiveness for their faults - and who forgives the faults but Allah? — and (who) do not knowingly persist in what they have done.' And He says: 'And whoever does evil or acts unjustly to his soul, then asks forgiveness of Allah, he shall find Allah Forgiving, Merciful' (4:110). So this is what Allah has enjoined about asking (His) forgiveness, and has put with it the condition of repentance and refraining from what Allah has forbidden. (It is) because He says: 'To Him do ascend the good words and the good deed lifts them up' (35:10). This verse implies that the plea of forgiveness is not lifted up to Allah except by good deed and repentance. " (at-Tafsir, al-'Ayyashi)
The author says: The Imam (a.s.) has inferred abstinence from sin and not repeating it after repentance from the word, do not knowingly persist; likewise the fact, that repentance and plea of forgiveness require good deed afterwards, has been inferred from the generality of "good words" in the verse, To Him do ascend the good words.
as-Sadiq (a.s.) said: "When the verse, And those who when they commit an indecency..., was revealed, Iblis ascended a mountain in Mecca, Thawr by name, and screamed very loudly to his afreets. They all gathered near him and said: 'O our leader, why have you called us?' He said: 'This verse has been revealed; now who would deal with it?' An afreet from among the satans stood up and said: 'I will see to it with such and such means.' (The Iblis) said: 'You cannot do it.' Then another (afreet) stood up and said something similar (to the first one) and (Iblis) said:
'You are not for it.' Then the Whispering Slinking (satan) said: 'I shall deal with it. (Iblis) said: 'By what means?' He said: 'I shall promise them and tempt them until they would commit a sin; and when they have committed it, I would make them oblivious of asking for forgiveness.' (Iblis) said: 'You are (fit) for it.' Then he entrusted this task to him up to the Day of Resurrection." (al-Majalis, as-Saduq)
The author says: This tradition has also been narrated through Sunni chains.