Not all acts might have the same value in the sight of Allah

The Qur'an reveals in many verses that even those who live among believers and display a similar moral character may act quite differently when confronted with hardship. Many people can put up with some hardship in an otherwise comfortable environment, but they may not show this moral quality when hardship occurs. In any case, only those people who have strong belief can really trust in Allah, remain committed to Him, and struggle to overcome their difficulties.

Some individuals ignore this fact, feeling that it is enough to do a few good deeds in the midst of their prosperity. However, in times of hardship, they avoid such self-sacrifice on the pretext of having done some good deeds already. They present these deeds as proof that they have the spirit of self-sacrifice described in the Qur'an. Such people also claim that they are not responsible for dealing with other people's problems when they have to deal with their own difficulties. They think that someone else should assume this responsibility.

But such thinking has nothing to do with the Qur'an's moral teaching, for Allah has made people responsible for living a good moral life. Therefore, everyone is responsible for making a life-long commitment to self-sacrifice and for remaining patient, trusting, sincere, honest, loyal, and faithful at all times: "Wealth and children are the embellishment of the life of this world. But in your Lord's sight, right actions that are lasting bring a better reward and are a better basis for hope" (Surat al-Kahf: 46). The self-sacrifice described in the Qur'an is something undertaken willingly by those who are patient even when their own interests are thwarted and they are put at risk.

The Qur'an tells us that the self-sacrifice of those believers who are experiencing difficulties is not the same as the efforts made by those who are in the midst of secure prosperity. People in need and those dealing with their own problems, and yet who still give generously of what they have, have far more value in His sight:

And how is it with you that you do not give in the way of Allah, when the inheritance of the heavens and Earth belongs to Allah? Those of you who gave and fought before the victory are not the same as those who gave and fought afterwards. They are higher in rank. But to each of them Allah has promised the best. Allah is aware of what you do. (Surat al-Hadid: 10)

In another verse, Allah reveals the real reason why people with weak belief are reluctant to engage in self-sacrifice in difficult times: "If it had been a case of easy gains and a short journey, they would have followed you. But the distance was too great for them…" (Surat at-Tawba: 42). These people live and work in harmony with sincere believers in times of comfort and prosperity, but are discouraged when hardships come.

But because they fear and respect Allah, sincere believers show courage and determination even in times of hardship. Their zeal to win Allah's favor never falters. In fact, such apparently difficult situations actually become easy for believers who view them through the eyes of belief. They live trusting in the knowledge that Allah will help all sincere believers who are committed to practicing the Qur'an's moral teachings and winning His favor regardless of any worldly benefit.

Believers who are aware of this reality must continue to practice self-sacrifice in times of hardship. However, Allah says that certain people are exempt from this responsibility: "Nothing is held against the weak and the sick, nor against those who find nothing to spend, provided that they are true to Allah and His messenger. There is no way open against good-doers. Allah is Ever-Forgiving, Most Merciful" (Surat at-Tawba: 91). Those who fear and respect Allah in their conscience and know this truth do not shirk their duty to pursue their own interests. For the Qur'an gives us some examples from the time of our Prophet (saas), revealing that no excuse for doing so is valid:

There are only grounds [of complaint] against those who ask you for permission to stay when they are rich. They were pleased to be among those who were left behind. Allah has sealed up their hearts, so they do not know. (Surat at-Tawba: 93)
They will make excuses to you when you return to them. Say: "Do not make excuses, [for] we will not believe you. Allah has already informed us about you. Allah will see your actions, as will His messenger. Then you will be returned to the Knower of the Unseen and the Visible, and He will inform you of what you did." (Surat at-Tawba: 94)

These people try to persuade those around them that their attitudes are quite reasonable. But in reality, they are only attempting to quiet their own conscience. Sometimes they use the excuse of having family or business responsibilities to give the impression that they are not in a position to sacrifice for others. However, they know that their excuses are invalid. In addition, they are aware that everything in this life is transitory and that only Allah is eternal; He is the One to Whom everything will finally return. Allah knows their real intention: "We know those of you who have gone ahead and those who are still to come" (Surat al-Hijr: 24). In spite of this, they still prefer to satisfy their lower self rather than to win Allah's favor. They fall into the serious error of thinking that it is to their advantage to protect their own interests, whereas their real advantage is to seek His approval, for only He, the Lord of the worlds, can protect and bestow blessings upon them, and ensure their security, contentment, and ease.

Those who have a selfish moral character will find themselves belittled both in this world and in Hereafter. In fact, the Qur'an proclaims about those who avoid self-sacrifice:

If Allah returns you to a group of them and they ask you for permission to go out, say: "You will never go out with me, nor will you ever fight an enemy with me. You were happy to stay behind the first time, so stay behind with those who are left behind." (Surat at-Tawba: 83)

In addition, those who claim to believe and yet choose their own interests over earning Allah's approval will experience great sorrow in the Hereafter. But if they consider these truths and live as best as they can according to the Qur'an's moral teachings, they can hope to be saved from this eternal sorrow.

2009-06-28 17:33:18

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