Those who subject the believers to hardship and act wickedly will not escape Godâs punishment, even though they may appear strong and victorious. This is again a true promise made by God: âOr do those who do evil deeds think that they can escape Us? How ill they judge!â (Verse 4)
No wicked or evil person should think that he can escape. If he does then his judgment is absolutely erroneous. God, who has made tests a general rule to distinguish true believers from false claimants, is the One who has also made punishment of the perpetrators of evil a general rule that never fails. This is the second strong note at the opening of the surah, one that balances the first.
The third note the surah strikes is that of reassuring those who hope to meet with God and strengthening their bond with Him: âWhoever looks forward with hope to meeting God (let him be ready for it); for the end set by God is bound to come. He alone hears all and knows all.â (Verse 5)
Those who dearly hope to meet God should rest assured. They should wait confidently for the fulfillment of His promise. They can look forward to it provided they do so with certitude. This is an inspiring image: a person of faith cherishing hopes and looking forward to the fulfillment of Godâs promise. His aspiration is answered with confirmation of its truth. This is followed by the reassurance that God is fully aware of all their hopes: âHe alone hears all and knows all.â (Verse 5)
Then the surah states to those believers who strive to fulfill the duties of faith, enduring all manner of hardship, that they only strive for themselves and for their own good. By doing so they have set their affairs on the right course. As for God, He needs no one: âWhoever strives hard (for Godâs cause) does so for his own good. For certain, God is in no need of anything in all the worlds.â (Verse 6)
It is true that God has tested the believers and required them to strive hard so that they could endure adversity with patience, but all this is for their own good. It has ensured their benefit both in this world and in the life to come. Striving, or jihad, reinforces a personâs good elements, expands his horizons, makes him ready to sacrifice his life and possessions, as also enhances his best qualities and abilities. It does all this for the individual who strives, before it brings further benefits to the community of believers, improving its situation, establishing the truth within it, and making goodness overcome evil in its ranks.
âWhoever strives hard (for Godâs cause) does so for his own good.â Let no one, then, stop midway through this process. Let no one stop to demand a price from God, holding what he did as a favor and feeling that his prize is overdue. God benefits nothing by anyoneâs striving. He is in no need of peopleâs efforts. After all, human beings are weak, barely significant. âGod is in no need of anything in all the worlds.â (Verse 6)
It is God who grants a favor to those who strive, helping them in their efforts and establishing them in a position of power on earth. Furthermore, He will reward them well in the life to come: âAs for those who believe and do righteous deeds, We shall most certainly erase their bad deeds, and shall most certainly reward them in accordance with the best that they ever did.â (Verse 7)
Believers should remain reassured of their great reward. Let them, then, remain patient in adversity, fulfilling the requirements of their test, and persevering in their jihad. A great future and a goodly reward await them. This is sufficient for any believer, even though he may not enjoy justice in this present life.
The surah then refers to a type of test which we have already mentioned: that of ties and bonds with family and loved ones. It gives clear and decisive guidance in such a difficult situation:
We have enjoined upon man goodness towards his parents: yet should they endeavor to make you associate as partner with Me something of which you have no knowledge, do not obey them. It is to Me that you shall all return, when I shall inform you about all that you were doing (in life). As for those who believe and do righteous deeds, We shall most certainly admit them among the righteous. (Verses 8-9)
Parents are the closest of all relatives. They give much to their children. Hence, to be kind to oneâs parents is a duty required of everyone. Indeed parents must be treated with love, respect, and care. Yet when it comes to oneâs duty towards God, they cannot be obeyed in opposition to Him: âWe have enjoined upon man goodness towards his parents: yet should they endeavour to make you associate as partner with Me something of which you have no knowledge, do not obey them.â (Verse 8)
The paramount bond is that with God. Hence, if oneâs parents are unbelievers, they should be treated with care and kindness, but must not be obeyed or followed. Once this present life is over, all return to God: âIt is to Me that you shall all return, when I shall inform you about all that you were doing (in life).â (Verse 8)
When judgment is made between believers and unbelievers, the former find themselves to be a closely knit unit even though they may have no blood relationship: âAs for those who believe and do righteous deeds, We shall most certainly admit them among the righteous.â (Verse 9)
Thus, those who maintain their bond with God will be together in one community, as they are in reality. The bonds created by blood and marriage relations are no longer valid; they end when this present life comes to an end. Such bonds are accidental and carry no real substance because they are not linked to the strongest and unseverable bond, faith.
In explaining this verse, Al-Tirmidhi reports that it was revealed in connection with Saad ibn Abi Waqqas and his mother Hamnah bint Abi Sufyan. Saad was a very dutiful son. She asked him: âWhat is this religion you have embraced? By God, I will not eat or drink until you revert to your original religion, or else I die. You will then be in disgrace for the rest of time as you will be identified as âhis motherâs killer.ââ She did not eat or drink anything for one whole day. Saad came to her and said: âMother! If you had 100 souls and they die one by one, I will not abandon my religion. So you can eat or refuse to eat, as you please.â When she despaired of his response, she resumed eating. God then revealed this verse, ordering Muslims to be kind to their parents and to treat them with respect but not to obey them in disbelief.
Thus faith overcame the test of close relations, but kindness and dutifulness remained intact. A believer may be subjected to such a test at any time. When and if this does occur, Godâs directive and Saadâs action provide proper guidance. ¬