Affluence and People’s Behavior
In the name of God, the Beneficent, the Merciful
It is He who accepts the repentance of His servants and pardons bad deeds. He knows everything you do. He responds to those who believe and do righteous deeds, and gives them much more of His bounty; but as for the unbelievers, severe suffering awaits them. If God were to grant plentiful provisions to His servants, they would behave on earth with much insolence. As it is, He bestows from on high in due measure, as He wills. He is fully aware of His creatures, and He sees them all. It is He who sends down rain when they have lost all hope, and spreads His grace far and wide. He is the Protector, worthy of all praise. (Consultation, Al-Shura: 42: 25-28)
These verses of the surah point to signs confirming the truth of faith within people’s own selves and in the wide horizons. Further discussion is added about God’s power and its evidence in people’s surroundings and what affects their livelihood. The distinctive qualities of believers also come in for discussion. Toward the end of the surah, we have further discussions on what the first part focused on, namely, revelation, its nature and how it is delivered. The two parts are closely linked, as both address the human heart and put the way to faith before us.
These verses follow immediately after the verses that show the wrongdoers dreading having to face what they have done, given that it will inevitably fall back on them. Those verses also painted an image of the believers as they revel in their rewards, secure in the flowering meadows of paradise. Moreover, those earlier verses confirmed what the Prophet (peace be upon him) delivered to them of God’s message and stated that God is fully aware of what their hearts may harbor.
As this second part opens, it calls on people to turn to God and abandon their erroneous ways before a final judgment is passed on them. The door to repentance is left wide open. God Almighty accepts repentance and pardons bad deeds. Hence, there is no need to despair, go further into disobedience, or panic because of the sins they have committed. God knows what they do, and He certainly knows sincere repentance and accepts it, just as He knows their past sins and pardons them for these.
Again the surah refers to what believers and unbelievers will receive in reward or punishment. Those who believe and do good deeds are the ones who respond to their Lord’s call. He, therefore, gives them an increase of His bounty. By contrast, “As for the unbelievers, severe suffering awaits them.”
Yet the door to repentance, which will spare the repentant all suffering, is open to all at all times. Any unbeliever who repents will qualify for God’s bounty which is, in the life to come, plentiful, unlimited.
In this life, however, it is given according to a set criterion. God knows that in their lives on earth, human beings cannot cope with God’s bounty should it be given to them without measure: “If God were to grant plentiful provisions to His servants, they would behave on earth with much insolence. As it is, He bestows from on high in due measure, as He wills. He is fully aware of His creatures, and He sees them all.”
Compared to the limitless bounty granted in the hereafter, the provisions people have in this life, no matter how abundant they may seem, are very small indeed. God knows that His human creatures can only cope with a small measure of richness. If He were to grant them abundance, of the sort He grants them in the life to come, they would behave with much insolence. They are too small to maintain their balance; too weak to cope with their burdens when these exceed a certain limit. God is fully aware of their limitations. Therefore, He keeps His bounty to them in this present life within the limits they can cope with. He keeps His unlimited bounty till later, and gives it only to those who pass the test of this life, reaching the life to come in safety. They will then receive His limitless bounty.
“It is He who sends down rain when they have lost all hope, and spreads His grace far and wide. He is the Protector, worthy of all praise.”
Again, we are reminded of some aspects of God’s grace as He bestows it on people living on earth. We see them here when they have gone without rain for sometime. They feel their powerlessness as water, life’s necessity, is denied to them. They are in total despair. At this point, the skies open and God’s grace is spread far and wide. The land is alive again, green shoots spring up, the seeds that have been planted, promise a good yield, the weather moderates, smiles are back on people’s faces and hope is regained. What separates the old despair from the new hope is no more than a few minutes during which the gates of God’s grace are open and rain pours down: “He is the Protector, worthy of all praise.” His help is available at all times. He is not only worthy of praise in Himself but also for all His attributes.
The Arabic text uses the term ghayth to refer to rain. The term connotes providing emergency help for those who are in desperate need. The effects are given as God “spreads His grace”, which enhances feelings of hope and happiness that we actually experience as we look at the emerging vegetation. Nothing has a greater comforting and calming effect on people than rain pouring down after a period of drought. Nothing helps to remove tension and worry better than seeing the land blooming after it has been barren and desolate.