Attaining True Piety
In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Beneficient
How shall Allah guide people who have lapsed into disbelief after having accepted the faith and having borne witness that this messenger is true, and after having received clear evidence of the truth? Allah does not guide the wrong doers. Of such people, the punishment shall be the curse of Allah, the angels and all men: under it they shall abide forever. Neither their suffering shall be lightened, nor shall they be granted respite. Excepted shall be those who afterwards repent and mend their ways; for Allah is Much-Forgiving, Merciful. As for those who sink into disbelief after having accepted the faith, and become hardened in their disbelief, their repentance shall not be accepted. They are indeed the ones who have gone utterly astray. As for those who disbelieve and die disbelievers, not even the earth full of gold shall be accepted from any one of them, were he to offer it in ransom. They shall have grievous suffering and they shall have none to help them.
You will never attain to true piety unless you spend on others out of what you dearly cherish. Allah has full Knowledge of what you spend.
(The House of Imran, “Aal Imran”: 3;85-92)
Islam, the religion of the whole universe, means submission to the system Allah has laid down for life. Islam can never be confined to the verbal declaration of believing in the oneness of Allah and Muhammad’s message. Such a declaration must be followed by its practical correlative. That means, in the context of bearing witness that there is no deity save Allah, to actually believe that Allah is the only Lord of the universe to whom worship should be addressed and whose pleasure is to be sought. In the case of bearing witness that Muhammad is Allah’s messenger, it means to implement in full, the way of life he has explained to us as given him by his Lord, and to apply the laws he has given us and to refer all disputes to the Qur’an, the Book he has conveyed to us.
Islam is a Way of Life
As we have said, Islam can never be confined to a mental acceptance of the truth of divinity and revelation, devoid of its practical effect. Nor can Islam be limited to a set of worship practices, contemplation or moral and spiritual education unless these are followed by their practical correlative represented by a way of life derived from Allah to whom worship is addressed, contemplation is directed and through fearing whom, people maintain a high moral education. Practices have no practical value in people’s life unless they are incorporated in a social system which moulds human life in its own clean fashion.
Those who do not accept Islam in the form Allah wants it to take, after having learned its true nature will definitely be the losers in the hereafter. They will receive no guidance from Allah and will not be exempt from His punishment: How shall Allah guide people who have lapsed into disbelief after having accepted the faith and having borne witness that this messenger is true, and after having received clear evidence of the truth? Allah does not guide the wrongdoers. Of such people the punishment shall be the curse of Allah, the angels and all men: under it they shall abide forever. Neither shall their suffering be lightened, nor shall they be granted respite.
Door Open for Repentance
It is a sustained campaign which strikes terror in every heart with even the smallest measure of faith, and which views the question of the hereafter with the minimum degree of seriousness. The punishment detailed here is fair for anyone who has been given the chance to save himself, but who deliberately and stubbornly turns away from it. Islam, nevertheless, leaves the door open for repentance. Any erring person who wants to turn back to the right way needs only to knock on the door. Indeed, he does not even need to knock. There is no one and nothing to prevent him entering. He only needs to turn to the way which ensures his security, and to do good in order to show that his repentance is sincere and truthful: Excepted shall be those who afterward repent and mend their ways; for Allah is Much-Forgiving, Merciful.
Those who do not repent, refuse to turn back, insist on remaining disbelievers and continue to be hardened in their erring ways until the chance given them is with-drawn – such people cannot be saved. Their test is over. It is now time for punishment and reward. No repentance will be accepted from them. It will not be of any benefit to them that they may have spent what fills the whole earth with gold in what they thought to be good causes. Since their spending was not made for Allah’s sake and not dedicated to Him alone, it has no value with Him. “As for those who disbelieve and die disbelievers, not even the earthful of gold shall be accepted from any one of them, were he to offer it in ransom. They shall have grievous suffering and they shall have none to help them”.
Standard of True Piety
Since spending for causes other than that of Allah’s is mentioned as well as the offering of ransom when none may be accepted, Allah explains the sort of spending which earns its pleasure: You will never attain to true piety unless you spend for others out of what you dearly cherish. Allah has full knowledge of what you spend. The Muslims at the time understood this divine directive perfectly well. They were keen to achieve that standard of true piety, which means the culmination of everything that is good, by offering what they cherished dearly. They came forward with such offerings in the hope of receiving in the hereafter a much greater reward.
Imam Ahmad relates on the authority of Anas Ibn Malik: “Abu Talhah was one of the richest people among the Ansar in Madinah. His property which he cherished most dearly was a plot of land called Haa”. It was opposite to the Prophet’s mosque. The Prophet used to go there and drink of its fine spring. Anas says that when Allah revealed the Qur’anic verse: ‘You will never attain to true piety unless you spend on others out of what you dearly cherish’, Abu Talhah said: Messenger of Allah, Allah says: “You will never attain to true piety unless you spend on others out of what you dearly cherish.” My property which I cherish most dearly is this piece of land. I am offering it as a charity dedicated for Allah’s sake. I do this in the hope that I will be rewarded for it by Allah. You, messenger of Allah, may dispense with it in any way you please. The Prophet said: “Good ! Good ! that is an investment with high return. That is an investment with high return. I have heard what you said. I think the best course is for you to divide it among your relatives.” Abu Talhah said: “I will do that, messenger of Allah.” He divided it among his relatives and cousins.” (Related by Al-Bukhari and Muslim).
Al-Bukhari and Muslim also relate that Omar said: “Messenger of Allah, I have never acquired any property which is more valuable than my share in Khaibar. How do you advise me to dispense with it? The Prophet said: “Make the land a permanent endowment and its produce free for all”.
Many of them have followed this line in fulfillment of Allah’s instruction who has outlined for us the way to true piety when he has guided us to Islam. In this way, we attain our freedom from being enslaved by wealth and self-aggrandisement. We can aspire to attain a more sublime level, free of all shackles, undeterred by any impediments.