God says : "He it is Who gathereth you at night and knoweth that which ye commit by day. Then He raiseth you again to life therein, that the term appointed (for you) may be accomplished. And afterward unto Him is your return. Then He will proclaim unto you what ye used to do." (6 : 60) If I am a good believer that warning should be enough to remind me that God "is the Omnipotent over His slaves." (6 :61) and "Not an animal but He doth grasp it by the forelock!" (11 : 56 ). If that warning is not enough, if I don't really feel that God takes my life every night, well, here's another warning that appeals to me directly : God says : "and we made every living thing of water" (21 :30) I have experienced this firsthand. I was a student in a dorm where I could not have a shower for a whole month –simply because water was scarce that year. We could barely find water to drink. Water shortage kills. Drought causes huge fires. God says : "And have sent down from the rainy clouds abundant water, Thereby to produce grain and plant, And gardens of thick foliage." (98: 14-16) Up to this day man has been unable to solve the problem of drought. Engineers have bombed clouds but apparently that hasn't worked. It takes more than bombing a thousand clouds to fill a river or save a forest from an imminent blaze. And when it does rain there's the risk of floods and mud slides.
Also God says : "Lo! Allah graspeth the heavens and the earth that they deviate not, and if they were to deviate there is not one that could grasp them after Him. Lo! He is ever Clement, Forgiving." (35: 41) "He holdeth back the heaven from falling on the earth unless by His leave. Lo! Allah is, for mankind, Full of Pity, Merciful." (22 : 65) This might look highly unlikely for a non believer scientist but not entirely impossible for an ordinary believer like myself. All I know is that in February 2013 a thousand people were wounded after the fall of a meteorite in Russia, which has got an advanced space program. Yes, I concede that's rare and not so much dangerous, but should I wait for the sky to fall over on my head so as to believe? God also says : "and of all fruits He placed therein two spouses (male and female)." (13 : 3) I am not a scientist to check that out. So should I know or believe ? Scientific knowledge is not static. Many things that are now obvious were not known a century ago.
God also says : "Let man consider his food: How We pour water in showers Then split the earth in clefts And cause the grain to grow therein And grapes and green fodder And olive-trees and palm-trees And garden-closes of thick foliage And fruits and grasses: Provision for you and your cattle." (80 : 23-32) "Have ye seen that which ye cultivate? Is it ye who foster it, or are We the Fosterer?" (56 : 63-64) What can I say about this ? Well, once again, I can only judge by what I notice. I have noticed that many farmers content themselves with sowing the seeds and working the land for a few days or weeks and then they go to sleep. One day the first green vegetation emerges from the ground. How did it emerge ? I don't know. Then bees come around and do their precious work, for free. Bees are the best volunteers in this world, aren’t they ? We humans take many things for granted. God says : "He it is Who hath made the earth subservient unto you, so Walk in the paths thereof and eat of His providence. And unto Him will be the resurrection (of the dead)." (67 : 15) We have seen how people move about in space. They can't walk as they do in the earth.
God says : "man is more than anything contentious." (18 : 54) It is easy to argue with God because God is not going to argue with you NOW. But God is not dead. "And trust thou in the Living One Who dieth not." (25 : 58) Speaking to God is not like speaking to a dead body. To God the real dead are those who want to argue with Him. "Is he who was dead and We have raised him unto life, and set for him a light wherein he walketh among men, as him whose similitude is in utter darkness whence he cannot emerge? Thus is their conduct made fairseeming for the disbelievers." (6 : 122) Just as God revives the land after its death so does He revive the souls of men who suddenly feel the light of wisdom. "He it is Who sendeth down water from the sky, and therewith We bring forth buds of every kind; We bring forth the green blade from which We bring forth the thick-clustered grain; and from the date-palm, from the pollen thereof, spring pendant bunches; and (We bring forth) gardens of grapes, and the olive and the pomegranate, alike and unlike. Look upon the fruit thereof, when they bear fruit, and upon its ripening. Lo! herein verily are portents for a people who believe." (6 : 99) "Portents (signs) for people who believe". I believe first, then I look for the signs. "And in the Earth are neighbouring tracts, vineyards and ploughed lands, and date-palms, like and unlike, which are watered with one water. And we have made some of them to excel others in fruit. Lo! herein verily are portents for people who have sense." (13 : 4) How can I be one of the people who have sense if I don't think about what's happening around me ? You know, temperatures in such beautiful Moroccan cities as Fez and Marrakech reach 40 to 45°C in the summer these last years. A recent joke says that if you want to marry a girl from one of these cities her father will demand a climatiser among her dowry ! God says : "Allah promiseth to the believers, men and women, Gardens underneath which rivers flow, wherein they will abide - blessed dwellings in Gardens of Eden. And - greater (far)! - acceptance from Allah. That is the supreme triumph." (9 : 72) Also about Heaven He says : "Reclining therein upon couches, they will find there neither (heat of) a sun nor bitter cold." (76 : 13) How can I feel, as a believer, the importance of this last piece of description if I haven't felt the difference? Nor is the shadow equal with the sun's full heat; (35 : 21) Is walking in the shade like walking in the baking sun ? A good believer knows that the shade is a great gift from God. A good believer would thank God for the mere sight or smell of a fruit, let alone eating it ! "None can inform you like Him Who is Aware." (35 : 14) "Is he who knoweth that what is revealed unto thee from thy Lord is the truth like him who is blind? But only men of understanding heed." (13 : 19) "The erudite among His bondmen fear Allah alone. Lo! Allah is Mighty, Forgiving." (35 : 28) Those are the minority of the minority : those "who believe and do good works are the best of created beings. (…) Allah hath pleasure in them and they have pleasure in Him. This is (in store) for him who feareth his Lord." (98 : 7-8)
What can I understand from the verse which says : "Say (O Muhammad, unto the disbelievers): My Lord would not concern Himself with you but for your prayer." (25 : 77) ? As I said before, non-believers produce the good things for believers in this life. Most believers will only get a fraction of all that production, but even a king's stomach can't hold more than a few kilograms of food! In the Hereafter only believers will find the good things; nobody will produce such things for non-believers in Hell. God Himself says : "Few of My bondmen are thankful." (34 : 13) God knows that people who really care about Him are few compared to the total number. And yet He makes these few suffer ! He deprives them of things they love. God says : "Lo! therein indeed are portents for every steadfast, grateful (heart)." (31 : 31) And those are not very many. Why doesn't God "fear" to lose that minority of the minority ? Well, He knows that they love Him. He knows that they will be patient and, on top of that, GRATEFUL ! Because they have "hearts wherewith to feel and ears wherewith to hear? For indeed it is not the eyes that grow blind, but it is the hearts, which are within the bosoms, that grow blind." (22 : 46) That's why He made general norms (to rule the world) for the sake of that specific population. People marry and enjoy themselves generation after generation and as they do so a few souls are born in every generation and stand out with their hearts so as to join the lucky club of "every steadfast, grateful (heart). Such as are steadfast and put their trust in Allah." (16 : 42)
God knows what He is doing. "Deemed ye then that We had created you for naught, and that ye would not be returned unto Us?" (23 : 115) "Thinketh man that he is to be left aimless? Was he not a drop of fluid which gushed forth? Then he became a clot; then (Allah) shaped and fashioned And made of him a pair, the male and female. Is not He (Who doeth so) able to bring the dead to life?" (75 : 36-40) How many people care ? God says : "See ye not how Allah hath made serviceable unto you whatsoever is in the skies and whatsoever is in the earth and hath loaded you with His favours both without and within?" (31 : 20) "And He giveth you of all ye ask of Him, and if ye would count the bounty of Allah ye cannot reckon it. Lo! man is verily a wrong-doer, an ingrate." (14 : 34) Did God do that just for us to enjoy ourselves in this world, just for us to play and sing and dance and make love ...? No, "And We created not the heaven and the earth and all that is between them in vain. That is the opinion of those who disbelieve." (38 : 27)
Good believers "give that which they give with hearts afraid because they are about to return unto their Lord" (23 : 60) because they hold God in high esteem. They know that "The thunder hymneth His praise and (so do) the angels for awe of Him." (13 : 13) They know that "if all the trees in the earth were pens, and the sea, with seven more seas to help it, (were ink), the words of Allah could not be exhausted." (31 : 27) "Allah, Lord of the Ascending Stairways (Whereby) the angels and the Spirit ascend unto Him in a Day whereof the span is fifty thousand years." (70 : 2-4) Those people know that "all who are in the heavens and the earth praise [Allah], and the birds in their flight. Of each He knoweth verily its worship and its praise; and Allah is Aware of what they do." (24 : 41) "The seven heavens and the earth and all that is therein praise Him, and there is not a thing but hymneth His praise; but ye understand not their praise. Lo! He is ever Clement, Forgiving." (17 : 44)
God says : "Allah is He Who created the heavens and the earth, and causeth water to descend from the sky, thereby producing fruits as food for you, and maketh the ships to be of service unto you, that they may run upon the sea at His command, and hath made of service unto you the rivers; And maketh the sun and the moon, constant in their courses, to be of service unto you, and hath made of service unto you the night and the day. And He giveth you of all ye ask of Him, and if ye would count the bounty of Allah ye cannot reckon it. Lo! man is verily a wrong doer, an ingrate." (14 : 32-34) "See ye not how Allah hath made serviceable unto you whatsoever is in the skies and whatsoever is in the earth and hath loaded you with His favors both without and within?" (31 : 20) Why all this ? Just for us to play and sing and dance and make love? God says : "Their reckoning draweth nigh for mankind, while they turn away in heedlessness." (21 : 1) Disasters are warning me everyday. How can't I fear ? "If Allah took mankind to task by that which they deserve, He would not leave a living creature on the surface of the earth; but He reprieveth them unto an appointed term, and when their term cometh - then verily (they will know that) Allah is ever Seer of His slaves." (35 : 45) "Verily We have brought them a Scripture which We expounded with knowledge, a guidance and a mercy for a people who believe." (7 : 52) "And in truth We have made the Qur'an easy to remember; but is there any that remembereth?" (54 : 17) "Will they then not meditate on the Qur'an, or are there locks on the hearts?" (47 : 24) "O ye who believe! Remember Allah with much remembrance. And glorify Him early and late. He it is Who blesseth you, and His angels (bless you), that He may bring you forth from darkness unto light; and He is Merciful to the believers." (33 : 41-43) "God directeth the ordinance from the heaven unto the earth; then it ascendeth unto Him in a Day, whereof the measure is a thousand years of that ye reckon." (32 : 5) "All that are in the heavens and the earth entreat Him. Every day He exerciseth (universal) power." (55 : 29) "We shall dispose of you, O ye two dependents (man and jinn)." (55 : 31)
Shall I live in this world for ever? What would I do if I found out upon my death that I had only been wasting my life away? The Quran says : "We warn them, but it increaseth them in naught save gross impiety." (17 :60) "Thou art but a warner unto him who feareth it." (79 : 45) I did not fall with the last rain. I know what's happening in this world. I know that people commit suicide in rich beautiful countries. People get depressed despite all their financial ease. People lose faith easily. People feel lonely in homes where everything is available. People use drugs to forget their unforgettable problems. People fear death.
We are all God's guests in this earth. Whether we like it or not, the earth belongs to God Alone, Who can act as He pleases. "Doer of what He will" (85 : 16) God was here before we were born and He will be here after we are gone. "He brought you forth from the earth and hath made you husband it" (11 : 61) according to certain rules. Suppose somebody put at my disposal his home and said make yourself at home, faites-vous plaisir, would that mean that this home will be mine ? I know that I only came after thousands and thousands of generations who all had quite the same dreams and desires and that I too will go one day. "Allah's is the heritage of the heavens and the earth." (3 : 180) "Is it not a guidance for them (to observe) how many generations We destroyed before them, amid whose dwelling places they do walk? Lo! therein verily are portents! Will they not then heed?" (32 : 26) But God also says : "Those are a people who have passed away. Theirs is that which they earned, and yours is that which ye earn. And ye will not be asked of what they used to do." (2 : 134) "Then We appointed you viceroys in the earth after them, that We might see how ye behave." (10 : 14)
The question is, where do I go from here ? The previous generations nous ont légué un patrimoine partly red partly green. France, for example, is due to ban fuel-engined cars by 2040. That's because everybody has been aware of the dangers of air pollution. One does not need to be an intellectual to notice that our prosperity has had side effects. We all know that each one of us is partly responsible for what has happened to our earth. Deforestation, over-exploitation of fisheries, corruption, and so on are the results of our own greed. Our leaders have understood that no single country, no single continent, can solve such problems alone. Hence all that quantity of world summits on this and that. Only now are we convinced that all Men are one. God was the first to address men as one. "And He it is Who hath produced you from a single being, and (hath given you) a habitation and a repository. We have detailed Our revelations for a people who have understanding." (6 : 98) "O mankind! Be careful of your duty to your Lord Who created you from a single soul and from it created its mate and from them twain hath spread abroad a multitude of men and women." (4 : 1) "And We have not sent thee (O Muhammad) save as a bringer of good tidings and a warner unto all mankind; but most of mankind know not." (34 : 28) "Unto Allah belong the East and the West, and whithersoever ye turn, there is Allah's Countenance. Lo! Allah is All-Embracing, All-Knowing." (2 : 115) What is amazing, though, is that man has acknowledged his "sin" perpetrated against this earth; he has acknowledged his weakness; he has acknowledged his responsibility towards future generations.. but how many men have acknowledged the role of God in our lives ? God says : "Corruption doth appear on land and sea because of (the evil) which men's hands have done, that He may make them taste a part of that which they have done, in order that they may return." (30 : 41) How many men are willing "to return" ? How many men are willing to listen to God ? "Lo! Allah is a Lord of Kindness to mankind, but most of mankind give not thanks." (2 : 243) Even those who, like me, pretend they listened to God, listen to what God says about them : "O ye who believe! Follow not the footsteps of the devil. Unto whomsoever followeth the footsteps of the devil, lo! he commandeth filthiness and wrong. Had it not been for the grace of Allah and His mercy unto you, not one of you would ever have grown pure. But Allah causeth whom He will to grow. And Allah is Hearer, Knower." (24 : 21) "And thus have We inspired in thee (Muhammad) a Spirit of Our command. Thou knewest not what the Scripture was, nor what the Faith. But We have made it a light whereby We guide whom We will of Our bondmen. And lo! thou verily dost guide unto a right path." (42 : 52) "And if We willed We could withdraw that which We have revealed unto thee, then wouldst thou find no guardian for thee against Us in respect thereof. (It is naught) save mercy from thy Lord. Lo! His kindness unto thee was ever great." (17 : 86-87)
God said to the prophet (pbuh) : "We sent thee not save as a mercy for the peoples." (21 : 107) God wants mercy for us all. "And He it is Who sendeth down the saving rain after they have despaired, and spreadeth out His mercy. He is the Protecting Friend, the Praiseworthy." (42 : 28) Our leaders can be good and well qualified, but they can't replace God. God says : "And the earth hath He appointed for (His) creatures." (55 : 10) That is, for mankind. Unfortunately, some of our leaders are erecting frontiers and borders and imposing visas. Why ? Well, every leader fears for his dear country. That's comprehensible
God doesn't "fear" for His Kingdom. "Unto Him belongeth all that is in the heavens and all that is in the earth. Lo! Allah, He verily is the Absolute, the Owner of Praise. (22 : 64) Unto Him belongeth whosoever is in the heavens and the earth. All are obedient unto Him." (30 : 26) The problem is that some of our leaders give us the impression that they can give us everything we want. Well, that's questionable. God says : "Or do they own the treasures of thy Lord? Or have they been given charge (thereof)?" (52 : 37) "Or are theirs the treasures of the mercy of thy Lord, the Mighty, the Bestower?" (38 : 9) He even says : "those unto whom ye pray instead of Him own not so much as the white spot on a date-stone." (35 : 13) And that's true. If leaders in the past owned "so much as the white spot on a date-stone", no empire would have fallen, no economic crisis would have torn societies apart. "Blessed is He in Whose hand is the Sovereignty, and, He is Able to do all things." (67 : 1) If I don't believe that, God says : "Call upon those whom ye set up beside Allah! They possess not an atom's weight either in the heavens or the earth, nor have they any share in either, nor hath He an auxiliary among them." (34 : 22) "Unto Allah belongeth the Sovereignty of the heavens and the earth and whatsoever is therein, and He is Able to do all things." (5 : 120) "Say: O Allah! Owner of Sovereignty! Thou givest sovereignty unto whom Thou wilt, and Thou withdrawest sovereignty from whom Thou wilt. Thou exaltest whom Thou wilt and Thou abasest whom Thou wilt. In Thy hand is the good. Lo! Thou art Able to do all things. Thou causest the night to pass into the day, and Thou causest the day to pass into the night. And Thou bringest forth the living from the dead, and Thou bringest forth the dead from the living. And Thou givest sustenance to whom Thou choosest, without stint." (3 : 26-27)
When I realize the greatness of God, when I realize the grace of God, I can only feel rest in my heart. Even when I feel the fear of God my fear is immediately followed by rest in my heart. God says : "Allah hath (now) revealed the fairest of statements, a Scripture consistent, (wherein promises of reward are) paired (with threats of punishment), whereat doth creep the flesh of those who fear their Lord, so that their flesh and their hearts soften to Allah's reminder. Such is Allah's guidance, wherewith He guideth whom He will. And him whom Allah sendeth astray, for him there is no guide." (39 : 23) "Those who believe and obscure not their belief by wrongdoing, theirs is safety; and they are rightly guided." (6 : 82) "Lo! verily the friends of Allah are (those) on whom fear (cometh) not, nor do they grieve." (10 : 62) Even on the day of resurrection, as the prophet (pbuh) said, "Allah will give them protection with His Shade on the Day when there will be no shade except His Shade."
A non-believer would say : why should I fear God if, as he says, "Unto Allah belongeth whatsoever is in the heavens and whatsoever is in the earth. He forgiveth whom He will, and punisheth whom He will." (3 : 129) ? That's a good question. But why do I look at "punisheth whom He will" and don't I look at "forgiveth whom He will ?" The full verse is : "Unto Allah belongeth whatsoever is in the heavens and whatsoever is in the earth. He forgiveth whom He will, and punisheth whom He will. Allah is Forgiving, Merciful." (3 : 129) Why don't I try to do good and avoid evil as much as I can and then hope to be one of those whom God will forgive, since He is "Forgiving, Merciful" ? But, at the same time, if I make a silly mistake, I don’t deem myself "secure from Allah's scheme" because "None deemeth himself secure from Allah's scheme save folk that perish." (7 : 99) God says : "Allah is Mighty, Able to Requite (the wrong)." (14 : 47) As I said in a previous chapter, God wants to scare me in order to save me. He says : "With this doth Allah appal His bondmen. O My bondmen, therefor fear Me!" (39 : 16) "And Allah summoneth to the abode of peace, and leadeth whom He will to a straight path." (10 : 25) He also says : "And vie one with another for forgiveness from your Lord, and for a paradise as wide as are the heavens and the earth, prepared for those who ward off (evil)." (3 : 133) Wouldn't I be stupid if I missed such a golden opportunity ? If there's so much space in Heaven, why don't I hope to be one of the lucky dwellers of that beautiful world ?
God says : "Therefore keep your duty unto Me, O men of understanding." (2 : 197) God is speaking to "men of understanding." Who are "men of understanding"? In the Quran we read : "Therefor give good tidings (O Muhammad) to My bondmen Who hear advice and follow the best thereof. Such are those whom Allah guideth, and such are men of understanding." (39 : 17-18) The mosques we pray in are built by the rich, not the poor. Can't those people make better use of their money ? Don't they have minds to think ? "But only men of understanding heed; Such as keep the pact of Allah, and break not the covenant; Such as unite that which Allah hath commandeth should be joined, and fear their Lord, and dread a woeful reckoning; Such as persevere in seeking their Lord's Countenance and are regular in prayer and spend of that which We bestow upon them secretly and openly, and overcome evil with good. Theirs will be the sequel of the (heavenly) Home, Gardens of Eden which they enter, along with all who do right of their fathers and their halpmeets and their seed. The angels enter unto them from every gate, (Saying): Peace be unto you because ye persevered. Ah, passing sweet will be the sequel of the (heavenly) Home. (…) Allah enlargeth livelihood for whom He will, and straiteneth (it for whom He will); and they rejoice in the life of the world, whereas the life of the world is but brief comfort as compared with the Hereafter." (13 : 19-26) That's the best investment, isn't it ?
Why do angels say to Heaven dwellers "because ye persevered" ? Well, the prophet (pbuh) said : "Paradise is surrounded by hardships and the Fire is surrounded by desires." An Olympic gold medal is not Heaven, but can anybody be an Olympic champion without making sacrifices? Can you get a high university degree without making sacrifices? The right question is, is Heaven worth such sacrifices? No doubt our world is beautiful, otherwise there wouldn't be any such thing as tourism, with the myriad sumptuous hotels and resorts and campsites ... But there are also tragedies. "A similitude of the Garden which is promised unto those who keep their duty (to Allah): Underneath it rivers flow; its food is everlasting, and its shade." (13 : 35) There's no "toil nor weariness" (38 : 35) in Heaven. There are no problems in Heaven. So to get a chance to go there I have to endure some kind of suffering in this world.
Some people commit suicide because they can't have a lasting feeling of happiness. I too have suffered, but I have also had a lot of happy days. I should be grateful to God for that. If I am patient and grateful in this world God will make my life better in this world and hopefully grant me a place in Heaven. "For those who do good in this world there is a good (reward) and the home of the Hereafter will be better. Pleasant indeed will be the home of those who ward off (evil)." (16: 30)
Do I really need to be in Heaven after my death? Well, Ibrahim (pbuh) "was a people obedient to Allah, by nature upright, and he was not of the idolaters." (16: 120) and "Allah (Himself) chose Abraham for friend." (4: 125) And yet he said: "And place me among the inheritors of the Garden of Delight." (26: 85) God says: "See how We prefer one of them above another, and verily the Hereafter will be greater in degrees and greater in preferment." (17: 21) How can't I pray to God to grant me a place in Heaven too? The prophet (pbuh) said: "If you ask of Allah, ask Him for al-Firdaws" (the highest part of Paradise). You know those kinds of radio shows where you are invited to send answers in SMS text messages. They give an easy question so that a large number of people send in a large number of text messages. Well, for you personally, to increase your chances of winning you send as many text messages as you can afford. Why don't I do the same when it comes to Heaven? An ordinary Muslim who keeps his duty to God is entitled to Heaven, but to avoid "bad surprises" I should try to do better than a mere Muslim. Why don't I try to be a moomin (a believer), that's a higher grade? I should try to secure a place in Heaven first, then try to philosophize the whole thing. In the first chapter of this book I talked of "my safety first".
Now, how do I understand the story of Heaven? God could have stayed ‘alone’ and not bothered to make anything. He was God, magnanimous and magnificent, free and self-sufficient. But He was too beautiful not to be known. He was too generous not to share His beauty. But with whom? He was God and nothing could be like Him. Nothing could match up to Him. Nor did He need anything or anybody. It’s by the grace of Him that He made the world to share not only His beauty but also His bounty. He made Heaven, beautiful in every sense of the word. He made it not for Himself. (He didn’t need it.) He made it for us. Whether God made the earth before or after Heaven and Hell, that’s not a really big question. But it’s interesting to notice that God made part of the earth look like Heaven and part of it look like Hell, as a reminder for the future dwellers of this planet, for us. God describes the Quran as a reminder. Now that we are here we should ask ourselves questions. God says: "I created the jinn and humankind only that they might worship Me. I seek no livelihood from them, nor do I ask that they should feed Me. Lo! Allah! He it is that giveth livelihood, the Lord of unbreakable might." (51 : (56-58) I can't over-interpret these verses. They are clear. God wants man to worship Him. Does this mean, though, that God needs man to worship Him? God Himself answers this question. He says: "And Moses said: Though ye and all who are in the earth prove thankless, lo! Allah verily is Absolute, Owner of Praise." (14: 8) If God needed to be adored He would have spared at least those who adored Him in the best way in the past, but we all know that even prophets and saints died. Would God be interested in the number of worshippers or in the quality of worshippers or in the quantity of worship? Again, "Allah verily is Absolute, Owner of Praise." (14: 8) Suppose God was interested in the number of worshippers or in the quantity of worship, how much would "my worshipping" weigh in all that? Would I deserve eternal happiness in Heaven for this little worshipping I do in my short life? This doesn't make sense. The prophet (pbuh) said: "Do good deeds properly, sincerely and moderately and know that your deeds will not make you enter Paradise, and that the most beloved deed to Allah is the most regular and constant even if it were little." And yet God doesn't want us to go to Hell. God says: "Shall We utterly ignore you because ye are a wanton folk?" (43: 5) "Ah, the anguish for the bondmen! Never came there unto them a messenger but they did mock him!" (36: 30) The question is, why does man want to go to Hell? True, "It is not for any soul to believe save by the permission of Allah." (10 : 100) But you and I know what man is like. Many men love defiance. Many men are reckless. Even many smart men make silly mistakes. Think of AIDS, drugs, bad food habits, etc. So it’s easy to generate question after question. Some people ask questions so as to understand, others just to argue for the sake of arguing. Those who ask questions so as to understand can understand that God made Heaven to show how great He is, how merciful He is, how gentle He is, how grateful He is, how lovely He is. God made Heaven to share with believers His beauty and bounty. Therefore He is worth worshipping. Not because He has got a Fire “in His back garden”, not because He "is strong in punishment." (13 : 6) ( He is also "rich in pardon for mankind despite their wrong" (13 : 6) ) , but because He is "Merciful, Loving." (11 : 90) These people will understand that God would be worth worshipping even if there were neither Heaven nor Hell. But there must be Heaven and Hell. There must be a way to differentiate between the grateful and the ingrate. God will not accept to be worshipped for free. "Now Allah be Exalted, the True King! There is no God save Him, the Lord of the Throne of Grace." (23 : 116) God will guide me, if I am willing to listen, and pay me for the slightest thought of Him. "And whoso doeth good an atom's weight will see it then." (99 : 7) He will pay me even in the life of the world. But there’s something more precious than Heaven. Can you guess ? It’s "Allah's pleasure". (2 : 265) That’s why "of mankind is he who would sell himself, seeking the pleasure of Allah; and Allah hath compassion on (His) bondmen." (2 : 207) And because God is not just anybody, His "pleasure" is hard to obtain. Hard but not impossible. It requires sacrifices.
I do things out of love of God, out of respect of God, not out of kindness. God does not need my kindness. God wants me, as a believer, to love Him and to know why I should love Him. I love God because He is beautiful, bountiful, merciful, forgiving, loving. I love Him for His intricate qualities. I love Him because that’s the natural course. I would love a human for much, much less virtues and qualities than that. Likewise, just as I would love to see a wonderful resort created on earth by a human like myself, I would love to see Paradise which was designed and prepared by God Himself for the faithful. I believe in God and I don’t know what He is like. I believe in Heaven and I don’t know what it really is like. I can’t even imagine it. Now I believe in the invisible as the only way –decided by God– to pay for a ticket to Paradise. In other words, I don’t only think of Heaven from a religious perspective, but also from an intellectual perspective. For this idea to be clearer, take one person. Imagine a man by the name of Juan Toledo Iglesias, a 22-year-old teacher in Lima, Peru. This man comes across a Muslim couple in his city. These Muslim man and woman are not Arabs. They are Peruvian. The teacher, accustomed to Western lifestyle, asks himself questions. He does some research on the Web. He reads books, then travels to an Arab country. On his arrival, he is shocked to see that many people in this Arab Muslim country do not really give him the impression that this is Islam. So what does he do ? Does he go back home and say why should Islam be good to me while these Muslim people do not practise true Islam in their own country ? Or does he say «I don’t care of the people. I came here to discover more about the religion» ? Suppose he ignored the people and focused on the Faith as such, what could happen to him ? Well, many people went through a similar process and ended up becoming cleriks and imams who preach Arabs and non-Arabs on true Islam ! Imagine the happiness of such cleriks and imams.
God says : "Lo! this is an Admonishment, that whosoever will may choose a way unto his Lord. Yet ye will not, unless Allah willeth. Lo! Allah is Knower, Wise." (76 : 29-30) "Such is Allah's guidance, wherewith He guideth whom He will." (39 : 23) Should I take this as an excuse and say if God wants me to be a good believer He would make me a good believer ? Well, that’s like staying at home and waiting for God to bring me what I want to eat, etc. That’s like giving birth to twelve children that I can’t feed.
As I said before, the Quran speaks to "men of understanding" who "hear advice and follow the best thereof. Such are those whom Allah guideth." (39 : 17-18) That’s means, I use my own mind, my own personal experience to know the truth, and when I know the truth I have to heed it. Even good believers –who are already believers, (that is, (only men of understanding)– say : "Our Lord! Cause not our hearts to stray after Thou hast guided us, and bestow upon us mercy from Thy Presence. Lo! Thou, only Thou, art the Bestower." (3 : 8) They always say : "Show us the straight path." (1 : 6) If I use my mind I can only strengthen my faith. "Those who have been given knowledge see that what is revealed unto thee from thy Lord is the truth and leadeth unto the path of the Mighty, the Owner of Praise." (34 : 6) "And that those who have been given knowledge may know that it is the truth from thy Lord, so that they may believe therein and their hearts may submit humbly unto Him. Lo! Allah verily is guiding those who believe unto a right path." (22 : 54)
Here’s an innocent question : why do ill people and pregnant women fast Ramadan ? Sometimes the holy month of Ramadan comes in the hot season and yet many men insist that they should fast it although they are ill and many women insist that they should fast although they are pregnant ! God says : "And whosoever of you is present, let him fast the month, and whosoever of you is sick or on a journey, (let him fast the same) number of other days. Allah desireth for you ease; He desireth not hardship for you." (2 : 185) "Allah would not place a burden on you, but He would purify you and would perfect His grace upon you, that ye may give thanks." (5 : 6) "But (as for) those who believe and do good works –We tax not any soul beyond its scope–" (7 : 42) "This day have I perfected your religion for you and completed My favour unto you, and have chosen for you as religion AL-ISLAM. Whoso is forced by hunger, not by will, to sin: (for him) lo! Allah is Forgiving, Merciful." (5 : 3)
It’s not Islam that is pushing ill men or pregnant women to fast Ramadan or these hungry people not to eat from a meat that is normally forbidden. It’s these people’s hearts that push them to do so. It’s their love of God that is making them to behave in that way. It’s for such people that God made Heaven. The prophet (pbuh) said : "One amongst the denizens of Hell who had led a life of ease and plenty amongst the people of the world would be made to dip in Fire only once on the Day of Resurrection and then it would be said to him: O, son of Adam, did you find any comfort, did you happen to get any material blessing? He would say: By Allah, no, O my Lord. And then a person from amongst the persons of the world who had led the most miserable life (in the world) from amongst the inmates of Paradise would be brought and he would be made to dip once in Paradise and it would be said to him. 0, son of Adam, did you face any hardship? Or had any distress fallen to your lot? And he would say: By Allah, no, 0 my Lord, never did I face any hardship or experience any distress."
Now compare these two groups :
Group A :
"There is no sin on those who believe and perform good deeds for what they might have eaten (in the past) if they fear and come to faith and do good things and are conscious (of God) and believe, and still fear and do good, for God loves those who do good." (5 : 93)
Group B :
"Lo! those who believe, then disbelieve and then (again) believe, then disbelieve, and then increase in disbelief..." (4 : 137)
Just think of two people you made friends with. One is increasingly good to you, the other is increasingly nasty. If you had a little heaven and a little hell, what would you do with these two friends ?