Tuesday 9 February 2021

Do not covet what Allah has conferred more abundantly on some of you than others

A large part of the world populace lives under the poverty line. Yet man is ever ungrateful for what has been bestowed with. Rather, instead of being grateful for being better than many, he is always looking up to those who have been given more than him and envying them. Even brothers living under one roof envy those of them who have been blessed more by Allah than the rest. Sometimes this jealousy and covet even leads to hatred and break up of relations. For such ungrateful people, the following 32nd verse of Surah 4. An Nisa should serve as an eye opener:

وَ لَا تَتَمَنَّوۡا مَا فَضَّلَ اللّٰہُ بِہٖ بَعۡضَکُمۡ عَلٰی بَعۡضٍ ؕ لِلرِّجَالِ نَصِیۡبٌ مِّمَّا اکۡتَسَبُوۡا ؕ وَ لِلنِّسَآءِ نَصِیۡبٌ مِّمَّا اکۡتَسَبۡنَ ؕ وَ سۡئَلُوا اللّٰہَ مِنۡ فَضۡلِہٖ ؕ اِنَّ اللّٰہَ کَانَ بِکُلِّ شَیۡءٍ عَلِیۡمًا 
(4:32) Do not covet what Allah has conferred more abundantly on some of you than others. Men shall have a share according to what they have earned, and women shall have a share according to what they have earned. Do ask of Allah His bounty. Allah has full knowledge of everything.

This verse embodies a very important directive. By heeding it, man would be able to achieve a great measure of peace and tranquility. God has not created all men alike. Some are handsome while others are ugly. The voices of some are sweet and those of others repulsive. Some are physically strong others are weak. Some have sound limbs others have inherent deformities. Some possess outstanding physical and mental abilities while others lack them. Some are born in favourable circumstances and others not. Some have been endowed with more resources than others. It is this diversity which gives variety to human civilization, and hence serves a useful purpose. Whenever man superimposes distinctions of his own over and above this natural inequality he disrupts the natural order of things, and paves the way for corruption. Likewise, when anyone attempts to obliterate all differences between human beings he in fact engages in a war against nature and inflicts wrongs of another kind. Man is naturally inclined to feel uneasy whenever he sees someone else ahead of him. This is the root of jealousy and envy, of cut-throat competition and animosity, of mutual strife and conflict. These feelings often obsess a person to such a degree that whenever fair means do not prove effective, he resorts to unfair means to achieve his ambitions. In the present verse, God directs us not to allow this kind of mentality to take hold of us. The import of the directive is that one should not yearn for the good that God has bestowed on others. One should rather pray to God to bestow upon one the good which is in one's best interests according to God's wisdom and knowledge.

The statement that 'men shall have a share according to what they have earned and women shall have a share according to what they have earned' seems to mean, to the best of my understanding, that men and women shall have their shares of good and evil, depending on the good and evil they have earned in using the resources bestowed upon them by God.

Tafsir Ibn Kathir: Imam Ahmad recorded that Umm Salamah said, "O Messenger of Allah! Men go to battle, but we do not go to battle, and we earn one-half of the inheritance (that men get).'' 
Allah sent down: " وَلاَ تَتَمَنَّوْاْ مَا فَضَّلَ اللَّهُ بِهِ بَعْضَكُمْ عَلَى بَعْضٍ " (And wish not for the things in which Allah has made some of you to excel others). 
At-Tirmidhi also recorded this Hadith. Allah's statement, " لِّلرِّجَالِ نَصِيبٌ مِّمَّا اكْتَسَبُواْ وَلِلنِّسَآءِ نَصِيبٌ مِّمَّا اكْتَسَبْنَ " (For men there is reward for what they have earned, (and likewise) for women there is reward for what they have earned,) indicates, according to Ibn Jarir, that each person will earn his wages for his works, a reward if his deeds are good, and punishment if his deeds are evil. It was also reported that this Ayah is talking about inheritance, indicating the fact that each person will get his due share of the inheritance, as Al-Walibi reported from Ibn `Abbas. 

Allah then directed the servants to what benefits them: " وَاسْأَلُواْ اللَّهَ مِن فَضْلِهِ " (and ask Allah of His Bounty.)Therefore, the Ayah states, "Do not wish for what other people were endowed with over you, for this is a decision that will come to pass, and wishing does not change its decree. However, ask Me of My favor and I will grant it to you, for I Am Most Generous and Most Giving.'' 

Allah then said: " إِنَّ اللَّهَ كَانَ بِكُلِّ شَىْءٍ عَلِيماً " (Surely, Allah is Ever All-Knower of everything.) meaning, Allah knows who deserves this life, and so He gives him riches, and whoever deserves poverty, He makes him poor. He also knows who deserves the Hereafter, and He directs him to perform the deeds that will help him to be successful in it, and whoever deserves failure, He prevents him from achieving righteousness and what leads to it. 

Yusuf Ali Explanation: Men and women have gifts from Allah-some greater than others. They seem unequal, but we are assured that Allah has allotted them by a scheme by which people receive what they earn. If this does not appear clear in our sight, let us remember that we have no full knowledge but Allah has. We must not be jealous if other people have more than we have-in wealth or position or strength or honour or talent or happiness. Probably things are equalized in the aggregate or in the long run, or equated to needs and merits on a scale which we cannot appraise. If we want more, instead of being jealous or covetous, we should pray to Allah and place before Him our needs. Though He knows all, and has no need of our prayer, our prayer may reveal to ourselves our shortcomings and enable us to deserve more of Allah's bounty or make ourselves fit for it.

Tafsir Jalalayn: Do not covet that in which God has preferred some of you above others, in the way of worldly affairs or religion, lest it lead to mutual envy and hatred. To men a share from, a reward for, what they have earned, for their acts in the struggle and so on, and to women a share from what they have earned, by way of being obedient to their spouses and guarding their private parts: this was revealed when Umm Salama said: ‘Would that we were men, so that we could join the struggle and receive the reward they receive!’ And ask (read wa-s’alū or wa-salū) God of His bounty, what you need and He will give it to you; God is ever Knower of all things, including where merit is deserved and that for which you ask.

Javed Ahmad Ghamidi Explanation: The Almighty has said this because the real sphere in which one should strive in outdoing others is not the sphere of inborn abilities and characteristics because in this sphere some in reality are stronger than others. The Almighty has created some people superior to others as regards their mental, physical, economic and social status. Similar is the case of a man and a woman. They have been created as counterparts such that one is by nature the active member and the other the passive one. While the former trait needs domination, vigour and force, the latter needs gentleness, subtlety and acquiescence. Viewed thus, each possesses relative superiority to the other. These are inborn characteristics and any effort to surpass one another in this area would be tantamount to waging war against nature. This would of course only leave them to mourn their own misfortune.

The Almighty has directed attention to another sphere in which people should strive to outdo one another. This is the sphere of earning reward for oneself through good deeds, high character, worship, diligence and virtue. The Qur’an at various places has referred to this sphere by the comprehensive words “faith” and “righteous deeds.” This is the sphere in which people should try to outdo one another. There is no restriction on anyone in striving to outdo others in this sphere; in fact, trying to surpass others in this sphere is as desirable as it is condemnable in the sphere of innate abilities. Both a man and a woman will earn great reward if they strive and exert themselves in this area. It is open for every person whether a bondsman or a free man, a person of high social status or low, good-looking or ugly, blind or blessed with the faculty of sight. If a person does want to become superior to others, it is this sphere that he should select for all his efforts and endeavours. Wasting one’s effort in the wrong sphere only brings into existence clashes and disputes which are of no avail. Consequently, if he really wants to test his mettle and expend his energies, he must select the sphere of piety and virtue.

Nouman Ali Khan Explanation: The real competition is the quality, not the quantity. It is in how sincerely we spent the little time we had here. Allah tells us to not wish for the favors He gave others, this is the neglect of the very premises of Shukr. Women generally go on thinking why was a born a woman, why not a man? I can't do all the things he can, etc. That thinking is wrong because we must do the best we can with what has been given to us. Women have different responsibilities in the household compared with men and hence expectations from them are different. We all must strive for one thing: am I doing sincere and good deeds while in the perimeter of what's been given to me? Allah knows what he's made us capable of and hence we'll be answerable according to what abilities he's granted us with. Quality over quantity. This is the Ayah of jealousy.

Please listen to the explanation of this verse by eminent scholar Nouman Ali Khan:
We must, therefore, count on our blessings for we do not know how green actually is the lawn of our neighbour. May Allah help us understand Qur'ān and help us to act upon the commandments of Allah contained therein. Aameen.

For more Selected Verses, please refer to our reference page: Selected Verses from the Qur'anYou may also refer to our Reference Pages for knowing more about Islam and Qur'ān.
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Reading the Qur'ān should be a daily obligation of a Muslim - Reading it with translation will make it meaningful. But reading its Exegesis / Tafsir will make you understand it fully.

An effort has been made to gather explanation / exegesis of the surahs of the Qur'ān from authentic sources and then present a least possible condensed explanation of the surah. In that:
  • The plain translation has been taken from the Qur'ān officially published by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. [1]
  • The exegesis of the chapters of the Quran is mainly based on the "Tafhim al-Qur'an - The Meaning of the Qur'an" by one of the most enlightened scholars of the Muslim World Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi. [2]  
In order to augment and add more explanation as already provided by [2], additional input has been interjected from following sources: 
  • Towards Understanding the Quran
  • Tafsir Ibn Khatir
  • Muhammad Asad Translation
  • Javed Ahmad Ghamidi / Al Mawrid
  • Al-Quran, Yusuf Ali Translation
  • Verse by Verse Qur'an Study Circle
  • Tafsir Jalalayn
In addition the references of  other sources which have been explored have also been given above. Those desirous of detailed explanations and tafsir (exegesis), may refer to these sites.

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