Monday 31 January 2022

Do not desire things in which God has given preference to others over you

Contentment is the hallmark of a true believer for he never eyes others' fortunes or sheds tears over own misfortune or lack of wealth. health and even social position. Yet we see believers of weak faith always trying to look over the fence into the neighbour's lawn and lamenting why the grass is greener over there and why not ours. 

However, one may agree that it is not possible for Allah to have bestowed upon every single soul with same amount of bounties and blessings for if that is done, how would the men and women be tested for their steadfastness and contentment. This theme has been oft repeated in the Qur'an, telling the believers to be contended for what they have and may not feel at loss for others being preferred over him in distribution of Allah's blessings, for one never knows that many a times few turns out to be better than abundance.

The theme of 32nd verse of Surah 4. An Nisa (The Women) is the topic for our today's post in our series of posts on Selected Verses from Qur'an:

وَلَا تَتَمَنَّوۡا مَا فَضَّلَ اللّٰهُ بِهٖ بَعۡضَكُمۡ عَلٰى بَعۡضٍ​ ؕ لِلرِّجَالِ نَصِيۡبٌ مِّمَّا اكۡتَسَبُوۡا ؕ​ وَلِلنِّسَآءِ نَصِيۡبٌ مِّمَّا اكۡتَسَبۡنَ​ ؕ وَسۡئَـلُوا اللّٰهَ مِنۡ فَضۡلِهٖ ؕ اِنَّ اللّٰهَ كَانَ بِكُلِّ شَىۡءٍ عَلِيۡمًا‏  
And do not desire things in which God has given preference to some of you over others because whatever men have earned, they shall get its share, and whatever women have earned, they shall also necessarily get its share. [If you desire to outdo one another, then this is the sphere to do it] and [for this] ask God of His bounty. Surely, God has full knowledge of all things.
In this verse Allah has given a very important moral instruction, which, if observed, would bring great peace in the troubled social life of today. Allah has taught people not to be covetous for and be envious of the possessions of others, for He has not; in His wisdom, created all men alike. But for this disparity life would have become dull.

As Allah has perfect knowledge of everything, He has created one beautiful and another ugly. He has given to one a melodious voice and to another a harsh voice. He has made one of strong physique and another of weak constitution. He has endowed one with some good qualities of mind and body and another with other qualities. He has created one in straitened and another in opulent circumstances. He has provided one with ample resources and another with scanty ones. A little thinking will convince a person that the variety in human culture is due only to those very differences and distinctions which are based on wisdom and perfect knowledge. That is why chaos of one sort or the other results whenever people artificially try either to aggravate these differences and distinctions or to eliminate them totally. The human tendency to envy others because of their superiority in anything generates jealousy, cut-throat competition, enmity, class struggle and the like with the resulting consequences. One who suffers from such a mentality tries to grab unlawfully that which Allah has not given him through His bounty. In this verse Allah has advised the Muslims to avoid such a mentality and keep themselves free from envying others. One should, however, pray to Allah for His bounty, for He will bestow upon him whatever He considers proper for him, because He has perfect knowledge of everything.

As regards "The men shall have their due share according to what they have earned, and the women shall have their share according to what they have earned," in my opinion it means that women should not envy men and men should not envy women because of any superiority the one has over the other because of Allah's bounty. They should make full use of whatever Allah has given them and rest assured that each one will get one's due share according to what good or evil one earns and of the same quality that one deserves.

Tafsir Ibn-Kathir: (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, (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 sucessful 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.

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.

Here 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 one’s self through good deeds, high character, worship, diligence and virtue. The Qur’ān 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.

Qur'an Wiki Explanation: we have a general prohibition against coveting the gifts God has favoured some believers with. This is a general statement that applies to all sorts of favours and privileges, which may include functions, positions, abilities, talents, wealth and other luxuries. A believer should appeal to God and pray to Him to grant him of His grace. He should not waste time feeling sorry for himself nor with all that such an attitude generates of harbouring grudges and greed, of feeling angry, deprived, or unjustly treated. Such feelings may give rise to thinking ill of God and His fair distribution. To harbour such a feeling is disastrous because it substitutes worry and misery for content and self confidence. Entertaining such evil thoughts wastes one’s energy. To turn to God directly and to pray to Him for His grace is to turn to the source of all grace; it can never be exhausted and does not repel anyone. Moreover, it is in God that all hopes are placed and to Him alone that one should turn as one goes about, seeking one’s share of God’s grace.

As has already been said, this is a general directive. The fact that it comes at this point in the sūrah, as well as in a number of reports which speak of the occasion when it was revealed, may indicate that this verse refers specifically to a certain type of favour, namely, the difference in shares of inheritance between men and women. This is an extremely important aspect of the relationship between the two sexes which needs to be established on the solid foundation of mutual acceptance and complementarity, so that contentment prevails in the family and the Muslim society at large. Despite the importance of this aspect, it does not limit the generality of the statement. Authoritative commentaries on the Qur’ān speak of both aspects, giving reports in support of both:
Umm Salamah, a wife of the Prophet, once said to him: “Messenger of God, men fight when we do not, and we receive half a share of inheritance.” God subsequently revealed: “Do not covet the bounties God has bestowed more abundantly on some of you than on others.” Another report also quotes Umm Salamah as saying to the Prophet: “Messenger of God, we do not fight so that we may be martyrs, and we do not have an equal share of inheritance”. This verse was then revealed. Later, God revealed the verse in which He says: “I will not suffer the work of any worker among you, male or female, to be lost.” (3:195)

You may now like to listen to explanation of the above referred ayat / verse by prominent Muslim scholar Nouman Ali Khan:
May Allah help us understand Qur'ān and help us to be contended over what we have rather than coveting on others' fortunes and lamenting. May Allah help us act upon the commandments of Allah contained therein. Aameen.

For more Selected Verses, please refer to our reference page: Selected Verses from the Qur'an
You 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 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.  
In order to augment and add more explanation as already provided, 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
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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