Quranic Reflection No 623 Āyat 2:245 – Giving in the way of Allah (swt)

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مَّن ذَا ٱلَّذِى يُقْرِضُ ٱللَّهَ قَرْضًا حَسَنًۭا فَيُضَـٰعِفَهُۥ لَهُۥٓ أَضْعَافًۭا كَثِيرَةًۭ ۚ 

وَٱللَّهُ يَقْبِضُ وَيَبْصُۜطُ وَإِلَيْهِ تُرْجَعُونَ

Who is it that will lend Allah a good loan that He may multiply it for him severalfold? And Allah tightens and expands [the means of life], and to Him you shall be brought back.

(Sūrat al-Baqarah 2:245)

In this holiest of months in which we are the guests of Allah (swt), we recite this ayah in which the Almighty refers to Himself as a loan-taker from us, His creation. He wants us to spend in His way, but He doesn’t do so by commanding it and saying, for example, “Spend in My way so that I multiply it manifold”; instead, He phrases it as a question. Actions carried out in response to commands are often done out of pressure and obligation, whereas the invitation contained within the verse serves as an encouragement.

But what does it mean for Allah, the Creator and true Owner of everything, to ask His servants for a loan? Is there anything He doesn’t own so that it can be lent to Him? More fundamentally, does He have a lack, a need that must be fulfilled by another?! Certainly not! After all, وَلِلَّهِ خَزَآئِنُ ٱلسَّمَـٰوَٰتِ وَٱلْأَرْضِ – To Allah belong the treasuries of the heavens and the earth (Q 63:7). Rather, Him situating Himself as a loan-taker and us as the loan-givers holds a deep tarbiyyatī (training) principle. Have you seen a toddler who takes away his dad’s car keys? When the father tries to take them back, he replies: “No, they’re mine!” And the father says, “Sure, my dear son, they are yours; can you give those keys that belong to you to me? If you do, I’ll use them to drive to the store and buy you everything you need!” Allah knows we are woefully attached to our material possessions – so much so that we have deluded ourselves into thinking that they are truly ours – and yet giving them in His way is ultimately for our own benefit. And so, He uses the same tactic as the loving father; He knows what we consider to be ours is truly His, but He allows us to give it back to Him with our own agency and with the promise of manifold rewards.

Notice that the reward mentioned in this verse is not enumerated; rather, it simply says ad‘āfan kathīran – a manifold multiplication. The secret behind this phrasing is contained within a beautiful Hadith from Prophet Muhammad sallal-lāhu ‘alayhi wa-ālihi wasallam. When the verse: مَن جَاءَ بِالْحَسَنَةِ فَلَهُ خَيْرٌ مِّنْهَا – Whoever brings virtue shall receive [a reward] better than it (Q 27:89) was revealed, the Prophet (s) is reported to have asked Allah to increase the reward of the good doer. In response, the verse: مَن جَاءَ بِالْحَسَنَةِ فَلَهُ عَشْرُ أَمْثَالِهَا – Whoever brings virtue shall receive ten times it’s like (Q 6:160) was revealed. He (s) asked for yet another increase, and the Most Generous revealed the Q 2:245 – the verse under discussion. Here Allah ‘azza wajall promises a limitless reward to the one who spends in His way. And according to some exegetes, the end of the verse which states, And to Him you shall be brought back is an indication that the manifold increase mentioned in the former part of the Āyat is related to this world, and when the “loan-giver” returns to Allah, he will see even vaster rewards in the Hereafter. Subhānallāh – is there any investment with a greater return?!

But what is it that we are being asked to spend? Is it simply material wealth and worldly possessions? What if I don’t have anything; does the verse not apply to me? It is true that wealth and money can be an instance of what is being requested, but the actual ‘loan’ is not anything material. Rather, the loan is us. We are being asked to expend ourselves in the path of Allah (swt)! Every moment contains within it an opportunity to expend this loan. Every movement, every stillness, every word, every thought – it can all be for the sake of Allah (swt). If we are granted the tawfīq of such a station, our lives become a constant giving to our Master, but not a giving that reduces us, rather one that only causes an increase beyond what we can comprehend. We are the “loan-giver”, and we are the “loan”. When we give of ourselves, Allah (swt) – the “loan-taker” – safeguards what was given and increases it. Our existence itself expands; we become more! 

This is why we see that the blessed Imam whose birth we celebrate this week gave not just all his possessions twice in the way of Allah, but rather the entirety of his existence. Imam al-Hasan (a)’s life is a beautiful and complete example of one who has truly acted on this verse and experienced such an expansion of existence that he is popularly known as the ‘Karīm-e-Ahlulbayt’. At this blessed time let us renew our determination to spend our possessions, our efforts, ourselves in the way of our Lord, thereby enlivening the ‘sīrah’ of our beloved second Imam.  

Sources: Allāmah Muhammad Husayn Tabātabā’ī, Tafsīr al-Mīzān; Āyatullāh Nāsir Makārim Shirāzī (Ed), Tafsīr-e Namūneh; Āghā Muhsin Qarā’atī, Tafsīr Nūr.


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