وَجَعَلَنِي مُبَارَكًا أَيْنَ مَا كُنْتُ
Wa-ja ‘alanī mubārakan ayna mā kunt
And He has made me blessed wherever I may be
(Sūrat Maryam, No.19, Āyat 31)
Human beings can make a lot of difference in the lives of others. Their support, assistance, cheerfulness, positivity, advice, etc. has the potential to enhance the quality of life for others. To give selflessly to others is possible for everyone, no matter who or where they are. It links people in a society, making it a beautiful whole where each part contributes to the well-being of the other.
The verse above is part of what Nabī ‘Īsā – Jesus (a) said when he was born. When Bibi Maryam (a) took him to her people and they began accusing her, the baby spoke, by the power of Allah. One of the things he said was that he was blessed wherever he may be. Imam al-Sādiq (a) when explaining this verse said: it means useful and beneficial (al-Kāfī, v. 2, p. 165, H. 11). Agha Mushin Qarā’atī in Tafsīr-e Nūr says that the source of being blessed is in the intentions, goals, and inner qualities of the person. Jesus (a) had lofty goals of teaching and leading others towards God. Thus his was a blessed existence for others.
A believer who loves Allah also loves people for His sake. He wishes to serve them as best he can. In a Hadith al-Qudsī, Allah says: Mankind is my family and the most beloved of them to Me is the most kind to them (al-Kāfī, v. 2, p. 199). Service to others is the hallmark of a believer and every part of his existence is beneficial for others in different ways. The Holy Prophet (s) explains this very succinctly when he said: The example of a believer is like the example of a palm tree, everything you take from it will benefit you (Mīzānul Hikmah, H. 18, 162). Each part of a palm tree is useful. Its trunk is used for wood and lumber. Its leaves are woven into roofs, baskets, and mats. Its fruits are sweet and nutritious. Other gifts of the palm tree include honey, oil, medicine, rope, etc. Similarly, a believer is beneficial to others through his intellect, his tongue, his actions, and his very existence.
To serve others and be blessed for them is noble, but to make it more perfect and everlasting, consider the following etiquette that Islam teaches about service to others:
1) The chance to serve others is a favor to yourself, not the other way around. Many Hadiths emphasize the fact that it is an honor to serve. Imam al-Husayn (a) says: The needs of people towards you are from the blessings of Allah for you so do not get tired of blessings (Bihār, v. 71, p. 318). In another Hadith Imam Ali (a) says: A good deed that you do to any from people, you have only ennobled yourself through it and beautified your disposition so do not expect gratitude from others for what you have done for yourself (Tasnīf Ghurar, H. 3,542).
2) Do not have any expectations of appreciation or reward. That was the practice of Prophets (a). In Sūratush Shu‘arā, Allah (swt) quotes several prophets saying: I do not ask you any reward for it; my reward lies only with Lord of all the worlds (Q 26:109, 127, 145, 164 & 180). Even the Ahlul Bayt (a) after giving away their iftār for three consecutive days said: We only feed you for Allah’s sake; we desire from you neither reward nor thanks (Q 76:9).
3) Use correct etiquette when serving. Among them are:
a) If possible, serve before being asked. The Holy Prophet (s) said: A believer does not make another ask him if he knows his need (Bihār, v.74, p. 312).
b) Do not make people feel obliged. Imam Zaynul Ābidīn (a) prayed to Allah: Let good flow out from my hands upon the people and efface it not by my making them feel obliged (Du‘ā 20, Sahīfa Sajjādiyya).
c) If you cannot do what is needed, at least say some kind words and behave well with them. The Holy Prophet (s) advised: You cannot please [all] mankind with your wealth but you can please them with your Akhlāq (Al Ikhtisās, p. 225).
Let this verse remind you of the beauty of service to others. Look for opportunities to make a difference in the lives of others. It will transform your own life too, for giving affects the giver as well as the receiver. Recite this verse often and pray that yours may be a blessed existence, especially during the Holy months of Sha‘bān and Ramadan.
Sources: Āyatullāh Nāsir Makārim Shirāzī (Ed.), Tafsīr-e Namūneh; Agha Muhsin Qarā’atī, Tafsir-e Nūr.