Quranic Reflection No. 333 Āyat 23:61 – The Race towards Goodness

أُولَٰئِكَ يُسَارِعُونَ فِي الْخَيْرَاتِ وَهُمْ لَهَا سَابِقُونَ
Ulā’ika yusāri‘ūna fil-khyrāti wahum lahā sābiqūn
It is they who hasten to every good work and these who are foremost in them.
(Sūratul Mu’minūn, No.23, Āyat 61)

One of the qualities of believers is their eagerness to perform good deeds. Their desire to please Allah propels them towards good actions. They are quick to initiate good works, carry them out determinedly, and move ahead of others in what they do.

The word yusāri‘ūna signifies a racing towards good actions. Although haste is not liked and is considered an act of shaytān, haste in good deeds is recommended. Imam al-Bāqir (a) says: When you think of doing something good, rush to do it immediately for verily you do not know what could happen later [to prevent you from doing it] (The Scale of Wisdom, H. 4002). This can be because haste shows enthusiasm for the action. Instead of apathy and laziness there is an urge to do the good quickly. Haste defeats the whisperings of shaytān who dissuades the believer from good deeds. Imam al-Sādiq (a) says: When one of you intends to do good or join relations then on his right and on his left are shaytāns, so he should hurry so they do not stop him from it (al-Kāfī, v. 2, p. 143).

The word sābiqūna denotes being among those who are ahead in the race. These people compete with others and race so that they are in front. Human beings are naturally competitive and like to outdo others. This desire can be channeled in a positive manner when the competition is in going towards Allah. Such competition is positive and healthy as it increases virtue and piety. This competition has a few necessary qualities:
i) It is sincerely to please God. The race is to get quickly towards a cherished goal – that of closeness to Allah.
ii) There is a desire to be among the winners of the race. This is not to put others down but to be from that special group of people who are the foremost.
iii) Faith and hard work are the basis for the race and the criteria for the prize.

In many other verses also Allah talks about racing towards good deeds. He says: And hasten to forgiveness from your Lord and a garden as wide as the heavens and earth, prepared for the righteous (Q 3:133); and the forerunners, the forerunners – Those are the ones brought near [to Allah] (Q 56:10-11).

Recite this verse to remind yourself of the need to rush towards goodness. When you think of a good deed that you can do, let this verse motivate you to do it immediately without any delay.

Sources: Āyatullāh Nāsir Makārim Shirāzī (Ed.), Tafsīr-e Namūneh; Muhammad Rayshahrī, The Scale of Wisdom.