Reflection No. 41 on Q 16:97 – A Promise to the Believer

Ramadhan Reflections on selected verses of the Holy Quran aim at helping Mu’mineen derive guidance and strength of spirit from the Quran. Readers are encouraged to reflect on the verse and refer to the relevant verses mentioned. We hope that this form of study of the Quran will help instill a familiarity and appreciation for the contents of the Quran. May the Almighty make us from among those who take guidance from the Word of Allah.

Whoever acts righteously, whether male or female, and he is a believer, We shall revive him with a good life, and pay them their reward by the best of what they used to do.
– Sura an-Nahl, 16:97

This verse is a beautiful promise to the believer of the effect of good deeds stemming from faith in God. The doer of the deeds will receive rewards in this world and in the Hereafter. The encouraging and positive tone of the verse inspires believers to multiply their activities and strive to increase their good deeds.

In this world the believer will be rewarded through revival with a good life. Note that Allah does not say his life will become good, but rather he will be given a revival, a new form of life which will be good and pleasant. It is the same life that is now illuminated with a light and an inner strength granted by God. The believer is granted opportunities to achieve what could otherwise not have been possible.

Tafsir gives the following definitions of the good and pleasant life that the believer will be rewarded with:

a) A life which has peace and satisfaction.
b) A life that has harmony, cooperation, and love.
c) A life free of fear and grief. This is the ideal state of people in Heaven. It can be achieved to some degree in this world when a person does not let circumstances affect him. (57:23)
d) A life that strives towards perfection. (48:29)
e) The believer sees life with a correct perspective, through the Light of Allah (39:22)
f) The angels pray for him and seek forgiveness for him. (40:7)

In the Hereafter Allah will reward those who do good deeds with the best of what they used to do. According to Tafsire Namune, this means that Allah will take the worth of the best actions of the believer, and then reward all the other good deeds with the same value. Its example in this world is like that of a buyer who wants to purchase items of different values. He takes the highest priced one and pays for all the items according to that value. No human being would do that since each person looks for his own advantage and profit, not the profit of the other party. It is only the Creator who loves His creatures so much, that He allows them to profit so much. That is why in Saheefa as-Sajjadiyya Imam Zaynul Abidin (a) says: It is You who have raised the price against Yourself to the advantage of Your servants, desiring their profit in their trade with You, their triumph through reaching You and their increase on account of You . . .  (Supplication 45)

Points to Ponder
1) Men and women have been made differently by the Creator. They have been given different roles and duties in this world. But their spiritual status in the eyes of God depends not on their gender but on their deeds. Both have an equal chance of achieving a high rank through their faith and actions. See also 3:195, 4:124

2) Faith in God is a criteria for the acceptance of good deeds. Although people may do good without faith, their deeds do not carry value with God. Good deeds without faith have a lot of negative potential; the potential for self-glorification, conceit, boasting, pride, making people feel obligated . ..  etc. Sincere faith makes a small good deed great in the eyes of God, while a lack of faith annuls the good deed and makes it worthless. See 7:147, 18:105

3) Human beings have the chance to immortalize themselves through their good deeds. Life that is fleeting and transient becomes eternal when associated with the Divine, because He is Eternal and Ever Lasting. We need to save ourselves from letting the passing of days and nights erode away our life. We can do this by passing on parts of it to God, for whatever is with Him will stay forever. As Allah says: That which is with you will be perish, but what is with Allah will last  . . .(16:96)