وَالسَّابِقُونَ السَّابِقُونَ أُولَٰئِكَ الْمُقَرَّبُونَ
And the foremost are the foremost; These will be those Nearest to Allah
Sūratul Wāqi‘ah (No. 56), Āyats 10-11.
The group of believers mentioned in these verses are those who are foremost in faith. These people strive to acquire good actions and noble characteristics, and want to be in the frontlines of those racing towards God. They do not wish to lag behind and are hopeful of being among the winners in the race. This type of competitiveness is not negative rivalry but a healthy desire to not be left behind in the quest for Allah. Tafsīr also mentions that the verse means that the ones foremost in good and virtue will be the ones foremost in earning the results of the good they do, that is the forgiveness and mercy of Allah.
It is these foremost people who will be the muqarrabūn, the ones nearest to God. Nearness to Allah is the ultimate goal of every sincere believer. Nearness of course is not physical nearness, but nearness in rank. To be near God is to be close to God, to have a strong relationship with Him. To be always connected to God. To be from those constantly communicating with God, for whom God is never far away in their thoughts. These are the different aspects of nearness to God possible for a human being.
To achieve that type of nearness requires efforts. It needs a continuous, persistent effort to overcome the obstacles that slow down the pace of progress. Heedlessness and laziness can be costly, and could result in losing our spot in the race. That is why a believer is constantly alert and looking for ways to forge ahead.
Amīrul Mu’minīn Imam Ali (a), the leader of the Muttaqīn and the Muqarrabīn, tells us what is needed to acquire nearness in the following hadith:
-On you be [the acquiring of] true sincerity and sound conviction, for these two are the best worship of the ones nearest to God. (MH, H. #16314)
-The nearest of the servants to Allah are those who are most ready to speak the truth even if it is against themselves, and the most ready to act on the truth even if they dislike it. (MH, H. #16319)
Aim at being in the front of those racing towards God. The prize will be so much worth the struggle.
Sources: Tafsīr Namune, Āytaullāh Nāsir Makārim Shirāzi (ed); Tafsir al Mizan–‘Allāmah Muhammad Husayn Tabātabā‘ī; Mizanul Hikmah, Muhammadi Rayshahrī