Reflection No. 197 on Q 16:96 Trading Transience for Immortality

مَا عِنْدَكُمْ يَنْفَدُ ۖ وَمَا عِنْدَ اللَّهِ بَاقٍ
Mā ‘indakum yanfad, wamā ‘indallāhi bāq
That which is with you will perish, but what is with Allah shall last
(Sūratun Nahl, No. 16, Āyat 96)

An intrinsic quality of all things of this world is its transience. The firmest of buildings, the most powerful governments, the strongest human beings, are all destined to perish. They move gradually from strength to weakness, from the freshness of new beginnings to the withered ravages of time. This is an undeniable fact that is evident in every sphere of life. It is only foolish to ignore it.

The only way to overcome this transience is to associate with the Divine Being that is Eternal and is not subject to the changes imposed by the passing of time. Life that is fleeting and transient becomes eternal when associated with the Divine, because He clothes it with Eternity. Every action that is done for Him takes on an everlasting form. It remains fresh and new, an investment in the Hereafter that will not perish. The Holy Prophet (s) says: When charity is delivered from the hand of its owner, it says five things: Initially I was perishable and you gave me life; I was insignificant and you made me great; I was an enemy and you turned me into a friend; you used to protect me then but now I will protect you up to the Day of Resurrection. (A Bundle of Flowers, p.129)

Human beings have the chance to immortalize themselves through their good deeds. Certain good deeds bring reward long after death. Imam al-Sādiq (a) said:
There are six things that a believer will continue to benefit after his death:
1. A righteous child who seeks forgiveness for him.
2. The Holy scripture (mushaf) which will be recited from.
3. A well which he had dug (for the benefit of people).
4. The tree which he had planted.
5. The charity of water that he had caused to flow.
6. A good tradition which will be followed (by people) after him. (Ibid, p. 90)

We need to trade the transience of this world with good deeds that will remain immortal. These good deeds will remain with Allah, an investment that will last forever. Recite this verse to remind yourself of the importance of this trade. Without it time becomes a deadly enemy that destroys all things.

Āyatullāh Nāsir Makārim Shirāzī (ed.), Tafsīre Namune;
Āyatullāh S. Faqīh Imanī, A Bundle of Flowers, online copy available here.