Reflection No. 225 on Q 22:11 – Conditional Worshipping
وَمِنَ النَّاسِ مَن يَعْبُدُ اللَّـهَ عَلَىٰ حَرْفٍ ۖ فَإِنْ أَصَابَهُ خَيْرٌ اطْمَأَنَّ بِهِ ۖ وَإِنْ أَصَابَتْهُ فِتْنَةٌ انقَلَبَ عَلَىٰ وَجْهِهِ خَسِرَ الدُّنْيَا وَالْآخِرَةَ ۚ ذَٰلِكَ هُوَ الْخُسْرَانُ الْمُبِينُ
Waminan-nāsi man ya‘budul-lāha ‘alā ḥarfin fa-in aṣābahu khayruni-ṭma’anna bihi, wa-in aṣābathu fitnatunin-qalaba ‘alā wajhihi khasirad-dunyā wal-ākhirah. Dhālika huwa khusrānul mubīn
And among people are those who worship Allah on the [very] fringe, if good fortune befalls him he is content with it, but if an ordeal befalls him, he turns his face about, losing this world and the Hereafter. That is the manifest loss.
(Sūratul Hajj, No. 22, Āyat 11)
In this verse Allah describes people with weak faith who worship Allah but their worship is not grounded firmly. It is a shallow faith they possess, one that does not go beyond their tongues. Tafsīr-e Namūne explains that worshipping Allah on the fringe could mean that the faith stops at the tongue and only a very dim light of faith enters the heart. This dim light can flicker away very fast with the slightest disturbance. It could also mean that these people stand on the edge of faith, dabbling only their feet in the waters of faith. A slight shaking could cause them to fall off from the path.
The verse then continues to describe how their faith is shaken. If they get good in this world they are satisfied and feel that their faith is verified. But if they are tested through difficulties and hardship, and the removal of blessings, their faith wavers and they turn away from God. It is as though they see religion as a tool to gain worldly benefits. Without that religion has no value for them. On account of this attitude they end up losing this world and the next (Q 22:11).
Ibn Abbās narrates that this verse was revealed about the dwellers of the desert who would come to the Holy Prophet (s) and accept Islam. If their wealth increased, their families multiplied, their animals and farms prospered, they would be happy that Islam brought them such blessings. But if they faced losses and hardships and their families and possessions suffered, the whisperings of shaytān would overwhelm them and they would be angry at Islam for bringing them bad luck.
Many people in today’s society also associate religion with worldly gain. It is a form of polytheism where worldly goods and comfort are worshipped along with God. The Chief of the Martyrs, Imam al-Husayn (a) has said: Surely people are the servants of this world, and the religion is found attached to their tongues, they churn it around as long as they [enjoy] their lives. But when they face difficulties, the (truly) religious people are very few. True and sincere faith means that God is worshipped exclusively, and no matter what worldly circumstances are faced, faith does not change color at all.
Recite this verse and ask yourself if you worship God on the verge. It is time to get into faith completely, rather than stand on the fringe.
Source: Āyatullāh Nāsir Makārim Shirāzī (editor), Tafsīr-e Namūneh; Ibn al-Harrānī, Tuhaf al-‘Uqūl.