Reflection No. 6:01 on Q 16:97 – A New Life Starting
مَنْ عَمِلَ صَالِحًا مِنْ ذَكَرٍ أَوْ أُنْثَىٰ وَهُوَ مُؤْمِنٌ فَلَنُحْيِيَنَّهُ حَيَاةً طَيِّبَةً وَلَنَجْزِيَنَّهُمْ أَجْرَهُمْ بِأَحْسَنِ مَا كَانُوا يَعْمَلُونَ
Man ‘amila swālihan min dhakarin aw unthā wahuwa mu’minun falanuhyiyannahu hayātan tayyibatan walanuhyiyannahum ajarahum bi-ahsani mākānū ya‘malūn
Whoever does good, male or female, while having faith, We shall make Him live a decent life, and We shall recompense them with their wages, in accordance with the best of their deeds.
(Sūratul Nahl, No.16, Āyat 97)
This verse is a beautiful promise for those have faith in God and do good deeds. Such believers, both male and female, are promised two things: a new decent life, and a reward according to the best of their actions. The new life is an enhanced quality of life in this world and the reward of actions is the reward of the Hereafter.
It is interesting that Allah promises a new life to the believers in this verse. What type of life is this? How does it differ from the life of others, or from the life he/she had before? Both Tafsīr al-Mīzān and Tafsīr-e Namūne state that such believers are granted a higher quality of life that is so much better and more satisfying than the life they previously had. That does not mean that everything in life will suddenly become better, or that all unpleasantness will go away from life. It means that their internal state will become so good that what goes on around them will not rob them of inner peace.
The new life that a believer who does good deeds will enjoy in this world includes:
1) An inner light and knowledge that allows him to see things with the correct perspective. Allah says: Is he who was dead then We raised him to life and made for him a light by which he walks among the people, like him whose likeness is that of one in utter darkness from which he cannot come out. (Q 6:122)
2) A strength and resilience that goes beyond human capacity. Allah says: These are they into whose hearts He has impressed faith, and whom He has strengthened with an inspiration from Him. (Q 58:22)
3) Peace and calmness that is not disturbed by worldly matters. Allah says: whoever believes in Allah and the last day and does good they shall have no fear nor shall they grieve (Q 5:69).
Allāmah Tabātabā’ī writes under this verse that the believer mentioned in this verse has a unique outlook in life. Within him he has light, perfection, pleasure, strength, honor, happiness . . . all stemming from his connection to the God who controls the universe. Why should it not be so? When a servant of God submits completely to Him and sees everything in connection to God he sees nothing but beauty and joy. Only in disobedience to God and rejection of His laws is there ugliness. The believer cherishes all that is Divine in life.
The new life is the same life the person had with a different color to it. What has changed is the quality not the quantity. It is a higher level of life with deeper meaningfulness and increased satisfaction. One who tastes this type of life understands that mere worldly existence is not real life.
As we begin a new year we pray that God may grant us a new life also. That our faith and deeds are worthy of earning us a higher form of life while we are in this world, a glimpse of what is to come in the Hereafter.
Sources: Āyatullāh Nāsir Makārim Shirazi (ed.), Tafsīr-e Namūne; Allāmah Muhammad Husayn Tabātabā’ī, Tafsīr al-Mīzān