وَلِكُلٍّ دَرَجَاتٌ مِمَّا عَمِلُوا
Walikullin darajātun mimmā ‘amilū
For everyone there are ranks in accordance with what they have done
(Sūratul An‘ām, No. 6, Āyat 132)
Almighty Allah makes a very clear statement in this verse – each person will have a rank according to his/her actions. According to Tafsīr al-Mīzān the address is to both Jinn and mankind.
Actions differ in the intention behind them, the effort involved in the action, the effect of the action, the consistency of the action, etc. All these differences color the action with their own particular hues, making each action unique and its doer accorded a rank and status different from others. The word darajāt refers to high ranks but according to Āyatullāh Tabarsi in Tafsīr Jawām‘ul Jāmi’ the verse also includes darakāt, referring to the lowly ranks of those who have displeased Allah. But darajāt, the word for the ranks of the people of Jannah, has taken precedence.
Life in this world is an opportunity to raise our ranks. It is a chance to rise on the ladder of perfection and reach as high a rung as possible. Strong action is required for this climb. Amīrul Mu’minīn Imam Ali (a) says: Action! Action! Then look at the end; the end, and remain steadfast; steadfast. Thereafter exercise endurance, endurance, and piety, piety. You have an objective. Proceed towards your objective. You have a sign. Take guidance from your sign (Nahjul Balāgha, sermon No.176).The climb is a struggle and there will be many obstacles and distractions, many a slip and fall. But the idea is to persevere and keep rising. That is why the Quran often mentions the concept of struggle as a necessary part of faith. It says for example in Sūratul Hajj: And struggle for the sake of Allah, a struggle which is worthy of Him (Q 22:78)
Actions vary in the intensity with which they may raise our rank. We need to ponder over and plan for actions that will raise us higher faster in the limited time that we have. These are the actions that may seem hardest. Some of these actions may include:
1) Control of the self and overcoming negative traits – This is a hard battle to fight and needs continuous monitoring and alertness. Its results are enormous and can swiftly transform ranks. Imam Ali (a) has said: O people, take charge of disciplining of your selves (anfusikum), and redress them from the wildness of their habits (The Scale of Wisdom, H. 6149, p. 1093).
2) Increase in knowledge and awareness – with so many demands on our time it seems difficult to take time to read and study about what really matters in life. Knowledge changes perspectives and actions. In a beautiful Prophetic Hadith we read, ‘The people closest to the rank of Prophethood are the people of knowledge and struggle’ (Ibid. H. 4444, p. 771).
3) Service to others – it is easy to get caught up in the race to lead a life of comfort and ease. We tend to think of ourselves as being entitled to having fun, being happy, enjoying the good things of life, etc. Additionally we are willing to spend huge amounts of time and energy in the quest to achieve this. It take painstaking effort and action to be content with life and work on making a difference in the lives of others without any personal motivations. Imam al-Sadiq said, ‘the believers are servants of each other . . . by being of benefit to each other’ (Ibid. H. 1835, p. 326).
Take some time to reflect during these holidays over what actions can raise your rank in the eyes of God. How can you climb faster and go beyond what you expected from yourself? Stagnancy is not an option, the race is on.
Amīrul Mu’minīn Ali bin Abu Talib (a), Nahjul Balāgha;|
Āyatullāh Muhammad Husayn Tabātabā’ī, Tafsīr al-Mīzān;
Āyatullāh Fadl bin Hasan Tabarsi, Tafsīr Jawāmi‘ul Jāmi’;
Muhammad Rayshahrī, The Scale of Wisdom.