The Meaning of Verse 256 of Al-Baqarah in its Proper Context

The main theme of the discourse has been that to succeed in the hereafter, believers must strive for Allaah’s cause (perform Jihaad) with their possessions (assets, money, resources) and their own selves (life, time abilities), making the required sacrifices along the way. Without these sacrifices, neither will they be able to survive with honour as a community nor will they attain success in the hereafter. The previous sections focused more on the need to fight (Qitaal) in the course of striving for Allaah’s cause. During the discussion on fighting, a mention of messengers came up as a parenthetical remark. The next verse re-introduces Qitaal’s twin topic -- spending for Allaah’s cause (Infaaq), which will remain the major topic from here onwards until the end of the soorah, after a few more parenthetical discussions on: the right understanding of Allaah’s attributes; Islamic concept of intercession; and, Allaah’s not interfering with people’s freedom to deny Him; however, mercifully taking steps to guide those who voluntarily choose to acknowledge Him as their Lord.

254 O believers! Spend from that which We have bestowed upon you before the day comes in which there will be no trade and when neither any friendship nor intercession will be of any use; and the disbelievers are the ones who are doing wrong to themselves.

People succeed in their worldly goals usually through three avenues: Either they can buy what they need to succeed; or they utilize the network of their friends; or they are helped by the intercession (influence) of powerful, influential people who are on their side. In the hereafter, none of these avenues of success will be at all available. The only thing that will help in the hereafter is the pleasure of Allaah that was attained by making financial and personal sacrifices for His cause. The time to invest in the success of the hereafter is now, which can be easily done by spending for His cause some of the resources Allaah has bestowed to people. People need to remember that whatever we acquire as our wealth is in fact Allaah’s. He has bestowed it to us only temporarily and it will go to other people when we die. Logically, people should be willing to spend in His way all of what He has bestowed. But He is so kind and merciful, He is asking only for a portion ‘from’ it. Those who withhold from giving for His cause may think that they are saving money and thus looking after their interest; while the fact is that by withholding they are doing severe wrong to themselves.

The mention of intercession provided an opportunity to clarify the concept of intercession on the day of Judgement as well as to highlight the attributes of Allaah, which, if not understood properly, cause people to fail in developing the right kind of relationship with Allaah and leads them into false expectations and misguided concepts of intercession. Thus the next verse presents the essence of the faith in Allaah’s Towĥeed (oneness and uniqueness) that all the messengers believed in, preached and lived by. Those who claim to follow any of them may dispute as they like but the reality is what is mentioned in this verse. These concise clarifications of wrong notions that lead to misguidance and the eloquent description of Allaah’s attributes makes the next verse one of most significant verses of the Qur-aan.

255 Allaah is He besides Whom there is no God, the Ever-living, the Self-subsisting Sustainer of everything. Slumber does not overtake Him nor does sleep. Whatever is in the heavens and whatever is in the earth is His. Who is there that can intercede with Him except by His permission? He knows what is before them and what is behind them, while they cannot comprehend anything of His knowledge except what He wishes to impart. His rule{footnote}The word used in Arabic text is “Kursiyy” which means seat, chair, throne, etc. and is also used as an allegory for power, authority, sovereignty, rule or kingdom. Because the verse contains this word, it is commonly known as “Aayatul Kursiyy”, or the “verse of the Throne”.

{/footnote} extends over the heavens and the earth, and taking care of them both tires Him not, and He is the Most High, the Tremendous.

This verse describes the reality and truth about Allaah SWT and mentions some aspects of the infiniteness of Allaah’s being and of His attributes; thus:

  1. Allaah SWT is one, only and infinitely unique God; hence, He is totally beyond finite human understanding;
  2. He is Ever-living who did not have any beginning, nor has any end; and He is Self-Subsisting without any need of any support from anyone else. He always was and will eternally remain living on His own. Because He is Ever-living, He is watching all the time who is doing what in His universe.
  3. He sustains everything else in the universe. Everything else that you can and cannot name in the universe has been created by Him and depends on Him for its existence.
    Obviously anyone who himself is not living or self-subsisting cannot be the creator and sustainer of either life or universe. As Allaah SWT is the only One Who is Ever-living, the Self-subsisting Sustainer, He is the only God and there is absolutely none like Him, similar to Him or equal to Him. People who revere, worship or sing praise of anyone else than Him are being totally unjust, unfair and irrational rebels who are rebelling on the basis of falsehood. Anyone who dies even for one moment for whatever reason, or needs to be resurrected, or cannot subsist on his own without food or nourishment, cannot be God or equal to Allaah.
  4. He is not the Cause of the causes who retired after initiating the process of creation, but He has been actively managing the whole universe since He initiated its creation and will continue to do so until he decides to wrap it up and start anew. He is not only managing the whole universe, He owns everything in it, rules over everything and everything will ultimately revert and remain in His custody and control. Obviously no one who is created and owned can be in any way whatsoever equal to the Creator and the Owner. Also, no one can give what it does not have or owns; thus no one except Allaah can bestow to people what they seek. Seeking from anyone else is useless.
  5. People must not attribute human weaknesses or finite concepts to Him. Taking care of the whole Universe continuously does not tire Him, nor does He ever slumber or need to rest or sleep. Without any break whatsoever, He is looking after everything with full knowledge and awareness. So, one the one hand, we are continuously being watched for every intention we make or action we take; and on the other hand, He is always present and awake to appreciate our worship and to listen to our requests, prayers and supplications.
  6. The knowledge possessed by any of the creations is finite, limited, incomplete and imperfect on any subject matter. Allaah SWT has absolutely perfect knowledge of everything in the universe. Also, He precisely knows the past, present and future knowledge of everyone of His creations including any ideas that flash through their minds, but absolutely no one of His creations can even estimate, imagine or grasp the nature or extent of His knowledge, not to speak of the details of His knowledge. Any person or angel can only know that much of Allaah’s knowledge as He Himself chooses reveals to him.
  7. He is so Majestic and Tremendous Sovereign that no one from His creation – no angel, no messenger, no saint or any other names that people may have devised for any of His creation (such as son of God) – has or will have courage to speak without Allaah’s permission or intercede for anyone without Allaah’s invitation to do so. Only the person invited on the Day of judgement, then, will dare to open his mouth and say only what is true and appropriate. Even in this world, no angel or spirit can dare to intercede on our behalf to get what we want in this world. One can get what one needs only by making direct request to Allaah through humble supplications and prayers directly to Him.
  8. Because He is himself Ever-living, no one else is; because He exactly knows what is everyone doing or thinking, no one else does; and because He is Self-Subsisting and sustaining everything else, only He can do the justice to everyone and He does not need anyone’s help Allaah in doing perfect justice to everyone. Thus, He does not need intercession from anyone for anyone to do the justice. He will allow intercession only as a favour to the intercessor and to the person for whom the intercession is allowed. No one has either right to intercede or to benefit from the intercession. This favour will not be random but only on the basis of His own principles of bestowing His mercy on people. Because only Allaah has the absolute knowledge about everyone, only He can make the right decision who deserves His mercy and who should intercede for him. Thus, people do not need to please anyone else by any rites or offerings to gain his or her favour except Allaah, because no one has right to intercede any way. If Allaah is pleased then everything else will fall in place, but if He is not pleased, no intercession is going to be of any avail.

Once a person properly understands the abovementioned facts about Allaah, it is impossible for him to commit any kind of Shirk, ascribe any partners to Allaah, consider anyone in the universe equal to Allaah SWT in any respect, or believe in anyone having right to intercede in favour of his favourite people.

This is the truth about Allaah SWT that all messengers believed and preached, but unfortunately many people deviate from it. Allaah could have forced them to believe in this truth by pre-programming them like all other creations, thus depriving them from freedom to choose. But instead of compelling them to do so by depriving them from freedom, He has chosen to provide clear guidance through many signs in the universe, within human surroundings and their own existence as well as through clear teachings of the Messenger and the Qur-aan so that the sensible people can discover the truth rationally and adopt it voluntarily.

256 There is no compulsion regarding Deen. The reality is that the right way has become distinct from error; therefore, whoever disbelieves in the Ŧaaghoot and believes in Allaah, he indeed has grasped the most trustworthy handle that never breaks. And Allaah is Hearing, Knowing.

Here Deen refers to Islamic faith and lifestyle that is firmly grounded in the attributes of Allaah as described above in verse of the Throne (255). Ŧaaghoot is any ideology, system, person or clique that rebels from the obedience to Allaah, causes others to disobey Allaah and/or demands people’s loyalty and obedience to itself in place of Allaah. A person cannot be a true slave of Allaah unless obedience to Ŧaaghoot is denied and rejected.

Now that Allaah SWT has not compelled people through pre-programming to live by the Deen of Islam, it is up to people to use their common sense and rational power to believe in Allaah and thus benefit from the strong support of the truth and Allaah’s guidance that will lead them to the eternal success without breaking. If people choose not to believe in the realities about Allaah, they will not be forced because that will defeat the purpose for which they have been given freedom by Allaah. That is a simple, straightforward meaning that fits in the context. Some people take this verse out of context and misinterpret it to mean that the rule of Islam cannot be enforced. They think if a person claims to be a Muslim but violates the teachings of Islam, he should not be pressured to follow them. Nothing can be more ridiculous than this claim. The fact that Allaah does not force people to become Muslims does not mean that those who choose to become Muslims should not be expected to follow its rules and regulations. Those who voluntarily accept Islam must follow its teachings or stop claiming to be Muslims. That is simple and straightforward logic. People are free to join and not join an army. But once they join, they have no choice but to strictly follow the rules and commands. If they violate, they will be punished and forced to obey. Or, people are free whether they want to join a sports team or not, but those who decide to join must play by the rules as part of the team. They cannot be allowed to do whatever they want. The same way, Allaah does not want to compel any one to become a Muslim, but if one does become a Muslim, he has no choice but to live by its rules and practices.

Once a person comes out of the darkness of all the confusions and misguidances created by Ŧaaghoot and takes a rational approach to faith, his mind is illuminated with the truth of Islam and guidance of Allaah. Then the straight path to the eternal success remains bright and clear for him. On the other hand, those who follow Ŧaaghoot continue to grope deeper and deeper into the darkness of misguidance, confusion and misunderstandings. They continue wasting their time and life on wrong paths without seeing the dreadful end to which they are heading.

257 Allaah is the patron of those who believe; He brings them out of the darkness into the light; while those who disbelieve, their patrons are Ŧaaghoot who take them out of the light into the darkness; they are the inmates of the Fire, in which they shall abide forever.

In Arabic Allaah SWT has used light in singular while darkness in plural. It is because there is only one truth, but those who refuse to accept it suffer from a variety of confusions, misguidances and misunderstandings in terms of their nature, kind and source; hence, multiple darknesses.

This verse makes two important points: Firstly, Those who use their God-given rational abilities and voluntarily accept Allaah as their Lord because it makes a lot of sense to them, Allaah becomes their “Wali” (patron, friend, supporter, guardian) and mercifully takes steps that help them clarify all confusions or misunderstandings and the path of Islam becomes crystal clear to them. This help is afforded directly to the prophets and Messengers and through them to the believers. On the other hand, those who prefer to stay with Ŧaaghoot are left at their{footnote}Once a person forsakes slavery to Allaah, he or she becomes slave to many Ŧaaghoots including Shayŧaan, one’s own desires, family expediencies, customs and traditions of the society, Western lifestyle, powerful leaders, so on and so forth.

{/footnote} mercy, and different kinds of Ŧaaghoots misguide them even further, taking them deeper into the multiple layers of darkness.

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