Recently in the course of memorizing this surah (chapter), I had a bit of an epiphany. Usually when I memorize I try to couple the memorization with reading the translation so as to have an idea of what I’m memorizing. Surah al-Hadeed is a very interesting surah with important themes such as spending in charity, and imaan (faith); it contains the examples of those that were given the Books before us who had their hearts hardened because of their actions, ways to soften one’s heart and more. This reflection focuses on the first theme.
Recently, I’ve started to try and derive benefit from the Qur’an by asking myself questions that would help aid reflection on the ayaat (verses) themselves. Questions such as, ‘why is this ayah (verse) here and not in another part of the surah?’, ‘what is the wisdom behind the placement of the ayah in this particular location of the surah?’, ‘what is the theme of this passage?’, ‘how is it relevant the overall message?’, and other similar questions. I did the same with Surah al-Hadeed and stumbled upon an amazing correlation in the surah, in particular from ayaat 11-18.
Ayah 11 asks a question. Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala (exalted is He) says:
Who is it that would loan Allah a goodly loan so He will multiply it for him and he will have a noble reward? (57:11)
The ayaat before this lead up to this question—Allah (swt) is systematically reminding the believers to spend in His Sake by repeating who He is and of His greatness. He then says: “And why do you not spend in the cause of Allah while to Allah belongs the heritage of the heavens and the earth?” (Quran, 57:10). This is the crux of the preceding passage—that Allah (swt) does not need our wealth, rather whenever we spend we spend for His sake and Pleasure because we want it given back to us multiplied in this world and in the Hereafter.1
The question in ayah 11 is a question we need to ask ourselves. How often do I give charity? How often do I open up my heart and spend for the sake of Allah (swt)?
After asking this question, the next ayaat jumps to a seemingly different topic—the believers and the hypocrites on the Day of Judgment at the Siraat2 and the stark difference between their situations and the conversation that takes place between them. Allah (swt) narrates it to us saying:
On the Day you see the believing men and believing women, their light proceeding before them and on their right, [it will be said], “Your good tidings today are [of] gardens beneath which rivers flow, wherein you will abide eternally.” That is what is the great attainment.
On the [same] Day the hypocrite men and hypocrite women will say to those who believed, “Wait for us that we may acquire some of your light.” It will be said, “Go back behind you and seek light.” And a wall will be placed between them with a door, its interior containing mercy, but on the outside of it is torment.
The hypocrites will call to the believers, “Were we not with you?” They will say, “Yes, but you afflicted yourselves and awaited [misfortune for us] and doubted, and wishful thinking deluded you until there came the command of Allah. And the Deceiver deceived you concerning Allah.” (57:12-14)
Let’s examine the progression of the verses in our context.
Ayah 12 is talking about the believers, who on the day when they have to cross the Siraat, Allah (swt) will bestow upon them a light to help them cross the bridge. Let’s contrast this with the hypocrites in ayah 13 who will chase after the believers seeking to secure for themselves some light because their light will disappear as a result of their hypocrisy. The believers will tell them to go back and find some other light, and Allah (swt) will cause a wall to be placed between the two groups with mercy on the side of the believers and punishment on the other. The hypocrites will then call out to the believers to remind them that they were together in the life of this world—what has caused the separation now? The believers respond, “Yes, but you afflicted yourselves and awaited [misfortune for us] and doubted, and wishful thinking deluded you until there came the command of Allah.”
Let’s examine this reply from the believers whilst keeping in mind the theme of spending in charity. Four things are mentioned:
2) Waiting for harm to come to the believers
4) Wishful thinking
The natural question then is, how are these four different things connected to the overall theme of the passage—spending in the cause of Allah? Let’s examine this more closely:
1) Self affliction: The word in Arabic is derived from fitnah. Fitnah is a trial that is meant to purify the person undergoing it if he/she so chooses to react to it in the proper way. A person does not want fitnah and does not want to be placed into fitnah. Yet these people used to afflict themselves with fitnah—how strange! How do people afflict themselves with hardships, sins, and problems in the context of wealth? An obvious answer is getting into large debts for things that they don’t need and dealing with riba (interest). Most people don’t need to take out massive loans only to pay interest on them later. We don’t need to buy that $2000 sofa we probably cannot afford when we can buy one for $500 that would just as easily suffice our needs. This prevents them from spending in the cause of Allah (swt) because now they need to worry about paying off the debt and the interest. Doesn’t Allah say, “[…] and do not spend wastefully. Indeed, the wasteful are brothers of the devils, and ever has Satan been to his Lord ungrateful,” (Qur’an, 17:26-27)?
2) Waiting for harm to come to the believers. These people, who assumed that those who spent in charity were naïve would wait for them to be afflicted with problems, and at times would ridicule them. “Those who defame such of the believers who give charity voluntarily and those who could not find to give charity except what is available to them, so they mock at them (believers), Allah will throw back their mockery on them, and they shall have a painful torment” (Qur’an, 9:79).
3) Doubt. What prevents people from spending if not lack of tawakkul [reliance] on Allah (swt) and doubt in His promise that He will return our money to us? Allah (swt) says: “Satan threatens you with poverty […]” (Qur’an, 2:268) and He says: “Say, ‘Indeed, my Lord extends provision for whom He wills of His servants and restricts [it] for him. But whatever thing you spend—He will compensate it; and He is the best of providers,’” (Qur’an, 34:39). And the Messenger of Allah sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam (peace be upon him) said: “Charity does not decrease the wealth” [Muslim].
4) Wishful thinking. It’s the classic “I’ll spend when I get more money” attitude. And this is a sign of hypocrisy as Allah (swt) says: “And among them are those who made a covenant with Allah, [saying], “If He should give us from His bounty, we will surely spend in charity, and we will surely be among the righteous. But when He gave them from His bounty, they were stingy with it and turned away while they refused. So He penalized them with hypocrisy in their hearts until the Day they will meet Him—because they failed Allah in what they promised Him and because they [habitually] used to lie” (Quran, 9:75-77).
Don’t our reasons for not spending in charity fall into one or more of these four categories? Allah (swt) then says:
So today no ransom will be taken from you or from those who disbelieved. Your refuge is the Fire. It is most worthy of you, and wretched is the destination. (57:15)
Ransom is usually what? Money – something of monetary value. Since, they didn’t spend in this life, in their regret, they’ll want to spend then—but it’s too late, they can’t ransom themselves on that Day even if they had the means to do so: “…the (whole) earth full of gold will not be accepted from anyone of them even if they offered it as a ransom…” (Quran, 3:91).
Then after telling us of the state of the two parties on that Day Allah (swt) asks a question:
Has the time not come for those who have believed that their hearts should become humbly submissive at the remembrance of Allah and what has come down of the truth? And let them not be like those who were given the Scripture before, and a long period passed over them, so their hearts hardened; and many of them are defiantly disobedient.
Know that Allah gives life to the earth after its lifelessness. We have made clear to you the signs; perhaps you will understand. (57:16-17)
From the many benefits of these two verses is that it’s a reminder in our context here that the promise of Allah (swt) is true – He is the one that can give life to the hearts just as He gives life to the Earth after it dies. So that, if we’ve been negligent in spending in charity for His sake, then it’s not too late to start now!
And finally, tying back to how this passage started with a question, the answer to the very first question is given to us from Allah. Who are the ones that lend to Allah (swt) a goodly loan to have it multiplied and receive a noble reward?
Indeed, the men who practice charity and the women who practice charity and [they who] have loaned Allah a goodly loan—it will be multiplied for them, and they will have a noble reward. (57:18)
It is those that practice charity. So the question to ask ourselves is, are we from them?
Talk about softening the hearts of the believers towards spending in charity. Imagine if the masjid fundraisers were to use this same methodology when trying to raise funds instead of using the same tried and tested method (which works of course, but can perhaps use some fine tuning) how much more successful it would be!