Those who suppress (or alter) any revelations in the Books that God has revealed and exchange (falsify) for a small price, they are as if feeding fire into their stomachs. God will not speak to them on the Day of Resurrection, nor will He purify (forgive) them. They will have grievous punishment. They trade in error instead of guidance and seek punishment instead of forgiveness. They seem to fear little the Fire that awaits them! Such a consequence is expected because God reveals the truth in the Book while those who disagree (without reason) move too far in opposition.
Righteousness is not that you turn your face East or West, but the (truly) righteous are those who (1) believe in God, the Last Day, the angels, the Book (of Revelation), and the prophets, (2) give away wealth for the love of God to relatives, orphans, the needy, travelers, and those who seek help, (3) free people out of bondage (e.g., slavery, debt, imprisonment without cause, etc.), (4) maintain prayer, (5) pay Zakat (obligatory charity), (6) keep promises when they make promises, and (7) act with patience in times of distress, affliction, and conflict. These are the ones who are truthful and responsible.
This definition of righteous people goes into great detail (2:1–5). Here, the Qur’an gives more specifics about things pertaining to people and their interactions. First, there are the people who need to be taken care of, such as relatives, orphans, the needy, travelers, and those who ask for help. If we look at our world today and the Muslim world, we see a sheer negligence of satisfying the basic needs of our fellow men; slums, orphanages, beggars, and refugee camps are daily reminders of human negligence. Next are the slaves that should be freed. While many people may think that there is no more slavery and, hence, that it is not applicable in our times, there are in actuality millions who are bounded in slave-like working conditions in the Muslim world, whether they are laborers in Middle Eastern countries, domestic servants in the Indian subcontinent, or landless people under servitude in the feudal systems. The next issue discussed is the importance of taking promises seriously, whether they be marriage vows, financial contracts, personal commitments, or oaths taken in God’s name by government officials. This lack of ability or willingness to keep our promises is the single most failure of Muslim societies today. Finally, there is the issue of exercising patience and thinking through issues, being truthful and responsible, and exhibiting wise leadership, all of which are lacking among the Muslim population.
Our unwillingness or inability to follow God’s guidance is, in effect, a defiance of God’s will, senseless bravery against God’s punishment, and irresponsible negligence of God’s grace and mercy. Also, one needs to comprehend the require- ments of the common sense that God asks us to follow in order to be righteous. He is not demanding anything of us that is contrary to what is good for us individually and collectively; rather, it is already something built into our human psyche, and all we need to do is be true to our innermost feelings and aspirations and act accordingly.
As we read this very comprehensive definition of righteousness, we need to begin the process of accepting this guidance and practicing these best practices on a daily basis. This is what made the early Muslims very successful, and many of these virtues are more prevalent in Western societies than in Muslim societies today. Let us really think about and critique ourselves regarding whether or not we are truly following these critical imperatives: Are we collectively (and individually) taking care of our less fortunate? Helping the less fortunate is beyond giving charity; it is creating opportunities, environments, and freedom so that every member of society can have an equal opportunity to seek knowledge, secure a job, and fulfill their hopes and aspi- rations. Are we keeping commitments that we make to our children, spouses, parents, neighbors, leaders and citizens, and the larger world community around us? Are we true to our faith and our human spirituality and do we demonstrate wisdom and patience not only as individuals but also as nations?
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