Surely, those who believe (meaning Muslims), and those who are Jews, and the Christians and the Sabians, whoever believes in God and the Last Day (Day of Judgment) and does good work, they have their reward from their Lord; there is no fear for them, and they will have no regret. And when God made a covenant with you (followers of Moses) with Mount Sinai rising high above you and said, “Hold firmly to what has been given to you and (try to) under- stand what is in it so that you may discharge your responsibilities,” even after that you had turned back. You would have become lost except for the Grace of God and His abundant Mercy.
This is one of the key and universal messages of and insight into Islam and is repeated several times in the Qur’an as if it is a continual reminder throughout the lives of Muslims and people of other religions, particularly Jews and Christians, as they read and reflect on the Qur’an. Rewards from God (entry to Heaven and His Grace on this earth) are based on faith, accountability, and righteous works and not on worldly affiliation to a label of faith. This categorically refutes the Jewish claim to be the favored nation and the Christian claim of salvation through Jesus Christ. This also serves as a guide for many Muslims who, while blaming others for claiming to be the chosen people of God, act in a similar manner (consciously or subconsciously) and lay claim to Heaven and God’s favor just because they are Muslims. The particular word choices of “fear” and “regret” are very insightful; fear relates to the future and regret relates to the past. These two emotions are the most debilitating conditions of the human mind, making us forget our present and destroying our ability to do well and be productive. God said that His reward includes freedom from fear and the absence of regrets if we truly believe in Him and the Last Day and do good deeds.
This is another beautiful teaching of Islam—the importance of commitment and understanding. Commitment without understanding leads to anarchy, and understanding without commitment leads to minimal human development. For example, current acts of terrorism in the world and some of the anti-terrorism activities of various governments result from commitment without understanding. We are caught in this vicious cycle of violence where a so-called religious group (i.e., Al-Qaida) undermines the credibility of an entire religious group by acts that have no religious or social basis and that produce a counter-response with overwhelming firepower from powerful nations (i.e., U.S. and Europe) without the patience and care to under- stand and appreciate the underlying causalities. Similarly, the current condition of Muslims in the world results from having the minimum amount of understanding and very little commitment, and this is true of individuals, families, communities, nations, and even the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC).
These three verses are the cornerstone of the Islamic message of a universal religion or way of life and the need to commit to the teachings of God with good understanding. As we continue to make progress in a world that is dominated by widespread information and knowledge, we should also recognize the short- comings of knowledge without true understanding and true commitment. During the life of the Prophet, there were Muslims who did not live long enough to see the full revelation of the Qur’an, yet their understanding of Islam and their commitment to do good for people were more complete than those of today’s Muslims who can read the entire Qur’an in a matter of weeks and months (some even celebrate when they complete the reading). Still, these types of readings neither deepen fuller under- standing nor develop greater commitment.
We should rejoice in the universal message of Islam, which is attainable by any man, irrespective of birth, national origin, skin color, or religious background. The true commitment to faith comes in the forms of our firm belief in God, our deep sense of accountability, and our enduring and demonstrated capability to do good deeds on this planet. This fundamental universality is common in all religions and calls to mind the unity of God and His message and the common thread of human well-being through doing good deeds for others. Unfortunately, like people of earlier religions, Muslims of today have fallen into the same trap and have lost the true understanding of and commitment to Islam.