-Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim- In the name of God, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.
Life’s Purpose & Our Competitive Nature, I feel as though a single verse from Surah Al-Mulk (The Sovereignty), verse 2, amazingly covers these things, so I believe it was worthwhile writing the tafsīr (interpretation) up of this verse for all of you. (NB: as you go through the verse, you’ll see it has been broken up into smaller parts; I’ve numbered them chronologically, for your ease of reference).
Surah Mulk, Surah number 67, verse 2.
الَّذِي خَلَقَ الْمَوْتَ وَالْحَيَاةَ لِيَبْلُوَكُمْ أَيُّكُمْ أَحْسَنُ عَمَلًا ۚ وَهُوَ الْعَزِيزُ الْغَفُورُ ; Allathee khalaqa almawta walhayataliyabluwakum ayyukum ahsanu AAamalan, wahuwa alAAazeezualghafoor.
1. الَّذِي : Allathee: He is the one
2. خَلَقَ لْمَوْتَ : khalaqa almawta: Who created death
3. وَالْحَيَاةَ : walhayata: and life
The word mawt, doesn’t exactly mean death. Death is a part of the meaning; however it isn’t the only meaning to take from this word. Hayat means life, and mawt is the antonym of hayat. So as you can see, mawt refers to lifelessness.
There are many states that can be referred to using the word mawt (lifelessness). Such as before being conceived, so before being born into this world- before our ruh (soul) was placed inside the foetus within our mother’s womb. The condition of us before our souls were placed into this world is a type of mawt (lifelessness) as we did not physically have life.
Allah uses death in the Quran in various contexts.
“And is one who was dead and We gave him life and made for him light…”-Surah Al- An’ am, 6:122
Here Allah is describing a disbeliever as dead, (and in this case uses the word maytan), and after he has received guidance, the individual is in a state of having life. So spiritually not being alive, Allah uses the word maytan or mawt to describe these types of people.
“And do not say about those who are killed in the way of Allah , “They are dead.” Rather, they are alive, but you perceive [it] not.” Surah Al-Baqarah, 2:154
Here Allah talks about the shuhadah (martyrs) as being alive, even though biologically or physically they may not be.
In this verse 67:2, Allah mentions mawt before mentioning hayat. There a few reasons for that. One reason is because we were in a state of lifelessness before being conceived into this world. Another reason is because after being conceived into this world, we will experience death first, after which we’ll experience the afterlife.
4. لِيَبْلُوَكُمْ : liyabluwakum: to test you
The لِ: lam (ل): comes from the word bala, which means for the purpose of.
يَبْلُ : Yablu: means to test, to try
Allah usually uses a heavier form of the word, ‘bala ibtilah’ which means to severely test.
Allah mentions, وَهُوَ الْعَزِيزُ الْغَفُورُ : wahuwa alAAazeezualghafoor: Allah being the Ghafoor (the Forgiving), this bit is mentioned at the end of the ayat, and what is does is this; Allah by calling himself the Ghafoor, it necessitates that He will lightly test you. A form of forgiving somebody is by lifting the load off them, making the test lighter.
In other surahs, where Allah says He will severely test you, Allah also says other things, such as “I gave him the ability to see… I gave him the ability to hear… We guided him to the path”. In such ayah, Allah mentions the favours He has given the individual, making the point the He has given us so many favours, so many abilities He has given to us on a silver platter. So Allah will hold us accountable, He is going to test us, and He will make sure we stick to whatever He has told us to do, hence the point of severely testing us.
However in verse 67:2, Allah mentions that He is Ghafoor (forgiving). So in this case, He uses a lighter word for testing, literally meaning that He will lightly test us.
So far we understand that Allah creates death and life, and for what purpose? So that He may test us.
Allah uses the word كُمْ (kum), which is plural for ‘you’, in other words Allah is referring to ‘all of you’. So why is Allah referring to all of us? Because the condition of life and death applies to every single one of us.
5. أَيُّكُمْ : ayyukum: whom amongst (all of) you
6. أَحْسَنُ عَمَلًا : ahsanu AAamalan: would be the most excellent in deeds
The sanu (سَنُ) comes from the root word meaning excellence, and ahsanu (أَحْسَنُ) is the comparative version of this word, meaning who will be the ‘more excellent’).
The AAamalan ( عَمَلًا) means ‘in his deeds.’
7. وَهُوَ الْعَزِيزُ الْغَفُورُ : wahuwa alAAazeezualghafoor : and He is the Exalted in Might, the Forgiving
The AAazeez ( عَزِيزُ) refers to a being of power, authority, one who is firm. (In this verse, it has been translated to Might).
The ghafoor (غَفُورُ), as I have mentioned earlier means forgiving, this word ghafoor comes from the word ghafara, which means to cover up something. So forgiveness is called ghafara. Allah covers our sin, as part of His forgiveness- and not only does He forgive you; nobody will ever know about it as He hides it from everyone.
Ghafoor also refers to being one who constantly forgives.
So AAazeezualghafoor (عَزِيزُ الْغَفُورُ) means that Allah is a being who has the power and the authority to constantly forgive us.
So verse 67:2, what does Allah want us to take from it? Allah is trying to inspire us to commit good deeds, and is doing this by creating a sense of urgency. What more can do this more proficiently other than the reality of death? Death in this world is the ultimate motivator, as we do not know how close we are to our death.
The prophet (saw) says: “very frequently remember that thing which destroys the sweetness/ taste/ pleasure in all things”
Abu Huraira reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Remember often the destroyer of pleasures,” by which he meant death. [Sahih]
5 & 6. أَيُّكُمْ أَحْسَنُ عَمَلًا : ayyukum ahsanu AAamalan: whom amongst you would be the most excellent in deeds. This part of the ayah creates a sense of competition. Allah says this knowing that it is in our nature to compete with one another, so He does not want us to suppress our nature to compete with each other; rather He wants us to apply that positively.
“Race one with another in hastening towards Forgiveness from your Lord (Allah), and towards Paradise…”- Surah Al-Hadid, 57:21.
Make sure you perform with excellence, this is what Allah is looking for in our actions. Know that quality matters before quantity does. Once there’s quality in your actions that is when the quantity of your actions become significant. For example, 8 rakah nawafil with khushuu (concentration) is better than 20 rakah nawafil of up & downs, up & downs.
So let us compete with one another positively with Ah san, excellence, know that Allah is watching us, He’s judging us, seeing which of us will be the best. And why should we not care? For the reward is Jannah, Paradise afterall, and God is our Judge, we want to please Him the most, do we not?
This is what I was able to learn from listening to the tafsīr of this ayat by Abdul Nasir Jangda, from Bayyinah Institute. I hope this was beneficial to you all, God-willing.