The first call in the daily supplication of Rajab says:
يَا مَنْ أَرْجُوهُ لِكُلِّ خَيْرٍ وَ آمَنُ سَخَطَهُ من كُلِّ شَرٍّ
O He Whom alone I hope for all good things, and I am safe from His displeasure at every instance of evil.
Hopefulness and Immunity
In all affairs that are ordained for Allah’s servants, there is room for hope, and for one to consider themselves safe despite the ugliness that they have committed in relation to Allah. One should realize that Allah’s goodness and blessings are descending upon us, while the ugliness of our acts is completely exposed for Him. All this can be paraphrased in the line: Your good descend upon us, While our evildoing ascends to You.1 For all that descends down to us from Allah, it necessarily deserves praise, veneration and gratefulness, and all that we commit in relation to Allah, then it necessarily deserves repentance and we must seek forgiveness.
Of course, we seek Allah in every good that descends from Him to us, and we seek immunity from Him in every evil that ascends from us to Him. Mercy and goodness descend upon His servants without any interruption, encompassing them with its grace because Allah is pure Good, Mercy, Compassion, Generosity, Kind, and does only good, thus it is impossible for goodness and compassion to be cut off from Him.
All in all, man has to place himself in those situations where he can benefit from the Mercy of Allah, and this effort of putting one’s self in those conditions itself is a factor that causes Mercy to be bestowed upon us. It is the misery of mankind if they prevent themselves from benefiting from all this continuously bestowed good, and to not seek it in the places and times of its descent and to remain utterly heedless and careless towards it.
The second call in the daily supplication of Rajab says:
يَا مَنْ يُعْطِي الْكَثِيرَ بِالْقَلِيلِ
O one who gives abundance in return to very little.
Action and Effort
The second factor for Allah’s Mercy, specific for humans, is action and effort. This second call implies that Allah gives a lot in return of very little, hence making man’s efforts, movements and work one of the causes of His Mercy. He gives his servant sustenance and grants him more when he puts in the effort by going to the marketplace for business, or to the farms to grow crops. On the other hand, He decreases His Mercy when the servant is negligent in striving hard and putting effort.
There is no doubt that Allah is the Sustainer – the Most Merciful and Powerful. In fact, there is no other sustainer except Allah, and the servants are given sustenance by Him and not the marketplace or the farms. There is no doubt in this reality, however, Allah has made hard work and effort a factor by which his sustenance and Mercy is bestowed upon the servants.
The Quran repeatedly mentions “righteous actions” after commanding towards faith, since it is a major factor in human success and prosperity. For example, in Surah al-‘Asr He has deemed righteous actions as the source of salvation and escape from great loss:
By time, Indeed, mankind is in loss, Except for those who have believed and done righteous deeds and advised each other to truth and advised each other to patience.
The instances of righteous actions are plentiful in our lives, and they are the effort that man puts while seeking Allah. Based on this definition of righteous actions, there is no difference in the effort put in by someone by going to the marketplace to work, with seeking Allah and His Mercy in his prayers and fasts. Both are righteous actions and one does not suffice for the other. Allah invites His servants to strive and work and gives them based on their actions.
The second call which says that Allah gives in abundance for very little leads us to ask, what exactly is abundant and what is little? Little is a reference to our actions, and abundance is a reference to Allah’s recompense and reward which He gives in return of the work the servant puts in.
Divine rewards are of two types: 1) In return of something, 2) Not in return of something. By “return” we do not mean balance and equivalence, because the reward and recompense of Allah is not equivalent to any of our actions. This return is a transaction which the Quran has referred to when describing Allah’s relationship with His servants.
[61:10] O you who have believed, shall I guide you to a transaction that will save you from a painful punishment?
[61:11] [It is that] you believe in Allah and His Messenger and strive in the cause of Allah with your wealth and your lives. That is best for you, if you should know.
[61:12] He will forgive for you your sins and admit you to gardens beneath which rivers flow and pleasant dwellings in gardens of perpetual residence. That is the great attainment.
Imam ‘Ali (a) says in the famous sermon of al-Muttaqin: It is a beneficial transaction that Allah made easy for them.
[9:111] Indeed, Allah has purchased from the believers their lives and their properties [in exchange] for that they will have Paradise. They fight in the cause of Allah, so they kill and are killed. [It is] a true promise [binding] upon Him in the Torah and the Gospel and the Qur’an. And who is truer to his covenant than Allah? So rejoice in your transaction which you have contracted. And it is that which is the great attainment.
This reward is that which Allah gives His servants in return for their work, in accordance with the work they have done, not that it is equal to the work they have done. There is another kind of Divine reward which we will discuss later on – God-willing.
The reward that Allah guarantees to His servants in exchange for work is governed by the law of proportionality between work and recompense, not the by the law of equivalence and balance. The reward is not equal to what we send to Allah through our righteous acts. The effort we put in our righteous work is prone to diminishing and is exhaustible, even if it takes a long time, whereas what Allah rewards us with does not run out.
[16:96] Whatever you have will end, but what Allah has is lasting.
This is from the perspective of quality, as for quantity then we read in the Quran:
[2:261] The example of those who spend their wealth in the way of Allah is like a seed [of grain] which grows seven spikes; in each spike is a hundred grains. And Allah multiplies [His reward] for whom He wills. And Allah is all-Encompassing and Knowing.
[9:121] …that Allah may reward them for the best of what they were doing.
[16:97] …We will surely give them their reward [in the Hereafter] according to the best of what they used to do.
What it means for Allah to reward for the best righteous acts is that He takes from each of their types of work the best and then make it the criteria for measuring the rest of the actions performed in each type of work performed. This is in essence, the epitome of generosity in recompense. In order to understand this point, consider recompense as of three types: inequitable, just, and charitable.
Inequitable recompense is that the rewarder takes the weakest instance of one’s actions and makes it the criterion by which rest of their actions will be judged. A man may befriend a person for ten years and all he saw from his friend during these years was a lot of beauty and goodness, help an compassion, but one moment of anger and harsh behaviour will lead him to forget all the good he had received from him during the course of ten years. This is the worst type of recompense and is only given by one who is wicked, who takes the weakest moment of one’s relationship of ten years and makes it the criterion for dealing with the person despite all the goodness done over the decade. This is an inequitable recompense.
The second type of recompense is a just recompense, and this is what people generally adhere to in their relationships with others. They recognize that there are different types of actions committed by others, so they take the average from those actions and give recompense in accordance to that. This is similar to how schools give recompense when giving final marks in school examinations.
The third type of recompense is a charitable recompense and it is more than being just. This is what is being referred to in [16:97] We will surely give them their reward [in the Hereafter] according to the best of what they used to do – where the best of a servant’s action is taken as the criterion, rather than the worst of their actions or even an average.
[24:38] That Allah may reward them [according to] the best of what they did and increase them from His bounty. And Allah gives provision to whom He wills without account.
Not only does Allah reward according to the best, but then he increases them from His bounty and grace. It is difficult to comprehend the charitable recompense of Allah, let alone the increase he has promised on top of it.
In the next post, we will look at the third call which says: O one who always bestows on whosoever asks Him.
This writeup was extracted from the work of Shaykh Muhammad Mahdi Asifi (d. 2015).