When Aafiah, Maghfirah, Rahmah, Fadal, Ridwan (Allah’s pleasure, 57:20) are aesthetically and consummately realised, it assumes the form of a habitation called Jannah. Allah describes it as Jannathi, My Paradise. (89:30) He admits those who worship and serve Him alone into it. (89:29) So the importance of saying ‘Iyyaka Nabudu’ is made clear. Iyyaka Nasta’een includes, therefore, Allah’s help in securing Jannah or Islamic concept of Moksha.
Just as Allah asks us to seek His Bounty, He asks us to seek His Paradise. “So vie with one another in seeking to attain your Lord’s forgiveness and a Garden whose width is as the width of the heaven and the earth, one which has been prepared for those who believe in Allah and His Messengers. That is Allah’s Bounty.” (57:21)
The following dua shows how mercy, forgiveness and Jannah are inter-connected.
O Allah, forgive me, be merciful to me and admit me to Al-Jannah.
The Qur’ān is explicit that we Muslims have struck a deal with Allah on the issue of securing a place in Jannah. There is a Memorandum of Understanding between God and the believers in this regard and it is couched in terms borrowed from the area of trade. “Surely, Allah has purchased of the believers their lives and their belongings and in return has promised that they shall have Paradise.”(9:111) In this verse it is also stated that the same promise has been made in the Bible too.
St. Paul says, “You are not your own; you were bought at a price.”(I Corinthians, 6:19, 20; 7:23)
Buying and selling are two pillars of trade. In religion, man sells himself and God buys him for a price. Jesus Christ says, “When you give a feast, invite the poor…you will receive your repayment at the resurrection of the righteous.”(St. Luke, 14:14) The repayment, according to the Qur’ān, is Paradise.
William Barclay makes several comments on the passage. One of them is the following: “A man may give purely from motives of self- interest. Consciously or unconsciously he may regard his giving as an investment. He may regard each gift as an entry on the credit side of his account in the ledger of God. Such giving, so far from being generosity, is rationalised selfishness.”(His commentary on St. Luke, p.191)
Jesus Christ advises his host to invite the poor to his feast in the hope of being rewarded on the Day of Judgment. Jesus promises him repayment. Expectation of reward is an expression of self- interest. Barclay overlooks the use of the word ‘repayment’, and is wary of self- interest, which is other- worldly. He overlooks the fact that whether we like it or not, every good act of ours is being entered, unknown to us, on the credit side of our account in the ledger of God.
Moreover, he overlooks a beautiful parable which Jesus narrated. “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.”(St. Matthew, 13:45) Jesus does not talk ill of this merchant whose selling and buying are motivated by self- interest and who sells everything to secure heaven.
Like Jesus, the Qur’ān talks of those loving devotees of God who feed the needy, the orphans and the captives and tell them, “We feed you only for Allah’s sake; we don’t seek of you any recompense or thanks.” (76:9) The Qur’ān promises that Allah will reward them for their steadfastness with Paradise. Self- interest, not in immediate gain but in securing God’s pleasure, is not to be looked down upon. When self- interest motivates people to feed the needy without expecting recompense from them but in the hope of securing recompense from God in the distant future, it is not fair to dismiss it as rationalised selfishness. Otherwise, even the high profile of Prophets will suffer adversely because each one of them said to their respective communities, “I ask of you no reward. My reward is with none but the Lord of the universe.”(26:145) They looked forward to being rewarded by God on the Day of Judgment for discharging the duties God has entrusted to them. Can their expectation be described as rationalised selfishness?
Trade is an honourable profession in spite of the role of self- interest in it. An honest trader will find refuge and patronage with God and will be richly rewarded on the Day of Judgment. Prophet Muhammad (may Allah bless and greet him) was himself a trader and had traders as friends. Later he was selected by Allah as His spokesman.
Malpractices in trade, which Dr Waquar Anwar highlighted in Radiance dated 4-10 March 2012, p. 25, turn the marketplace into a vile place. “That which is with Allah is far better than amusement and trading.”(62:11) Allah likes those people who rise above commerce and striving after profit and who remember Allah and who do not neglect religious duties.” (24:37)
“Allah and His Messenger and struggle in Allah’s cause should be dearer to us than family, wealth, habitation and commerce.” (9:24)
There is another version of commerce in which there is no possibility of loss, (35:29) and of chastisement. (61:10) Belief in Allah, His Message and Messenger and struggle in Allah’s way by spending money and life- energy will ensure forgiveness of sins and excellent mansions in the Gardens of Eternity. (61:12)
Janus- faced believers who prefer to hunt with the hound and run with the hare are involved in yet another version of commerce. “These are the ones who have purchased error in exchange for guidance, this bargain has brought them no profit and certainly they are not on the Right Way.” (2:16) “These are the ones who have bought the present life in exchange for the world to come.”(2:86) “(They are the ones) who bought chastisement in exchange for forgiveness.”(2:175)
The perennial modernity of Islam comes into focus particularly in the era of world trade and globalisation when religion is projected as a contract between God and man. In this contract, man stakes his life and property in the cause of Allah and Allah pays him his wages in full and bonanza too in the next world. So a Muslim is duty bound to bring Paradise closer to him by consciously using only those words and deeds that serve this purpose, without feeling embarrassed that he is acting in self- interest.