“Only those are the believers who have believed in Allah and His Messenger, and afterward doubt not but strive with their wealth and their lives for the cause of Allah. Those! They are the truthful. Say: Will you inform Allah about your religion? While Allah knows all that is in the heavens and all that is in the earth, and Allah is All-Aware of everything. They regard as favour upon you (O Muhammad) that they have embraced Islam. Say: Count not your Islam as a favour upon me. Nay, but Allah has conferred a favour upon you, that He has guided you to the faith, if you indeed are true. Verily, Allah knows the unseen of the heavens and the earth. And Allah is the All-Seer of what you do.” (Al-Hujurat 49:15-18)
After warning the Bedouins about their unacceptable and disliked actions, Allah (swt), being the Most Merciful, shows us through this story, a way to repent and atone for our arrogance in thinking that we have done Allah (swt) a favour by being Muslims.
True believers are those who will not tolerate any discord between practice and belief. They are self-motivated, and faith is deeply entrenched in their hearts. This faith now shines through their actions. There is no doubt in their heart. They move forward, and strive with all that Allah (swt) has granted them. This shows their complete submission to and conviction in Allah (swt) and the Messenger (sa). Unless these feelings of faith in our hearts result in tangible effects in our practical lives, faith remains theoretical and, thus, incomplete.
The Surah continues with its address to the Bedouins: “Will you inform Allah (swt) about your religion? While Allah knows all that is in the heavens and all that is in the earth, and Allah is All-Aware of everything.” Allah (swt) tells them He knows what is actually in their hearts, without them saying a word. The Bedouins think that accepting Islam was a favour they bestowed on Allah (swt) and His Prophet (sa); this very action belies their state of Iman.
Verse 17 is their awakening: “Nay, but Allah has conferred a favour upon you…” If you are truthful or sincere, you don’t need to remind anyone of favours. You do not need to prove it with your tongue. Allah (swt) will put the acceptance and remembrance in other people’s hearts for you.
Sayyid Qutb says: “The first thing that faith gives a man, when it settles firmly in his heart, is a broader vision of the universe, and how it relates to him and his role in it. This view makes man realize how insignificant his role truly is. It eventually helps him develop new criteria to evaluate things, people, values, and goals.”
At this stage, in the concluding Ayah of the Surah, we see the full picture. Allah (swt), Who knows all that is hidden in the heavens and on the earth, knows what is hidden in people’s innermost thoughts. The All-Seer does not get His knowledge just from the words you say but also from the feelings you have buried deep within you, and the actions which confirm those feelings. In conclusion, this Surah defines a just and noble society, outlining our true natures, and establishing a higher moral standard in our hearts.
Adapted (with permission) for Hiba by Tasneem Vali