What You Have Versus What God Has

The Quran is guidance for believers and all of humanity. Its style is full of variation, with instructions and prohibitions appearing alongside stories, parables and more besides.

The unique style of its verses not only made it captivating for its first listeners, and ensured that it would be cherished and memorized by millions, but it also presented a challenge for anyone who doubted its divine origin. According to many scholars, the defining quality of the Quran is how so much meaning is conveyed in words of small number and great beauty.

In this series, Sohaib Saeed, founder of Quranica and graduate of Al-Azhar University, explores some short phrases from the Quran which can be treated as guiding principles for life.

Although they have meanings which suit their context of relevance and place in their respective surahs (chapters), they also carry wisdom which transcends those contexts and invites reflection.

This series is intended to aid reflection on the Quran, and listeners are encouraged to memorize these short phrases or verses along with their meanings, and make them part of their daily lives and conversations. Each episode contains clips from the Quran vocalized by a variety of reciters.

This podcast is transcribed by Reading Islam team.

{what you have runs out but what God Has endures} (Quran 16:96)

As you’ll find throughout this series, this phrase taken from the Quran has an original meaning in its context and sequential flows. But at the same time it has a timeless and universal quality which allows it to be a wisdom which spreads beyond this original context.

Here there is a contrast between the creator and the creation. Just as the creator, God Almighty is the one has no beginning and no end and He’s pre-eternal and ever lasting, so, likewise, this creation is something which come into being at a point in time and will come into an end.

Therefore, that which is with the creator, these things also are everlasting. This refers not only to the provisions which He gives to the creation, but also His power and His limitless knowledge:

{Say, “If the sea were ink for [writing] the words of my Lord, the sea would be exhausted before the words of my Lord were exhausted, even if We brought the like of it as a supplement.”} (18:109)

In contrast as we know too well, for us we have a limited capital, we have limited resources which run out. And this is why the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) advised to take advantage of five things before five other things; five types of capital before five of realities some of which are certain to afflict us.

He said to take advantage of our youth before our old age; to take advantage of health before sickness; to take advantage of wealth before poverty; to take advantage of free time before occupation; and of course to take advantage of life before death.

Since by necessity what we have is going to run out, there is only one way to make it everlasting, there is only one way to live a true legacy and this is to transfer what we have to the bank of Almighty God.

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) would often turn a concept on his head and change entire mindsets with a few words.

One time he asked his wife Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her) about a sheep which his family had slaughtered and distributed three parts of it to the needy in the community. He asked her:

“How much is left of the sheep?”

She said: “All of it has gone except for the shoulder blade”

He replied:

“Rather all of it will remain except the shoulder blade.”

Because that is the part they will going to eat themselves and was not going to be transferred to the bank of the hereafter.

This is the meaning that we find in Quran 73:20 when God says:

{…whatever good you put forward for yourselves – you will find it with Allah. It is better and greater in reward. And seek forgiveness of Allah . Indeed, Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.}

This article is from Reading Islam’s archive and was originally published at an earlier date.

About Sohaib Saeed
Sohaib Saeed is a Scottish Muslim scholar specializing in Quranic studies and exegesis. He is founder and director of Quranica, an institute for research, education and outreach (www.quranica.com).