“We Only Feed You For the Sake of God”

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“We Only Feed You For the Sake of God”

Category : Reflections , Values

By Sohaib Saeed

As a book of guidance for the individual and society, the Qur’an often elaborates on virtues which qualify people as pious, faithful and righteous,  and worthy of being “servants of the Merciful”. Among these most beautiful of Quranic passages is one found in Chapter 76, known both as “The Human Being” (al-Insān) and “Time” (al-Dahr), which was most likely revealed in Makkah in the early phase of the Prophetic mission.

Our selected verses begin with a glimpse of the reward in store for the righteous, together with some of their most prominent character traits: both towards their fellow man and towards their Lord:

{As to the righteous, they shall drink of a cup mixed with kāfūr;
a fountain where the devotees of God do drink, making it flow in unstinted abundance.
They perform (their) vows, and they fear a day whose evil flies far and wide.}
(Q 76:5-7).

The actions of these servants of God flow like that stream from the faith in their hearts. It is not only fear, but love as well:

{And they feed, for the love (of God), the indigent, the orphan, and the captive} (76:8)

This is the rendering of Abdullah Yusuf Ali alongside other translators. The verse may also be understood as saying that they give this food “despite their love of it”, i.e. their own need for that food with which the righteous prefer others over themselves. It can also mean that they love giving, as their souls have come to delight in such acts of virtue.

It is heartening to see more and more Muslim communities developing new initiatives to embody the values of this verse with respect to their own localities. I would like to believe that nobody would find it unusual or questionable for Muslims to be helping other people regardless of faith; but if anyone should question, then they can find an answer in these verses and many others which exhort the believers to help the needy without any restriction.

Indeed, the verse above makes an explicit mention of the “captive”, which may have referred in the first instance to Muslims who were imprisoned or enslaved by others, but was applied later to captives who had been engaged in warfare against the Muslims. This provides an insight into Islamic ethics of war.

Full of sincerity, these righteous men and women say (in their hearts, or even aloud to reassure the recipients):

{“We feed you for the sake of God alone: no reward do we desire from you, nor thanks.”} (76:9)

Knowing that the real Provider is the Almighty, Who means to test us through what He has given some over others, they give without any ulterior motive. They do not feed anyone to provoke them to enter Islam, yet they carry the banner of Islam and its message of peace in their very actions and lifestyle.

But are they doing it for God’s pleasure, or for His reward (i.e. Paradise)? The verse mentions both, alongside other indications of their fear of punishment, thus demonstrating that there is no conflict between these motivations for good deeds.

Yet the expressions of doing good “for God’s sake” (or for His “Face” as in this verse’s wording) have been taken by various scholars as corresponding to the highest aspirations and humblest servitude to the divine. At the same time, they are the Islamic version of what people call “good for good’s sake”.

Simply put: positivity begets positivity, whether in earthly or heavenly terms. {Is the reward for good anything but good?} (Q 55:60)

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