Successful are the believers. Those who humble themselves in prayers; who avoid vain talk; who are keen on acts of charity; who guard their private parts except with their wives and those who their right hands own. In their case they are free from blame. But those who seek beyond that, they are transgressors. (The believers are) those who faithfully observe their trusts and covenants, those who guard their prayers. They are the inheritors of Paradise. They shall dwell in it (forever). (Al-Mu’minun 23:1-11)
It goes without saying that the Qur’an is the Book of guidance par excellence, instructing man how to live his life. As part of its grand plan of instruction, the Qur’an spells out concisely the definition and outstanding features of believers, which are embodied most clearly in verses 1-11 of Surat Al-Mu’minun.
Significantly enough, the surah itself is entitled Al-Mu’minun (Believers) and it opens with the passage under discussion here. As to the importance and excellence of these particular verses the following hadiths further clarify the point.
It is reported on `Umar’s authority in the “Musnad of Imam Ahmad” that once after receiving a fresh part of divine revelation, the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) made the following supplication in the presence of those Companions sitting around him:
“O Lord, grant us increase and do not afflict us with decrease. Exalt us and do not abase us. Bestow upon us and do not deprive us. Grant us superiority over others and do not deprive us. Grant us superiority over others and do not make others superior to us. Be pleased with us and bless us with Your pleasure.”
He then added:
“I have just now received such verses that whoever acts upon these will go straight to Paradise.”
He then recited this passage from Surat Al-Mu’minun which had then been revealed to him. More importantly, the following hadith throws ample light on the significance of the passage.
On being requested to describe the Prophet’s conduct, which would serve as a model for subsequent generations to emulate, ‘A’ishah, the Prophet’s wife, replied that his conduct exemplified what is stated theoretically in the Qur’an: “His character was that of the Qur’an.” (Ahmad, Muslim and Abu Dawud) . To illustrate her point further, she recited these verses of Surat Al-Mu’minun. (Kitab At-Tafsir, An-Nasa’i’s Sunan)
On studying these verses one can form a clear idea of the Qur’anic model of believers. This passage describes both their sound beliefs and right conduct. The first and foremost point is that the Qur’an accords equal importance to both creed and deed. Both of these should be sound and wedded to the goal of pleasing Allah.
Belief which is not supported by right conduct and by the same token, good deeds which are lacking firm belief in the articles of faith prescribed by the Qur’an, are not acceptable.
According to the Qur’an, a believer is by definition someone who stands out for his good deeds. This amalgam of sound beliefs and right conduct alone ensures success in this world, and more particularly, in the everlasting Afterlife. The Qur’an assures abiding success to those who display the seven characteristics as outlined in this passage.
Another amazing feature of this passage is that it covers the entire gamut of both individual and collective life. Furthermore, it takes into account major social, sexual, moral, economic and spiritual activities. This concise passage thus instructs man in all the important spheres of life, enabling him to profess and practice life as a believer. Implicit in it is also the truth that the profession of Qur’anic beliefs invests man with excellent conduct and perfect morals and manners.
The connection between belief and conduct is logical, rather inevitable. Any flaw in one’s conduct betrays some weakness in one’s faith. Otherwise, in the scheme of things ordained by Allah, sound beliefs must result in excellent conduct.
This explains why the passage opens with the assertion that believers are destined to achieve success. This Qur’anic proclamation does not hinge on any partisanship or jingoism. It rather states the law of nature that true believers, in view of their perfect conduct, which is expected of them, are bound to attain success.
The article is an excerpt from Abdur Raheem Kidwai’s book “The Qur’an: Essential Teachings”, published by the Islamic Foundation.