Continuing onward; this'll finish up my study on surah 68. This'll be regarding verses 33-52.
Allah gives us a glorious promise in verse 34. Not only do the believers get rewarded with gardens, but also a reward that’s far better (i.e. living in Allah’s presence). Living with Him is the ultimate reward for those who love Him. It’s interesting, to me, that Allah mentions Himself as one of the rewards for the righteous. If you could go to Paradise and have all sorts of palaces, jewelry, food, gardens, a beautiful wife/husband, fancy cars and drinks, but God was not there, would you want to go to Paradise? The answer, for the believer, is no. Now don’t get me wrong, it’s nice to think about walking around the Garden of Eden, looking at beautiful waterfalls and prancing through fields of tulips whilst singing hymns, but if God were not present there, it wouldn’t be Paradise in the true sense.
Many people want to go to Jannah, they just don’t want God to be there. For the hater of God, Jannah is worse than even the lowest level of Hell, because he/she couldn’t bear being in a place where a God of Holiness lives. They hate the notion that there’s something greater and more important than themselves, so, when you think about it, Hell is a gift to them. Even Hell illustrates Allah’s mercy.
On the other hand, there are religious people who are so determined to believe that they are good that they’ll go to Hell for it. I’ve seen this before; people who are infuriated because things have not gone their way. They’ll even give a list of all the things they’ve done and they’re mad that God hasn’t given them this or that. "Oh, but I’ve prayed! I’ve fasted! I’ve served Allah for years and he still hasn’t given me a spouse!", they cry. That is the polar opposite of everything the Qur’an has to say. Who are we to say that we’ve done x, therefore God owes us y?
So why is all of this relevant? Because, in surah 68:35-41, Allah asks six consecutive questions to the religious and non-religious alike. He’s showing man his smallness and his inability to discern righteousness from sin on his own. He’s saying "Where were you from eternity past? Do you share a portion of divinity? Do you know something I don’t? Did you deliver books of revelation to countless prophets over many thousands of years? Do you have some secret get-out-of-jail-free card that allows you to escape judgment on Judgment Day?". Strong words indeed.
In verses 42 and 43, there’s a graphic picture of Judgment Day. When everyone who has ever lived is resurrected, all will be humbled (even the wickedest ones). When everyone sees their own smallness and helplessness and they see God for who He is, there will be no bravado. Shame will cover the disbelievers not only because Allah will prevent them from prostrating, but also because they refused to bow to Him while they were fully capable of doing so. Forgiveness of sins and Salvation were offered to them countless times during their earthly lives, but they chose to reject it.
Then, as we look at verse 44, we have what is, in my opinion, one of the best examples in all the Qur’an of God’s justice. If your khatib can’t formulate a khutba around surah 68:44, he doesn’t have it in him to preach :P. It’s time for muslims who live in the west, like myself, to look around and recognize that western world is in the midst of the judgment of Allah . We western muslims live in a land where there are people who idolize people like Barack Obama and Lil Wayne. What Miley Cyrus is wearing/doing is of more importance than the people of Palestine, Burma and Syria being slaughtered and persecuted, all the while, our governments stare off into space. It’s a bigger deal nowadays to lose your phone than to lose your virginity. That is God’s judgment and the majority of our population is completely oblivious to it.
I fully acknowledge that I am part of the problem of evil because I am a sinner and I need Allah’s mercy just as much as anyone else. Believers need not despair, though, because Allah ends the surah with a promise. If we will do our duty to the Lord with a humble heart, expecting nothing in return, He will lift us out of our hole and will save us, just as he saved prophet Jonah [peace be upon him] from the belly of the giant fish. Allah is closer to us than our jugular vein; He knows that it can be disheartening to see people reject our deen, insult us and other things like that, but He admonishes us to not give up. Yes, we ought to preach Islam to people and we ought to pray for people, but we must not think that our success or failure is based upon how many people we can convert. Success is based upon obedience to God—not on your statistics.