Our Bond With God – Commentary by Sally Jo Gilbert de Vargas

By Sally Jo Gilbert de Vargas

“Do not sell your bond with God for so paltry a price.” (Qur’an 16:95)

“Say, what has seduced you away from your most Generous Instructor?” (Qur’an 82:6)

One aspect of the Qur’an which has puzzled me for a long time are the references and metaphors made to economics, such as the quote above, “Do not sell your bond with God for so paltry a price.”  There are many such verses in the Qur’an that refer to buying, selling, and even loaning to God…for example, Verse 57:11 asks, “Who is he that will loan to Allah a beautiful loan? For Allah will increase it manifold to his credit, and he will have (besides) a liberal reward.”   (I will tackle that mysterious metaphor another time!)  Maybe it is because I have never been well-versed in the business world, but it always puzzles me to try to figure out what God has to do with financial matters.  I have come to understand that in the Qur’an, Allah uses many different kinds of metaphors that people can relate to on a human level.  So many people are involved with buying and selling, with calculating the value and worth of things in terms of currency.  But what exactly is our bond with God and how can it be sold?  It was given to us before we even had an existence, in the Primordial beginning of time before humankind even had existence on Earth.  In the Qur’an it is said that Allah called all unborn souls to Godself and asked, “Am I not your Lord?”  and humankind replied, in concert, “Yes!  Indeed!  We testify to this!”  This moment is referenced in Sura 5, verse 7: “Always remember the blessings which God has bestowed on you, and the solemn pledge by which He bound you to Himself, when you said, “We have heard, and we bear witness.”  This was a bond which Allah offered and we accepted, whether or not we remember it consciously.  It originated from Allah and was accepted by humankind in those mysterious realms before time or space existed.

So, what would it mean to sell that bond with God for a paltry price? There is no doubt that the human ego is always looking for ways to increase the profit margin and acquire and hoard our assets.  Perhaps this is referring to our tendency to undervalue what has been given freely to us.  Isn’t it much easier to spend a gift or inheritance than our hard-earned income?  Our bond with God was given freely to us, without conditions (except for acknowledgement that it exists!) and now we have a tendency to think that it is really not that important or valuable.  For example, we might forgo doing the right thing in an ethical dilemma, even when we know in our heart it is not in our best interest, because of some immediate gain we may get (approval or accolades from others, financial gain, a temporary sense of security.) Whenever we compromise our deepest values and beliefs for a temporary, materialistic, or artificial gain, we have “sold our bond with God for a paltry price.” This can also happen when we compromise our deepest values out of fear or embarrassment, criticism, or scorn from others. 

It is not always easy to discern when we are selling our bond with God.  We deceive ourselves so easily, and assuage our conscience with assurances that it will all come out right in the end, or we will do the right thing next time.   (We can, after all, always return to God when the going gets rough.)  Often, we are simply in a state of forgetfulness, and get caught up in our worldly desires and need for approval from others.  But if we truly believe in and value our bond with Allah, we will remain conscious of it, remind ourselves that our connection with Divinity is priceless and eternal, and must never be sold for any price.  When we have doubts about what is the right way to act in a difficult situation, we must always return to the advice of “our most Generous Instructor,” who teaches us through the prophets, sages, and holy books of all the world’s wisdom traditions.  No one can offer us deeper wisdom than that, no matter how many degrees and honors they possess. 

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