In Surah Maida, Ayah 7, Allah says,
And [always] remember the blessings which God has bestowed upon you, and the solemn pledge by which He bound you to Himself when you said, 'We have heard, and we pay heed.' Hence, remain conscious of God: verily, God has full knowledge of what is in the hearts [of men].1
In this verse of the Qur’an, Allah is asking us to remember the mithaaq, the covenant or the promise, that He asked us to make to which we responded with, “We hear and we obey.”
What is this covenant? What did we promise? When did this event take place? What will happen if we do not fulfill the covenant?
This verse of the Holy Qur’an is particularly remarkable because in it, Allah implies that we have a memory of this event, for He calls on us to remember it. Memories are not voluntary acts, or intentional recollections, but rather they are a kind of knowing, a tacit knowledge that resides in the heart and the soul. Through remembrance, it becomes possible for us to recover memories and in this verse, Allah calls on us to recover the memory of this promise that we made to him.
We can attempt to recover our personal memory of this covenant by engaging in various forms of remembrance. In addition to practicing dhikr and various forms of prayer and devotion, we can draw on the Qur’an to re-examine the components of this covenant that we undertook as a congregation of all human beings. In doing so, we can reiterate our promise.
In religious scriptures, a covenant is an oath or pledge that a believer makes to God. Throughout time, this covenant has been made many times among Prophets, believers, and God himself. Surah Al-A'raf, Ayah 172 establishes that the fundamental relationship between God and all human beings is premised upon the simple, unmediated recognition of Allah’s authority at the moment of our creation. The verse says,
And when thy Lord took from the Children of Adam, from their loins, their progeny and made them bear witness concerning themselves, “Am I not your Lord?” they said, “Yes, we bear witness”—lest you should say on the Day of Resurrection, “Truly of this we were heedless.”2
The verse encourages us to think about this oath of recognizing God as the Creator, Cherisher, and Nurturer to all humanity, even prior to our earthly existence. It is this tacit knowledge that God refers to when he calls on us to remember.
In addition, the act of pledging allegiance also refers to our oath to the Prophets. Following his migration from Mecca to Medina, known as the Hijrah, Prophet Muhammad (salla'l-lahu alayhi wa-aal-hi wa-sallam) established the Mithaq al-Medina, or the Covenant of Medina. This agreement bound Muslims, Jews, and other tribes of Medina to support each other and welcomed the Prophet as an arbiter. This charter not only resolved the ongoing conflicts, but also established political unity in Medina under Prophet Muhammad.
The Qur’an reminds us once again,
And [remember] when God made the covenant of the Prophets: “By that which I have given you of a Book and Wisdom, should a messenger then come to you confirming that which is with you, you shall surely believe in him and you shall help him.” He said, “Do you agree and take on My burden on these conditions?” They said, “We agree.” He said, “Bear witness, for I am with you among those who bear witness."3
The covenant to God is seen as both a blessing and a responsibility in the Qur’an. In addition to this notion of ‘knowing’ and ‘remembering’ our oath to Allah, we are called to understand the responsibility of that oath to Allah, His prophets, and the Holders of Authority. In the Qur'an it says, “Inn-al-lazeena yuba-yi-unaka…ajran azeema.” “Truly those who pledge allegiance unto thee, pledge allegiance only unto God. The Hand of God is over their hands. And whosoever reneges, reneges only to his detriment. And whosoever fulfills what He has pledged unto God, He will grant him a great reward.”4
Let us continue to reflect on our responsibility of fulfilling our covenant to God through reflection on our relationship with Allah, our relationship with one another, and Allah’s covenant to us.
1 Muhammad Asad, The Message of the Quran, The Book Foundation, 2008, ayah 5, verse 7.
2 Nasr, Seyyed Hossein, The Study Quran, Harper Collins Publishers, 2015, surah 7, verse 172, p. 466.
3 Nasr, Seyyed Hossein, The Study Quran, Harper Collins Publishers, 2015, surah 3, verse 81, p. 152.
4 Nasr, Seyyed Hossein, The Study Quran, Harper Collins Publishers, 2015, surah 48, verse 10, p. 1250.