The pleasure and joy of the recipient of divine blessings مُنَعَّم reaches its peak when the blessing itself has reached the stage of perfection. As Allah (SWT) is the Absolute Perfection who brings completion to things, it is also His course of action and will to bring perfection to His bounties. The Quran speaks numerously about the perfection of Ne’mat (bounty), most notably in verse
“اليوم أكملت لكم دينكم وأتممت عليكم نعمتي ورضيت لكم الإسلام ديناً.”
Today I have perfected for you your religion, and have completed My favour upon you, and am well-pleased with Islam as your religion. [5:3]
Most exegesis testify that this verse was revealed to the Prophet (SA) on the journey back from the Farewell Pilgrimage on the year 10 A.H. It was revealed immediately after the Prophet (SA) appointed Ali ibn Abi Talib (AS) as his successor on the Islamic state at a place called Ghadeer Khum. Indeed this is one of the most critical verses of the Holy Quran as it announces the completion of the message, the perfection of the bounty and the divine approval and satisfaction of this religion.
Without this verse being present in the Quran, one may question whether the message has fully been conveyed, or whether Allah (SWT) is pleased with the religion as it was relayed. The above verse clearly states that the religion was completed and the bounties perfected on a specific day; history tells us that day was on the event of Ghadeer Khum on the 18th of DhulHijjah, 10th year A. H. Indeed, the final message to humanity was completed with the Imamate and successorship being a condition to its completeness. According to Majma’ Al Bayan, when this verse was revealed the Prophet (SA) exclaimed:
“الله أكبر على إكمال الدين وإتمام النعمة برسالتي وولاية علي بن أبي طالب من بعدي. من كنت مولاه فعليُ مولاه اللهم والي من ولاه وعادي من عاداه وانصر من نصره وخذل من خذله.”
God is Great for the completion of religion and perfection of bounty by my message and by the Wilayah/guardianship of Ali ibn Abi Talib after me. Whomever I am his Mawla, then Ali is his Mawla. Oh God, be the friend of him who is his friend, and be the enemy of him who is his enemy. Help him who helps him and forsake him who forsakes him.
It is interesting to note that the verse mentions the Ne’mat in the singular form as opposed to plural to indicate that Allah (SWT) is referring to a specific bounty, and not just any bounty.
Islam is built on five pillars and the last pillar is the Wilayah and giving the pledge of allegiance for Imamate of Ali ibn Abi Talib (AS). The five pillars are not completed except by completion of its parts, and the bounty (Ne’mat) of Islam is not completed without its 5th pillar. Al-Kafi narrates that Imam Al Baqir (AS) has said, “A Fareeda (obligatory action) is issued after another Fareeda. And the Wilayah is among the last obligations to be revealed.”
Tafseer Safi interestingly points out that Allah (SWT) did not state that He (SWT) has completed the Fara’ed (obligatory deeds)
“أكملت لكم الفرائض”;
rather Allah (SWT) declares that He has completed the religion
.”أكملت لكم دينكم”
The last obligation that was revealed is the obligation of Wilayah in Ghadeer Khum which was followed by the revelation of the verse of completion of religion.
Furthermore, Allah (SWT) says in verse [5:6] which was revealed in the context of ablution and purification that He (SWT) desires to complete His bounty perhaps we may be thankful for His favour upon us.
“ولكن يريد ليطهركم وليُتِم نعمته عليكم لعلكم تشكرون.”
But He intends to purify you and complete His favor upon you that you may be grateful.
Once again, the term Ne’mat is used in the singular form. The exegesis of Tafseer Bayan Sa’ada reveals that the latent meaning of the Ne’mat mentioned in this verse is in reference to the bay’a (pledge of allegiance) of Wilayah which is the essence of perfection of the Ne’mat of Islam. Perhaps after appreciating that greatest bounty from Allah (SWT) we would be sincerely thankful to Him. In another verse which mentions changing direction of Qibla towards Mecca, Allah (SWT) says:
“فلا تخشوهم واخشوني ولأتِم نعمتي عليكم ولعلكم تهتدون.”
So fear them not, but fear Me! And so that I may complete My Blessings on you and that you may be guided. [2:150]
In this verse, Allah (SWT) mentions His specific Ne’mat in reference to Imam Ali (AS) but one may wonder what correlation exists between the bounty of Wilayah and the changing of Qibla which is the context of the above verse. If we reflect on the meaning of this verse, we’ll understand that the new direction of Muslims has been changed to the Holy Kaaba. With that in mend, let us also remember that the Holy Kaaba happens to be the birthplace of Ali ibn Abi Talib (AS) which is a unique gift and virtue for him.
Hence, Allah (SWT) wants to lift our attention that the essence and core of our direction is to the Wilayah of Imam Ali (AS) which is symbolized by his birthplace in the Holy Kaaba. This change of direction towards the Kaaba by the heart is equivalent to the perfection of Ne’mat. Perhaps we can be guided by him who is the representation of Siraat Al Mustaqeem (the Straight path) as discussed earlier.
If we wanted to summarize the state of affairs between the Creator and creation in regards to bestowal of bounties, we will not find better words than the supplication of Imam Husain ibn Ali (AS) on the day of Arafah where he says:
“ثم إذ خلقتني مِن خير الثرى لم ترضى لي يا إلهي نعمة دون أخرى ورزقتني مِن أنواع المعاش وصنوف الرِياش بمنك العظيم الأعظم عليَّ وإحسانك القديم إليَّ حتى إذا أتممت عليَّ جميع النِعَم وصرفت عني كُل النقم لم يمنعك جهلي وجُرأتي عليك أن دللتني إلى ما يقربني إليك ووفقتني لِما يُزلفني لديك فإن دعوتك أجبتني وإن سألتك أعطيتني وإن أطعتك شكرتني وإن شكرتك زِدتني كل ذلك إكمالاً لإنعامك عليَّ وإحسانك إليَّ فسبحانك…”
“Then, since You created me from the best soil, You were not satisfied, my God, that I should have one blessing with another. You provided me with varieties of sustenance and kinds of garments and Your tremendous, most tremendous, graciousness to me and Your Eternal goodness towards me.
And finally, when You had completed for me every blessings and turned away from me all misfortunes, You were not prevented by my ignorance and audacity from guiding me towards that which would bring me nigh to You or from giving me success in that which would bring me close to You. For if I prayed to You, You answered; and if I asked of You, You gave me; if I obeyed You, You showed Your gratitude; and if I thank You, You gave me more. All of that was to perfect Your blessings upon me and Your goodness towards me. So glory be to you…”
If we briefly analyze this excerpt from the beautiful supplication of Husain (AS) on the day of Arafah which speaks volumes of the level of ma’refat / recognition and knowledge that he possesses, we can conclude the following points. From His great generosity and goodness, Allah (SWT) created us from the best material and chose to bestow a cocktail of bounties and blessings to the point of its perfection and protection from calamities and misfortunes.
But unfortunately, this perfection of bounties coupled with protection of calamities did not remove the ignorance and audacity from us and despite that, Allah (SWT) provided us lights of guidance towards His proximity. Furthermore, His absolute mercy was obvious in His response to our call, His gratitude to our obedience, and He (SWT) gave us more than that as a sign of perfection to His bounties!
Adapted from: “Brief Analysis of Ne’ma (Bounty) in the Holy Qur’an” by: “Jerrmein Abu Shahba”