Let me start with the following verse from Al Quran:

 “And you will surely find them (the Jewish people) the most greedy of people for life – [even] more than those who associate others with Allah . One of them wishes that he could be granted life a thousand years, but it would not remove him in the least from the [coming] punishment that he should be granted life. And Allah is Seeing of what they do.” Al Baqarah 2:96

I have come across this verse many years ago, while studying the Tafseer (meaning) of the Quran. I never get the full meaning of it until recently. Surely, most Tafseer explains that the Jewish people are greedy and hence they wish and think that they can and should live for 1,000 years. And surely those who study Tafseer, understood that 1,000 years is a parable, which implies that they want to live forever. 1,000 years (“alf sanah”) is used in the Quran to describe long period of time and sometimes, it symbolizes an infinitum.

I was not satisfied with the explanations, and it seems to be missing something. I understand the negative part of it – namely, against the greedy behaviour, which is epitomized by the Jewish people. How about the “positive” lessons of it? Is there any?

I have dealt with prominent people from Jewish origins; even worked with them in some fashion or another; and interacted with many over the years of my business life. I could understand some of the truth of the Tafseer, but always questioning whether are there anything else to learn or could be understood?

The answer only came to me couple of years ago. When I have the chance to sit with someone (whose name, I avoid mentioning here, for the sake of confidentiality). He is of Jewish origin, aged more than 80 years old. He is physically impaired by old age, and could not move well due to the physical conditions.

We met and set for seven straight hours –debating everything from business to world economics and politics – non-stop. His energy is like someone who is 20 years old, and his vibrancy is like he is going to live at least for another 100 years or more. We discuss about his business and his plans – he works, strategize, and plan, as well as execute them, as if the business will last for few hundred years.

Well, was he then being “greedy”, and that’s why he behaves this way? On the contrary it was the opposite. He is holding one the greatest treasures of Islamic civilization under his collections. They are worth few billion dollars. And yet he is not even thinking of benefiting himself,  but to preserve such treasures for the next 1,000 years, as it was kept for the last 1,000 years, and more.

It dawn on me then what is the meaning of living 1,000 years – that is to preserve the legacy – way after you are gone. He knows he will not last much longer and yet he talks, plan and work – in order that the legacy could last 1,000 more years.

Most of us plan for the next day, week, month or a year at the most. Few spent great deal of time to think even beyond ten years. And yet, they think, plan, and work for hundreds of years ahead, if not 1,000 years. They plan and execute their planning – we don’t. They can be greedy, but greed drives them to plan that long and we don’t. We claim to have loftier goals and reasons better than them, and yet we do nothing of that sort, in terms of planning.

It is easier to look at the negative side, and trump the drum that we are better. But once you look on the positive side, the drive to live 1,000 years brings people to greatness and success. The only difference, as the verse says, is that we have to do it out of loftier objectives, not merely for worldly sustenance and glory.

May Allah guide us to the right path, and give us the full meaning of the Al Quran, which unfortunately, being taken for granted by most of us.


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