Success in the Quran is an important topic that covers a wide range of concepts. Success is something that everyone seeks. What does Islam consider to be success? We will explore the verses that delve deep into it in this article.
The following topics are covered in this article:
What is Success in the Quran?
According to English dictionaries, success is defined as “the accomplishment of an aim or purpose.” 1
What is the purpose and aim that Islam and the Quran have in mind for human beings? The Quran states:
وَمَا خَلَقْتُ الْجِنَّ وَالْإِنسَ إِلَّا لِيَعْبُدُونِ ﴿56﴾
I did not create the jinn and the humans except that they may worship Me. 2
Therefore, the purpose that Allah has laid for human beings is to worship Him and if we are able to do this then we are successful according to Islam.
Going forward, we will look at some of the verses that explain the ways we can achieve such a success.
Deliverance from Hellfire is Success in the Quran
كُلُّ نَفْسٍ ذَائِقَةُ الْمَوْتِ ۗ وَإِنَّمَا تُوَفَّوْنَ أُجُورَكُمْ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ ۖ فَمَن زُحْزِحَ عَنِ النَّارِ وَأُدْخِلَ الْجَنَّةَ فَقَدْ فَازَ ۗ وَمَا الْحَيَاةُ الدُّنْيَا إِلَّا مَتَاعُ الْغُرُور ﴿185﴾
Every soul shall taste death, and you will indeed be paid your full rewards on the Day of Resurrection. Whoever is delivered from the Fire and admitted to paradise has certainly succeeded. The life of this world is nothing but the wares of delusion. 3
The word zuḥziḥa (زحزح) means that a person gradually pulls himself away from the enticement and attraction of something else. It is as though hellfire is pulling people towards it because those things that lead people to hell possess a strange attraction; such as the short-lived and unlawful pleasures of the world.
However, if we pull away from these and are rewarded with heaven, then we will have been delivered and achieve what we love and seek.
This verse shows us that if we do not do this, we will slowly be attracted to those very things that will lead us to Hell. To be delivered and successful in achieving our goal, we must train, practice, and educate ourselves until we gradually reach the status of the certain soul (النفس المطمئنة). 4 This soul has attained certainty and does not commit sins.
Obedience and Success in the Quran
يُصْلِحْ لَكُمْ أَعْمَالَكُمْ وَيَغْفِرْ لَكُمْ ذُنُوبَكُمْ ۗ وَمَن يُطِعِ اللَّـهَ وَرَسُولَهُ فَقَدْ فَازَ فَوْزًا عَظِيمًا ﴿71﴾
He will rectify your conduct for you and forgive you your sins. Whoever obeys Allah and His Apostle will certainly achieve a great success. 5
The key to our deliverance and success is to obey God and the Holy Prophet (peace be on him and his household).
One of the ways of obeying them is to speak words that are free of lies, hypocrisy, nonsense, and weakness. 6
Success is Bound to God’s Pleasure
قَالَ اللَّـهُ هَـٰذَا يَوْمُ يَنفَعُ الصَّادِقِينَ صِدْقُهُمْ ۚ لَهُمْ جَنَّاتٌ تَجْرِي مِن تَحْتِهَا الْأَنْهَارُ خَالِدِينَ فِيهَا أَبَدًا ۚ رَّضِيَ اللَّـهُ عَنْهُمْ وَرَضُوا عَنْهُ ۚ ذَٰلِكَ الْفَوْزُ الْعَظِيمُ ﴿119﴾
Allah will say, ‘This day truthfulness shall benefit the truthful. For them there will be gardens with streams running in them, to remain in them forever. Allah is pleased with them and they are pleased with Him. That is the great success.’ 7
The verse explains that God is not only pleased with the truthfulness of those who are honest, but also pleased with them as a whole.
God is only pleased with someone who has achieved the goal and purpose for which he has been created. As indicated above, the purpose of creation is to worship God. And therefore, God is pleased with him who is the finest example of servitude. 8
The Effect of Servitude
The effect of this servitude is that one sees everything humbled before God and as a result, he is also pleased with God. This is because:
- He sees that whatever God has given him is out of His mercy and kindness; not that He is obliged to do so
- If He holds back from giving him something, it is due to His wisdom
- Those who God is pleased with have access to anything they want in Heaven according to the Quran. In this case, undoubtedly, a person would be pleased with God.
This is the ultimate level of happiness for a person as a servant of God and is the reason why God ends the verse with: that is the great success. 9
Traits to Possess to Attain Success in the Quran
الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَهَاجَرُوا وَجَاهَدُوا فِي سَبِيلِ اللَّـهِ بِأَمْوَالِهِمْ وَأَنفُسِهِمْ أَعْظَمُ دَرَجَةً عِندَ اللَّـهِ ۚ وَأُولَـٰئِكَ هُمُ الْفَائِزُونَ ﴿20﴾
Those who have believed and migrated, and waged jihad in the way of Allah with their possessions and persons have a greater rank near Allah, and it is they who are the triumphant. 10
According to this verse, those who have the following traits will be have a great rank and be among the victorious:
- Belief in God and that which He has revealed
- Moving from disbelief to belief in Islam and from disobedience to obedience to God (the migration in the verse could refer to this)
- Waging war and striving in God’s path through spending their wealth to spread the word of Islam and truth and their lives in upholding their religious responsibilities. One of these types of war or jihad (جهاد) is the fight against one’s own base desire and inner devils as well as Satan. 11
The Outcome of Success in the Quran
As a result of the victory and success that the possessors of these traits will attain, they will receive the following rewards:
- God’s Mercy
- His complete pleasure
- A heaven full of eternal blessings. 12
Spending Life and Wealth for God is Success in the Quran
إِنَّ اللَّـهَ اشْتَرَىٰ مِنَ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ أَنفُسَهُمْ وَأَمْوَالَهُم بِأَنَّ لَهُمُ الْجَنَّةَ ۚ يُقَاتِلُونَ فِي سَبِيلِ اللَّـهِ فَيَقْتُلُونَ وَيُقْتَلُونَ ۖ وَعْدًا عَلَيْهِ حَقًّا فِي التَّوْرَاةِ وَالْإِنجِيلِ وَالْقُرْآنِ ۚ وَمَنْ أَوْفَىٰ بِعَهْدِهِ مِنَ اللَّـهِ ۚ فَاسْتَبْشِرُوا بِبَيْعِكُمُ الَّذِي بَايَعْتُم بِهِ ۚ وَذَٰلِكَ هُوَ الْفَوْزُ الْعَظِيمُ ﴿111﴾
Indeed Allah has bought from the faithful their souls and their possessions for paradise to be theirs: they fight in the way of Allah, kill, and are killed. A promise binding upon Him in the Torah and the Evangel and the Quran. And who is truer to his promise than Allah? So rejoice in the bargain you have made with Him, and that is the great success. 13
In a beautiful analogy, God has likened those who fight in His way to those who are selling their wealth and lives, and God Himself is the buyer of these. The price and worth that He gives them in return is heaven.
God then gives them the glad tidings that this is a great success and triumph. 14
The Result of Patience is Success
إِنِّي جَزَيْتُهُمُ الْيَوْمَ بِمَا صَبَرُوا أَنَّهُمْ هُمُ الْفَائِزُونَ ﴿111﴾
Indeed I have rewarded them today for their patience. They are indeed the triumphant. 15
God will reward the believers who are patient in this world in the face of persecution, ridicule, and the bitter words of others. It is they who are the triumphant and successful according to the Quran.
The word fawz (فوز) means to attain one’s purpose and goal. 16
Success is for the Believers and Good-Doers
فَأَمَّا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ فَيُدْخِلُهُمْ رَبُّهُمْ فِي رَحْمَتِهِ ۚ ذَٰلِكَ هُوَ الْفَوْزُ الْمُبِينُ ﴿30﴾
As for those who have faith and do righteous deeds, their Lord will admit them into His mercy. That is the manifest success! 17
On the Qiyamah, people are either miserable or happy. The happy are those who believed in God and performed good deeds and their reward is heaven. The miserable are those who disbelieved and were arrogant and sinful.
The mercy mentioned here refers to God’s kindness and whoever receives this will be prosperous and happy. One of the outcomes of this mercy is to be blessed with heaven.
What Leads to Success in the Quran?
وَلْتَكُن مِّنكُمْ أُمَّةٌ يَدْعُونَ إِلَى الْخَيْرِ وَيَأْمُرُونَ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ وَيَنْهَوْنَ عَنِ الْمُنكَرِ ۚ وَأُولَـٰئِكَ هُمُ الْمُفْلِحُونَ ﴿104﴾
There has to be a nation among you summoning to the good, bidding what is right, and forbidding what is wrong. It is they who are the felicitous. 19
Mufliḥūn (مفلحون) comes from falāḥ (فلاح) which means victory and attaining one’s goal and purpose. The truly victorious and successful are those who feel for the society and not those who are indifferent to its problems and pains.
A person cannot attain one’s goal and victory simply through individual salvation; rather, the success and growth of others is also one of the conditions of victory. 20
Remembering God’s Blessings Leads to Success in the Quran
أَوَعَجِبْتُمْ أَن جَاءَكُمْ ذِكْرٌ مِّن رَّبِّكُمْ عَلَىٰ رَجُلٍ مِّنكُمْ لِيُنذِرَكُمْ ۚ وَاذْكُرُوا إِذْ جَعَلَكُمْ خُلَفَاءَ مِن بَعْدِ قَوْمِ نُوحٍ وَزَادَكُمْ فِي الْخَلْقِ بَسْطَةً ۖ فَاذْكُرُوا آلَاءَ اللَّـهِ لَعَلَّكُمْ تُفْلِحُونَ ﴿69﴾
Do you consider it odd that there should come to you a reminder from your Lord through a man from among yourselves, so that he may warn you? Remember when He made you successors after the people of Noah, and increased you vastly in creation. So remember Allah’s bounties so that you may be felicitous. 21
The secret to salvation and success is remembering God’s blessings because this leads to love which in turn leads to obedience which results in salvation and success.
The word ālāʾ (آلاء) is more comprehensive than neʿmah (نعمة) even though both words mean blessings. However, the former includes internal and external blessings as well as material and spiritual ones. Even punishment and hellfire are requisites of Divine justice as included in this word.
Jaʿfar b. Muhammad al-Sadiq (peace be on him) states that Divine ālāʾ is God’s greatest blessing on His creation and refers to the wilayah (ولایة), that is, mastership and guardianship of the Ahlul Bait (peace be on them). 22
Success in the Quran is for the Virtuous
أُولَـٰئِكَ عَلَىٰ هُدًى مِّن رَّبِّهِمْ ۖ وَأُولَـٰئِكَ هُمُ الْمُفْلِحُونَ ﴿5﴾
Those follow their Lord’s guidance and it is they who are the felicitous. 23
The first few verses of surah al-Baqarah (سورة البقرة) are talking about the virtuous and according to this verse only the virtuous are guided by God and only they are felicitous and successful. The hypocrites and disbelievers have gone astray and are wretched. 24
Three Ways to Attain Success in the Quran
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا اتَّقُوا اللَّـهَ وَابْتَغُوا إِلَيْهِ الْوَسِيلَةَ وَجَاهِدُوا فِي سَبِيلِهِ لَعَلَّكُمْ تُفْلِحُونَ ﴿35﴾
O you who have faith! Be wary of Allah, and seek the means of recourse to Him, and wage jihad in His way, so that you may be felicitous. 25
According to this verse, there are three ways one can attain salvation and success:
- Choosing a means of closeness to God or a wasīla (وسیلة)
- Waging jihad (جهاد) in His way.
- There are two types of jihad; one is with an external enemy of God and Islam, and one is with the internal enemies that are our own base desires and the temptations of Satan.
Wasīla (وسیلة) means to seek closeness or is something that results in closeness to another out of love and desire. This includes everything and action that brings us closer to God. 26
According to narrations, one of the ways we can achieve closeness to God is through the Imams (peace be on them). 27
Success in the Quran is in Helping and Honoring the Prophet
… فَالَّذِينَ آمَنُوا بِهِ وَعَزَّرُوهُ وَنَصَرُوهُ وَاتَّبَعُوا النُّورَ الَّذِي أُنزِلَ مَعَهُ ۙ أُولَـٰئِكَ هُمُ الْمُفْلِحُونَ ﴿ ﴿157﴾
… Those who believe in him, honor him, and help him and follow the light that has been sent down with him, they are the felicitous. 28
Those who believe in the Holy Prophet (peace be on him and his progeny) and respect and revere him, help him, and follow the Quran which has been sent down to him, they are the ones who will be delivered from punishment and be successful in attaining God’s mercy and rewards.
According to some narrations, the light that has been sent down with him refers to Imam Ali (peace be on him). 29
Success in the Quran can be Attained by Repentance
…وَتُوبُوا إِلَى اللَّـهِ جَمِيعًا أَيُّهَ الْمُؤْمِنُونَ لَعَلَّكُمْ تُفْلِحُونَ ﴿31﴾
…And turn to Allah all of you, O believers! So that you may be successful. 30
The word tawbah (توبة) means to turn back to God and obey His commands and stay away from what He has prohibited. In short, it means to follow His path. 31
And this is what leads to felicity and success in this world and the next.
Wealth can be a Means to Success in the Quran
فآتِ ذَا الْقُرْبَىٰ حَقَّهُ وَالْمِسْكِينَ وَابْنَ السَّبِيلِ ۚ ذَٰلِكَ خَيْرٌ لِّلَّذِينَ يُرِيدُونَ وَجْهَ اللَّـهِ ۖ وَأُولَـٰئِكَ هُمُ الْمُفْلِحُونَ ﴿38﴾
Give the relative his due, and the needy and the traveller [as well]. That is better for those who seek Allah’s pleasure, and it is they who are the felicitous. 32
One of the means through which we can attain God’s pleasure and as a result, salvation and success, is through wealth; if we spend it in His path and for Him.
Success in the Quran and Stinginess
وَالَّذِينَ تَبَوَّءُوا الدَّارَ وَالْإِيمَانَ مِن قَبْلِهِمْ يُحِبُّونَ مَنْ هَاجَرَ إِلَيْهِمْ وَلَا يَجِدُونَ فِي صُدُورِهِمْ حَاجَةً مِّمَّا أُوتُوا وَيُؤْثِرُونَ عَلَىٰ أَنفُسِهِمْ وَلَوْ كَانَ بِهِمْ خَصَاصَةٌ ۚ وَمَن يُوقَ شُحَّ نَفْسِهِ فَأُولَـٰئِكَ هُمُ الْمُفْلِحُونَ ﴿9﴾
[They are as well] for those who were settled in the land and [abided] in faith before them, who love those who migrate toward them, and do not find in their breasts any privation for that which is given to them, but prefer [the Immigrants] to themselves, though poverty be their own lot. And those who are saved from their own greed—it is they who are the felicitous. 34
The word shuḥ (شحّ) means stinginess accompanied by greed. According to a narration stinginess and faith cannot exist together in the heart of a Muslim.
If we want to attain felicity and success we must get rid of this trait as a stingy person will not attain salvation. According to this verse, one can get rid of it through God’s help. 35
The Purified will Attain Success in the Quran
قَدْ أَفْلَحَ مَن تَزَكَّىٰ ﴿14﴾
Felicitous is he who purifies himself. 36
The word tazakkā (تزکّی) means to seek purification. Purification here means:
- To purify oneself from the taint of material attachment that diverts and deters a person from the Hereafter
- Return to God and repentance is one of the things that prevents a person from sinking into materialism
- Charity in God’s way because this also purifies the heart from financial attachments. 37
It is this purification that will lead to felicity and success.
In contrast to what most people understand from success, Islam and success in the Quran show us that true success is in achieving the purpose that God has set down for us which is worshipping Him.
In this article, we have strived to show that even though worship and servitude as a whole lead to success, there are some particular instances that verses of the Quran have indicated and we have explained some of them.
- [51: 56]. Qarai
- [3: 185]. Qarai
- Tafsir Namuna. Vol. 3, pp. 201-2
- [33: 71]. Qarai
- Tafsi Nur. Commentary of Surah al-Ahzab. Verses 70-71; Qarashi, A. A. Tafsir Ahsan al-Hadith. Bethat Foundation. Vol. 8, p. 401
- [5: 119]. Qarai
- Translation of Tafsir al-Mizan [20 vols.]. Vol. 6, p. 361
- Ibid. pp. 361-2
- [9: 20]. Qarai
- Tafsir Ithna Ashari. Vol. 5, pp. 42-3
- Ibid. p. 44. See [9: 21]
- [9: 11]. Qarai
- Translation of Tafsir al-Mizan [20 vols.]. Vol. 9, pp. 538-9
- [23: 111]. Qarai
- Tafsir Nur. Commenatry of Surah al-Mu’minun. Verses 111-114
- [45: 30]. Qarai
- Translation of Tafsir al-Mizan [20 vols.]. Vol. 18, p. 273
- [3: 104]. Qarai
- Tafsir Nur. Commentary of Surah Aal Imran. Verse 104
- [7: 69]. Qarai
- Tafsir Nur. Commentary of Surah al-Aʿraaf. Verse 69
- [2: 5]. Qarai
- Qarashi, A. A. Tafsir Ahsan al-Hadith. Bethat Foundation. Vol. 1, p. 48
- [5: 35]. Qarai
- Tafsir Namuna. Vol. 4, pp. 363-4
- Tafsir al-Qummi. Vol. 1, p. 168
- [7: 157]. Qarai
- Tafsir Ithna Ashari. Vol. 4, p. 216
- [24: 31]. Shakir
- Translation of Tafsir al-Mizan [20 vols.]. Vol. 15, p. 157
- [30: 38]. Qarai
- Tafsir Nur. Commentary of Surah al-Rum. Verse 38
- [59: 9]. Qarai
- Tafsir Nur. Commentary of Surah al-Hashr. Verse 9
- [87: 14]. Qarai
- Translation of Tafsir al-Mizan [20 vols.]. Vol. 20, p. 449