What does ‘If you do not forgive us, we shall certainly be lost’ mean?

The Details of the Question

Hz. Adam and his wife pray as follows in verse 23 of the chapter of al-Araf: "If You do not forgive us, we shall certainly be lost." How should we understand the verse? What does ‘being lost / be at a loss’ in the verse mean?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

Answer 1:

Khusran (loss) is a term meaning losing/making a loss in the world and the hereafter materially and spiritually.

The verse in question is as follows:

“They said: "Our Lord! We have wronged our own souls: If thou forgive us not and bestow not upon us Thy Mercy, we shall certainly be lost.” (al-Araf, 7/23)

Hz. Adam and Hz. Hawwa (Eve) were virtually innocent and unaware of sins like a child before they ate the forbidden fruit; they did not feel any sexual desire toward each other. However, when they violated the prohibition by being deceived by Satan, they saw each other’s private parts and tried to cover them with leaves.   

Satan’s deceiving Adam and Eve through a delusion was his first evil deed to humanity; and their eating the forbidden fruit was the first sin of humanity. That Adam and his wife tried to cover up their private places immediately without being under any influence proves that the feeling of being ashamed exists in man naturally and that nudity and displaying certain parts of the body is contrary to the natural sense of ethics in man.

As it is pointed out in verse 12 of the chapter of al-Araf, Satan committed a sin; instead of repenting, he insisted on his sin by being deceived by his pride and then he was debased.

Adam and his wife committed a sin but they repented and regretted; eventually, they were forgiven and elevated.

In addition, after this incident, Satan and the angels had the opportunity to witness a virtue of man, who was called the vicegerent of the earth. Insistence on evil deeds like Satan decreases the value of a slave. When the Prophet (pbuh) pointed to this divine law, he stated the following:

"Whoever humbles himself, Allah will raise him, and whoever behaves arrogantly, Allah will lower him." (Musnad, ffl, 76; Ibn Majah, "Zuhd", 16)

Thus, both Hz. Adam and Hz. Hawwa noticed the mistake they made due to the deception of Satan, repented at once, asked for forgiveness, confessed their mistakes and took refuge in divine mercy by saying, “Our Lord! We have wronged our own souls: If thou forgive us not and bestow not upon us Thy Mercy, we shall certainly be lost.” Those words of begging and supplication are the words that are indicated in the following verse: "Then learnt Adam from his Lord words of inspiration, and his Lord Turned towards him; for He is Oft-Returning, Most Merciful." (al-Baqara, 2/37)

It is said that Adam became happy with five things:
- He confessed that he disobeyed the order of Allah.
- He regretted.
- He spoke ill of his soul.
- He tried to repent.
- He did not give up hope of the mercy of Allah.

Satan became unhappy with five things :
- He did not confess his sin.
- He did not regret.
- He did not blame himself.
- He attributed his deviation to Allah.
- He gave up hope of the mercy of Allah. (Elmalılı, Hak Dini, The interpretation of Araf verse 23)

Answer 2:

Khusran (loss) is derived from the word khasr; it means “make a loss by losing one’s capital; to be at loss; (one’s wealth) to decrease”.

As a Quranic term, khusran means “to be at a loss by being deprived of happiness in the world and the hereafter.

The word khusran is mentioned in sixty-five places in the Quran along with its derivatives. It is used in a phrase in two places: “el-khusranul-mubin” and “khusranan mubinan” (“clear loss).

In the verses of the Quran, khusran is used for the following people:
- Those who abandon Allah and accept Satan as their friend,
- Those who do not believe that they will encounter Allah,
- Those who deny Allah’s verses,
- Those who associate partners with Allah,
- Those who are deprived of divine mercy and forgiveness,
- Those who disobey Allah and do not fear His penalty,
- Those who oppose divine commands,
- Those who deny prophets and choose what is wrong,
- Those who do not believe in the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh),
- Those who turn away from Islam due to a misfortune that they have undergone,
- Those who seek a religion other than Islam,
- Those who become unbelievers after believing,
- Those who make people deviate from the way of Allah,
- Those who obey unbelievers,
- Those who cause mischief on earth,
- Those who break off relationship with their relatives,
- munafiqs (hypocrites)

The people above are mentioned as those who are at a loss in the hereafter. (M. F. Abdulbaqi, al-Mu’jam, “kḫsr” item)

In a verse, (az-Zumar 39/15), it is stated that those who worship any being other than Allah will be losers along with their families on the Day of Judgment.

To sum up, unbelievers, munafiqs and fasiqs (sinners) are the people that will be at a loss.

The words “fawz”, “najat” and “falah” are used as the opposite of khusran in various verses and it is stated that those who believe and do righteous deeds will win and attain salvation. (For instance, see an-Nisa 4/13, 73; at-Tawba 9/72, 89, 111; Ghafir 40/41)

After stating that khusran can be used for both man and his deeds, Raghib al-Isfahani says that this concept is used in two senses in the Quran: one for commercial-material things like wealth and rank and the other for spiritual things like health, mind, belief and thawabs; he states that the latter is generally meant by the word khusran. (al-Mufradat, “kḫsr” item)

Ibnul-Jawzi states that khusran means various things like “measuring/weighing less than something is, deceiving, weakness, deviating and punishing” in the Quran. (Nuzhatul-A’yun, p. 277-278)

In hadiths, the derivatives of the word khasr is used in the same sense as they are used in the Quran.

According to various hadiths,
- the rich who do not help the poor financially,
- those who are not just,
- those who act arrogantly,
- those who rub in,
- those who commit perjury in order to sell their goods  
- and those who do not perform prayers

are those who are at a loss. (Bukhari, Ayman, 3; Muslim, Zakah, 148, Iman, 171, Abu Dawud, Libas, 25; Tirmidhi, Salah, 188)

The words falah, fawz and najat are used as the opposite of khusran in hadiths.

Islamic scholars made various interpretations about khusran acting upon the information in verses and hadiths:

Abu Mansur al-Maturidi acts upon the verses ‘Allah purchased of the believers their persons and their goods in return for Paradise’ (at-Tawba 9/111) and ‘a bargain that will save them from a grievous penalty’ (Saf 61/10) and he likens the relationship between the Creator and the slave to a commercial relationship, explaining khusran as losing in this trade. Those who win are those who believe in Allah and obey His orders. (Ta’wilatul-Qur’an, wr. 900a-b)

Fakhruddin ar-Razi interprets khusran as “the soul’s destruction and the life’s being spent in vain” when it is considered for human beings in general; he states that it is possible to win and to attain eternal bliss only through believing and doing righteous deeds. According to him, it is very difficult for man to get rid of khusran because man’s lifespan decreases day by day. Man’s full obedience to Allah does not take place in most cases. Most of the people are at a loss since they regard few righteous deeds are enough instead of increasing righteous deeds. (Mafatiḥul-Ghayb, XXXII, 87-88)

Muhammed Hamdi Yazır describes man’s lifespan as a capital granted by Allah and states that man will attain salvation if it is determined that he has won after he returns that capital to its owner and that he will be regarded to have gone bankrupt if it is determined that he has lost, which will be clear loss for him, causing him to be punished. (Hak Dini, IX, 6077-6078)

To sum up khusran means to be at a loss materially and spiritually in the world and the hereafter.

Raghib al-Isfahani, al-Mufradat, “kḫsr” item;
Lisanul-‘Arab, “kḫsr” item; Abul-Baqa, al-Kulliyyat, p. 434;
M. F. Abdulbaqi, al-Mu’jam, “kḫsr” item;
Mustafawi, at-Tahqiq, “khsr” item;
Maturidi, Ta’wilatul-Qur’an, Hacı Selim Ağa Library, nr. 40, wr. 900a-b;
Ibnul-Jawzi, Nuzhatul-A’yun, p. 277-278;
Fakhruddin ar-Razi, Mafatihul-Ghayb XXXII, 87-88; Ibn Kathir, Tafsirul-Qur’an, IV, 585;
Elmalılı, Hak Dini, IX, 6077-6078.
Kuran Yolu, Diyanet.
TDV İslam Ansiklopedisi, Husran item.

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