Praise be to God! There is no other god except God. A lot of people at different times in their life decide to become submitters, or maybe to do additional striving in the cause of God, and that’s good, but unfortunately very often religious people have the wrong ideas about the relative value of that compared to doing the same thing at other times. When we offer ourselves to God, put ourselves at the service of God, it depends when, how, why, where, and actually the differences can be huge. For example, in verse 4:18, God says, not acceptable is the repentance of those who commit sins until death starts to approach them, and then they say, “Now I repent.” This means that repentance when you don’t have much power to commit sins anymore is not really repentance. It’s just an admittance that you don’t have the power anymore to continue with your sins. So, time does matter. But why does the time matter? It matters because when we offer ourselves to God, it is similar to offering something material to God. Our bodies are also material. So, similarly when we give to charity, according to verse 2:267, God tells us not to pick out the bad things and give them to charity. So, now imagine yourself when you were at your worst, and when you were at your best, imagine them like two separate people. You at your worst, let’s say your weak you, maybe your old you, and the other person is you at your best, let’s say your young you, or your strong you. Now, imagine offering this best version of you to the devil, and offering this worst version of you to God. Don’t you think that’s insulting to God? Why should God accept your old weak version, when you offered your young strong version to the devil? And in the past when people were expected to be religious by the society, but in their heart they did not really want to, they would find a way to offer their weakest version of themselves to God. For example, they would work and deal with worldly matters for as long as they were healthy and strong, and would say that they are not doing the Contact Prayers because their very busy schedule won’t let them, and then when they became about let’s say 60, they would start doing the Contact Prayers. Really? Is it because you are not healthy anymore? And they themselves would admit that if you offer an unhealthy animal sacrifice (Qurban), then it will not be accepted from you. So, then why did you not offer your healthy body to God, but now you are offering your unhealthy body to God?
This is what we can call out-of-time religiosity, which happens in both directions – too young, or too old. So, now let’s talk about cases who are too young. For example, a lot of excessively controlling parents will for example push their five-year-old children to learn and to do the Contact Prayer completely, but at such a young age they are not teaching their children how to be believers, they are only teaching them how to pretend to be believers, because until 12, those children do not have a fundamentally based understanding of religion. They believe whatever you or others tell them. So, until 12, you should just let them do what you do during the contact prayer, and they will join out of curiosity, and they will see it as play, but you don’t need to expect them to do it on their own. But, some people will push their children to do that, thinking that there is so much value in it, when in fact, the efforts to keep the child in line like that are bigger than the benefits which would happen with the same efforts in something else good. The difference between play and work is that play has bigger costs than results, while work has bigger results than costs, and everything before the age of 12 is actually just play, even if they pretend to work. Basically, the net production of anything which children under 12 do is always negative. They always need more help, then they can provide help. Occasionally, they do something helpful, but if you analyze carefully, you will see that you invested more time during their years to teach them how to do that, then what they actually did. So, basically, there is no return on investment until children become 12. These days, it’s more like until 25, because of the governments, but naturally, if we ignore the government influence, then it’s about 12. And this is why Abraham offered his son to God only after he became strong enough to work with him.
In Sura 37, verses 102-107 say: “When Ismail grew enough TO WORK WITH Abraham, Abraham said, “My son, I see in a dream that I am sacrificing you. (See. Only then did Abraham offer his son to God. After he grew enough to work. That’s when Ismail reached full value. Abraham was afraid to do it earlier, because he was afraid of insulting God by offering an incomplete sacrifice) Ismail said, “O my father, do what you are commanded to do. You will find me, God willing, patient.” They both submitted, and he put his forehead down (to sacrifice him). We called him: “O Abraham. You have believed the dream.” We thus reward the righteous. That was an exacting test indeed. We ransomed (Ismail) by substituting an ANIMAL SACRIFICE.
So, we can see the parallel here. If we are not going to offer an unhealthy animal to God, and according to the Bible, it’s not accepted to offer an animal with any kind of blemish, then we should strive to offer ourselves to God, not when we are at our worst position in our life, but when we are in our best shape, physically, age-wise, financially, and so on. When we have the most value.
And we can see the same idea when God ordered the Children of Israel to sacrifice a cow. In verses 2:68 through 72, God orders the Children of Israel to sacrifice a cow that is NEITHER TOO OLD, NOR TOO YOUNG, OF AN INTERMEDIATE AGE, A BRIGHT YELLOW COLORED COW WHICH IS PLEASING TO THOSE WHO WATCH IT, THAT WAS NEVER HUMILIATED IN PLOWING THE LAND OR WATERING THE CROPS, AND WITHOUT ANY BLEMISH. So, a cow in its best shape.
So, again we are reminded that if we offer ourselves to God when we are too old, chances are that it will not be accepted. For example, in verse 10:90, we see that just before Pharaoh died he repented and believed, but God tells him “Too late! For you have rebelled already…” So, it is important for us to stop sinning before it is too late to repent, and that line of repentance is crossed generally when you lose your health, or your wealth, or your influence and things like that. So, let’s offer ourselves to God while it is still acceptable and pleasing to him.