بَلْ تُؤْثِرُونَ الْحَيَاةَ الدُّنْيَا (But you prefer the worldly life,...87:16). Sayyidna 'Abdullah Ibn Mas'ud رضي الله عنه says that people generally prefer the worldly blessings and comforts to the blessings and comforts of the Hereafter, because the former is visible and readily available, while the latter is invisible and unavailable readily. People unaware of reality preferred the visible to the invisible, which became the cause of eternal loss. In order to spare them the eternal loss, Allah, through His Messengers and Books, described to them the blessings and comforts of the Hereafter so clearly as if they can perceive them [through their sense organs]. It has been made plain to them that what they think is readily available and preferred, is actually fragile and will very soon perish. It is unwise to put one's heart into, or faith in, it and waste one's energy on it. Thus the Qur'an says:
Let us consider the following scenario: It is said to a person that there are two houses in front of him, one of which is a magnificent mansion, fully furnished and another an ordinary, substandard house, not properly furnished. He has the choice to take the mansion, but only for a month or two. Thereafter, he will have to vacate the mansion. Or he may take the underdeveloped house that he will own permanently. Which of the two houses a wise person will prefer? The answer is obvious that he will prefer the second option. On this analogy, one should prefer the blessings of the Hereafter even if, for argument's sake, they are substandard, because they are permanent and eternal. But the fact is that they are not only permanent, but also much better and far more superior to the worldly comforts. In this situation only an unfortunate fool will prefer the blessings of this life to the bounties of the Hereafter.
إِنَّ هَـٰذَا لَفِي الصُّحُفِ الْأُولَىٰ صُحُفِ إِبْرَاهِيمَ وَمُوسَىٰ Indeed this is [written] in the earlier divine scripts, the scripts of Ibrahim and Musa....87:18, 19] In other words, either all the themes of this Surah or its last theme, that the Hereafter is much better and much more durable than this life, was written in the earlier Divine scriptures. It is further explicated that this theme was written in the scriptures of Prophets Ibrahim and Musa عليه السلام. Probably, it refers to other scriptures that were given to Prophet Musa عليه السلام before Torah. It is also possible that it refers to Torah itself.
Themes of the Scripts of Prophet Ibrahim عليه السلام
Ajurri transmits a narration from Sayyidna Abu Dharr Al-Ghifari رضي الله عنه that he inquired from the Prophet (SM) as to the contents of the scripts of Prophet Ibrahim عليه السلام and the Holy Prophet (SM) replied that they contained educating parables . A story is told in it about a tyrant king where he is addressed and told: You haughty, arrogant and oppressive ruler! I did not give you kingdom so that you may amass wealth, but I had given you power so that you may let the supplication of the oppressed against the oppressor reach me, because my law does not reject the supplication of an oppressed, even though it may be uttered by an unbeliever.
Another parable addresses the general public thus: A wise person should divide his time into three parts. One part should be reserved for the worship of his Lord and supplication to Him. The second part should be reserved for self-assessment of his deeds, and reflection on the Omnipotence and creation of Allah. The third part should be allocated for acquisition of livelihood and fulfilling the natural needs. It further imparts that a wise person should keep himself abreast of the circumstances of his time, and keep himself busy in performing his intended work. He should take care of his tongue. He who takes speech as one of his works, his speech will be confined only to the things of real need.
Themes of the Scripts of Prophet Musa عليه السلام
Sayyidna Abu Dharr Al-Ghifari رضي الله عنه says that he then inquired from the Holy Prophet (SM) as to the contents of the scripts of Prophet Musa عليه السلام and the Holy Prophet (SM) replied that they contained lessons of wisdom. Some of them are as follows:
I am surprised at the person who believes that he will certainly die, and yet he is lives happily.
I am surprised at the person who believes in Divine destiny, and yet he is despondent and aggrieved.
I am surprised at the person who experiences the vicissitudes of life and rise and fall of nations, and yet he is content with the world.
I am surprised at the person who believes in the Reckoning of the Hereafter, and yet he abandons [good] deeds.
Sayyidna Abu Dharr Al-Ghifari رضي الله عنه says that he asked the Holy Prophet (SM) whether anything from these scriptures was revealed to him, he replied in the affirmative and asked Sayyidna Abu Dharr Al-Ghifari رضي الله عنه to recite verses 14-19 of this Surah. [Qurtubi].