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O believers! Bow down, prostrate yourselves, worship your Lord, and do ˹what is˺ good so that you may be successful. (22:77)

Why does Allah say "may be successful" rather than saying "will be successful".

Why isn't there a guarantee of success even after bowing down, prostrating, worshipping and doing good deeds.

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The Arabic verb form is an imperative. It doesn't express uncertainty but rather a good wish for a blessing.

German translations write "auf daß es euch wohl ergehe" which is close to the Arabic but it doesn't translate that well into English; maybe: "that you shall be blessed" would be better. (The answer of @AbduRahman explains that the translation cited may also be understood in this sense)

There are numerous passages in the Quran that promise paradise to those who believe and do good. There is no doubt that God loves us if we do His will in faith.

Still, there is no guarantee for success in this world to those who do good if they disturb powerful people who do evil. In that sense, the translation you cited may not be wrong in what it says and what you understand but it is probably not the message of the verse.

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  • Similar for the Urdu translation of 22:77, it seems to omit the uncertainty caused by may.
    – AbduRahman
    Commented Nov 9, 2022 at 18:06
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May(verb) also means can, will, be-allowed, be-able or to-have-permission.

Etymology of may (verb)

  • From Middle English mowen, mayen, moȝen, maȝen.

  • From Old English magan, *mugan.

  • From Proto-West Germanic *magan

  • From Proto-Germanic *maganą,

  • From Proto-Indo-European *megʰ-.

It is cognate with Dutch mag (“may”, first and third-person singular of mogen (“to be able to, be allowed to, may”))

Information from WikiDictionary.


May is interchangeable with will, can, be able to, have permission to.

According to WikiDictionary:

May (verb)

  • (obsolete, auxiliary) To be able; can. [8th–17th c.]

    Example: 1624, Democritus Junior [pseudonym; Robert Burton], The Anatomy of Melancholy: […], 2nd edition, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Printed by John Lichfield and James Short, for Henry Cripps, OCLC 54573970, partition II, section 3, member 6: But many times […] we give way to passions we may resist and will not.

  • (intransitive, poetic) To be able to go. [from 9th c.] quotations

    Example: 1600, William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night's Dream, III.3: O weary night, O long and tedious night, Abate thy houres, shine comforts from the East, That I may backe to Athens by day-light […].

  • (modal, defective, auxiliary) To have permission to, to be allowed to. Used in granting permission and in questions to make polite requests; takes a simple bare infinitive. [from 9th c.]

    Example:you may smoke outside; may I sit there?

    Synonyms: can, could, might

The verb may is sometimes interchangeable with can as per Merriam Webster:

May (auxiliary verb)

  • sometimes used interchangeably with can

    Example:one of those slipups that may happen from time to time -Jessica Mitford

The verb may is interchangeable with will as per Britannica.com:

May (formal + old- fashioned)

  • used to indicate the reason for something or the purpose of something

    Examples:We exercise so that we may [=will] be strong and healthy. [=we exercise in order to be strong and healthy] I work hard so that my family may [=will] not go hungry.


So it's highly possible that in (22:77)

O you who have believed, bow and prostrate and worship your Lord and do good - that you may succeed.

The may is used there means will, can, be able or have permission to.

So (22:77) would mean

O you who have believed, bow and prostrate and worship your Lord and do good - that you may [=will/can] succeed.

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  • I don't think so. The word used in arabic is laʿallakum. It cannot be considered as "will" Commented Nov 9, 2022 at 12:12
  • @FaqeelDehlavi The point was that may can also means certainty/guarantee, same as will, can , be permission-ed to.
    – AbduRahman
    Commented Nov 9, 2022 at 12:24
  • In English, may can mean permission (You may come in). However you to analyse arabic word laʿallakum Commented Nov 9, 2022 at 12:26

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