Part 7, Section A’raf
7:17 “I will approach them from their front, their back, their right, their left, and then You will find most of them ungrateful.”
Let us try to understand what it means for Satan to approach human beings from different sides. What does it mean that Satan will approach human beings from their front, back, right and left? It means that Satan will try all opportunities. What does this mean for me now? What does the different side represent?
Approaching from the Front:
We all have expectations about various things. Satan will approach us from the front means that all my expectations and imaginations about my future that Satan offers to me is something which is non-realistic, i.e. in its nature what Satan offers is non-existent. I cannot guarantee anything about the future. Example: If I say that I am going to do this, it is only my expectation, that is Satanic, because I cannot guarantee to create anything now or in the future. On the other hand, if I say that I am going to pray to God and ask for something, then it is my exception from God’s Grace and Mercy. This expectation is not Satanic, because I am acknowledging that only the Owner of the universe, God, can create anything, the rest are just claims. Example: If I do this, then my boss will treat me in a certain way, and I will definitely get a promotion soon. These are the expectations of my Satanic side. I should be aware that all of my expectations in the future are nothing but my choices according to the order of the creation. I have to choose but it is God, not me, who is going to create as He decides. Whatever He decides for me, I am sure that His decision is the best for my purpose of existence because I observe His creation that is always Merciful and Wise.
Approaching from the Behind:
Satan will approach us from behind would mean something along the same line, an interpretation devoid of a Source of Existence of this universe and clearing oneself from all faults, hence blaming it on something other than oneself. Example: If only I did this, then this would have happened. That is Satanic because it is the past, and I cannot speculate about what is not created now. The present is my lived reality, and whatever is created is the reality. Anything that I can imagine that could have happened before, is not the reality. If it is not the created reality then, it gives us a warning that we have to make sure where we stand, our base must be right. Is it really right to say that if I would have done this, what I am expecting would have happened? It has already passed, so you cannot change anything, let alone guarantee anything! Your own imagination cannot guarantee anything, because you don’t know if you would have done something, what would have happened. It begs the following question:
Am I not going to take a lesson from it? Yes, I should. I did something and it was a failure and wrong, it did not bring any benefit as far as I can see. Next time, take your experience and learn from right or wrong actions, get ready for the future accordingly, but connect the creation of what you are expecting in the future to the Creator of this event. Your choice is there, i.e. I will choose this, let me see what God will give me. Again, whatever I choose, it is not guaranteed that it will be created. Example: I plan on visiting my friend, get on the train and there is an accident and I cannot go there. There are certain rules in the order of the universe and I follow the order, but my following the order cannot guarantee that my expectations will occur, because we know that the order is there, how the things are created by its Establisher, but there are many unknowns for us, so many non-perceivable things may happen. Most obvious ones are “accidents”, we don’t know these unknowns, otherwise we will avoid it.
In the existence of the order of the universe, there is a fine tuning, called the “butterfly effect”. A small change that we cannot measure can be a reason for the creation of something. For example, a hurricane can be anticipated but we don’t know when it will happen. Or an Earthquake can happen while we are relaxing somewhere. That is what scientists find out how the order of the universe works. Can we find out? No, we may not be able to do so, which means that even the materialistic minded people admit that we cannot guarantee anything for the future. Therefore, we must tie our previous experiences from the past and be realistic that what was created yesterday take the lesson from it and we make a project for the future, but never say that it is guaranteed that it will happen in this way. Example: If I choose this way, it is guaranteed that it will happen in this way. That is what we have to make sure in our understanding, from right to left is my speculation. Let’s say that I do something wrong, then an inspiration from Satan comes (from the left) that you know you did it but you were right, and you had a good intention. Then, it suggests to me that to look for an excuse to explain a way of what I have not done in the right way and therefore, admit that it was not my mistake, so that I do not repent. “You had good intentions.” That is what human beings are always looking for, an excuse for the justification for their mistakes. That is why we must be very careful! Even for our wrong actions, Satan comes and suggests some sort of justification for it, saying that “it was not your mistake, it was chance, luck, or just happened this way. It may even say that God decided this way against your will, it was not your mistake, it was God’s mistake, because Satan also claimed for his own creation that You deceived me.’ Satan represents making the wrong comparison. That is, human beings are prone to look for justifications for their mistakes. That is the weak point that Satan whispers and uses. We must be the right person, if I did something wrong, then I should not look for an excuse, rather I must turn back, and ask for forgiveness for it: “It was my mistake, please forgive me, I promise that I am not going to do it again”. We must accept our mistakes and we should not make any excuse and twist it in a way as if it was not our mistake. That is some interpretation about how to understand these verses, if you can come up with a much better understanding, then we must share it and appreciate each other’s ideas. Satan looks for all kinds of excuses that are possible to come up with.
Now, does Satan come and whisper from the right and the left?
Approaching from the Right:
Yes, very much so. Satan is clever and smart. On the other hand, Angels are innocent and loyal to the will of their Creator, and what they are able to do is only right; they are created in this way. If someone hears and reads the sayings of the Prophet in the form of Hadiths, the Hadith narration says that the Dajjal (one view interpretation of the world, i.e. only this life on earth, nothing more) represents an Iblistic attitude, i.e. self-centric and self-confident man: “I am going to do this, and I am going to impose my power on people”. This man is according to the description of the Hadith a very smart person. Hence, we should watch out and not be misled by the quality of a person who is very smart, for he may be a deceptive person. We must be careful! Being smart and clever does not mean that the person is the man of truth. No one can guarantee that. Being smart is a gift of God, like any other gift, it is an opportunity for me to utilize the opportunity or lose it by misleading myself. Anything that is given to us must be utilized in the right way (not Satanic way), i.e. we must utilize it in connection with its Creator. If we are not given smartness, for example, it takes me a while to make sense of things, where I say that I have to put in more efforts in my studies as opposed to my classmates who understand it from the beginning of the sentence the whole idea, so I have to read the sentence carefully, and understand every single word, then try to make sense, that is my test and struggle. Should I complain about it? No! That is my capacity and I am responsible within my capacity. “Smartness” means nothing but as far as the truth is concerned, being a man of truth is everything (regardless of being smart or not). We must make the distinction, zaaki (in Arabic means smart) and ‘aaqil (in Arabic means reasoning in the right way and ties up with its Creator, understand the matter correctly with a right correlation. An ‘Aaqil is a reasonable and wise person. We must ask our Creator: Please make me ‘aaqil (wise), not necessarily smart.
Another example, Satan comes from the right saying: “You are a wonderful man, your actions make you a strong believer, you are doing your job perfectly, you are even organizing these discussions that not many people are, you are doing your job perfectly. You never miss your obligatory prayers, you are almost the best man. You are guaranteed Paradise” Satan does not warn us that we may be falling into pride, by not attributing all the favors and opportunities to God. Whispering from the right means an exaggeration of praising all the positive qualities and actions that you find yourself with, by attributing it to yourself.
Being grateful and appreciating the Source of Existence of anything, with whatever happens in our life, whether I failed and was unsuccessful with (good or bad actions), whether I trusted my future in God and related whatever happens in the past to God’s determination (He determined in this way, that is what I understood now, get lesson from it. Don’t make speculations and say that : “If only” or “law in Arabic”, is from Satan. That is, it is assuming something which is not created. We have previously emphasized that Iblis/Satan represents an event/object which is not created. That is why we must be careful with what we are saying and thinking. Repentance is different, that is what we are expected to do. Being ungrateful means if I listen and give in to the inspirations of Satan with whatever s/he offers as disconnected from its Creator. If Satan can manage these delusional thoughts/whisperings, it connects it to you in a good sense. Now how does it connect in a bad sense? Well, a thought about something is natural, bad luck, or interpretations such as God did not let me do that, I did not have the opportunity to do this or that, blaming God and disconnecting the event from God’s Wisdom and Mercy. These are all ungrateful attitudes and we must be careful!
Also, Satan does not come and tell you not to believe in God. For some, it is already too late to pick up this interpretation, because of the much evidence and conviction to explain the existence of the universe, by attributing it to a Creator of the universe, called “God”. Satan is clever and knows people’s weak points, hence it may not come from this side for most people, because it will be easy to say, the universe must have a Creator. However, human beings are weak and take pride in themselves, rather than their Creator, and attributing events to chance and/or accusing the Creator for not providing opportunities, otherwise I would have done it…all the speculative justifications and interpretations of our mistakes.
Approaching from the Left:
It suggests to us that all the mistakes we make are nothing but either the bad lack, chance, or God did not give me the opportunity to do the right thing. I did not have any bad intention but God deluded me etc. We must be ready to accept our mistakes and shortcomings and repent immediately without looking for justifications for our mistakes.
7:18 “God said, Get out! You are disgraced and rejected! I will certainly fill up Hell with you and your followers all together.”
When we are not in the presence of God, that is a disgraced and rejected position. In other words, all the non-existence reality are disgraced and rejected. This option is always with me in my creation. God is educating me now, that this Iblistic interpretation or attitude is always a choice and I must be careful not to follow and pick such options. We should not make an imaginary world for ourselves. Example: if I had this, things would be different. We have many aspirations, and we must relate it to the future and connect it with the Creator. Example: I will choose this way as far as I know how the order is to achieve something or I know the way God’s creation takes place in this world. I will choose this option and expect God to create it for me if He wills it. Whatever He wills is nothing but Mercy. That does not mean that God is going to will what I willed. There is a verse that goes along: “…You may dislike something although it is good for you, or like something although it is bad for you: God knows and you do not.” (2: 216) Another interesting verse is this: “And human beings pray for things that are bad as if they were praying for something that is good: for humans are prone to be hasty [in their judgments].” (17: 11). These types of verses tell me that I may have a good intention. But having good intentions is not enough. We have to think about the consequences of our choices according to the criteria of God’s guidance. Let’s say I want to go and visit a friend. My intention is good in visiting my friend. I went there and we had a quarrel and it may turn out to be bad according to my criteria. If I say that I will do this with good intention and connect the final decision to my Creator, then I should follow God’s guidance and be aware that the final result is what He creates. When we say “if God wills” (inshAllah), we should really mean it because it must be our reason to connect ourselves to our Source of Existence. We refer to God surely knowing that whatever He wills, it must be within His wisdom for my benefit from His Mercy. I don’t know if it is good or not, if God wills, I will have a good intention, follow God’s guidance and then do it. I say inshallah, however, when I say inshallah, I should say it in a form of prayer that I trust in Him because He chooses and decides what is best for me, whereas, I do not know for sure what is good or bad for me. Yes, I have a good intention, and I trust God by knowing that He knows what is better than what I expect and mean. Hence, we must associate “inshAllah” with the Mercy of Allah. That is, I trust what God chooses for me is better for me.
Going back to the visiting your friend example, let’s say that on the way, there was an accident and you could not go there, although you had good intention and acknowledged if God wills (inshAllah). Rather than saying, “I had a good intention, God did not reward me, but punished me with the accident” is a wrong way of understanding God’s decree and determining. Is the accident a punishment from your Creator? Who said that? How do you know? Your visit may have ended up with a disaster, we don’t know the future at all. 17:11 “A man supplicates for evil as if He supplicates for good and man is ever hasty.” The verse here means that everything is from God, we are going to turn to Him and we trust in His Mercy”. If you have neglected your duty, that is your part, but if something better happens, that is God’s favor. We always tend to interpret something unexpected from our perspective to be “as bad and as punishment from God”. Even if that is the case, it must be for our benefit to warn us so that we will take lessons from it and understand God’s Mercy there, otherwise I CANNOT and I do not have the position to make a judgment about what God creates according to my expectations and calculations.
Whatever we don’t expect to happen, if it happens, does not necessarily mean that it is bad for me, just because I could not succeed in my expectations, and it is not a punishment for me, rather it is for my benefit. The verse, “To God we belong and to His is our return” (2: 156) is mostly remembered when we hear about someone’s death or departing from this world.However, we must extend its meaning to whatever happens to me is decided by God, and I have to refer it back to God. We are going back to God means that our existence goes back to God. Whatever is created for me as I am created, I am going back to God. As far as my consciousness is concerned, I must refer this event back to God. That is God’s choice. He is the most Wise one, He is my Creator and He does not harm me, why should He? I see in the creation of the universe that my Creator never intends to harm me and it must be for my benefit, that is why He has chosen this way for me. Hence, be confident in whatever He has created for you as it must be good for you. Again, “God willing or inshallah” must be accompanied with this understanding, because He wills only what is good for me. We must combine all this, because “inshAllah” alone is not enough. Whatever God wills is for my benefit, which reflects His Mercy, even if I do not like it, or it is not what I expected to happen. “Your Creator must know what He is doing, whereas we do not know what is next coming in our future, and we must admit our reality.
Since Iblis represents non-existence which has no grace and acceptance, “Get out of Paradise” means to get out of a Paradisiacal state (trusting your Creator with a loving relationship by acknowledging that everything created is good for your benefit). “I will fill up Hell with Iblistic imaginations (non-existence )“ sounds as if Hell does not have an existence. As far as I am concerned, in my existence, the option that I can choose, which does not exist, but the option that I can choose the non-existent side of the reality exists, what I have chosen is created but the content of what I claimed does not exist. That is why the Quran says that when you go to Hell: “It will then be said to them, ‘Now call those you worshiped as creators,’ and they will call them but receive no answer. They will see the suffering [of not getting what they need] and wish they had followed guidance [while in the world] (28: 64). Example: nowadays, we use “natural” a lot. ‘This is happening naturally,’ which means that nature is the source of existence. However, there is no such thing as the natural laws to be the source of existence, rather the order is happening by a Will of a Conscious Creator. The order is how the universe is. Again, there is no universe + order. We must repeat this because we forget. “Here you are in your existence and ask nature to satisfy you”. Existence of Hell is real, but what it represents is non-existent imaginations of human beings, where human beings will say “nature! come and give me something.” It means that they will suffer the lack of God’s Mercy, because they rejected God’s Mercy and they said that something else is satisfying them (nature).
Anything that you assign the power of Divinity to or assign Creator-ship to, i.e. anything that we say is responsible to create apart from the Creator of the universe is Iblistic and will not help us in the future. Example: “nature! Come to help me, chance! come here, luck! come here to help me.” All these do not exist so how can they respond back. The punishment can be referred to as the lack of the Creator’s favor, because nothing else can create anything here. Yes, Hell exists and it represents the lack of God’s Mercy.
Following non-existent things mean anything that is regarded as to be the source of satisfaction by us here, other than the Creator’s will, will make us be in a Hell situation in this world as well. When we think about existence as it is natural, we feel in our human feelings that they will be no eternal satisfaction to what our feelings are dying for, because in this universe there is no answer to our human expectations. Nature is nothing but imagination. Only acts of creation are everything in this world. That is what this verse means in our practical life.
The verse which we have discussed in prior session: “you and your wives Adam live in Paradise. Eat freely what you can but do not approach this tree, you will become evil doers” (2: 35) means that our primordial reality belongs to Paradise and we are created in need of existence which means that whatever the Creator creates for us is Paradise. In this world, we may ideally accept that everything is created by God, but we may not practically refer to this understanding to every aspect of our practical life, saying that this is from God. We may say that God created the universe and may miss a lot of things happening in our lives without connecting them to their Creator. Hence, we must be careful about this. In our primordial existence, we live in Paradise.
God creates out of nothing is a wrong language, which means that God creates everything which did not exist before. He just gives existence, that is His will, and He does not lose anything while He creates. Although it may seem that things are creating another thing. This is a delusion and we must study this subject seriously.
The “forbidden tree” represents that if I refer anything to other than the Creator of the universe, that is the forbidden tree. In other words, I should not approach this idea and understanding, and at the same time, it is understood as forbidden actions. However, in the context of the scenario of Adam and Eve, it means that I can also be deceived by the whispering of Satan thinking that this tree/thing/event gives you permanent satisfaction or security in your existence here. In other words, it guarantees your happiness, so rely on it and become a permanent resident of this Paradisiacal life on earth. Unfortunately, most people do not look at the Quran from an existential point of view. Translating word by word is impossible and misses the point, but gives a general idea, so we must respect the translators but we should be aware that many meanings are missing in the translations.
Comment: It reminds us of the following verses. The Qur’an does not use the term “creation out of nothing” but “creating something that did not exist before.
19: 9 “just as I created you before, when you were nothing!”
76: 1 “Has there not been an endless span of time that man was nothing to be thought of.”
Time means the realization of the act of creation. If there was no act of creation, there would be no time because we cannot refer one event to another and make the concept of time. We must understand that when creation took place, human beings was not there (nothing to be thought of) but a newly created
If you follow anything hoping that this will be the source of satisfaction for me (anything other than the Creator), then you become an evil doer, referring to the aspect of creation which looks like a “cause and effect” relationship (the order of the universe) in the eyes of the superficial thinking people. Rather, we must look at the Angelic side of creation. Any appearance, understanding, which is not related and tied up to the Angelic side of creation is tied up to “the forbidden tree.” We must understand that we should not approach creation from the aspect not related to its Creator. That is, do not approach this tree, which means that you have a choice, do not choose the option which is not connected to its Creator, hence it will be wrong for you and represent nothingness, non-existence. That is the mission of Satan, to choose non-existence, not related to reality, just an imaginary world without any reality. That is how we must understand the “tree” symbolically represented in the verses. The concept that we should not do something which is not good for us is a way of worship or acknowledging the Ownership of the Source of Existence of that action/thing. Example: you are eating lamb meat. While eating it, you say that this is not the forbidden tree/meat, and I can eat it with the permission of its Creator. The whole experience becomes very practical and we must appreciate the forbidden items for this reason.
Again, the “forbidden tree” mentioned in the Quran related to Adam cannot be referred to the forbidden items, because it is out of context. In the context of the story of Adam it means only the nonexistent alternative of creation (created tree cannot be the source of existence of eternity.) However, people may interpret it that way, and everyone is free to do so as long as it makes sense to them.
Tags: A'raf Series, Al-Araf, Meaning of Existence, Message, Prophetic Message, Reality, Truth