Chapter Balad (The Land)
Chronologically, the 35th revealed chapter of the Quran, this section was revealed around the 5th year of Meccan life as it is historically known. The Prophet (PBUH) was struggling hard to spread the message despite the opposition of the people around him. This is normal, for human wisdom requires it to understand that if a truth is prevalent in the society and known to people, God would not send a new message to replenish, perfect or renew it. Why? Well, the truth is out there and if anyone wants, they can find it out. However, when a Prophet is sent to a community, then it means that there is no representation of the truth/the reality i.e., the purpose of the existence of this world. Why is this universe created? The Prophets are sent to let conscious beings know about the purpose of their life, and what they are expected to do in this world. Wisdom requires it that when there is no trace of the truth left in a society, then God must renew His message/covenant with the people.
That is why the Prophets start the message as a single person in a community. Historically known, the Prophet (PBUH) was also sent in a community as a single person, and even he was surprised that he was appointed to a job that he does not know what it means. Even the Prophet did know how the message is being revealed, through what means. He was assigned a mission to convey the message, which is serious, and he then started conveying the message to his close family members. His wife knew his character, and so she knew that he is not making up a story, because after receiving the message, he was surprised that there is something strange going on in his life. When he started delivering the message, people thought he was hallucinated, and they did not take him seriously. However, the message was shocking to them because it felt like something they had never heard, and it felt like very strong statements that were not expected coming out of the mouth of this person. At that time, poetry was prevalent and commonly used, and poetry was one of the virtues that the people were proud of. The Prophet was challenging people letting them know he is not the poet of what he utters. Practically speaking, he was a shepherd by profession and later was employed by his wife to help with her business. He has been living in this community for all of his life until he started receiving the message from the Creator of the universe at the age of forty and he has never practiced poetry at all.
The first part of the Quran focuses on human values, rather than unity or Absoluteness of God (i.e., belief). This is strange because we all appreciate human values. In other words, everyone should follow the human values, regardless of social status in the society. It was interesting that the leaders were teaching the people some of these values although not with the same purpose as the message that the Prophet was delivering, but when it came to their own practice, they were not consistent.
The message was an appeal to human nature that they must be consistent within themselves. One thing was extra in the teaching that we must pay attention that this world cannot sustain itself. The existence of the world is in the hands of God who is the Creator of the universe (COU), which was known by the community. However, which kind of God it was not known by the community. By emphasizing on the importance of the transient nature of this universe, the transient nature of human life demonstrates that we must prepare ourselves for another accounting. Although at the early stage of the revelation, resurrection of the body of the human beings were not emphatically mentioned, rather morality and ethical subjects have been dealt with. Only after the end of the Meccan period did the message start including the living principles and human responsibilities toward God and carried over into the Medina period, to remind people that these are important matters. The transient nature of this world is emphasized, the human values must be respected and everyone must be prepared for being considered at the end of our life. Nothing is going to be neglected, and there is a purpose in the existence of this universe.
In this section, human psychology will be deeply analyzed as in the previous sections we studied. What is going on with human beings, you have a responsibility to manage your human life, so you do not contradict your human reality.
90:1 “Oh! I call to witness this land,”
The literal translation of the world “La!” as it is used in the Qur’an means “No!” The case is not as you think it is, be careful! This style of beginning the discourse is common to the Quranic eloquence to start with Wake up, be careful, the reality is not what you think it is, it is a completely different thing, and I will tell you. It is drawing the attention of the reader. In other words, it is calling us to witness the reality that we are being told.
“Land” can be understood as earth, a planet which functions as our home, everything is prepared for us, and we are here as honored residence. The Quran says that the earth is for you, and you can stay there for a while. Or, it may be understood as “any place you take your residence or your hometown.”
The companions of the Prophets at the time of revelation, did not make any commentary on the Quran. Only after the death of the Prophet some young surviving companions made some commentary on the Qur’an as they were teaching it to the community members. The later generation took up this mission of commenting on the Qur’an. Thus, some commentaries turned it into a historical book including the stories of the Children of Israel mentioned in the Torah or in the commentaries on the Torah. When we take out the historical narratives about a certain race and the historical information about the stories of the previous prophets from the Torah, then the message becomes universal and speaks to me as a human being.
In this verse, God is presenting to my concern the witnessing of the land. That is, I have to pay attention to the witnessing of the land where I live. The Quran says to witness this land, just like the land you live in, which can be California, for example. What is going on in this land? I am doing good, benefitting from the company of the people around me. Some people agree with me, and some disagree, the sky is ok, rain is cool, and land is fertile. Who provided this land for me? Who provided me with the social life which gives me the opportunity to communicate with other people and provide me with what I need? What a perfect arrangement!?
What we see in this world, is according to the choice of the people, ingrained in the nature of the human being. Example: You need help, and I will help you. Even if I do not believe in God, I can still help you. The sense of compassion and communication is within human nature which is a gift of the COU. When you help someone, you are being loyal to the will of the Creator, whether you realize it or not. The difference between what people normally can practice their human nature and what the Prophetic message was adding to it: “This land is witnessing that the Provider is an All-Wise Merciful One.
90:2 “while you are set free in this land”
It seems that you love the land you are living in. Somehow it seems that we are all connected in the land. This is not an accident, rather a purposefully arranged canopy for my needs to be satisfied. I am calling to witness my feelings freely: “I am comfortable here whatever I need has been provided before I was brought into existence here.” Isn’t it a significant witnessing to a reality? I am a warm friend of this land; I enjoy and benefit from this land. How are things provided to me for my benefit? Life is freely given, and everything here is taken care of, however, we make extra artificial needs for ourselves trying to satisfy our ego. One may argue that lots of bad things are happening in the world, that is a human choice, the choice of the Creator is to make me feel friendly and comfortable in this land which is provided to me freely.
90:3 “[I call to witness] the begetting and the begotten”
The child comes from mother and father getting together, we all know that, but what does it have to do with me? It is obvious that people get married, and they witness the birth of their child. However, the message here is to be careful, that the reality is not what you think. The parents or the act of getting together is not the Source of Existence (SOE) of anything. If you are not sure about the reality of this universe, then the following verses will have no meaning for you.
Did you ever consider that the universe is working in such a way where the cause is not producing the effect? Example, DNA is NOT the parent (walid- the begettin) as you may think mistakingly, NEITHER the parent gives existence to the child (walad- the begotten). Be careful about this relationship and don’t be misled by some naturalist ideas out there. We must study the universe and the Quran is full of encouragement to study the universe. However, people who study the universe and say that there is a causal change, i.e. the parent and the child example, need to revise their observations and reasonings.
What you call home/land and when you get acquainted with what is going on around you, if you carefully examine it you will soon realize that it is not the DNA that is creating the child but it is only the relationship between the child, the Owner and the Creator of the DNA.
90:4 “We have indeed created man in hardship.”
Has the One who created me with hardships? Am I created to suffer from difficulties in life? There are meanings here. If we are left on our own, we cannot provide any of the things we need. The order which itself needs to be created teaches us what to do in order to provide us what we need.
I can imagine that the universe exists by itself, and I am creating the crops, or is it already provided for me, and my responsibility is not to spoil them, and trust the One who provided this land for me, and guaranteed and provided my provision? I am not creating anything while farming but presenting my need to the Creator of the land. Trusting in the Creator means, by obeying His order, which is sowing the seed and expecting the results from the Creator. I should follow the order of the universe, rather than being arrogant that it is me who is the grantor of my needs.
I cannot stop the time or prevent the earth from revolving, and remain young as I was, I cannot stop aging, ultimately, I cannot stop dying, death. And so, I must understand that nothing is guaranteed by me, rather the Creator of this land.
Difficulties come from hardships, i.e., resisting the egoistic claim of my options such as, I am the one guaranteeing or creating something, as if.
I just need to be consistent within the order, with my creation and human side. The beauty of the message to the people is to align ourselves to reality.
Religion is nothing but my reality to be consistent within myself. I must be careful not to be drawn away by options which are alternatives to my reality. It is a hardship to fight against my ego, if you go as your human nature supports you, when you do something good, you feel relaxed.
Yes, we have to struggle hard in order not to be drawn by false alternatives, which is egocentric, claiming that I’m securing this. That is the problem. To resist this difficulty and to be who you are is so easy and the Quran openly explains it. If you confirm the beauty of this world, then God makes your life easy and smooth (Quran, 92: 6-7) to conclude your reality. Just don’t say that I am the center of my world, rather, say that I am related to the One who has Power over the whole universe.
If you choose to follow your egoistic side, you cannot bear the load of this world, and suffer from stress, depression, psychological problems, and you lose your sleep (Qur’an, 96: 9-10.) These are the realities we learn from these messages related to our lives, rather than losing ourselves in gathering lots of information.
Tags: Al-Balad, Balad Series, Death, Meaning of Existence, Message, Prophet, Prophetic Message, Reality, Truth