Chapter Fil (the Elephant), part 2
105:1 “Are you not aware of how your Lord dealt with the Army of the Elephant?”
105:2 “Did He not make their treacherous plan go astray?”
105:3 “And sent down against them birds in flocks,”
105:4 “throwing down on them stones of baked clay,”
105:5 “He made them like eaten straw.”
From one aspect these verses are easy to understand, from another aspect somewhat difficult though they seem dealing with certain historical event. As we see in the record of the history, neither the prophet, nor his friends ever mentioned that this Chapter is about that historical event. Even if there is a narration that talks about the historical event, to benefit for our practical life, we need to bring the message to our conditions.
So, we understand that this speech claims to be from the Creator of the universe. Why do you tell me about the army of elephant and that You made the plan go astray? Why do You tell me that You destroyed the army of the elephant?
- This chapter must have to do with our practical life.
- Since you tell me this then it must be related to my life.
Further on, birds are mentioned, and birds look more successful than the elephant. Why? Why do we keep saying these verses in our ritualistic prayers? It must have some significance for me to establish my connection with the Lord of the universe: “As a recognition of You from these verses I can establish my relationship with You”. I must be excited about the content of this matter and I shall be pleased with the message: “O God! I recognize you as what you say in these verses is amazing!”
Are comparisons valid?
There is a comparison being made between the bird and the elephant – definitely in an allegorical way, so that I may understand through an example of comparison. The bird can only carry small pebbles but not rocks. Eaten straw is like strained dust. What could be the message of this chapter?
Who was successful, birds or elephant? Birds are seen as weaker than elephant and, in these verses, they seem more successful. What do you understand from the comparison between elephant and birds?
Comment: Our perception of reality is broken here. We may ascribe the power to create to what seems as strong forces (elephant in the example) and then realize that a tiny creature (bird in the example) can be a means of destruction.
What is our perception of reality? Quran always speaks in a simple way; our prejudices distort the message. Our imagination and perception are as if the more power, the more successful we are. In this world, the way powerful forces behave make it seem that way i.e. “might is right”.
We think that the more powerful one will be the winner. Rather, I must be right to protect myself. The verses are hinting that might is not right. Let’s take these verses from the historical event context. What was the intention of the army of the elephant? They wanted to conquer Ka’ba (representing Absoluteness, Perfection, in its being simple, empty, nothing can be like Him) and they could not succeed.
Can the Establisher of the order arbitrarily (without any principle) break the order according to His will or can He not?
We see that the things exist in order. The order shows that there is an Order-er of the universe practicing His will. Although He presents to us the order, He enables us to evaluate and think of matters within this order. Is the Creator of the universe contradicting the order He has established by arbitrarily practicing His will? Or, is He specifically saying that this is my order, pay attention to this fine point? For example, in my house I may have some furniture and I come and move the furniture around for no reason. Does that seem reasonable – with no reason at all? No. If the Creator of the universe breaks the establishment of the order with no wisdom, it contradicts being the establisher of the universe as a Wise Creator. For the establisher of the order must not contradict Itself by nature.
When one says, “He can do everything He wants, that He has Absolute Will, Knowledge, and Power”. Such a statement is contradictory when one examines it. That is, the one who establishes the order in the universe is not expected to contradict His order that he has put. In other words, the Establisher of the order cannot break the order without any purpose. When I look at the universe, it shows me how things are coming into existence telling me the Creator is Perfect. A Perfect One must not contradict Himself.
I am speaking on behalf of my own perception when I say:
- Can the Establisher of the universe break the Order according to His Will? This would be contradictory.
- He is Absolute, He can do anything. This is simply speculative language.
My conclusion about the Creator is through the witness of this universe.
I struggle to define the Absolute Being within the limited universe. The universe is the best represent-er of its Creator because it is powerless and needy. Whatever we claim to be the point of support is not right as the smallest thing can beat us up.
The more I grasp the reality of the universe, the more I get to the acknowledgement of the Creator. Physical practice of ascension is Hajj, i.e. nothing can be the Source of Existence (SOE) of this universe. Ka’ba is “Baitulah” i.e. representation of the universe as being unable to give existence to itself, which is how we recognize the SOE of the universe, God.
The universe is the representative of God for me and Ka’ba is the representative of the universe, I aim at it, go to it and then go around, turn and turn, and see nothing can be the source of existence (SOE) in the universe.
We can have our “mi’raj” (ascension – to get to understand the qualities of the Creator of the universe because here is the universe. We reach the (seventh heaven figuratively) basically in our understanding that there is no source of existence in the universe.
- I see nothing as the SOE of the universe, that is pilgrimage (hajj) i.e. we can have my mi’raj on hajj.
The huge elephant is given existence by this Creator, nothing in the universe can give existence to it. They follow the way they are made, no power, knowledge, where is their existence coming from?
Description of the Quran is “two bow length” but they do not touch. The closer one gets to acknowledge their Creator, continues to get closer and closer but doesn’t end his journey of acknowledgement. Ka’ba represents symbolically Singleness, Oneness of the Absolute Creator. Hajj means that I am going to think about that nothing can be the source of existence in this universe. A physical practice of ascension is what Hajj is supposed to be i.e. the whole universe has nothing in it to be the source of existence of anything.
In this world how do we recognize God? By reflecting on the whole universe and coming to the conclusion that nothing can be the Creator. Laila ha and then Illalah.
Based on the event, someone wanted to destroy the Ka’ba, the representative of the belief that nothing has the power to give existence to itself in this universe, “la ilaha,” to exercise his own power. One may think that with his knowledge and power, one can destroy the universe, i.e. not allow for the universe to represent an Absolute Being. That is not possible. The second verse implies that there is no arbitrary change in the order of the universe. One cell is enough to destroy that plan (the army of the elephant). It is impossible to be successful if someone relies on their own power. Whatever the criteria we have, we cannot have anything more than what we experience in the universe. Nothing in the universe can have its own quality to exercise. The allegory of the bird carrying a small pebble, for example a mosquito bite can kill a being, is used in order to show the tiny thing in our eyes can destroy anyone who wants to destroy God’s representor. No one can say that this one is not from God, it has its own power – such claim is bound to fail.
“He made them like eaten straw” – nothing can be powerful to destroy the representation of God. The principles in existence, the way the order of the universe is established, do not change. The Creator of the universe is not contradicting – when he does something that I am not accustomed with, that is also within the order of the universe – a promise from the Creator. What the universe relates to, what it represents, the universe doesn’t make a mistake in the way it is made, we humans can make a mistake with our perception.
One can generalize these verses without referring to historical events.
What is ordinary? Is there anything extraordinary? There is no extraordinary within the universe, everything is within an order. “Ayah” (sign) in the Quran, everything in the universe as well as every verse in the scripture, they both mean a sign pointing to the Absolute Creator. Everything in the universe is the same, whether an ant or a pig they point to an Absolute Creator.
Another aspect of the universe is with Divine Determination. Divine Determining (DD) is a sign for me i.e. the established order is a sign or witness for me. What is DD? Everything is doing its job, Creator of the universe does not need your help.
What am I going to do to protect myself from the trap of treacherous people?
Try to understand and extract the message I get from creation. Whatever the universe signifies and what we witness is nothing but the predetermined truth.
Don’t try to preach to uphold the truth to someone. Don’t bother. Its already decided – truth will prevail.
- Question and search for the truth continuously i.e. search should have no end. Work on the verse and confirm it.
God is not arbitrarily changing His order. We cannot have anything from more than what we experience in this universe. As I see it, the Creator of the Universe cannot contradict Itself. When I see an unaccustomed way of something to be given existence, then that is also within the order of the universe. Universe does not make mistake and thus, the order in it does not make mistake.
I must extract the meaning in the Quran. Quran does not speak in an abstract way. Everything performs their jobs in a way that demonstrates the truthfulness of its Maker. Miracle means that no one can do it but only the Creator of the Universe. If I cannot give existence to something, then it means that thing is a miracle (a mu’jiza, an ayah). It means a sign, a sign to its Creator. What is not a sign to its Creator?
Everything in creation is a witness to your impotence and makes you feel impotent when you challenge the message it is giving to you. Without changing the order of the universe, everything is made in such a way that it challenges all ideas that every particle declares: “You cannot refer me to anything but an Absolute Source.” The word “extraordinary” is not doing justice to “miracle” and “mu’jiza”. Everything is within an order and is a miracle.
Tags: Absolute, Absolute Will, Al-Fil, Army of Elephants, Be and It Is, Divine Determining, Fil Series, Kun Faya Kun, Source of Existence, space-time