We will continue to study the verses from section A’raf (Cognizant):
قَالَ ٱلْمَلَأُ ٱلَّذِينَ ٱسْتَكْبَرُوا۟ مِن قَوْمِهِۦ لِلَّذِينَ ٱسْتُضْعِفُوا۟ لِمَنْ ءَامَنَ مِنْهُمْ أَتَعْلَمُونَ أَنَّ صَـٰلِحًۭا مُّرْسَلٌۭ مِّن رَّبِّهِۦ ۚ قَالُوٓا۟ إِنَّا بِمَآ أُرْسِلَ بِهِۦ مُؤْمِنُونَ
7:75 The arrogant notables from among his people asked the believers who were oppressed, “Are you certain that Salih has been sent by his Lord?” They replied, “We certainly believe in what he has been sent with.”
In the phrase “ٱلْمَلَأُ ٱلَّذِينَ ٱسْتَكْبَرُوا۟ مِن قَوْمِهِۦ”, translated as “The arrogant notables from among his people”. Once again, we see the mention of “arrogant notables”, meaning that not all the notables, not all the chiefs or higher status people but the ones who are arrogant among them, addressing the most arrogant oppressors among them. We should be careful in not generalizing the prominent, rich people as being arrogant as not every prominent person is arrogant; i.e. we should avoid stereotyping people.
These arrogant notables asked the believers who were oppressed either status wise, socially, knowledge wise, or perhaps financially distressed”: “أَتَعْلَمُونَ أَنَّ صَـٰلِحًۭا مُّرْسَلٌۭ مِّن رَّبِّهِ” which is translated as “Are you certain that Salih has been sent by his Lord?” Asking the oppressed believers, do you really believe, are you certain, sure that Salih is sent by his Lord? The following phrase must be taken into heart, “قَالُوٓا۟ إِنَّا بِمَآ أُرْسِلَ بِهِۦ مُؤْمِنُونَ”, translated as, “we certainly believe in what he has been sent with”. What is the difference in this statement compared to what we usually hear to believe in the prophets? How do I know that the prophets are appointed by my Lord? We also need to ask this question: How do I know that the message they bring to me is from my Lord?
This teaching is not only for the people of Salih but for all of us. No one can really prove that the prophet has received the message, something came from the sky or somewhere which spoke something to prophet Salih and now he is telling us that I have received this message as if you have witnessed it. No one can ever witness this; it is not possible because the word of God is Absolute speech which cannot be seen within the limitations of this universe, in the created form. It is only after the prophets receive the message from the angels, is when we hear it from his mouth. How can we assure ourselves that this person is bringing the message from the Lord of the universe? The only way is to see that the message the prophet brings matches what the universe displays and proclaims. Our human qualities also must confirm it. There are three elements uniting in confirming the message: the universe, the speech itself and human qualities.
When it comes to human qualities, we have to be careful. If someone interprets the universe with a biased mind, interprets creation according to whims and caprices, this would result in the wrong interpretation where one would say “I see the universe doesn’t really confirm the message, the universe is acting naturally like this, this is my established conclusion; I am not open to questioning its validity.” How did one conclude that the universe is acting naturally or any way other than the universe needs to be created by its Creator? Biased attitude can block the message of the universe, they cannot see the truth announced in its message. We have to confirm the message of the universe first and then see the compatibility with the message of the prophets so that we can confirm the messenger.
How about the prophet’s own virtues? He must be the first one to submit and must be consistent to act upon the message that he brings. How can we be sure that what he brings is the speech of the Creator? There can be miracles in the hands of the prophets but the miracles do not help me confirm the content of the message he brings. The miracle is a call to me, a means to alarm me to pay attention to this person’s message with an unbiased attitude. See the message as a free thinking human being. I should not put a barrier between the content of the message and my human qualities.
Yes, I am seeing how the universe is coming into existence from the One who must have Absolute qualities. My feelings desire to submit to this being; I need to trust an Absolute being so that my feelings will be satisfied. I have to see the qualities manifested in the universe as infinite although they are displayed in transient beings. The manifestations are limited but the qualities are perfect and infinite, continuously displaying.
My desires are infinite and the message comes with the news of a Creator who has infinite qualities. The universe, speech and my feelings all converge on the same point on the Absolute Creator with infinite qualities. That is how we can believe in the message of the prophets, consequently in the prophets. Can we conclude without confirming the speech of God in this way? Without confirming the content of the message he brought to us, which, as he declares, is the speech of God, we cannot confirm the prophethood of Muhammad ibn Abdullah as being the messenger of God.
How can I love the prophet if I have not confirmed the content of the message of the Quran? For example, on the birthday of the prophet (Mawlid al-Nabi) the believers in prophet Muhamad cry. If I have not confirmed the content of the Quran, how would I love and cry for the prophet? It becomes a belief based on insignificant evidence, at least some aspect how small it may be, better than not denying the message of God. The Quran must be studied; we must be serious in taking the time to study and we must share the meaning we get from it. Unfortunately, this disease is prevalent in the community where the Quran is not the primary subject of interest in people’s lives. The situation is so severe that I have to be careful in my life.
Without blaming anyone, if someone comes to me to tell me stories of the companions, history of the prophets, narrating the miracles of the prophet. I would say,” Please, first of all tell me the message of the Quran in these histories relevant to my life now, what it is teaching; give me evidence to confirm it.” For centuries, the community is being kept away from the Quran and has been overwhelmed with the stories and narrations of good people. Those good people need to be appreciated and imitated but how about their belief? They acted in this way because they believed that it should be done this way. We can only imitate the outcome of the belief because we cannot imitate belief. We must have the basis for our actions.
Human beings innocently use their human qualities to act in this way thinking that it is good for them. We are encouraged to be generous, kind to other beings, protect the environment, and not spoil the balance in the universe. These are all good human qualities which do not need the message of the prophets. Any non-believer can give this advice to me without the need of any revelation from the Creator of the universe. We must have the base for these actions which are in the teachings of the Quran but we may not study it. All of our actions must be based on the fundamental teachings of belief, confirmed with the evidence presented to us. We may turn our backs to the Quran by ignoring the evidence of the universe which calls us to think, reflect, confirm the message if it is compatible with the message of the universe. We may keep ourselves busy with the exemplary life of the prophets without any base. I can do all the good actions without believing in God which is what humanitarianism is, acting by doing good actions. Islam is being turned into humanitarianism. It is not wrong but I have to know why should I follow my human feelings only without knowing why? It becomes good actions stripped off their belief foundation. I cannot communicate with my Lord through my actions only. I may state that I have done good deeds, I am being a good man, I am not contradicting my human qualities, please give me my reward. God promises the reward but I cannot act in expectation of the reward only. I have to act because I have to be convinced that I am created as a human being, created with a spirit that recognizes God. I realize that everything is created by God including my actions, feelings and all my human qualities. I cannot own anything. I am expecting and hoping that God will treat me nicely because I see that everything is from Him. This transition of disowning my good actions can happen through belief training. Otherwise, we will be proud of ourselves for doing some good actions and expect the reward from God as if “when I do this, You will give me a reward of paradise, don’t forget that”, which is bargaining with Him.
قَالَ ٱلَّذِينَ ٱسْتَكْبَرُوٓا۟ إِنَّا بِٱلَّذِىٓ ءَامَنتُم بِهِۦ كَـٰفِرُونَ
7:76 The arrogant said, “We surely reject what you believe in.”
This is an extension of the previous verse (7:75) where they rejected Salih not for the person himself but for his message. What does it mean when they say we don’t believe in the message as being true? They are saying that they don’t want to believe and don’t want to investigate the message. If they study the message and confirm it then they wouldn’t oppress the believers. If after studying the message they do not agree, are not convinced then they can just state that and move on rather than oppressing people. The Quran’s struggle is with the ones who oppressed those believing in the message, and those trying to stop the prophet from delivering His message to the people. That’s why the Quran mentions the punishment for such people who prevent the prophet from delivering the message to people.
Nowadays, there are many people who say that they don’t believe in God and nothing happens to them, there is no punishment. It is their choice not to believe although it is not correct, they will give their account to their Creator while they are living in this life as well as in the next creation. The denial of the prophetic message ends up with living in this world with no meaning, unsatisfied life. It is a suffering as human consciousness cannot accept a purposeless life. This is a reminder for me. If I don’t learn anything in this world, in this transient school of the universe which will end, I will fail the final exam upon death. The consequence of what and how much I learn here will determine the next creation.
The Quran makes the distinction between belief and unbelief by presenting the case with representatives as believers and unbelievers or rejecters of the message. The extreme cases are presented to me so that I may make the choice that appeals to me, either pure belief or pure unbelief. The Quran doesn’t offer any place between belief and unbelief. What about the hypocrites that are mentioned? Hypocrisy is the most dangerous situation where one is pretending to be convinced but not exactly convinced. All of the struggles mentioned in the Quran are about belief and unbelief, what is right and what is wrong so that I can organize my personal and social life accordingly.
When I decide that I should get to know the Quran and start studying, it doesn’t mean that I have become a knowledgeable person. I have to start somewhere and continue. I have to be on the path, be a student of the Quran. We shouldn’t be disappointed that I am starting late, that I haven’t studied the Quran seriously but was just involved with the general trends to be a good person. I should start engaging with the Quran and be on the path, i.e. I must use my human senses to be guided to this right path.
All of my senses and feelings belong to God. When I use my free will to be honest with myself, the Creator of my senses and feelings guides me to the path. Am I just imagining? No, everyone hopes, dreams, imagines and wishes for something but that is not belief. I have to be realistic by using my human senses and what they confirm. I see that I cannot create the result of my choices but am choosing and He creates. I am just the follower of the order in which the universe is created, the submitter to the right path, to the truth.
Tags: Feelings, Final Exam, Humanitarianism, Life, Lord, Quran, School, Straight Path, Worship