We will continue studying the verses from section A’raf (Cognizant) by looking into the next few verses from where we left off. We will briefly follow them and address at the end how these verses are applicable to us living here.
وَقَالَ ٱلْمَلَأُ ٱلَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا۟ مِن قَوْمِهِۦ لَئِنِ ٱتَّبَعْتُمْ شُعَيْبًا إِنَّكُمْ إِذًۭا لَّخَـٰسِرُونَ
7: 90 The disbelieving notables among his people said, ‘You will certainly be losers if you follow Shuaib’.
The notables that are denying among his people were threatening prophet Shuaib to expel him if he does not follow their values of living. We studied in the earlier verse where prophet Shuaib replied to them that he no longer can go to their meaningless way of life and values. These deniers are now threatening the followers of the prophet saying that they will become losers, i.e. they will no longer be favored and receive grace from these denying notables. These denying notables see themselves as higher beings and refuse a superior being above them.
We will continue with the following verse which tells of those that denied the prophets.
فَأَخَذَتْهُمُ ٱلرَّجْفَةُ فَأَصْبَحُوا۟ فِى دَارِهِمْ جَـٰثِمِينَ
7: 91 An earthquake overtook them and they lay lifeless lying faces down in their homes.
The deniers of the prophet were overtaken by an earthquake. The phrase “In their homes” which we studied earlier refers to their comfort zones of living, feeling bodily enjoyment and not wanting to prostrate before God. They were given instructions by the prophet to prostrate before God’s will. This is the description of how physical destruction happens.
We will ask the question which will be answered later: Why does the Quran frequently mention people that rejected the prophets as being destroyed in the end?
Let’s continue with the next verse,
ٱلَّذِينَ كَذَّبُوا۟ شُعَيْبًۭا كَأَن لَّمْ يَغْنَوْا۟ فِيهَا ۚ ٱلَّذِينَ كَذَّبُوا۟ شُعَيْبًۭا كَانُوا۟ هُمُ ٱلْخَـٰسِرِينَ
7: 92 Those who rejected Shu’aib were [wiped out] as if they had never lived there. Those who rejected Shu’aib were the true losers.
The deniers of the prophet were wiped out. The word “هُمُ ٱلْخَـٰسِرِينَ “, is translated as the “true losers”. I will ask the question: How can I apply this to my practical life? For example, the phrase “ كَأَن لَّمْ يَغْنَوْا۟ فِيهَا ۚ”, translated as “As if they had never lived there”. What does this phrase mean to me now? I have to benefit from the prophetic message, listen to it and apply it in my living. I have to listen to the inner voice of my spirit. If I don’t, I will become one of the losers that is only concerned with bodily satisfaction and life in this world only.
فَتَوَلَّىٰ عَنْهُمْ وَقَالَ يَـٰقَوْمِ لَقَدْ أَبْلَغْتُكُمْ رِسَـٰلَـٰتِ رَبِّى وَنَصَحْتُ لَكُمْ ۖ فَكَيْفَ ءَاسَىٰ عَلَىٰ قَوْمٍۢ كَـٰفِرِينَ
7: 93 He turned away from them, saying, “O my people! Indeed, I have delivered to you the messages of my Lord and given you sincere advice. How can I then grieve for those who are deniers of the truth?”
The prophet was unhappy that the people were being destroyed and he was trying to save them. Usually the prophets are advised to tell the people as “your Lord sent me”, but here he used “my Lord” because the people rejected him so now the prophet can say “My Lord” since they decisively rejected their Lord.
Why are prophets and his followers saved? When God’s decision comes to destroy people, then there is no distinction among them. For example, in floods and earthquakes where many people die regardless of being a believer or disbeliever. We will explain why Shu’aib and his followers are taken away from the deniers and then only the deniers destroyed in the examples of the ancient prophets mentioned in the Qur’an.
The phrase “فَكَيْفَ ءَاسَىٰ عَلَىٰ قَوْمٍۢ كَـٰفِرِينَ”, translated as “How can I then grieve for those who are deniers of the truth?”. How can I cry on your death when you chose your way? I warned you day and night to come to your senses, and you wanted to expel me from the land?
وَمَآ أَرْسَلْنَا فِى قَرْيَةٍۢ مِّن نَّبِىٍّ إِلَّآ أَخَذْنَآ أَهْلَهَا بِٱلْبَأْسَآءِ وَٱلضَّرَّآءِ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَضَّرَّعُونَ
7: 94 Whenever We sent a prophet to a town, We afflicted its [disbelieving] people with suffering and hardships, so that they might humble themselves [before God.]
In the case of the prophets, the believers are saved such as Noah, Abraham, Moses, Lot and his people were saved whereas the rest were destroyed. We don’t see this distinction between believers and disbelievers nowadays and this saving and destruction happening. Why?
The phrase “ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَضَّرَّعُونَ “, translated as “to humble themselves [before God]”. This means to stop being arrogant as if I am an independent being, the source of my existence or the owner of my life. I should be an honorable worshiper of God, living according to my reality of a created being. I should not cheat myself and be a liar that I do not need a being above me.
ثُمَّ بَدَّلْنَا مَكَانَ ٱلسَّيِّئَةِ ٱلْحَسَنَةَ حَتَّىٰ عَفَوا۟ وَّقَالُوا۟ قَدْ مَسَّ ءَابَآءَنَا ٱلضَّرَّآءُ وَٱلسَّرَّآءُ فَأَخَذْنَـٰهُم بَغْتَةًۭ وَهُمْ لَا يَشْعُرُونَ
7: 95 and then We changed their hardship into prosperity, so that they were able to thrive. But then they said, ‘Hardship and affluence also befell our forefathers.’ Then We seized them suddenly when they were not expecting it.
Another generation of people are now brought into existence and they are enjoying their life with prosperity. They say that “hardship and affluence also befell our forefathers” as if this is something “normal”. The verse continues with “Then we seize them suddenly when they were not expecting it.”. We can understand that God’s blessings are always with us but if we don’t appreciate them, they will be taken away from us at any time. Even if this does not happen physically those who deny to accept the Lord of the universe as to be Absolute One have to suffer with the feelings that they are continuously losing whatever they are given on a daily basis as they are lost in the past and they cannot retrieve them. They also experience that they are getting closer and closer to death when they will lose everything they enjoyed and fall into the nonexistence.
وَلَوْ أَنَّ أَهْلَ ٱلْقُرَىٰٓ ءَامَنُوا۟ وَٱتَّقَوْا۟ لَفَتَحْنَا عَلَيْهِم بَرَكَـٰتٍۢ مِّنَ ٱلسَّمَآءِ وَٱلْأَرْضِ وَلَـٰكِن كَذَّبُوا۟ فَأَخَذْنَـٰهُم بِمَا كَانُوا۟ يَكْسِبُونَ
7: 96 If the people of those communities had believed and been mindful of Us, We would have showered them with grace out of heaven and earth, but they rejected the truth, and so We seized them for what they had earned.
We don’t really see this happening to believing people nowadays that they are showered with grace out of heaven and earth. We don’t see any special favor to believers making them more prosperous than ones who do not believe. How can we explain this?
The latter part of the verse again says that if one does not appreciate the blessings, reject the truth and are given what they earned where all those blessings that they are enjoying are taken away from them.
أَفَأَمِنَ أَهْلُ ٱلْقُرَىٰٓ أَن يَأْتِيَهُم بَأْسُنَا بَيَـٰتًۭا وَهُمْ نَآئِمُونَ
7: 97 Can the people of any community ever feel secure that Our punishment will not come upon them by night while they are asleep?
When I go to bed, I am thinking of resting which is correct, the body gets rest. Can I guarantee that I would keep my existence at night? We see some events happen during the night such as an earthquake which can happen anytime. We will look into why such events happen in so-called Muslim countries. However, this verse is not referring to such events and we will look into why and what do these verses refer to?
أَوَأَمِنَ أَهْلُ ٱلْقُرَىٰٓ أَن يَأْتِيَهُم بَأْسُنَا ضُحًۭى وَهُمْ يَلْعَبُونَ
7: 98 Can the people of any community ever feel secure that Our punishment will not come upon them in broad daylight, while they are at play?
Everyone is enjoying and keeping busy with their worldly life and not thinking about one’s reality. How can I feel secure knowing that this world is changing, I am getting older?
أَفَأَمِنُوا۟ مَكْرَ ٱللَّهِ ۚ فَلَا يَأْمَنُ مَكْرَ ٱللَّهِ إِلَّا ٱلْقَوْمُ ٱلْخَـٰسِرُونَ
7: 99 Can they ever feel secure from God’s plan? Only the people who are losers feel secure from God’s plan.
Somewhat similar scenario is being presented to us in this verse as well. What is God’s plan? I will make myself secure to guarantee that God’s plan does not apply to me as I may consider myself to be the owner of my life.
أَوَلَمْ يَهْدِ لِلَّذِينَ يَرِثُونَ ٱلْأَرْضَ مِنۢ بَعْدِ أَهْلِهَآ أَن لَّوْ نَشَآءُ أَصَبْنَـٰهُم بِذُنُوبِهِمْ ۚ وَنَطْبَعُ عَلَىٰ قُلُوبِهِمْ فَهُمْ لَا يَسْمَعُونَ
7: 100 Is there not a lesson for those who have inherited the land after [the destruction of] its former residents that, if We will, We can punish them too] for their sins and seal their hearts so they will not hear [the truth]?”
We don’t see this punishment happening now upon inheriting lands of former people. Lands and other properties move generation to generation and nothing happens to them. The phrase “To not hear the truth” is not a physical hearing but within human beings not paying attention to the inner feelings, the message that conveys the truth.
Let’s start with the question of why does the Quran mention the destruction of former people that rejected the prophets.
Firstly, we will read all these kinds of narrations according to the principles of the Quran. We don’t experience the destruction of the previous tribes, nations in our lives now. Why does the Quran mention them when they are not happening in my life? All the prophets were sent to particular tribes. For example, prophet Jesus was sent to the children of Israel, in Palestine, Lebanon, Syria and Jordan. The verse mentions that the deniers of a prophet were destroyed. This news of destruction of a people is heard by the next generation that a former people were destroyed. Nowadays, news travels much faster with the advent of advanced communication tools. For example, the media immediately brings the news of earthquakes for instance showing millions of people becoming homeless. In the olden days, the news may take months to arrive. So, after the message of any prophet is corrupted, another prophet is sent to revive the message. In the case of the prophet Muhammad (pbuh), the message changed in the way that instead of addressing a tribe, it is addressing all mankind.
Do I think that all people are aware of the message of the prophet (pbuh) which is universal? I wonder even if the Muslim communities that respect the “Mushaf” (physical copy of the Quran) are aware of the real message in it. For example, they respect the book and say don’t touch it without “wudu” (ablution) because it represents the Quran in their understanding. The “Musaf” must be respected if one understands that the pages contain the meaning, the message of God. Is one really aware of the message of the Quran? The general public may take Islam as their national identity, being born into the culture.
Does anyone question the following, generally speaking?
Why should I believe in what the Quran is saying?
When I am reading these stories, how can I believe in them if I don’t experience them in my life?
During the time of the previous prophets mentioned in the Qur’an had been sent to a certain people. The deniers of these people were destroyed because all the people in their specific tribe were aware of the message. The rest of the world was expected to take lessons from it.
But in the case of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) the situation changed, he was sent to all humankind. If everyone on earth is aware of the message of the Quran where the believers are separated from the rest of the people, the destruction will come and be the destruction for everyone, signifying the end of the world, doomsday. The believers will die along with everyone else but will know where they are going, whereas, the disbelievers will suffer from losing their life forever. This would mark the end of this universe and is referred to as the day of reckoning, doomsday, the last Hour, or the last day. The material side of the universe will be destroyed but the meaningful side which is referred to as the angelic side is not destroyed and continues its existence.
We should be careful in not describing these events taking place after the advent of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) as the physical destruction of the deniers of the prophets. For example, a flood or earthquake destroyed many and affected a so-called Muslim population. It can happen anywhere in the world. It is not to be taken as a punishment for being a denier of the prophets. Destruction of a people is when everyone totally rejects the message of the prophets, disconnects themselves from the message of God. We should be careful not to accuse people and threaten them with physical punishment and relate the punishment to them because of their sins. The event seen as a punishment is a warning from my Lord for those who are left behind and living. There could be strong believers among those that died, they get martyrdom (shahada), a much better status in the next creation which they will enjoy by leaving this transient world. The rest of the ones living are to take this as a warning and education to connect with their Lord, benefit from the teachings of the prophet and the Quran.
The Quran addresses all mankind and that is what the prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was teaching to all human beings. Only conscious beings are able to read the message of the Quran. Our reality has two aspects, bodily enjoyment and enjoyment of the feelings. While some people don’t really regard what their own feeling requests, begs, dies for, craves for eternal satisfaction. Those who do not listen to the voice of their feelings and condition themselves and say as the Quran relates: “They say, ‘There is only our life in this world: we die, we live, nothing but time destroys us.’ They have no knowledge of this; they only follow guesswork. They only speculate.” (45: 24) If I don’t believe in the hereafter, If I don’t see my Creator as an Absolute Eternal One, then my perception of living would just remain to bodily enjoyment till death. Having this view, I would enjoy all the bounties in this universe for my bodily satisfaction and not read the message that the universe brings to me about its Creator. I can keep enjoying the worldly life but human beings cannot ignore their reality within them. The psychology of a denier is that I am getting very close to the end of my life. Whatever I enjoy is gone and tomorrow is not clear, not certain. While I am sleeping, working I am not guaranteed to live. This psychology denies reality because they know that we cannot keep my life.
For example, nowadays floods or earthquakes happen. Many organizations including secular ones organize to help those impacted. Whoever is impacted whether believer or not, rich or poor, lose whatever possessions that they had overnight. This is the reality which I may ignore by shutting my human qualities, closing my ears to my consciousness, my feelings which are longing for eternal satisfaction. I should never define myself as existing only as a “body” ignoring my feelings and other human qualities such as reasoning and consciousness.
How can I practice eternal satisfaction in this continuously changing universe? The only way is to be aware of my reality, which is the real witness to believing in who my Creator is and being aware that He is the Absolute Being. The Quran says my Lord is ever present with each person. He is present with me, watching over me, reminding me of Him.
I ate the best food but it is gone, where is the satisfaction? I need permanent, full satisfaction. The dinner time with friends cannot satisfy me as it is transient and I know that everything is immediately going into the past and I cannot retrieve them at all and also will be totally gone at the end of life. The creation of death is beautiful. Otherwise, I would be an unmanageable being thinking of permanent satisfaction, enjoyment in this life only. Why should I bother about anything when I have everything here? Thanks to death, life becomes meaningful. Everyone has a witness within themselves: his consciousness, reminding him of his reality. I cannot escape this reminder within me as that is what makes me, my reality, a conscious being.
To summarize, the meaningful destruction of the people of previous prophets should not be linked to my life now. The situation is different during the period of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) which includes now. We are in the period of the prophet (pbuh) who is the prophet of all mankind. The universe shows to me that it must be created by an Absolute Wise One. If everyone on earth denies this then the universe no longer needs to exist as the sayings of the prophet (pbuh) mentions: “One man is equal to the universe “- If there is a person who still believes, uses the universe as evidence to His Creator, submits himself to Him, keeps loyal to this news, then the universe should exist.
Tags: A'raf Series, Belief, Feelings, human qualities, Life, Lord, Quran, remider, Worship