We will continue studying the verses from section Araf (Cognizant). We last studied the verses where prophet Moses was having a conversation with his stepfather Pharaoh telling him that “I am a messenger from the Lord of all worlds and not just some lord of a petty land on earth but each and everything in the universe”. He further stated that: “I came with a sign from your Lord. Let the children of Israel go.” Freedom is important for every human being, especially the followers of the prophet who must be given the freedom like any other human being so that they may deliver the message to those that haven’t received it, carry the message of their Creator. The human mission is to carry the message of their Creator and being the caliph on earth. Let’s continue with the next few verses:
قَالَ إِن كُنتَ جِئْتَ بِـَٔايَةٍۢ فَأْتِ بِهَآ إِن كُنتَ مِنَ ٱلصَّـٰدِقِينَ
7:106 Pharaoh said, “If you have come with a sign, produce it, if you are a man of truth.”
What is the sign? The word “ayah”, translated as “sign” can be understood in three ways: the verses in the Quran, the miracles that the prophets are given by God and each being in the universe. We should understand that the sign in the particular case of Moses and Pharaoh may be understood as a miracle representing the power of his message. In our day and age, if anyone deliberately rejects the message, how are we to convey the message? These people are exceptions in society. But, many people are not interested and are indifferent to the message and wouldn’t care less. Our responsibility is to convey the message to these unbiased and indifferent people who are not aware of the importance of the message. Pharaoh represents the ones that deliberately and consciously reject the message. We cannot really present miracles to them but point out to them that every being, every sense in them is a sign to their Creator. The way things are coming into existence is nothing short of a miracle and a sign. The things cannot give themselves existence, or arrange themselves in the way they are. We have to explain the signs to people in a reasonable way so that they may understand it.
The indoctrination of cause and effect relationships is so strong which does not allow one to question the source of existence. None of the sciences mention anything pointing to the Creator of things, they won’t even allow others to mention it under the banner of impartiality. By blocking any religious ideas, any possibility of seeing the truth, seeing the reality of the things is blocked as well. Being an atheist is welcome in organizations compared to those inscribing to Islam, Christianity or Judaism which can cause problems. The conscience, soul is looking for meaning and sees that there must be such a being. The soul would accept the truthfulness of the message but they do not want to submit to that belief. This results in them being furious at any kind of religious belief where they become arrogant, influencing and imposing their ideas on the rest of the population that is unaware of the reality of this world.
We have to present the signs to those innocents who are under the influence of the enemies of any kind of belief. There is no need to debate with the arrogant folks but the innocent ones must be introduced to the message.
Pharaoh is rightfully asking for a sign. When presented, we will see if the sign is accepted or rejected.
فَأَلْقَىٰ عَصَاهُ فَإِذَا هِىَ ثُعْبَانٌۭ مُّبِينٌۭ
7:107 (Moses) threw his staff. It clearly became a serpent.
Throwing down his staff is Moses’s declaration that the message is not from me. The staff is a piece of wood, a stick, and Moses in a way says that “I am not claiming anything but letting the stick speak to you.” We learned from other verses that God inspired prophet Moses not to speak but let the evidence speak. “I am not the one producing the sign for you, I am only conveying it to you.” Let the universe speak to you. All prophets said the same thing that the message is not from me. In the case of prophet Muhammad, some opponents challenged him and said that we don’t hear anything new coming from God so just invent something. The prophet (pbuh) replied, “Only my Lord reveals to me, it is not up to me.”
وَإِذَا لَمْ تَأْتِهِم بِـَٔايَةٍۢ قَالُوا۟ لَوْلَا ٱجْتَبَيْتَهَا ۚ قُلْ إِنَّمَآ أَتَّبِعُ مَا يُوحَىٰٓ إِلَىَّ مِن رَّبِّى ۚ هَـٰذَا بَصَآئِرُ مِن رَّبِّكُمْ وَهُدًۭى وَرَحْمَةٌۭ لِّقَوْمٍۢ يُؤْمِنُونَ
7:203 If you [O Prophet] do not bring them a sign [which they demanded], they ask, “Why do you not make it yourself?” Say, “I only follow what is revealed to me from my Lord. This [Quran] is an insight from your Lord—a guide and a mercy for those who believe.”
The word “بَصَآئِرُ” are those with insight, really seeking, looking for the truth. When God sends me the verses (ayahs), it is for the people who are seeking the truth and can see the truth in them. If I am looking for the reality of creation, the reality of myself, then I will find it there.
We should present the message to people so that it makes sense to them. There are many who are looking for meaning, seeking the truth. They are looking for reason combined with sincere intention to seek the truth that is clearly presented. For example, it is not sufficient to say that “In Islam, we pray five times a day. God is One, Omnipotent, Creator of the Universe is God.” The same is presented in Judaism where God is the Creator of the universe. The Quran seemingly mentions the same scenarios by relating the stories of the prophets Abraham, Joseph, Moses, etc. as the Torah but the message in those scenarios are essentially different. The message of the Quran relates to my practical life, the stories of the prophets appropriately addresses different aspects of my being.
Moses throwing his staff signifies not to challenge him but the evidence out there. He declares: “it is not my truth but is God’s truth.”
The word “ثُعْبَانٌۭ “, is translated as “a serpent”, signifying a huge serpent such as a python which is representative of the evidence out there that is challenging the hearts of the unbelievers. No one can deny this presented evidence.
Nowadays, the recitation and translation of the Quran is not presented in a way that will alarm many people. I can read, hear the message but I also experience it. The presentation of the message must be evidence based and be acceptable to human reasoning, feelings and senses, i.e. in the way that I am created. The message is not an alien ideology, not something incompatible to my human nature. The mind is the door which acts like a broom through reasoning, cleans the dirt of the causal chain and then settles in the feelings. The entrance into “Tawhid”, Absoluteness of the Creator is by cleaning the dust off the truth, by going through “la ilaha”, examining which kind of qualities must be there for anything to exist.
وَنَزَعَ يَدَهُۥ فَإِذَا هِىَ بَيْضَآءُ لِلنَّـٰظِرِينَ
7:108 He pulled out his hand and it was white for all to see.
What does the white hand represent? In Moses’s case, as a young man his hand was used to punch and push someone in an argument and the person died. He had no intention of killing the person. Being naïve he tried to help someone and his goodwill was exploited without thinking whether the person who called to help him was right or wrong. This was his training as a young man. The nobles were jealous of him since he was not of pure royal blood but was the adopted child and had become a prince. One way to understand this white hand is that in his past, his hand had become dirty by unwillingly killing a man. He became a wanted person to be tried where the system was set to execute him. He ran away and asked for forgiveness so much to rid himself of the dirt in his hand. The understanding is that this asking for forgiveness resulted in this extremely “white hand”, the mission of prophethood. How a person can be admitted into the mission of prophethood by accepting his mistake and repenting sincerely. Similar to Adam’s story, asking for forgiveness made him into a prophet. As soon as he realized that he went against the will of the Creator, he and his wife prayed قَالَا رَبَّنَا ظَلَمْنَآ أَنفُسَنَا وَإِن لَّمْ تَغْفِرْ لَنَا وَتَرْحَمْنَا لَنَكُونَنَّ مِنَ ٱلْخَـٰسِرِينَ”, translated as “We have wronged ourselves. If you do not forgive us and have mercy on us, we will certainly be losers” (7:23). Admitting that I have wronged myself, killed my reality, in my existence. Seeking sincere forgiveness is what made Moses a candidate for prophethood. That is what makes the human race a candidate to be a caliph. Even claiming to have a strong belief doesn’t mean that I will live by it. I can never ever trust in any of my values as I may fall out of it during certain situations. Always repent and ask for forgiveness in my being. It does not mean to be under the heavy burden of a sense of guilt, but acknowledging our shortcomings and not falling into headlessness; we need to remind ourselves to try our best to keep our God-consciousness always awake.
Another understanding of the white hand is the existence of the hand, the way it is organized, the way it functions, connected and useful in my being.
Yet another aspect is the miraculous event where the hand becomes the source of light, enlightens the truth to be seen, the message is clearly being distributed.
قَالَ ٱلْمَلَأُ مِن قَوْمِ فِرْعَوْنَ إِنَّ هَـٰذَا لَسَـٰحِرٌ عَلِيمٌۭ
7:109 The notables among Pharaoh’s people said, “He is indeed a skilled magician,
The word “عَلِيمٌۭ”, a deeply knowledgeable skilled magician. Why? They found what he was saying, the miracles looked like magic when one does not make sense of the message in the miraculous creation. None of the prophets ever claimed ownership of the miracle that was performed to bring people’s attention to the message. The prophet says “don’t challenge me, I am an ordinary man like you. See if the message of your Lord makes sense to you.”
The highly esteemed values that people held at the time of prophet Moses were magical values. That’s what held power in their eyes and they wanted to keep that power.
يُرِيدُ أَن يُخْرِجَكُم مِّنْ أَرْضِكُمْ ۖ فَمَاذَا تَأْمُرُونَ
77:110 He desires to drive you out of your land!” Pharaoh said, “What do you suggest?”
They want to get the power under their control and think that Moses is also after holding power. We have to be careful as we will see that the magicians will bargain with Pharaoh because their aim is to get a reward. They think that perhaps Moses is also looking for a reward because that’s what they see, what they are. Human beings are inclined to see others through their own perspective. For example, a thief considers others also may be thieves.
قَالُوٓا۟ أَرْجِهْ وَأَخَاهُ وَأَرْسِلْ فِى ٱلْمَدَآئِنِ حَـٰشِرِينَ
77:111 They answered, “let him and his brother wait a while, and send messengers to all cities [to summon magicians]
Call the best magicians as they are going to challenge Moses with the same criteria of values that they hold in them.
يَأْتُوكَ بِكُلِّ سَـٰحِرٍ عَلِيمٍۢ
77:112 to bring you every skilled sorcerer.”
The same word “عَلِيمٌۭ”, translated as “skilled sorcerer” is used here. They are challenging Moses with their values. They think that the skill or power of his message comes from him as their power comes from them, i.e. the sorcerers’ power comes from them. Everyone looks at everything from their perspective. If I talk to a politician to challenge certain views, they would see me as a competitor. We have to be careful with materialist minded folks; we should never ever mix, confuse financial matters with religion. Materialist mind thinks that by becoming a member of their community, I would use their products. They think that I may be calling them to do the same by becoming a member of the Muslim community and get them on my products. It becomes a business as to who is going to invade the market for influence, to get the larger market share.
وَجَآءَ ٱلسَّحَرَةُ فِرْعَوْنَ قَالُوٓا۟ إِنَّ لَنَا لَأَجْرًا إِن كُنَّا نَحْنُ ٱلْغَـٰلِبِينَ
7:113 The sorcerers came to Pharaoh [and] said, “We should be rewarded if we win?”
The scenario now discusses the relationship between the sorcerers and Pharaoh where the sorcerers are expecting a reward. Everyone sees the world from their own perspective and identifies others with their own perspective.
قَالَ نَعَمْ وَإِنَّكُمْ لَمِنَ ٱلْمُقَرَّبِينَ
7:114 He replied, “Yes, and you will certainly be among those closest to me [in my inner court.]”
Pharaoh replied: “Definitely, I will give you a high status in my court.”
Tags: A'raf Series, Al-Araf, Belief, Feelings, human qualities, Life, Lord, Quran, Worship