We will continue studying the verses of section A’raf (Cognizant) of the Quran as it relates to us in our life here and now. The story of Moses is mentioned not as a whole but in parts in different sections of the Quran and here in A’raf as well. We were at a point where Pharaoh consulted with his counselors and brought his magicians to challenge the prophetic message by assuming that Moses was also some kind of magician. After facing Moses, the magicians of Pharaoh recognized that he is claiming the truth as a messenger of God. Moses had been spreading the message as a prophet; whatever he received from God, he conveyed to the people. However, his mission was misunderstood by Pharaoh and his people who feared that he would be taking over power and authority. We studied how this trait is a human tendency where one assumes the other person in terms of what their own values and views are.
Prophet Moses demonstrated events, created by God that were seen as extraordinary. The people at the time of the prophets did not have the time to study the message as we do nowadays. It is their right that something extraordinary should happen through the prophets so that people can take him and his message seriously, that he is supported by the One who creates the universe. The Quran narrates these events to me where there is no eye witness for me to confirm but relates to how they happened in this world. I have to get the meaning behind such events as to why they are being mentioned to me in my life now which is completely different from the time when these events may have happened.
The Quran by definition is a universal speech meant for all beings at all times. If the Quran narrates some event that happened in the past and there is no way that I can confirm it, what is the benefit in narrating that event to me? Even If I see some event historically recorded and confirm that it happened, what good is it for me? This point is generally missed by the students of the Quran. Almost half of the Quran mentions events involving prophets that happened in the past. Whatever event happened that is being mentioned in the Quran must be related to my practical life right now.
At the time of prophet Muhammad (pbuh), people heard the message of the Quran narrating prophet Moses and what he was teaching. When they heard the extraordinary events, they understood that the prophet is employed by God and is not a magician. The extraordinary events are impossible to be performed by a man. There is no sign that he was trained as a magician but comes with some extraordinary events.
For me now these extraordinary events could have happened as the prophets are employed by God. It is only after I confirm the message of the Quran would I be able to understand that it conveys the reality of this universe including my being and thus must be from the Creator of the universe. I will see that my Creator narrates these extraordinary events not for the sake of the events themselves but the meaning behind them as they relate to my life.
We last studied that Pharaoh’s magicians had accepted the message brought by prophet Moses and submitted themselves to the Lord of Moses as being the real Lord of the universe. We can understand that Pharaoh cannot be god as his father had died and he is subject to death just like any other being. The prophets never claimed to be god as they are also subject to death, they claim that they are under the will of their Creator. Prophet Moses had taught that my Lord is the originator of the universe who continuously creates this universe, changes it, demonstrating His qualities to me, introducing Himself to me. No one can own me but the Lord of the universe. The prophetic message is harmonious to the meaning in the universe, they support each other. I must be completely happy with the message that the prophet relates to me as it goes along with my feelings.
We will continue with the following verses:
قَالَ فِرْعَوْنُ ءَامَنتُم بِهِۦ قَبْلَ أَنْ ءَاذَنَ لَكُمْ ۖ إِنَّ هَـٰذَا لَمَكْرٌۭ مَّكَرْتُمُوهُ فِى ٱلْمَدِينَةِ لِتُخْرِجُوا۟ مِنْهَآ أَهْلَهَا ۖ فَسَوْفَ تَعْلَمُونَ
7:123 Pharaoh threatened, “How dare you believe in him before I give you permission? This must be a conspiracy you devised in the city to drive out its people, but soon you will see.
Why such a threat?
Pharaoh thinks that he is god and everyone is subject to his will. He further assumes Moses to be devising a plan to drive out his people where he will lose his ownership and power on them.
Let’s reflect on why people do not want to accept the prophetic message? The psychology of denial is when I define myself as a physical body only. The prophetic message speaks from another aspect. If I want to have a happy life, the human feelings must be satisfied, which requires infinite blessings, infinite comfort, infinite relaxation, infinite happiness. I see that this world does not provide for any of these desires. This world just operates according to how it is made to act; it is dumb in that sense, doesn’t have any say in its existence, and in the way it acts. The things in the universe cannot listen to or know my feelings to choose accordingly; they just follow the order of their Owner, the Lord of the universe. The prophetic message is telling me that my feelings, spirit will be satisfied only by the Creator of this universe.
Whereas in the fundamental psychology of denial, what is the spirit? There is no such thing! One doesn’t see the need to question their existence, their reality. It is to take the world on a daily basis for granted claiming “that is what I am, I want good food, have a comfortable residence, entertainment, satisfaction for my body and hormonal desires.”
Belief and denial are opposing views. When one questions his reality, listens to his feelings, what they want, and questions who can satisfy those feelings, then he can cross over into the believing aspect. There is no need to argue whether God exists or not? First of all my friend, define yourself, who are you, what are you? Have you ever considered your being? I should reflect on who I am and what I need? All the answers to human questions start from defining oneself.
Whatever word view I develop, that is how I will start seeing the world accordingly. Whatever I notice and pay attention to, I wouldn’t notice the rest of the things, this is very human. Pharaoh said what he understood to be a conspiracy devised to drive people out as he was thinking only on his own terms as the lord of the land and the people. Whatever one’s view is, that is what gets reflected. For example, a materialist scientist that studies the universe has to interpret everything in terms of matter. One cannot expect anything other than this interpretation from them. They decided that matter is the fundamental element of everything; matter is the source of everything without questioning its source of existence.
Another example is if I don’t read the book but admire the cover and picture on the book and tell someone that I love this book. The other agrees with me but is thinking in terms of the meaning and knowledge in the book. The two of us cannot get our understandings across each other. That’s how one may look at the universe just from the physical appearance and operations but not see the meaning in it.
Everyone looks at others from their perspective, definition of themselves. Pharaoh is looking from his perspective where according to him, one can have power to get a hold of the slaves. Pharaonic understanding trusts his own power to control the slaves.
The verse also helps us to understand where belief and disbelief originate from and why they cannot understand each other. Revelation from God understands what denial (kufr) is. Revelation further understands the psychology of deniers that insist on their pre-accepted biased ideas. They would never understand what the prophets are teaching them, never see how the universe and human beings become very precious.
The message of the prophets in the form of revelation doesn’t deny the material body but looks at what the feelings in the body are saying, how they operate. The human being and the universe only become precious because of what is in them, the meaning in them. For example, would I marry a person that is beautiful body wise but arrogant in character? As human beings, we are engrained to communicate with others through the feelings that we are given. Unfortunately, secular values spend every effort on the physical material aspect of things which we usually fall into.
The end of the verse says “soon you will see”. Pharaoh uses his arrogant power to threaten without presenting any counter argument to the message that the prophet brought. Secular scientists don’t acknowledge their existence as being given and reduce everything to matter. Thus, they have nothing to say to counter the prophetic message.
لَأُقَطِّعَنَّ أَيْدِيَكُمْ وَأَرْجُلَكُم مِّنْ خِلَـٰفٍۢ ثُمَّ لَأُصَلِّبَنَّكُمْ أَجْمَعِينَ
7:124 I will certainly cut off your hands and feet on opposite sides, then crucify you all.”
The phrase “opposite sides” has been argued and discussed among the scholarship. The word “khilaf” is translated as opposition. The fundamental meaning which is not famous is not necessarily the opposition of the physical hand and feet but opposing the prophetic message as a result of arrogance. The other meaning is not obeying someone but disobeying him. The third one is to physically cripple the hands and feet so that one cannot do anything physically to oppose the ideas presented. The phrase “crucify you all” means that you will not be living anymore.
قَالُوٓا۟ إِنَّآ إِلَىٰ رَبِّنَا مُنقَلِبُونَ
7:125 They said, “And so we are returning to our Lord
This is accepting the reality where the ex-magicians declare that we belong to the Lord of the universe. You can kill us but we will go to Him anyway because we are from Him. Our death is nothing but reuniting ourselves with the Source of our existence.
وَمَا تَنقِمُ مِنَّآ إِلَّآ أَنْ ءَامَنَّا بِـَٔايَـٰتِ رَبِّنَا لَمَّا جَآءَتْنَا ۚ رَبَّنَآ أَفْرِغْ عَلَيْنَا صَبْرًۭا وَتَوَفَّنَا مُسْلِمِينَ
7:126 You take revenge against us only because we have come to believe in our Lord’s messages as soon as they came to us. Lord, shower us with patience in hard times, and make us die as men who have surrendered themselves to You.
The phrase “بِـَٔايَـٰتِ رَبِّنَا “, translated as “our Lord’s messages” can be understood in both ways:
1. The message that the prophet Moses brought to them
2. The signs and activity taking place in the universe as messages to human beings
This verse is also a prayer where we pray that we leave this world as someone who has surrendered our being to the Lord of the universe. We should know within ourselves that we may fall into negligence; I may not think seriously about my purpose in existing and going through life struggles, what is happening in my life, losing myself in worldly affairs. I need patience in order to submit myself to You my Lord, to keep me awake in my own consciousness that recognizes You.
In relation to the phrase “as soon as the message came to us” doesn’t mean that as soon as I hear the prophetic message that I would jump right into it. Some events in the life of prophet Muhammad (pbuh) have been exaggerated. For example, in some narrations, whatever the prophet says, one would follow him immediately. People hear the message and they don’t. I have to understand that when a message arrives to me, only after I realize that it is the truth would I submit to it without hesitation. If I realized the truth, I would submit myself to it. If I have conditioned myself, I will not be able to submit to be a man of truth. Only when I realize the truth within myself would I submit to it; I shouldn’t hesitate one bit to submit after being convinced.
وَقَالَ ٱلْمَلَأُ مِن قَوْمِ فِرْعَوْنَ أَتَذَرُ مُوسَىٰ وَقَوْمَهُۥ لِيُفْسِدُوا۟ فِى ٱلْأَرْضِ وَيَذَرَكَ وَءَالِهَتَكَ ۚ قَالَ سَنُقَتِّلُ أَبْنَآءَهُمْ وَنَسْتَحْىِۦ نِسَآءَهُمْ وَإِنَّا فَوْقَهُمْ قَـٰهِرُونَ
7:127 The notables among Pharaoh’s people said, ‘Will you allow Moses and his people to spread corruption on earth and to [cause your people to] abandon you and your gods?’ He replied, ‘We will kill their sons in great numbers and leave their women alive. We have complete power over them.’
The notables are asking Pharaoh that since you are the lord, how can you let Moses and his people abandon your authority which would be “corruption”. In their eyes, Pharaoh is the lord that holds power in that specific geographic area; so, can he allow their behavior that undermines his authority as being the lord?
The literal understanding of Pharaoh’s response is that we will kill their sons and keep their women alive. What does this response have to do with me? Man can symbolize power which Pharaoh wants to get rid of, he cannot stand any other person as holding on to power. Destroy their power, make them powerless and use their productive side. He wants the women to be productive, produce new slaves. Whoever is born from a slave is a slave from their own rules. Whatever and whoever I can benefit from, I will keep them.
Today’s power as it relates to belief matters is based on interpreting creation. If one teaches the secular understanding, it is easy to open an institution as long as one gives support to that secular education. Anyone that tries to open one that interprets creation based on reality that it needs to be given existence and cannot happen by itself will be immediately shut down. This secular interpretation of the universe is the pharaonic attitude taking place all over the world including Muslim countries.
قَالَ مُوسَىٰ لِقَوْمِهِ ٱسْتَعِينُوا۟ بِٱللَّهِ وَٱصْبِرُوٓا۟ ۖ إِنَّ ٱلْأَرْضَ لِلَّهِ يُورِثُهَا مَن يَشَآءُ مِنْ عِبَادِهِۦ ۖ وَٱلْعَـٰقِبَةُ لِلْمُتَّقِينَ
7:128 Moses reassured his people, “Seek God’s help and be patient. Indeed, the earth belongs to God alone. He grants it to whoever He chooses of His servants. The ultimate outcome belongs only to the righteous.”
That’s the prophetic message as a response to his people to seek God’s help and be patient. We have to use any given power for our understanding, our belief, our interpretation of the universe. Matter, wealth, power can be given to anyone by God. The order of the universe allows many ways to get a hold of property but not to become Lord of the universe. Once I die, all the properties will go away. I should free my spirit from the enslavement of matter and attach my being to the Lord of the universe.
Tags: A'raf Series, Al-Araf, Belief, Feelings, human qualities, Life, Lord, Quran, Worship