By April 6, 2023 Read More →

Section Al A’raf – Part 42

We will continue studying the verses from section A’raf (Cognizant) of the Quran and look into the following verses:

وَأَوْرَثْنَا ٱلْقَوْمَ ٱلَّذِينَ كَانُوا۟ يُسْتَضْعَفُونَ مَشَـٰرِقَ ٱلْأَرْضِ وَمَغَـٰرِبَهَا ٱلَّتِى بَـٰرَكْنَا فِيهَا ۖ وَتَمَّتْ كَلِمَتُ رَبِّكَ ٱلْحُسْنَىٰ عَلَىٰ بَنِىٓ إِسْرَٰٓءِيلَ بِمَا صَبَرُوا۟ ۖ وَدَمَّرْنَا مَا كَانَ يَصْنَعُ فِرْعَوْنُ وَقَوْمُهُۥ وَمَا كَانُوا۟ يَعْرِشُونَ

7:137 And [so] we made the oppressed people successors of the eastern and western lands, which We had showered with blessings. [In this way] the noble Word of your Lord was fulfilled for the Children of Israel for what they had endured. As We destroyed what Pharaoh and his people constructed and what they established. 

The Quran uses the phrase “وَأَوْرَثْنَا ٱلْقَوْمَ ٱلَّذِينَ كَانُوا۟ يُسْتَضْعَفُونَ”, translated as “And we made the oppressed people successors” as pertaining to the followers of the prophets including the ones deemed lower in class materially, or believers in general as being oppressed. Why are such people described as being oppressed? 

This oppression is not some ideological or theoretical one.  The believers are regarded as ones who do not attach much importance to the material side of the world or give importance to worldly power which could be financial, military, or status wise power. This puts the believers in a less favorable, less powerful position materially than those with worldly power as compared to the materially powerful people. Those materially powerful people have the freedom to oppress others. With the hold of their power they can oppress those that follow the prophetic message rather than responding ideologically to the message. 

The Quran presents in the prophetic scenarios this oppression by some materially powerful people when the prophets ask to worship God alone as the Creator of the universe. That this world is transient and no one can create anything as they have no power to create, give existence to anything. The response to the message is that “We are following the tradition of our forefathers and will not leave that tradition”. Another challenge is presented as to when one does not follow the prophetic message to believe in God, some physical punishment will occur. They ask where is it? Again, this matter is looked at from the material side of creation. They consider the material destruction of the body without considering the destruction of the human side, the spiritual side when one does not believe in the Absolute Creator. The material view only sees life from birth to the grave and nothing beyond. Whatever one may have cannot be enjoyed much because it is transient, it cannot be preserved in this world.

From the perspective of the prophetic message, the deniers and oppressors have already destroyed themselves. They cannot really enjoy this world, let alone the hereafter because there is no such concept. The prophetic message informs us to see the signs in this world which refer to the hereafter where everything is infinite. We have to see the signs for the necessity of paradise and hell. The prophet tells me that I cannot be happy within myself if I do not accept God and see myself as created by Him. The opposing side says that: “we are materially powerful, bring the punishment physically. We can expel you from this land and even kill you physically.” They see that most of the people who follow the prophetic message do not attach much importance to the material side of creation.

The Quran assures that one does not need to be materially powerful to follow the message and enjoy what it brings to their lives. A believer will not be challenging anyone with material power anyways. There are two conditions for having material power where the believers must defend themselves physically:

  1. If the believers have established their own administration 
  2. If the believers are attacked physically.


The general message from God is not physical at all but addresses human feelings and human spirit only then do the human feelings enjoy their physical lives. 

Why is it that some do not understand the value of the message of the prophets?

The prophets teach that I have to establish belief within myself to save myself. It is not something that would bring any physical benefit to the prophet. The prophet says that “I don’t want any payment; I am not after power, status in the world, why do you resist my message?” The message of the prophets brings spiritual satisfaction starting from the time of prophet Adam. It is obvious that the prophets were not after any power. 

Nowadays, if I want to convey the message of the Quran to someone so that he believes in it; this has nothing to do with me gaining anything materially. I may share my material side with him but not expect anything material in return. The more people believe, the less materially powerful I will be as I would willingly be sharing material things with them. There is no material power to gain, in fact it is the opposite where the more people believe, the less materially powerful I would be because I would take care of the needy people among us and be ready to share my wealth with them. 

Someone may not see the point in the message of the prophet because he may be looking at the matter from his perspective. What perspective is that? One may have established that value can only be measured in terms of matter and worldly status. Thus, one would start looking at the prophetic message in material valuation terms. One would not gain any material power, status, or career out of the prophetic message. The prophets ask to satisfy our human side and feelings with the message of the Quran. The prophet of God tells me that by following the message, I would be more comfortable in my human life than I am now. The prophetic message is not meant to bring me bodily satisfaction but human satisfaction.

The prophetic message would not resonate with me if my perspective is on the materialistic worldly side, to gain some material benefit. It is not because it does not make sense to see myself as a created being because I may see myself as a created being but still not benefit from the message. Let’s say that I have accepted that I have a Creator, what am I going to lose? One doesn’t lose anything materially. I would accept that yes, it makes sense as I cannot be the result of randomly assembling particles with such unbelievably amazing qualities as a human being.  There is no material power to gain from accepting the message. One gets to keep whatever status or material one may have. However, I should bear in mind that with whatever status or material I may have, I cannot oppress anyone with them or use them unjustly. They must be used according to the prophetic message. The Quran relates this matter as to why one does not accept the message when it says that: “I know what is inside you as well as what you are hiding.” It is arrogance that prevents one from accepting the prophetic message. Not many are willing to accept any suggestion from another being whether it is useful or not. The psychology of denial stems from pre-accepted values and the denial of human reality by seeing their existence in terms of only the body.

When the Quran mentions “oppressed people”, it is not necessarily referring to the case that they may not be rich, high status people. They may have the material power but as believers may not attach much importance to it and never use it to oppress others including the deniers. Whereas those who attach significance to material values don’t accept and deny the message because of attaching importance to material power.

There may be poor people among the deniers; they admire the rich people, high status nobles. There are some traces of this still going on, including some believers. There is this infatuation of following and admiring the lives of the rich and famous. We may adapt our lives according to the material values of the rich. Thus, we may not prioritize and see the value in the prophetic message.

The phrase “يُسْتَضْعَفُونَ مَشَـٰرِقَ ٱلْأَرْضِ وَمَغَـٰرِبَهَا ٱلَّتِى بَـٰرَكْنَا فِيهَا ۖ”, translated as “eastern and western lands, We showered with blessings”. What does it mean to be the success of eastern and western lands? Success of believers is not limited to geographic locations but can be anywhere. When I accept that I am created by the Lord of the universe, wherever I am, I will be a successor there. Every part of the universe is showered with blessings as they are nothing but the manifestations of God and are the means to reach Him. 

Let’s recall that the children of Israel represent those people who follow the prophetic message which includes the Jews, Christians and Muslims. The example in this verse is given to us through Moses’ story when the Quran was revealed. It is important to understand that the Quran’s content is timeless, i.e. it is a universal message. The practice of the prophet is limited in time and space of the prophet, i.e. in Mecca and Medina. When the Quran was first revealed to the people who were with the prophet (pbuh), he (pbuh) gave them examples from their practical lives. The universal message tells me that I have to present the message within the context of the people I am speaking to; it should be applicable to their practical lives. 

The word “صَبَرُو “, translated as “endured” as well as “patience” in what one goes through in life. In the example of the children of Israel, they were oppressed materially but they can realize that although their material side may be in pain, the spirit is free. The message of God liberates the spirit. It does not elevate my material status but my spiritual status. For example, a believer eats an orange and sees that whoever created this orange must be the one to give existence to the whole world with the qualities operating in it. He must be an Absolute One to give existence to the universe and I belong to this Absolute One.  The material view would not see the orange as having been created by the Creator of the universe and only see the physical form, not see its relationship with the rest of the universe such as sunlight, atmosphere, water and earth as arranged by the Organizer or Arranger of the universe. The color, taste, nutrition, and sweetness of the orange has nothing to do with its material form. The believer sees the orange as being presented to him by the Generous Creator; he enjoys it with completely different feelings.

All the prophets were begging people to pay attention to the message saying that “you don’t have to give up your property or lose anything; just change your attitude. Do not oppress people or cheat them which is arrogance and destroys you. You will gain immeasurable pleasure in your life by changing your view and attitude towards the universe.” I may think that I am great now and do whatever I want, but I know that I will lose everything upon death. How can one live with this psychological contradiction? A believer knows that we are going to die and return to our Creator with submission. Submitting to the message is to submit to the Creator of the universe.

The phrase “We destroyed what Pharaoh and his people constructed and what they established ” meaning that whatever material power, machinations they devised to oppress people were destroyed. Physically one may be oppressed but spiritually one knows that he belongs to an Absolute Creator and will go back to Him who is the source of his existence at the very beginning. Even if one dies out of this oppression for the sake of God, it is worth it and is martyrdom which is immensely rewarded because martyr means fulfilling the purpose of one’s existence. We are created to be the witnesses of the reality of this existence. Martyrdom in the Qur’an means witnessing the reality and standing behind it.

Pharaoh and his people were destroyed not only physically but spiritually as well. When it is only the arrogant nobles and not the whole community that drive the prophets away, God doesn’t destroy the community with innocent people. When the whole community rejects the prophet, the scholars agree that these people deserve physical punishment in this world as well and the physical punishment is given. We know from the prophet Muhammad’s era that there was no physical punishment that came from God because only the nobles, the beneficiaries of the society, rejected the Prophet. The  general public was  generally indecisive. The word “وَدَمَّرْنَا” translated as destroyed, but it means more than that as in being completely crushed. The spiritual life becomes completely meaningless when one does not benefit from the prophetic message. 


وَجَـٰوَزْنَا بِبَنِىٓ إِسْرَٰٓءِيلَ ٱلْبَحْرَ فَأَتَوْا۟ عَلَىٰ قَوْمٍۢ يَعْكُفُونَ عَلَىٰٓ أَصْنَامٍۢ لَّهُمْ ۚ قَالُوا۟ يَـٰمُوسَى ٱجْعَل لَّنَآ إِلَـٰهًۭا كَمَا لَهُمْ ءَالِهَةٌۭ ۚ قَالَ إِنَّكُمْ قَوْمٌۭ تَجْهَلُونَ

7:138 We brought the children of Israel across the sea, where they came across people who were devoted to worshiping idols. [The children of Israel] said, “Moses, give us a god like the gods they have.” He replied, “You are ignorant people!

Crossing across the sea can be understood in our living conditions as moving from one understanding (one side) to another understanding (other side). One can be running after the material world, looking for bodily satisfaction and the other is looking for spiritual satisfaction. These are completely two different sides of the sea. The verse must have meaning for me now that I also have to cross the sea. Nowadays, anyone who accepts a faith is called to have converted to the faith and thus moves to the other side of the sea. 

Did I make the migration (hijra) to the prophetic message in my life from my traditional background having my own conviction? I have to check every value that I learn from my family and tradition – see whether it is correct or not, is it according to the prophetic tradition? Much of the prophetic tradition has been polluted and I have to clean it for myself. I don’t have to follow tradition blindly but evaluate them according to the prophetic tradition. I should think about the way of life that I am following and adjust accordingly. Look at the way I may be attaching importance to certain things. Secular education encourages me to be successful, is that the real success? I have to educate myself in religion, in the Quran. I have to be aware of who I am worshiping, for example in a congregation prayer when I say “You alone do we worship and from You alone do we seek help”, I should understand the whole universe including myself in need of my Lord. When a cultural suggestion is presented, I have to kindly move away from it, without breaking their hearts.

Some small group of people may say that I have memorized the Quran, learnt Arabic. They are all at the beginning of studying the Quran seriously. In culture, religious education stops at certain steps and does not move forward as in studying the Quran seriously. Even if education in religion continues it is mostly related to learning the rules of rituals or Arabic grammar. Again these elements are necessary steps only to improve my understanding of the Qur’an’s teaching of fundamental belief matters, which are mostly taken for granted. The prophetic message says that life is based on belief education whereas the culture says life is based on a successful profession. We have an already constructed way of life, a standard of thinking and we must reevaluate to check how we live. 

The verse continues with “People who were devoted to worshiping idols.” Who are these people? I claim that I am a Muslim what do I find? People are worshiping fashion, material values, and secular lives. Everyone has work to do, to get out of this influx of secularism. I may pray, fast and concentrate on rulings but not focus on belief matters. We usually take belief for granted, as information that I believe in God, the prophets, the angels, hereafter, etc. Why do I believe in the Quran? How much time do I put in studying the Quran? Most of the Quran is related to belief but it is highly neglected by the majority. 

The verse continues with the phrase “The children of Israel say that give us a god like the gods they have”. We usually pay attention to the phrase “وَلَا تَنسَ نَصِيبَكَ مِنَ ٱلدُّنْيَا ۖ” translated as “do not forget your share of the world” (Qur’an, 28: 77). Yes, my body needs something till I die but what about my spiritual needs? I have to satisfy my spirit with the evidence in the universe to confirm belief. The Muslim people usually say that working is worship as well. What does it mean? We may be having a god similar to secular societies that we worship, by keeping ourselves busy with work and not having the time to study the Quran. We should be aware of what is going on in the Muslim world. 

How am I to interpret religion in terms of the society that I may be living in? Rather than having my own God and being satisfied as a whole human being with this God as the Creator of the universe, or the other option is to have the gods of secular society. 

The word “jahil”, is translated as being ignorant and is generally used in the Quran. It refers to those who do not think. It is not necessarily that they are not aware or they are not educated enough. They don’t weigh whether the values one follows are true or false; there is no analysis done to see the truth.  


إِنَّ هَـٰٓؤُلَآءِ مُتَبَّرٌۭ مَّا هُمْ فِيهِ وَبَـٰطِلٌۭ مَّا كَانُوا۟ يَعْمَلُونَ

7:139 For the worship they practice will be destroyed, and their deeds are in vain.”

The worship that follows the secular way of life is destroyed. Look at the world, people are running after worldly bodily satisfaction. What about the satisfaction of the spirit? Spiritual satisfaction requires special study, reflections on the Quran.


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