Let’s summarize the scenario of the verses we studied last time to prepare our minds for the next few verses. The children of Israel were saved from slavery and went through an obstacle of crossing the sea. This has been interpreted in different ways by scholars but overall, they crossed over to another side where they felt safe. Although on the safer side, freed from slavery, they met other groups of people. Since they were not much educated in the teachings of prophet Moses, they asked prophet Moses for another god to worship as the people they saw were doing. We interpreted this crossing of the sea as coming from one understanding of belief to another understanding. When they saw the people worshiping gods as things in this world, something concrete to worship, they wanted to follow that path. We understand that in our day and age, that worship involves other things such as matter itself, nature, fashion, wealth, status, positions, power, and nationalism to name a few.
Belief in God involves believing in something “ghaib”, something “abstract” and not concrete which makes it hard to be convinced. This requires a lot of training, reflection and education. We need to educate ourselves in the teachings of revelation to be convinced, otherwise we would be admiring other people by seeing them entertain their lives in this world.
Moses replied that this request to worship other gods is ignorance of the message that was brought to them which was not considered and appreciated.
The following verse in this scenario had mentioned that such worship to worldly things would be destroyed; all the entertainment that we may indulge in will disappear as the days are gone and these things will not satisfy us. Whatever I may attach importance to in this world will disappear. There will be nothing left with me at the end of the day. I may think that I have a successful profession today but it will be gone soon. I have to remind myself that I belong to an Absolute Creator. The satisfaction I seek can only be obtained when I find my Creator, by realizing that He is the Lord of the universe, the only One that can satisfy me.
I must be thankful to my Creator for creating death and the hereafter. If there was no getting old in this world, no death, there would be zero problems and I would not realize who I am; I would not realize my reality. I would never feel the need to think about createdness, neediness and looking for the Creator because everything would be fine and comfortable. I have to be thankful to my Creator for He has given me this opportunity to realize my neediness, my impotence, my inability to guarantee anything. Everything I receive is a gift from Him. I need to be given existence, need to be given life, and need to be given this universe; my neediness is my reality. I have to thank my Creator for all these bounties and should be careful in not taking the things as the source of my satisfaction. I also must thank my Creator for sickness, death, shortcomings, things that I don’t like. I must learn to love the creation of death. That is what we are created for, to realize what our reality is. Of course, this never means that I must deliberately become sick and kill myself. When I am given them rather than complaining about their creation l need to look for any means to avoid it. This is why I am given the sense of disliking them. I pray we appreciate this reality.
We will continue studying from section A’raf of the Quran with the following verses:
قَالَ أَغَيْرَ ٱللَّهِ أَبْغِيكُمْ إِلَـٰهًۭا وَهُوَ فَضَّلَكُمْ عَلَى ٱلْعَـٰلَمِينَ
7:140 He [Moses] said: “Am I to seek for you a deity [to worship] other than God, although it is He who has favored you above all other people?”
Prophet Moses continues speaking: “Shall I seek a deity from any part of this universe that is transient as you are, need to be created as you do?” Without realizing we may do the same thing. Rather than searching for God and asking for His blessings and favors, I may say that I would make my life perfect by myself. I am benefitting from everything in this universe but have to see that the things are provided by God to me. These things cannot be the source of satisfaction for me. For example, I eat food today which satisfies my body now and soon after it is gone, I have the hope for tomorrow to eat food and be bodily satisfied. It is a dead end as the things I take as my source of satisfaction go away and eventually I will die. These things cannot be my source of human satisfaction. The creation of death is wonderful, we need to learn our reality with being needy, weak, and the fact that we are created to be subject to death. We cannot be the source of satisfaction for ourselves. It is impossible to imagine anything other than God to satisfy me who is the Lord of the universe.
The phrase “وَهُوَ فَضَّلَكُمْ عَلَى ٱلْعَـٰلَمِينَ” is translated as “He who has favored you above all other people”. This phrase is indicating that you are very well aware of the reality that it is He who has favored you; what does this mean? The children of Israel were freed from Pharaoh and his forces as related in the historical description, they were well aware of this reality. Prophet Moses is teaching that: “I cannot be a slave of anything created, other than God, the Creator of the universe.” By following the prophetic message, I am saved from worshiping false deities as if they will be the source of my satisfaction. We know that whatever it is that we may be running after in this world, whether it be a position, a status or a strong financial portfolio for a comfortable retirement, they will all be gone.
The favor above all other people is by freeing me from all these false sources of satisfaction that I may be a slave of. Physically being a slave is one thing but spiritually I have to watch myself not be a slave of any part of this universe which is transient like my body. Anything transient is subject to change and needs to be created, and is dependent just like myself. Freedom from slavery comes to me when I move my understanding to the other side of the sea and take my Lord as my source of satisfaction. I start experiencing the miraculous creation of the universe conveying meaning to me, declaring the qualities of its Maker.
We need to benefit from the universal message of the Quran. It may be true that the children of Israel were favored physically from slavery and were given all sorts of foods and water from heaven, but that is only the satisfaction of the body. The food we eat is also coming from the heavens, don’t we see that? The pomegranate that I may eat is a miraculous creation, cannot exist by itself. I must wonder who made it and provided it to me? I am favored as well. In fact, all the followers of the message of the prophets are favored above all who are not given the message. Why would I despair when I have an Owner who is the Creator of the universe? The aim for the speech of my Lord cannot be simply for bodily satisfaction but for my spiritual satisfaction as well.
وَإِذْ أَنجَيْنَـٰكُم مِّنْ ءَالِ فِرْعَوْنَ يَسُومُونَكُمْ سُوٓءَ ٱلْعَذَابِ ۖ يُقَتِّلُونَ أَبْنَآءَكُمْ وَيَسْتَحْيُونَ نِسَآءَكُمْ ۚ وَفِى ذَٰلِكُم بَلَآءٌۭ مِّن رَّبِّكُمْ عَظِيمٌۭ
7:141 Remember that We delivered you from Pharaoh’s people who afflicted you with dreadful torment. They kept killing your sons while leaving your women alive. In that was a great trial from your Lord.
What does it mean to be delivered from Pharaoh’s people, I am not delivered from Pharaoh’s people? Through the message of the prophets, God honored me to deliver myself free from Pharaonic people. Physical slavery is related to my body but Pharaonic ideology declares itself to be god, a lord of some geographic piece of land. As the owner of the lands, Pharaoh declared that he will take care of the people. He died himself so how is he going to take care of me? Pharaoh is represented by the human ego of trying to be god. Pharaonic ideas also declare that a part of this universe, a false idea that some part of the universe would satisfy me as a human being. I should be aware that even my bodily needs are also taken care of by the One who arranges the universe in a particular way that I can benefit from.
By taking God as the Creator of the universe as our source of satisfaction, we are thus delivered from the Pharaonic ideas and understanding of existence. Those Pharaonic ideas have afflicted you with dreadful torment as mentioned in the phrase: “يَسُومُونَكُمْ سُوٓءَ ٱلْعَذَابِ ۖ”. (Who afflicted you with dreadful torment.) We have to be careful. Anytime we think that this new model of a device or latest fashion trend would make me happy. We should know that it will go away and one will be left with nothing. Isn’t that a dreadful torment to take a part of this universe as the source of my human satisfaction that needs permanent satisfaction?
The verse continues with the phrase “يُقَتِّلُونَ أَبْنَآءَكُمْ وَيَسْتَحْيُونَ نِسَآءَكُمْ”, translated as “They kept killing your sons while leaving your women alive”. The word “يُقَتِّلُونَ” indicates continuously killing, not a one-time event, making your sons dysfunctional continuously. We know sons in the general culture are related to hard labor and women who can become pregnant for production, to give birth to new children. If Pharaoh kept killing the sons of “Bani Israel”, the children of Israel, there would be no male children who would become men, resulting in no further generation. This would make no sense as we know that the children of Israel lived as they crossed to the other side of the sea, their generation was not lost. Therefore, the verse should not be referring to the physical killing of sons when I take the verse as a universal message applicable to me now.
Nowadays, those who are presenting the truth are silenced and killed. In today’s condition, those who are working to discover the order of the universe, making research, can they do anything in favor of the truth, declare anything to support the truth? If they try to do that they will be dysfunctional and silenced. Anyone, including believers, who support the economy by contributing to the production of goods and services used by masses is kept alive according to the Pharaonic view. As long as one doesn’t speak the truth contradicting the secularist view is left functioning to support the Pharaonic view. This is the heartbreaking reality of our time.
We are tried in this world to find the best way to find our purpose in existence. We educate our children in schools with secular indoctrination to support those views and encourage them to contribute to the economy, add to the profits of the owners for their work. The obstacle is there, how am I going to go past this challenge? It is not easy but we have to work hard on how I can contribute to spread the prophetic message. If I cannot talk about reality in school, I have to find another place, another way to spread the truth. Was there any society that was easily brought on the right track by the prophets where they had no challenges?
This is how we are tried in this world where I have to see how I can resist the false ideas, living wrongfully or inhumanely and find out the best way to work towards the truth and adjust my life with that truth. We should never give up on our mission. The phrase in the Quran (2:214) “إِنَّ نَصْرَ اللَّهِ قَرِيبٌ”, is translated as “God’s help is indeed near!”. It is known that death is the best equalizer of human beings. For my body, in terms of the claims I have, properties in my possession, it is correct; I will not keep them with me upon death. Materially everyone will be zero in their balance sheet of their lifespan in this world. What about my human side, my spirit?
The word “hal yastawiyan” is used in the Quran where it relates that the believers and unbelievers cannot be equal. Should one who didn’t appreciate a gift, did not use it in the right way and abused it be equal to one who appreciated the gift and did not abuse it? We have to be ready to struggle, pick on the opportunities to learn the truth, work towards it, i.e. to uphold the word of God.
وَوَٰعَدْنَا مُوسَىٰ ثَلَـٰثِينَ لَيْلَةًۭ وَأَتْمَمْنَـٰهَا بِعَشْرٍۢ فَتَمَّ مِيقَـٰتُ رَبِّهِۦٓ أَرْبَعِينَ لَيْلَةًۭ ۚ وَقَالَ مُوسَىٰ لِأَخِيهِ هَـٰرُونَ ٱخْلُفْنِى فِى قَوْمِى وَأَصْلِحْ وَلَا تَتَّبِعْ سَبِيلَ ٱلْمُفْسِدِينَ
7:142 We appointed thirty nights for Moses, then added ten more: the term set by his Lord was completed in forty nights. Moses said to his brother Aaron, “Take my place among my people: act righteously and do not follow the way of those who spread corruption.”
What does thirty nights and ten more indicate? In the Arabic language, when one says that “we had a five night journey”, it means they had a five day journey. Why does it use night instead of day? Human beings need to be enlightened which can happen anytime regardless of day and night. There are a lot of verses in the Quran referring to night and not to forget the Night of Power which is the peak of human realization to the reality of existence. The word “Layl”, translated as night, is mostly used to indicate that human beings need to be enlightened to the truth.
There are many figurative verses mentioned in the Quran and they have to be taken as universal messages. We should understand that the numbers are not to be taken literally in a figurative speech. The numbers, such as 50,000 years to travel, are for the human imagination. We can now imagine much higher numbers than the first generation to whom the message of the Quran was revealed.
The phrase “مِيقَـٰتُ رَبِّهِ”, is translated as “the term set by his Lord”. The word “مِيقَـٰتُ” comes from the word of “time” as in an appointment with someone, in this case appointment with my Lord. In order to reach the perfection of realization of my Lord, I am given one section of time as 30 days and an additional section of 10 days. The appointed time is completed with an additional 10 days to the 30 days. This can also be seen as proportions with 3/4th and1/4th of the total 40 days. The Quran teaches us mainly belief matters with practical application. The belief education must take more than half of our time as in 3/4th and the practical, ritualistic worship, ethical and moral application must be 1/4th of it. As a human being this is how I apply the belief teaching taking more than half of my life into practical worship. We know from the life of prophet Muhammad (pbuh) where he was teaching individuals and groups as the revelation was coming at a place known as “Darul Arqam”. Afterwards he migrated to Medina to start practicing all those fundamental belief teachings. We should take this model of educating ourselves with 3/4th of our lives spent on belief matters and then practice 1/4th as application of that belief.
The verse continues with prophet Moses telling his brother Aaron to take his place among his people. We should also have someone to take one’s place to spread the message and act righteously. For example, after the prophet (pbuh) passed away, some people called caliphs continued the work of spreading the truth. We see in the examples of thousands of scholars that studied the Quran and his (pbuh) life to write books and spread the message of the Quran as much as they can. We should work on continuing this mission.
We are warned that we should not follow the way of “سَبِيلَ ٱلْمُفْسِدِينَ “, those who spread corruption or contribute to those who spread corruption in the world. It could be any corruption such as financial, environmental, or ideological. We should be careful what we are buying, selling, what job I am doing, what I am involved with, what values I am contributing to in what I do and act. I have to be careful in all of my transactions in this world.
Tags: A'raf Series, Al-Araf, Belief, Feelings, human qualities, Life, Lord, Quran, Worship