We will continue with the study of section A’raf (Cognizant) and look into the following important verse phrase by phrase:
وَلَمَّا جَآءَ مُوسَىٰ لِمِيقَـٰتِنَا وَكَلَّمَهُۥ رَبُّهُۥ قَالَ رَبِّ أَرِنِىٓ أَنظُرْ إِلَيْكَ ۚ قَالَ لَن تَرَىٰنِى وَلَـٰكِنِ ٱنظُرْ إِلَى ٱلْجَبَلِ فَإِنِ ٱسْتَقَرَّ مَكَانَهُۥ فَسَوْفَ تَرَىٰنِى ۚ فَلَمَّا تَجَلَّىٰ رَبُّهُۥ لِلْجَبَلِ جَعَلَهُۥ دَكًّۭا وَخَرَّ مُوسَىٰ صَعِقًۭا ۚ فَلَمَّآ أَفَاقَ قَالَ سُبْحَـٰنَكَ تُبْتُ إِلَيْكَ وَأَنَا۠ أَوَّلُ ٱلْمُؤْمِنِينَ
7:143 When Moses came at the appointed time and his Lord spoke to him, he said, “My Lord, show [Yourself] to me so that I might see You.” [God] said, “You can never see Me. However, behold this mountain. If it remains firm in its place, then you will see Me.” As soon as his Lord revealed His limitless glory to the mountain, He caused it to crumble to dust and Moses fell down unconscious. After he recovered, he said, “May You be exalted in Your glory! I repent! I will be the first of the believers!”
The word “لِمِيقَـٰتِنَا” is translated as “appointed time”. It is the time when I am ready to face, with full conviction the reality of my existence and the reality of who my Lord is. The Quran mentions that there are several layers of certainty that one can achieve. I can believe in God as I believe now is one layer of certainty. For example, I can experience what is going on in the universe. I can also look at myself and see that I am a created being, every single cell in me must be directly controlled by Him because the matter does not have consciousness. Nothing else is operating now but Him. I may be sure about my conclusion but still may not feel the presence of my Creator in my created life here in this world.
When my feelings feel secure about my conclusion that I am a created being, that I am very much in need of Him just like everything else in the universe, I would feel very much in peace with my Creator which would become my “appointed time to meet” with my Creator. Of course, not in physical terms. I would be ready to receive the reality of the existence of my Creator through my experience and not only through my logical conclusion. I feel within me and am sure that every cell within me is directly controlled by Him. Although I don’t see Him, or know His essence, I am sure that nothing else in the universe is taking care of me but Him, sustaining me as my Lord (Rab).
I have an appointment with my Creator when I reach the peak of my conviction, certainty in belief. Try to experience that, not by imagining God next to me such that He is encompassing me which is a false imagination. In the createdness of my being, I should concentrate deeply with my feelings as to who is changing me right now, who is keeping me in order. Although I am changing at every moment, who is doing that? I would understand that it is not an accidental happening but my Source of existence is operating on me. This is an awakening of one’s consciousness. We can ask rational questions about createdness but experience is not rational and felt with feelings as a being. I can try to experience my Creator operating on me right now.
The verse continues with the phrase “قَالَ رَبِّ أَرِنِىٓ أَنظُرْ إِلَيْكَ” translated as “My Lord, show [Yourself] to me so that I might see You” which indicates that prophet Moses was having a conversation with God. In another section of the Quran, a friendly conversation is described between prophet Moses and God as well, asking prophet Moses about his staff and what he does with it. In this verse, prophet Moses is asking to see God’s essence in this emotional engagement with God and not thinking only through reason but emotional engagement. I may feel so close to God and not think about a completely different nature of existence between myself and God to ask for something impossible. For example, by reading a book, asking the author to appear in the book. The author of the book is of a completely different nature than the book. I may feel the same thing and ask God: “show me yourself God so that I may ascertain my belief in You”. In this created world, it is impossible as I live in a manifested realm where the order of creation doesn’t change, I have to see who is operating behind the causal veils of the universe. In the next creation, we can see the qualities of God in a much better way than this world. There is a narration of the prophet (pbuh) mentioning to his companions that “You will be seeing God as you see the full moon right now”.
A simple example, in this world to grow pomegranates, I have to sow the seeds and wait. The atmosphere, sunlight and water have to be there for the plant to grow. I then wait more days for the flowers and fruits to come and then ripen. At the appropriate time of the season, the pomegranates will ripen. It seems as if the Creator of the universe is not able to create a pomegranate right now without all the wait. The descriptions of paradise mention that the fruits will be available immediately without the causal veils of this world.
The phrase “قَالَ لَن تَرَىٰنِى “ is translated as “God said, ‘You can never see Me’”. In a way stating the impossibility as a created being to see the Creator of the universe: “What do you think that an Absolute being can take on the form of a created being? You can never see Me in my essence”. The phrase includes the future tense stating that “You will never ever be able to see Me”. This means that belief is not to see or know the essence of “ghaib”; He is an Absolute being but being convinced about His existence. Knowing the necessary existence of an Absolute being has nothing to do with seeing the essence of the Absolute being. I can be certain of my conclusion by using reasoning, having a logical conclusion along with emotional confirmation which constitutes belief. The more I exercise using human tools and senses, the more I would notice improvements in degrees of belief. I would be secure in my conclusion, unless otherwise proven.
The phrase, “وَلَـٰكِنِ ٱنظُرْ إِلَى ٱلْجَبَلِ “, translated as “However, behold this mountain”, i.e. pay attention to it, take notice of it, drawing one’s attention. The phrase “فَإِنِ ٱسْتَقَرَّ مَكَانَهُ”, translated as “If it [mountain] remains firm in its place”. In a way, the Creator of the universe draws my attention “If these mountains can stand by themselves, as strong as they look, they cannot say no to My commands, they have to obey Me. You can see the demonstration of My Will on the mountain. My Will is executed and realized immediately when I Will it”. I can be certain of my Lord’s existence (not the essence). I can be certain that the Creator of the mountain is also the Creator, Sustainer and Maintainer of the World. Some scholars interpreted that we will be able to see God in the hereafter but we should understand that it means to be certain of His existence, to make sure about my belief in Him in the hereafter. I must educate myself to improve my human capacity to get ready to see clearly the manifestation of His qualities without any causal veil in the hereafter. In this world we should aim at seeing the manifestations of His qualities in the things, rather than the order of the universe acting by itself.
The phrase “فَسَوْفَ تَرَىٰنِى”, translated as “then you will see Me”. By demonstrating His will on the mountain, I can witness His manifestation of Lordship on the mountain. I must build certainty in my belief by seeing the manifestations of God which is the only way “as if to see” God. I have to experience the manifestations of the qualities in the universe to keep confirming my belief in the Absolute Being.
The verse continues with the phrase “فَلَمَّا تَجَلَّىٰ رَبُّهُۥ لِلْجَبَلِ جَعَلَهُۥ دَكًّۭا”, translated as “As soon as his Lord revealed His limitless glory to the mountain. He caused it to crumble to dust”. This indicates that I as the observer will be able to confirm His existence by observing His manifestations. Why cause the mountain to crumble? Some say that Mount Sinai is still there and has not crumbled? Should I go out and look for the remnants to verify whether this event happened or not? These things might have happened in a miraculous way. Whether it happened or not, the physical event should not affect my conclusion and certainty that the mountain cannot exist by itself or sustain its existence by itself.
The phrase “وَخَرَّ مُوسَىٰ صَعِقًۭا ۚ” is translated as “Moses fell down unconscious”. Prophet Moses fainted because of the sudden experience of the reality of his Creator’s manifestation where he lost consciousness for some time. What does it mean for me? When I realize His existence,, reach certainty of His existence by observing His manifestations in this world where I see that everything is being created as a result of His will, there cannot be any other will. Everything in the universe is encompassed by His will. How would I fall down? I would realize the necessary existence of the “Lord of the universe” and then totally submit my being to Him. I have to appreciate the meaning of “رَبَّ الْعَالَمِيْن”, “Lord of the universe” as describing “Allah”. When I don’t make any claims of anything to my existence, my existence totally submits to Him, that is the only option; there is no other option. I don’t exist independently but my existence is completely dependent on Him. This submission to my Lord is not like I live in this world and submit my being as doing something extra, but is a complete submission of my existence. Even in my situation of confirming God is nothing but everything is His creation; I realize that I own nothing, I cannot claim anything. This realization does not last long, we should try to experience this at least for a few seconds.
The verse continuous with “فَلَمَّآ أَفَاقَ” translated as “After he recovered” which can be understood as therefore when he recovered. This is our reality as we cannot live unconsciously for a long time. Thus, when prophet Moses realized God’s existence, he concluded and said: “سُبْحَـٰنَكَ تُبْتُ إِلَيْكَ”, translated as “May You be exalted in Your glory! I repent”. The glorification “سُبْحَـٰنَكَ” signifies that: You are beyond any shortcomings, nothing lacking in You, nothing at all can get in Your way, You are an Absolute Being, all praise belongs to You.
Why repent? I don’t really experience this all the time and get busy with the causal chain of events in this world, so I can only ask Him to please forgive me. “I realize that You are an Absolute Being and I can only ask You to forgive me. I do not acknowledge You as You deserve to be acknowledged.”
The phrase “وَأَنَا۠ أَوَّلُ ٱلْمُؤْمِنِينَ “, translated as “I will be the first of the believers!”. The letter “وَ” is not to indicate an addition but is my reality and can be interpreted as “while I am a believer now.” I would ask, wasn’t Moses a believer before, was there no believer in God before? Most scholars say that this phrase means that I am the foremost believer, no one can go ahead of this certainty, it is the full belief that one can reach. I would declare that “without any doubt at all, I believe in You. I am one hundred percent convinced and I cannot go beyond this capacity. You don’t have to show me your essence”.
This reminds me of the saying of Imam Ali (RA) “by seeing You, my certainty does not increase”. That is, if I see God with my eyes, my conviction to believe in God doesn’t change. That is what this verse is saying as well. For example, it is only after seeing the work of someone who claims to be a carpenter would I be convinced of the necessity of a carpenter. Seeing the carpenter standing before me does not change anything in my conviction. Here the demonstrations in the universe point to God as the Lord of the universe which I am sure of.
Tags: A'raf Series, Al-Araf, Belief, Feelings, human qualities, Life, Lord, Quran, Worship