By May 12, 2023 Read More →

Section Al A’raf – Part 47

We will continue with the study of section Araf (Cognizant) of the Quran. Previously we had looked into the verses describing the story of Moses and the children of Israel who had gone astray in his absence. We discussed in the previous sessions what Moses’ meeting with God meant, what the children of Israel worshiping a cow meant and how we may also be worshiping our version of the “cow” in our living situation and conditions. 

For us now the prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is not physically present with us and we have the message of the Quran which was revealed 1450 years ago. When it was revealed to the first generation, it detailed the application of the message to their conditions and practical living. It transformed the pagan society into the most civilized people over the course of 23 years. The city of Mecca was unknown and became the center of the world where the message conquered the hearts of people.

For me now, the same message is there where God tells me on how to live in this life according to the conditions that I am in. The message must be applicable to me now and I should take it seriously to transform me as an individual on the right path. 

Let’s look into the next verse:

وَلَمَّا رَجَعَ مُوسَىٰٓ إِلَىٰ قَوْمِهِۦ غَضْبَـٰنَ أَسِفًۭا قَالَ بِئْسَمَا خَلَفْتُمُونِى مِنۢ بَعْدِىٓ ۖ أَعَجِلْتُمْ أَمْرَ رَبِّكُمْ ۖ وَأَلْقَى ٱلْأَلْوَاحَ وَأَخَذَ بِرَأْسِ أَخِيهِ يَجُرُّهُۥٓ إِلَيْهِ ۚ قَالَ ٱبْنَ أُمَّ إِنَّ ٱلْقَوْمَ ٱسْتَضْعَفُونِى وَكَادُوا۟ يَقْتُلُونَنِى فَلَا تُشْمِتْ بِىَ ٱلْأَعْدَآءَ وَلَا تَجْعَلْنِى مَعَ ٱلْقَوْمِ ٱلظَّـٰلِمِينَ

7:150 When Moses returned to his people, angry and grieved, he exclaimed, “You have followed a foul and evil course in my absence! Have you abandoned your Lord’s commandments?” He threw down the Tablets and seized his brother by the head, dragging him. Aaron cried, “Son of my mother! These people overpowered me and almost killed me! Do not let my enemies rejoice at my suffering, and do not count me among the unjust people.”

The words “غَضْبَـٰنَ أَسِفًۭا” translated as “angry and grieved”. Why? In the absence of prophet Moses, the children of Israel went back to their old habits, culture and being ignorant to the reality of this world. They started following what prophet Moses had been trying to eradicate. Prophet Moses had performed many miracles in front of them so they knew that he was employed by God. However, as soon as he was absent, people resorted to their old ways to what may be seen as worshiping idols. I may think that it is not applicable to me now but I may do the same thing to find my own way, my own God. The Quran describes “idol” as the need of human beings to follow something. Human beings are always looking for something to admire, follow something that grabs attention with the likelihood of making them as their “idols”. For example, the major idol for the last few centuries is “nature” as to be the source of existence and livelihood. The prophets are sent to remind them what can be the source of existence and who can be the one that the human beings attribute existence to.  Who can human beings  be thankful for what He has provided for them what they need for their livelihood.

The prophet Moses came back and became angry at the situation which is very human. For example, if I educate and train someone to become aware of the truth and he starts practicing it. When I leave this person for a while and later come back and see that all that teaching has gone down the drain, this person went back to his old habits, I would be furious and disappointed as well. When we see any sort of injustice happening, doesn’t that make us feel disappointed and angry at the injustices being committed? It is very human to be angry and to try to do something to correct it. The sense of anger is given to us in order to reject the injustices, wrong interpretations, misrepresentations of the truths, wrongful acts that are happening. The Quran mentions not to get angry for one’s self-centered interests, to satisfy one’s ego but must be used to counter something that is not right. We have to feel grieved when something is wrong. I have to be concerned and try to correct it. Otherwise, being indifferent is not human and doesn’t help anyone. The senses are necessary for a human being to be exercised appropriately. 

We hear from other verses in the Quran about God’s “wrath”. What kind of God is He who gets angry? On the contrary, God is teaching me that the sense of anger in you is from Him. I have to use this sense in the way that He teaches me it should be used. The Quran describes that the wrath of God is on the people who deviate from the truth, deny the truth and deny the guidance presented by God to them. God is demonstrating that “I will have to take action against your misguidance and turn your direction in the right way “. This is to teach human beings that they should use the feeling of anger in a positive way to correct the direction towards the truth. The feeling should not be used for a selfish purpose such as to defend myself when someone insults me but to counter misguidance when the truth is rejected. Self defense is another matter, it is related to bodily attacks. This sense of anger is given to me by God and is showing me how to use it in the example of prophet Moses. 

When people start causing injustices, insulting creation, misinterpreting it in a negative way, using their power to manipulate and cheat others, we have to react and try to correct the situation by whatever means is available to us. When the situation gets drastic where people go towards misguidance, creation is seen as meaningless and thus insulting it, not seeing creation as having an owner then a prophet is sent by God to help people find the right way and better their lives; to direct people to establish justice and live in a peaceful just society. The prophetic message is supposed to give meaning to my life. I would experience peace and comfort in my life when I am happy and thankful to the Creator of the universe. This guidance and sending of a prophet are the signs of a loving God. However, when people deny the prophet and do not follow his guidance, then God must take some action to address the situation which is what God’s wrath would entail to make people realize their misguidance to allow them to take the correct path.

For example, what do societies do to punish people, they are put into prison or in extreme cases executed. Is it approvable by anyone to say that I am loving,  just act in a court and not punish anyone even when they do wrong? When someone is oppressive and violating the rights of others, everyone will scream to stop this individual, that he needs to be punished for what he has done.  

The verse continues with the phrase “قَالَ بِئْسَمَا خَلَفْتُمُونِى مِنۢ بَعْدِىٓ ۖ” translated as “You have followed a foul and evil course in my absence!”. How can I apply this to my life, I am not Aaron, I am not the brother of the prophet? The word “khalifa”, as in “after me” to represent the message. Although the translation says “in my absence”, we should see the usage of “khalifa” here as someone having responsibility after the prophet to represent his message. That means, I also have this huge responsibility to propagate the prophetic message. How is that? We know that the prophet Muhammad (pbuh) came with the message which was presented to us. We agreed to it and are happy with it. However, a lot of wrongful things are going on in this world, people commit crimes of injustices, for example by exploiting weak beings. That is the practical application and we must work on addressing and correcting such injustices. That is why people try to protect the environment, animal and plant lives and the rivers, oceans etc. The real injustice is related to not acting justly towards God, the Creator of the universe, i.e. by not acknowledging Him as the Creator of the universe.  

For example, if someone comes to my house and says that it is his house. He then says that I should go away. What would I do? That is what we may do with the universe. The universe belongs to its Creator and I may regard the universe as not having an owner and use it in any way that I want. God says that “I have to take action to teach you that what you are doing is wrong. You will be completely deprived of My mercy”. Denial of the owner of the universe is the biggest crime one can do. That is why God says that since you denied my Lordship, Ownership, and thought the food exists by itself, all the things in the universe exist by themselves, call upon them to come into existence by themselves to serve you, I am not going to serve you any more when I resurrect you to establish My final judgment. That is what hell would be, being deprived of God’s mercy which is pure justice for someone who denies His ownership.  

I thus have to see that I can represent Aaron as the brother or “khalifa” to the message of prophet Muhammad (pbuh) in my case. I can follow along his path to represent the message to those who are hungry to add meaning to their lives. I have to look at my position and take action on how I represent the Quran. When prophet Moses says: “Have you abandoned your Lord’s commandments?”, I can see that applicable to me as “Have I abandoned the message of the Quran?” Do I study it seriously, learn what it teaches and apply it in my life to be called a Muslim?

The phrase “وَأَلْقَى ٱلْأَلْوَاحَ” is translated as “He threw down the Tablets”. He left the tablets alone, why? While I am angry, disappointed, I should not try to teach revelation to people. It does not mean to abandon guidance from God. When one is angry, one cannot control their feelings and argue in the best way. I should not get engaged into any dispute or discordance to rouse anger. It is only when I am calm that I can convey revelation to others. In this example, we see that prophet Moses leaves the tablet (the message) while in a state of anger and grief. Later in the verses we will see that the tablets get picked up and the revelation is taught to people calmly. The Quran mentions to call people to the truth with the best of tongue and language (20: 44) Another verse in the Quran says that “if they say or do something wrong, respond with something better” (Qur’an, 41: 34). 

When Moses grabbed Aaron’s head, to express his real feelings, Aaron replied with the phrase “قَالَ ٱبْنَ أُمَّ”, that we are not strangers to each other, we are from the same mother, we are brothers. Why is this expression used here? We saw a similar expression in the life of prophet Muhammad (pbuh). In a war condition, the prophet declared that “I am the son of Abu Talib.” He announced that “O people, Abu Talib is your leader and I am his son”. After that he says that “I am the prophet of God”.  This was during war conditions when people started running away from him, leaving him alone in the battlefield. He exclaimed “O muhajir” or “O Ansar” to establish physical connection with the people.

Aaron further continues “ إِنَّ ٱلْقَوْمَ ٱسْتَضْعَفُونِى وَكَادُوا۟ يَقْتُلُونَنِى” translated as “These people overpowered me and almost killed me!” implying that he tried his best and the people still opposed him. We notice in prophetic stories that some of the prophets are taken out of their communities and saved. Only after that the denying communities are all destroyed. Since Aaron was still representing the message, he was not killed by the people who loved to go back to their old customs. That’s what we do when we diverge away from the teachings of the Quran, we go back to our previous culture which becomes our comfort zone.

The phrase “فَلَا تُشْمِتْ بِىَ ٱلْأَعْدَآءَ ” is translated as “Do not let my enemies rejoice at my suffering”. If we fight between ourselves because of our mistakes, the deniers rejoice at that. For example, some like to bring up the conflict between Shia and Sunni based on the historical conflict between two different groups of people. There was a political aspect where one takes one side or the other. There are many arguments in the political arena but they are not related to the essence of the teachings of Islam. For these petty matters we should not forget our main purpose of the teachings of Islam. We read and study the same Quran with the fundamentals being to believe in God. We should calm down and not accuse each other which pleases the enemies of the truth. 

Another example of what people love to bring into attention are the inheritance laws. These rules only apply to people having God consciousness. It cannot be applied to people who do not recognize God or the people living in secular societies. The rules in the Quran work perfectly for the believers having God consciousness.

Another example is when the Quran mentions stealing is wrong. I don’t need revelation to teach me that I should not steal. The Quran mentions not to steal because one may not be acknowledging the ownership and will of the Creator, not only the rights of the other person. I am not stealing because I acknowledge God as the owner which is God consciousness. A secular person would not steal by acknowledging the ownership of the human owner of the property in this life, with no relation to God. The focal point is completely different between the two. One is completely focusing on man to man relationship while the Quran is focusing on man to God relationship. The purpose of the Quran is for a permanent life, not a transient life. If God assigns the usage of His property to a particular person, according to the Qur’an we have to respect his right to use the property given to him. In this way we acknowledge that his right is given to him by God, and thus we acknowledge the real Owner of the property. 

For example, I may have some property but I should know that I am not the real owner of that property which has been given to me by Him to serve me. God consciousness is to acknowledge who is the real owner of the property. 

The phrase “وَلَا تَجْعَلْنِى مَعَ ٱلْقَوْمِ ٱلظَّـٰلِمِينَ” is translated as “and do not count me among the unjust people”. Aaron is saying that the people were ready to kill him for speaking the truth, teaching the truth and establishing justice. He is saying that “I cannot be considered among those unjust people as I withdrew from them.


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