By May 17, 2023 Read More →

Section Al A’raf – Part 48

We saw in the previous verses of section Araf (Cognizant) that prophet Moses displayed some anger because the people, in his absence, were worshiping a cow which we interpreted as what it means for us. We cannot say that we got the whole meaning of the verses but we can say that we understood one aspect of the meaning. The interpretation makes sense in our living as we know that the message of the Quran is universal and not time and space bound. We understand that the creator of the universe is speaking with His Absolute knowledge that encompasses the past, present and the future. The message of the Quran must be applicable to me in my conditions. I am expected to read the verses as my Creator is speaking to me wherever I am.

We will continue with the following verses.

قَالَ رَبِّ ٱغْفِرْ لِى وَلِأَخِى وَأَدْخِلْنَا فِى رَحْمَتِكَ ۖ وَأَنتَ أَرْحَمُ ٱلرَّٰحِمِينَ

7:151 Moses prayed, “My Lord! Forgive me and my brother! And admit us into Your mercy. You are the Most Merciful of the merciful.”

We interpreted when prophet Moses threw away the tablets or Torah out of anger, i.e. he stopped delivering the message. In a state of anger, one cannot really think properly, behave, have control over oneself and cannot convey the message in a meaningful way. When I am angry, I may also misinterpret or confuse the meaning of the message because one is not calm and under control. When I cannot control my feelings and emotions, I should stop teaching the message of God. 

Moses had a fit with his brother Aaron and then later calmed down and asked for forgiveness. The phrase “قَالَ رَبِّ ٱغْفِرْ لِى وَلِأَخِى” is a prayer from prophet Moses translated as “My Lord! Forgive me and my brother!”. When the anger is over, I can pray to God to forgive me. I can accept my mistake of getting angry, accept the human weaknesses. I should understand that people do not have to follow me, they don’t necessarily  have to be consistent as they have their ups and downs. He understands that this is human and so asks for forgiveness for himself and his brother. Prophet Moses is realizing that his brother tried his best as well but couldn’t force people to follow the message.

Forcing anyone to a religion, way of living is against the teachings of God’s revelation. When someone leaves the religion, that needs to be understood in terms of religious rules, must be seriously analyzed depending on the hadith sources and practices which are related to Islamic jurisprudence. There is not much consensus among the scholars of jurisprudence on such rulings as they depend on the ruling administration. Everyone has their interpretation of the hadith narrations in terms of authenticity and reliability. The applicability of the rules varies based on the times one may find themselves in.  

What we learn from this verse is that when we do something wrong, when we are overcome by certain emotions, commit sins or wrongful things, we must ask for forgiveness from the most Merciful of the merciful. I declare that “You are the Most Merciful of the merciful” expressed in the phrase “وَأَنتَ أَرْحَمُ ٱلرَّٰحِمِينَ”. This statement means that You are Absolutely Merciful, You are the source of all mercy that I experience in this world. In the example of prophet Moses, he asked for forgiveness for his brother as well after realizing that his brother was not responsible for other people’s free will. His anger on his brother for not taking care of the situation was thus wrong for which he is asking for forgiveness. We should understand the human condition and should be careful in not judging others or force religion on anyone. We may be disappointed at people’s worshiping a “cow” which is meaningless, and develop anger, but this anger should be directed to worshiping any part of this created world, instead of its Creator. We need to always have a kind attitude to those who fall into falsehood and follow false ideas.

When we say that a person is full of mercy and compassion, we should understand that the person is a created being who is reflecting God’s qualities and is not the source of mercy and compassion. All created beings can reflect the qualities of mercy and compassion which we also see in animals who are merciful to their young ones. There is no merciful one in the world as they all reflect the quality of mercy but only the All merciful One can be the source of mercy and compassion. 

All good behaviors and actions of beings are the reflections of the qualities of the Absolute Being, source of those qualities. The phrase “وَأَنتَ أَرْحَمُ ٱلرَّٰحِمِينَ” is translated as “You are the most Merciful of the Merciful”. Another phrase “ٱللَّهُ أَحْسَنُ ٱلْخَـٰلِقِينَ” is used in the Quran to describe the merciful One as the Best of Creators. This doesn’t mean that there are other creators in the world and He is the best one. We cannot understand this phrase in such a way which contradicts Absoluteness. In our study of the Quran, we should understand that every part of the Quran must be understood within the whole context of the Quran. We cannot just pick a sentence out of a book and quote the author on it without seeing what the subject of the paragraph is, what the subject of the chapter is from where the sentence was picked. 


إِنَّ ٱلَّذِينَ ٱتَّخَذُوا۟ ٱلْعِجْلَ سَيَنَالُهُمْ غَضَبٌۭ مِّن رَّبِّهِمْ وَذِلَّةٌۭ فِى ٱلْحَيَوٰةِ ٱلدُّنْيَا ۚ وَكَذَٰلِكَ نَجْزِى ٱلْمُفْتَرِينَ

7:152 Those who worshiped the calf will certainly be afflicted with God’s wrath as well as disgrace in the life of this world. This is how We reward those who invent falsehood.

The calf is representing a part of this created world. Those who worship a calf means those who worship anything of this world, i.e. give it a certain value of importance such as one’s ability, social status, financial status, salary, profession, family, spouse, children, etc. One may be famous on social media and be proud of it means to be worshiping a “calf” of fame. God created me for a purpose and I am using my existence to worship something else. 

What does “God’s wrath” mean? God being angry means He is not happy because one is going away from his purpose of being created. For example, a valuable gift is given to a person and he treats it like a calf by worshiping it, giving it certain value and importance to be devoted to it. The one who gave the gift would definitely be displeased because that was not the purpose of giving the gift. As a result, one will be deprived from the happiness that they get from that gift in this world or in eternal life. 

To be afflicted with God’s anger is to be deprived from His mercy. For example, if I slaughter an animal, I cannot give life back to the animal. Another example is if I cut a tree then I will deprive myself of the fruits from that tree. We usually understand this as God’s anger that by cutting the tree, one will not be getting the fruit. For my spiritual needs, If I misuse my feelings then I will not enjoy the happiness from these feelings. By misusing those feelings, I will be suffering from the lack of those pleasant feelings which is God’s rule. God’s anger can be understood as within the order of God’s treatment of human beings, one will not enjoy life in this world and will not be given a joyful life after death. 

There may not necessarily be a physical punishment in this world. We understand this world to be a training ground for our education. The more we attend the class of this universe and learn, the better we become. Otherwise, we will remain in ignorance. The school of the universe is a place of learning, by not learning we remain ignorant and will not get a passing degree at the end.

The phrase “وَذِلَّةٌۭ فِى ٱلْحَيَوٰةِ ٱلدُّنْيَا ۚ” is translated as “disgrace in the life of this world” which specifically mentions this world. Whenever the description of paradise and hell is described in the Quran, most of these narrations are described in terms of the next life, i.e. in the hereafter. However, the Quran speaks to me now; I have to understand them as relevant to my living conditions right now. Even though descriptions mention them to happen in paradise or hell, I am in need of guidance in my life now. This verse explicitly mentions the life in this world mentioning the disgrace to happen in this life. There is an implication to the next life as well as the Quran has many warnings on the consequence of this life in the next world. 

I have to check myself on how I take this news of the Quran in my life. If I deny the Creator of the universe and attribute creation to other things in the universe such as to nature, a thing happens to be existing by itself, accidental or to oneself then we are worshiping our “calf”. For example, when I say that I am taking care of my child since I bring food, clothes, take care of them, take them to the doctors, pay for their education, etc. I may forget about God and may turn blind to this aspect of the matter. I may take the false sense of pride to be a good person, and become arrogant that I am doing all this for my child, my family so they should obey me rather than obeying and thanking God to create the things the family needs, but they may thank me for bringing them home. All the burden is taken on the shoulders of the parents in taking care of their child. There is a lot of sensitivity in the upbringing of the child. Anything happens to the child, one becomes panicky. I should learn that I have to take care of the child in the name of God who has hardwired in my creation to take care of my family, not in my name as I cannot guarantee anything. If I think that I am doing everything then I cannot enjoy the trust in the Absolute Lord of the universe who is taking care of everything.

Many take pleasures in working, doing a service to someone, volunteering and performing humanitarian activities. I may enjoy doing all this but not enjoy the pleasure of God’s infinite mercy, His taking care of everything, allowing for all these things to happen. Usually I may take the ownership of the feelings and emotions within me. I may never see that the feelings are given to me by the Absolute Merciful one. We deprive ourselves from the pleasure of being satisfied with how my Creator has given me the pleasure in what I am doing, such as raising my child. If we do not recognize that all of these feelings are given to us by Him, then all our doing good will become in our eyes only enjoyable until we die and then they will become nothing, so meaningless in our eyes while we are doing them here on earth. We cannot kill our consciousness.

The Quran beautifully describes in a few sections on who is really taking care of things such as in the few verses of section “Qiyama” and “Waqia”. If I own anything, my own life or that of a child, in desperation of the last breath of a loved one I would be looking for anyone who can save my loved one. I would be looking for someone as I cannot do anything. The Quran mentions “who is taking care of you? Who will save you?” The verses describe the situation when death comes, God says that you cannot do anything now. Turn yourself back to life! The verse (75:3) says that “Do people think We cannot reassemble their bones?”  “You denied Me as the life and death giver in this order of creation, bring yourself to life then.” When I deny the reality, that the universe is taken care of by the Lord of the universe then I will start feeling that I am existing by myself. I would feel helpless as death could come at any time. Any pleasure that I get is not much pleasure. I can attempt to postpone death but eventually death will be given. How can one continue living under this situation that doesn’t consider the Lord of the universe and turns everything into a meaningless, purposeless existence?

That is why disgrace in the life of this world is mentioned, which is very experiential, i.e. on what base am I living in this world? All the description of paradise and hell must be applicable to me now where I can imagine that if I rebel against God by saying there is no owner, no creator, no conscious being who has given me all the human qualities then my life would be hellish while living here whereas acknowledging Him and feeling His presence in everything puts me in somewhat paradisiacal state here. 

The phrase “ ٱلْمُفْتَرِينَ” is translated as “Invent falsehood”. To invent falsehood means to insult and lie about the reality of this world. There is no evidence that anything can be the source of existence as everything is subject to the order of the Creator. Matter exists within the order of the universe; how can something which is part of the order, develop the order? This is completely irrational reasoning. Unfortunately, nowadays people may fall into the tricky language being used in the mainstream. For example, a science book says that without sunlight, the plant cannot grow so the sunlight makes the plant grow. The light from the sun has no quality to be the source of life. The sun along with everything in the universe follows the order in creation established by the conscious Lord of the universe; they follow His will.


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