Let us continue our study to grasp the meaning of the message of the Quran as it relates to our lives. We want to have a practical understanding of the Quran. We usually read the translations of the Quranic message in English or other languages and recite some Arabic phrases during the prayers. We may not usually study the Quran seriously, by spending even a few hours a day to understand and then practice the message while living in this world.
To summarize, in the last few verses we saw the description of prophet Moses who went on a meeting with God. Upon his return from the meeting, he saw that the people were just entertaining themselves by worshiping idols made out of their ornaments and jewelry, involved in temporary worldly enjoyment and forgetting about God as the Lord of the universe. We saw that Prophet Moses threw the tablets, i.e. stopped preaching the message. He even got angry with his brother Aaron who was responsible for taking care of the needs of people. The people didn’t listen to his brother Aaron, rebelled against him, and even tried to kill him. The people may not be much aware of the message contained in the tablets but they respected prophet Moses. They were well impressed with the miracles they witnessed created by the Lord of the universe through the hands of the prophet to convince them to take his message seriously. It is only the Lord of the universe that can change the rules and order of the universe for the purpose of miracles. The people didn’t take Aaron seriously since there was no miracle from him.
Moses later asked for forgiveness for himself and his brother. The best way to communicate with the Creator is to acknowledge one’s mistake and ask for forgiveness. By being proud of oneself as if I am doing something is very dangerous where one is making false claims for which I must seek sincere forgiveness. Asking for forgiveness has no hypocrisy in it, no claim to be proud of, but the best value a person can have for himself.
We also discussed God’s anger in the life of this world for those who invent lying. What is “to invent lying”? One meaning of the word “iftara” used in the word “ٱلْمُفْتَرِينَ” is also slandering, accusing someone with a quality that the person doesn’t have. We can see this in both human to human or human to creator relationships where anything that doesn’t tell the truth or the reality which can be determined by evidence is to invent a lie.
Do I really invent lying? If I think about something which is not true in an innocent way, it would be described as a mistake or a misunderstanding. However, denial of the truth is not a misunderstanding but inventing a lie. For example by looking at something such as a bird I can see that it has no quality in itself to act by itself. It is obvious that the thing needs something else to give it existence. Everyone has the ability to understand that if a thing exists it needs to be given existence by something else. If one decides not to submit to this truth, then this person has to invent a lie, make something up to cover it. Human consciousness cannot be stopped, I am given the free will to use or misuse it. Consciousness is given the quality to always acknowledge the Creator of the universe.
Denial is nothing but lying to yourself and to others about the truth. This slandering and lying to the truth are severely rejected in the Quran. If a person innocently doesn’t believe in God, we should not accuse them but I should be calm and kind to them because they do not lie against the Truth. I can ask them to think and reason about it but not by using or borrowing the vocabulary that is in fashion. The human spirit and consciousness cannot deny reality.
We will continue with the next few verses of section Al Araf (The Cognizant):
وَٱلَّذِينَ عَمِلُوا۟ ٱلسَّيِّـَٔاتِ ثُمَّ تَابُوا۟ مِنۢ بَعْدِهَا وَءَامَنُوٓا۟ إِنَّ رَبَّكَ مِنۢ بَعْدِهَا لَغَفُورٌۭ رَّحِيمٌۭ
7:153 As for those who do bad deeds and afterward repent and [truly] believe, your Lord is Forgiving and Merciful.
The Quran narrates a good example for us to implement in our lives. I am created with the ability to choose between two contradictory options with my free will. I have to be careful not to choose the wrong way which has a purpose and wisdom in it. My Creator wants me to come back to Him in case I may take on the wrong option. It is not that I may deliberately do something wrong but it may be a result of mistaken attitude or mistaken choice: “Oh, I made a mistake, I realize that I shouldn’t have done this, please forgive me.” Only after realizing my mistake, I should turn back to my Lord consciously and seek forgiveness from Him. Essence of repenting is a confession of one’s mistake, ultimately acknowledging the truth. That is why a genuine repentance is of great value.
If I deliberately make a mistake and ask for forgiveness, I know that doing something wrong consciously would be lying to myself and I should repent of that lying and cheating attitude as well. I should repent sincerely; not in a guaranteed way that God will definitely forgive me but in a sincere humble way.
وَلَمَّا سَكَتَ عَن مُّوسَى ٱلْغَضَبُ أَخَذَ ٱلْأَلْوَاحَ ۖ وَفِى نُسْخَتِهَا هُدًۭى وَرَحْمَةٌۭ لِّلَّذِينَ هُمْ لِرَبِّهِمْ يَرْهَبُونَ
7:154 When Moses’ anger subsided, he picked up the Tablets; there were guidance and mercy in their writings (a written copy) for those who stood in awe of their Lord.
We studied that when someone is angry with out of control feelings, he should not present the message of God to others. One has to be calm to be able to present the message of God. How can I help sincerely without being pushy, in a calmly and brotherly way: “can I advise you as a friend, as a brother?”, “would you like me to share what the prophetic example demonstrates to us”? If I have a negative attitude towards someone then I should not bother advising them on any matter.
One should never argue with someone to convey the message of God. The message has to be presented in a respectful and kind way which makes sense to others. Debates are not the way to present Islam. They involve winning over their opponent and make him look ridiculous in the eyes of the audience. To argue with someone is different from exchanging views in a human way. Competition is not the way to share the truth. I have to watch for my character and avoid arguing, only then can I present the message in a kind way. The aim to present the message is not to outsmart someone or to ridicule them in front of others. I should not show off my knowledge, understanding to the audience, demean and humiliate the opposing party.
There is an event where prophet Muhammad (pbuh) had a discussion with a Christian group of scholars that came wanting to learn Islam. Some scholars interpret this event as the group having a debate with him (pbuh). Christian theology at that time was not as corrupt as it is today therefore it was much easier to discuss matters with their understanding as they were well versed on the Christian faith. The narration doesn’t give details on what conversations happened but one can deduce that each party presented their ideas to each other. “Let’s be honest, are you completely convinced about your claim? If one is sincerely defending one’s theology then let’s ask God to curse the lying people.” The person who deliberately rejects the truth is lying to his consciousness, i.e. he is aware of the truth but out of arrogance he does not confirm it. The free choice is there to accept it or cover it up. I am free to twist the truth. In that event with the Christian scholars, no one in their party showed up to the place they had decided to meet to curse on the liars although the prophet showed up with his family.
In my practical life, I have to present my view and let the other people who do not agree with me present their views. I should listen to them and share my understanding. If they insist on their mistaken understanding which is basically lying to their human consciousness, we can pray to God to guide us. If one realizes the misunderstanding, they should ask for forgiveness; There is no room for desperation. God says that He is the one that forgives. He guarantees that if you ask sincerely and you shall receive.
The verse mentions when prophet Moses’ anger subsided, he picked up the tablets. We studied that now that he is calm, he can continue with his preaching the message in the Tablet. The verse continues with “there is guidance and mercy in their writings”. The word “نُسْخَتِهَا” is translated as “writings” which later came to be known as scrolls. For example, prophet Muhammad received the revelation of the Quran in verbal form only and afterwards they were written on the available material in their time. In this verse the word “ٱلْأَلْوَاحَ ۖ” is translated as “Tablets” that were given to prophet Moses. For us now we have the Quran as it was revealed to prophet Muhammad (pbuh) in the form of “نُسْخَتِهَا, i.e. writings to read, also called the “mushaf”. Do I have the tablets? No, I have access to the writings as “mushaf” in which I can find the written form of the revelation as originally was verbally received by the Prophet which has guidance and mercy in it. Commonly we say that I am reading the Quran while in fact we are reading the writings “نُسْخَتِهَا “of the Quran. Even if I was very close to the prophet (pbuh) when he received the Quran, do I have the tablet? No, I can only get the message from the prophet Muhammad’s (pbuh) speech coming out of his mouth and then written out by the scribes.
The difference between “nuskha” and “mushaf” which are two different words where the former is the written copy and the latter is the compiled copy. A page is known as “sahifah” in Arabic which when assembled and compiled makes the “mushaf” in the form of a book. The word “nuskha” is a transcript of an original form of a written text, in this verse “Tablets”, with somewhat similar meaning.
The verse continues with “for those who stood in awe of their Lord.” Why should I be in awe of my Lord?
If we understand God to be an Absolute being, we can understand that human beings have to fail to fully grasp the Absolute. I cannot really comprehend or encompass the Absolute but I am sure that something Absolute must exist. In describing, comprehending, having a relationship with this indescribable Absolute being, I will always fall short. I should have this understanding that I am unable to fully describe, have a relationship with my Lord as He deserves.
Being in awe of God is different from fear of God. If one claims that they do not fear God then this person sees God as an Absolutely merciful One which is awe inspiring. In the generally understood culture, fear of God is described as being frightened of God which doesn’t make sense as God is my creator and owner. I must be careful not to make a mistake in my relationship with Him, i.e. not misrepresent Him, lack in acknowledging Him which I am certainly guilty of. I have to accept my createdness and weakness to receive the guidance and mercy from the “tablets” which are the writings of God’s message conveyed via revelation to the prophets or “mushaf” as a compiled copy of the message of the Quran.
To be in awe of God is to use my potentiality to acknowledge Him. For example, “Bismillah” in simple terms means “In the name of God”. I should be more serious in reflecting on the meaning of the phrase by using my human self to realize His presence. My capacity is to be able to understand more than the translation of the phrase. Do I comprehend the essence of an Absolute God to be the Compassionate and Merciful one? No, I only can rationally acknowledge that there must be such a being. I can get some idea from the translation of the original Message of God but should know that there must be something meaningful in those phrases in how I establish my relationship with my Lord. I have to question what those phrases in the message of God mean to me. The details of the message require a good scholarship which the general public does not have. I also would be lacking there as my life is usually busy with worldly affairs leaving not much time to engage with the message of the Quran on a regular basis. I have to at least work on applying the general meaning of the message of the Quran to my life so that I can get the direction in my life.
وَٱخْتَارَ مُوسَىٰ قَوْمَهُۥ سَبْعِينَ رَجُلًۭا لِّمِيقَـٰتِنَا ۖ فَلَمَّآ أَخَذَتْهُمُ ٱلرَّجْفَةُ قَالَ رَبِّ لَوْ شِئْتَ أَهْلَكْتَهُم مِّن قَبْلُ وَإِيَّـٰىَ ۖ أَتُهْلِكُنَا بِمَا فَعَلَ ٱلسُّفَهَآءُ مِنَّآ ۖ إِنْ هِىَ إِلَّا فِتْنَتُكَ تُضِلُّ بِهَا مَن تَشَآءُ وَتَهْدِى مَن تَشَآءُ ۖ أَنتَ وَلِيُّنَا فَٱغْفِرْ لَنَا وَٱرْحَمْنَا ۖ وَأَنتَ خَيْرُ ٱلْغَـٰفِرِينَ
7:155 Moses chose seventy men for Our appointment. When they were seized with violent trembling, he prayed, “My Lord, had You willed, You would have destroyed them, and me as well. Will you destroy us for what fools among us did? This is a trial from You, whereby You allow whomever You will to go astray and guide whomever You will. You are near to us. Grant us forgiveness, and have mercy on us for You are the most forgiving of all.
We understand that God is speaking so it is His appointment. We understood the appointment with God as the peak point of my realization of God, the pinnacle of my conviction of God. Practically speaking one can understand when getting close to death where all of one’s claims end up to nothing. The creation of death is subject to the order, will of the operator of the order in the universe. At the time of death one can truly understand that someone else is operating on me and I cannot stop it from happening. I have to realize while living how everything is created, taken care of by Him. How awesome He is in his art, magnificence, his Lordship, continuously changing everything at every moment in an order. When I realize that I am His creation, how would I attempt to speak to my Lord, to communicate with Him? How would I confidentially say “Oh my Lord” as I cannot really face Him knowing that He is operating on me right now? The verse continues with “they were seized with violent trembling”. I can imagine facing some personality of high honor that I may deem as important in my life, wouldn’t I be careful in my behavior towards him, watch out what I say to this person? How about me facing my Lord, the Owner of the universe? I would be trembling in awe.
I have to check myself to see how much realization of createdness, neediness I have. Am I really appreciating my Creator as He deserves? In this life I am given a limited area to choose where I cannot choose anything that I want. The order of events operating in the universe is set by my Lord. In this school of life, the Lord is teaching me what is right and wrong. I learn from the wrong, from the mistakes to get to what is right. We may fall into the mistaken side but it is through the mistake we realize that the mistake was wrong and go to the right one.
We should not be disappointed when we fall into mistakes, not by our choices. The best way of learning is from mistakes, not the deliberate ones. That is how God has set this universe, a means for me to get education in order to train myself. I am always in a slippery area where I have to be careful just like walking on an icy road, I would be very careful not to take the wrong step which would result in a harmful fall. This nature of life is the best way to learn between the possibility of right and wrong. I should keep myself alarmed and benefit from this education. Being given the free will enables me to learn the best way of walking on the icy road even sometimes I may fall. Otherwise, I would not be careful because there is no possibility of falling and therefore I would not improve my capacities, I would remain as I am without learning anything. The one who sets up this road of life knows that on the slippery road I may fall. It is through the fall, the mistakes that the Lord, God makes it possible for me to communicate with Him by asking for His forgiveness.
The discussion continues in the following week.
Tags: A'raf Series, Al-Araf, Belief, Feelings, human qualities, Life, Lord, Quran, Worship