By July 21, 2023 Read More →

Section Al A’raf – Part 53

We will continue our study of section Al-Araf (the cognizant) from the Quran with the following verse:


وَٱكْتُبْ لَنَا فِى هَـٰذِهِ ٱلدُّنْيَا حَسَنَةًۭ وَفِى ٱلْـَٔاخِرَةِ إِنَّا هُدْنَآ إِلَيْكَ ۚ قَالَ عَذَابِىٓ أُصِيبُ بِهِۦ مَنْ أَشَآءُ ۖ وَرَحْمَتِى وَسِعَتْ كُلَّ شَىْءٍۢ ۚ فَسَأَكْتُبُهَا لِلَّذِينَ يَتَّقُونَ وَيُؤْتُونَ ٱلزَّكَوٰةَ وَٱلَّذِينَ هُم بِـَٔايَـٰتِنَا يُؤْمِنُونَ

7:156 Grant us good things in this world and in the life to come. We have turned to You in repentance.” [God] answered, “I will punish whomever I will, but My mercy encompasses everything. I grant it to those who are mindful of Me, contribute towards betterment [giving in charity (zakat), purifying dirt of disbelief], and who believe in Our messages;

In order to benefit from the teachings of this verse, we will go phrase by phrase and see how this verse applies to me right now in my living conditions. 

The phrase “وَٱكْتُبْ لَنَا فِى هَـٰذِهِ ٱلدُّنْيَا حَسَنَةًۭ وَفِى ٱلْـَٔاخِرَةِ ۚ” is translated as “Grant us good things in this world and in the life to come”. We are given this sense to seek good in our life here. It is very human to expect a better life, a better living standard in this temporary world including our bodily life as well as in the eternal life to come. Knowing this world to be temporary does not mean that I don’t want to have a good life here that satisfies my feelings and spirit. I ask my Creator that since You created me in this world within certain living conditions, have given me this feeling to have good, and I see that your mercy, knowledge, power and will are Infinite so give me good things in this world as well. To ask for a good life in the life after death means to have satisfied feelings for my spiritual side here in this world. My spiritual satisfaction in this world demonstrates that the desire for the eternal satisfaction of my feelings will definitely be realized.

I have to educate and exercise for happy and satisfied feelings while I am living here. If I am not happy in my life either bodily or spiritually, I cannot be happy with my Creator. If I am not happy in my feelings, unhappy in my spiritual world, I would not be able to worship Him as much as I should. I have to ask my Creator to grant me a better life in my spiritual world, in my feelings, intelligence and understanding as well. The result of this satisfaction of feelings leads me to be happy with my Creator and I can be thankful to Him. In the next world, I would be rewarded according to the relationship that I have established with my God while living in this world.

If I am unhappy with my Creator, I am unhappy with my life in this world both bodily and spiritually, I cannot sincerely be thankful to my Creator in this world. If I do not receive happiness and spiritual satisfaction with my Creator in this life, how could I expect anything from my Creator in the next life as He promises in His speech that He entertains his worshiping beings in paradise? 

We ask God for good in this world both verbally and physically according to our living conditions. I have to keep my balance as to how much time I spend on my bodily happiness, worldly happiness and how much of it is spent on my spiritual happiness in this world. The spiritual side is my connection to my Creator, where my feelings of happiness are given to establish my relationship of thankfulness to my Creator. If I am not happy on my bodily side, I can interpret this unhappiness as something temporary in my life here and not that important. However, I cannot do the same for my spiritual side which is the means to my eternal life and is important.

My spiritual side needs much more attention and longer time to concentrate and work on. The spiritual satisfaction has no limitation where the feelings must be satisfied with the Creator of the universe. My feelings being satisfied has no end as the Creator’s power has no end. One may say that I am happy with whatever God is blessing me with so I don’t necessarily need to ask God. However, this verse is teaching us that we have to ask God to give good things to us. I have to do my duty of asking God for a better life whereas whatever God gives is His duty and I should not criticize His decision because whatever we receive is given to us freely from the Mercy of God and I have to be satisfied spiritually with Him. 

We have turned to You in repentance where the word “هُدْنَآ” is used. It is not to be confused with the word “huda”, translated as “guidance” which do not have the same root letters. The word has something to do with “haada”, from which the word “yahud” is driven, those who believe in “Yahweh”, i.e. they identify themselves as those who turn to God with repentance. So, what does this have to do with the earlier phrase of asking God for good in this world and the next?

We should understand that whatever we do in terms of receiving God’s grace is not enough. We are aware of our shortcomings and mistakes. Therefore, we must turn to God in repentance.

The phrase “قَالَ عَذَابِىٓ أُصِيبُ بِهِ مَنْ أَشَآءُ” is translated as “God answered, ‘I punish whoever I will’ “. This looks like a very arbitrary answer to the prayer of receiving good things and turning to God in repentance. We know that the Creator of the universe must have absolute free will but He should not will anything nonsensical, with no wisdom, with injustice and having no mercy. On the contrary everything I observe shows signs of wisdom, according to justice in the way beings deserve to exist. His punishing whom He wills must then be according to His justice and wisdom as well. We should remember and see in our interactions, while living in the universe, that this God is just, wise, merciful having absolute free will. 

The following phrase is “  وَرَحْمَتِى وَسِعَتْ كُلَّ شَىْءٍۢ” translated as “but My mercy encompasses everything”. God is telling me that “Don’t forget that I have absolute free will and I know what to give to you. I know whether I have to accept your repentance or not. Whether it is a sincere repentance or a simple lip service. I decide according to my mercy, justice and wisdom. No one can prevent Me from choosing whatever I want. “ 

This mentioning of mercy is an interesting phrase to follow immediately after mentioning punishment to those that deserve it. We experience while living here that there are things which please us and there are things which we don’t like. God reminds me that in the hereafter He will reward good and honest people with paradise and will punish dishonest people, ungrateful ones, arrogant ones, those who reject the truth, rebellious ones who are described to be those of hell. However, alongside the description of punishment and hell, God says that my mercy encompasses everything. Whatever God creates whether we like it or not, we should try to see God’s mercy in it as this verse teaches us that we will see it. For example, pain is given out of mercy to make me realize my reality. I am completely dependent on the One who controls the whole universe. We need pain not in the form of punishment but to let me realize what my reality is so that I do not become arrogant by claiming that I am young and healthy, that I can guarantee my life by myself. I realize that I am given pain to realize that I am needy, I am not the one who controls my being. We have to see mercy in the creation of everything. This life on earth is for the purpose of education: I need to learn my reality, how I should behave, how I should control my feelings, desires, etc. In this training I will be given a few things and deprived of other things so that I know where I stand. 

Have we ever thought that the creation of death is out of mercy? Death is the indication that this life is transient. It is the best way to understand why I am here. If there was no death, I would never question my life on earth. It is only through the creation of death that I don’t take life for granted. It is through the creation of old age and death that I would ask questions on my purpose of life. I thus take my life seriously and question, what do I do with the life given to me freely; what is the point of living in this world? I find myself in an arranged, consciously chosen life span where I am given life as a baby, young person, an old person and then die. Who is doing this? It is only possible to question all this with the existence of death. I will need to get to know who is my Owner, who is the One who puts me in this journey of life. I understand that I don’t own myself, my life is given for a purpose. I have to be careful with my life as it is transient in this world and purposeful. I must take my education in this world seriously. If life just continued in this world without interruption then I would not need to have anything to learn. For example, a student is in a school and it just continues with no end. What motivation is there for the student to learn? The reality of our life in this world is that it has a beginning and an end. The school also has an end where I know that I need to learn, be educated because I will graduate one day. I need to have learnt to be able to use it for life after graduation. I realize the value of learning by knowing that graduation will happen. Death is the graduation from the school of this worldly life. Through this graduation or death I will appreciate the value of learning in my living here. I am here in this world for a duty. We have to be happy in the creation of death and happy that God created us in this life with the creation of death. 

Can I see any mercy in the creation of hell? First of all, we have to understand experiencing hell while we are in this world before dying. Hell represents denying the truth, telling lies, not using my feelings in the right way, being arrogant. For example, when I transgress the rights of other people I feel that I am doing something wrong which is the feeling of hell within me. As a result of my wrong choices, I suffer from spiritual pain where the negative feelings are given and that is experiencing the existence of hell in this world. These feelings let me know that I am doing something wrong which I should not be doing. I have to correct myself by the help of the psychological pain I receive from denying the truth which is causing me pain. 

The revelation informs us that this pain will also be experienced in physical form as well. If I don’t have any feelings, am unconscious of what I am doing, like being in anesthesia where I don’t feel anything then I wouldn’t know what I am doing is right or wrong. My spiritual side, which includes feelings, experiences pleasure and pain in this world. Although my body also experiences pleasure and pain, it is through the feelings that my body reacts. The physical description of hell should be understood as a result of the pain experienced through feelings and consciousness in the life of this world. The Quran describes the physical punishment but we experience the pain through our consciousness, awareness and feelings while living in this world.

All my wrongful choices, arrogance, wrongful claims such as that I am not created, do not have a Creator, I have no responsibility in my creation and just declare independence in my creation, I just exist by myself. Such claims would give me uncomfortable feelings as I would be denying the truth. These created feelings are a blessing to let me know that I have done something wrong. If I am not given the feeling of having done something wrong, I wouldn’t realize the truth.

Hell is the place where I will experience physically what I have done wrong while living in this world. I will realize that what I had chosen was wrong. Realizing my mistakes is a good thing. Hell is the place where I realize my mistakes which is a good thing for me to know. Hell is thus out of His mercy to teach me what I have done was wrong. For example, someone pushing me aggressively so that a fast running car doesn’t hit me is doing me a favor and I should be pleased that this person saved me by pushing me. We are created to feel happy when we learn our mistakes. Hell is where the rust of human corruption, denial, deceit is removed and the real humanity is saved. According to the prophetic narration which states that a person having even a grain of good in his heart would be taken out of hell and placed in paradise. That means after going through the cleansing in hell, the person becomes a candidate for paradise, the good part of humanity would be saved and rewarded.

The phrase “فَسَأَكْتُبُهَا لِلَّذِينَ يَتَّقُونَ” is translated as “I grant [My mercy] to those who are mindful, i.e. conscious of Me.” That is, they accept My reality that I am their Creator and them being created. The next phrase is “وَيُؤْتُونَ ٱلزَّكَوٰةَ” which is translated as “contribute towards betterment [zakat: purifying the dirt of disbelief]”. The Contribution towards betterment is what “zakat” implies, which is to purify oneself from the dirt of disbelief. When this verse was revealed during the 9th year of the prophetic mission, “zakat” as a ritual had not been mandated on the believers. The root letters of the term “zakat” have something to do with purification. Another term is “tazkiya” which also implies purification. In the later verses the message came to give “zakat” out of one’s property to purify it by honoring the rights of poor needy people. For example, honoring the rights of poor people financially cleans my property. In this verse the usage of “zakat” primarily implies the purification of our belief from the wrongful understandings, behavior and activities, at the same time encourages the believers to contribute to charitable activities. 

The phrase “بِـَٔايَـٰتِنَا يُؤْمِنُونَ” translated as “believe in God’s message” which is understanding the meaning of the message and confirming the truthfulness of the message. God treats mercifully those who believe in His message. The word “ayat” can be understood in both ways, i.e. It can be the verse of the Quran and, at the same, referring to the act in creation where each act is a message. It is much easier to confirm the meaning in the acts of creation as we understand that the things cannot come into existence by themselves and thus need a Creator to bring them into existence. The qualities of the thing that I am taking as a sign cannot belong to itself but must be given existence by their Creator showing that only the One who gives existence to the rest of the universe can give existence to that particular thing. When studying the verses of the Quran I have to understand that only the creator of the universe can guide me with clarity where He speaks to my reality and my feelings can confirm it comfortably. 

Let’s try to briefly understand the following verse on the parts which were not covered from the earlier verses where we touched on the prophets being “unlettered”.

قُلْ يَـٰٓأَيُّهَا ٱلنَّاسُ إِنِّى رَسُولُ ٱللَّهِ إِلَيْكُمْ جَمِيعًا ٱلَّذِى لَهُۥ مُلْكُ ٱلسَّمَـٰوَٰتِ وَٱلْأَرْضِ ۖ لَآ إِلَـٰهَ إِلَّا هُوَ يُحْىِۦ وَيُمِيتُ ۖ فَـَٔامِنُوا۟ بِٱللَّهِ وَرَسُولِهِ ٱلنَّبِىِّ ٱلْأُمِّىِّ ٱلَّذِى يُؤْمِنُ بِٱللَّهِ وَكَلِمَـٰتِهِۦ وَٱتَّبِعُوهُ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَهْتَدُونَ

7:158 Say [Muhammad], “O people, I am the Messenger of God to all, from Him who has control over the heavens and the earth. There is no deity but Him. He [alone] gives life and causes death.” Believe in God and His Messenger, the unlettered Prophet who himself believes in God and His words. Follow him, so that you may find guidance.

The verse is first of all addressing the prophet and then me so that I may get the lesson from it as well. The phrase “إِنِّى رَسُولُ ٱللَّهِ إِلَيْكُمْ جَمِيعًا” is translated as “I am the Messenger of God to all”. Saying that the Quran is the message to all people is not enough and needs explanation. We have to read the Quran as speaking to us in all types of conditions and all types of human realities. It is addressing all kinds of human characters with different living conditions. For example, I may be going through a different psychological situation than my friend in another city and we both are addressed by the message of the Quran according to our situations.

The phrase “ٱلَّذِى لَهُۥ مُلْكُ ٱلسَّمَـٰوَٰتِ وَٱلْأَرْضِ” is translated as “from Him who has control over the heavens and the earth”. This God is such that you cannot find any source of existence, any agent who can create anything but He, the Lord of the universe. The phrase “لَآ إِلَـٰهَ إِلَّا هُوَ يُحْىِۦ وَيُمِيتُ” translated as “There is no deity but Him. He [alone] gives life and causes death.” He is the one that starts the existence of everything and causes their end. Every single being has a beginning and an end where He decides about it. He is the one that gives life and the one that gives death. No one can operate or interfere to give existence to anything other than the creator of the universe. For example, if I say that by cutting a tree I am giving death to it, I should notice that what I did was nothing but asking the creator of the universe to end the life of the tree because I cannot give death to the tree in anyway I prefer but I have to obey the order of the universe which is established by the Will of the Creator. I am asking for permission using my given free will. I should know that I am not the creator of the death of the tree. 

The phrase “ٱلنَّبِىِّ ٱلْأُمِّىِّ ٱلَّذِى يُؤْمِنُ بِٱللَّهِ وَكَلِمَـٰتِهِۦ” translated as “the unlettered Prophet who himself believes in God and His words.” What is the meaning of “This prophet believes himself in God and His words.” Being a prophet doesn’t mean that he is exempted from being responsible for belief. The prophet is also responsible to confirm the message he receives from angel Gabriel, convey that the message is not from his knowledge, i.e. he was careful not to confuse what God teaches him and what he learns and knows. The prophets are under strict control whether they are following the message that they receive from God or not. We don’t have any example of a prophet that received the message but did not follow it. An important characteristic of the prophets is that they follow the message that they receive. 

In the phrase “وَٱتَّبِعُوهُ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَهْتَدُونَ” translated as “Follow him, so that you may find guidance.” We are asked to follow the prophet because he is following God. When I follow the prophet through his exemplary life, I am in fact following God who has educated and prepared him and thus receiving His guidance. I cannot directly follow God who is an Absolute Being. I am expected to believe in Him, obey Him, believe in His message but I cannot follow Him except by following the exemplary life of the prophet of God who himself follows what God ordered him to do and presents it to mankind. 


Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Post a Comment