By July 29, 2023 Read More →

Section Al A’raf – Part 54

We will continue our study of section Al-Araf (the cognizant) from the Quran and relate it to our lives. The last few verses we studied mentioned the story of prophet Moses. We saw how the verses related to us in our living conditions. We looked at what the 12 tribes seeking water meant. We interpreted the varying tribes as every type of social structure, every kind of people being given their water (guidance) where their need is satisfied as far as the purpose of the mission of the Quran is concerned. 

The mission of the Quran is to teach what the source of existence of human beings is and what is man’s purpose in living. What are we supposed to do here in this life that we are given? Why are we here? Where are we going? The Quran provides answers to these human questions in the form of guidance according to our living conditions and needs. We should try to read the examples of the prophets in the Quran by understanding the principles so that we can apply them to our living conditions. The Quran promises that it will provide satisfactory guidance according to my human needs. 

The Quran gives the example of the miracle of prophet Moses where he struck his staff on a rock and water gushed out of that rock. We understand that God creates very important, delicate creatures out of something that doesn’t seem possible. We should understand this miracle of Moses alongside with other verses. For example, a verse mentions that “Your hearts became so hard that even rocks gush out water.” This tells me: “How hard hearted can I be to not take any lesson from the revelation of God?” The rock can be the source of grace of God so we should not lose our hope from God’s grace in any case. We should learn to put our trust in God’s grace. He can create anything out of anything, what we cannot imagine. 

Another delicate human analysis is in the next few verses. Simply reading them for the story does not have much benefit but relating it to our lives is beneficial to our receiving guidance:

وَإِذْ قِيلَ لَهُمُ ٱسْكُنُوا۟ هَـٰذِهِ ٱلْقَرْيَةَ وَكُلُوا۟ مِنْهَا حَيْثُ شِئْتُمْ وَقُولُوا۟ حِطَّةٌۭ وَٱدْخُلُوا۟ ٱلْبَابَ سُجَّدًۭا نَّغْفِرْ لَكُمْ خَطِيٓـَٔـٰتِكُمْ ۚ سَنَزِيدُ ٱلْمُحْسِنِينَ

7:161 When they were told, “Enter this town and eat freely there as you will, but say, “Relieve us!” and enter its gate humbly: then We shall forgive you your sins, and increase the reward of those who do good.’

The word “حِطَّةٌۭ”, translated as “Relieve us” has been interpreted in many ways where the majority agreed to understand this as “Relieve us” because of the context of forgiveness in the verse. It is to ask God to relieve us from the burden of our sins. The verse starts with “they were told”, it is not only the Quran that tells me but my physical reality also tells me. Here I am in this world and my Creator tells me “Enter this town. Welcome, this is your home.” Wherever I am living is my home. The one who created me has invited me here so that I benefit from what is created freely. I have to pay attention to the creation of the things provided to me since my birth. 

For example, the mother’s milk is provided, arranged for the baby. The mother does not pay anything for the milk in her breasts, it is created freely. As the baby grows, many other people are employed to serve the child, look after the child’s needs. The feeling is given to take care of the young and needy ones by the Lord of the universe. The one who is the Lord of the universe is employing them, providing for the needy ones. That is why God is saying in the verse “eat freely there as you will”. He provides everything for me that I need. All the essential things that I need in my life are already created, readily available to me.  We may say that I paid for the food but the creation side of the things is completely free. I paid for the transportation, labor, storage, marketing but not for the creation. The artificial side is costly but the essential side of the things which is its creation is free, God does not ask for anything for what He creates. Another example is that a farmer may say that I worked to grow the crops but the creational side of the seed, water, air, soil and crops is completely freely given. Rather than complaining about the costs, we have to be thankful to God for what we are benefitting from. That is why the phrase continues with “but say, “Relieve us!”, i.e. relieve us from the burden of our sins, the misconceptions we construe about our reality because we keep complaining by only looking at the artificial side of things and not the creational side which is completely free. 

We should be thankful to God for the creation which didn’t cost anything to me. We usually get lost into the causal world and ignore God in our lives. Let’s imagine if the creator wanted the price for it, how are we going to pay? I have to check myself what my complaints are about, usually the difficulties I am facing in my living, never seeing the creation of everything is provided freely to me.

The verse continues with “وَٱدْخُلُوا۟ ٱلْبَابَ سُجَّدًۭا” translated as “enter its gate humbly”. We are asked to be in this town of the universe, whatever stage of life we are in, wherever we find ourselves to be in, to be humble. This phrase is very much talking about me where I am negligent of the blessings of God on me. The baby stage is usually passed humbly where the baby cannot take care of itself and is in need. However, as the baby grows, the situation starts changing. The Quran speaks to people that are at the age of maturity so I have to examine “entering its gate” to mean as the stage that I find myself in as a responsible individual. We can examine the gate of our youth in our lives where we are not usually humble. We think we are strong and energetic by ourselves, challenge pretty much everyone, giving the impression that I know more than the elders, I am earning my own money, and I will be successful by myself with my own strength. If I find myself doing this then I should ask for forgiveness, learn to be humble and be thankful to who created me with these abilities. 

I am just using things as a consumer, what is already created for me, completely ignoring the fact that I am being provided all of this by my Lord; I usually miss acknowledging that reality which is why I have to ask for forgiveness and be humble. It is not only in my old age that I should be humble. Old age is where one starts losing their strength, abilities, not being as energetic as during youth, feeling much needier. Going through all this at old age is deliberately created reminding me that I am a needy being and thus by creational design makes me feel humble anyway. No matter at what stage of my life, I need to be aware of my reality as a created being and ask for forgiveness. I should humbly enter the gate of every phase in my life. 

The phrase “سَنَزِيدُ ٱلْمُحْسِنِينَ” translated as “We shall increase the reward of those who do good”. The word “muhsin”, where the word “hasan” is to signify beauty, as in doing something good. It is somehow related to “Ihsan”. This word is also used in a hadith narration which describes “Ihsan” as to worship God as if you are seeing Him. One definitely would question that I don’t see God so should I imagine Him to be there? It is not in imagination but in human consciousness of Him.  It is in the awareness of all my human qualities such that I understand that they are created by my God. The qualities I find within me are created perfectly where I am delicately and nicely using them without corrupting them. That is to live with “ihsan”. Seeing the favors of God in His action as I am receiving and benefiting from His blessings. I should acknowledge Him and be conscious of His actions in every action that I perform. I should see God’s direct creation in the acts observed in the universe. For example, picking berries from the tree and seeing them created by God and presenting to me by “His hands” freely. I wouldn’t be saying that it is because the weather was nice, it rained and the plants flourished as a result, but seeing the direct manifestation of God’s grace. He is the One who arranged all those means in the order of His act of creation.

Otherwise the word “ihsan” as doing something good is defined as being nice to people, getting the credit for being nice as if I am doing something good, as if the actions belong to me and I become proud of them claiming that “I am a good guy!”. It is only by acknowledging that everything provided to me by my Lord is what constitutes something as good; I should be doing the good actions in His name, feeling His presence in their creation. God rewards the one who does every action in the form of “ihsan”, feeling His presence as if I am seeing Him through His act of creation.


فَبَدَّلَ ٱلَّذِينَ ظَلَمُوا۟ مِنْهُمْ قَوْلًا غَيْرَ ٱلَّذِى قِيلَ لَهُمْ فَأَرْسَلْنَا عَلَيْهِمْ رِجْزًۭا مِّنَ ٱلسَّمَآءِ بِمَا كَانُوا۟ يَظْلِمُونَ

7:162 The wrongdoers among them substituted another saying for that which had been given them, so We sent them a punishment from heaven for their wrongdoing.

The cost to us if we don’t behave as we should is very heavy. If any wrongdoers say something else rather than what they are asked to do, i.e. instead of asking God for forgiveness, relieve them from the burden of their sins they say something else, then a punishment is sent for that wrongdoing.

When would I say something else rather than asking for forgiveness and relief from the burdens of my sins? If someone reminds me of my mistake that I did something wrong to someone else yesterday, what would I do?  I should go and apologize to that person and ask God to forgive me. Otherwise, If I am not humble, but arrogant, I would be a “zalim” as used in the Quran, i.e. transgressing God’s right, not obeying God’s command but rejecting it. If I start to justify my mistakes, i.e. not take responsibility for my mistakes, twist the reality and interpret it in another way that relieves me from responsibility, I stop being humble. 

For example, being proud of doing something as my own act rather than God created and arranged it for me. Saying that “you know, I worked so hard on it” as if I had any share in the result. This is to ignore my Lord, not seeing His act in my life.

I have to be honest, recognize that I was wrong, and apologize to God. I should not try to justify my mistakes. When I am not “muhsin”, doing good actions by acknowledging God’s rights then I would be a “zalim”, being proud of success by attributing it to myself, i.e. I don’t want to submit my being to the Creator, God. The result is a punishment from heaven sent for my wrongdoing.

The words “muhsin” and “zalim” are opposites to each other. Either I would be a “muhsin” to be rewarded immensely or a “zalim” to receive punishment. There is no in between the two. Either we acknowledge God or we don’t, we have to be careful in our living. Do I acknowledge that God is providing everything for me while I am walking, sitting, the senses within me are working perfectly? These are all presents of God to me being presented with His own hands. I see that He is creating, everything is His action alone with nothing interfering in His presenting.


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