By April 22, 2024 Read More →

Section Ya-Seen – Part 18

We will continue with our study of Section Ya-Seen of the Qur’an from where we last left off. The last few verses described the consequence of unbelief. Anyone that denies the truth by either not paying attention to it or knowingly rejecting it would suffer the consequences here in their feelings and in the next life physically which is called hell.

Let’s investigate the following verse:

ٱلْيَوْمَ نَخْتِمُ عَلَىٰٓ أَفْوَٰهِهِمْ وَتُكَلِّمُنَآ أَيْدِيهِمْ وَتَشْهَدُ أَرْجُلُهُم بِمَا كَانُوا۟ يَكْسِبُونَ 

36:65 On that Day We shall seal up their mouths, but their hands will speak to Us, and their feet bear witness to everything they have done.

This can be seen as describing the news of what will happen in the hereafter. The way the Qur’an speaks does not always show the future tense but uses past tense describing what is happening or has happened in the hereafter. The Qur’an uses simple past tense as well as continuous present tense to make sure that the reader can take the event described as to be taking place now or, as far as human beings are concerned, will happen in the future and letting them know that it is sure that will happen.  

Although the verse describes the event as something that will happen in the hereafter, I must take this as news for me now. A stamp is placed on my existence as I am now which is bringing news to me now. For example, an old man and a child will have their facial appearance that speaks about them accordingly. This is one of the ways that our body speaks but is not the only way as the verse mentions that hands, feet, and our skin would speak to the Creator as to what happened to them, how they were used. Another simple way of understanding the “speech of hands” is if someone is not working with their hands then there is no sign of labor on his hands whereas someone working extensively with their hands would show signs of them being used. These are not the only ways to understand the language of the Qur’an mentioning our body parts speaking. We must understand and be convinced whether our hands and feet would really speak, how do I know?

Why would it only be the “تَشْهَدُ”, the witness that will speak? Another follow-up question that arises is why are we not allowed to defend ourselves by making excuses? In our lives, we are mostly making excuses for our own mistakes to defend ourselves. In Section Qiyama of the Qur’an, verses 14-15 mention that the human being knows what he’s doing and is fully aware, having full insight into what he is doing. Even if he makes excuses, God says, “We know what he has done.” Human beings are always inclined to make excuses, we try to justify ourselves.  In the verse, God says that “I do not take your excuses, but the witnesses speak.” The witness in physical form may not be noticed by us but everything in the universe is knowingly created and they continuously witness what is going on in the universe. In the same way, my being is also continuously bearing witness to the reality of creation. Of course, the Creator must know what we have asked Him and what He has created as a response to our  choices. But apart from His knowledge He demonstrates to us that everything is recorded in our physical being. We can easily observe signs of these records in the way that we are being created. At least, we see that all the characteristics of the plants, animals and human beings are recorded throughout their life span in their seeds and eggs. 

Can matter, or body “speak”? If yes, how? Is it true that our feet are recording where we go? Where is our body that we had yesterday? These questions are very important particularly if one asks where is my body now from yesterday? My existence is given to me today which is different from yesterday and is continuously being changed by whom?  My existence is being changed by the One who gives me existence. For example, if we examine a classical film reel which has a scene on each frame and shows the audience the film frame by frame. We see that whatever frame that I am seeing now is coming into existence as I observe it, whereas all the frames are existing at once. Similarly, if we have a video recording in digital format, I only experience momentarily what is recorded there. However, the whole recording exists in memory at every moment, and I can only see the moment of what my human qualities allow me to see and experience. The universe is also coming into existence by the One who gave existence to the whole universe which I experience in space and time dimension. When we look at creation, we understand that whoever creates a bee, this One must know all the living conditions of every being. He must know what the bee needs to stay and continue in existence. This creation takes place in a perfect orderly existence within an environment and this environment is directly related to the rest of creation. We must understand that the Source Of Existence gives existence to the thing where this thing witnesses that its Creator must have Absolute qualities, be an Absolute Being. 

For example, let’s look at an analogy where a professor would have the whole lecture in his mind but would explain only one aspect of the matter to his class. When he lectures, he speaks from his mind that has all the knowledge for the subject. I don’t hear all the knowledge, but the professor has all the knowledge in his mind. In the same way, the universe witnesses in its entirety, where each being witnesses that its source of existence is Absolute. Everything is within His capacity such as His Knowledge, His Creatorship, His Beauty, His Order in creation, and His wisdom. Whatever we are experiencing momentarily is because of our createdness. We are being created alongside the universe being created; we are given consciousness to witness the universe as we experience it right now. 

We take it for granted that tomorrow will be created. Taking the earlier example, the recording of a video in memory exists as a whole recording where all scenes exist all together at the same time. However, as far as my consciousness is concerned, I witness the scene being experienced now, at one moment. Wherever I came from, which is my Source Of Existence, my yesterday’s existence is already with Him, that is, my Creator, my tomorrow is already within His capacity as the Absolute Being that encompasses every stage of each being at the same time. In creation, the universe that I experience demonstrates its existence to me where I am created along with the universe; we are given existence at the same time. My yesterday, today and tomorrow are within my practical experience. My practical experience does not represent the reality of existence because I can only experience the moment of my instant existence. As far as my understanding of my Creator being an Absolute Being, all the space and time concepts according to which I organize my life in this world must all exist at the same time for Him.

I may try to make excuses in my life now, but all the recordings of my life already exist with the Knowledge of my Creator. My life recordings will be presented to me, and they will speak about what I have done. The recordings not only take my outward appearance, but enter my feelings, imagination as well. Whatever I experience will be recorded in full detail, nothing will be left out. My memory is a witness, the DNA records as well are a witness that I experience now. The way things are created, they are witnesses to the reality of existence. 

Let’s examine the verse on this topic:

َوُضِعَ ٱلْكِتَـٰبُ فَتَرَى ٱلْمُجْرِمِينَ مُشْفِقِينَ مِمَّا فِيهِ وَيَقُولُونَ يَـٰوَيْلَتَنَا مَالِ هَـٰذَا ٱلْكِتَـٰبِ لَا يُغَادِرُ صَغِيرَةًۭ وَلَا كَبِيرَةً إِلَّآ أَحْصَىٰهَا ۚ وَوَجَدُوا۟ مَا عَمِلُوا۟ حَاضِرًۭا ۗ وَلَا يَظْلِمُ رَبُّكَ أَحَدًۭا

18:49 “And the record of everyone’s deeds (life) will be laid open and you will see the guilty people scared of its contents and saying, ‘Woe to us! What a record is this? It has missed nothing, minor to major, but has taken everything into account.’ Thus, they will find whatever they did present before them, and your Lord will not wrong anyone.”

I must bear in mind that I need to not only be created alone but be created within the context of the whole universe where the whole universe needs to be given existence, at least just for me, to exist with my human capacities.

Where is my body that I had yesterday? It is with my Lord. I am only experiencing what I am now seeing and experiencing, my existence does not consist of this momentary existence now. We need to be careful when we read the Qur’an and not relate the message to past or future tense when describing God and His Capacity. The historical events describing God’s Capacity must be included in the present. We must understand the message as related to our life now. For example, a verse may say “Moses said Pharaoh”, I must read this as “Moses says Pharaoh”. We are inclined to focus on the past tense because something related to what has happened in the past or future is being narrated to me now. We must ask why does God tell me now about an event which will take place in the hereafter? I need guidance right now that I can apply in my life. If the verse mentions the attitude of Pharaoh, I must watch out if I am acting tyrannically or someone needs to be reminded right now where I can speak to the man, as Moses spoke to Pharaoh in the example.

There are two ways to read prophetic stories or historical events that are narrated in the Qur’an. No one accepts that these are historical recordings of the events that happened in history. Most scholars state that the events are conveyed to us so that we may take some lessons from them. There are a few scholars who mention identifying the event within the experience that one is going through in their living. For example, When Pharaoh is mentioned, I must check my egoistic tendencies whether I am taking any Pharaonic attitude and correct it. The Qur’an calls this the Satan within a person who offers the person to take a Pharaonic attitude. The Qur’anic guidance comes to me to ask whether I need guidance, do I take my being to be self-sufficient, am I a self-existing being? Can I get the answers to my human questions by myself?

The Qur’an always speaks clearly by giving the example of the worst man as in Pharaoh and the best man as in Moses. When taking a lesson from the event, we externalize the event from our being rather than an introspection by relating the event to our living right now. I must check myself as to where I stand. I may be somewhere in between. Do I have any egoistic tendencies that put me as a Pharaoh? In my spirit, do I listen to my angelic side that reminds me of the message of Moses? 

Let’s examine the following verses from Section Fussilat of the Qur’an:

حَتَّىٰٓ إِذَا مَا جَآءُوهَا شَهِدَ عَلَيْهِمْ سَمْعُهُمْ وَأَبْصَـٰرُهُمْ وَجُلُودُهُم بِمَا كَانُوا۟ يَعْمَلُونَ

Fussilat, 41:20 “When they reach it, their ears, eyes, and skin will testify against what they used to do.”

وَقَالُوا۟ لِجُلُودِهِمْ لِمَ شَهِدتُّمْ عَلَيْنَا ۖ قَالُوٓا۟ أَنطَقَنَا ٱللَّهُ ٱلَّذِىٓ أَنطَقَ كُلَّ شَىْءٍۢ وَهُوَ خَلَقَكُمْ أَوَّلَ مَرَّةٍۢ وَإِلَيْهِ تُرْجَعُونَ

Fussilat, 41:21 “They will say to their skins, ‘Why did you testify against us?’ and their skins will reply, ‘God, who made everything speak, made us speak – it was He who created you the first time and to Him you are being returned.”

There is an interesting phrase in the reply of the skin: “أَنطَقَنَا ٱللَّهُ ٱلَّذِىٓ أَنطَقَ كُلَّ شَىْءٍۢ”, translated as “God, who made everything speak, made us speak.” Do we realize that everything speaks? For example, birds speak according to their capacity, other animals speak according to their capacity as well. What about vegetables? They speak too according to their capacity where they tell us something. Everything in the universe conveys a message to me where I communicate with them. The phrase “أَنطَقَ” translated as “made us speak” means a conscious meaningful speech. Whoever made everything speak in their capacity made us also speak in our capacity. The Qur’an describes every being as it announces the qualities of the Creator of the universe: “I am created by the One who has given existence to me and you can communicate with me.” As a human being, I can communicate with the things in the universe. This is referred to as communicating with the angelic side of creation.

The witnessing of the universe is not taken as seriously as it deserves to be taken by many scholars. They usually concentrate on the grammatical and rhetorical qualities of the words of the Qur’an which is also beneficial. However, reading the Qur’an in connection with the universe remains secondary under the shadow of the miraculous construction of the language of the Qur’an. Just like the Qur’an in word form is a miraculous message, the universe is also created miraculously. The universe speaks silently by pointing to the qualities of its Creator. All beings act as signs to the qualities of the Lord of the universe. Human beings are expected to realize this reality of the universe.

The earlier generations didn’t need the witnessing of the universe to confirm the message of the Qur’an. They saw that everything is created where there is no doubt and asked to be guided on what they need to do in their lives. Many scholars focused on this need and left behind the supporting witnessing of the universe. In our times, the situation has changed where people are confused with the historical events that took place in Europe under the prejudiced scholars of mainly Christianity who insisted that Revelation must be read literally. The literal reading of the message of God cannot do any justice to the reality of the message. They were against those that studied the universe, how it speaks to them alongside Revelation. Anyone who related Revelation to the universe was given much trouble. This gave rise to scientific studies that are completely divorced from the message of Revelation. Those who study matter reduce it to its own existence and no longer listen to what it says in its creation. Religion remains without the support of the universe. The universe is no longer being studied as a witness to the message of Revelation. We must read the universe and the Qur’an together where the Qur’an explains how and why things are happening in the universe. This gives assurance to my human side, which is the spirit that requires eternal happiness, permanent happiness. The universe gives news that the Creator of this universe can satisfy my needs, only He is able to do that. The universe is created as a witness to this eternal happiness. 

The verse highlights that the universe is indeed speaking, witnessing according to their capacity. Human beings speak with words and God answers human questions in word form through the Qur’an by referring to the witnessing of the universe. We must connect the three elements together: human spirit, universe, and their Creator’s speech in Revelation. The universe is the evidence, a sign pointing to the qualities of its Maker. Universe is the pointer to the reality of creation that we experience and the Qur’an in each of its sentences points to the reality of creation in order to guide human beings. 

In summary, the universe speaks, and the speech of the universe is recorded within God’s encompassing Knowledge, Power, His capacity. We experience a small frame of it according to how the order in the universe has been established.

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