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What the Qur'an teaches: Argument of brute force

Published: 17/04/2010 01:31:00 AM GMT
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Published: Apr 1, 2010 22:40 Updated: Apr 1, 2010 22:40

In the name of God, the Lord of Grace, the Ever Merciful Then said the man who believed: My people! I fear for you the like of what one day befell earlier communities; the like of what happened to Noah’s people, to the Ad, and Thamud and those who came after them. God does not will any injustice for His creatures. And, my people! I fear for you the Day (of Judgment) when people will call out to one another (in distress); the Day when you shall turn back and flee, with no one to defend you against God. He whom God lets go astray can never find a guide. Long before this, Joseph came to you with clear evidence of the truth; but you never ceased to cast doubt on the message he brought you. When he died, you said: “God will never send any messenger after him.” In this way God lets go astray those who are transgressors and live in doubt. (The Forgiving; Ghafir: 40: 30-34)



This surah tells us of an episode in the history of Prophet Moses( peace be upon him) and his message which is not referred to anywhere else in the Qur’an. It speaks of a man in Pharaoh’s household who was a believer in the truth of the divine message and the advice he gave to his people. The believer feels that it is his duty to warn and give sound advice, and to express his view lucidly. It is also his duty to stand by the truth, regardless of what tyrants say. He then tries another argument, in the hope that their hearts will soften to it and that they will begin to see the light of the truth. He refers to the fates of earlier communities of unbelievers. They testify to how powerfully God smites arrogant tyrants: “Then said the man who believed: My people! I fear for you the like of what one day befell earlier communities; the like of what happened to Noah’s people, to the Ad, and Thamud and those who came after them. God does not will any injustice for His creatures.” Each community had its day, but the believer combines them together, making it the day when God’s retribution strikes. The nature of these days is the same; hence, they are made to appear as just one day. God wills no injustice on anyone. He only punishes them for their sins, so that those who are close to them and those who come after them may take heed and follow the right course.

The man touches their hearts again, reminding them of another day, the Day of Resurrection, when everyone is calling out: “And, my people! I fear for you the Day (of Judgment) when people will call out to one another (in distress); the Day when you shall turn back and flee, with no one to defend you against God. He whom God lets go astray can never find a guide.”

On that day, the angels responsible for gathering people will be calling out to them; the people standing on the heights will call out, speaking to the people destined for heaven and to the people of hell; the people of heaven and hell will call out addressing each other. Thus, calling out takes place in different ways. Describing it as the ‘day of calling out’ imparts a feeling of loud clamoring emanating from everywhere, as also a day of overcrowding and dispute. The general air fits well with the believer’s words: “The Day when you shall turn back and flee, with no one to defend you against God.” They may try to flee when they see hell, but there is no escape. Yet the image of fright and attempting to flee is the first to be shown here of those who considered themselves mighty and who behaved arrogantly, reveling in their earthly power.

 “He whom God lets go astray can never find a guide.” Do we see here an implicit reply to Pharaoh’s earlier statement when he said: “I am guiding you to none other than the path of rectitude.” This also implies that true guidance comes only from God. Whoever God lets go astray will have no one to guide him. God knows people’s conditions and who of them deserves to be guided and who deserves to be left astray.

Finally, the believer reminds them of their attitude to the Prophet Joseph, Moses’ ancestor. They also doubted him and his message despite the clear evidence he showed them. They must not adopt the same attitude toward Moses who is confirming what Joseph had brought them earlier. In fact, Moses’ message disproves their assertions that God would not send a messenger after Joseph. For, Moses has been sent to prove them wrong: “Long before this, Joseph came to you with clear evidence of the truth; but you never ceased to cast doubt on the message he brought you. When he died, you said: ‘God will never send any messenger after him.’ In this way God lets go astray those who are transgressors and live in doubt.”

This is the only reference in the Qur’an to Joseph’s message addressed to the people of Egypt. In the surah carrying his name we learn that he was placed in charge of Egypt’s storehouses. He also carried the title of Aziz, which probably meant the chief minister. There is an indication in the surah that he sat on Egypt’s throne, but this is not confirmed. This may be understood from the verse that says: “And he raised his parents to the throne, and they fell down on their knees, prostrating themselves before him. He said: Father, this is the real meaning of my dream of long ago. My Lord has made it come true.” (12: 100) The ‘throne’ to which Joseph raised his parents might have been something other than Egypt’s throne. Be that as it may, Joseph attained a position of power and authority. In light of all this, we can imagine the situation to which the believer in Pharaoh’s household was referring: They doubted Joseph’s message, but dared not deny it outright when he was the man in power. Then they said: ‘God will never send any messenger after him.’ They were practically relieved when he died. Expressing their relief in this way suggests that they did not accept his message based on God’s complete oneness. They asserted that God would not send another messenger after him, yet this expressed nothing but their own desire. It is often the case that people desire something and then believe it to be true.

At this juncture, the believer takes a strong stance against such hardened denials of the truth: “In this way God lets go astray those who are transgressors and live in doubt." ¬




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