Opinion Editorials, April 2004, To see today's opinion articles, click here: ww.aljazeerah.info
How to Distinguish True From False
Arab News, 4/4/04
In the name of God, the Merciful, the Beneficent
Blessed is He who from on high bestowed upon His servant the standard to discern the true from the false, so that it might be a warning to all the worlds.
He to whom belongs the dominion over the heavens and the earth, and who begets no offspring, and has no partner in His dominion. It is He who has created all things and ordained them in due proportions. (The Standard, Al-Furqan: 25: 1-2)
This surah, a Makkan revelation, appears to aim at comforting the Prophet (peace be upon him) and giving him solace, reassurance and support as he came face to face with stubborn rejection, maltreatment, haughty argument and open hostility by the idolaters of the Quraysh. In one aspect, it shows the divine kindness bestowed by God on His Messenger, dispelling his pain, comforting his heart so that it overflows with reassurance and showing him an abundance of care and compassion. In another aspect, it portrays the fierce battle against arrogant mortals who stubbornly oppose God’s Messenger, combining falsehood with arrogance, and hostility with wilful rebuff of divine guidance.
It is ordinary people who boast with insults against this glorious Qur’an, such as: “This (Qur’an) is nothing but a lie which he has devised with the help of other people.” Or they describe it as: “Fables of ancient times which he has caused to be written down, so that they might be read out to him morning and evening.” Furthermore people are ready with their abuse of the Prophet, saying: “The man you follow is certainly bewitched.” Or they may say in ridicule: “Is this the one whom God has sent as His emissary?” As if all this rejection is not enough, such people are often ready to direct their arrogant remarks at God Himself: “Yet when they are told, ‘Prostrate yourselves before the Most Gracious,’ they ask, ‘What is the Most Gracious? Are we to prostrate ourselves before whatever you bid us?’ And they grow more rebellious.” Or they may say: “Why have no angels been sent down to us? – or, Why do we not see our Lord?”
Humans remain the same, as described in the surah, beginning at Noah’s time up to their attitude toward God’s final Messenger. People object to the fact that God’s Messenger is a human mortal like them, saying: “What sort of messenger is this, who eats food and goes about in the market-places? Why has not an angel been sent down to him to give warning alongside him?” They also objected to his limited wealth, saying: “Why has not a treasure been granted to him?” And they objected to the method of revelation: “The unbelievers ask: Why has not the Qur’an been revealed to him all at once?” All these voiced objections come on top of their attitude of blatant rejection of the faith, ridicule and aggression.
Prophet Muhammad, (peace be upon him), confronted all this alone, having neither physical power nor wealth. He stood within his appropriate limits, suggesting nothing to his Lord, doing nothing other than turning to his Lord seeking His pleasure, caring for nothing else. He prayed: “My Lord! If You are not displeased with me, I do not care what I face… To You I submit until I earn Your pleasure.”
Here in this surah we see the Prophet enjoying his Lord’s compassion, who gives him comfort and solace, and provides him with support against all the difficulties placed in his way, including the ridicule people may direct at him. After all, they are often impolite with their Lord who creates them and gives them all they have, and who has created the universe and conducts all his affairs.
He should not be much troubled if he receives a little of such ridicule and ill treatment. “Yet people worship, instead of God, things that can neither benefit nor harm them. An unbeliever always gives support against his Lord.
“Yet, some choose to worship, instead of Him, deities that cannot create anything but are themselves created, and have it not in their power to avert harm from, or bring benefit to, themselves, and have no power over death, life or resurrection.
“Yet when they are told, ‘Prostrate yourselves before the Most Gracious,’ they ask, ‘What is the Most Gracious?’”
God redresses the ridicule the Prophet suffers by portraying the very low level into which they have sunk: “Have you considered the one who makes his desires his deity? Could you, then, be held responsible for him? Or do you think that most of them listen and use their reason? They are but like cattle. Nay, they are even far worse astray.” God promises him support in any dispute or argument he may have with them: “Whenever they come to you with an argument, We shall reveal to you the truth and the best explanation.”
When the battle is over, God shows His Messenger scenes of the destruction of earlier communities which rejected God’s messages, such as the people of Noah, Aad, Thamud and the people of Al-Rass, as well as other communities.
The way they met their dismal end is shown in a series of images from the Day of Resurrection: “Those who will be gathered to hell on their faces – they will be worst in station and still farther away from the (right) path.
“Nay! It is the Last Hour that they deny. For those who deny the Last Hour We have prepared a blazing fire. When it sees them from a far-off place, they will hear its fury and its raging sigh. And when, chained together, they are flung into a tight space within, they will pray for extinction there and then. (But they will be told): ‘Do not pray today for one single extinction, but pray for many extinctions!’
“On that day the wrongdoer will bite his hands and say: ‘Would that I had followed the path shown to me by the Messenger. Oh, woe is me! Would that I had never taken so-and-so for a friend!”
God further comforts him by the fact that he faces the same difficulties earlier messengers had faced: “Even before you, We never sent messengers other than (men) who indeed ate food and went about in the market-places. Thus against every prophet We have set up enemies from among those who are guilty. Sufficient is your Lord to provide guidance and support.”
God also makes clear to him that his task is to remain patient against all adversity, standing up to the unbelievers and striving hard against them using the Qur’an to make his argument clear, well founded and overpowering. “Do not obey the unbelievers, but strive most vigorously against them with this Qur’an.” The Prophet is clearly told that his best support in his striving for God’s cause is to place his trust in God alone: “Hence, place your trust in the Living One who does not die, and extol His limitless glory and praise. Sufficient is it that He is well aware of his servants’ sins.”
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