Opinion Editorials, July 2004, To see today's opinion articles, click here: www.aljazeerah.info
Fate of Earlier Unbelievers
Arab News, 7/9/04
In the name of God, the Merciful, the Beneficent
Indeed, We gave the Book to Moses (peace be upon him), and appointed his brother Aaron to help him to bear his burden.
And We said: “Go you both to the people who denied Our signs,” and then We utterly destroyed those people.
When the people of Noah rejected their messengers, We caused them to drown, and made of them an example for mankind. For the wrongdoers We have prepared grievous suffering.
And also Aad and Thamud, and the people of Al-Rass, and many generations in between.
To each of them did We proffer lessons, and each of them did We utterly annihilate.
They must have surely passed by the town which was rained upon with a shower of evil. Have they, then, never seen it? But nay, they would not believe in resurrection.
When they see you, they make you a target of their mockery, (saying): ‘Is this the one whom God has sent as His emissary? (The Standard, Al-Furqan: 25: 35-41)
These few verses include quick and brief references to earlier communities who rejected God’s message, as given to them through His messengers. First we are told about Moses who was granted the support of his brother Aaron. Aaron was to share the task assigned to Moses. They were ordered to confront the people who “denied Our signs”, for Pharaoh and his people denied God’s signs even before Moses and Aaron were sent to them with God’s message. Such signs are available all the time, giving clear evidence. God’s messengers simply remind of the negligent of all such signs. Before the second verse speaking about them is completed, a quick image of their fate is shown: “We utterly destroyed these people.”
This is followed by a reference to the people of Noah (peace be upon him) who “rejected their messengers” and in consequence, God “caused them to drown”. It should be explained here that Noah’s people denied only Noah’s message and their rejection applied only to Noah, but we have to remember that Noah only preached the faith advocated by all God’s messengers. Hence, when they rejected what he told them, it was as though they rejected all messengers, most of whom lived after their own time. God states that He “made of them an example for mankind.” The great floods could not be forgotten despite the passage of time. Anyone who looks carefully at the result of that flood will understand its lesson, provided he approaches it with an open mind. “For the wrongdoers We have prepared grievous suffering.” It is now ready, requiring no more waiting. We note that the wrongdoers are mentioned by their attribute, rather than by the use of a pronoun, which would have been perfectly right from the point of view of style, but mentioning this quality of theirs explains the reason for their punishment.
The next verse groups together the Aad, Thamud and the people of Al-Rass, as well as many generations in between. Al-Rass refers to a ground well which was not properly built. Its people, who lived in a village in Yamamah, killed the Prophet sent to them. Al-Tabari, however, says that they are the ones mentioned in Surah 85, The Constellations, as having lit up a fire in a great pit to burn all the believers. All these communities faced the same fate after they were given a clear message, proffering clear lessons. None heeded what they were told so as to avert the terrible fate against which they were warned.
All these cases, as well as that of Lot’s township which suffered a shower of evil rained upon it practically followed the same line, ending up with the same fate: “To each of them did We proffer lessons” so that they may take heed. But this was not to be. Hence, the outcome of their stubborn rejection of God’s message was that “each of them did We utterly annihilate.”
The surah makes this very quick reference to all these communities, ending with a mention of the fate of Lot’s people, whose township, Sodom, the Arabs used to pass by when they went on their summer trade trip to Syria. Sodom was destroyed with a volcanic rain that brought on them gases and stones, destroying the town completely. The surah states that they would not take heed because they did not believe in resurrection and did not hope to meet God. Hence, their hearts remained hardened. This gave rise to their objections to, and ridicule of their messengers.
After this quick reference to earlier communities, the surah mentions the ridicule faced by the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) from his people. This follows upon the earlier mention of their arrogant attitude and their objection to the method of revelation of the Qur’an. The surah also described earlier what will happen to them on the day of resurrection, and also the fate suffered by earlier unbelievers. All this is given by way of solace to the Prophet before mentioning the ridicule they direct at him. They are warned that they would be placed in a position lower than that of animals: “When they see you, they make you a target of their mockery, (saying): ‘Is this the one whom God has sent as His emissary?”
Prior to his choice as God’s Messenger, Muhammad was highly respected among his people, being the descendent of a top family in the top tribe. His honesty and morality enhanced his position, as he was nicknamed Al-Ameen, which meant “the trustworthy”. When they had a serious dispute over which tribe to replace the Black Stone, they accepted him as arbiter. When he gathered them to give them the first news of his mission, he asked them whether they would believe him if he were to tell them that a force was moving behind the hills, preparing to attack them, they said: “Yes, because you are trusted by us.”
Yet when he told them of his mission and recited to them this great book of divine revelations, they ridiculed him and said: “Is this the one whom God has sent as His emissary?” This is cruel ridicule. Yet, were they convinced that he deserved such ridicule, or that the message he preached deserved it? By no means. It was all a scheme devised by the Quraysh elders to detract from his great personality and to counter the irresistible influence of the Qur’an. They felt that the new message constituted a threat to their social and economic positions. Hence, they had to resort to every conceivable means to counter it.
Opinions expressed in various sections are the sole responsibility of their authors and they may not represent Al-Jazeerah's.