Islamic topics May 2003 Al-Jazeerah.info
How the Truth Is Revealed
Arab News, 5/16/03
In the name of God, the Merciful, the Beneficent
Have they, then, never tried to understand this word (of God)? Or has there come to them something that never came to their forefathers of old?
Or do they not recognize their Messenger, and so they deny him?
Or do they say that there is in him a touch of madness? Nay, he has brought them the truth; and the truth do most of them detest.
Had the truth been in accord with their desires, the heavens and the earth, together with all that lives in them, would surely have been in utter corruption. Nay, We have given them all that brings them glory. Yet from this their glory they turn away.
Or do you ask of them any recompense? But the recompense given by your Lord is best, since He is the best of providers.
Most certainly, you call them to a straight path. But those who will not believe in the life to come are bound to deviate from the right path.
(The Believers, Al-Muminoon: 23: 68-74)
This passage starts with questioning the doubts the unbelievers raise about God’s messenger and the message he preaches. By listing these possibilities it wonders at the possible causes that make them insist on rejecting the divine message when any reasonable person is bound to accept it on mere reflection. It is both sound and perfect on every count. However, little do they reflect on it, and this is the main reason for their attitude, as we explained last week. “Have they, then, never tried to understand this word (of God)?”
“Or has there come to them something that never came to their forefathers of old?” If so, it would have been strange for them and for their forefathers that a messenger should come to call on them to believe in God’s oneness. But the history of divine messages proves that messengers followed one another, and all of them preached the same message advocated by Muhammad, God’s last messenger.
“Or do they not recognize their Messenger, and so they deny him?” Could this have been the reason for their insolent rejection? But they knew their messenger well. They knew his birth and ancestry. They also knew best his character, honesty and integrity. Long before he received his message, they gave him the nickname Al-ameen, which means ‘the trustworthy.’
“Or do they say that there is in him a touch of madness?” Some of the lowest figures in their ranks used to say this about him, knowing fully well that he was the wisest and most reasonable person among them. They never experienced him to make a slip throughout his life.
None of these possibilities had any foundation whatsoever. The fact is that most of them hated the truth because it deprived them of their false values and contradicted their desires and preferences: “Nay, he has brought them the truth; and the truth do most of them detest.”
The truth cannot be subservient to personal desires and preferences. It is on the basis of the truth that the universe is sustained, life flourishes and laws of nature function: “Had the truth been in accord with their desires, the heavens and the earth, together with all that lives in them, would surely have been in utter corruption.”
The truth is unique and consistent, while desires are numerous and changing. It is on the basis of the unique truth that the whole universe moves along the course that ensures its continued existence. Thus, its laws are not made to deviate or change in order to accommodate a fleeting desire. Had the universe been subject to such changing or sudden desires it would have been corrupted. Indeed, human life, values, standards and systems would have also been corrupted. They would have staggered to and fro, in response to feelings of anger and pleasure, hatred, desire, fear, and situations of laziness and activity, as well as all other desires, reactions and influences. But the physical universe and its progress toward its goal require consistency and reliability as well as the following of a clearly charted course that is subject to no modification or deviation.
Bearing this in mind, Islam considers legislation for human life to be part of the universal law, formulated by the same hand that conducts the affairs of the universe and establishes coherence between all its parts. Human beings are part of the universe and subject to its law. Hence, it is only fitting that the One who legislates for the entire universe should also legislate for human life. When this is done, human life is no longer subjected to personal desires and preferences. Thus, it becomes immune to corruption: “Had the truth been in accord with their desires, the heavens and the earth, together with all that lives in them, would surely have been in utter corruption.”
The community addressed by Islam should be most keen to follow its truth, not only because it is the truth, but also because it represents its glory. Without Islam, it would have had no place in history: “Nay, We have given them all that brings them glory. Yet from this their glory they turn away.” The Arabs remained ignored throughout history until they were given the message of Islam. Since then, they remained glorious as long as they adhered to Islam. Their position on the world stage gradually shrank when they abandoned it. They will not recover their glory until they revert to its guiding light.
The surah resumes questioning their attitude and the doubts that may be the cause for their refusal to believe in the messenger giving them honest counsel: “Or do you ask of them any recompense?” Had you been demanding any wages from them, such a request may be a cause for refusal. The fact is that you seek nothing from them, because “the recompense given by your Lord is best, since He is the best of providers.” What could a prophet seek from human beings, poor and needy as they are, when he has access to God’s inexhaustible favors? Indeed, what would a prophet’s followers hope to gain of this world’s comforts when they are seeking what may be provided by God who grants everything people have? The fact is that when a human heart is in touch with God, this whole universe, with all that it contains, dwindles into insignificance.
You only seek to guide them to the best method: “Most certainly, you call them to a straight path;” a path that brings them into line with the law that governs their nature. It gives them a bond with the rest of the universe, guiding them straight, without deviation, to God, the Creator of all.
Yet those people, like everyone who does not believe in the life to come, deviate from the perfect way: “But those who will not believe in the life to come are bound to deviate from the right path.” Had they been well guided, they would have reflected on the stages of their existence, because such reflection is bound to lead to believing in the hereafter, when perfection and absolute justice are attainable. The life to come is merely a stage in the line God has charted for all existence.
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