Opinion, September 2003, www.aljazeerah.info
A Quick Review of Earlier Messages
Arab News, 9/26/03
In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Beneficent.
Closer to people draws their reckoning, yet they continue to blithely turn away. Whenever there comes to them any new reminder from their Lord, they listen to it but take it in jest; their hearts set on pleasure. Yet, concealing their inner thoughts, the wrongdoers say to one another: “Is this man anything but a mortal like yourselves? Will you, then, follow his sorcery with your eyes open?” (The Prophets: 21: 1-3)
Revealed to the Prophet in Makkah, this Surah deals with the main theme of all the parts of the Qur’an revealed in that same period, namely, faith. It tackles its theme in its three major areas: God’s oneness, His message, and the resurrection of all mankind.
The flow of the Surah deals with its subject matter, referring to its great universal phenomena, linking them to faith. The point of linkage here is that faith is part of the universal structure, and the same phenomena applies to it. It illustrates the truth which is at the heart of the Heavens and the Earth and their constitution. It reflects the seriousness with which their affairs are conducted. It is neither a matter of play nor a question of falsehood, in the same way as the fact that the universe was not created for play, nor was any element of falsehood mixed with its creation: “We have not created the Heavens and the Earth and all that is between them in mere idle play.” (Verse 16)
The Surah concentrates people’s eyes, hearts and minds on the universe and its great phenomena: The Heavens and the Earth, mountains and valleys, night and day, sun and moon. It draws their attention to the unity of the laws that govern all these and conduct their affairs, and how this unity provides a powerful evidence of the unity of the Creator who owns all this universe. No partner has He in His kingdom, in the same way as He has no partner in its creation: “Had there been in Heavens or on Earth any deities other than God, both would surely have fallen into ruin.” (Verse 22)
The Surah also draws our attention to the unity of the phenomena which govern life on Earth and the unity of the source of life: “We made every living thing out of water.” (Verse 30). All living things will face the same end: “Every soul is bound to taste death.” (Verse 35). They will then arrive at the same destiny: “To Us you all shall return.” (Verse 35)
Faith is closely linked to those major universal phenomena. It is the same faith, even though many messengers were sent to convey it to people: “We never sent before your time any messenger without having revealed to him that there is no deity other than Me, (and that,) therefore, you shall worship Me alone.” (Verse 25). It is God’s will that all messengers were human beings: “We never sent before you any messengers other than men whom We inspired.” (Verse 7)
Just like faith is closely linked to major universal phenomena, the same applies to what the advocates of faith may encounter in this world. The rule that never fails eventually is that the truth will ultimately triumph and falsehood will be wiped out, because the truth is a universal reality and its victory is a divine law: “We hurl the truth against falsehood, and it crushes the latter so that it withers away.” (Verse 18)
By the same token, the wrongdoers who deny the truth are bound to be destroyed, but God will save His messengers and the believers: “We made good Our promise to them, and We saved them and all whom We willed to save, and We destroyed those who had wasted their own selves.” (Verse 9). God’s devoted servants are the eventual heirs of the Earth: “We laid it down in all the books of divine wisdom that My righteous servants shall inherit the Earth.” (Verse 105)
The Surah then makes a quick review of the single community that has followed God’s messengers. It pauses long to reflect on the stories of Abraham, David and Solomon, but makes only brief references to Noah, Moses, Aaron, Lot, Ishmael, Idris, Thu Al-Kifl, Jonah, Zachariah, John and Jesus, (peace be upon them all). Some of the issues, already tackled in the Surah as general rules and phenomena, are reflected again in this review in the form of practical events encountered by God’s messengers and their followers.
The flow of the Surah also includes some scenes of the Day of Judgment in which we find the same meanings and concepts reflected again as part of the reality of that great day.
We see, then, how varying cadence employed in the Surah serves the same purpose of alerting the human mind so that it recognizes the truth of the faith preached by the last of God’s messengers. Once people’s minds are thus alerted, they would not receive the message while indulging in their play, and turn away paying little heed to it, as they are described in the opening verses: “Closer to people draws their reckoning, yet they continue to blithely turn away. Whenever there comes to them any new reminder from their Lord, they listen to it but take it in jest; their hearts set on pleasure.” (Verses 1-3)
This message of Islam is both true and serious, in the same way as this universe is true and serious. Therefore, there may be no jest and play in receiving God’s message, as in making demands for miraculous evidence. Evidence of miraculous nature is available everywhere in the universe and its operative phenomena. It all confirms that God is the only creator who has power over all things, and that the message comes from Him alone.
As for its mode of expression and its rhythm, the Surah employs the style of factual statements which is most suited for its subject matter and its ambiance. This is clearly apparent when we compare its style with that employed in the preceding two Surahs, Maryam and TaHa. In both these two the rhythm is soft, which is more suited to their overall atmosphere. Here the rhythm is more solid, to fit its message.
The comparison gives us even clearer idea when we look at the way the story of Prophet Abraham is related in Maryam and its episode to be given in this Surah, particularly in the episode both these Surahs describe.
In Surah Maryam, the episode is given in the form of an expansive dialogue between Abraham and his father. Here we see Abraham’s destruction of the idols worshipped by his people, and his being subsequently thrown in the fire. Thus, the subject matter, the style and the cadence achieve complete harmony.
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