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Lesson - 18
"And if you are in doubt as to that which We have revealed
to Our servant, then produce a chapter like it and call on your
helpers besides Allah if you are truthful.
But if you do (it) not — and you can never do it— then be on
your guard against the fire whose fuel is men and stones; it is
prepared for the disbelievers.
And give good news to those who believe and do good deeds, that
for them are Gardens in which rivers flow. Whenever they are given
a portion of the fruit thereof, they will say: This is what was
given to us before; and they are given the like of it. And for
them therein are pure companions and therein they will abide."
Quranic teachings are practical for all times
The first among the three verses quoted above was discussed at
length in the previous lesson. To the critics’ objection that the
Holy Quran was not the revealed word of God, a simple and forceful
answer is given. Another doubt that can arise in this matter is
with regards to the feasibility of acting upon the Quranic injunctions
in daily life. For a person who lives a monastic life, it is possible
to comply with the religious injunctions. Is it, however, possible
to do so for the one who is involved in worldly pursuits? The reply
to this was given in the words, "Our servant (ab-di-naa)."
Allah has called the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings
of Allah be upon him) as His servant, the one who served Allah with
complete humility and submission. He complied to the fullest extent
with all the Quranic injunctions, and at the same time carried out
all his worldly obligations. These being far beyond the level of
an ordinary person. He carried out the common worldly duties of
being a husband, a father, a kinsman and a bread-winner for the
family. In addition to this, he was also a king, and a lawmaker.
It was his duty to formulate such religious laws (shariat),
that would remain useful and viable till the Day of Judgment. As
a judge he had to rule in legal matters, and simultaneously meet
the heavy burden of his duties as a commander in chief. If somebody
fell sick, the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon
him) was at his bedside to inquire about his well being. When somebody
passed away, he would participate in, and lead his funeral prayers.
People seeking religious knowledge flocked to his doorstep day and
night. One is amazed at how a single person met all these personal
and national obligations. The Holy Prophet (peace and blessings
of Allah be upon him) did all this, and at the same time complied
with all the Quranic injunctions, thereby demonstrating that it
was humanly possible to do so. This perfection as a role model is
acknowledged by the Holy Quran in the verse:
"Whoever obeys the Messenger, he indeed obeys Allah"
After his death, a group of young people while visiting Hazrat
Ayesha (the Holy Prophet’s wife) inquired from her about the character
of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him).
The reply of this noble lady was that his character was the Holy
Quran i.e., his morals were a practical illustration of the Quranic
teachings. The study of the Holy Quran is in itself a study of the
noble character of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah
be upon him). Some religions propound seemingly beautiful teachings,
but which are totally impractical to implement while pursuing a
normal worldly life. Such an assertion, however, cannot be made
in respect of Islam.
In the modern age another doubt arises in the minds of people
and is sometimes articulated. It is said that it may have been possible
1400 years ago to act upon the Quranic teachings, but that it is
no longer possible today. The answer to this objection was given
by Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, the vicegerent (khalifa) of
the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), and
the reformer of this age. By his example, he demonstrated that it
is fully possible, and indeed necessary to act upon the teachings
of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) today,
as it was in the days gone by. He was thus able to find God, and
achieve the object of man’s creation in this age of atheism and
denial of religion. He was a recipient of Divine communion, which
has always been a sign of closeness with God, but has always been
looked upon with cynicism by the skeptics. By being a recipient
of Divine revelation, he provided a very convincing, and a living
proof of their truth. He proclaimed vociferously and repeatedly
that the only way to truly find God in this day and age, was by
acting upon the injunctions of the Holy Quran, and by following
the footsteps of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings
of Allah be upon him). He openly challenged all other religions
that claimed to establish a relationship with God. Was there even
one votary of another religion that had established a relationship
with God, in the manner he had done, by following the scripture
and the Prophet of Islam? None, however, responded to this challenge.
A challenge and a prophecy
As mentioned before, the Holy Quran collectively challenges all
knowledgeable scholars of the past and present, that if they are
convinced that the Holy Prophet, (peace and blessings of Allah be
upon him) who was unlettered, fabricated the Holy Quran (we seek
the refuge of Allah from saying so), then they should bring forward
the equivalent of its smallest chapter. Another simple, but cogent
proof that the Holy Quran is the Divine word is then provided by
making a grand prophecy in the following Quranic verse:
"But if you do (it) not—and you can never do it,"
i.e., that this challenge will forever remain un-responded. Such
a prophecy for all times provides clear evidence that the Holy Quran
can only be the Word of God, Who is All- Powerful, and has knowledge
of the future. This should suffice to convince equally an ignorant
person or the greatest scholar of any age. No one was able to disprove
this prophecy during the time of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings
of Allah be upon him), nor can it be done today.
Stones as fuel of fire
If even after this simple, easily understood, and irrefutable evidence,
someone still remains skeptic, then it is stated:
"be on your guard against the fire whose fuel is
men and stones; it is prepared for the disbelievers."
It may be questioned, why should the stones be put to fire? Some
interpreters of the Holy Quran conjecture that the reference is
to the stone idols of the Arab idolaters. This explanation is not
satisfactory, however, because what is the fault of the idols, if
it was man who created them, and then started to worship them? How
could these idols be in the world Hereafter? At the time of the
fall of Mecca, the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be
upon him) had destroyed these idols anyhow. This interpretation
is, therefore, erroneous. There are two other interpretations which
seem appropriate, and I like them both. The word Hijarat
in Arabic while meaning a stone, can also be used for a stone hearted
person. It has been used in this sense in a subsequent verse of
Al-Baqarah, "Then your hearts hardened after that, so
that they were like rocks, rather worse in hardness"(2:74).
The phrase stone-hearted person is used commonly in both the Urdu
and English languages. In Arabic, the word hijar is also
used for a person of frightening demeanor. These were those leaders
who used their political prowess to intimidate people, and stopped
them from accepting the truth, or incited them to fight against
it. Even today, this occurs quite frequently. The Quranic statement,
therefore means that ordinary people, and their political, or religious
leaders who play a major role in opposing the truth will be the
fuel of this fire.
The concept of Hell and Heaven
The word fuel indicates that the fire of base desires and envy
that smolders in the hearts of the disbelievers, and their opposition
to the truth in this life will kindle into the fire of hell in the
life Hereafter. In chapter 104:6-9 it is stated:
"It is the fire kindled by Allah, Which rises over
the hearts. Surely it is closed in on them, In extended columns."
There are few today who worship stone idols, but those who worship
their low desires includes all those who do not obey Allah. It is
quite obvious that he who does not obey Allah, follows his low desires
and emotions, which have the nature of fire. This fire which first
appears in the hearts of men, can ignite into the conflagration
of warfare, and ultimately appears as pillars of hell-fire in the
life Hereafter. The Holy Quran was revealed to control the internal
fire of desires in mankind, and to make it useful. An analogy for
this is the utilization of controlled energy in rockets and airplanes
etc., which makes it a source of progress and development. If this
same energy runs out of control, it destroys the vehicle it was
suppose to propel. Just as surely unbridled desires can consume
man in its aftermath. Whosoever rejects the Holy Quran, will be
unable to control this internal fire of his low desires, and it
will ultimately flare into the burning fires of Hell. Those who
are slave to their emotions and desires, their condition is appropriately
described by the Quranic phrase:
"Is there more (hal-mim-mazeed)."
This desire for more could be for wealth, power, or unbridled
sexual passions. On the other hand, those who believe in the Holy
Quran, and thereby exercise restrain against evil, and purify their
souls, their hearts are filled with cool freshness and tranquillity.
This is the paradise of the heart with which every believer is blessed
in this world, and the Holy Quran points this out in the verse:
"And for him who fears to stand before his Lord are
two Gardens" (55:46).
The one who is fearful of the moment when he will have to answer
before his Lord, is blessed with two kinds of paradise. Now it is
quite apparent that most believers do not get the worldly paradise
of material ease and comfort. What they are all blessed with is
the paradise of the heart i.e., inner peace and contentment. After
death this will assume a more palpable form of the blessing of paradise
in the Hereafter. The young people today, who are influenced by
the western culture, find it difficult to understand the paradise
of the heart. A person who is content and lacks anxiety within his
heart, is in paradise, although outwardly he may not be in gardens
with flowing streams. The one, within whom burns the fire of discontent,
is in a living hell, although he may be the owner of lush gardens
with streams of running water.
The last verse in this lesson gives good news to those who believe
and do good, that they will have:
"Gardens, wherein rivers flow."
The Arabic word for belief (iman) is derived from the word
aman which means peace, indicating contentment of heart.
The word for paradise (jannat), means something which is
not perceptible by the ordinary senses. This shows that by believing
and doing good, a paradise of tranquillity is born within the soul
of man, being hidden from the ordinary senses. This puts man in
a state of blissful content, a heavenly existence in this world,
and will assume a more perceptible form in the life Hereafter. When
those blessed in this manner, are given such celestial sustenance,
they will say it is similar to what they were given before. The
spiritual blessings received by those hearts who enter paradise
in this world, due to their belief and good deeds, are similar in
their effect to the fruits of paradise in the world Hereafter. This
is the reason why they would say, it is the same sort of sustenance
they were given before. It is because of this resemblance, that
the Holy Quran says, "and they were given the like of it."
The spiritual delights of this life will be presented to them as
the fruits of the life Hereafter.
Spirit - the real sensor of pain and pleasure
I would again like to lay stress on the fact that one should not
look down upon spiritual blessings. In fact, all that brings happiness
to the human mind is truly spiritual in nature. When the body dies,
and the spirit leaves it, one is not able to taste even the most
delicious of culinary delicacies, or appreciate the most melodious
of tunes. The human body is merely the conduit, or channel through
which the spirit perceives pleasure or pain. If the spirit is in
serenity, it leads to individual satisfaction and likewise if it
is in pain, the human body feels the effect of it. It is quite possible
that an honest person may go to bed hungry, and a dishonest individual
may have a table laden with dainties. The honest person’s heart
is, however, free from anxiety, and he is in a paradise of contentment,
in comparison to the hell of a crooked individual’s anxious and
fearful heart. A person may not have all the worldly goods and luxuries,
but he may still be happy for the real happiness of a person lies
in spiritual contentment.
Pure companionship and everlasting nature
Two more things are mentioned after this, i.e.,
"And for them therein are pure companions and therein
they will abide."
It is no pleasure to be alone, and the best partner for a person
is the spouse. They cover each others faults and deficiencies, and
provide loving companionship and satisfaction. Being a pair is not
however enough, it is pure companionship that is stressed. If a
man’s wife, though very beautiful, is impure and of a shady character,
she becomes a source of discord in his life. The same rule applies
to a woman; her life also becomes a living hell as a result of spousal
infidelity. The other feature of this paradise is that it is everlasting.
A beautiful garden which is just a temporary abode lacks the pleasure
obtained from a permanent dwelling.
In the end I would like to mention that the heart of a righteous
person even in this world is in heaven, and from it spring the streams
of good deeds which benefit God’s creation. This is the picture
of this world’s paradise which is described in the Holy Quran, "Gardens
in which rivers flow." In the Hereafter the paradise
of the heart takes the shape of external gardens, and the good and
beneficial deeds of the righteous towards their fellow beings become
the rivers which flow underneath these gardens.
Addendum to Lesson 18
Mr. Muhammad Aslam Rana, from the Center for Research on Christianity,
at Shadara, Lahore, sent us the following comments and inquiry on
lesson 18. It is being published along with our reply. He writes:
For the students of the Holy Quran, it is refreshing to
read Mr. Nasir Ahmad Faruqi’s Quranic lessons which are being published
regularly in the periodical Paigham-e-Sulah. In lesson 18,
dated January 19-26 1983, in his commentary on verse 23 of Al-Baqarah
he states: "Why then one may ask, should the stones be put to fire?
Some interpreters of the Holy Quran conjecture that the reference
is to the stone idols of the Arab idolaters. This explanation is
not satisfactory, however, because what is the fault of the idols,
if it was man who created them, and then started to worship them?
How could these idols be in the world Hereafter? At the time of
the fall of Mecca, the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah
be upon him) had destroyed these idols anyhow. This interpretation
is therefore erroneous.
Mr. Nasir Ahmad Faruqi’s Answer:
In this matter, it is respectfully stated that the commentators
who consider these stones as the idols of Arabs, or other nations,
are also correct. When these idols burn along with the idolaters
in the fire of hell, the mere site of their predicament, degradation,
and worthlessness, and the practical illustration of the teachings
of the honored prophets will be a source of spiritual and mental
chastisement for those idolaters. As to the question, how could
these idols be in the Hereafter, after having been destroyed by
the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) at
the time of the fall of Mecca? I would like to answer, For the
Almighty, Who has the Power to raise mankind from the dust of
his bones, it is not difficult to put together the broken pieces
of these idols, and restore them to their original shape. The
intent of this would be to question and chastise the idolaters.
It is clearly mentioned in the Holy Quran that this will occur
on the Day of Resurrection in the verses, "And on the day
when He will gather them, and that which they serve besides Allah,
He will say: Was it you who led astray these My servants, or did
they themselves stray from the path? They will say: Glory be to
Thee ! it was not beseeming for us that we should take for protectors
others besides Thee, but Thou didst make them and their fathers
to enjoy until they forgot the Reminder, and they became a lost
people. So they will give you the lie in what you say, then you
can neither ward off (evil), nor (obtain) help. And whoever among
you does wrong , We shall make him taste a great chastisement
I hope these comments will reach the readers through the pages
of your periodical Paigham-e-Sulah, so that they can be
appraised of the correct situation.
Mr Muhammad Aslam Rana has ignored the following points in his
- As mentioned in Al-Baqarah verses 23, 24, the Holy Quran
collectively challenges all knowledgeable scholars of the past
and present, that the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah
be upon him) is unlettered, and if they are convinced that he
fabricated the Holy Quran (we seek the refuge of Allah from saying
so), then they should bring forward the equivalent of its smallest
chapter. "But if you do (it) not—and you can never do it
then be on your guard against the fire whose fuel is men and stones;
it is prepared for the disbelievers" (2:24).
In these verses, clearly those critics are addressed, who do
not accept the Holy Quran as the Divine word and not the idol
worshipping polytheists of Arabia.
- Despite this if we interpret this as the stone idols of these
idolaters, we are faced with the following objection. What was
the fault of those lifeless stones? It was after all the idolaters
who fashioned them into idols and started to worship them. This
interpretation certainly does not appeal to my mind.
- Those addressed first in these verses were the people of Arabia.
Their stone idols were destroyed by the Holy Prophet (peace and
blessings of Allah be upon him) after the fall of Mecca. The contention
that they would also be the idols of other nations, and would
be put in the fire of hell, to serve as a source of spiritual
chastisement for the Arab idolaters, leads to the following objection.
How could they be a source of such punishment for those idolaters?
They would in fact be happy that their gods were better, because
they were saved from that inferno. The gods of other nations were
false and were therefore subjected to fire, while their gods (whom
Allah could according to Mr. Rana restore to original shape, although
they were shattered to pieces) were true because they were saved
from such a fate.
In the reference of Ch. Al-Furqan, that Mr. Rana has
quoted, there is no doubt a reference to the false gods. In
these lessons I have, however, explained that the Arabic word
ibadat means serving with humility. The word salaat
has been used where ever prayer is meant. Therefore, the Quranic
words in verse 17 of Al-Furqan, "And that which
they serve (Tah-bu-dun from Ibadat) besides
Allah," signify those political and religious leaders whom
people serve instead of Allah. Those leaders who thus misled
the masses, will definitely be brought back to life to face
- In any case the verses of Al-Baqarah under discussion
do not mention association with God, so that one should bring
the idols into this discussion. The discussion is about those
who do not consider the Holy Quran as the revealed word of God.
- My interpretation is therefore not only appropriate, but also
the correct one. The ‘stones,’ here signify the stone hearted
people, or their political and religious leaders who played a
dominant role in misleading the masses, by objecting to the truth
of the Holy Quran being the revealed Word of God. I have supported
this interpretation by reference to the dictionary meaning of
the word hijar in my preceding lesson.
I hope that Mr. Muhammad Aslam Rana will agree with me.