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Lesson 19

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Lesson - 19


"Surely Allah disdains not to set forth any parable — a gnat or anything above that. Then as for those who believe, they know that it is the truth from their Lord; and as for those who disbelieve, they say: What is it that Allah means by this parable? Many He leaves in error by it and many He leads aright by it. And He leaves in error by it only the transgressors, Who break the covenant of Allah after its confirmation and cut asunder what Allah has ordered to be joined, and make mischief in the land. These it is that are the losers. How can you deny Allah and you were without life and He gave you life? Again, He will cause you to die and again bring you to life, then you shall be brought back to Him.

He it is Who created for you all that is in the earth. And He directed Himself to the heaven, so He made them complete seven heavens; and He is Knower of all things." Ch. 2:26-29

Weakness of false deities

You may remember that in the beginning of this segment which was discussed in the preceding lesson; a collective challenge was given to those who question the authenticity of the Holy Quran as the word of God. It was stated:

‘if their assertion that the Holy Quran was a fabrication of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him ) was true, (we seek the refuge of Allah from saying so), then it behooves them to produce the equivalent of its smallest chapter, and to call on all their helpers in this matter, except Allah.’
No one accepted this challenge, but a new objection was put forward. It was said that there was nothing extraordinary about the Holy Quran, for it contained examples of very trivial things. The parables which led to this objection are those speaking of the weakness of the false deities; as seen in these verses:

"The parable of those who take guardians besides Allah is the parable of the spider that makes for itself a house, and surely the frailest of the houses is the spider’s house" (29:41)

"O people, a parable is set forth, so listen to it. Surely those whom you call upon besides Allah cannot create a fly though they should all gather for it; and should the fly carry aught from them, they could not take it back from it: weak are the invoker and the invoked" (22:73).

Instead of the spider and the fly, the verses under discussion today mention the gnat to characterize this objection. This is because the ba‘udah, or the gnat, is among the Arabs a proverbially weak creature, so that to express the utmost degree of weakness they say, ‘weaker than the gnat.’

In verse 29:41, the Holy Quran compares those who associate with Allah to a spider that spins an intricate web for a dwelling. The weak nature of that structure becomes evident, when it gets blown away with a gust of wind. Those who associate with Allah also weave a very intricate and complicated web of their beliefs, and spend a great degree of effort in doing so. Like the spider’s web, it is also very fragile and gets blown away with a single assault of truth. The parable of the fly is used similarly in verse 22:73 to describe the weakness of these false deities. The critics when they noted these examples, sarcastically remarked as to what kind of a Divine word was this which gave the example of such lowly creatures as the spider and the fly. To this the Holy Quran replies that those who believe, recognize these examples to be the truth (that it is the truth from their Lord, Rabb), and know that He has used these parables to nurture mankind from a lower to a higher stage of existence. The true word, no matter how trivial, is very useful and essential, if it serves to elevate man from the lowly stage of associating with God, to the higher spiritual realm of monotheistic belief. Belief illuminates a man’s soul in a manner that he can recognize the relevance of such examples. Those who disbelieve (the Arabic word for disbelief, kufr, means covering over), cover their intellectual faculties, and thus fail to use them appropriately. As a consequence of this, they fail to understand such examples and therefore raise objections. These are otherwise very simple and easily understood parables, which illustrate in a very effective manner the absurdity of associating with Allah.

Guidance of the Holy Quran

The words of the Holy Quran which follow, "Many He leaves in error by it-- yu-dhilo bi-he kasirun," are also the object of their criticism. They interpret the Arabic word yu-dhilo as leading astray and thereby conclude (we seek the refuge of Allah from saying so) that the Holy Quran leads astray a large number of people. Such objections can only be raised by those who become intellectually so blind, that while leveling such criticism they totally disregard the whole text of the Quran. In fact, the Holy Quran at the outset in reply to the prayer of Al-Fatihah states:

"This Book there is no doubt in it, is a guidance for those who guard against evil" (2:1).

There are in addition frequent statements in the Holy Quran calling it the, ‘Guide for all mankind.’ It is also called, ‘Guidance and Light,’ i.e., it possesses the complete guidance and light which illuminates the spiritual path in such a manner that he who treads on it cannot falter in his course and direction. Quite contrary to this, the devil is said to be:

"surely he is an enemy, openly leading astray (mu-dhi-lun)" (28:15)

"And certainly he led astray (adh-a-la) numerous people from among you" (36:62)

"And those who disbelieve will say (on the Day of Judgment): Our Lord show us those who led us astray (adh-a-la-na) from among the jinn and the men that we may trample them under our feet, so that they may be of the lowest" (41:29).

These verses make it quite clear that the Arabic word idh-lal (and its various forms) when used in terms of leading astray is applicable only to the devil, or those who follow him. The other meaning of Idh-lal is to find someone erring or to declare one in error. For example it is said, ‘ the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) came upon a nation and found it in idh-lal (astray). No one using his common sense would translate this as the Prophet leading those people astray. Another example of this is that if some one’s camel is lost, in Arabic they would say, ‘Adh-lal tul ba-hir.’ No one translates this as meaning, that person led his camel astray. In fact it means the camel lost its way and could not be found. An Arab poet in one of his poetic verses remarks, ‘I got drunk to the point that my friend declared me to be the one gone astray (adh-al-lani sidd-i-qi).’ Thus the meaning of the word idh-lal as, ‘to be found astray,’ or ‘to declare as having gone astray,’ is the sense in which it has been used in the verse being discussed in this lesson. Allah, by means of this Holy Quran declares many to be in error and many are led in the right direction by it.

The transgressors

It is the distinctive quality of this Holy Book, that it informs and warns those who have gone astray, and many of these find the right way. It then identifies those who are astray, as being the transgressors. A transgressor is the one who exceeds the limits of the religious law or shariat. Every religion gave its legal code, and in this matter the religious law of Islam is explicit and complete. Those who dislike such limitations, and disregard them, become the transgressors. For example the religious law instructs us to earn an honest living. Those who use dishonest means, are the transgressors. These are, according to the Holy Quran, therefore, the ones who, after having been guided in the right direction, went astray.

The Covenant of Allah

The other group of people who are labeled as transgressors are those who broke the covenant of Allah after it was made firm. The Holy Quran has identified this covenant in the following verses:

"And when thy Lord brought forth from the children of Adam, from their loins, their descendants, and made them bear witness about themselves: Am I not your Lord? They said: Yes ; we bear witness. Lest you should say on the day of Resurrection: We were unaware of this" (7:172).

This bond or covenant which is ingrained into the soul of every human child, male or female before his birth, is called the natural covenant. Human nature thus bears witness to this relationship with the Creator. The reason given for creating this bond is to ascertain that man, when he meets Allah on the Day of Judgment, is not able to deny having knowledge of Him. In some of my earlier lessons I have given examples of atheists, such as leaders of the communist world, who spontaneously admitted to the existence of the Divine Being in unguarded moments. The other component of this covenant is the natural inclination of mankind towards worship of One God. This is why during moments of spontaneity or urgency, man cries out for God’s assistance, although under normal circumstances he may associate others with Him. Man is, therefore reminded of the testimony of his own nature on the Oneness of the Divine Being, so that on the Day of Judgment he does not try to vindicate himself by blaming his forefathers for innovating the associates with God. As regards this covenant, we are further informed that the transgressors, after bearing witness to it and its confirmation, become responsible for breaking it. This confirmation is brought through Divine revelation which comes to confirm both the existence of God and the Oneness of His Being.

The worst example of those who transgress is given in the words:

"Who break the covenant of Allah after its confirmation and cut asunder what Allah has ordered to be joined."
What is that which Allah has ordered to be joined? It is the same relation or bond between man and God. All Prophets were sent to invite man towards God and to re-establish this shattered bond. The Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) has been mentioned in this regard several times. For purposes of brevity, I will mention only a few instances as shown in these verses:

"And as an inviter to Allah by His permission" (33:46)

"Say: This is my way: I call to Allah" (12:108).

Regarding Prophet Moses, the Persian saint Maulana Rum has appropriately mentioned in one of his couplets, "The purpose of your coming was to bond people with God." Who are the ones responsible for breaking this bond instead of strengthening it? These are the people who are spreading atheism on an international level, as is being done through communism and other similar movements in the world. Prior to this are mentioned, those who broke their own natural covenant they had made with Allah. That is deplorable, but it is even worse to invite others to atheism, which is what is mentioned here.

Consequences of transgression

Having a relationship with God strengthens one’s belief in Him. As a consequence of this, the fear of God is generated in one’s heart and he is saved from usurping the rights of others. When this bond is broken, unbridled animal desires lead to uncontrolled freedom of action; as a result of these evil acts, violation of human rights and cruelty is committed, leading to mischief in the land. This is the ultimate and worst category of transgressors which is alluded to in this verse as, "and make mischief in the land."

In our western society today, we can see in living colors the violation of various forms of such covenants, and the mischief in the land as a result of such behavior. Initially the religious law was discarded after being labeled a curse, and the society drifted towards atheism. This was followed by communism, and other strong western movements to convert others to atheism. Communism is openly an atheistic movement which encouraged billions of people to deny God. Besides communism, however, voices were raised from Europe and America, and relayed in print all over the world, that there was no God, and if there was one, He no longer exists (we seek the refuge of Allah from saying so). Such unbridled freedom has resulted in a general increase in evil actions, sexual decadence, violation of human rights, disregard for the rights of the weak and cruelty towards them.

Quranic debate with the atheists

To correct this worldwide trend towards atheism, the Holy Quran has given cogent arguments for the existence of the Divine Being. It states:

"How can you deny Allah and you were without life and He gave you life?"

Man’s very existence is witness to the fact that he was totally insignificant, and was blessed with the gift of life by the Divine Being. Why does he not ponder on the fact that a year prior to his birth date he did not even exist? Is it not a supreme accomplishment! that nothingness was created into life? Who evolved him from a state of nonexistence to a life form? He obviously could not have done it himself. Parents are merely the means, they on their own cannot fashion, or give form to the baby, nor can they breathe life into him. Then it is stated:

"Again, He will cause you to die."

Who wants to die? Man is however totally helpless in this matter. There is a Being higher than him, who causes him to die, despite all his efforts and those of others who want to save him. The Quranic verse, however, abounds in Divine mercy, as it immediately says:

"and again bring you to life, then you shall be brought back to Him."
It assures man not to give up hope, that he will again be given life, to return to Allah where from he came. Man's attention is then drawn to the fact that Allah:

"He it is Who created for you all that is in the earth."
Man has created none of it. The farmer is the one who sows the seed, but the seed itself is created by Allah. The earth with all its wonders is created by Him. Take for example, the miracle of water, who is its Creator? There is only one answer to this, it is Allah Who does all this. It is then stated:

"And He directed Himself to the heaven, so He made them complete seven heavens,"

thus giving the good news of progressive and everlasting spiritual development. Man in this age of development is presumptuous of the advances he has made in his knowledge, therefore the last statement made in these verses is:

"and He is Knower of all things."
It becomes quite evident, that the One Who has created the earth and all that is in it, possesses the best and most intricate knowledge of His creation. As far as knowledge of the life Hereafter, and its seven heavens are concerned, it is known only to Him. Allah is the Creator of all knowledge on this earth and makes it known to man through inspiration or Divine communication (ilham), as we shall discuss in the next section. Knowledge about spiritual development, the life Hereafter and the heavenly stages of its development could certainly not have been discovered by man on his own. This is also given to him by Allah through Divine revelation. This will also be discussed in the next section.

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