The Holy Qur'an

80 Years Ago – The Stories of the Holy Quran

39 80 YEARS AGO THE STORIES OF THE HOLY QURAN (The following is an extract from the July issue of the Review of Retigions, 1910) The purpose for which the histories of the former prophets and the stories of the previous generations were revealed to the Holy Prophet (may peace and the blessings of God be upon him) becomes still more apparent when we consider the warnings given to the opponents of Islam to learn a lesson from the fate of the previous people whose histories were rehearsed to them in the Holy Quran. The reader is requested to note the following verses of the Holy Quran:- There have been apostles before thee laughed to scorn: but that which they laughed to scorn encompassed the mockers among them! Say: Go through the land: then see what hath been the end of those who treated them as liars. (6:11,12) But how many generations have We destroyed ere the days of these (the Meccans), mightier than they in strengthl Search ye then the land—was there any escape? Lol herein is warning for him who hath a heart, or lendeth the ear, and is himself attentive. (50:37,38) They who preceded them accused their prophets of falsehood, so a punishment came upon them whence they’looked not for it, and God made them taste humiliation in this present life ‘Now have We set before men in this Quran every kind of example that haply they may take heed. (39:26-28) And if they (the Meccans) turn away, then say: I warn you of a punishment of Ad and Thamood. (41:14) They swore by God with their mightiest oath that should a warner come to them, they would yield to guidance more than any other people: but when the warner came to them, it only increased in them their-estrangement, their haughtiness on\earth and their plotting of evil/ But the plotting of evil shall only encornpass those that make use of it. Can they, then, expect aught but Gods^way of dealing with the peoples of old? Thou shalt by no means find any change in the way.of . God, — yea, thou shalt not find any variableness in the way of God. Have they never journeyed in the land and seen what hath been the end of those who flourished before them, mightier in strength than 40 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS they? God is not to be frustrated by aught in the-heavens or in the earth; verily He is the All-knowing, the Almighty. (35:43-45) This is, from the histories of the cities which We relate to thee. Some of them are standing, others mown down. And We dealt not unfairly by them, but they dealt not fairly by themselves, and their gods on whom they called beside God availed them not at all when thy Lord’s behest came to pass, and they did but increase their ruin: Such was thy Lord’s punishment when He punished the cities that had been wicked, verily His punishment is afflictive, severe! Herein truly is a sign for him who feareth the torment of the latter day. (11:102-104) Before thee indeed have apostles been mocked at— and I bore long with the unbelievers; then, I chastised them; — and how severe was My punishmentl (13:33) •. Are they {the enemies of the Holy Prophet, may peace and the blessings, of God be upon him) better than the people of Tobba and those who flourished befere them, whom We destroyed? Of a truth, they were evil-doers. (44:38-39) And how many cities were mightier in strength than the city which hath thrust thee forth! We destroyed them, and there was^none to help them. (47:14) \ ‘ Truly they who oppose God and His apostle shall be brought low. And now have We sent down demonstrative signs, and for the unbelievers is a disgraceful chastisement. (58:6) Have they never journeyed through the land, and seen what hath been the end of those who were before them? Mightier were they than these in strength; and they broke up the land and cultivated it more than these have cultivated it; and their apostles came to them with proofs of their mission: and it was not God who would wrong them, but they wronged themselves; then evil was the end of the evil-doers, because they had treated the signs of God as Res, and laughed them to scorn. (3:10-11) These verses of the Holy Quran sufficiently indicate the purpose for which the histories of the former generations and their prophets were revealed to the Holy Prophet (may peace and the blessings of God be upon him). The Holy Prophet, said the Holy Quran, was a warner like the Warners that had preceded him and it was the law of God that He REVIEW OF RELIGIONS ‘ 41 destroyed the enemies of the prophets and gave His servants victory over their opponents. That was an unalterable law of God and the Holy Prophet (may peace and the blessings of God be upon him) being a true Prophet, ‘his enemies were to be dealt with in the same way in which the enemies of the former prophets had been dealt with. Verily, proclaimed the Holy Quran: They who oppose God and His apostle shall be amongst the most low. God hath written this decree, ‘I will surely prevail, I and My apostles.’ Truly God is Strong, Mighty. (58:21-22) It was to illustrate this law of God that most of the histories of the former prophets and their people were repeatedly rehearsed to the enemies of Islam. The-purpose of these histories becomes still more apparent from the histories themselves. When one reads these histories one feels that the object of the narrator is, not to tell a story, but to teach a lesson. To illustrate this, I will take certain concrete instances. Let us begin with Noah. Read the story of this prophet in chapter 10 of the Holy Quran. It begins thus: Also recite to them the history of Noah. These words with which the story is introduced clearly indicate its purpose. God commands the Holy Prophet (may peace and the blessings of God be upon him) to recite to his people the story of Noah. Why? Because there was a lesson in-it for them. Then follow the words of Noah which he addressed to his people and’which run thus: . If 0 my people! My abode with you and my reminding you of the signs of God be grievous to you, yet in God is my trust. Muster, therefore, your designs and your false gods, and let not your design be carried on in the dark: then come to some decision about me, and delay me not. Does the reader think that these were mere words of a story? The Holy Prophet (may peace and the blessings of God be upon him) was not telling the story of Noah; it was as much his own story as it was the story of Noah and the words which the latter addressed to his people were really addressed by the Holy Prophet to his own people. The Holy Prophet (may peace and the blessings of God be upon him) said to his people in the words of Prophet Noah: In God is my trust. Muster your designs and your false gods and let not your design be carried on in the dark: then come to some decision 4 2 ‘ . REVIEW O F RELIGIONS about me and delay me not. These were bold words and they contained a challenge to the people of Mecca and their allies to do all that lay in their power to destroy the Holy Prophet.if they could. Instead of destroying him, it was announced they would only destroy themselves,.-like the people, of Noah. Then after relating how God saved Noah and destroyed his enemies, the Holy Quran concludes the story with the following words which are very significant: See, then, what was the end of these warned ones/ meaning that similar would be the fate of the warned ones of the days of the Holy Prophet (may peace and the blessings of God be upon him). In chapter 11, the Holy Quran quotes the words which the people of Noah addressed’ to him. It says: • ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ • ‘ Then said the chiefs of the people who believed not, ‘We see in thee but a man Eke ourselves; and we see not who have followed thee except our meanest ones of hasty judgment, ‘nor see we any excellence in you above ourselves: nay,’we deem you liars.’ But this was actually what the proud chiefs .of Mecca, such as Abu Jahl, Otba, Shaiba and the others, said with regard to the Holy Prophet (may peace and the blessings of God be upon him) and his followers and therefore in the story of Noah and his people there was-a lesson for them. Noah and his followers were deemed weak by their proud foes and were even treated with contempt, but God assisted those that wereraccounted ‘ weak and destroyed their haughty enemies. And the Holy Prophet (may peace and the blessings of God be upon him) was a Warner from God, just as Noah was Warner and his enemies were to be brought to naught, as the opponents of Noah were brought to naught. Note the words with which the story of Noah as narrated in Chapter 11 concludes this is one of the secret histories, says the Holy Quran: We reveal it unto thee, neither thou nor thy people knew it ere this, be patient then, verily there is .a prosperous issue to the Godfearing. . • • • . Why is the story of Noah called a secret history? It is so called not because the story of the deluge was unknown to the Holy Prophet (may peace and the blessings of God be upon him) and -his opponents, but because it was really the future history of the Holy Prophet and his people themselves. The words which have been translated as secret historis literally mean announcements of the things unseen. ‘Neither thou nor thy people knew it-ere this’. This does not mean that the facts of the story of Noah were not known to them. It was their own future history foretold in ‘_ REVIEW OF RELIGIONS 43 the story of Noah that was unknown to them. The chiefs of Mecca did not know that they were destined to meet with destruction. They were a powerful people who regarded the poor followers of the Holy Prophet with contempt. They had never even dreamt of their woeful end which was foretold to them in the story of Noah and his people. The Holy Prophet (may peace and the blessings of God be upon him) also did not know this until it was revealed to him by God. God says-: Be patient then; verily there is a prosperous issue to the Godfearing. These words coming at the end of the story of Noah clearly indicate the purpose for which the story was revealed. They mean that just as there was a prosperous issue to Noah and his followers, and God assisted them against their enemies, similarly he would assist the Holy Prophet and his poor followers against their powerful enemies and would lead the haughty chiefs of Mecca to a disastrous end. Thus the story of Noah was a secret history inasmuch as it predicted triumph for the Holy Prophet (may peace and the blessings of God be upon him) and ruin for his enemies.’It is to this fact that the Holy Quran refers when speaking of Noah and his people, where it says: verily in this are signs. (23:31) What is true of the story of Noah is also true of the stories of the other Prophets. Read these stories carefully and you will find that they are so many prophecies relating’ to the Holy Prophet (may peace and the blessings of God be upon him). In every thing which is’said about the former prophets there is a lesson for those who reflect. What the prophets said to their people was also applicable to the people of the Holy Prophet. In Sura Hud, for instance, we have the following account of what the people of Shuaib said to their prophet and what he said to his people, and these words applied with equal force to the Holy Prophet (may peace and the blessings of God be upon him) and his people. They (the people of Shuaib) said: 0 Shuaib! we understand not much of what thou sayest, and we clearly see that thou art powerless among us. Were it not for thy family we would surely stone thee, nor couldst thou prevail against us. Now this was exactly what the people of Mecca said to the Holy Prophet (may peace and the blessings of God be upon him) and the following reply which the Prophet Shuaib gave to his people was clearly meant as a reply 44 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS to the chiefs of Mecca, according to the Holy Quran: He scad, 0 my people! does my family stand higher in your esteem than God? Cast ye Him behind your back, with neglect? Verily, my Lord is round about your actions. And, 0 my people, act with what, power ye can for my hurt: I verily will act: and ye shall know on whom shall light a punishment that shall disgrace him, and who is the liar. ‘Await ye; verily I will await with you. . . In these words, the chiefs of Mecca were told by the Holy Prophet (may peace and the blessings of God be upon him) that they might act with what power they could to hurt him, that their efforts to ruin him would be of no avail, for his trust was in God, and that they would soon know who would be punished by God; and they were asked to wait for the fulfilment of this divine promise. Space does not allow me to go on quoting instances of how the stories of the previous prophets serve as prophecies which foretell the success of the Holy Prophet (may peace and blessings of God be upon him) and the destruction of his enemies. I will only quote here a. few more verses to show that the people of Mecca were repeatedly warned to take a lesson from the fate of the people whose histories were rehearsed to them in the Holy Quran. The reader is requested to note the following verses: Before them the people of Noah, Ad,’^and Pharoah the-lord’of the stakes, treated their prophets as impostors; and Thamood, and the people of Lot, and the dwellers in the forest (the people ofShuaib); these were the confederates; all verily did naught but charge the apostles with falsehood, just therefore was My retribution. (38:11-13) To the people of Pharoah also came the threatenings; all Our signs did they thread as impostures; therefore punished We them as He only can punish Who is the Mighty, the Strong. Are your unbelievers, 0 Meccans, better men than these? Is there any exemption for you in the sacred books? (54:42-44) Verily, We have sent you an Apostle to bear witness to you even ‘as We sent an apostle to Pharaoh: but Pharaoh rebelled against the apostle, and We laid hold on him with a severe chastisement. So, how, if you believe not, will ye screen yourselves from the day that shall turn children grey-headed? (73:16-18) Their state is like that of the people of Pharaoh and of those before REVIEW OF RELIGIONS . 45 them who believed not in the signs of God: therefore God seized upon them in their sin! Verily, Godis mighty, severe in punishing Their state is like that of the people of Pharaoh and of those before them who treated their Lord’s signs as lies. We therefore destroyed them in their sins, and We drowned the people of Pharaoh;, for they were all doers of wrong. (8:53-55) Verily, in this present tife We assuredly succour Our apostles, and those who believe and We will assuredly succour them on the day when the witnesses shall stand forth. (40:52) The foregoing verses clearly lead to the conclusion that the stories of the prophets and their people that are to be found in the Holy Quran are not related therein without a purpose. They are meant to serve as warnings for the enemies of Islam. (from page 35) be confronted with anything that might incite dangerous tendencies. This is the philosophy that underlies the Islamic regulations relating to the observance of the veil. The Book of God does not aim at keeping women in seclusion like prisoners. This is the concept of those who are not acquainted with the correct pattern of Islamic ways. The purpose of these regulations is to restrain men and women from letting their eyes to rove freely and from displaying their good looks and beauties, for therein lies the good both of men ‘and of women. It should be remembered that to restrain one’s looks and to direct them only towards observing that which is permissible is described in Arabic by the expression ghadde basar, which is the expression employed in the Holy Quran in this context. It does not behove a pious person who desires to keep his heart pure that he should lift his eyes freely in every direction like an animal. It is necessary that • such a one should cultivate the habit of ghadde basar in his social life. This is a blessed habit through which his natural impulses would be converted into a high moral quality without interfering with his social needs. This is .the quality which is called chastity in Islam. (The Philosophy of the Teachings of Islam)