Day 13 – Surah Al-Aaraf (Part-2) : Stories of Courage

​Surah Al-Aaraf gives accounts of five prophets back-to-back:
Noah [7:59-64], Hud [7: 65-72], Saleh [7:73-79], Lut [7:80-84], and Shuaib [7:85-102].These stories enforce the following meaning:

  • The battle with evil is real, and will continue to go nonstop till the end of time
  • All prophets preached the same message, and faced similar challenges. You’ll notice how the wording in each prophet’s story was very similar.
  • Evil comes in different shapes and forms. (homosexuality for the community of Lut, economic corruption for Shuaib’s community, etc… )
  • All stories had a similar ending: the people of truth were saved, and those who rejected the message were punished 
The morale of the story is given next: The simple concise rule of prosperity of every nation: 

وَلَوْ أَنَّ أَهْلَ الْقُرَى آمَنُواْ وَاتَّقَوْا لَفَتَحْنَا عَلَيْهِم بَرَكَاتٍ مِّنَ السَّمَاء وَالأَرْضِ وَلَكِن كَذَّبُواْ فَأَخَذْنَاهُم بِمَا كَانُواْ يَكْسِبُونَ
If the people of those towns had believed and been mindful of God, We would have showered them with blessings from the heavens and earth, but they rejected the truth and so We punished them for their misdeeds. [7:96]

Story of Musa

The story of Musa was repeated ten times in the Quran, with his name mentioned 136 times! Prophet Musa had two struggles in his mission: external against the aggression of the Pharaoh and internal against his own people’s slackness and attitude.
In the midst of aggression and arrogance from the Pharaoh, we read about amazing people who took a strong stand: the magicians who worked for the pharaoh; they were promised all kinds of gifts and incentives if they defeat Musa with their magic. However, the moment they realized that Musa has a real miracle with him, and not just magic tricks, they immediately bowed down in prostration to Allah:

وَأُلْقِيَ السَّحَرَةُ سَاجِدِينَ. قَالُواْ آمَنَّا بِرَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ. رَبِّ مُوسَى وَهَارُونَ
The sorcerers fell to their knees and said, ‘We believe in the Lord of the Worlds, the Lord of Moses and Aaron!’ [7:120-122]
 Even when threatened to be killed and mutilated, they said: 

 رَبَّنَا أَفْرِغْ عَلَيْنَا صَبْرًا وَتَوَفَّنَا مُسْلِمِينَ
Our Lord, pour steadfastness upon us and let us die in devotion to You.’ [7:126]

In contrast, Bani Israel had many incidents of hesitation and immaturity. Initially, their prophet asked them to be patient against the persecution, but they said:

قَالُواْ أُوذِينَا مِن قَبْلِ أَن تَأْتِيَنَا وَمِن بَعْدِ مَا جِئْتَنَا
They replied, ‘We were being persecuted long before you came to us, and since then too.’ [7:129]

Even after their enemy was destroyed, and after seeing God’s miracle with opening the sea and drowning the Pharaoh with his soldiers, they had this immature behavior towards their Lord, they saw a community worshipping idols and wished to be like them:

وَجَاوَزْنَا بِبَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ الْبَحْرَ فَأَتَوْا عَلَى قَوْمٍ يَعْكُفُونَ عَلَى أَصْنَامٍ لَّهُمْ قَالُواْ يَا مُوسَى اجْعَل لَّنَا إِلَهًا كَمَا لَهُمْ آلِهَةٌ قَالَ إِنَّكُمْ قَوْمٌ تَجْهَلُونَ
We took the Children of Israel across the sea, but when they came upon a people who worshipped idols, they said, ‘Moses, make a god for us like theirs.’ He said, ‘You really are foolish people [7:138]

And when prophet Musa left them for forty days to meet his Lord and get the revelation, they actually did worship an idol:

وَاتَّخَذَ قَوْمُ مُوسَى مِن بَعْدِهِ مِنْ حُلِيِّهِمْ عِجْلاً جَسَدًا لَّهُ خُوَارٌ
In his absence, Moses’ people took to worshipping a mere shape that made sounds like a cow– a calf made from their jewelry. [7:148]

The stories of the Quran present different personalities in front of us, and invite us to reflect on our lives and make conscious decisions on who we want to be: to be like the magicians and take a firm stand against evil, and to avoid following the footsteps of bani Israel. In fact, even the ending of the Surah praises those who bow down in prostration to Allah, and invites us to be like them:

إِنَّ الَّذِينَ عِندَ رَبِّكَ لاَ يَسْتَكْبِرُونَ عَنْ عِبَادَتِهِ وَيُسَبِّحُونَهُ وَلَهُ يَسْجُدُونَ
Those who live in the presence of your Lord are not too proud to worship Him: they glorify Him and bow down before Him. [7:206]

It is recommended to perform the sujud of tilawah when reading this Ayah (the same ruling applies to 14 other locations in the Quran). The spiritual benefit of performing such act is beautiful: after reading about the magicians who bowed down in sujud despite the threats made by the pharaoh, and after you know about the angels who always make sujud to Allah, it is YOUR TURN to do the same thing. It is an action item that helps you spiritually and emotionally connect with the people you read about in the Quran.
The Story of the Sabath

The story of the Sabath is given next: The community who lived next to the seashore and was commanded not to fish on Saturdays. Some of them tried to play games with their Sharia and would place their nets on a Friday night and then collect the fish on Sunday. The whole community was divided into three groups:

  1. Those who violated the commands of Allah
  2. Those who took a stand against the disobedience and warned from disobeying Allah
  3. The grey-area, mediocre group who stayed on the side. In fact, they blamed the righteous group for doing their obligation and advising the sinners:

وَإِذْ قَالَتْ أُمَّةٌ مِّنْهُمْ لِمَ تَعِظُونَ قَوْمًا اللَّهُ مُهْلِكُهُمْ أَوْ مُعَذِّبُهُمْ عَذَابًا شَدِيدًا قَالُواْ مَعْذِرَةً إِلَى رَبِّكُمْ وَلَعَلَّهُمْ يَتَّقُونَ
How, when some of them asked their preachers, ‘Why do you bother preaching to people God will destroy, or at least punish severely?’ [the preachers] answered, ‘In order to be free from your Lord’s blame, and so that they may perhaps take heed.’ [7:164]
This story confirms the theme that was iterated in different parts of the Surah and represented by the name “Al-Aaraf” (review part-1 of this summary): staying on the side and avoiding the confrontation is BAD for you, if not dangerous. Allah tells us the ending of each group:

فَلَمَّا نَسُواْ مَا ذُكِّرُواْ بِهِ أَنجَيْنَا الَّذِينَ يَنْهَوْنَ عَنِ السُّوءِ وَأَخَذْنَا الَّذِينَ ظَلَمُواْ بِعَذَابٍ بَئِيسٍ بِمَا كَانُواْ يَفْسُقُونَ  
When they ignored the warning they were given, We saved those who forbade evil, and punished the wrongdoers severely because of their disobedience.  [7:165]
What happened to the grey-area group? Some scholars said that their story is not worth mentioning by Allah, because they didn’t make worth of themselves by supporting the truth. Another opinion says that the third group was punished along with the sinners, because they didn’t take a clear stand against them. This opinion is supported by another Ayah where Allah SWT says:

وَمَا كَانَ رَبُّكَ لِيُهْلِكَ الْقُرَى بِظُلْمٍ وَأَهْلُهَا مُصْلِحُونَ
And your Lord would not have destroyed the cities unjustly while their people were reformers. [11:117]
Action Item:

Start getting active within your own community, masjid, or youth group. Get into the habit of working for the sake of Allah and serving humanity.  Being active is one of the quickest ways to put your faith into action and protect your belief and your manners.  

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