Doctrines > Quranic Storytelling in Dialogue(II)   (4)


Contemporary lessons

There are a few lessons to be learned from these human examples:

1. Freedom of belief vs. freedom of willpower

The above-quoted Quranic verses stress the fact that man has absolute freedom in what he wants to believe in and what he wants to embark on or abandon. God has created him and granted him the freedom and will to think independently. Man should translate this freedom into solid belief, faith, determination and good deeds. He is, though, not free to surrender his freedom to others under the pretext that he could fall under their influences, be they moral or material. It is noteworthy that however powerful others may be, their means of exerting pressure to sway man from what he thinks right shall not exceed temptation, harassment and threats. These tactics may pay off in weakening one’s resolve, which may lead to surrender. Yet, man is capable of putting up a determined defense to resist the tactics of the carrot and stick with the intellectual power, conviction, and willpower God has endowed him with. In this regard, one can draw on the strength of the prophetic Messages.

God has created man and granted him the freedom and will to think independently. Man should translate this freedom into solid belief, faith, determination and good deeds.

Man has to answer for his own actions before God, especially if he takes leave of his senses and forgets about his message in life. Likewise, there will be no excuse if he falls victim to his own desires, inclinations, and frailties, or yields to tyrants, oppressors, and those who lost their way.

As for external pressure and coercion, to which the soul remains indisposed and with which the heart does not feel at ease, they have no bearing on the question of responsibility. In those circumstances man would not be free to do what he likes, although he is free to reject what he does not like notionally. As such, the underlying principle of freedom in Islam is that man has a natural right to freedom of choice. However, whether he would, in practice, be able to exercise his freedom without constraints or pressure is a different matter.

2. The spectacle of the arrogant people

The picture the Holy Quran depicts of the arrogant people is not only one that describes their situation at the Day of Judgment, especially the destiny that would await them there and the trauma they would go through. It is a kind of analytical study of their mindset. That is, the way they conduct themselves with other people, and how they feel a sense of superiority and authority. Their relations with others are usually based on a master/slave analogy. They feel that they are not responsible, either morally or lawfully, for the actions of the people who follow them and serve their whims. Denying any relationship with, or any extended responsibility for, the actions of their subordinates is a tactic intended to save their own skin.

The Holy Quran wants to paint the same picture for those people in this life, for the life hereafter is a reflection of this one. Resurrection will not happen in a different form or thought. Rather, man, in his original copy, will be summoned to appear at the Day of Judgment before the Almighty to answer for his actions in this life, thus: “But those who were blind in this world, will be blind in the hereafter, and most astray from the Path” (17: 72).

If this is their situation in this life, how could man trust them here or in the hereafter, so long as they have such a mentality, one that makes them abdicate responsibility at the first warning of danger.

3. Practical approach

In the thick of ideological and social struggle, where we face multi-faceted exploitative practices of the arrogant elite, especially its subjugation of the weaker sections of society, we should always call to mind the previous two points. We should always bear in mind that the forces of condescension seek to use the poor and naive for their own wicked ends, not least unbelief, misguidance, aggression, and fighting the truth in the name of justice. Yet in no time they tend to absolve themselves of any responsibility: “(Their allies deceived them), like the Evil One, when he says to man, ‘Deny God’: but when (man) denies God, (the Evil One) says, ‘I am free of thee: I do fear God, the Lord of the Worlds!’” (59: 16).

The approach to the process of calling to mind and exposing the practices of the forces of arrogance should be to rouse a sense of freedom and individual responsibility. Exposing the practices of the arrogant people towards those who are deemed weak could be one such approach. Raising awareness among the ranks of the disadvantaged group, with a view to making them reconsider their subservience to the privileged one, could be another. This is particularly so, in the light of the impending punishment that is in store for them should they not mend their ways.

Perhaps this was the rationale behind depicting the scenes of the Day of Judgment ahead of time. Maybe it is meant to make people get prepared for that Day in advance and in ample time, because both lives are reflections of one another. The other point that needs pondering is the nature of the relationship between the two groups and how each one should face up to its own responsibility when they are called to book.

We reckon that taking the disenfranchised group under the wing of Islamic activism, providing its members with the political, social, and spiritual awareness through the realities of life, and strengthening their spirit of faith, is capable of extending and solidifying the base of Islamic activism in people’s lives. This should be with the aim of developing and bettering the life of man by building a better system.

The Inmates of Hellfire in a Squabble

First vs. last

In the same context, i.e. every human is responsible for his/her own actions; the Holy Quran presents another group of people whose members mimic one another without elements of weakness or strength. That is, the factors of weakness or strength, as was the case with the weak and arrogant groups of people, are not in play here. It seems these groups have a number of considerations in common. It could be one or more of the following: geography, language, economic ties, and a new generation following in the footsteps of an old one, mainly because the existing generation feels strongly about what they see as sacred about their ancestors.

This is how the Holy Quran depicts the scene and dialogue:

Who is more unjust than one who invents a lie against God or rejects His Signs? For such, their portion appointed must reach them from the Book (of Decrees): until, when our messengers (of death) arrive and take their souls, they say: “Where are the things that ye used to invoke besides God?” They will reply, “They have left us in the lurch,” And they will bear witness against themselves, that they had rejected God. He will say: “Enter ye in the company of the peoples who passed away before you – men and jinn, – into the Fire.” Every time a new people enters, it curses its sister-people (that went before), until they follow each other, all into the Fire. Says the last about the first: “Our Lord! It is these that misled us: so give them a double penalty in the Fire.” He will say: “Doubled for all”: but this ye do not understand. Then the first will say to the last: “See then! No advantage have ye over us; so taste ye of the penalty for all that ye did!” (7: 37–39)

These holy verses present the situation in two scenes:

1. The unbelievers and God’s messengers of death.

Before taking their spirits, the angels of death take them to task: Where are those whom you used to call upon to the exclusion of God? Let them come to your rescue in this dire situation, should they possess any of the divine power or authority.

The answer comes tinged with disappointment that reveals a sense of total loss: They are nowhere. We are left in a limbo. Thus, there is no hope for any escape, nor is there are any denying the fact that they admitted their unbelief. There they are alone before God to answer for their crimes. The curtains are drawn on this scene, leaving us, judging by the general atmosphere, with the conclusion that the mission was over and that the perpetrators were on their way to the final abode.

2. The offenders in hellfire

A yell comes from the direction of God, ordering those unbelievers

to march to hellfire to face the same destiny that previous groups of both the human race and jinn have already faced. Amid the clamor, we hear the newly convicted criminals trading insults and recriminations with the previously convicted ones. The mutual acrimony, rage, and bitterness between yesterday’s fraternities of unbelief are self-evident. They seem to have nothing except for apportioning blame and hopelessly distancing themselves from one another.

There we are before the spectacle of the cries and fury of a people who feel let down, rightly or wrongly, in a bid to ameliorate the shock they feel by trying to lay the blame on others.

A sort of indirect argument starts in earnest. The newly arrived group turns to God, beseeching Him to increase the suffering of the first arrivals because they maintain that they were responsible for leading people astray.

Another shout is heard from the direction of God: Each one of you will get a double share of torment. This is because those who passed away before you went astray and helped you follow them in error. As for you, you too went astray and helped them carry out their plan in misleading you, not least by responding to the call of the leaders among them. And yet, you do not know the nature of the torment so that you can comprehend how it will be doubled. Scornfully, the first group says to the last one: You have done us no favors. We are all responsible for the vile deeds we have done.

The curtain is thus drawn on the final scene in the story for another chapter to begin, where man has already learned a lesson to put to use in his life, so that he can avoid the same fate, at the Day of Judgment, of those people whose lot was degradation, shame, and torture.

The offenders will get double shares of torment in the hellfire because they went astray and committed crimes.

Practical Lessons

We should discern the moral of this situation, which God has played for us before the time of its actual occurrence so that we are mindful not to fall into the same trap those people fell in, by taking stock of the situation, especially the following:

1. Rejecting submissiveness

In this regard, we should reiterate what we have already mentioned, i.e. one must reject subservience in matters of doctrine, practice, and position taking. That is, it is fundamental that one should be independent in arriving at one’s own convictions because any justification for not doing so by virtue of falling under the sway of others is just not a good enough reason for ducking the responsibility and eventually bearing the consequences in this life and the hereafter.


2. Evil doctrine incapable of maintaining spiritual unison

Maintaining ties between individuals and groups on the basis of malevolent doctrines or evil conduct is not a guarantee for the spiritual and moral unity that could make those individuals and groups empathize with one another and willingly bear the consequences of their responsibility. This is simply because deviation is not governed by ideology; rather, it is based, in the main, on narrow self-interests and emotional relations. This is bound to make people abandon one another in adversity. The result would then be recriminations, apportioning blame, and trying to pin the responsibility on the other party.

3. Studying people’s position taking

The workers in the way of God Almighty are urged to study deeply atheistic and devious tendencies, which appear to have listening ears within our Muslim societies. They should also study what political clout or military or economic power these trends can wield that might attract people’s fascination and eventually cause them to fall under their sway. A third element could be the material temptation that the proponents of these trends can exercise, which might find its way into the hearts and minds of people who could easily be recruited to their cause. This could happen to people without their giving the invasive ideologies due consideration, i.e. whether they are good or bad. However, in order to justify their position, the people who embraced those trends could start the process of soul-searching.

We should outpace the tendencies by not giving them the opportunity to utilize unusual circumstances in sowing more misguidance. Raising awareness among the masses can protect them from yielding to those adverse circumstances.

Studying those tendencies in detail should prove vital, especially if we can put our fingers on the reasons and motives behind the attempts of the proponents of those trends to push people into accepting them. This should, though, be done away from pondering matters of right and wrong. There and then, we could draw up a practical plan with the aim of exposing the ulterior motives of those tendencies and confront the people who fell prey to them with our findings. The position could then be linked to the question of freedom, dignity, and independent judgment. It could also be used as a spur to rekindle the ambers of belief in the consciences of the deceived. We should also outpace those tendencies by not giving them the opportunity to utilize unusual circumstances in sowing more misguidance. Raising awareness among the masses can protect them from yielding to those adverse circumstances.

Dwelling on the Quranic verses could provide some excellent lessons that would make the position that has been taken a matter of destiny in this life and the hereafter.

It could also prove valuable to make people aware of the ideological as well as moral double standards between what they believe in and what they practice, highlighting the negative aspects of their conduct. This could provide them with food for thought to reflect on the double standards they seem to be practicing. Dwelling on the Quranic verses could provide some excellent lessons that would make the position that has been taken a matter of destiny in this life and the hereafter. This should, in turn, make man refrain from taking hasty decisions and avoid paying lip service to, and being governed by, emotions in matters of destiny. Submitting to such transient desires could be tolerated in special insignificant cases. It is not acceptable in decisive matters that have a bearing on this life and the hereafter.