Doctrines > Quranic Storytelling in Dialogue(II)   (5)


Dialogue with God

In this dialogue, which will take place on the Day of Judgment, we are introduced to the inmates of hellfire being quizzed about the question of belief and unbelief. With His indelible evidence, God reminds them of the respite he gave them in this life to mend their ways. Yet, they chose to tarry, rebelling against Him, making fun of His friends and waging war against them. After all this, the idea of their requesting another chance to return to this life and do good sounds ludicrous. This is because they will certainly go back to their old ways, not least because their choosing to go wrong was not because the evidence was not overwhelming; rather, they preferred taking the road of misguidance over that of belief and the transience of this life to the eternity of the hereafter. Moreover, they did not seem to take notice of time, which was passing them by, so much so that they were oblivious to its passing. Thus, the debate draws to a close and quiet prevails for they did not have anything else to talk about:

“Were not My Signs rehearsed to you, and ye did but treat them as falsehood?” They will say: “our Lord! Our misfortune overwhelmed us, and we became a people astray! Our Lord! Bring us out of this: if ever we return (to Evil), then shall we be wrong-doers indeed!” He will say: “Be ye driven into it (with ignominy)! And speak ye not to Me! A part of My servants there was, who used to pray ‘our Lord! We believe; then do Thou forgive us, and have mercy upon us: For Thou art the Best of those who show mercy!’ But ye treated them with ridicule, so much so that (ridicule of) them made you forget My Message while ye were laughing at them! I have rewarded them this Day for their patience and constancy: they are indeed the ones that have achieved Bliss.” He will say: “What number of years did ye stay on earth?” They will say: “We stayed a day or part of a day: but ask those who keep account.” He will say: “Ye stayed not but a little – if ye had only known! Did ye then think that We had created you in jest, and that ye would not be brought back to Us (for account)?”

They were playing a frivolous game, as though God has created life for them as a pastime. As a result, they do not appear to have time for a reasoned and unemotional debate. All they can do is make fun of the ideals, of what is sacred, and of the peaceful and forbearing believers who show strong spirit of faith in adversity. There, on the Day of Judgment, the believers will have their turn in laughing at the wrongdoers, while celebrating their triumph.

It seems the unbelievers are not deterred by the fate that befell them, asking for yet another reprieve to start a new life. However, their time was up:

If thou couldst but see when they are confronted with the Fire! They will say: “Would that we were but sent back! Then would we not reject the Signs of our Lord, but would be amongst those who believe!” Yea, in their own (eyes) will become manifest what before they concealed. But if they were returned, they would certainly relapse to the things they were forbidden, for they are indeed liars.

This is the rationale behind the debate God will have conducted with this type of people. They do not seem to understand life as He has ordained it to be lived, i.e. an opportunity for good work and ensuring the materialization of God’s will on earth, in establishing a sound and balanced system. After that, all return to God to see the result of their labor. There and then, every soul would be held accountable for the good or evil that it had done, and subsequently either reaping the reward or receiving the punishment would happen. Therefore, treating life as pastime and banter does not make any sense. God wants us to steer clear of this path and instead aspire for fulfilling the sublime goal of life. We should make use of our lifetime to turn every corner in it into a beehive, with the aim of establishing the desired system for life; a system that is based on His Message, in whose cause His messengers toiled. Consequently, there should be no room for any work that is not capable of fulfilling that objective or contributing to its fulfillment. There should as well be no scope for any move that does not serve the said objective. Even leisure times, aimed at providing a respite for the soul, unwinding, and recharging one’s batteries, should be directed in a sensible way, i.e. serving the continuity of the good work with newly found vigor.

There may be a moral behind the focus, during the divine trial of the unbelievers, on their poking fun on the believers, so much so that indulging in this practice had made the unbelievers forget their God. In such a climate, the unbelievers had become impervious to thinking straight, especially about the consequences of their actions. They even did not take seriously the faith of the believers that could have augured well for life. It seems all they were concerned with was turning the believers into an object of derision and laughter. To their mind, the believers’ lowly standing in the social order induced this practice; it might also have been triggered by the believers’ faith, practices, and sublime moral fiber, which, to the unbelievers, were outlandish.

The verses turn to the believers who put up with the incessant onslaught, showing patience and strength of character in the face of abuse. They are portrayed as suppressing any reaction that might be interpreted as though it was a personal one. The believers were inclined to rise above such furious reactions when dealing with others, because they knew very well that it would not lead to any meaningful outcome, which might serve the end result. That is, the spread of the Message in the context of the struggle to establish belief on earth. Thus, the believers showed utmost forbearance wherever they felt it would be for the benefit of the ultimate goal. However, should the interest of the process of spreading the Message dictate that a change of approach is desirable; a switch to a different plan or approach would then be envisaged.

The final scene shows the unbelievers, who used to be sarcastic about the believers before, being invited to ponder their destiny, in hellfire, as opposed to that of the believers, whose final abode is in paradise, having secured the pleasure of God. However, the verses should remain a constant reminder to man to keep reflecting on life. This would, without doubt, reap the best results and shun the cynicism with which man treats the bearers of the Message and their followers. Man should, as an alternative, resort to engaging in reasoned argument, with a view to getting to the truth and eventually the right path.

The transgressors and the hypocrites vs. the believers

On the Day of Judgment, the modes of dialogue vary. The following is another dialogue where debate is not conducted face to face, but rather, by way of voices emanating from here and there, i.e. argument and counter-argument on a particular subject.

Here is an example of this type of dialogue. It takes place, although indirectly, between the transgressors and the believers:

And thou will see the wrongdoers, when in sight of the penalty, Say: “Is there any way (to effect) a return?” And thou wilt see them brought forward to the (penalty), in a humble frame of mind because of (their) disgrace, (and) looking with a stealthy glance. And the believers will say: “Those are indeed in loss, who have given to perdition their own selves and those belonging to them on the Day of Judgment. Behold! Truly the wrongdoers are in a lasting penalty!”

The opening soundings come from the direction of the wrongdoers, apparently talking to themselves in reaction to the torment they are confronted with. They hypothetically pose the question as to the possibility of backpedaling, i.e. a return to this life, so that they could take corrective action. The situation is fast reaching a climax for they are being paraded before hellfire, having nothing for protection from the anguish.

The answer to their question comes from the other side, concluding that the loss is not only confined to the moral and material sides of this world, in that there may be a possibility of getting compensation in the hereafter. The real loss is, indeed, that of man’s losing himself and his kin in the hereafter; a loss that is induced by man’s transgressing against his soul, and by his rebellion and going astray. Thus, there is no use in trying to go back.

There is another scene that is richer in detail and more distinctive than the one we have just seen. In this scene, the unbelievers are on one side and the believers on the other, trading these verbal exchanges:

One Day will the hypocrites – men and women – say to the believers: “Wait for us! Let us borrow (a light) from your light!” It will be said: “Turn ye back to your rear! Then seek a light (where ye can)!” So a wall will be put up between them, with a gate therein. Within it will be Mercy throughout, and without it, all alongside, will be (Wrath and) punishment! (Those without) will call out, “Were we not with you?” (The others) will reply, “True! But ye led yourselves into temptation; ye looked forward (to our ruin); ye doubted (God’s Promise); and (your false) desires deceived you; until there issued the Command of God. And the deceiver deceived you in respect of God. This Day shall no ransom be accepted of you, nor of those who rejected God. Your abode is the Fire: that is the proper place to claim you: and an evil refuge it is!”

At first, the hypocrites ask the believers for a glimpse of their light; so that they can light the darkness they are in. The believers’ answer comes in the negative. That is so, because they have no right to that light which floods from the springs of pure belief. Instead, it is suggested that they seek light from behind them, if there was such light, because that place is the one where their final abode is. It is where they would be punished for what they had committed before their arrival. Then the lightening dialogue, which is characterized by entreating, comes to an abrupt end. Immediately thereafter, a wall is erected between the two groups. That wall has two sides, one overlooks paradise, where mercy and good are, and the other overlooks hellfire, where torment and wrath are. An exclamation then follows as to why the two groups were separated, while they were together, and visiting one another in this world? The answer comes loud and clear: The criterion for selecting people and gathering them together in this world is not consensus. It is the meeting of minds, working together, and the universal outlook to life, i.e. the general code of practice. Should any of these diverge – atheism vs. belief, the right path vs. the crooked one, short-sightedness vs. wider vision (transcending this life to the hereafter) – and the former parallel lines lead to two diametrically opposed destinations, that of God and that of Satan, the terminals are bound to be different, viz. heaven and hell respectively.

In the light of this, the answer is determined: In the first life, we were together. But, you pushed yourselves in the thick of troublemaking and skepticism. You did not show openness to the truth and ran after wishful thinking. Satan deluded you away from God, to the extent that you forgot His remembrance. Your actions have led you to this ending. No ransom would be accepted from you in as much as it would not be accepted from the unbelievers because you are of the same ilk. You have nothing to look forward to, apart from hellfire that is your lot and final abode.

The dialogue then ends, leaving us to reflect on those scenes, on the Day of Judgment, and take heed of the fate that would have become the people depicted therein.

To this the end, these holy verses beckon the workers in the way of God to present the scenes they depict and the meanings they aspire to give to people, with a view to making them ponder and draw lessons from them. This would be in response to what the Holy Quran has aspired to. That is, by transporting man to those future situations on the Day of Judgment, it has aimed to make him reflect on those realities, and the people involved in them, and be prepared not to follow their example, by avoiding the path they were treading for the right one.

In this climate, we will encounter some more Quranic verses dealing with the dialogue between the believers and unbelievers on the reasons that landed the unbelievers in hellfire. In those verses we will try to familiarize ourselves with the distinctive characteristics of the party that deviated from the right path. Studying their conduct should shed some light on their state of mind and psyche. We will soon find out that they perceive their lifetime in this world as an opportunity to reinforce their egoistic inclinations, especially by indulging in pastime practices instead of behaving responsibly in this life in private and public alike. The Holy Quran then takes us back to life to put us in the scene of how they led their life, especially their position on the calls to embrace the truth, which were aimed at making them remember God and His Messages:

Every soul will be (held) in pledge for its deeds, except the Companions of the Right Hand. (They will be) in Gardens (of Delight): they will question each other, and (ask) of the sinners: “What led you into Hell Fire?” They will say: “We were not of those who prayed; nor were we of those who fed the indigent; but we used to talk vanities with vain talkers; and we used to deny the Day of Judgment, until there came to us (the Hour) that is certain.” Then, will no intercession of (any) intercessors profit them? Then what is the matter with them that they turn away from admonition? – As if they were affrighted asses, fleeing from a lion! Forsooth, each one of them wants to be given scrolls (of revelation) spread out! By no means! But they fear not the Hereafter.

As is evident, each soul’s responsibility was well defined. Thus, each soul is held responsible for that which it had done, whether good or bad. The verdict is read out pursuant to the debits and credits in the balance sheet. The doers of good deeds would end up enjoying freedom. The wrongdoers would languish in torment until God’s mercy comes their way to give them a reprieve, should there be room for mercy. The Companions of the Right Hand would be given special treatment because they managed to check their desires before the temptations of this life; instead, they led a life of complete submission to God. Thus, they are given leave to ask about the fate of others in a reproaching manner, putting them face-to-face before their true criminal selves.

Reason for going astray

The criminals would reply, giving the causes for their ideological and practical malpractices:

1. “We were not of those who prayed.” They maintain that the reasons for their being far away from God, both by doctrine and conscience, was due to neglecting the performance of prayer. Without doubt, prayer is the believer’s vehicle for having audience with God. The believer’s standing before God would always bring to his mind the importance of that union, serving as a reminder for him to conduct himself within the bounds of God’s laws and regulations.

2. “Nor were we of those who fed the indigent.” This is the second factor as to why the unbelievers had gone astray. That is, when they lived life away from the path of belief, they did not have a sense of responsibility for those who did not have the means to live a dignified life because of want. The unbelievers lived a cocooned life that insulated them from thinking of other people who might be in need of their help.

Their mindset sharply defines the chasm between a person who thinks that the intellectual, physical, or financial powers they are endowed with are for the common interest, and thus bear the responsibility for their fellow humans who are in need of their help, and people who think that those powers are some kind of personal concession, which should put them in a different league where they should be above others.

3. “But we used to talk vanities with vain talkers.” They live to indulge with others in falsehood. They do not seem to attach any importance to, or responsibility for, the words, in that they do not mind if what they utter has a devastating effect on people. That is because they behave irresponsibly, free from any religious controls. They live life to the full in idle talk and in satisfying their unbridled innate inclinations.

4. “And we used to deny the Day of Judgment.” Denial is the hallmark of their going astray in all aspects of their life, both private and public. This is because those who choose not to believe in the Day of Judgment and think that this life is the last opportunity for man to live, do not see any motive that could spur them into behaving responsibly and leading a disciplined and honest life and celebrate its sublime values. So, since they do not believe that they will be held accountable, they do not seem to have any sense of responsibility.

Running away from God and His Messages is a way of abdicating one’s responsibility in this life. Even so, once they are faced with death, which they tended to reject before, it serves as a wake-up call to them from their long slumber. However, this call has come rather too late. They have been caught unawares. There is neither profit they could use, nor hope for any help coming from any quarter to save their skins.

The Holy Quran concludes the dialogue by going back to discuss the reason for going astray. In short, it is for shying away from remembrance and being reminded of the dangers. Also, it is for showing unyielding intransigence in their stand on the Signs of God and His Messages. In some way, their flight from God’s messengers is akin to that of donkeys fleeing before an attacking lion. They were requesting the prophets to provide them [as evidence] with scrolls of revelations spread out. However, the Holy Quran hastens to add that the issue is not as they wish to portray it, in that it was the rejection of the hereafter that prevented them from following the footsteps of the truth.

The Quran makes one more move, by returning us, one more time, to the atmosphere of the hereafter, so that we can have the opportunity for reconsidering our positions here and now. This is the rationale behind the story/dialogue in the Holy Quran: “Nay, this surely is an admonition: Let any who will, keep it in remembrance!”