Doctrines > Quranic Storytelling in Dialogue(II)   (8)

The mission of the messengers

Those messengers came in two groups; two in the first batch and then the third one joined them to lend them support. On arrival, they announced that God had sent them to the people. However, it seems that they were not prophets but emissaries of Jesus (a.s.), as is evident from the traditions. The reaction of the people they were sent to was typical of bygone people of unbelief, i.e. in their rejection of the messages and the messengers because being a member of the human race and a prophet at the same time was incomprehensible. The apostles made it clear to the people that they did not want to engage them in dialogue regarding their mission, simply because they did not have time to waste. The apostles, however, further clarified the position by saying that they were very clear about their mission, had confidence in themselves, and knew that God had sent them to the people of that town. That is, their mission was to convey the message to the people; whoever wanted to arrive at a conviction, they were there to help them get to it. Conversely, whoever did not wish to follow this path, they were not ready to engage them in a futile dialogue. It sufficed them that they showed the people the evidence that God had sent, so that they should not have any pretext that they were not shown clear proofs.

However, the people did not like that rational and calm answer that was symptomatic of the position of the message, which had confidence in itself, and which moved assuredly guided by belief. The people’s plan was aimed at complicating matters for the emissaries, leading them to tense situations where feelings might have run high and the patience might have snapped under pressure. This could have made the apostles behave in a wrong way. Without doubt, this would have led them down a path that would not serve the message in any way, if not endanger it in the longer run. The situation had taken a turn to the worse, in that the people started threatening the apostles with stoning, if they did not desist from going ahead with their mission. They also branded them prophets of doom. Nevertheless, the answer came calm and collected, in that they were not the ones who had come up with the evil. On the contrary, unbelief and misguidance, which were the hallmark of the unbelievers and the misguided ones, were the source of all the wickedness. That is, their intransigence was driving them to plug their ears, so as not to hear the reminder. It was also causing them to be overindulgent in rebellion and to go astray from the right path.

Rising of the truth

This scene draws to a close to make way for another chapter in the story, featuring the one-man band of belief standing with his people urging them to support the apostles and follow them. He called upon his people to ponder the issue on account of the naked truth, in that the apostles had no axe to grind. To them, it was all alike whether the people remained hanging to the rope of unbelief or moved over to the camp of belief. That was borne by fact that they did not ask for any remuneration for their work, which was, in itself, further evidence that the whole matter was that of a desire to guide the people aright, and that they had no personal gain to contemplate.

The believer then started conducting a dialogue with himself, making sure that his people were in full view of what he was doing. His intention was to make them reflect on what he was saying and that he was inviting them to what he had believed in. He further desired that they move away from the argument about the truthfulness of the claim of the apostles, or lack of it, to the issue of reflecting on the idea itself and eventually rejecting or accepting it. It is noteworthy that this is the Quranic approach to debating the matter of theism and polytheism. The way to discuss the matter is by way of comparison between the Divine attributes and the merits of the partners the polytheists allege God has. The whole exercise was intended to lead to the conclusion, by the believer, that his abiding by the camp of polytheism would lead him to the way of misguidance. Thus, he did not want to be counted on the side of the polytheists, proclaiming instead his belief in God and rejecting polytheism. In the end, he did not forget to appeal to others’ consciences to take note of his outcry.

Purity of the believer

The curtain draws on the final scene, in tandem with the closing of the final chapter of the whole world. That mass ending would spell the end for all arguments and messages. The part of bearing the responsibility would have come to an end, only to open the door to reckoning and the subsequent facing of the consequences. The entirety of humanity, the prophets, the tyrants and their followers, would stand before God to be tried for the good or bad they have done, and would either be rewarded or punished as the case may be. God shall forgive whosoever He wished and punish whomsoever He wished because all matters shall be His.

There and then the believer, who had followed the truth, would stand alone, facing the community of unbelief. He would be asked to enter paradise in reward for his belief and work. However, he would pause a little while to remember his people who seemed to have forgotten about ever facing that situation, despite the fact that the messengers warned them against it and gave them good news about the outcome resulting from joining the camp of belief. The believer would feel utter solitude for he would have wished that his people had realized that beforehand, so that they would have ended up earning the bliss and favour of God. Yet, it would not be the case.

One can deduce from these verses that the believers live continually with the nice feeling and desire that others would share with them the reward they had achieved and the good that had come their way. Once God had given them their due share of the reward, they would feel the anguish for their people for not getting a share of that great reward.

So, the final chapter of the story is closed with the bleak outcome that had befallen the people, for they had got the punishment they deserved for their works, proving that they were so insignificant that they could not put up a fight: “It was no more than a single mighty blast, and behold! They were (like ashes) quenched and silent” (36: 29).

This story has something in common with the previous one, of the believer among the people of the Pharaohs, in that both the heroes seem to be calm and collected in the face of the challenges mounted against the messages and the messengers. The messengers and activists seemed to go about their missions showing self-restraint in adversity. The high spirit and zeal demonstrated by the new believers reveal a sense of responsibility in their work in the way of God, using all means at their disposal: showing support to the leadership, entrusted with delivering the message, and joining forces with it when matters came to loggerheads. In all that, they showed flexibility or steadfastness, as the position might have dictated. Last, but not least, they showed sincere feelings of sympathy and love for others. Their sense of responsibility is tinged with a human touch in order to make sure good, mercy, and blessings shine in the lives of people. This feeling of common good for all follows the true believers to the final abode, in that they do not seem to be really relishing the reward of paradise because others will not be enjoying the same happy ending, simply because the unbelievers did not follow the right path in this world.

This is the approach that the activists need at all times and places, so that propagating the message would not turn into a routine pointless exercise. This should be an eye-opener for the activist in order that his personal feelings should not be mixed up with those of the message, leading to a tendency of not being accommodating. That is, he should show tolerance for others, without entertaining the idea that they are a nuisance and intent on spoiling his comfort, as this is bound to reflect badly on his stand vis-ŕ-vis the message, so much so that he might contemplate abandoning it and abdicating his responsibility. This may be the catalyst for taking it out on others, just to satisfy his own ego and desires.

The approach of the believer draws on that of Prophet Abraham (Ibrahim) (a.s.) when he was reasoning with his people and questioning their beliefs, such as worshipping the sun, the moon and the stars. He used to engage in soliloquy as to the viability of this kind of worship. He was ensuring that his people observed what he was doing and listened to what he was saying, with a view to making them understand the question of right and wrong. He was doing that without letting his personal feelings take hold over the matter, in that he was talking about those ideas as one of them, and not as an enemy bent on attacking their beliefs. This would provide them with the opportunity to reflect on the ideas and embark on a soul-searching exercise, after they had listened to his soliloquy.

This approach has been reiterated in many verses, most probably for its importance in the field of propagating the way of God as a method to be followed by Muslim activists in their work and encounters. We have already discussed this approach at length in this book.

Before concluding this chapter, we have to draw attention to the tactics of the unbelievers in standing against the apostles and dubbing them prophets of doom. They seemed to have taken this position as a pretext to reject the message the apostles came to deliver to them. In this, there is clear evidence that they did not have the flimsiest idea or proof to reason with the messengers. That is why they resorted to vain talk and dabbling in trivialities, which they themselves did not appear to believe in, to justify their intransigence and sticking to their position of unbelief. Using the same ploy, they looked as though they had stirred up trouble for the messengers by inciting the people that they were the source of all afflictions that had befallen them.

However, the messengers had always hit back decisively, especially by attributing all ills and problems to the unbelievers and that they were all of their own making, due to their own practices that were induced by unbelief and rejection. Therefore, it was they, and not the messengers, who should be held responsible for all the problems and mishaps. The messengers’ noble missions were to redeem them from the misery and the torment they were experiencing.

What is in it for us?

We should espouse this approach in facing up to the methods of the groups of unbelief and misguidance that are tirelessly waging war against the groups of Islamic belief. That is, the adversaries of Islam do their utmost to charge its true followers with all the responsibility for some of the social ills. This attitude is bound to reflect on the issues of struggle and position taking. They never tire of creating unfavorable climates against it, above all by waging misinformation campaigns that aim to discredit the believers, in that they were to blame for all the quandaries and misfortunes.

As for the nature of struggle, it should identify the reasons behind those ills and troubles and trace them back to the malpractices of the camp of misguidance. That is, they are the natural products of devious ideas and stray footsteps, which do not care about the public interest because they are governed by individualistic motives and personal inclinations. A second stage could be making clear the Islamic principles and the initiatives of the activists, explaining what good they have in store for the entire society, and reiterating the fact of avoiding anything that could prove detrimental or corruptive to society because its overriding concern is the interest of man. Thus, it cannot contemplate anything that could put man in harm’s way.

However, there seems to be a problem of biased media, which exploit the ignorance of the masses of the real reasons behind the events to interpret them at will and wage a smear campaign against the camp of belief without any basis and for no crime it has committed. It is expected, however, that the believers should hit back at their adversaries in order to set the record right, without losing sight of the intellectual and emotional state of the masses, because this has a bearing on achieving the goal.