By His Eminence, the late Religious Authority, Sayyed Muhammad Hussein Fadlullah (ra)
Translated by: Manal Samhat
The disciples set out to declare that they are the supporters of Allah having believed in Prophet Jesus (a.s.) and his Message that Allah has revealed to him. They confirmed that in their supplication and appeal to Allah to make them among the witnesses in their testimony of commitment to submission, in their testimony over the people through their new position as callers and in their response to support the Messenger in his call to follow the path of Allah and confront the challenges facing the line of the Message followed by those who believe in it. And Allah did answer their prayers as suggested by some Ayahs to follow.
The battle of the right
The disciples were engaged in a harsh battle with the Jews who disbelieved in the Message of Prophet Jesus and planned to kill him and persecute his followers and drive them away from the line of his Message. Perhaps they went through huge pressures in their society, especially that the highest position in the ruling authority back then also adopted the same policy. The reason is that the success of Jesus and his followers in his call and the people’s eagerness for him and their belief in him, especially when they witnessed the miracles Allah manifested through him, which no other ordinary human could have made… all this made the king of the Jews scared of the propagation of his Message which could make him lose his kingdom and authority. A previous similar scenario is that of the rich who used to defy the prophets and persecute the downtrodden who used to believe in them because that hindered their role in controlling the society and made them lose the privileges they once enjoyed.
As such, the disbelievers started to plan conspiracies against the miraculous Prophet and set plots, schemes and secret plans that concealed their deep grudge with the aim of putting off the light of Allah through their deception so as to cast off the pressure resulting from the new difficult problem besieging them. But Allah had wills and schemes different from theirs with His unseen ability that no one can attain, for Allah supports His messengers and the believers in Him through His wisdom and through the unseen methods He employs on the ground. This is based on His Divine will to let His Message start off from positions were the disbelievers persecute His messengers, since persecution attributes to the Message much strength, steadiness, depth and extension in the feelings and thoughts of the people. The people might give in to the disbelievers at some points that do not allow them to defend themselves and they might even help them in persecuting the messengers and their believing followers as a result of the invitation and intimidation method or go after the temptations offered by the authority in return of declaring war on the Message and the messenger. Despite that, these same people might hold in their subconscious mind deep respect to those callers who rebel against pain, ridicule their persecution, as much as they rejoice for the spiritual suffering they face, being in the eyes of Allah, triumph over all the weak inclinations within their souls, turn every sadness and physical pain inflicted on them into a big joy and bear any kind of suffering all for the sake of attaining closer positions to Allah Who bestows upon the patient His satisfaction, mercy, glad tidings and blessings.
Then, they plant missionary seeds in the people’s conscience, so they reach out to their innermost through a word they hear here, a nice gesture they witness there and situations they face and encounter while defending the Message. Later on, these seeds start to grow and they turn into a meadow of faith and ever-fresh greenness that flourishes the soul and tickles the emotions. And miraculously, those evil men would turn into submissive believers who ask for God’s repentance and the pardon of the messenger and his companions, and the bystanders who used to clap for the disbelieving tyrannical authority when it used to persecute the missionary people would turn into active workers in the field of faith, and this time, they would clap for the freedom fighters and Mujahideen.
Divine plans for the Messages
As such, it becomes clear that God’s planning for the movement of the Messages was long-term, and when God plans something through His invisible means, no one is a better planner than Him, for it is He Who is in control of life and man and all their sources and resources. This is evident in His saying: “And they planned and Allah (also) planned, and Allah is the best of planners” (03:54). They set plans to find ways to apprehend and kill Prophet Jesus (a.s.) through a wicked planning that would prevent his companions from helping him to escape or saving him. However, Allah prevented this plan in an unseen manner, which made them kill someone who looks like Jesus, according to a narration, or imagine that they killed him without actually doing so according to another. Allah raised Jesus to Him by His will, which abolished their schemes in a concealed manner.
We have pointed out that planning is not restricted to invisible evilness only, as generally perceived by people, rather, it is the invisible way of action intended to thwart the initiatives and plans of others at the level of the thought and reality, be it good or evil. Allah mentioned evil planning in His saying: “And the evil plans shall not beset any save the authors of it” (35:43), which suggests that there is evil planning and good planning, so we can ascribe evil planning to the people who set schemes against Jesus in their invisible spiteful devilish plans, by which they tried to end his Message, prevent him from making a missionary change towards the better and threaten his life by putting an end to it. On the other hand, we can attribute good plans to Allah, the Most Exalted, Who made plans and schemes to preserve the life of His Prophet, protect his Message and its propagation among the people and ensure its success by ensuring that it persisted throughout time and spread to several places.
Considering that Allah is the One Who had good plans to bring about the best in people, by providing them with the means that could guide and direct them to the straight path, can any of His creatures stand in His way or be safe from His plans, while He enjoys absolute dominion over everything, employs everything through His wisdom and enjoys capability over everything and while the disbelievers own nothing but a few powers which Allah enabled them to attain so as to use them in the way of the right, yet they disobeyed and used them in the opposite direction; the way of evil?! And at what cost?! Eventually, the path of the right, faith and goodness shall prevail, for this is the will of Allah that cannot be separated from His aim, which shall be eventually attained, even if after a while.
The Divine blessings upon the disciples
In Al-Maedah Surah, and in the context of counting the graces and blessings Allah bestowed upon Prophet Jesus, the son of Mary, Allah talks about the disciples and mentions that He guided and inspired them to believe in his message through the spiritual blessings He bestowed upon their minds, feelings and awareness of the secrets of the Divine miracles which He privileged Jesus (a.s.) with. This is evident in His saying: “And when I revealed to the disciples, saying, Believe in Me and My Messenger, they said: ‘We believe and bear witness that we submit (ourselves)’” (05:111). They believed in an open way and completely submitted themselves to Allah and supported His Message, through His Divine planning of providing them with the elements of guidance. Therefore, they neglected all the pressures of the society surrounding them, and this is a Quranic method supported by the Ayah that “Allah guides whom He pleases to the right path”, meaning that He secures for them the means of guidance, which signify the favors mentioned in Al-Fatihah Surah: “Keep us on the right path. The path of those upon whom Thou hast bestowed favors. Not (the path) of those upon whom Thy wrath is brought down, nor of those who go astray” (01:06-07). What is required is that Allah enables them to be guided through the suggestive openness, guiding methodology and positive circumstances that interfere in their minds’ awareness to the spiritual connotations and intellectual study of the positions of guidance, and it is not required that Allah instill guidance in their souls without them having the ability to choose [whether to be guided or not], for Allah wants man to believe out of his own free will and choice.
The disciples’ doctrinal culture
Allah talks about the disciples in yet another Ayah, where they ask Jesus to request something strange from Allah that could confirm that He privileges them and that could reassure them and make them feel close to Him and feel His love: “Behold! The disciples, said: ‘O Jesus the son of Mary! Can thy Lord send down to us a table set (with viands) from heaven?’ Jesus Said: ‘Fear Allah, if ye have faith’. They said: ‘We only wish to eat thereof and satisfy our hearts, and to know that thou hast indeed told us the truth; and that we ourselves may be witnesses to the miracle’” (05:112-113).
But this request by the disciples raises many questions, for how could they ask Jesus (a.s.) whether Allah could send down a feast from heaven to them, since this suggests that they doubted His absolute ability and their way of talking reflected immorality due to them asking about the Divine ability which they had believed in?! Isn’t this method similar to the methods of the past nations who used to make nearly impossible suggestions with all the demeaning intentions they had to the Lord and the mockery and contempt towards the prophets, and an example in the Quran are the suggestions of the polytheists to Prophet Muhammad (p.) and his contemporaries of the Jews, which were made in a more hideous and repugnant manner, especially that the disciples had had already witnessed the miracles Allah privileged Jesus with and they had seen his missionary ability to transform a bird statue into a real bird by Allah’s permission, to cure the leprous and the blind, to revive the dead and to tell them the unseen regarding the hidden aspects of their lives with regards to what to eat and what to save in their houses, which reflects Allah’s absolute miraculous ability and privileging Jesus with this ability to prove that he is prophet? Or does the issue have to do with the fact that they are heedless of their detailed belief in the traits of Allah and the prophethood of Jesus (a.s.), which could result in doubt in the people’s subconscious mind that detaches them from certainty, thus intriguing questions in the minds, as if they had lost their memory and consequently the ability to answer these questions from what they had seen or heard? Or is it that Jesus had not talked about such request as part of the abilities Allah had privileged him with, for the issue of sending a banquet from heaven to some of the followers of the prophet who have believed in him is not a familiar act by Allah, and there was no similar previous case from among the other privileges and blessings Allah has bestowed upon His messengers and their believers, so they thought that Allah did not do that because He could not, for they did not have enough doctrinal culture that enables them to comprehend Allah’s absolute ability and that He is capable of everything and that if He wanted anything, it is enough for Him to say for it be and it will be?! These are questions that come to mind because of such bizarre request.
Interpreters tried to answer this question, and some of them, as mentioned in the reading of Al-Kisa’i, one of the [most famous] seven readers [of the Quran], said that this Ayah was not intended in the renowned method of asking; i.e. “Can your Lord”; rather, it is intended as “Can you ask your Lord”, where the speech in the Ayah is directed to Jesus and “your Lord” would be a direct object and not a subject as in the first Ayah. Perhaps this interpretation is based on the known way of requesting things, where the one requesting believes that the person who can do something will not refuse to fulfill his request due to his kindness, generosity and the need of the one requesting from him. This is best demonstrated in the way people say to each other: Can you do this thing? And the question itself here entails the idea that you can do it so do it. As such, such question reflects either that man trusts someone’s ability to do what is requested from him or that he does not trust his ability.
Therefore, it seems that, in their speech with Jesus (a.s.), the disciples were saying: “Can your Lord send down to us food from heaven?”, so if he can, as we believe and as you believe through your Message, then ask Him to do so, for you can ask for anything from Him. Perhaps the idea is that the issue has provided its subjective conditions, since there is some wisdom in it. Moreover, to respond to their demand, there should be an interest for those who are demanding, for Allah does nothing if there is no wisdom and interest in it.
But in response, Jesus tells them to fear Allah and not to talk in this way that does not conform to the belief in Allah Who is capable of everything, for he said: “Fear Allah, if ye have faith”. And perhaps asking them to fear Allah means that they were actually asking whether Allah can send them food from heaven, which drove Jesus to show them that this contradicts faith, especially that the interpretation of Al-Kisa’i does not go with the eloquence of the Quran with regards to the sentence structure, if we suppose that it is grammatically correct. It is not unlikely that the situation surrounding them at that point shook their belief as we inspire from the following Ayah, and Allah knows best.
Praise be to Allah the Lord of the Worlds.
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