Tafsir as-Saranbi- Surah 14. Ibrahim , Ayah 9

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أَلَمْ يَأْتِكُمْ نَبَأُ الَّذِينَ مِنْ قَبْلِكُمْ قَوْمِ نُوحٍ وَعَادٍ وَثَمُودَ ۛ وَالَّذِينَ مِنْ بَعْدِهِمْ ۛ لَا يَعْلَمُهُمْ إِلَّا اللَّهُ ۚ جَاءَتْهُمْ رُسُلُهُمْ بِالْبَيِّنَاتِ فَرَدُّوا أَيْدِيَهُمْ فِي أَفْوَاهِهِمْ وَقَالُوا إِنَّا كَفَرْنَا بِمَا أُرْسِلْتُمْ بِهِ وَإِنَّا لَفِي شَكٍّ مِمَّا تَدْعُونَنَا إِلَيْهِ مُرِيبٍ

    Has there not come to you the news of those before you, the peoples of Nuh and ‘Ad and Thamud and those after them, no one knows them but Allah. Their messengers came to them with clear Signs but they returned their hands to their mouths and said "Surely we deny what you have been sent with and surely we are in doubt to what you call us, towards Him we are in doubt".

        Now we know what we are doing here. Now we know our purpose. Now we know why we were created and put upon this earth. It is only so that we could live in slavehood to Him. So that we could dedicate ourselves to Him. One reason why we do so is because we yearn for Him. We love Him. He is so Tremendous and Majestic and Pure that we want to be near Him. We do not want anything other than Him. And another reason why we live for Him is to show our gratitude to Him for His countless favors and gifts upon us. Now you would think that it would be easy. You would think that most of mankind would make the choice to live for Him. But sadly it is not so. Most people turned away. Most people chose instead to live only for themselves. Most people became arrogant and heedless. Here in this ayah He tells us of such people. So that we can take a lesson from them. So that we can make the effort not to ever become like them. Realize from here that a struggle needs to be made. If we do not then we will fall just like they did. If we do not try then we will repeat their mistake.

     Allah (swt) begins by asking us a question. He (swt) asks us if the news of those before us has come to us. There were people. There were nations who lived on this earth before us. There were those who were faced with the very same test that we have. They were also given this choice. The nations of Nuh, ‘Ad, and Thamud are the perfect example. They were great nations. Mighty and powerful. They numbered in the thousands if not millions. They built great civilizations. They had the most advanced technology of their time. The people of Thamud for example actually built their cities inside mountains. Can you imagine a civilization, thousands of years ago, being able to carve out solid rock? Such was how mighty they were.

     But they were not great in and of themselves. No, rather they were great because Allah (swt) had made them great. They were powerful because He (swt) had made them powerful. Everything that they had was only what He had given them. He chose to make them into who they were. In order to test them. The test was to see if they would be grateful or not. To see if they would submit to Him or not.

     Notice also how Allah (swt) describes all these nations as those who were before us. This description of theirs is key. They were a people who had already come and gone. They had already lived this life that we are living. They had the same test. They had the same temptations. They were faced with the same choice. So we have to remind ourselves again that in what happened to them, in what they did, there is a lesson for us. In that way we are very fortunate. No we are blessed. Because we have their example. We have what they did not have. How foolish then would we be if we did not look to their story? How foolish would we be if we did not change our ways based on the lessons that we learned? He has been so Merciful with us. Far more than we could ever imagine.

     Now these three nations are not the only ones in whom there is a lesson for us. Because notice how He also speaks of those who came after them. So there were others after these three. There were several. Several mighty and powerful nations. Nations who were blessed by the Divine. Nations for whom gratitude became obligatory. We already spoke of the nation of Firaun. Then there was also the nation of Madian to whom the prophet Shuaib (as) was sent. Then there were the overturned cities of Sodom and Gomorra. Then there were other nations who are not mentioned in the Quran. The Mayans, the Aztecs, and the Incas. The Mesopotamians. The Babylonians. The Greek. The Harrapans of the Indus valley. The civilizations of ancient China. And countless others. These were all mighty nations. What they all had in common was that they were blessed by Him. Even now, thousands of years after their existence, we can still see remnants of the gifts that He gave to them. But what they also have in common is that now they are no more. Their civilizations have been completely destroyed. Though we see the remnants of what they left behind we cannot find them anymore. So we see Firaun's pyramids in Egypt and the Mayans' pyramids in Mexico. We see the great wall of China. We the statues of the Greeks. We see what they left behind but we do not see them. We cannot find even one survivor from among them. They and their entire way of life have been obliterated. By a force much more powerful than them. They all also have this in common. What then happened to them? This is what Allah (swt) explains for us in the rest of the ayah. But notice how the same fate befell all of them. Not one of them was spared. Not one of them survived to our time. This should tell us something. It tells that the test is much harder than we think. If we do not make the effort we could become like them.

     Notice also how it is said concerning each of these nations that "no one knows them but Allah". No one truly knows them except Him. All that we truly know about them are their relics that they left behind. From these anthropologists and archeologists have tried guess how their civilizations were like. But all that they think and say is conjecture. They do not truly know. The only One Who Knows about these past nations is the All Knowing. He Knows just how much He had blessed them. He Knows how much of an obligation gratitude was upon them. He Knows their hearts, He Knows their deeds, He Knows them even better than they know themselves, So who better to tell us about them than He (swt)?

     Now is there a contradiction between His asking us whether news has reached us concerning them and then His telling us that only He Knows them? How could news about them have reached us if only He Knows about them? Is this a contradiction? No, it is the point. The original question was not posed to elicit a response, rather it was posed to make us think. We should realize that news concerning these nations could not have reached us because no one knows them except He. So He should be our only source of knowledge concerning them. Today the anthropologists and archeologists have their theories about what happened to these nations. They will each give their reasons for the downfall of these nations. But they will be wrong. In fact they will be way off. They will never realize the real reason why these nations are no more. It is not because they simply died out. It is not because of economic or social reasons. No, rather they were destroyed. They were destroyed because they turned away from the Divine. They turned away from Him. And no one knows this better than He. No one Knows their sin better than He. For it is He Who gave them power and then it is He Who destroyed them.

     Allah (swt) begins the second part of this ayah by saying "Their messengers came to them with clear Signs". Each of these nations was given a messenger. Each and every one of them. A messenger from the Divine was sent to them. This messenger came with clear Signs. Signs as clear as night and day. When they saw these Signs they knew without a doubt that indeed this messenger had been sent to them by Allah (swt). They were absolutely certain. Such was how clear the Signs were. The Arabic word Bayyinah means that which is absolutely clear. As clear as night and day. It also means when a thing becomes separated into two distinct pieces. Such that you can clearly distinguish between each piece. For example dawn is when you can clearly distinguish the first light of the sun from the dark of the night. So the Arabs would use this word to describe such a distinction. Because one is so clearly distinguishable from the other. Now here Allah (swt) uses this word to describe the Signs with which His Messengers were sent. Because these Signs so clearly established the veracity of the messengers. When the people saw these Signs then they knew without a doubt that these men were indeed sent from Allah (swt). They had no doubts in their hearts at all. The truth was as clearly distinguishable to them as falsehood. When they saw the miracles then they knew that what these messengers called to was the Truth. And what their enemies said was falsehood. For example when the magicians in Egypt saw Musa (as)'s staff become a real snake and then eat up their own staves then they that Musa (as) was indeed sent by Allah (swt).They knew beyond the shadow of a doubt. This fact was as clear to them as night and day. This was why they then believed with such conviction. Their Iman became so strong that they were willing to die for what they believed. Such is how Allah (swt) established the Truth of His Messengers.

     And this was from His Mercy upon the people. He did not want to punish them. He did not want to destroy them. He only wanted to remind them. Remind them to return to Him. Remind them that they were created only for Him. Even though He was testing them, He did not want to do injustice for them in the least bit. Rather He wanted to show them as much Mercy as He could. He wanted to give them every opportunity to make the right choice. This was why He gave His messengers such clear Signs. The power and clarity of the evidences is a manifestation of His Mercy. He wanted them to think and be convinced. So that they would not hesitate, so that they would not doubt, so that they would rush to return to Him.

     Because the call of all the messengers was the same. They all came with the same message. You have no illah, you have no object of worship and dedication except Allah (swt). He is your Creator. He is your Sustainer. He is the Reason for every moment of your existence. He is the Being of such utter Majesty and Tremendousness. He is the One Source of not only your very existence, but also of every single thing that you have. In return for this He deserves your dedication and He deserves your worship. He deserves that you remember Him. He deserves you live for Him. He deserves you rule your lands by His Law. This was the message of all the messengers. This simple message. Just be a slave for Allah (swt). Just live your life to please Him. In that you will find contentment. In that you will find peace. This is what you were created for. This is what you are being sustainer for. This was what all the messengers called to. Salvation. Fulfillment. Peace. Both in this life and the next. And in order to convince the people of this Message they came with the clearest of signs. They came to their respective nations with these Signs. They called them to Him thorough these Signs. They called them again and again.

     But what was the reaction of each and every one of these nations? How did they respond to their messengers and the clear signs they came with? Our Lord tells us "they returned their hands to their mouths and said "Surely we deny what you have been sent with and surely we are in doubt to what you call us, towards Him we are in doubt". This was what they all did and this was what they all said. Insha Allah let us look carefully now to how He has described their reaction. So that by His Grace we can save ourselves from having a similar reaction to our Messenger (saw).

     First He tells us how "they returned their hands to their mouths". What exactly does this mean? The scholars have given several explanations. One is that it means they bit their hands in rage. Often times when people are consumed with anger. When they are so frustrated. When they just cannot contain themselves. Then they express their anger by biting their own hands. Of course this causes them pain but such is the rage that consumes them. This anger that is burning inside of them is far greater than any pain that they may feel.

     So this is one reaction that people in these nations had to the messengers that Allah (swt) had sent to them. They were angry at them. They were angry at them because they saw them as coming to take the sovereignty away from them. This reaction was especially prominent among the nobles, the chieftains, and the kings. Because they are the ones who had the sovereignty when the messengers came. They are the ones who had usurped that power from Allah (swt). They had destroyed the Khilafah. They had proclaimed a secular state. They ruled with their desires instead of with His Divine Law. And they wanted to cling to this power. If anyone came to them and told them that they had to give it up, that they had to return it to the One to whom it belonged, then their reaction was rage.

     They were angry at being told to give up their power. They were so full of themselves. They were so addicted to their power. That they did not want to give it up for anyone. Not even to their Creator and Sustainer. Not even to that Being of Purity and Majesty. The One Who was so deserving of their love and their awe. Their hearts were so blind to Him. They were so far from Him. So the cause of their anger was their arrogance and their greed. How could you tell me to give up my power? This is my country. This is my land. Mine. Mine. As the messengers called them again and again. As they were reminded again and again. It only served to increase them in their rage. To the point where they started biting their hands. Each time the messengers called them they returned their hands to their mouths. Meaning they returned to their rage.

     Do we not see this reaction from such people today? When we tell them that they have to return the sovereignty to Allah (swt), they become angry. Just the idea of dismantling their secular government and replacing it with the Islamic State fills them with rage. They actually think that they are entitled to rule. They actually think that this earth is theirs to do with as they please. They think they can continue to live upon it while being heedless of Him. They think they have the right to place upon it all that displeases Him. Everything from uncovered women to banks charging usury to all kinds of commercials and marketing which makes the people blind to Him. This is what they believe. Even many so called Muslims have this reaction. They think that democracies and republics are the way for us. Even the mere suggestion of anything else fills them with rage. If this is our situation then how far are we from these nations who were destroyed? How far are our hearts from theirs? We also are so full of ourselves. We also are so attached to the material things of this world.

     The other meaning that scholars have given for their returning their hands to their mouths is amazement and disbelief. Often times when something shocks you or surprises you, you would take in a deep breath and place your hand on your mouth. Just to cover that gasp of air. Just to cover your surprise. You cannot believe it. It is something so amazing.

     So Allah (swt) is telling us here that this also was the reaction of many of the people to His Messengers and to the message that they brought. They could not believe it. They doubted it to such an extent that it shocked them. They literally put their hands to their mouths only to express their shock and disbelief. Now the question to ask is that were they justified in having such a reaction. Was this truly something that was beyond belief? Was this something that should have elicited such a reaction? Is our ‘Aqeedah really that difficult to accept? Is it truly so strange? Is it really that hard to believe?

     Of course not. On the contrary it makes perfect sense. In fact what is insane is not to believe in it. How can you not believe that this universe has a Creator? Do you actually think that it came from nowhere? How could such a vast and intricate and ordered universe simply just pop out of nothing and nowhere? And at the same time how can you claim that the universe has always existed when everything that we see in it is limited. There is nothing that we can see in this universe which has existed forever. No rather everything that we see has a beginning and an end. Even something so great as the sun. Even scientists today admit that there was a time when the sun did not exist and there will be a time in the future when it will be no more. So if everything in the universe is limited then how can the universe as a whole be unlimited? The sum of all limited things is still limited. The ocean has many drops of water within it but that number is still finite.

     How can you also explain the perfect systems according to which the universe operates? Does not the sun always rise in the east and exactly when it is supposed to? Does it not always set in the west and exactly when it is supposed to? How can the sun know to do this? It does not have a mind of its own. It does not have intelligence and reasoning like we have. And even if it did how could it be so perfect? How could it be that in all these centuries and millennia, it has not even once made a mistake? It has not even once come even a minute later or earlier than it should. The alternation of night and day is so perfect a system that we set out clocks to it. We run our lives by it. Does this not show that there is a Power maintaining and controlling this universe? Does it now show that this Power is Perfect in every way? Because if it had any weakness then we would not see such perfection. Only a loon could deny this.

     So the fact that there is a Creator and a Sustainer and a Maintainer and a Master for this universe should be clear for everyone. And then what should be even less of a surprise is that this Being would send messengers. Because once we have established that He is the Master and the Sovereign just as He is the Creator and the Sustainer, how then can He not send to us a Law? How then can He not tell us how to live? What kind of a master does not give orders and instructions for his slaves? Such is not a true master. And moreover once we have established that this earth belongs to Him, then should it not be He Who decides what should be allowed on it? How can we know His Will unless He tells us? And the way He has chosen to speak with us is through His messengers. Why then should it be surprising that He sends messengers? And when these messengers came with such strong evidences how could anyone turn away? How could anyone deny and ridicule them?

     And yet Allah (swt) tells us here how the people doubted the messengers whom He had sent to them. They doubted them to such an extent that they put their hands in their mouths only to express their disbelief. He also tells us how they then said "Surely we deny what you have been sent with and surely we are in doubt to what you call us, towards Him we are in doubt". Denial and doubt. This was the reaction of most of the people whom the messengers were sent to. They just could not believe it. They just could not accept it. Now as we have established already this was not because there was anything to doubt. This was not because what the messengers called to was ludicrous or strange. No rather the messengers brought their evidences and proofs. These Signs were as clear as night and day.

     But the people did not believe because they did not want to believe. They had just become so distant from Him. Their hearts had become full of all that is other than Him. That they did not want to return to Him. Even though they knew that they should have. They knew that it was He Who was calling them through these messengers. Still they chose to reject.

     Imam Razi (ra) says that what the people meant when they said "Surely we deny what you have been sent with" is that they denied the messengers claim to have been sent by Allah (swt). The messengers declared clearly that they had been sent by the Divine and the people flat out said no. No we do not believe that you have been sent by Him. This is in fact among the greatest of sins. To deny the apostleship of your messenger. To deny that this man has been sent by the Divine. Especially when you know that he has been. Because to deny Allah (swt)'s Messenger is in essence to deny Him. He is trying to speak to you through His messenger so when you turn away from the messenger you are turning away from Him.

     And how many people in our day and age are guilty of this crime. How many people in our day and age reject their messenger? Of course you know that the messenger for each and every person today is the Prophet (saw). He (saw) is the Final Messenger. He (saw) is the one who was sent to all the nations. This is an honor and a blessing that Allah (swt) gave to him because he (saw) is His beloved. He (saw) was given the greatest of miracles. This Quran. He (saw) was given the complete and the perfected Law. He (saw) was given the best of all nations. And yet still today there are so many people who deny him (saw). There are so many people who do not accept him (saw) as the messenger. Even many so called Muslims deep in their hearts have doubts in him. This is the corrupt world that we live in. A world without the Khilafah. A world without the vehicle for the dawah.

     Not all the people can be blamed for their not accepting him (saw). Some of them just do not know. Or they just do not care. Islam is the last thing on their minds. Even making the effort to find out if this Din is the truth or not is the last thing on their minds. Because this world has thrown so many distractions and temptations at them. It has told them to live for themselves. It has attached their hearts to the material things. To movies. To gadgets. To sports. To makeup. To stock markets. To everything else other than Him. They do not even have the time to think about Him in such a world, let alone the message that He has sent. So I ask you once again dear reader, can we be content in such a world? If we are truly His lovers and adorers then can we be content in this world where everyone seems heedless of Him. Where most of the people do not even believe in the Message that He has sent. How can we not work in whatever capacity that we can to change such a world? To restore His Kingdom on earth.

     Allah (swt) also tells us how the people said "and surely we are in doubt to what you call us". Not only did they reject and disbelieve that these messengers were sent to them from their Master, but they also doubted everything that they called them to. They doubted every word the messengers said. They doubted that Islam was the correct way of life for them to live. They doubted that they would return to Allah (swt) on the Day of Judgment. They doubted that there would even be a Day of Judgment. They doubted the Paradise and the Fire. They doubted that they were created from dust. They doubted that they all came from a single father and mother. They doubted the kind of personality that they were being called to. Allah (swt) wanted them be a certain way. He wanted them to be the best that they can be. One who is honest, and true, and kind, and merciful, and forbearing, and patient, and generous, and hardworking. And most importantly one who remembers Him and one who strives to please Him. One who yearns for Him. One who lives for Him. This is the Message of Islam. This is what all the messengers called to. This is who they themselves were. They were the par excellence manifestation of these traits. They were what they called to. And all these are also the attributes that Allah (swt) wants us to imbue within ourselves. We should strive to inculcate these traits into our very being. But these people doubted that this was the way they should be. They thought rather that they should live for themselves. Because deep down inside this was what they wanted. They wanted to be slaves for themselves and for the created things rather than being slaves for Him. They had so miserably and utterly failed the test. This was why they doubted. It was not a true doubt. Rather it was a doubt that they themselves created. They did not believe in all that the messengers called them to because they did not want to.

     Finally Allah (swt) tells us how they said "towards Him we are in doubt". Not only did they reject the message that Allah (swt) had sent to them. Not only did they doubt all that the messengers called them to. But these people even doubted Him. They doubted Allah (swt)! They doubted that there was a Being such as He. A Perfect Being. A Pure Being. A Tremendous and Encompassing Being. One Who needed to be submitted to. One Who needed to be worshipped.

     Perhaps they were not atheists in the true sense. Such an abomination is only a creation of the modern world. Never in the history of mankind has there ever been a nation of atheists and antagonists. Never till this corrupt age that we live in today have people denied His Existence. Before us all nations and all civilizations believed that there was a realm, there was a reality, beyond this material world. They believed that this universe had a Creator and a Sustainer. But what they refused to believe was that He is One. They refused to believe that there was no other gods besides Him. They refused to believe that He should be their Lord and Master. That they should submit to Him in every aspect of their lives. So because they did not believe in Him as He truly is, it was like they did not believe in Him at all. As far as He is concerned. You see He wants it all from us. Just like He will not accept anything less than total submission when it comes to His Law, He will not accept anything less than complete belief when it comes to Him and His Message. He wants us to believe in Him as He IS. And He wants us to believe in all that He tells us in His Book. And that belief has to be reflected in our actions. In our lives. We should strive to remove all doubts in our belief and all shortcomings in our deeds. This is what these people refused to do. They were addicted to their sins, and this made them to doubt even though the evidences were so clear.

     Now the word "doubt" comes twice in this ayah. The first time in relation to what the messengers called to and the second time in relation to Allah (swt) Himself. But actually in the original Arabic of the ayah two different words are used. The first time Allah (swt) uses the word shakk and the second time He uses the word rayb. They both do mean doubt but there is still a slight difference in their meanings. Shakk means the real doubt. Something which you are almost certain is not true. Rayb on the other hand means a slight doubt. It is something that you think is correct but there are some small reservations you have. You think it is true but you are not sure. Thus shakk is a much stronger form of doubt that rayb.

     So when it comes what the messengers called to, these people were really in doubt. They did not believe at all that these men were sent by Allah (swt). They did not believe them at all when they warned them of the Fire or when they gave them glad tidings of the Garden. These all sounded to them like a fantasy. Pure imagination. But when it came to Allah (swt) Himself they did believe. As we mentioned the Signs are so many. So many that you cannot even count them. They did believe but still they had some doubts. Some tiny doubts. Even though they could not explain their own existence or the existence of this universe without Him. Even though every single thing in the universe was screaming that it has a Creator and Sustainer. They still doubted Him. As we said they were all nations whom He had blessed. He had given them more and more of this world in order to test them. But they all failed their test. They did not show Him the proper gratitude. Rather they fell so in love with the material things that soon it was all that they could see. These very gifts that He had given them. These gifts that should have made them more grateful to Him, only made them to forget Him and doubt Him.

     Does this also not remind you of the society in which we live today? Is this not a culture of doubt? Of skepticism. Ever since a young age they are made to question everything. They are told that nothing is for certain. Everything is just a theory. Everything is just a possibility. This is why there are so many atheists and antagonists in this society. This is why religion is so weak in this society. How many are the people in the world today who would identify themselves are religious? How many people allow their religion to play a major role in their lives? Religion for them has become a joke. Allah (swt) has become an illusion. They are not certain that He is there. They are not certain that there is an afterlife. They think that this is the life to live. Such are the hearts secularism created.

     How could they doubt Him when the evidences for Him as so clear in the universe around us you may ask? The reason is this skeptical way of thinking. It has been ingrained into them that nothing is for certain and that everything must be doubted. Especially when it comes to religion. They have had a very bad experience with religion. We all know the oppression and the darkness that the Church brought when it was in power. This has made them to come to resent religion. This is why they have adopted a very materialistic and skeptical way of thinking. Do not believe in anything unless you can see and touch it. This is what they believe and this is what they teach their children. A society of doubt. Now I ask you again, can we as Muslims be content in such a society. Can we feel safe for the Iman of our children in such a society? How far is the way of thinking that the West has adopted from the way of thinking of these previous nations whom Allah (swt) had destroyed? If we live among them contently. With their corrupt culture and their twister thinking. Then how can we be certain that He is not angry with us as well?



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