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Wednesday 25th of May 2022
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GOD’S TRIAL IS DIFFICULT

God’s commandments are aimed at revealing man’s submission to the Creator. But, unfortunately, man being unaware of the secret behind those commandments keeps on asking about the benefits of the Islamic laws and their socio-economic effects, which have their roots in materialism. This way of thinking is not limited to a specific period. All prophets have been asked such questions with sinister results.

 

FAILURE OF PEOPLE OF SABBATH IN GOD’S TRIAL

 

According to the Holy Quran, a Jewish tribe was living in a town near the sea and their job was fishing. On God’s order, the Jewish tribe was duty-bound to keep the Sabbath, that is, to be engaged in prayer and not to catch fish on that day. Since God’s trial is always accompanied by difficulty, it so happened that fish would come to the surface of water abundantly on Saturdays, which was the Sabbath, but were scarce on other days. The abundance of fish on the Sabbath was so alluring that refusal to catch all those fishes was painful for the Jewish tribe. “…Thus did we try them because they transgressed. (The Holy Quran; 7:163)”

 

Finally, avarice overcame faith and pushed the mammonists to sin. So they tried to catch fishes on Saturday with the tricks that Satan had taught them. Hence, God sent tribulation upon them. In this relation, the Holy Quran says:

 

فَلَمَّا عَتَوْا عَمَّا نُهُوا عَنْهُ قُلْنَا لَهُمْ كُونُوا قِرَدَةً خَاسِئِينَ.

 

“Therefore, when they revoltingly persisted in what they had been forbidden, We said to them: Be (as) apes, despised and hated. (7:166)

 

TRIAL OF TALUT’S ARMY

 

Talut (Saul) whom the Holy Quran admires as worthy king had a strong physique and great knowledge. The Holy Quran says:

 

قَالَ إِنَّ اللهَ اصْطَفَاهُ عَلَيْكُمْ وَزَادَهُ بَسْطَةً في العِلْمِ والجِسْمِ

 

“He said: Surely, Allah has chosen him in preference to you, and He has increased him abundantly in knowledge and physique. (2:247)”

 

This strong man was appointed by the prophet of that time to be the leader of the Israelis to fight their enemies. Talut mobilized a great army to fight Jalut (Goliath) the tyrant, who oppressed the Israelis. He (Saul) said to his soldiers: Be careful, for God will test you through a river on your way; he who will not drink from it though he might be very thirsty will be (considered as) obeying God and will be among my helpers and entitled to God’s grace. But anyone who will drink from it is not my follower and will be deprived of God’s assistance.

 

It was hot, the land was dry, and thirst prevailed. Suddenly, the river came into sight and the thirsty soldiers saw a river flowing with limped water before them. It requires great patience and strong faith to resist desire to pass by a river and not quench one’s thirst for the sake of God. The river was a great test for the army of Talut. Satan began to tempt them as what the philosophy of suffering from thirst is while being near to a river. Why water, a source of life, should be banned. No, one must drink from it, feel fresh, and fight the enemies; not knowing that man’s number one enemy is his concupiscence which disobeys God’s orders. First of all, one must fight this inner enemy and then be sure that after suppressing it, God’s help will come. Finally, the pleasant sight of the river and Satan’s temptations weakened their will. Except for 313 soldiers, the entire army whose number was 80,000 drank from the river and revealed their weak faith against physical desires.

 

فَلَمَّا فَصَلَ طَالُوتُ بِالجُنُودِ قَاَل إِنَّ اللهَ مُبْتَلِيكُمْ بِنَهَرٍ فَمَنْ شَرِبَ مِنْهُ فَلَيْسَ مِنِّي وَمَنْ لَمْ يَطْعَمْهُ فَإِنَّهُ مِنِّي ِإلاّ مَنِ اغْتَرَفَ غُرْفَةً بِيَدِهِ، فَشَرِبُوا مِنْهُ ِإلاّ قَلِيلاً مِنْهُمْ.

 

“So, when Talut departed with the forces, he said: Surely, Allah will try you with a river; whoever then drinks from it, he is not of me, and whoever does not taste of it, he is surely of me, except he who takes with his hand as much of it as fills the hand; but with the exception of a few of them, they drank from it. (The Holy Quran; 2:249)”

 

ANOTHER TRIAL OF THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL

 

وَإِذْ قُلْنَا ادْخُلُوا هَذِهِ القَـرْيَةِ فَكُلُوا مِنْهَا حَيْثُ شِئْتُمْ رَغَداً وَادْخُلُوا البَابَ سُجَّداً وَقُولُوا حِطَّةٌ نَغْفِرْ لَكُمْ خَطَايَاكُمْ وَسَنَـزِيدُ المحُسْنِينَ. فَبَدَّلَ الّذِينَ ظَلَمُوا قَوْلاً غَيْرَ الّذِي قِيلَ لَهُمْ فَأَنْزَلْنَا عَلَى الّذِينَ ظَلَمُوا رِجْزاً مِنَ السّمَاءِ بِمَا كَانوُا يَفْسُقُونَ.

 

“And when We said: Enter this city, and then eat from it a plenteous (food) wherever you wish and enter the gate making obeisance; and say, forgiveness. We will forgive you your wrongs and give more to those who do good. But those who were unjust changed it for a saying other than that which had been spoken to them, so We sent upon those who were unjust a pestilence from heaven, because thy transgressed. (The Holy Quran; 2: 58-9)”

 

The unyielding tribe of the Israelis, due to the dignity of Prophet Moses (a.s) was entitled to God’s grace. So, they had the impression that they became really honorable in the sight of God and became God’s favorites and the most devoted servants. To test them and to make them subject to curse and punishment, God appointed certain duties for them. The prosperous land of Damascus was envisaged for their settlement provided that they, first, would enter the city through a specific gate, they, second, would enter the city while bowing as sign of humbleness to God, and, third, they would say, ‘forgive us,’ so that God would pardon their wrongdoings. But they said to themselves, ‘why should we enter the city through a narrow gate while there were wider ones?’ They entered the city not only without bowing but also with their backs forward; and instead of saying, ‘forgive us,’ they said indecent words. The result was a pestilence from heaven.

 

PROPHET IBRAHIM AND GOD’S STRANGE TRIAL

 

فَلَمَّا بَلَغَ مَعَهُ السَّعْيَ قَالَ يَا بُنَيَّ إِنِّي أَرَى في المَنَامِ أَنِّي أَذْبَحُكَ فَانْظُرْ مَاذَا تَرَى، قَالَ يَا أَبَتِ افْعَلْ مَا تُؤْمَرُ سَتَجِدَنِي  إِنْ شَاءَ اللهُ مِنَ الصَّابِرِينَ. فَلَمَّا أَسْلَمَا وَتَلَّهُ لِلْجَبِينِ. وَنَادَيْنَاهُ أَنْ يَا إِبْرَاهِيمُ. قَدْ صَدَّقْتَ الرُّؤْيَا إِنَّا كَذَلِكَ نَجْزِي المُحْسِنِينَ. إِنَّ هَذَا لَهُوَ البَلاَءُ المُِبينُ.

 

“And when he attained to working with him, he said: O my son, surely I have seen in a dream that I should sacrifice you; consider then what you see. He said: O my father, do what you are commanded; if Allah please, you will find me of the patient ones. So when they both submitted and he threw him down upon his forehead, and We called out to him, saying: O Ibrahim, you have indeed shown the truth of the vision; surely thus do We reward the doers of good. Most surely, this is a manifestation trial. (The Holy Quran; 37:102-6)”

 

This is a strange scene and a strange duty! A handsome youth, much loved by an elder father has to be sacrificed for God. What a strange order and what a difficult duty! How can a kind father throw down his son and put a sharp knife on his throat with his own hands? This act is approved neither by temperament nor common sense. But here neither man’s intellect nor does does his common sense have any saying, for it is the realm of love of God Who is the Only Beloved in the world. The love for others is subject to His permission and pleasure. Prophet Ibrahim (a.s) then prepared himself for carrying out God’s order without any delay. He told the story to his son to know both his duty and to test the devotion of his son. The son, too, asked his father to do what he had been commanded and asked God to make him patient. What devotion it is! May God bless this stage of submission forever. Both father and son submitted. The father threw him down ready to cut his throat. A shocking scene amazed the whole world against the power of faith and love for God. Therefore, God praised the devotion of these two devoted monotheists. This is sufficient to indicate their greatness:

 

وَفَدَيْنَاهُ بِذِبْحٍ عَظِيمٍ

 

“And We ransomed him with a great sacrifice. (The Holy Quran; 37:107”

 

To acknowledge this devotion, God said:

 

سَلامٌ عَلَى إِبْراهِيمَ. إِنَّهُ مِنْ عِبَادِنَا المُؤْمِنِينَ.

 

“Peace be upon Ibrahim. Surely, he was one of Our believing servants. (The Holy Quran; 37:109, 111.”

 

To sum it up, if we look at the acts commanded in God’s trial, we will not see any benefit or advisability. In certain cases, there is harm, too, like the ban on catching fish on the Sabbath, which entailed economic loss, or the ban on drinking water from the river in the story of Talut, Ibrahim’s dream to sacrifice his son, and the Israelis’ entering into Damascus. In none of these cases, logical and tangible benefits could be seen. The best advantage of the said acts lies in God’s commandments and the inhibitions themselves to be followed by obedience and submission, the result of which is affinity with God and attaining His pleasure.

 

Since certain religious duties are based on devotion to God without having social, economic, political, or hygienic benefits, certain acts related to the Hajj rites are aimed for revealing man’s devotion and submission to God.

 

One of the advantages of Hajj is that its aspect of devotion is more evident than other religious duties. Throwing pebbles at Satan is extremely effective, for he is attempting to prevent man from obeying God by skepticism and raising questions in man’s mind. For example, Satan through temptations makes man ask himself if Prophet Ibrahim’s wife; Hagar, shuttled seven times between Mount Safa and Mount Marwa in search for water, why should be do the same and in search of water? Or when Prophet Ibrahim (a.s) was in Mina for completing his mission and Satan appeared on his way trying to prevent him from obeying God’s order, Prophet Ibrahim (a.s) drove him away by throwing stones at him, what is he doing in Mina now? Has he, too, seen Satan on his way to throw stones at him? A devoted servant of God finds out that Satan is always on the way to steal faith. Hence, he gets ready to expel the satanic temptations from his heart. The Holy Quran says:

 

إِنَّ الّذِينَ اتَّقَوْا إِذَا مَسَّهُمْ طَائِفٌ مِنَ الشَّيْطَانِ تَذَكَّرُوا فَإِذَا هُمْ مُبْصِرُونَ.

 

“Surely, those who guard against evil, when a visitation from the Satan afflicts them, they become mindful, then lo! They see. (7:201)”

 

I, too, as I have learnt lessons of devotion in the school of the prophets, take God as my Guardian and consider myself devoted servant of Him. I do not care whether certain act is beneficial or not. What I do is for obtaining God’s pleasure. If I am told to shuttle between Safa and Marwa all my life for the pleasure of God, I will do it whole-heartedly.

 

SUMMARY

 

The Hajj rites, consisting of apparently unjustifiable acts, are means of trial of men’s devotion to God. Hajj makes those who follow ‘self’ and superficial intellect distinct from those following God.

 

وَمَا أُمِرُوا إِلاّ لِيَعْبُدُوا اللهَ مُخْلِصِينَ لَهُ الدِّينَ.

 

“And they were not enjoining anything except that they should serve Allah, being sincere to Him in obedience. (The Holy Quran; 98:5)”

 

QUESTIONS OF PRACTICAL LAWS OF ISLAM

 

Perhaps it would not be out of place to discuss the practical laws of Islam here, for questions have been raised in this relation. For example, it is asked why Sura of al-Fatihah and Sura of at-Tawhid must be recited in undertone in the Dhuhr (Noon) and Asr (Afternoon) –obligatory- Prayers and recited aloud in the Maghrib (Evening) and Eshaa (Night) Prayers. Why are men banned to wear gold rings? Why is it banned to use golden and silver vessels? Why is it religiously unlawful to have the meat of pork? What is the philosophy of Hajj? When does it become necessary to perform the Tayammum (Dry Ablution)? Why is it forbidden for a Muslim to marry two sisters at the same time?

 

Many whys and for what reasons are answered correctly or incorrectly and on many occasions the answers increase the asker’s amazement.

 

NOTE

 

The first and most important requirement of one who asks such questions is his belief in the acknowledged principles of Islam, that is, belief in One God, prophethood, God’s justice, Day of Judgment, and Imamate. In the meantime, the degree of his belief in the aforesaid principles has to be taken into consideration so as to discuss with him the ideology of Islam in case of his imperfect knowledge about it.

 

Evidently, it is waste of time to discuss the secondary precepts of Islam with an unbeliever or someone whose belief is imperfect. How absurd it is to speak about the Ascension of the Holy Prophet (saw) and the moon’s split for him or the life span and occultation of Imam Mahdi (a.s) with a materialist who does not believe in the absolute power of God. To debate with a Twelver[73] who does not firmly believe in the sinlessness of the prophets and Imams is also useless, for he needs to perfect his ideology first. Incidentally, most of the individuals who are skeptic of the practical laws of Islam are those who are weak in their beliefs.

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