Commentary of Surat ul-Ankabut on advent of Zaman - Versese 31-40
- :Shaykh Fadhlalla Haeri
31 And when Our messengers came to Ibrahim with the good news, they said: Surely we are going to destroy the people of this town, for its people are unjust.
32 He said: Surely in it is Lut. They said: We know well who is in it. We shall certainly deliver him and his followers, except his wife; she shall be of those who remain behind.
The Prophet Ibrahim, alayhi-s-salam, demonstrates the highest use of aql ( ass , intellect) and tawakkul (trust) - combining haqiqa with sharia. He is visited by angels and recognizes their mission and their station. He knows that the people of Lut are to be destroyed and in his concern for Lut, alayhi-s-salam, he sends a message to him. Ibrahim's trust in Allah assured him that Lut, `alayhi-s salam, was blessed and that no harm would come to him. But his love and concern for this being in the next town took an outer expression. However great a man of tawhid may be, his human love is bound to express itself so that others may receive the solace of his humanity. His concern is to connect himself with other beings because he is a man living in unity with Reality.
There are many examples in which the Prophet Muhammad salla-llahu `alayhi wa alihi wa sallam, behaved in a particular way only for the sake of other people. It was real behavior, not acting, but it was not a reflection of his inward state. It was purely an outward expression for those around him. If one is in tawhid, it is not for oneself but for others that one acts. The man of tawhid simultaneously shows concern and yet is completely certain that all will be well. Those who know his inward state well, know that he is in absolute certainty. Those who do not, still benefit from his concern and charity. It is tawhid, it is not duality.
The worshipper's love for Allah assumes an outer expression in prayers by the formality of bending. His love for his wife takes a formal outer expression in a gift or kindness. There cannot be an inner without an outer. There can be no haqiqa without a shari`a. You tether your camel then place your trust upon Allah. One cannot trust in Allah by sitting like a lump of dirt. Allah has given man life, a tongue and limbs in order to act - to act for Allah and by Allah.
As a non-separate entity from the one and only Reality man has to exercise his part in the all-encompassing, ecologically connected situation. This is the meaning of `shaking the palm tree.' Man has to shake the tree of mercy. In a hadith it says that the supplication of those who call out for provision, yet remain in their homes, will not be heard. Man is a part of the total Oneness. If he intends something, he has to lend himself to be the instrument of its execution. He cannot be in separation from it if he expects well-being to come to him; it will operate consistently through him, in him, above him, below him and beside him.
33 And when Our messengers came to Lut he was grieved on account of them, and he felt powerless (to protect) them. And they said: Fear not, nor grieve; surely we will deliver you and your followers, except your wife; she shall be of those who remain behind.
34 Surely We will cause to come down upon the people of this town a punishment from heaven, because they transgressed.
35 And certainly We have left a clear sign of it for a people who understand.
The pure messengers, the angels, complete their mission by visiting the Prophet Lut, alayhi-s-salam. He is concerned with their safety, for they are surrounded by the disgraceful nation of Sodom. They reassure him that they are safe and inform him of the imminent natural affliction that is going to befall the people who have transgressed nature's way. The sign of that destruction can be visibly seen today. The city of Sodom is one of the major archeological sites in the southeastern part of the Dead Sea.
36 And to Madyan (We sent) their brother Shu'aib, so he said: O my people! Serve Allah and fear the latter day and do not act corruptly in the land, making mischief.
37 But they rejected him, so a severe earthquake overtook them, and they became motion less bodies in their abode.
38 And (We destroyed) `Ad and Thamud, and from their dwellings (this) is apparent to you indeed; and the Shaitan made their deeds fair-seeming to them, so he kept them back from the path, though they were endowed with intelligence.
39 And (We destroyed) Qarun and Fir'aun and Haman. And certainly Musa came to them with clear arguments, but they behaved haughtily in the land; yet they could not outstrip (Us).
Lut, alayhi-s-salam, migrates physically and the destruction occurs. Again in these ayat people are warned, remain heedless, are afflicted, annihilated and destroyed. It is a warning for this life and the next. Destruction occurs in this life because in Allah's love and mercy for His creation He wants everyone to be made fit for the garden. And that can only happen' if it begins now.
Other prophets have gone through the same experiences with different intensities, locations and forms of affliction. The recurring pattern is that of a man of knowledge warning his people, trying to deflect them from misguidance. His success lies in unconcernedly performing his duty towards himself and his Creator. The ultimate reward is his contentment with himself and the fulfillment of his duty towards his conscience. If there is an outward fruition of his efforts, he is grateful. If he does not see it in his lifetime, still he is grateful. His gratitude comes from the fact that he is in this existence and is following the prescribed path that is ingrained in his heart.
There are not two laws but one law that governs all. There are two states, the state of wakefulness here, which is relative, and the state of eternal wakefulness in the next world, which is absolute. The laws of Allah do not change for anyone. The Qur'an says that you never find the laws of Allah changing. The essence and the laws that emanate from Him are absolute and unchanging. If man does not want to be subject to change then he dives into the essence.
The laws of gravity do not change for a prophet. The laws of mechanics did not change for Muhammad, salla-lla'hu `alayhi wa alihi wa sallam. At `Uhud the arrows flew and broke his teeth. The Prophet, salla-lla'hu alayhi wa alihi wa sallam, saw the laws which his people did not obey; it was, in a sense, for their sake that he outwardly acknowledged his affliction, so as to make them rally around him and follow his knowledge; but the laws did not change for this great and highly tuned being. The laws continued as did his slavehood, which inspired his followers to travel the path of correct behavior.
Man cannot claim to be above the natural laws for they operate at all levels. He cannot overcome the laws that govern life, especially regarding reaction. Action and reaction are equal and opposite. If he commits an act it has its effect and its effect is. its reaction, which is as good as the intention behind the action.
40 So each We punished for his sin; of them was he on whom We sent down a violent storm, and of them was he whom the rumbling overtook, and of them was he whom We made to be swallowed up by the earth, and of them was he whom We drowned. And Allah did not wrong them, but they wronged themselves.
"So each We punished for his sin." Nature obliterates civilizations once the culture and path of correct moral conduct degenerates and decays. Some peoples were drowned, others were swallowed up by great earthquakes or floods, and still more had the affliction of disease and pestilence.
Adapted from the book: "The Mercy of Qur'an and the Advent of Zaman" by: "Shaykh Fadhlalla Haeri"
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