The message of Allah has been sent to all previous generations through various Prophets. Whenever the transgression of a generations exceeded, Allah destroyed them all because of their iniquities except a few whom he pleased. Allah sent Prophets after Prophets but there were always a large number of people who ridiculed the signs of Allah. Allah tells us in the Quran to reflect upon the stories of the old and to learn a lesson from their fate. The final result of their constant transgression was destruction. When punishment came to these sinners their only last utterance was: "Indeed we did wrong" (7:5). In the end they did cry for mercy but it was no longer time for being saved (38:3).
Surat number 7, Al-A'raf, tells us about some of these incidents that has taken place in the world. The whole Surat is logically built up and guides you step by step with information that will make you reflect. In the very beginning of this chapter we are being told that the Quran has been revealed to warn the ones who err and to teach the ones who believe. Further we are being introduced to the story of Adam and Eve in the garden and how Iblis made them disobey Allah and promised to seduce men and to misled them from the straight way. The consequences of it was that Allah made the earth a dwelling place for mankind and gave them a respite until the day of Judgment.
Another important point in this Surat is in verses 7:38-41. Every time a company of evil people will enter the Fire of hell, they will curse the people who went before. They will blame their evil deeds on the earlier generation and say that they were misled. But their curse will have no effect. Both parties will receive a double penalty. The first generation will get penalty for their own bad sins and for setting up bad example to the next generation. The later generation will get double penalty for their own bad sins and for the failure in learning from the past generation.
Some of the historical events taken place in the past:
7:59 We sent Noah to his people. He said: "O my people! worship Allah. ye have no other god but Him. I fear for you the punishment of a dreadful day!
7:60 The leaders of his people said: "Ah! we see thee evidently wandering (in mind)."
7:61 He said: "O my people! No wandering is there in my (mind): on the contrary I am an apostle from the Lord and Cherisher of the worlds!
7:62 "I but fulfil towards you the duties of my Lord's mission: Sincere is my advice to you, and I know from Allah something that ye know not.
7:63 "Do ye wonder that there hath come to you a message from your Lord, through a man of your own people, to warn you,- so that ye may fear Allah and happly receive His Mercy?"
7:64 But they rejected him, and We delivered him, and those with him, in the Ark: but We overwhelmed in the flood those who rejected Our signs. They were indeed a blind people!
7:66 The leaders of the Unbelievers among his people said: "Ah! we see thou art an imbecile!" and "We think thou art a liar!"
7:67 He said: "O my people! I am no imbecile, but (I am) an apostle from the Lord and Cherisher of the worlds!
7:68 "I but fulfil towards you the duties of my Lord's mission: I am to you a sincere and trustworthy adviser.
7:69 "Do ye wonder that there hath come to you a message from your Lord through a man of your own people, to warn you? call in remembrance that He made you inheritors after the people of Noah, and gave you a stature tall among the nations. Call in remembrance the benefits (ye have received) from Allah. that so ye may prosper."
7:70 They said: "Comest thou to us, that we may worship Allah alone, and give up the cult of our fathers? bring us what thou threatenest us with, if so be that thou tellest the truth!"
7:71 He said: "Punishment and wrath have already come upon you from your Lord: dispute ye with me over names which ye have devised - ye and your fathers,- without authority from Allah. then wait: I am amongst you, also waiting."
7:72 We saved him and those who adhered to him. By Our mercy, and We cut off the roots of those who rejected Our signs and did not believe.
7:73 To the Thamud people (We sent) Salih, one of their own brethren: He said: "O my people! worship Allah. ye have no other god but Him. Now hath come unto you a clear (Sign) from your Lord! This she-camel of Allah is a Sign unto you: So leave her to graze in Allah's earth, and let her come to no harm, or ye shall be seized with a grievous punishment.
7:74 "And remember how He made you inheritors after the 'Ad people and gave you habitations in the land: ye build for yourselves palaces and castles in (open) plains, and care out homes in the mountains; so bring to remembrance the benefits (ye have received) from Allah, and refrain from evil and mischief on the earth."
7:75 The leaders of the arrogant party among his people said to those who were reckoned powerless - those among them who believed: "know ye indeed that Salih is an apostle from his Lord?" They said: "We do indeed believe in the revelation which hath been sent through him."
7:76 The Arrogant party said: "For our part, we reject what ye believe in."
7:77 Then they ham-strung the she-camel, and insolently defied the order of their Lord, saying: "O Salih! bring about thy threats, if thou art an apostle (of Allah.!"
7:78 So the earthquake took them unawares, and they lay prostrate in their homes in the morning!
7:79 So Salih left them, saying: "O my people! I did indeed convey to you the message for which I was sent by my Lord: I gave you good counsel, but ye love not good counsellors!"
7:80 We also (sent) Lut: He said to his people: "Do ye commit lewdness such as no people in creation (ever) committed before you?
7:81 "For ye practice your lusts on men in preference to women : ye are indeed a people transgressing beyond bounds."
7:82 And his people gave no answer but this: they said, "Drive them out of your city: these are indeed men who want to be clean and pure!"
7:83 But we saved him and his family, except his wife: she was of those who legged behind.
7:84 And we rained down on them a shower (of brimstone): Then see what was the end of those who indulged in sin and crime!
7:85 To the Madyan people We sent Shu'aib, one of their own brethren: he said: "O my people! worship Allah. Ye have no other god but Him. Now hath come unto you a clear (Sign) from your Lord! Give just measure and weight, nor withhold from the people the things that are their due; and do no mischief on the earth after it has been set in order: that will be best for you, if ye have Faith.
7:86 "And squat not on every road, breathing threats, hindering from the path of Allah those who believe in Him, and seeking in it something crooked; But remember how ye were little, and He gave you increase. And hold in your mind's eye what was the end of those who did mischief.
7:87 "And if there is a party among you who believes in the message with which I have been sent, and a party which does not believe, hold yourselves in patience until Allah doth decide between us: for He is the best to decide.
7:88 The leaders, the arrogant party among his people, said: "O Shu'aib! we shall certainly drive thee out of our city - (thee) and those who believe with thee; or else ye (thou and they) shall have to return to our ways and religion." He said: "What! even though we do detest (them)?
7:89 "We should indeed invent a lie against Allah, if we returned to your ways after Allah hath rescued us therefrom; nor could we by any manner of means return thereto unless it be as in the will and plan of Allah, Our Lord. Our Lord can reach out to the utmost recesses of things by His knowledge. In the Allah is our trust. our Lord! decide Thou between us and our people in truth, for Thou art the best to decide."
7:90 The leaders, the unbelievers among his people, said: "If ye follow Shu'aib, be sure then ye are ruined!"
7:91 But the earthquake took them unawares, and they lay prostrate in their homes before the morning!
7:92 The men who reject Shu'aib became as if they had never been in the homes where they had flourished: the men who rejected Shu'aib - it was they who were ruined!
7:93 So Shu'aib left them, saying: "O my people! I did indeed convey to you the messages for which I was sent by my Lord: I gave you good counsel, but how shall I lament over a people who refuse to believe!"
7:103 Then after them We sent Moses with Our signs to Pharaoh and his chiefs, but they wrongfully rejected them: So see what was the end of those who made mischief.
7:104 Moses said: "O Pharaoh! I am an apostle from the Lord of the worlds,-
7:105 One for whom it is right to say nothing but truth about Allah. Now have I come unto you (people), from your Lord, with a clear (Sign): So let the Children of Israel depart along with me."
7:132 They said (to Moses): "Whatever be the Signs thou bringest, to work therewith thy sorcery on us, we shall never believe in thee.
7:133 So We sent (plagues) on them: Wholesale death, Locusts, Lice, Frogs, And Blood: Signs openly self-explained: but they were steeped in arrogance,- a people given to sin.
7:134 Every time the penalty fell on them, they said: "O Moses! on your behalf call on thy Lord in virtue of his promise to thee: If thou wilt remove the penalty from us, we shall truly believe in thee, and we shall send away the Children of Israel with thee."
7:135 But every time We removed the penalty from them according to a fixed term which they had to fulfill,- Behold! they broke their word!
7:136 So We exacted retribution from them: We drowned them in the sea, because they rejected Our Signs and failed to take warning from them.
History shows us that Allah has punished people severely by drowning them on the sea, by earthquakes, by flood, a shower of brimstones, by suffering, adversity and plagues like: wholesale death, locusts, lice, frogs and blood.
To every people there is a term appointed, and when the term has been appointed it cannot be delayed by even an hour. Respite itself can be a mercy if used in Allah's way but for the unbelievers the respite can be granted in order to make the sinners grow in their iniquities to make them deserve their upcoming punishment. Allah's scheme is strong (7:183). A sinner or a believer will never be dealth unjustly in the very last.
Allah gave the rebellious many opportunities but they continued rejecting Him until it was too late and a calamity came on them. We are coming closer and closer to the time of reckoning. Our lesson is to learn from the past before there will come a time when we will regret. Surat Al-A'raf ends with encouraging verses that tells us to read the Quran and accept Allah's guidance - if not we will be punished in ways we cant even imagine.
7:204 When the Qur'an is read, listen to it with attention, and hold your peace: that ye may receive Mercy.
7:205 And do thou (O reader!) Bring thy Lord to remembrance in thy (very) soul, with humility and in reverence, without loudness in words, in the mornings and evenings; and be not thou of those who are unheedful.
7:206 Those who are near to thy Lord, disdain not to do Him worship: They celebrate His praises, and bow down before Him.
The time has arrived for the believers to put their hearts in humility and to engage in the remembrance of Allah and of the truth that has been revealed. We should not become like those of the old whose hearts grew hard (57:16). We are created to obey Allah and we all have a personal responsibility of not to listen to the evil whispers of Iblis. Our present generation is critical because Muhammad (saw) was the last in the range of the messengers. There will come no more Prophets of Allah in the future. The present generation is critical because when it will be destroyed, no new generation will be established after us. There will be given no more respite to any new people. The only thing after this will be The Akhirah - The Day of Judgment.