Everything in the external Universe follows Divine Laws that produce results accordingly. The same is true for divine laws for humans – these laws produce results but their time scale is different as one day of Allah could be thousand years (32:5) or even fifty thousand years on human scale (70:4). So, Allah brings evidence from the history of past nations for divine laws for human society. This is unlike the result of physical laws that happen in real time.
If one plants seeds in a well prepared farm soil and follows the natural process of watering the farm, removing weeds, putting proper fertilizer then one gets a bumper harvest with each seed producing hundreds of grains; and the same is true of divine laws but their results don’t happen in real time but according to the period of respite built into the Divine Law of Requital (2:261). If humans follow Divine laws and establish their life-system based on those laws, then the result will happen as mentioned in the Quran (48:29). If they don’t, then the result will be suffering and destruction ultimately (10:24).
Science of history
The style of the Quran is that whenever it describes a law then it presents evidence from the natural order in the external universe and from the history of past nations – that they established a wrong system and therefore they suffered destruction. And this happens to any nation irrespective of time and place; that this is a universal law which applied to past nations and will apply to all nations in future. The Quran has presented history as a science – that is, as a cause and effect according to law – 1400 years ago with actions of nations and the consequences resulting therefrom. Nowhere else this could be found except in the Quran at that time. History was considered simply a chronicle of events. Hegel did research on the science of history only relatively recently (during the eighteenth century). Ibn Khaldun also presented science of history in his Muqaddimah as he got this idea from the Quran.
It is the Quran that presented this idea of science of history for the first time. It has presented the history of all the past nations in terms of what kind of life-system they practiced and what were its consequences. This is the universal science of history that applies to all nations – past, present, and future. Therefore, it presents the evidence from the history of Aad and Thamud to the Arabs of that time that you travel through their ruins and you talk about their stories. But you need to focus on why they were destroyed and completely ruined. You need to learn that they were practicing the wrong system of life and that is why they were destroyed. And this will apply to you as well. This is a universal law that applies to all nations. Arabs vehemently opposed this message of the Quran initially and but ultimately they accepted it and left their wrong system of life. And the results speak for themselves.
Our condition today
We say that we have Iman and we read the description of past nations in the Quran; but we treat them as stories and don’t consider it as a science of history; that these nations faced the consequences of their wrong system of life; and that is why they suffered destruction because of their wrong actions.
And here we are, we do not even try to learn a lesson from their history let alone change our wrong system of life in light of the Quran. But the West is treating their history as science. Gibbon’s huge effort in compiling the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire is based on science of history. He mentions their every wrong action and describes the resulting consequences. And we have the Quran in front of us; we read the history of past nations as stories; and move on by saying that these are the stories of past nations and we have nothing to do with them; and we proudly proclaim that we have Iman in the Quran. What kind of Iman do we have in the Quran? We recite the Quran without understanding to earn reward in the hereafter. The Quran was sent down to people to use it to better their lives here in this world; but we recite it by the bedside of the sick so that his life ends quickly. Allama says:
This is what has remained of the Quran to you
To recite Surah Yaseen, so death comes to you
The Quran is very logical book that says that there is universal law of cause and effect in the outer Universe; and there is also a universal of Law of Requital that applies to all nations – past, present, and future; it applies to their actions and consequences, i.e., it applies to their cause and produces effect for human societies and nations. But we have become used to reading the Quran like a story book without understanding and for earning rewards in the hereafter. The Quran presents evidence from the outer Universe (41:10-12) and presents evidence from the history of past nations as evidence for its claim:
فَإِنْ أَعْرَضُوا فَقُلْ أَنذَرْتُكُمْ صَاعِقَةً مِّثْلَ صَاعِقَةِ عَادٍ وَثَمُودَ
(41:13) – BUT IF they turn away, say: “I warn you of [the coming of] a thunderbolt of punishment like the thunderbolt [that fell upon the tribes] of Ad and Thamud!” [Asad]
Similar to the manner in which Allah has determined various laws according to which different things function in the outer Universe, He has prescribed Divine Laws for humankind and has conveyed them through Revelation. If they ignored these Divine Laws, then they were warned about the consequent doom and destruction that was going to befell on them like the one which fell upon the ancient nations (23:44).
This has not been mentioned for academic purpose but to learn practical lesson from it. It was being told to Arabs that you travel through the ruins of these nations and talk about their stories. But you have to learn lesson from their history why they were ruined. They were more powerful than you and their wrong life-system led to their destruction. So, if you won’t change your wrong system then you would also be destroyed. But after resisting initially and fighting several wars, they finally accepted the divine message. And the Prophet (PBUH) and his companions (R) then established the Divine system that created such a huge revolution that from being the most backward nation in the world they ascended to being the topmost nation in the world (3:139).
So, the Arabs finally learnt the lesson; but here we are, not interested in learning lessons from the history of past nations, and we are only interested in reciting the stories of past nations and that’s that. But when Allah sent down His Code of Law then he sent down the Hikmah (wisdom) with it which means the “why of it” i.e., what is the logic and reason for it; in short, what is the science of it. The history of nations that the Quran presents has the built-in logic that what were the ways they behaved and what were the resulting consequences, i.e., it presents cause and effect analysis in order to learn lessons from it. Messengers were sent to all the nations to warn them about the consequences of their wrong way of life. But instead of learning lessons they reacted blindly and emotionally, and perfunctorily.
The Quran says:
إِذْ جَاءَتْهُمُ الرُّسُلُ مِن بَيْنِ أَيْدِيهِمْ وَمِنْ خَلْفِهِمْ أَلَّا تَعْبُدُوا إِلَّا اللَّهَ ۖ قَالُوا لَوْ شَاءَ رَبُّنَا لَأَنزَلَ مَلَائِكَةً فَإِنَّا بِمَا أُرْسِلْتُم بِهِ كَافِرُونَ
(41:14) – Behold, the messengers came to them, from before them and behind them, (preaching): "Serve none but Allah." They said, "If our Lord had so pleased, He would certainly have sent down angels (to preach). Now we reject your mission (altogether)." [Yusuf Ali]
وَلَقَدْ أَرْسَلْنَا نُوحًا إِلَىٰ قَوْمِهِ فَقَالَ يَا قَوْمِ اعْبُدُوا اللَّهَ مَا لَكُم مِّنْ إِلَٰهٍ غَيْرُهُ ۖ أَفَلَا تَتَّقُونَ
(23:23) – And We sent Noah to his people; and he, said, 'O my people, serve God! You have no god other than He. Will you not be god-fearing?" [Arberry]
فَقَالَ الْمَلَأُ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا مِن قَوْمِهِ مَا هَٰذَا إِلَّا بَشَرٌ مِّثْلُكُمْ يُرِيدُ أَن يَتَفَضَّلَ عَلَيْكُمْ وَلَوْ شَاءَ اللَّهُ لَأَنزَلَ مَلَائِكَةً مَّا سَمِعْنَا بِهَٰذَا فِي آبَائِنَا الْأَوَّلِينَ
(23:24) – The chiefs of the Unbelievers among his people said: "He is no more than a man like yourselves: his wish is to assert his superiority over you: if Allah had wished (to send messengers), He could have sent down angels; never did we hear such a thing (as he says), among our ancestors of old." [Yusuf Ali]
ثُمَّ أَرْسَلْنَا رُسُلَنَا تَتْرَىٰ ۖ كُلَّ مَا جَاءَ أُمَّةً رَّسُولُهَا كَذَّبُوهُ ۚ فَأَتْبَعْنَا بَعْضَهُم بَعْضًا وَجَعَلْنَاهُمْ أَحَادِيثَ ۚ فَبُعْدًا لِّقَوْمٍ لَّا يُؤْمِنُونَ
(23:44) – Then We sent Our Messengers in succession, every time there came to a nation their Messenger, they denied him, so We made them follow one another (to destruction), and We made them as Ahadith (the true stories for mankind to learn a lesson from them). So away with a people who believe not. [Hilali & Khan]
So, when Allah’s Messengers came to them, one after the other from all sides, and told them not to obey anyone except Allah, they answered: If our Sustainer really wanted to send Revelation towards us, He would have sent angels from the sky whom we could have seen with our own eyes; but you are a simple human being like us. Hence we are not ready to believe what you say (41:14).
But for our convenience or self-deception we have translated تَعْبُدُو or عبادت as “worship.” And we limited it to praying and fasting. تَعْبُدُو or عبادت means: “adopting the obedience” of Allah. الہ means “sovereign authority.” So (أَلَّا تَعْبُدُوا إِلَّا اللَّهَ ,(41:14 means “Do not adopt obedience of any sovereign authority except Allah.” How will this obedience be carried out? By officially making the Quran as the Islamic state’s constitution which spans all aspects of collective human life – be they political, social, economic, judicial, cultural, etc. This was the message that every messenger conveyed to their peoples. This was the right system of life under divine guidance. And adopting sovereignty of anything or anyone else is Kufr:
مَنْ لَّمْ يَحْكُمْ بِمَآ اَنْزَلَ اللّٰهُ فَاُولٰۗىِٕكَ هُمُ الْكٰفِرُوْنَ
(5:44) – And whosoever does not judge by what Allah has revealed, such are the Kafirun (i.e. disbelievers as they do not act on Allah's Laws). [Hilali & Khan]
Nations’ destruction is due to their wrong system of life – Example of Aad
Nations rise due to the right system of life and fall due to the wrong system of life. Individual evil and individual crime do not destroy a nation. These could be stopped or reformed. But when there is a wrong system of life in place in a nation then this cannot be stopped or reformed. And if a system is established based on force it becomes tyrannical and people cannot confront it. The Quran mentions the evil things of such nations and tries to draw attention towards the wrong system. It brings example from history:
فَأَمَّا عَادٌ فَاسْتَكْبَرُوا فِي الْأَرْضِ بِغَيْرِ الْحَقِّ وَقَالُوا مَنْ أَشَدُّ مِنَّا قُوَّةً ۖ أَوَلَمْ يَرَوْا أَنَّ اللَّهَ الَّذِي خَلَقَهُمْ هُوَ أَشَدُّ مِنْهُمْ قُوَّةً ۖ وَكَانُوا بِآيَاتِنَا يَجْحَدُونَ
(41:15) – As for 'Ad, they were arrogant in the land without right, and they said: "Who is mightier than us in strength?" See they not that Allah, Who created them was mightier in strength than them. And they used to deny Our Ayat (proofs, evidences, verses, lessons, revelations, etc.)! [Hilali & Khan]
The situation of the tribe of Aad was such that without reason they had adopted an arrogant and rebellious attitude. They had the false impression that no one was more powerful than them, and therefore no one could question them. They never thought that Allah, Who has created them, is much more powerful than them. It was due to their lack of pondering on this issue that they continued rejecting the Divine Laws.
The first thing to notice here is that this power is بِغَيْرِ الْحَقِّ (without Haq) but the power with Haq is justified. Power, authority, and ascendancy by themselves are not bad provided it is based on Haq. If fact, it is sign of Momineen.
وَأَنتُمُ ٱلْأَعْلَوْنَ إِن كُنتُم مُّؤْمِنِينَ
(3:139) – You shall surely gain ascendancy and authority, provided you are Momineen.
A system that is established based on divine codes, principles, and commands, and operates with mutual consultation of the people within the boundaries of these eternal principles, will be called Quranic system or Islamic system. If any system that is enforced based only on power will be without Haq. Its result is destruction. This is a universal law. This is the science of history. This is what happened to Aad. They could not see any nation around them as powerful as they were. But, in their arrogance, they forgot that Allah is the Almighty and All-powerful.
Rat race to exceed others in material power
This is what is happening today. Every nation is trying to exceed in material power over other nations. There is a rat race going on, especially led by the West. What we call secularism is nothing but materialism. No nation is trying to create a better system for improving the human condition. There is some degree of consciousness coming from some nations which are trying to establish a welfare system to some extent. But the one who calls itself superpower doesn’t let them do it and tries to subdue them. The Quran has declared:
وَأَمَّا مَا يَنفَعُ النَّاسَ فَيَمْكُثُ فِي الْأَرْضِ
(13:17) – while that which is for the good of mankind remains on the earth. [Yusuf Ali]
As a result of the conflict between truth and falsehood the negative forces pass away like scum but that which is beneficial for the humanity endures (17:81).
Right now the law of the jungle prevails and every nation tries to acquire more and more power. The Quran says that all nations will suffer destruction who rely solely on power. Only that nation will endure, which is beneficial to humanity. This is the law of Allah.
Who could have thought until recently that the tiny particle (atom) is hiding such a tremendous amount of energy? Today we know that the planet Earth and all life can be destroyed by atomic power. We see how powerful are those nations which have atomic power and they compete with each other? But Allah’ law is the most powerful of all. As a result, a wrong system destroys itself, Allama puts it thus:
Your wrong system will commit suicide with its own dagger
A system built on weak branch will fall and suffer destruction
The powerful don’t give a logical reason for using their power. They come up with crooked arguments which the Quran calls يَجْحَدُونَ – they are involved in ad hominem and circular arguments.
Next the Quran says (41:16):
فَأَرْسَلْنَا عَلَيْهِمْ رِيحًا صَرْصَرًا فِي أَيَّامٍ نَّحِسَاتٍ لِّنُذِيقَهُمْ عَذَابَ الْخِزْيِ فِي الْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا ۖ وَلَعَذَابُ الْآخِرَةِ أَخْزَىٰ ۖ وَهُمْ لَا يُنصَرُونَ – So We sent against them a furious Wind through days of disaster, that We might give them a taste of a Penalty of humiliation in this life; but the Penalty of a Hereafter will be more humiliating still: and they will find no help. [Yusuf Ali]
إِنَّا أَرْسَلْنَا عَلَيْهِمْ رِيحًا صَرْصَرًا فِي يَوْمِ نَحْسٍ مُّسْتَمِرٍّ
(54:9) – Behold, We let loose upon them a raging storm wind on a day of bitter misfortune. [Asad]
So, they received a humiliating punishment in this world; and the suffering in the hereafter will be much more humiliating. There will be no one to help or save them from this chastisement.
In the above verse the Quran says – عَذَابَ الْخِزْيِ – i.e., such nations suffer humiliating punishment. One thing is to suffer from natural disasters. But it is quite another for a nation to suffer humiliation and despicable treatment at the hands of other nations. But the Quran says it is due to a nation’s own actions that it suffers عَذَابَ الْخِزْيِ in the world. But our religious scholars brainwash the people that this will happen in the hereafter to others; and that those who suffer here will have a good time there. But the Quran clearly says here (41:16): فِي الْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا ; and the punishment in the hereafter will be even greater (41:16): وَلَعَذَابُ الْآخِرَةِ أَخْزَى . According to the Quran life continues from this world to the hereafter, the future world. Allama puts it thus:
That nation’s future will also be bleak and miserable
Whose present is bleak, humiliating, and miserable
But nations suffering humiliation like us remain under self-deception that we give charity, pray, fast, etc., so, we will go to heaven. And they remain satisfied with their status quo by saying that everything is in the hands of Allah.
Good actions in light of the divine code bring good results. And bad actions in contravention of the divine code bring bad results. In another place the Quran says:
وَأَمَّا إِذَا مَا ابْتَلَاهُ فَقَدَرَ عَلَيْهِ رِزْقَهُ فَيَقُولُ رَبِّي أَهَانَنِ
(89:16) – whereas, whenever He tries him by straitening his means of livelihood, he says, “My Sustainer has disgraced me!” [Asad]
When the human condition takes a bad turn, then what happens? Sustenance becomes difficult. This is the root of the world's troubles and miseries. The Quran goes to the root. But then man starts blaming God for this adverse turn of events in his life. He starts crying, “My Sustainer has humiliated me!” Why were you so humiliated? Why did your condition take this bad turn? This happened because (89:17):
بَل لَّا تُكْرِمُونَ الْيَتِيمَ – Nay, nay! but ye honour not the orphans! [Yusuf Ali]
You are not generous towards the orphan. You did not respect those who were left alone. You didn’t take care of those who were left destitute or indigent or somehow paralyzed and could not earn their livelihood. On top of it you took everything that you inherited assuming it is as halal.
وَتُحِبُّونَ الْمَالَ حُبًّا جَمًّا
(89:20) – and you love wealth with boundless love! [Asad]
Wealth is not bad in itself but you, instead of using this as a means, you make it as your goal and you become obsessed with its love.
But humans cry that Allah destroyed us; that He humiliated us. Well, Allah says that why don’t you look inside yourselves of what you were doing all along? What kind of wrong and exploitative system you had put in place?
1) You did not respect those in society who were left alone;
2) You did not provide for those in society who became indigent or somehow were unable to work;
3) You gulped the entire inheritance and considered it as halal; and
4) You put in place an economic system that attracted wealth and placed it in the hands of just few.
These were the reasons for your humiliation and disgrace.
Topics: Divine Law, Economic System Of Islam, History, Human Dignity, Humanity, Islam And Science, Materialism, Poverty And Welfare, Prophethood, Quran, Social System Of Islam, Time, Universe, Wealth Values: Charity, Guidance, Justice, Spirituality, Wisdom