Beyond our earthly dependencies, we are dependent upon the Cause of our being here in this earthly life, upon our “human nature” baked into the recipé of our species (See Part 5 for ingredients in that recipé). As caused and created beings, we humans cannot escape the fact that we are dependent upon the physical, mental, spiritual body with which we came into the world. We did not make ourselves, nor did we form the environment into which we were born – our parents, our placement in human history and geography, the social, poliltical or economic condition of our family or neighborhood.
We live within certain boundaries and restrictions not of our personal making, but we each have the ability —in fact, responsibility— to choose between good and bad options, to embark upon between a right or wrong pathway. As for clarity in ultimate realities and guidance, we humans are dependent upon what God’s prophets have revealed to our human community. As Muslims we are blessed with a confirmation of what our merciful Creator and Sustainer has given to past prophet-led communities, as well as a final tutorial of what He requires of us for our greatest blessings and success in life.
“RULES OF THE ROAD” FOR HUMAN BEINGS AS PART OF GOD’S CREATION
Allah facilitates guidance and understanding for the seeker.
All praise is due to God, who has bestowed this divine writ from on high upon His servant, and has not allowed any deviousness to obscure its meaning… [Sûrah Al-Kahf, 18:1]
Furthermore, Allah opens the way for man’s repentance and God’s forgiveness —when man comes to terms with his wrongdoing on the “Straight Path,” or when he ignorantly or unwittingly goes against divine standards. We ask Allah’s forgiveness for known and unknown wrongs done, out of a desire to stand before Him five times daily without hindrance of any kind; for we love that our merciful Patron loves to forgive. It is upon Allah upon whom we happily and best full-well depend in this life —as it is also to Him we will ultimately render full account on the Day of Judgment:
The Apostle, and the believers with him, believe in what has been bestowed upon him from on high by his Sustainer … and they say: “We have heard, and we pay heed. Grant us Your forgiveness, O our Sustainer, for with You is all journeys’ end!” God does not burden any human being with more than he is well able to bear: in his favour shall be whatever good he does, and against him whatever evil he does. “O our Sustainer! Take us not to task if we forget or unwittingly do wrong! … And efface our sins, and grant us forgiveness, and bestow Your mercy upon us! You are our Lord Supreme: succour us, then against people who deny the truth!” [Sûrah Al-Baqarah, 2:285-286]
Al-Agharr Al-Muzani said: The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said, “Sometimes I perceive a veil over my heart, and I supplicate Allah for forgiveness a hundred times in a day.” (Muslim 1869)
Say [to them, O Prophet]: “Unto whom belongs all that is in the heavens and on earth?” [And] say [in answer]:”Unto God, who has willed upon Himself the law of grace and mercy.” [Sûrah Al-An’âm, 6:12]
Narrated Abu Huraira: Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) said, “When Allah completed the creation, He wrote in His Book which is with Him on His Throne, “My Mercy overpowers (prevailed over, dominated, surpasses, excels, overcomes) My Wrath.” (Bukhari and Muslim)
Yet, indeed, I am most forgiving of whoever repents and believes and does righteous deeds and thereafter remains guided. [Surah Tâ Hâ, 20:82]
Say, [O Prophet: God declares to humanity]: O My servants! Those [of you] who have committed [sins in great] excess against their own souls, never despond of the mercy of God! For, indeed, God forgives sins, one and all. Indeed, it is He [alone] who is the All-Forgiving, the Mercy-Giving. So turn in penitence to your Lord. And submit yourselves to Him willingly—before there comes to you the torment [of God’s Judgment]. For, then you shall not be helped. … so that no soul shall say [then, in regret]: O alas for me, for all that I have neglected in regard to God! And, indeed, I was consciously of the [wrongful] scoffers. … No, indeed! Truly My [revealed] signs came to you. But you belied them! And you grew arrogant! And you were of the [inveterate] disbelievers! [Sûrah Al-Zumar, 39:53-59]
As Moses discovered, Allah is “the best of those who forgive.”
Moreover, Moses chose from his people seventy [elect] men for Our appointed time [to meet at Mount Ṭur, to offer their repentance]. Then when [they demanded to see God, and] the convulsion [of the earth] overtook them, he said: My Lord! Had You so willed, You would have destroyed [all of] them before—and myself [as well—for the Golden Calf]. Will You destroy us for what the fools among us have done? It is only Your trial by which You leave to stray whomever You will and You guide whomever you will. You are our [only] Patron. So forgive us and have mercy opon us. For You are the best of those who forgive. [Sûrah Al-ACrâf, 7:155]
While the notion of a Satan (Iblîs) is outmoded in modern thought, those who look into the mysteries of their own souls, deploring their own weak moments or misguided behavior, often find that the following verses strike a responsive chord:
And when everything will have been decided, Satan will say: “Behold, God promised you something that was bound to come true! I, too, held out [all manner of] promises to you – but I deceived you. Yet I had no power at all over you: I but called you – and you responded unto me. Hence, blame not me, but blame yourselves. It is not for me to respond to your cries, nor for you to respond to mine: for, behold, I have [always] refused to admit that there was any truth in your erstwhile belief that I had a share in God’s divinity.” [Surah Ibrâhîm, 14:22]
Said [God to Satan] “This is, with Me a straight way: verily, you shall have no power over My creatures – unless it be such as are [already] lost in grievous error and follow you [of their own will]. [Surah Al-Hijr, 15:41]
Yet Satan promises [those of] them [who follow him] nothing but a mere delusion. [O Satan!] As for my [faithful] servants, you shall have no [position of] authority over them. Thus, sufficient is your Lord, [O Prophet,] as a Guardian [over the believers]. [Sûrah Al-Isrâ’, 17:64-65]
For very truly, Iblîs fulfilled his vow to [bridle most of] them. Thus they all followed him, except for a group of believers [among them]. But never did he have any [compelling] authority over them other than [the power of evil suggestion] —so that We might distinguish one who believes in the Hereafter from one who has doubt concerning it. For your Lord [alone] is all-preserving over all things. [Surah Saba’, 34:20-21]
Indeed, [malicious] private discourse is prompted by Satan to grieve those who believe. Yet never shall he harm them in anything, except by the permission of God. So upon God [alone] let the believers rely. [Sûrah Al-Mujâdilah, 58:10]
…the like of [what happens] when Satan says unto man, “Deny the truth!” – but as soon as [man] has denied the truth, [Satan] says, “Behold, I am not responsible for you: behold, I fear God, the Sustainer of all the worlds!” [Sûrah Al-Hashr, 59:15)
Allah does not compel us to follow His ways —although He does explain to us our ‘human condition,’ something of the purpose of our existence, and then He woos us with guidance so that —in practical terms— we can comply with what He requires, enticing us with the promise of His mercy, forgiveness and help. At the same time He has not neglected to warn of the natural consequences that we invite upon ourselves when we fail to take heed of the psychological and spiritual nature of our souls. When we refuse to heed divine Guidance, we become our own worst enemy. We “sin against ourselves,” in Quranic parlance:
And so, We have bestowed this divine writ as a heritage unto such of Our servants as We chose: and among them are some who sin against themselves; and some who keep half-way [between right and wrong], and some who, by God’s leave, are foremost in deeds of goodness: [and] this, indeed, is a merit most high! [Sûrah Al-Fatir, 35:32]
The Creator incorporated actionable Do’s and Don’ts into the moral-code Covenant given to Moses (in addition to the prescribed worship rituals), and before that to Noah and Abraham.
Said [God]: “O Moses! Behold, I have raised you above all people by virtue of the messages which I have entrusted to you, and by virtue of My speaking [unto you]: Hold fast, therefore, unto what I have vouchsafed you, and be among the grateful!” And We ordained for him in the tablets [of the Law] all manner of admonition, clearly spelling out everything. And [We said:] “Hold fast unto them with [all your] strength, and bid your people to hold fast to their most goodly rules.” [Sûrah Al-A’râf, 7:144-145]
He has laid down for you, [O humankind— in] whatever He has [already] revealed to you, [O Muhammad— all the tenets] of [Heavenly] religion, [the likes] of which He had [first] enjoined upon Noah, and that which He had [thereafter] enjoined upon Abraham, and [upon] Moses and [upon] Jesus, namely: You shall be steadfast in establishing the religion [of God]. And you shall not divide therein! As to those who associate gods with God, that to which you call them, [O Prophet,] it is a great burden upon them. It is God [alone] who chooses [to draw near] to Himself whomever He so wills— and thus He guides to Himself whoever turns [to Him] in penitence. [Humanity was at first one faith community,] and they did not divide [among themselves regarding the true religion] until after [revealed] knowledge [from God] had come to them [on the tongues of the messengers, and some had belied them— thereby] exceeding the due bounds [of God] with one another— [out of nothing but insolence and envy]. … So to this [upright religion of all the prophets] call [everyone, O Prophet]. Moreover, keep [steadfastly] straight [upon God’s path], even as you have been commanded. [Sûrah Al-Shûrâ, 42:13-15]
This guidance and reminder of the Creator’s moral law was reiterated again under Muhammad.
Yet before it the Book of Moses [was similarly revealed] as an exemplar and mercy. And this [Quran, too] is a [revealed] Book— [indeed,] a confirmation in an Arabic tongue [of all the Heavenly Scriptures that preceded it] — to forewarn [of God’s nearing Judgment] all those who have done wrong [by false worship]. Moreover, it is a glad tiding [of everlasting delight in Paradise sent] to [all] those who [believe and] excel in [doing] good. [Sûrah Al-Aḥqâf, 46:12]
The universe has rules. Some of them, the most physically accessible ones, Science calls the Laws of Nature. The operation of these have been observed and had their experimental data analyzed, described and reduced to formulas by our scientific community. Other rules built into the very fabric of our universe are moral codes or ‘laws,’ which have been cherished in all human societies and passed on to their later generations. Those who violate the Creator’s moral codes stand to suffer, just as those who fail to respect the Law of Gravity will suffer the consequences.
God will requite them for their mockery and will leave them for a while in their overweening arrogance, blindly stumbling to and fro: [for] it is they who have taken error in exchange for guidance; and neither has their bargain brought them gain, nor have they found guidance [elsewhere]. Their parable is that of a people who kindle a fire; but as soon as it has illumined all around them, God takes away their light and leaves them in utter darkness, wherein they cannot see: deaf, dumb, blind — and they cannot turn back. [Sûrah Al-Baqarah, 2:15-17]
Anyone who continues to imagine himself as independent of his Creator and Lord — remaining blind to his ultimate ‘joined-at-the-hip’ dependence upon Him— will have only himself to blame when comes the time for reckoning.
But one Day We shall raise up a witness out of every community, whereupon they who were bent on denying the truth will not be allowed to plead [ignorance], and neither will they be allowed to make amends. [Sûrah Al-Nahl, 16:84]
Yet who does a greater wrong than one who is made mindful [of the truth] by the [very] verses of his Lord, but who then turns away from them, forgetting [the sins] that his [own] hands have advanced [into the Hereafter? Therefore], We have, indeed, placed sheaths over their [ill-inclined] hearts—that they may [no longer] understand this [Quran] —and in their ears an utter deafness. So though you call them to [faith, O Prophet, by means of] this [Heavenly] guidance— still, never shall they be guided, ever…. [Sûrah Al-Kahf, 18:57]
Even in the trials and troubles of this life, God responds to those who fully depend upon Him, deliberately giving up their wrongdoings and bad behavior.
…To be continued in Part 8