The Daily Arab News
Sep 16, 2011
In the name of God, the Lord of Grace, the Ever Merciful We shall remove this suffering for a while; but you are bound to revert (to your old ways). On that Day We shall deliver a mighty onslaught; We will indeed exact retribution. We did, before their time, try Pharaoh’s people: there came to them a noble messenger, who said to them: ‘Give in to me, you servants of God! For, I am indeed a messenger sent to you, worthy of trust! Do not exalt yourselves against God; for, indeed, I come to you with manifest authority. I seek refuge with my Lord and your Lord lest you hurl stones at me. If you do not believe me, stand away from me.’ He then called out to his Lord, saying: ‘These people are lost in sin’. (Smoke; Al-Dukhan; 44: 15-22)
In the previous verses, the surah gives the unbelievers an image of a time when they appeal in vain. However, they are told here that they still have a chance, which they should not lose. While they are still in this life, their punishment is delayed. If they believe now, as they will later promise they would if returned, they will have acted whilst they have the time to prove their sincerity. Nothing is lost yet, so they better act now before they are returned to God. When they are returned to Him: “On that Day We shall deliver a mighty onslaught,” when the smoke envelops people. “We will indeed exact retribution,” for the play you indulge in and the falsehood you level at the Prophet describing him as ‘taught by others, a madman’, when he is God’s trusted Messenger.
A very brief account of the history of Moses and Pharaoh is then added. It starts with a strong note alerting people to the fact that when God sends a messenger to a certain community, this may represent a special test for them. Likewise, allowing those who oppose the messenger and reject his message a period of time during which they may persist in their arrogance, persecuting the messenger and those who believe in him, may also be a special sort of test. When a community exhausts the patience of God’s messenger, leaving him despairing of their ever being positive towards the divine message, their action may incur a stern punishment: “We did, before their time, try Pharaoh’s people.” We tested them with prosperity and power in the land, as well as all means of affluence and power. “There came to them a noble messenger.” This was a part of their test, showing how they responded to God’s messenger who asked nothing for himself in return. He only called on them to believe in God and demonstrate their readiness to give everything to God, leaving nothing for themselves when it comes to sacrifice for His sake. Thus, the messenger said to them: “Give in to me, you servants of God! For, I am indeed a messenger sent to you, worthy of trust! Do not exalt yourselves against God; for, indeed, I come to you with manifest authority. I seek refuge with my Lord and your Lord lest you hurl stones at me. If you do not believe me, stand away from me.”
These are clear words, in short sentences, outlining what Moses asks of his people. He is advising them to make a complete response and submit totally to God. It does not behove God’s servants to exalt themselves against Him. As Moses gives them God’s message, together with clear and irrefutable proof that he is God’s messenger, he seeks God’s help and protection should they attack him. If they persist in their erring ways, unwilling to believe in God, he asks them to leave him alone, move away from him. This is extremely fair behavior. Tyranny, however, is rarely willing to deal in fairness. It fears should the truth remain free, approaching people peacefully. It, therefore, resorts to strong, hard tactics in its efforts to impose its absolute authority. It cannot afford for the truth to make any in-roads and thus win minds and hearts over to its side. Hence, tyranny and falsehood strike hard. They stone any advocate of the truth, seeking to persecute them in every possible way.
The surah leaves out several episodes of this story to pick up its thread as it approaches its end. Moses realizes that people will not respond to him positively. Nor will they adopt either of the two options he offered them: accepting his status or moving away from him. He is certain that they are genuinely guilty, with no hope of their ever changing their ways. Therefore, he makes his ultimate appeal to his Lord: “He then called out to his Lord, saying: These people are lost in sin.” What means a messenger of God has other than to submit the outcome of his efforts to his Lord? Moses presents his account and leaves matters to God to deal with as He pleases.
Source: The Arab News