Trials serve as Reminders

Then why, when Our punishment came to them, did they not humble themselves? But their hearts became hardened, and Satan made attractive to them that which they were doing.So when they forgot that by which they had been reminded, We opened to them the doors of every [good] thing until, when they rejoiced in that which they were given, We seized them suddenly, and they were [then] in despair.So the people that committed wrong were eliminated. And praise to Allah , Lord of the worlds.” (Al-Qur’an Surah Al-An’am Chapter 6: Verses 42-45)

These verses place before our eyes an historical example of how people expose themselves to God’s might and what happens to them in consequence. God gives them one chance after another and issues them with successive reminders, but they still forget. If the trials they encounter do not persuade them to turn to God and implore Him, and if His grace which they enjoy does not prompt them to be grateful and to guard against evil, then their nature has become irremediably corrupt and their lives are no longer worth extending. God’s punishment befalls them and their world is destroyed: “Then why, when Our punishment came to them, did they not humble themselves? But their hearts became hardened, and Satan made attractive to them that which they were doing.” (Verses 42-43)

God visited these people with hardship and tribulation so that they might awaken to the truth. He wanted them to examine their situation. The hardship might have prompted them to appeal to God in all humility, and might have helped them to get rid of their arrogance and to pray with open, sincere hearts. Had they done so, God would certainly have opened the gates of His mercy to them. But they did not turn back to God. The hardship did not soften their hearts, open their minds and help them rid themselves of their stubbornness. Satan continued to portray their erring ways to them as fair and appealing:
But their hearts became hardened, and Satan made attractive to them that which they were doing.” (Verse 43

We have here a wonderful scene depicting a state full of life in the inimitable style of the Qur’ān. “So when they forgot that by which they had been reminded, We opened to them the doors of every [good] thing until, when they rejoiced in that which they were given, ” (Verse 44) They enjoyed abundance of provisions and endless luxuries, but showed no gratitude to God for the grace He had bestowed on them. All they cared for was to indulge in the pleasures of this world, leaving no room in their lives for higher concerns. This corruption of their hearts and morals was followed by a corruption of their systems, and this naturally led to corruption being the mark of their lives. That was enough to trigger God’s law which never fails: “We seized them suddenly, and they were [then] in despair.” (Verse 44)

God’s punishment befell them when they were fully drunk with the pleasures of this life. They were left confused, hopeless, unable to think where to turn. They were destroyed: “So the people that committed wrong were eliminated(wiped out). And praise to Allah , Lord of the worlds.” (Verse 45) The Arabic text refers to the very last one of each of these communities. If this one was wiped out then everyone else faced the same destiny.

The phrase, `the wrongdoing people’, means here those who associated partners with God. This is a frequently used expression in the Qur’ān referring to idolatry as wrongdoing and idolaters as wrongdoers. “Praise to Allah(God) , Lord of the worlds.” (Verse 45) This comes by way of commenting on the destruction of the people who did wrong, or rather those who associated partners with God, after they were put to different tests. Can we think of any blessing greater than the eradication of the wrongdoers from the face of the earth or imagine an act of grace shown to God’s servants better than such a purge? Praise, then, must be offered to God for this blessing.

God allowed this law to operate for the people of Noah, Hūd, Şālih, Lot, as well as the followers of Pharaoh, the Greeks, the Romans and many others. Beyond the rise of each of these civilizations and their decline and destruction lies this secret destiny and the operation of God’s law. This is the proper and true interpretation of the events of history known to us. These communities attained standards of civilization, power and affluence which were equal, if not in certain respects superior, to what is enjoyed today by the mighty communities of the world, intoxicated as they are with their power. Their might deceives those who do not know God’s law that operates tests of hardship and abundance.

These communities cannot even imagine that God is simply putting them to a test. As they look at them, other communities may be dazzled with the great power and affluence they enjoy. They think that God has given these communities everything when they refuse to worship Him, rebel against His authority, claim His attributes for themselves, spread corruption on earth and deal unjustly with people after they have usurped God’s authority. When I was in the United States, I could see with my own eyes, the practical manifestation of this Qur’ānic statement: “So when they forgot that by which they had been reminded, We opened to them the doors of every [good] thing until, when they rejoiced in that which they were given, We seized them suddenly, and they were [then] in despair.” (Verse 44)
The scene portrayed in this verse of provisions flowing unchecked cannot be seen anywhere on earth as clearly as it can be seen there. I also witnessed the arrogance of these people, imparted to them by their wealth. They behaved as if that abundance was always exclusive to the white man. I saw them treating coloured people, especially those who were Muslim, with hateful arrogance and much brutality. Their conceit surpassed by far that of the Nazis of whom the Jews have made a symbol of arrogance.

As I witnessed all this, I used to remember this Qur’ānic verse, expecting God’s law to come into operation. Indeed, I could see it coming to catch people unaware: “Until, when they rejoiced in that which they were given, We seized them suddenly, and they were [then] in despair.So the people that committed wrong were eliminated. And praise to Allah , Lord of the worlds.” (Verses 44-5) After the Prophet Muĥammad’s mission, God suspended the punishment of total destruction. However, other types of punishment remain in force.

Mankind today, particularly those nations enjoying abundance, experience different types of punishment, in spite of their affluence. The psychological problems, spiritual vacuum, sexual perversion and immorality suffered by these communities today almost negate the effects of the great productivity and affluence they enjoy. They impart to the lives of these communities an air of worry, stress and total misery. In addition, we hear every now and then about political scandals when state secrets are sold in return for enjoying pleasures or indulging in perversion. These are simply the forerunners that herald unfailing punishment.

This is only the beginning. The Prophet certainly tells the truth as he says: When you see that God has given a person plenty of what he likes in this world, despite his sinful practices, know that it is only a temptation and a test.” He then quoted the Qur’ānic verse: “So when they forgot that by which they had been reminded, We opened to them the doors of every [good] thing until, when they rejoiced in that which they were given, We seized them suddenly, and they were [then] in despair.” (Related by Ibn Jarīr and Ibn Abī Ĥātim.)

It is necessary to point out that God’s law of destroying falsehood and evil requires that the truth be established on earth in the shape of a community. When this happens, God causes the truth to overwhelm falsehood and it is, thus, totally destroyed. The advocates of the truth must never sit idle, waiting for God’s law to operate, without putting in any effort. If they do this, then they disqualify themselves as advocates of the truth. The truth can only be represented by a community that exerts all its efforts to implement God’s law and overpower those who claim for themselves God’s attributes and authority. This is the most basic element of the truth. “Had it not been for the fact that God repels one group of people by another, the earth would  have been utterly corrupted.” (2: 251)

Taken From In The Shade of The Qur’an  Volume_5_surah_6 page 119-123

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