Lessons from Surah Taha Part 13 (Verses 122-126)

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This article is a summary of takeaways from Ustaz Dr Mohamed Fatris Bakaram’s Tafsir Lecture at Darul Makmur Mosque FB on 19th April 2020. Summaries of previous lectures on Surah Taha can be found here. This lecture is a continuation of last week’s lecture of  Surah Taha verses 115 to 121.

Was Prophet Adam an “Ahli Maksiat”?

In the last lecture, we heard about how Prophet Adam AS had been misled by Iblis, who had promised him that eating the fruit of the Tree of Eternity would lead him to immortality and comfort. We discussed how Prophet Adam had made a mistake that led to him disobeying Allah SWT’s command.

A question was raised by a member of the audience, asking me if Prophet Adam AS can be considered amongst the “Ahli Maksiat” (meaning ‘people of Ma’siyah’ in the Malay language). To this, my response is “Na’uzhu billah” (We seek protection from Allah). As Muslims, we should never say such a thing about any prophet of Allah SWT.

There are a few points to note on this issue. The first is that the word “Maksiat” in the Malay language brings about a different meaning than the original Arabic word “Ma’siyah”. The Malay definition implies a grave sin, something dishonourable and abhorrent. The Arabic word, however, is something more general in its usage – a sin performed intentionally can be called a Ma’siyah and an accidental mistake can also be called a Ma’siyah.

As previously mentioned, Prophet Adam AS did not commit a grave sin. Having lived in Paradise all of his life, he had not yet been exposed to falsehood and ill intent. He merely forgot and got misled out of his lack of awareness. His mistake does not at all fit the Malay definition of the word Ma’siyah.

What is even more inappropriate is the usage of the word “Ahli Maksiat”. In Malay, we use the word “Ahli”, to indicate someone who is a ‘professional’ or an ‘expert’ in a certain field. How can we imply that a Prophet of Allah can be a professional at Ma’siyah? That is truly an absurd idea. My dearest brothers and sisters, let us be careful in our word choice. Even though Allah SWT used the word “‘Asa” in verse 121 to indicate that Prophet Adam AS disobeyed, we cannot deduce that he was an Ahli Maksiat.

Secondly, we need to acknowledge that immediately after making that mistake, Prophet Adam AS and Sayidatina Hawa had immediately regretted their actions and made Taubah (repentance), seeking forgiveness from Allah SWT. Allah SWT had accepted their Taubah and forgiven them. We say that for someone who commits an error or sin, and then regrets, repents, and seeks forgiveness for it from Allah SWT, then we can no longer attribute that sin to the person. This is basic adab that is not restricted to only the prophets. When we hear of people who used to commit sin, but who have turned over a new leaf, it is not right for us to still relate to that person as a sinner.

ثُمَّ اجْتَبَاهُ رَبُّهُ فَتَابَ عَلَيْهِ وَهَدَىٰ

Then his Lord chose him, accepted his repentance, and guided him [20:122]

This verse especially highlights to us that Prophet Adam AS had been saved and his sins wiped away by Allah SWT. In fact, Adam AS had been specifically chosen by Allah. So, to the brother who raised the earlier question, I hope this has answered your question. We should all be more rigorous in our word choice especially when it comes to the prophets. Do not be too quick to label Prophet Adam as a ‘sinner’ or ‘Ahli Maksiat’.

The Difference Between Iblis and Adam’s Mistakes

Let us look deeper into this verse. There are two main characters in this story: (1) the protagonists, Prophet Adam AS, and his wife, Sayidatina Hawa AS, and (2) the antagonist, Iblis. Both these parties have committed disobedience to Allah SWT. Iblis disobeyed when being instructed to bow down to Adam AS. Adam AS disobeyed when he was misled, forgot, and overstepped the boundaries. Both parties had erred. However, only one was chosen by Allah SWT to be given His Love, Compassion and Mercy. Iblis was punished and ousted from Paradise as a result of his disobedience and persistent stubbornness. Prophet Adam too overstepped his boundaries, however, he acknowledged his mistakes and made amends for them. In Surah Al-A’raf we learnt about the du’a that was made by Prophet Adam and Sayidatina Hawa AS:

رَبَّنَا ظَلَمْنَا أَنفُسَنَا وَإِن لَّمْ تَغْفِرْ لَنَا وَتَرْحَمْنَا لَنَكُونَنَّ مِنَ الْخَاسِرِينَ

“Our Lord, we have wronged ourselves, and if You do not forgive us and have mercy upon us, we will surely be among the losers.” [7:23]

The large contrast in Allah SWT’s response to the two parties’ disobedience was reflective of the large contrast in the way the two parties behaved after committing their sin. Iblis had disobeyed out of arrogance and stubbornness, upon being reprimanded by Allah SWT. He rebelled, swearing to mislead the children of Adam until the day of judgement. Prophet Adam AS on the other hand, had slipped because he forgot, and upon being reprimanded, his heart was filled with regret and he made sincere repentance asking to be forgiven. As such, Prophet Adam AS was chosen by Allah SWT.

The Result of Adam AS’ Repentance

Some scholars hold the opinion that the word “Ijtabaah” in this case referred to Adam’s being appointed as a Prophet. This position was gifted to Prophet Adam AS as a result of his sincerity in whole-hearted repentance to Allah SWT.

Next, the phrase “taba ‘alaihi” indicates that Allah SWT accepted Prophet Adam AS’ repentance, wiping away his sins. Not only was Prophet Adam AS accepted as a person, his misdeeds were also forgiven by Allah SWT.

In addition to that, he was also given guidance from Allah SWT. Prophet Adam AS’ life and story did not end after this incident. This was only the beginning of Adam AS’ journey and trials as a prophet. His next chapter would happen on Earth, with his new offspring in the new environment. Allah SWT was not going to leave Prophet Adam and Sayidatina Hawa AS to deal with the prospective challenges on their own, He gave them guidance.

Acceptance, Forgiveness and Guidance

There are three key points here: (1) Acceptance, (2) Forgiveness and (3) Leadership/Guidance

These are three essential aspects that we need to maintain in our lives, be it at work or at home. Let us have a look at the family setting. As parents in a family, you will never find yourself completely free of problems. Every child has their own personality, faults, and attitude.

Regardless of what they do or how much they misbehave, the most important thing is Acceptance. Do not ever abandon them. Never say to them, “You are no longer my child.”. No matter how hurtful their actions are to you, no matter how difficult it may be to keep standing for them, do not ever give up on them. Allah SWT had specifically chosen your child for you. He has specifically chosen you for them. Allah is never mistaken in His decisions. If this first step is not done, there is no way that the other steps can be done.

When we look at the story of Prophet Adam AS, we see that he only had one rule to follow. For us as Muslims on Earth, we have so many rules to take care of, foods to avoid, deeds that are haram… but Prophet Adam only needed to avoid a single tree. He was even warned about Iblis being his enemy! Yet, he faltered and slipped. Even so, Allah SWT did not give up on him. He was still chosen by Allah.

Secondly, we need to be aware that every human being will make mistakes. Even us as grown adults, we too make mistakes and commit sins. Nobody is perfect and free from faults. No matter how good you may seem in the eyes of others, you know that the truth is that Allah SWT has veiled your faults from the views of others. Nobody is as good as they seem, we are all as good as Allah makes us to be. We need to remember this fact when it comes to our own children. Do not ever become hard-hearted to the extent that you cannot forgive your own child. I am not saying to give in and let them get away with sins. Being firm does not negate forgiveness. Do what is necessary to teach and discipline your children, but always make space for forgiveness in your hearts.

Lastly, after ensuring that you have accepted and forgiven them, do not leave them to their own devices. Continue holding their hand tightly, guiding and leading them towards goodness.

How to be an Effective Educator

These three aspects are essential in all forms of leadership. For a husband towards his wife, a wife towards her husband, a teacher towards her students. O you teachers out there, we are taught in this verse how to be an effective educator, mentor, and guide. These three aspects are essential.

Before you even begin teaching, ask yourself if you are willing to accept the student as an Insan, a human being filled with potential. Will you accept him as someone who can someday become an “Ahli Jannah” with Allah SWT’s guidance? Allah SWT has entrusted him to you as your Amanah (responsibility). How can you expect to carry out your role effectively as a teacher, if you have hatred in your heart towards the student seated in front of you? That is impossible. A teacher who pretends to care about a student will not be able to make a difference in the student’s life. Whatever that is relayed unto the student, even that which manages to enter his mind, will not be able to mould the student because it does not touch and move his heart and spirit.

Secondly, you need to understand that the students are meant to be shaped by you. They are given to you full of potential for you to work with them. Do not let the mistakes they make lead you to give up on them. Fill your hearts with forgiveness and acceptance. Make space to acknowledge that even if they may make mistakes today, in the future, with proper guidance, they may learn from their mistakes. Only then will you be able to fulfil the role assigned to you.

 Which came first: Repentance or Descent?

قَالَ اهْبِطَا مِنْهَا جَمِيعًا ۖ

Allah said, “Descend, both of you, from here all together… [20:123]

The word “Ihbitha”, meaning “both of you descend” was used to instruct Prophet Adam and Sayidatina Hawa to descend from Paradise, somewhere high in prestige and position, to the lowly Earth. This command was given as a punishment for the disobedience they had committed. If you notice, in verse 122 previously, we learnt that Allah SWT had already accepted the repentance of Prophet Adam AS and forgiven him.

Could it be that they were sent down to Earth before they made Taubah? I do not think so. The truth is that it had already been in Allah SWT’s plan from the very beginning to send Prophet Adam and his wife to the Earth as Khalifah. If they had been sent down to the earth in a state of not having already been forgiven, then they would have been expelled in a state of dishonour just as Iblis had been. This was not the case. Iblis was described in Surah Al-A’raf verse 18 as being expelled in a state of “mazh’uman madhura”, disgraced and rejected. There is no evidence in the Qur’an of Prophet Adam leaving Paradise in a similar state.

I firmly believe that they had been forgiven before they were asked to descend to Earth. This theory is supported by Surah Al-A’raf, where the verse of Allah’s command to descend was presented in verse 24, after Prophet Adam made supplication in verse 23.

In Surah Al-Baqarah, verse 36 however, we see that the command to descend was given before Prophet Adam’s repentance was accepted in verse 37. How do we explain these inconsistencies? Imam Fakhruddin Ar-Razi deals with this in his book “Mafatihul Ghaib” in which he explains that if you look at Surah Al-Baqarah verse 38, you will see that the command to descend was given once again. What this means is that verse 36 was when the decision was made that Adam and Hawa AS should be sent down to Earth. In verse 37, they made repentance and were forgiven by Allah SWT. Only then, in verse 38, was the command to descend being implemented, and Adam and Hawa left Paradise in a state of having been purified already. This shows that all three narrations of this incident (in Surah Al-Baqarah, Surah Al-A’raf and Surah Taha) are in sync.

Why must the punishment still occur?

If their sins had already been expiated, why then were they still being punished? There must be impacts and consequences for each of our actions. This does not take away the fact that the sins are forgiven. When an Insan makes a mistake, he turns to Allah SWT with a heart hopeful of his repentance being accepted. His sins may be forgiven, but the impact of his actions remain. This is a way in which Allah SWT tests the believer who has transgressed and returned to Him. Allah SWT uses this to raise His servant’s status and honour in His Eyes.

Let us look at an example of a man who steals something, gets caught and then seeks forgiveness for his theft. Whether or not we forgive him is completely up to us. However, whether or not forgiveness is gotten, the consequences will still have to be carried out. Under the law, he would have to serve a sentence or pay a fine. Allah SWT is Most Generous and Most Merciful. When a servant sins and repents, not only does he get his sins wiped away through his sincere repentance, he also gets his honour and status raised by dealing with the trial of the consequences of his actions.

Do not ever become complacent in thinking that once you have repented, you will be freed from having to deal with the impact or consequences of your actions. Repentance does not erase the action having been done. When you do experience the impact of your actions, think of it as a pinch of Love from Allah SWT. Do not ever accuse Allah SWT of being unjust when He tests you. These tests are a sign of His Love and acceptance to us. He wants us to be cleansed from our repentance and raised from our trials.

Enemies of One Another

“Jamii’an” is a word used in the Arabic language to indicate a group of larger than three people or a large crowd. This may seem strange considering that Allah SWT was addressing only the pair of them. However, this is the beauty of the language of the Qur’an. Even though there was only a pair of human beings, this pair would later become the start of entire populations of human beings spread across the world. Allah SWT was implying “Descend, both of you, along with your offspring and future generations to come”.

بَعْضُكُمْ لِبَعْضٍ عَدُوٌّ ۖ ٰ

… as enemies to each other… [20:123]

In Paradise, Adam and Hawa AS only had a single enemy to be wary of. Allah SWT informs them through this verse that that will no longer be the case on Earth. They will come to realise on Earth that of their offspring, there will be animosity between brother and brother, grandchild and grandchild, cousin and cousin. In fact, human existence all the way until the end of time will be filled with animosity, hatred, dissension and more. This is part of human life, even today. Human beings will never stop being in conflict, getting into wars with one another, and falling into crises. This has already been made known to Prophet Adam AS from the moment he was asked to leave Paradise.

Going Astray and Suffering

 فَإِمَّا يَأْتِيَنَّكُم مِّنِّي هُدًى فَمَنِ اتَّبَعَ هُدَايَ فَلَا يَضِلُّ وَلَا يَشْقَى

… Then when guidance comes to you from Me, whoever follows My guidance will neither go astray nor suffer [20:123]

Some scholars explain this verse by saying that “going astray” applies to life in this world and “suffering” refers to life in the hereafter.

I follow the second opinion, which is that both elements of “neither go astray and nor suffer” to both life in this world and the next. The reason is because people who are lost in this world are known to us. However, there are also people who are “lost” in the hereafter. These are the people who did not get what they wanted. There will be some people in the hereafter who have been hoping for Paradise and will instead receive Hellfire. These are the people who, although wanting to end up in Jannah, have not lived a life in line with these goals. They live a life of disobedience, not performing obligatory deed and disregarding reminders given to them. As a result, they suffer both in this world and the next. The alternative, being protected from suffering in this world and the next is also possible.

The question is raised then of why there is a conflict in that verse 117 of Surah Taha mentions the Earth as being a place of suffering for Prophet Adam AS, but verse 123 above claims that he would be freed of suffering. It is true that life on Earth will not be as easy as that of Paradise; On Earth, Prophet Adam AS would have to work to earn sustenance to support his family. However, regardless of the work that needs to be done, a believer will always have a happy heart and therefore not “suffer”. A believer knows that the effort, fatigue, and pain will be worth it in terms of reward from Allah SWT in the hereafter. Believers do not consider work as burdens, but rather as opportunities to reap reward from Allah SWT. Disbelievers on the other hand, suffer both in this world and the next. They consider work as a burden and do not get anything out of their exhaustion and efforts in either this world or the next.

وَمَنْ أَعْرَضَ عَن ذِكْرِي فَإِنَّ لَهُ مَعِيشَةً ضَنكًا وَنَحْشُرُهُ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ أَعْمَىٰ

And whoever turns away from My remembrance (Al-Qur’an) – indeed, he will have a depressed life, and We will gather him on the Day of Resurrection blind.”  [20:124] 

As believers, we know that this book is filled with reminders, sent to us to give us ease and save us from suffering in this world and the next. Someone who lives a life turned away from Allah will find his heart distanced from inner peace, his life will always be in disarray and guilt.

Three Types of “Forgetting”

قَالَ رَبِّ لِمَ حَشَرْتَنِي أَعْمَىٰ وَقَدْ كُنتُ بَصِيرًا

He will say, “O my Lord! Why have you raised me up blind, while I had sight (before).” [20:125]

قَالَ كَذَٰلِكَ أَتَتْكَ آيَاتُنَا فَنَسِيتَهَا ۖ وَكَذَٰلِكَ الْيَوْمَ تُنسَىٰ

(Allah) will say, “Thus did Our signs come to you, and you forgot them; And thus, will you this Day be forgotten.” [20:126]

Allah SWT has given us as human beings signs to guide us. When we choose to ignore His Guidance, we are asking to be forgotten.

The word “nasiya”, meaning ‘to forget’ is used twice in this verse. As discussed last week in verse 115, the word “nasiya” had been used on Prophet Adam too when he forgot Allah’s command. How different are the three occurrences of “forgetfulness” in this Surah – (1) Prophet Adam AS forgetting, (2) a disbeliever forgetting and (3) Allah SWT forgetting?

Prophet Adam AS’ “forgetting” was accidental, non-intentional. This was the reason why his repentance was readily accepted by Allah SWT.

The disbeliever’s forgetting is intentional, something being done on purpose out of arrogance and pride. When a disbeliever is said to be “forgetting” Allah’s signs, he is said to be refusing to pay any attention to Allah’s words, and intentionally abandoning Allah’s commands. This form of “forgetfulness” is not worthy of forgiveness.

Allah SWT does not ever forget. His “forgetting” refers to Allah SWT intentionally choosing to overlook and abandon the stubborn and disbelieving servants. It is Allah’s way of saying “Go now and face the consequences you have wrought upon yourselves.”.

Final Comments: Take Advantage of Ramadhan

May Allah protect us all. These verses are sent to us as Love Letters from Allah SWT. In this month of Ramadhan, let us use this time to connect to the Qur’an and to find companionship in it. Use this time to perfect your recitation and reflect upon the meaning of Allah’s words, just as Prophet Muhammad SAW had done with Jibrail during Ramadhan. Take the opportunity to rush to Allah SWT during this month. Remember that Allah SWT has promised in a Hadith Qudsi:


وَإِنْ تَقَرَّبَ إِلَيَّ بِشِبْرٍ، تَقَرَّبْتُ إِلَيْهِ ذِرَاعًا، وَإِنْ تَقَرَّبَ إِلَيَّ ذِرَاعًا، تَقَرَّبْتُ إِلَيْهِ بَاعًا

If (my servant) draws near to Me an arm’s length, I draw near to him a cubit, and if he draws near to Me a cubit, I draw near to him a fathom. And if he comes to Me walking, I go to him at speed”
 
[Bukhari]

Even though this Ramadhan is different from the ones before, even though we do not get to pray in congregation in the mosques, even though we may not be able to do Iktikaf in the mosques this month, Ramadhan is still here and is still an opportunity for us to get connected to Allah SWT, seeking His Rewards and His Mercy.  May Allah SWT grant us a Ramadhan better than the ones before.

Ameen.

 

——————–

Summary by: Arina Adom

Arina Adom is a lover of learning who takes on the world with an open mind. Resourceful and adaptable, always ready to take on new challenges. Comfortable working with diverse groups of people, yet able to work independently. Thrives under pressure. Currently seeking a meaningful career that enables her to impact lives directly and bring about positive changes in the lives of others in the community.

Arina graduated with a degree in Science ( Hons ), Life Science from NUS. She is currently taking a diploma in Quran and Sunnah Studies from Al Zuhri.

Arina Adom – Linkedin Profile


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