Some Manifestations of Divine Knowledge and Absolute Power
In previous verses, there was a description of the perfection of Divine Knowledge and Power, and of their unique expanse. Mentioned in the present verse, there are some manifestations of this very Knowledge and Power.
The word: ظُلُومَات (Zulumat) in the first verse (63) is the plural of ظُلمَہ (Zulmah) which means darkness [ and which does not have a plural form in English leaving the translator with no choice but to improvise in order to convey the Qur'anic plural which is necessary as ex-plained ]. Thus, the expression: ظُلُمَاتِ الْبَرِّ وَالْبَحْرِ in this verse means the many a darkness found on land and sea. Since darkness is of many kinds, such as, the darkness of night, the darkness of rain clouds, the darkness of dust storms and the darkness under the waves of the sea, it is to include all these kinds of darkness that the word, ظُلُمَاتِ Zulumat, has been used here.
So, the verse means that it was to warn the disbelievers of Makkah against their wrong doings that Allah Ta` ala ordered the Holy Prophet ﷺ to ask these people as to what they do when they find themselves in deep trouble during their l d trips and sea voyages. Is it not that they would forget all about their idols and start calling on none but Allah? At times, they would confess to their modesty and helplessness openly, while at others, they would be admitting it in the heart of their hearts that no one other than Allah could really save them from such catastrophe. And along with this thought, they would promise to Allah that, should Allah save them from this catastrophe, they would definitely take to the ways of following truth and being grateful. In other words, once delivered, they would be grateful to Allah, would take Him as their real rescuer and helper, never ascribing any partner to His Divinity because no one they have been worshiping came up to help them in their hour of need. With this experience of theirs in view, the Holy Prophet ﷺ is being asked to find out from them as to who delivers them from their distress and possible destruction? Since their answer was already known as they could have not denied the open fact that no one came to help them in their distress, idol or whatever else they worshipped, except Allah. Therefore, in the second verse (64), Allah Almighty has Himself taken the initiative and commanded the Holy Prophet ﷺ to tell these people that it is Allah alone who would deliver them from their distress, rather deliver them from every other distress or anxiety they may face in their lives. But, the problem was that they, despite having seen open signs and having found comfort after distress, would go back to Shirk and start indulging in the worship of false gods. Strange betrayal and fatal ignorance indeed!
Not only that these two verses tell us about the perfect power of Allah Ta` ala which delivers human beings from their hour of distress, it also emphasizes that the removal of all sorts of hardships, troubles and anxieties is also in the hands of Allah Ta` ala alone as evident from the behaviour of diehard disbelievers too who are ultimately compelled to turn to Allah when there is nothing left to turn to.
May be, this behaviour of the disbelievers, despite its being a major crime in view of their betrayal, has a certain lesson to teach. That they do turn to Allah in the hour of their distress, as their confession of reality under duress, has for us Muslims a lesson to learn with the rasp of a lash - here we are still not prompt enough to remember Allah i n our hour of trials despite having faith in the absolute power of Allah Ta` ala. at happens is that all our attention is riveted only to material support which we hope would get us out of trouble. No doubt, we do not take idols, icons and images as our saviors, but the tragic fact is that the many material support systems, logistics, mechanized rescuing squads on land, sea and in the air, and the backup of spot and distant instrumentations, have become no less than idols for us. So impressed with them and so engrossed in them we are that we some-how do not seem to think of Allah and His most perfect power.
Accidents and Hardships : The Real Remedy
Take sickness as an example. When we get sick, we think of nothing but our doctors and physicians. Take the example of a storm or flood. Once in it, we look forward to being rescued with material help and material means. We think on them depends our destiny, and in doing so, we just do not seem to remember the very Master of the universe in Whose control lies our destiny. We tend to do this, despite that the Holy Qur'an has, time and again, stated it very clearly that hardships and accidents of the world are generally the outcome of the evil deeds of human beings themselves, and a mild sampling of the punishment of the Hereafter. If looked at from this angle, these hardships are, in a way, mercy for Muslims - for, through them, heedless people are, so to say, given a shot in the arm, so that they may use this occasion to survey their evil deeds and start thinking about how not to indulge in them anymore whereby they could remain safe from the greater and harsher punishment of the Hereafter. The same subject has been taken up elsewhere in the Holy Qur'an in the following words:
وَلَنُذِيقَنَّهُم مِّنَ الْعَذَابِ الْأَدْنَىٰ دُونَ الْعَذَابِ الْأَكْبَرِ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَرْجِعُونَ ﴿21﴾
We shall make them taste a lesser punishment, prior to the greater punishment, so that they may return - 32:21.
Says another verse of the Qur'an:
وَمَا أَصَابَكُم مِّن مُّصِيبَةٍ فَبِمَا كَسَبَتْ أَيْدِيكُمْ وَيَعْفُو عَن كَثِيرٍ ﴿30﴾
The hardship that reaches you is an outcome of your evil deeds while many of them Allah forgives - 42:30.
Talking about the verse of Surah Ash-Shura quoted above, the Holy Prophet ؓ عنہم said:
By Him in whose hands lies my life, the common scratch from a piece of wood suffered by a human being, or a faltering of step or an itching in vein are all after-effects of some sin while the sins which Allah Ta` ala forgives are many.
As said by ` Allama Al-Baydawi, it means that the diseases and calamities faced by criminals and sinners are all vestiges of sins while the diseases and calamities of those who are infallible to or protected from sins are there to test their patience and fortitude, and to bless them with the higher ranks of Paradise.
So, the essential outcome is that the diseases, accidents, hardships, pain and anxiety faced even by human beings at large - who are not free of sins - are all the consequences and vestiges of sins.
This also tells us that the real cure and the primary way out of all such distressing happenings is that people should turn to Allah Jalla Sha'nuhu, seek forgiveness from Him for all their past sins, and firmly resolve that they would abstain from them in the future, and pray to Him alone that He, in His mercy, removes their hardships.
However, it never means that the use of material means through medicine and treatment while sick, or to employ material methods of confronting accidents and calamities when struck by them, are useless efforts. Instead of that, the purpose is to emphasize that we should believe in Allah Ta` ala as the prime mover and maker of things and happenings and, as for the use of material means, we should use them too taking them to be nothing but His blessing, because all means and instruments are invariably His creation and His blessings which serve human beings under His command and will. The fire, the air, the water, the dust, and all forces on the face of the earth are but subservient to the command of Allah Ta` ala. Unless He so wills, neither can the fire burn, nor can water extinguish, nor a medicine bring benefit, nor some food hurt. Experience bears the truth that human beings once they become heedless to Allah Ta` ala and start relying on their self-invented defence mechanisms what happens is that with every addition to their material logistics, there comes a relative increase in concerns and calamities.
That a medicine or clinical procedure may turn out to be personally beneficial at a given time, or a material way out to some problem may succeed, is quite possible even when one is involved with heedlessness and sin. But, when looked at collectively, in the perspective of the whole creation of Allah, all manifestations of the reliance on the material appear to be unsuccessful. Today, the number and variety of articles and instruments invented to remove pain and drudgery and to provide comfort and luxury with a gusto that knows no stopping, are things man had not even dreamt of only half a century ago. Who does not know that people at that time were totally deprived of ever-new life-saving drugs, medicine delivery systems, procedures, surgeries, experts, technicians, labs and hospitals and nursing homes? But, seen in a wider perspective, man deprived of all these facilities fifty years ago, was not as sick and harassed as the man of late nineties. Similarly, we have vaccines to fight against epidemics, mechanized units to control fire, medical and paramedical squads to cover accidents, and an overseeing communications system which would hasten emergency in-formation, relevant support of professionals and equipment. But, somehow the more we increase our material defences against accidents and calamities, the more we seem to be affected by them. To what reason could we ascribe this except that during the period now behind us the measure of heedlessness to and disobedience of the Creator of the universe of our existence was not as pronounced as it is in our day. Those people used their articles of comfort as blessings from Allah Ta` ala for which they were grateful too. But, the modern man wants to use these conveniences with a sense of heightened self-achievement which is rebellion in disguise. Naturally enough, despite all instrumentations and gadgetries, men and materials, they cannot make people immune from being hit by such hardships.
Summing up the main elements of our explanations, we can say that Muslims should specially take a lesson from this reference to disbelievers that they too remembered Allah when in distress. It is the duty of a true Muslim that he should, in order to remove his pain and anxiety in distress, first rely on and turn to Allah Ta` ala, much more than simply relying on and turning to the material solutions of his trying situation. If he fails to do that, he will meet the same end being witnessed today. Plans will generally fall flat. A thousand efforts are made to stop floods and to minimize losses caused by them, but they keep coming. Ever-new methods of treating diseases are found and used, but diseases keep increasing. Devices and theories are employed to check rising prices of things - which seem to be effective too, though on the surface - but the result on the whole is that prices keep rising on almost a daily basis. Think of crimes like theft, robbery, kidnapping, bribery and smuggling. Governments all over the world, including the most advanced, are employing all sorts of material means to stop them. But, common people do not have to look into a crime graph to find out what is happening - they see that crimes are increasing. We can only wish that human beings of the modern era would do well by rising a little bit higher than the levels of person, identity, profit and loss, and surveying conditions prevailing, then, they would come to realize that, when seen collectively, all our material efforts have failed, in fact, they are compounding our problems. Then, if they were to look at the remedy proposed by the Qur'an which tells us that there is only one way of staying safe from all kinds of hardship, and that is to turn to the Creator of the universe. Whatever material solutions there are, they are fine, and they too should be used as blessings from Him. Other than this, there is no way to ideal security.