CHAPTER iii / Future Events Involving the Unbelievers

Future Events Involving the Unbelievers

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The third type of prophesies we find in the Qur’an relate to what the future holds for the unbelievers. The first example we will give relates to the hardened attitude the people of Makkah adopted towards the new message of Islam.

The Prophet prayed that they would experience years of draught similar to those experienced by the people of Egypt at the time of Joseph. Let us look here at what the Qur’an says in response to that prayer:

“Wait, then, for the Day when the skies shall bring forth a pall of smoke which makes obvious [impending events], enveloping the people: ‘Grievous indeed is this suffering.’”

(44: 10-11.)

When did actually take place? They had things very hard, so much so that they had bones for food. A person would look at the sky and see something like smoke covering it.

This is mentioned in an authentic hadith related by Al-Bukhari on the authority of ᶜAbdullāh ibn Masᶜūd. The verses that follow in the surah make this statement:

“Our Lord, relieve us of suffering, for truly we now believe… We will lift this suffering for a little while, although you are bound to revert [to your old ways]; but on the Day when We shall make the most mighty strike, We shall inflict Our retribution.” (44: 12 & 15-16.)

When we look carefully at the last two verses, we find in them three predictions: a lifting of the hardship, a return to their evil ways and scheming, and a subsequent retribution inflicted on them. All this actually took place, as is explained in the hadith to which we have just referred.

When the people of Makkah suffered the drought, they came to the Prophet requesting him to pray for rain.

They also made an earnest prayer, appealing to God to remove their suffering and asserting that they were now believers:

“Our Lord, relievep us of suffering, for truly we now believe.”

(44: 12.)

God sent them rain, and their land bloomed again. But it did not take them long to revert to their old, evil ways, behaving arrogantly and denying the truth.

Thus God caused them to suffer a most mighty strike at Badr, when no less than 70 of their brave warriors were killed and a similar number were taken captive by the Muslims.

Makkan Qur’anic revelations speak about God’s retribution in various ways. Sometimes the reference is made in general, unspecified terms, like:

“As for the unbelievers - in result of their [evil] deeds, sudden calamities will always befall them or will alight close to their homes, until God’s promise is fulfilled.”

(13: 31.)

“Hence, turn you aside for a while from those [unbelievers], and see them. In time, they will surely come to see.”

(37: 174-175.)

At other times, the suffering is specified to take the form of a military defeat. The clearest example is the verse that states:

“The hosts shall be routed, and they shall turn their backs in flight.”

(54: 45.)

A similar reference is included in one of the earliest surahs of the Qur’an to be revealed:

: “He knows that in time there will be among you sick people, and others who will go about the land in search of God’s bounty, and others who will fight in God’s cause.”

(73: 20.)

Such reports of future events, made as they were in the early days of Islam, when the Prophet and his companions were still in Makkah are most remarkable.

At the time, no one could have contemplated any prospect of war and meeting of armies and hosts, let alone their flight and defeat. Indeed, when the first of these verses was revealed, ᶜUmar wondered:

‘To which host does this verse refer?’ He later reported: ‘On the day of the Battle of Badr, I saw God’s Messenger reading it.’

On other occasions, the reference is more remarkable, as it specifies particular details.

A case in mind is that of the man who used to denounce the Qur’an and describe it as ‘fables of the ancient people’. The Qur’an says about this man, who many reports name as alWalīd ibn al-Mughīrah of the Makhzūm branch of Quraysh:

“We shall brand him on the snout.”

(68: 16.)

As the verse is worded, it may also be rendered as:

“We shall brand him with indelible disgrace.”

The man was hit by a sword on the nose during the Battle of Badr, and that produced a mark which became the subject of people’s ridicule for the rest of his life.

Thus, what is prophesied in the verse took place putting into effect both meanings of the Qur’anic statement

While these predictions concerned the unbelievers of the Arabian tribe of the Quraysh, similar predictions are made with regard to the Jews. Here are some:

“They cannot harm you beyond causing you some trifling hurt; and if they fight against you they will turn their backs upon you in flight. Then they will receive no help. Ignominy shall be pitched over them wherever they may be, save when they have a bond with God and a bond with men.”

(3: 111-112.)

“Your Lord made it known that most certainly He would rouse against them, until Resurrection Day, people who would afflict them with cruel suffering.”

(7: 167.)

One wonders at these verses. Are they made up of letters and words? Or are they chains and handcuffs from which they can have no release?

Do you not see that ever since this judgement was slammed over their heads, they remained scattered all over the world, subjugated by other communities, without a state of their own upholding their cause?

Although they have amassed great financial wealth, to the extent that they control nearly half the world’s wealth, they remain in their Diaspora, unable to form for themselves even a small state.

In the Christian countries of the West, they are often subjected to different types of persecution and ultimate rejection.

In Muslim countries, traditionally the most hospitable of places, they are accepted only as a community subject to the law of the land, not as a ruling community.

Have you heard what they have been scheming of late? Their dreams have concentrated on making the Holy Land a place for their national home, where they hope to converge from different places of the world.

Then, when they will have lived there for sometime without being driven out, they will try to remove their historical stigma by re-establishing their old kingdom in that land.

Indeed, in pursuit of this dream, they have been emigrating to Palestine individually and in small groups to make of Palestine their place of settlement.

One wonders, have they been able to take this initial step

– or should we say this first and last step – relying on their own strength? Definitely not. They could only achieve it through having a bond with other people, exactly as the above-quoted Qur’anic verse says. God certainly tells the truth.

They may dream that when they compete with the indigenous people of Palestine for their land, they pave the way for taking full control over it.

But this is a dream which will certainly be dashed against the great barriers that stand in the way of its fulfilment.

They want to change God’s words, but His words cannot be changed by anyone.

“Have they, perchance, a share in (God’s) dominion? If so, they would not give other people so much as [would fill] the groove of a date-stone.”

(4: 53.)

They may design and scheme, but God will foil their evil scheming, if He so wills. We have so far looked at examples of Qur’anic prophesies that penetrate through the thick curtains screening the near and distant future.

They even control the nature of events and their timing. Indeed as time passes, it brings only what confirms them in totality and detail, and whether they speak of something close or very far away.

When we look at all that the Qur’an includes of news, we find that Muhammad (peace be upon him) tackles something that lies beyond his own feelings and intellectual faculties, whether they relate to the past, present or future.

Indeed, when he speaks about the past, every evidence of history confirms what he says, and when he talks about the future, everything he says will inevitably come to pass. Furthermore, if he speaks about God, the angels and the realm that lies beyond the reach of human perception, we find confirmation of what he says in earlier Scriptures and the statements of earlier prophets.

At this juncture, a question is raised: could this man, unlettered and uneducated as he was, have coined up all this discourse himself? The ready, immediate and unhesitating answer is that he must have derived such information from an accurate scientific source, and relied on broad and careful study.

Such information could never have come out of his own intelligence and ingenuity.

Never had any person, intelligent and resourceful as he might be, been given a guarantee of immunity from error in revealing past historical events or future ones, ancient as the former might have been, or distant as the latter may be.

The prophets themselves, who were among the most intelligent people in history as all their contemporaries have testified, did not receive such a guarantee, even concerning events that were close to them in time and place.

Apart from conveying God’s revelations, when prophets exercised their own discretion concerning what might have taken place away from them, their judgement might be right or wrong.

Jacob, for example, twice accused his sons of fabrication: when they produced Joseph’s shirt with blood stains on it and when they told him that his other son had stolen something.

Each time he said to them:

“No, but your minds have tempted you to evil. Sweet patience!”

(12: 18 & 83.)

He was right concerning the first incident, but wrong with regard to the second. They were innocent of the fabrication he accused them of having perpetrated. Moses (peace be upon him) said to the sage he met:

“You will find me patient, if God so wills, and I shall not disobey you in anything.”

(18: 69.)

He soon forgot his pledge and showed little patience. Indeed, he did not obey his orders at all.

Muhammad himself (peace be upon him) was subject to people’s attempts to give him false evidence so that he would issue an unjust verdict or defend a guilty person, thinking that he was innocent.

He only corrected himself when God, who knows all, gave him the right information. If anyone doubts this, let him read the following verses:

We have bestowed this Book on you from on high, setting forth the truth, so that you may judge between people in accordance with what God has taught you. Hence, do not contend with those who betray their trust. Seek God’s forgiveness, for God is indeed much-forgiving, merciful. And do not argue on behalf of those who are false to their own selves. Indeed God does not love those who betray their trust and persist in sinful action. They conceal their doings from men, but they cannot conceal them from God; for He is present with them when, in the darkness of the night, they agree all manner of sayings which displease Him.

God certainly encompasses [with His knowledge] whatever they do. You may well argue on their behalf in the life of this world, but who is there to argue on their behalf with God on the Day of Resurrection, or who will be their advocate? He who does evil or wrongs his own soul, and then prays to God to forgive him, shall find God muchforgiving, merciful.

For he who commits a sin, does so to his own hurt. God is indeed all-knowing, wise. But he who commits a fault or a sin and then throws the blame therefore on an innocent person, burdens himself with both falsehood and a flagrant sin.

But for God’s grace to you and His mercy, some of them would indeed endeavour to lead you astray.

Yet none but themselves do they lead astray. Nor can they harm you in any way. It is God who has bestowed this Book on you from on high and given you wisdom, and has taught you what you did not know.

God’s favour on you is great indeed.

(4: 105-113.)

An authentic report on the reason for the revelation of these verses says that a thief entered the place of an Anṣāri man called Rifāᶜah, forcing his entry and stealing all the food and weapons that were there.

In the morning, the Anṣāri looked for his belongings until he was certain that they were in a house belonging to the Ubayriq clan, some of whom were hypocrites.

He sent his nephew to complain to the Prophet, who told him:

“I will look into the matter.”

When that clan heard this, they came to the Prophet and said:

“Messenger of God, Qatādah ibn al-Nuᶜmān and his uncle Rifāᶜah have been accusing a certain family of our clan of theft, without evidence or proof, although that family are good Muslims.”

Qatādah later came to the Prophet who told him:

“You have been speaking about a Muslim family, who have been mentioned to me as people of piety, and accusing them of theft without evidence or proof.”

Qatādah went back to his uncle and told him what the Prophet had said. His uncle simply said:

“I appeal to God for help.”

Shortly after that, the verses quoted above were revealed, making it clear that the Ubayriq clan were making false statements and commanding the Prophet to seek forgiveness for what he had said to Qatādah. [This hadith is related by al-Tirmidhi and al-Ḥākim, with the latter classifying it as highly authentic.]

Now look at what the Prophet says about himself in a hadith related by Ahmad and Ibn Mājah:

“I am only a man like you whose opinions may be right or wrong. But when I tell you, ‘God says’, then know that I will never tell a lie against God.”

He also says:

“I am only a human being and you bring your disputes to me. It may be that some of you may have a stronger argument or a better evidence than others, and I would then think that he is telling the truth and rule in his favour. If I give any of you something that belongs by right to another Muslim, I am only giving him a brand of fire. He may then take it or leave it.”

[Related by Mālik, al-Bukhari, Muslim and others.]

A person who is so unable to know the truth of what might have taken place between two people whom he has seen and heard in his own time and place is undoubtedly less able to know what took place in past history or what will take place in the future.

All that belongs to a different realm, the realm that lies beyond the reach of human perception.

As we approach the boundaries of that realm, insight and intelligence have no role.

The human mind becomes powerless. It might hit upon the truth once in every several cases where it would otherwise be wrong.

Moreover, when it happens to point to something right, there is no guarantee that it will remain free of any change.

Indeed, it may disappear by coincidence as it was hit upon by coincidence:

“Had it [i.e. the Qur’an] issued from anyone but God, they would surely have found in it many an inner contradiction.”

(4: 82.)
Chapter IV

Muhammad’s Teacher

It is inevitable that anyone who seeks to learn the source of the Qur’an should expand the area of his investigation.

GO TO Chapter IV