ACCORDING TO THE Quran, Allah has designed us human beings in our earthly abode to be able to find guidance through a three-pronged approach: within ourselves and in the world around us (Sûrat Al-Dhâriyât, 51:20-21), as well as in His Guidance revealed to the prophets of mankind, some of whom have been named and recounted in the Quran as well as countless others lost to general recognition. The Quran (Sûrat Al-Baqarah, 2:2) is the Book able to inspire confidence in its own authenticity. Listening to our Creator is our key to success in navigating the affairs of this life.
Those who Run Roughshod over the Truth
Those who refuse – repeatedly — to acknowledge God’s sovereignty, such may believe that they are more sophisticated than the believers, whom they mock as unworthy and simple-minded:
In their [doubting] hearts, there is a sickness. Therefore, God increases them in sickness. Thus for them there is a most painful torment [awaiting in the Hereafter] because they have lied [about their faith]. Now, when it is said to them: Do not spread corruption in the earth, they say: On the contrary, it is we who are the ones sowing righteousness! Most assuredly [no]! Indeed, it is they themselves who are the sowers of corruption. Yet they do not perceive [it]. Moreover, when it is said to them: Believe [in the Heavenly message], as the people [of true faith] have believed, they say: Shall we believe as the fools have believed? Most assuredly [no]! Indeed, it is they themselves who are the fools. Yet they do not know [it].
Rather,…He lets them continue in their transgression, wandering blindly. These are the ones who have purchased misguidance [at the cost of] guidance. Thus their trade has not profited [their souls], for they have not been guided aright. [Sûrat Al-Baqarah, 2:10-13, 15-16]
The modern mind has much to chew over here. Thinking Islamic-ly requires a philosophical paradigm shift from that of the modern world, but that is not within our purview here.
What Initiated Rebellion against Allah?
In the end, such people who persist in their disbelief and who entrench themselves in a reckless, devil-may-care mindset tend to end up as did Iblîs (a.k.a. “Satan”):
Then behold! We said to the angels: Bow [your faces] down to [receive] Adam [into life and to honor him]! so they [all] bowed down, except Iblîs. He refused and grew [greatly] arrogant. And thus did he become of the [rebellious] disbelievers. [Sûrat Al-Baqarah, 2:34]
Determined not to take second place on planet earth to mankind, Iblîs went arrogantly proactive and ingratiated himself with Adam and his wife in the Garden. The two ‘wronged themselves’ — as the Quran puts it — when they strayed from listening to Allah’s instructions. Playing down the seriousness of exceeding the limits set for them by their Creator, they ventured in to a certain forbidden tree and tasted of its fruit (See Sûrat Al-Aʿrâf, 7:22 and Sûrat Ṭâ Hâ, 20:121). As they discovered, they had been taken in by whispered suggestions and promises on the part of the world’s original con-artist, who would hence become the perennial adversary of Adam’s human descendants.
Man and woman, nevertheless — God’s appointed stewards on earth — were relocated and rehabilitated by God — through guidance, repentance, forgiveness.
They both said: “Our Lord! We have wronged our own souls: If Thou forgive us not and bestow not upon us Thy mercy, we shall certainly be among the losers.” [Sûrat Al-Aʿrâf, 7:23]
Adam then received words [of guidance] from his Lord. Thus, He granted him repentance. For, indeed, it is He [alone] who is the All-Relenting, the Mercy-Giving. [For] We [had] said: Descend from it [now], all together! Then whenever guidance from Me comes to you — then [know that as for all] those who follow My guidance, there shall be no fear upon them [when they assemble for Judgment]. Nor shall they grieve [over the life of the world]. But as to those who disbelieve and belie Our [natural and revealed] signs–it is these who are [destined to be] the Companions of the Fire [of Hell]. They shall abide therein forever. [Sûrat Al-Baqarah, 2:37-39]
For Adam had disobeyed his Lord. Thus he erred. Then his Lord chose him [as a Prophet], and absolved him [of his sin], and guided him. … [Sûrat Ṭâ Hâ, 20:121-122]
For filling out this picture, see Sûrat Al- Aʿrâf (7:11-25), Sûrat Al- Ḥijr (15:26-44), and Sûrat Ṣâd (38:71-85).
Why Such a Dire Punishment?
If being condemned to Hell-fire seems a drastic outcome for slighting a command of man’s Creator, then keep in mind that the rebellion of [the creature] Iblîs, against [the Creator] Allah, was in response to Allah’s bringing in a further order of beings (mankind) to supplant the ‘only-child’ privilege of earth-based beings previously enjoyed by Iblîs–himself not an angel but rather belonging to the species of ‘jinn’ (See Sûrat Al-Ḥijr, 15:27). Iblîs had arrogantly protested (Sûrat Al-Ḥijr, 15:33) what he must have perceived as an outrage against his status by birthright!
So they [all] bowed down, except Iblîs. He was not among those who bowed down. [God] said [to him]: What has prevented you from bowing [your face] down to the ground when I commanded you? He said: I am better than him! You created me out of fire, and You created him [man] out of mud. [Sûrat Al-Aʿrâf, 7:11-12]
And by the way, what is wrong with human beings having been created out of the elements of the earth, you might ask. After all, the food that we eat grows from the soil, which transforms the nutritional elements from the ground into building blocks used by our bodies for growth and repair. We are what we eat, as the saying rightly reminds us. The claim of Iblîs makes him sound like the original racist, don’t you think? And we would not be off-track to expect a ‘fiery’ nature from a being formed out of fire…
God said [to Iblîs]: … Whoever among them [the offspring of Adam and Eve] follows you, I shall, most surely, fill Hell with all of you, all together! [Sûrat Al-Aʿrâf, 7:18]
Iblîs, as he himself is quoted to have said, had been created by Allah from fire (Sûrat Al-Ḥijr, 15:27). His origin from fire is the basis he names as the source of his claimed superiority. Instead of accepting his place in the scheme of things on earth, he arrogated to himself the right to have his own way.
- His punishment: Fire.
- His consolation in the Final Accounting: That he would cause all of mankind whom he will have led astray into rebellion against their Creator — those who will have willingly followed him — to be with him in his Punishment of Fire.
(See below Sûrat Al-Ḥijr, 15:39-43.)
Rebellion against God is the polar opposite of listening to Him. It would be psychologically accurate to compare willful rebellion against God to a destructive fire, destroying one from within — in this life, even apart from the final Judgment of our Maker. Where I come from, we have a saying, “If yur gunna play with fire, yur gunna get burnt.” Those deserving to be called the ‘Companions of the Fire’ (above, Sûrat Al-Baqarah, 2:39) are those who have broken with the Guidance of Allah (above, Sûrat Al-Baqarah, 2:27). It is themselves whom they have wronged (above, Sûrat Al-Aʿrâf, 7:23) in going against the requirements of their own nature. And all the more if they persist in denying what is otherwise clearly in evidence for attentive, unshrouded eyes to see and ears to hear.
Relate to them the story of the man to whom We sent Our signs, but he passed them by. So Satan followed him up, and he went astray. [Sûrat Al-Aʿrâf, 7:175]
[Iblîs] said: My Lord! Because you have denounced me as astray, I will make [what is evil] in the earth fair-seeming to [humankind]. Thus, I will, most surely, lead them to [the way of] perversity, all together — except Your [true] servants among them — the sincere, elect ones. [God] said: This way — in accordance with Me — shall be a straight [one]. As for My [true] servants, you shall have no [position of] authority over them — except for those of the deluded who follow you — and [for whom], indeed, Hell is, most surely, their promised end — all [of them] together. [Sûrat Al-Ḥijr, 15: 39-43]
But after them [Adam, Noah, Abraham…] there followed a posterity who missed Prayers and followed after lusts. Soon, then, will they face destruction — except those who repent and believe, and work righteousness. For these will enter the Garden and will not be wronged in the least… [Sûrat Maryam, 19:58-59]
Disbelief in Allah is the same as rebellion against what is clear-sightedly pure and true. Going against one’s own inherent nature, a person is going to damage his own psyche, clouding his ability even to see the pure and the true. Listening to Allah in the Quran is a ‘sure-fire’ way to keep on the straight path. Humility and seeking forgiveness are the means to finding God’s pleasure, as illustrated by the experience of our first human couple, Adam and Eve.
Enrolling or Re-enrolling
In thinking about listening authentically to Allah, we have begun from the beginning pages of the Quran and addressed the issue of how to listen to Allah and tune into His guidance through His ‘Signs’ in the world all around us and within. The Quran is His final Book of Signs; it repeatedly takes up — and returns to — the question of how to begin — and continue — one’s journey in listening to Allah.
Listening is a skill to be cultivated and cherished. Success and happiness in life depends upon tuning in to the correct God-consciousness frequency and listening attentively to Allah, our Designer, Maker and sure Guide. Listening and paying heed to the Quran is listening to Allah.