Monday 31 July 2023

Indeed, Allah is Bounteous to mankind; but Most People do not give thanks in return

"Most of us" generally look for Divine support when we are in distress or need help. Yet when our needs are fulfilled, we do not give thanks in return to the Lord of the universe, without whose help we could not have overcome our difficulties and distress. This has been specially so whenever prophets went to their people and called them to the righteous path. Many initially showed their willingness and as long Divine blessings descended upon them. But when testing time came, many bolted and refused to give out in charity in name of Allah or fight for the Divine cause.

This post is about such ungrateful people whom Allah helped and they became ungrateful thereafter. To better understand this post, please correlate this post with one of earlier posts: Let us be of the few who are grateful

اَلَمۡ تَرَ اِلَى الَّذِيۡنَ خَرَجُوۡا مِنۡ دِيَارِهِمۡ وَهُمۡ اُلُوۡفٌ حَذَرَ الۡمَوۡتِ فَقَالَ لَهُمُ اللّٰهُ مُوۡتُوۡا ثُمَّ اَحۡيَاھُمۡ​ؕ اِنَّ اللّٰهَ لَذُوۡ فَضۡلٍ عَلَى النَّاسِ وَلٰـكِنَّ اَکۡثَرَ النَّاسِ لَا يَشۡکُرُوۡنَ‏ 
(2:243) (O Messenger), have you thought of those who went forth from their homes for fear of death even though they were in their thousands? Allah said to them: “Die!” Then He restored them to life. Indeed, Allah is Bounteous to mankind; but most people do not give thanks in return.
From here begins a new address. In it the Muslims have been exhorted to do Jihad," i.e., to exert their utmost in the Way of Allah and make monetary sacrifices for the cause. At the sametime,e they have been warned to guard against those weaknesses that had led to the degeneration and downfall of the children of Israel. It will help understand this address, if we keep in mind the occasion of its revelation. At that time the Muslims, who had been expelled from Makkah a year or so earlier and were living as refugees at Madinah, were asking over and over again for permission to fight with the disbelievers who had been persecuting them relentlessly for years. But, when the permission they themselves had asked was given, some of them began to lose heart (Please refer to Al-Baqarah 2:216). That is why two important events from the history of the Israelites are being related to serve as a fore-warning to the Muslims and to stimulate their zeal and courage.  

Allah said to them: “Die!” Then He restored them to life This refers to the exodus of the children ofIsraell (for details please see Al-Maidah, V: 20-26), when they had left Egypt in large numbers and were wandering homeless in the deserts and wildernesses and were very anxious to find a home for themselves. But when inspired by Allah, the Prophet Moses ordered them to fight against the Canaanites and expel them from Palestine and conquer that territory, they showed cowardice and refused to march forward. Consequently, Allah left them to wander in the land for forty years so that that generation should come to an end and a new one be brought up in the hardships of the desert. Then Allah gave them victory over the Canaanites. Probably "death and second life" refer to these two aspects of the exodus. 

Tafsir Ibn-Kathir:  The Story of the Dead People

Ibn Abu Hatim related that Ibn `Abbas said that these people mentioned herein were the residents of a village called Dawardan. `Ali bin `Asim said that they were from Dawardan, a village several miles away from Wasit (in Iraq).

In his Tafsir, Waki` bin Jarrah said that Ibn `Abbas commented, (أَلَمْ تَرَ إِلَى الَّذِينَ خَرَجُواْ مِن دِيَـرِهِمْ وَهُمْ أُلُوفٌ حَذَرَ الْمَوْتِ Did you (O Muhammad) not think of those who went forth from their homes in thousands, fearing death) that they were four thousand persons who escaped the plague (that broke out in their land). They said, "We should go to a land that is free of death!'' When they reached a certain area, Allah said to them: (مُوتُواْ "Die.'') and they all died. Afterwards, one of the Prophets passed by them and supplicated to Allah to resurrect them and Allah brought them back to life. So, Allah stated: (أَلَمْ تَرَ إِلَى الَّذِينَ خَرَجُواْ مِن دِيَـرِهِمْ وَهُمْ أُلُوفٌ حَذَرَ الْمَوْتِ Did you (O Muhammad) not think of those who went forth from their homes in the thousands, fearing death)

Furthermore, several scholars among the Salaf said that these people were the residents of a city during the time of the Children of Israel. The weather in their land did not suit them and an epidemic broke out. They fled their land fearing death and took refuge in the wilderness. They later arrived at a fertile valley and they filled what is between its two sides. Then Allah sent two angels to them, one from the lower side and the other from the upper side of the valley. The angels screamed once and all the people died instantly, just as the death of one man. They were later moved to a different place, where walls and graves were built around them. They all perished, and their bodies rotted and disintegrated. Long afterwards, one of the Prophets of the Children of Israel, whose name was Hizqil (Ezekiel), passed by them and asked Allah to bring them back to life by his hand. Allah accepted his supplication and commanded him to say, "O rotted bones, Allah commands you to come together.' The bones of everybody were brought together. Allah then commanded him to say, "O bones, Allah commands you to be covered with flesh, nerves and skin.'' That also happened while Hizqil was watching. Allah then commanded him to say, "O souls, Allah commands you to return, each to the body that it used to inhabit.'' They all came back to life, looked around and proclaimed, "All praise is due to You (O Allah!) and there is no deity worthy of worship except You.'' Allah brought them back to life after they had perished long ago.

We should state that bringing these people back to life is clear proof that physical resurrection shall occur on the Day of Resurrection. This is why Allah said: (إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَذُو فَضْلٍ عَلَى النَّاسِ Truly, Allah is full of bounty to mankind,) meaning, in that He shows them His great signs, sound proofs and clear evidences. Yet, (وَلَـكِنَّ أَكْثَرَ النَّاسِ لاَ يَشْكُرُونَ but most men thank not.) as they do not thank Allah for what He has given them in their worldly life and religious affairs.

The story of the dead people (2:244) also indicates that no caution can ever avert destiny and that there is no refuge from Allah, but to Allah Himself. These people departed from their land fleeing the epidemic and seeking to enjoy a long life. What they earned was the opposite of what they sought, as death came quickly and instantaneously and seized them all.

There is an authentic Hadith that Imam Ahmad reported that `Abdullah bin `Abbas said that `Umar bin Al-Khattab once went to Ash-Sham (Syria). When he reached the area of Sargh, he was met by the commanders of the army: Abu `Ubaydah bin Jarrah and his companions. They told him that the plague had broken out in Ash-Sham. The Hadith then mentioned that `Abdur-Rahman bin `Awf, who was away attending to some of his affairs, came and said, "I have knowledge regarding this matter. I heard Allah's Messenger say: (If it (the plague) breaks out in a land that you are in, do not leave that land to escape from it. If you hear about it in a land, do not enter it.)

`Umar then thanked Allah and went back. This Hadith is also reported in the Sahihayn.

Muhammad Asad Explanation:
After the conclusion of the injunctions relating to marital life, the Qur'an returns here to the problem of warfare in a just cause by alluding to people who - obviously under a hostile attack - "forsook their homelands for fear of death". Now, neither the Qur'an nor any authentic Tradition offers any indication as to who the people referred to in this verse may have been. The "historical" explanations given by some of the commentators are most contradictory; they seem to have been derived from Talmudic stories current at the time, and cannot be used in this context with any justification. We must, therefore, assume (as Muhammad 'Abduh does in Manar II. 455 ff.) that the above allusion is parabolically connected with the subsequent call to the faithful to be ready to lay down their lives in God's cause: an illustration of the fact that fear of physical death leads to the moral death of nations and communities, just as their regeneration (or "coming back to life") depends on their regaining their moral status through overcoming the fear of death. This is undoubtedly the purport of the elliptic story of Samuel, Saul and David told in verses {246-251}.

Yusuf Ali Explanation
We now return to the subject of Jihad. We are to be under no illusion about it. If we are not prepared to fight for our faith, with our lives and all our resources, both our lives and our resources will be wiped out by our enemies. As to life, God gave it, and a coward is not likely to save it. It has happened again and again in history that men who tamely submitted to be driven from their homes although they were more numerous than their enemies had the sentence of death pronounced on them for their cowardice, and they deserved it. But God gives further and further chances in His mercy. This is a lesson for every generation. The Commentators differ as to the exact episode referred to, but the wording is perfectly general, and so is the lesson to be learnt from it.

Qur'an Wiki Explanation:
The aim of this verse is simply to establish that life and death are determined by the will of God, and that human beings should fulfil their obligations in life with complete trust in God’s will and total reassurance that what befalls them is an integral part of God’s order of things.

No precautions could ever prevent death or impede God’s will, nor could fear or despair prolong life. Life and death are entirely in God’s hands. He dispenses them according to reasons known only to Him, and His grace and mercy are evident in both. “Surely, God grants limitless bounty to mankind, but most people are ungrateful.”

Such a mass exodus, with thousands of people fleeing at the same time, whether from a hostile attack or the outbreak of disease, could only occur in a state of total panic. Nevertheless, running away could not save those people from meeting their death, for “God said to them; ‘Die.’“

No details are given as to the manner in which God spoke to those or how they met their death, because these bear no relevance to the objective of the story, which is that their despairing desertion of their homes did not change the destiny God had already willed for those panic-stricken people. They needed to persevere, be patient and freely put their trust in God.

Nor are we given any details of how God brought those people back to life, or on whether this is a reference to a later generation of the same community who did not panic or despair, and who accepted what God had chosen for them. There would be no point in speculating over these matters; nor can we accept the various unsubstantiated accounts of some commentaries. The essential message here is that God gave those people life, and their own efforts could not prevent their death. Life is a gift from God which He bestows on human beings with no effort or reason on their part. They, on the other hand, can do nothing to prevent what God has predestined.

The anecdotes mentioned by each exegete mentioned above differ in place and people. However, despite the difference since documented history of such old anecdotes are scarce and not available. Yet the lesson from the verse 243 remains the same: Most Men being ungrateful in returning thanks to Allah after a favour has been received and are often destroyed or taste the divine wrath in form of plagues and diseases or natural calamities.  May we be never ungrateful to Allah for we have been blessed much more than we truly deserve.
May Allāh (سبحانه و تعالى‎) help us understand Qur'ān and follow the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, which is embodiment of commandments of Allah contained in the Qur'ān. May Allah help us to be like the ones He loves and let our lives be lived helping others and not making others' lives miserable or unlivable. May all our wrong doings, whether intentional or unintentional, be forgiven before the angel of death knocks on our door. 
وَمَا عَلَيۡنَاۤ اِلَّا الۡبَلٰغُ الۡمُبِيۡنُ‏ 
(36:17) and our duty is no more than to clearly convey the Message.”
That is Our duty is only to convey to you the message that Allah has entrusted us with. Then it is for you to accept it or reject it. We have not been made responsible for making you accept it forcibly, and if you do not accept it, we shall not be seized in consequence of your disbelief, you will yourselves be answerable for your actions on Day of Resurrection.

Reading the Qur'ān should be a daily obligation of a Muslim - Reading it with translation will make it meaningful. But reading its Exegesis / Tafsir will make you understand it fully. It will also help the Muslims to have grasp over social issues and their answers discussed in the Qur'an and other matter related to inter faith so that they are able to discuss issues with non-Muslims with authority based on refences from Qur'an.

May Allah forgive me if my posts ever imply a piety far greater than I possess. I am most in need of guidance.

Note: When we mention God in our posts, we mean One True God, we call Allah in Islam, with no associates. Allah is the Sole Creator of all things, and that Allah is all-powerful and all-knowing. Allah has no offspring, no race, no gender, no body, and is unaffected by the characteristics of human life.

For more Selected Verses, please refer to our reference page: Selected Verses from the Qur'anYou may also refer to our Reference Pages  and Understanding Al Qur'an for knowing more about Islam and Qur'ān.
Photo | Tafsir References: | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 |

An effort has been made to gather explanation / exegesis of the surahs of the Qur'ān from authentic sources and then present a least possible condensed explanation of the surah. In that the exegesis of the chapters of the Quran is mainly based on the "Tafhim al-Qur'an - The Meaning of the Qur'an" by one of the most enlightened scholars of the Muslim World Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi.  
In order to augment and add more explanation as already provided, additional input has been interjected from the following sources: 
  • Tafsir Ibn Khatir
  • Muhammad Asad Translation
  • Yusuf Ali Translation
  • Translation Javed Ahmad Ghamidi / Al Mawrid
  • Qur'an Wiki
  • Verse by Verse Qur'an Study Circle
  • Towards Understanding the Quran
In addition, references of other sources which have been explored have also been given above. Those desirous of detailed explanations and tafsir (exegesis), may refer to these sites.

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