Chapter Two: The Cow (Al Baqara)
Chapter 2, Verse 3
Those who believe in the unseen, establish prayer, and spend out of what We have provided for them (2:3)
We continue with the qualities that you and I should possess and practice in order to receive God’s support and divine guidance. In the previous session we covered the first quality which is to be mindful of God.
The quality we come across next is: ‘those who believe in the unseen.’ What is the unseen? Why does it hold so much importance that God made it one of the first conditions for his guidance and protection?
Literally, the unseen refers to anything that is absent from our senses. No one argues regarding the objects we can see, hear, touch, taste and smell. The unseen, on the other hand, cannot be perceived with the senses.
In addition to the five main senses (hearing, sight, smell, taste and touch), we have many abilities that help us perceive things. For example, suppose there are two bags of the same size and shape in front of you. Can you tell through your five senses which one is heavier? Most likely you would have to guess. However, if you carry one bag in each arm, it would be easy for you to tell. Through which sense did you perceive the relative weight of the bags? It is through muscle tone, because the muscles in one arm strained slightly more to carry the heavier bag.
In another example, you enter a shop to buy clothes. The seller puts two shirts in from of you, and as soon as you rub the fabric of the shirts between your index finger and thumb, you realize that one is thicker than the other by a fraction of a millimeter. Through which sense did you perceive this? Again, you cannot perceive this by sight or touch. It was through the spatial distance between your fingers.
When you feel hunger which sense is telling you that you are hungry? Which sense wakes you up from your sleep?
In fact, each one of us possesses many perceptive abilities. Therefore it is incorrect to say that something is unseen if it cannot be perceived with our five senses. The unseen referred to in this verse is beyond all our senses and perceptive abilities.
Let’s take this a step further. If a student was given an algebra equation to solve, and later he or she came up with the answer, do we say that this student has uncovered the unseen? The answer is no, because the student concluded the solution based on a set rules and principles. Similarly, if the bureau of meteorology announces that tomorrow will be rainy, can we say that the meteorologists have uncovered the unseen? Again, the answer is No, because they based their conclusions on knowledge and research. The unseen referred to in this verse cannot be concluded through the knowledge of principles and research.
And lastly, if a friend informs you that your stolen mobile phone is with so and so at this location…Does it mean that your friend has the knowledge of the unseen? The answer is No, because the unseen is not known by you or your alike. In this case for example, the thief and the person to whom the stolen phone was sold, and maybe a witness to the crime, all know who stole and what had occurred. The unseen referred to in this verse is not known to your equal.
How about God’s other creation, do they have the knowledge of the unseen? We find the answer to this question in the Quran. God says about the creation of Adam:
And He taught Adam the names of all things; then He placed them before the angels, and said: "Tell me the names of these if you are right.” , They said, ‘Glory be to You! We have no knowledge except what You have taught us. You are the All-Knowing, the All-Wise.’, He said, ‘Adam, tell them their names.’ When he had told them their names, He said, ‘Did I not tell you that I know the Unseen of the heavens and the earth, and I know what you reveal and what you hide?’ (c2:v31-33)
And in another example, when Prophet Solomon (peace be upon him) died, the jinn, whom God had subjugated to work for Solomon, did not know of his death until termites ate his staff as illustrated in the following verse:
When We decreed that Solomon should die, no one knew of his death except for a crawling creature of the earth who ate-up his staff. When he fell down, the jinn realized that if they had known about the unseen, they would not have remained in such a humiliating torment for so long. (34:14)
Likewise, even prophets and messengers do not know the unseen. In fact, the unseen is that which no one knows except God Almighty, and he alone chooses who to share it with. Allah says:
He is the Knower of the Unseen and does not disclose His Unseen to anyone, except only to a Messenger that He has chosen, and He sends guardians before him and behind him (72:26-27)
God shares some of his knowledge with Prophets, and it becomes a miracle for them and for those who follow them.
The highest form of belief in the unseen is the belief in Allah, his angels, scriptures, messengers, and in the Day of Judgment. All of these things are concealed from us. However, we believe in the presence of angels because God is the one who told us about their presence. We believe in the day of resurrection because it came from our Lord.
I have used my intellect to ponder and research, and I have reached the conclusion that this universe, its meticulous built, its life and beauty has to have a God and a Creator. Thus, if a messenger from God informs us that Allah is the one who created the universe, and supports this claim with miracles, then we ought to believe him. When you have this certainty in your heart, then everything that comes from the Lord is the truth, regardless if you can comprehend it with your senses or not.
Some may argue that they have a hard time believing in something intangible to them….something they cannot see, touch, or test. Keep in mind that the existence of something and realizing that something exists are two different things. For example, germs existed on earth for billions of years. Moreover, people had observed the effects of diseases in their bodies, such as fever, infection and so on without knowing what is causing it. When science advanced and the microscope was developed, we were able to see germs, their life cycle and reproduction. Did bacteria come into existence the minute they were first observed under the microscope? Or where they there the whole time while we were completely unaware? The lack of our ability to see something does not mean it does not exist. God Almighty left some of his creation undiscovered by humans for a particular period of time so that we may progress and come to their discovery. Our faith in Him becomes stronger when we discover many things around us that were previously unseen.
Let’s look at another example of something even more intimate. The soul in your body gives you life….have you seen your soul? Have you heard, tasted, or smelled it? Of course not! You came to know about your soul through its impact of giving your body life. If you have a hard time locating and comprehending something within yourself, then how do you expect to comprehend the existence of God with your senses?
The Lord, however, did not leave us without presenting many clues to the thoughtful mind. He placed signs all around us indicating that this universe has a creator. Life could not have come to being in this meticulous order by coincidence. Coincidences are random disorganized short-lived events. If the universe did not have a mighty power behind its creation and maintenance, then the sun, the moon, the stars, and the earth would have collided. Without a creator, life and the entire system would collapse.