Chapter Two: The Cow (Al Baqara)
Chapter 2, verse 6
Those who willfully persist in unbelief: it is alike to them whether you warn them or do not warn them; they will not believe. (2:6)
After talking about the believers, their characteristics, and the great good that awaits them, God presents the other end of the scale. The fact that there is faith that ensures good for the individual and the society means that evil had to exist pushing in the opposite direction. If evil did not exist, would there be any need for faith? Hence, the duty of the believer is to protect himself, his family and the entire community from the evils that come through corruption and disbelief.
Islam encountered two types of disbelievers: The first type are those who disbelieved in God initially, and then listened to His message, and embraced faith. The second, are those who benefit from disbelief and profit from devouring the rights of others. Those individuals stand to lose much of their worldly superiority and advantages if they accept Islam.
The Arabic word for the disbeliever is ‘Kafer’. It comes from the root ‘Ka fa ra’ which means to cover, or to conceal. This is interesting because a person can only conceal something that already exists. God created each one of us with an inner belief in a greater power. Regardless of culture and upbringing, all human beings are naturally inquisitive about our creation and our purpose. We instinctively look towards the heavens for help when we are in a desperate situation. The disbeliever has to exert effort in order to suppress this natural instinct of belief in the existence of a higher power.
The word “kafer” also indicates that disbelief came to existence after belief. When you think about the beginnings of our creation you will find that Adam, whom God created with his hands, was present when the angels prostrated and when Satan argued with the Lord. So Adam (peace be upon him), having witnessed all these events first-hand, had no room for disbelief. Accordingly, Adam, after descending to earth, would have taught his children God’s love and worship. Likewise, his children would have taught the faith to their offspring and so on…But as time passed, some began to feel that faith restricted their actions and stood in the way of their desires. Slowly, obliviousness set in, and people began to rationalize disobedience. Some started to pursue the path of corruption and ultimately disbelief. God wants the disbeliever to go back and think about his or her own creation. He asks:
How can you disbelieve in God, seeing that you were dead, and He gave you life. Then He causes you to die. Then He will bring you to life again; and then you will be returned to Him. It is He who created for you all that is in the earth, then He turned to the heaven, and fashioned it into seven heavens, and He has knowledge of all things. (2:28-29)
None of us can claim that he has created himself or anyone else. The issue of creation undoubtedly belongs to God and life is the greatest inference to His existence. Thus, it is necessary to remember that the word ‘Kafer’ came after belief and it implies concealing the existence of God Almighty.
Let’s take a moment here to consider one major pitfall that keeps people away from their creator. When you look around you, you will find that most things are subjected for your service. You may begin to believe that you have true autonomy and power to bend your surroundings to your will. This is one of the false illusions that many of us fall into, especially during our youth….the illusion that we are truly independent and have the power to subjugate things. We lose sight of the Creator; the one who gave us strength and ordered everything to respond to our will. God says:
Indeed man becomes rebellious. In that he sees himself as self-sufficient, independent of his Lord (96:6-7)
When we farm the land and reap crops, we begin to believe in our power to subjugate the earth. When we see an airplane take off, we feel proud of our achievement in making it fly. We forget that the elements that make every part of that plane and the elements in the atmosphere that carry it are created by Allah. He is the one who gave us the intellect to design these machines. We often marvel at the dams we build and the vast fields of green they nourish, forgetting that God is the creator of water and soil. He subjected all of these things for our service. It is the misunderstanding of the true meaning of autonomy and subjugation that often leads people to arrogance, transgression and disbelief. So let’s take a few moments to define and clarify this issue.
True autonomy and true power of subjugation refer to something that is inherent within yourself; something that can never change or be taken away. It means that you are self sufficient and everything is done purely through your own power regardless of the circumstances. This is clearly not the case. We do not have autonomy because everything around us, including our own bodies, changes against our will. Think about your life: as a child, you were in constant need for your parents just to survive. At times, especially during youth, you may find that life moves according to your will, but does this period last? Of course not. When you reach old age, you will again be in need of someone to take care of you. Even during youth, you may require help if you get sick or get involved in an accident. If any of us had true autonomy, and true powers of subjugation, then he or she would prevent such accident or illness.
God created all these changes in our lives, so you and I can free ourselves from arrogance. Your possessions can be lost in an instant, and the circumstances in your life can change in a moment. Allah, therefore, is the only constant, He is the only truth. God is free of need from His entire creation. He shapes things to his will, but He does not change. He gives life and takes it away, while He is ever-Existing. He grants power and strips it away, while He is the Ever-powerful. Once you have this certainty in your heart, it will be filled with God’s love.