Chapter Two: The Cow (Al Baqara)

Verse 23.......Part 2

(This session is also available in audio and video)


Session 42

Chapter 2, Verse 23, Part b

And if you have doubts about the revelation We have sent down to Our servant, then produce a single chapter like it- enlist whatever supporters you have other than God- if you are truthful (2:23)

            The Holy Quran was preserved in the guarded slate before humans were created.  And when the time came for the Quran to carry out its mission in the universe, it was sent down as a complete book from the guarded slate to the nearest heaven.  Then it was revealed to the Prophet (peace be upon him) little by little as required to address the events and needs of the time.  Thus, the expression 'sent down' refers to the event of descending the Quran as a whole from the preserved slate to the nearest heaven.  While revealing the Quran refers to delivering individual or a group of verses to the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) by the angle Gabriel. 

            Let’s take a few moments to examine the words 'Our Servant’.  God divided mankind into two categories: slaves and servants.  The entire creations of God in the universe are His slaves in the sense that they are not capable of going against His will and desire.  While you may be able to make your own decisions and choose the actions you like......This is only possible because God has given you the freedom to do so.  Even when you choose to do something that is not in line with God's guidance, you are able to do so because God has granted you the ability and the free choice. 

            The servants of God are those who choose to exercise this freedom of choice in accordance to God's teachings.  Even when they have the desire and the ability to do something else, they curb this desire and only do what God has recommended.  God holds these individuals, his servants, at very high esteem.

            When you examine the Quran, you will notice that Allah refers to them and their high honour in many verses. He says:

When My servants ask you about Me, I am indeed nearmost.  I answer the supplicant’s call when he calls Me.  So let them respond to Me, and let them have faith in Me, so that they may fare rightly. (2:186)

            This great privilege of being close to Allah at the time of need, and having His support and guidance is exclusive to his servants.  They do what God asks of them, and abstain from what He prohibits, therefore, God responds to their prayers in the manner that is best suited for their condition.  Here is another example from the Quran; God says:

When the first of these warnings was fulfilled, We sent against you servants of Ours with great force, and they ravaged your homes. That warning was fulfilled, (17:5)

            Some critics of the Quran argue that the word ‘servants’ has been used in the Quran to describe the disbelievers.  Take a look at the following verse:

On the day when the unbelievers and whatever they had been worshipping besides God will be resurrected, He will ask the idols, "Did you mislead My servants or did they themselves go astray from the right path?(25:17)

To answer their objection, we have to put this verse in context.  The events of the verse take place on the day of judgment.  And on that day everyone will be a servant of God, because all will be compelled to obey God in all their actions.........there is no freedom of choice anymore.  Death puts an end to our desires and our choices making us subject to God’s will alone.  The difference between God's slaves and servants is only in this world.  

            As mentioned earlier, servitude is the highest degree of closeness to God any creation can obtain.  Each one of us can make a choice, through our everyday actions, to obtain this high status and enjoy great honour in this world and in the hereafter.  God described the prophet (peace be upon him) as 'Our Servant' in many verses of the Quran as the following example illustrates:

Glory to Him who made His servant travel by night from the sacred place of worship to the furthest place of worship, whose surroundings We have blessed, to show him some of Our signs: He alone is the All Hearing, the All Seeing. (17:1)

            This greatest of miracles, the miracle of ascending to the seventh heaven in soul and body and being granted access to a level even beyond where of archangel Gabriel could go, was bestowed on the prophet Muhammad....a man who achieved the perfect level of love and servitude to God.  In fact, when the prophet was given a choice between being an Angle messenger, or a servant messenger, he (peace be upon him) chose the latter. 

            The fact that the Messenger was a human being like everybody else, raised great objection among the disbelievers since the time of revelation.  This is highlighted in the following verses:

The ruling circle of those of his people who were disbelievers said, ‘We do not see you as anything but a human being like ourselves. We do not see anyone following you but the lowest of us, unthinkingly. We do not see you as superior to us. On the contrary, we consider you to be liars.’ (11:27)

 

they said, ‘What? A man? Why should we follow a lone man from amongst ourselves? That would be misguided; quite insane! (54:24)

 

The only thing that kept these people from believing, when guidance came to them, was that they said, ‘How could God have sent a human being as a messenger?’ (17:94)

And lastly,

If you were to obey a human being like yourselves, you would, in that case, definitely be the losers. (23:34)

Hence, the human factor of the Messenger became an instrument of criticism for those who did not want to believe.  Let's take a moment here to understand the requirements of prophethood.  A prophet needs to be a person who had lived among his people before the divine message was revealed.  He needs to be trustworthy, loved and well known in the community so his message would be accepted and followed.  And at the same time, prophethood requires a person to be a role model for other.  This is why it was important that a prophet is from the same creation and species as the people he is teaching.  He should present the best practical example in implementing God’s guidelines for those around him.  If the prophet had been from different creation, then many would have complained that they cannot implement what the Lord has ordered!  They would have reasoned that the Messenger is created differently, inclined towards obedience only, and has superior abilities to the average person.

            Therefore, the human nature of any prophet is an absolute requirement; And the human nature of prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) is unquestionable.  Whoever attempts to place the Prophet at a level beyond or above humanity is indeed trying to degrade the divine messages and wisdom of Allah.  If God had wanted to turn the prophet, or anyone else, into an angel, he would have done so as illustrated in the following verse:

if it had been Our will, We could have made you angels, succeeding one another on earth. (43:60)