Chapter Two: The Cow (Al Baqara)
Chapter 2, Verse 26
God does not shy from drawing comparisons even with something as small as a mosquito, or larger: the believers know it is the truth from their Lord, but the disbelievers say, ‘What does God mean by such a comparison?’ Through it He makes many go astray and leads many to the right path. But it is only the rebellious He makes go astray.(2:26)
God wants to clarify to the believers the Islamic curriculum that every Muslim should pursue. Keep in mind that God does not assign any path or a curriculum to the disbelievers. When you choose to join the faith, you are, in fact, entering into a theistic contract with the Lord. And since you made that choice, you are expected to abide by God’s commandments and prohibitions even if you do not understand the wisdom behind them. Faith means to believe in the unseen, and if something is hidden from you then how can you fully realize the wisdom behind it?
Here are some questions that are often asked: What is the wisdom behind praying this way? Why do we fast? Why is Hajj at this time of the year? and so on. The wisdom behind any religious obligation is simple and straight forward: It is because Allah told us to do it. When a person equal to you in knowledge and degree issues a command, you have the full right to question and debate its merits. When, on the other hand, a command is issued by your Lord who has infinite wisdom and knowledge, then respect and obedience is obligatory upon you as a worshipper. Thus, the order of God to do something is sufficient for us to carry it out; and the order not to do something is also sufficient for us to stop doing it.
I pray because God has obligated prayer, not because it is a form of exercise or meditation. I perform ablution before praying because God has commanded me to do so, not because it is act of cleansing myself. Likewise, I fast during the month of Ramadan because God has ordained fasting upon me; I do not do it to lose weight or to feel the hunger of the poor. If prayer had been a form of exercise, then we could have replaced it with play and yoga. Similarly, if ablution had been a form of cleansing, then we could have substituted it with bathing or using hand sanitizers. If the objective of fasting was to realize the hunger of the poor, then fasting would not have been incumbent upon the poor or the hungry.
Thus, all the obligations that we practice, we only do because Allah has legislated them. We do not intend anything else besides that. Likewise, whatever has reached us of the Quran we accept as God's word. This is the faith that God wants us to adhere to and establish as a way of life.
This concept is essential to understanding the meaning of the verse that states “God does not shy from drawing comparisons even with something as small as a gnat, or larger…”. When Allah presented the example of a mosquito, the disbelievers confronted it with ridicule and dismissal. How can God use the example of a mosquito, a weak and annoying creation that you can squish with your finger? Why didn't God use the example of an elephant or a lion? They said: "what does God mean by such a comparison?” Unfortunately, they did not realize that the creation of something as small as a mosquito is a great miracle. God fitted this tiny creature with all of the organs necessary for life. It has two eyes, and a mouthpart -called proboscis- which is capable of piercing the human skin and drawing blood to feed on. A mosquito also has legs, wings, a reproductive cycle and all the organs required for living. The smaller the body, the more precision it requires for its creation.
This applies to our own inventions in life. When the first mainframe computer was invented, its size was huge filling up several rooms while having minimal computing power. As scientists and innovators excelled, the size of computers began to shrink until one can now fit in the palm of your hand. In fact, as every invention gets refined over time, its size and weight decreases. This requires talent and constant technical and academic progress. Therefore, when Allah presented the example of a mosquito, He intended to draw our attention towards the precision of the creation.
The disbelievers did not pay heed to this meaning, rather they wanted to view God's word through their simple worldly view. The believers, on the other hand, received God's word with an open heart. While many may have not understood the wisdom behind this example, they accepted it because it came from Allah. True faith in God is to believe in whatever comes from Him whether we understand it or not. God says:
Indeed we have brought them a book explaining it in knowledge, a guidance and a mercy to a people who believe. What are they waiting for but the fulfillment of its final prophecy? On the Day it is fulfilled, those who had ignored it will say, ‘Our Lord’s messenger spoke the truth. Is there anyone to intercede for us now? Or can we be sent back to behave differently from the way we behaved before?’ They will really have squandered their souls, and all they invented will have deserted them. (7:52-53)
Your reception of the Quran, and your level of benefit from it, are directly related to the level of faith within your heart. So when the disbelievers questioned: ‘What does God mean by such a comparison?’, God answered ‘through it He makes many go astray and leads many to the right path. But it is only the rebellious He makes go astray’.
In order to understand the true meaning of the word 'rebellious' in this verse, we should look at the Arabic source of the word. The word 'ÝóÇÓöÞöíäö' originated from the desert environment surrounding the Arabs at the time. When a date ripens on a palm tree, its skin is attached to the core of the fruit. As the date ages, the skin separates from the fruit making it very easy to peel. The word 'ÝÓÞ' describes the detachment of the skin from its natural healthy place. Similarly, Allah used this word to describe a person who distances him or herself away from God’s teachings; A person who does not observe God's commandments or prohibitions; In essence, rebelling against faith.
When you look around you, you will find that all creations are carrying out their mission in this universe with faithful precision. The sun, the moon, the soil and even insects perform their duties in this world because they are subjected by God’s will. These creation do not have the free will to make a choice or to rebel. Man, on the other hand, having free will, can choose to distance himself from God’s curriculum. The result is corruption to society, and the destruction of the environment that we see all around us. Take a moment observe the undisturbed forest, the planets, and even the microbes, that have not been corrupted by man, you will find beauty and order, and you will appreciate the miracle of God's creation, and great benefits of adhering to His guidance.