Allah is a unique history teacher.
He is not concerned with most of what our historians fill their pages with.
The focus is not on the events per se, but on the patterns that keep repeating themselves.
In the end, historical events change. The human race doesn’t.
As Voltaire said:
“History never repeats itself; man always does.”
The events might be different, but the causes are always the same.
The forces that move human beings are stable in time.
By emptying historical events from the fluff, Allah captures their essence.
Thus, it’s easier for us to learn as we only focus on the gold.
Believe and Behave
All the stories in the Quran aim to convey one message.
Believe in Allah. Him alone is worthy of worship.
In itself, the belief in Allah is not hard.
The resistance starts when the belief requires to change certain behaviors.
Take the audience of the Prophet (pbuh) as an example.
They were familiar with Allah and even Abraham. The Prophet was from them. Yet, they resisted the message.
Among many things, adopting Islam would mean stopping the idols’ business.
Worshipping idols brings many tourists to Mecca. Each tribe of Arabia has its idol there.
Getting rid of them would not only deprive them of a significant source of income but also, put an end to their special status in the region.
This is at least what they feared:
“They say, ‘If we were to follow guidance with you, we would be swept away from our land.’ Have We not established for them a secure sanctuary [in Mecca] where every kind of produce is brought, as a provision from Us? But most of them do not comprehend.” [Quran 28:57]
Changing behavior is the source of the clash.
Compare the belief in Allah to, let’s say, believing in the universe.
The universe doesn’t set boundaries for my behaviors. I can minimize my wrongdoings and give myself more credit for my good deeds.
The belief in the universe is much more convenient if I want to keep doing what I’m doing!
Individuals Against Groups
In all the stories of previous Prophets, one ratio doesn’t change.
Few believe; many don’t.
The main reason is the influence of the group.
Individuals believe what they believe, not as a result of conscious decision-making, but to stick to the group beliefs.
Most of the stories in the Quran highlight individuals going against the group.
The Messengers attempted to free the individuals so they could think for themselves.
They could be with the group when the group is right, and withdraw from the group when the group is wrong.
The Prophet (pbuh) and his companions had to fight their own people and family members.
In matters of faith, God-consciousness comes before any bond we might have.
The influence of the group over the individual is real.
Many psychological experiments demonstrated it.
But the worst type of influence is the one that leads to permanent blindness.
It happens when we recognize the truth and still walk away from it.
When the chance to be guided presents itself but still, we choose to go back to group thinking, we are left blind:
“And We will turn away their hearts and their eyes just as they refused to believe in it the first time. And We will leave them in their transgression, wandering blindly.”[Quran 6:110]
Behaviors and Their Prices
What do the destroyed nations share in common?
- Their wrongdoings were appealing to them; they hold to them dearly.
- Messengers had come to them with clear proofs.
- They were given time to change.
The people of Noah rejected him as only low-status people followed him.
The people of Hud followed the tyrants’ decisions and argued against the miraculous signs.
Thamud was ungrateful to the Lord who settled them on the land for ages.
Lot’s nation didn’t have a single straight man.
Whereas Chouaib’s people consistently cheated in business.
And finally, the Pharoah. The only limit to his arrogance was the sea.
“So We seized each people for their sin: against some of them We sent a storm of stones, some were overtaken by a mighty blast, some We caused the earth to swallow, and some We drowned. Allah would not have wronged them; they wronged themselves” [Quran 29:40]
But was it necessary to narrate different stories to make one point?
Yes, it was. The repetition was intentional and necessary.
The proof, to this day, we don’t fully realize how our behavior affects the fate of others.
The things we do or don’t do matter far more than we think.
Ultimately, justice will be established based on what we do to ourselves and the impact of our behavior on others.
Final Thoughts On Allah the History Teacher
Beyond the behaviors and the role of group imitation, there is one last reminder for us.
These stories show that neither Allah nor His messengers wanted harm to people.
It’s quite the opposite.
His mercy fills the skies and the earth. It’s the normal state.
The punishment is the exception. It’s always targeted.
But even if Allah wishes good for people, He also knows that many of His creations won’t follow His guidance.
In all this, our role is to remain patient and invite people to the path with wisdom.
Article published: June 6, 2022
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