Welcome Friends: Ahlan wa sahlan!
1. People who hold ‘secretive’ conversations usually have something to hide, which indicates that the topics they discuss, or the plans they make, are more likely NOT to be about general welfare! Verse 114 is general in its statement that no good is likely to come out of secretive exchanges, unless the subjects discussed are related to enjoining charity, or mutually acceptable deeds, or reconciling people. Any who hold this type of private exchange will be highly rewarded.
I find Yusuf Ali’s interpretation of ‘najwa’ نجوى* as ‘secret counsel’ easier to understand than Asad’s ‘confabulations.’ See Ali’s note 625 regarding what motivates people into secrecy.
‘Najwa, ‘ or secret counsel is also mentioned in HQ9:78 and 43:80, and in both cases it is about Hypocrites:
Know they not that God knows their secret (thoughts) سرهم and their secret counsels, نجواهمand that God knows well all things unseen? (9:78)
Or do they think that We do not hear their secrets سرهم and their private counsels نجواهم? Indeed (We do), and Our messengers are by them, compiling (it all)! (43:80).
2. Verse 115 tells us that anyone who extracts himself from the Messenger and follows a path other than that of the Faithful… such a person will be left to his own devices, only to find that his chosen path has landed him in Hell, an evil journey’s end. Muhammad Asad tells us that this stresses man’s freedom of choice (note 139).
3. Verse 116 is a statement of fact, similar to HQ4:48, except that today’s verse tells us that whoever commits ‘Shirk’ has strayed afar and lost his way. (Remember, HQ4:48 ended by informing us that whoever commits ‘Shirk’ has indeed conceived a grave Hindrance? See Posting Feb 18th.)
In verse 117 the type of ‘Shirk’ committed by the Meccan idolaters is mentioned, in that they called upon ‘female/ lifeless symbols’ instead of God (Ali/Asad), thereby calling upon the rebellious Satan who was cursed/rejected (Ali/Asad). ‘Shirk’ will be discussed with more detail below.
Verses 118-120 tell us more. It is enlightening to know the devices by which the Deviant/Shaytan might mislead the weakest of us (in spirit). ‘He’ prods us by using what we already have, our base desires, and builds them into powerful longings, constantly nurtured by false promises. Such promises are nothing but Deception. Idolaters, for example, would imagine great benefit in sacrificing their cattle to the idols, while others would perceive great self- advantage in corrupting God’s Creation.
If we took a close look at all that we, as humans, have done to our own detriment (from mere pollution to genocide) we find behind such acts THE lowest of our base desires. This also works on the individual level; we can actually place all our desires into either of these two general categories expressed in HQ20:120, the desire for Eternal Life, or the desire for Permanent Possession; it is either Self-prevalence or Acquisition:
“But Satan whispered unto him, saying: "O Adam! Shall I lead you to the tree of eternal life; and a kingdom that will never decay?"
4. Verse 121 tells us what abode such misguided persons -whose eyes did not rise above their physical existence- can expect, in contrast to verse 122 which tells us what those who attained to Faith AND did good deeds should expect. What a different everlasting home each group pursued, and in fact successfully built for itself!
5. Before we leave these verses, a few words on ‘Shirk,’ especially the type hardest to reject:
Committing ‘Shirk’ is by associating anything or anyone with God, holding that entity equal to Him in one way or another, or ‘heeding its summons’ rather than God’s. The ‘traditional’ explanation of ‘Shirk’ is that it is two kinds: Obvious Shirk is the belief in redemption through anyone other than God (deities, saints, prophets, religious figures), while subtle Shirk is believing in the harm or benefit of anything/anyone other than God (magic, jinns, talismans, even engravings of God’s name or Qur’an worn for protection). But if we looked closely at ‘Shirk’ in our lives today, we’d find ‘subtle Shirk,’ dressed up as ‘Innovation,’ gaining access to our Youth, and as ‘Tradition,’ residing with the elders. There is a generational gap in everything, even in Shirk! And although both are dangerous, which of these two does the Qur’an address?
The Qur’an addresses Resident Tradition. It is the powerful conditioning force that implants itself in human consciousness and transmits itself from one generation to another, making wrong seem right just by habit. Rote repetition of the Tradition of parents or forefathers is viewed negatively in the Qur’an (2:170; 5:104; 6:148; 7:28; 7:28 just to name a few verses- there are many more), and we are asked to re-evaluate everything by the light of Awareness. It is easy to shrug off responsibility by saying, that we were only following our forefathers or that, “Had God willed, things would have been different..” as in HQ16:35:
“And those who Associated (with God-committed Shirk) say, "Had God so willed, we would not have worshipped any other than Him - neither we nor our forefathers; nor would we have declared anything as forbidden without a commandment from Him." Even so did speak their predecessors; but then, isn’t it incumbent upon the Messengers only to deliver (the message) clearly?”
It is also easy, as we get older, to be immersed further in Tradition. It becomes more difficult to throw aside something that not only feels right, but has fixed the boundaries of our comfort zone.
The Qur’an, and early Islamic history, both show us what to do: Educate, set a good example, and PAVE the way for the youth to make changes for the better. When Tradition hindered the older and more influential Meccans from pursuing Truth, the younger and less influential people made the difference and carried the new Faith forward. It is no coincidence that many of the famous heroes of Islam were the sons and servants of the Meccan ‘Heads of Denial,’ those most reluctant to change. Perhaps now is the time for world Youth, from all backgrounds, to join together saying: “Enough! WE will build our future on Awareness and Mutual Respect- regardless of any narrow-minded, separatist traditions that exist in our communities.”
6. Verses 123-124 set down a Divine Rule which, as the verses insist, does NOT follow the desires or wishful thinking of either the Believers or the People of (earlier) Compilation, and that Rule is:
Whoever commits a misdeed shall be requited for it, and shall find none other than God to protect or help him. And whoever performs any good deeds, be they male or female, whilst they are Faithful, such shall enter the Garden, and will not be wronged of any of their dues, were they so tiny they would fit in the groove of a date-pit نقيرا.
This is such an important concept it should be hung on the walls of every Synagogue, Church, and Mosque, and indeed in all our homes! Enough thinking of ourselves (whoever we might be) as superior to everyone else: we are all inherently equal!
Neither our own wishful thinking - nor the wishful thinking of People of (earlier) Compilation will do any of us any good, or change God’s rule. What a just concept!
7. Verses 125-126 form a beautiful conclusion to today’s Reading, beginning with the question: “Who could be of a superior Standard of Accountability than someone who focuses direction purely towards God whilst being a performer of Good Deeds and follows Abraham’s creed in a Haneef follows circular manner (by leaning towards God whilst dealing with ever-changing demands)? ….. ” See definition of ‘wajh’ meaning ‘direction,’ discussed on Jan 10th, and the definition of ‘Haneef’ in Posting of Jan. 12th.
Attached to that question is a notice on the status of Abraham as compared to everyone else, in that God ‘did take Abraham for a friend/exalted Abraham with his love’ (Ali/Asad).
And finally the statement that to God belongs everything and He encompasses all.
Our next Reading is from HQ4:127-140.
(نجو) النون والجيم والحرف المعتلّ أصلانِ، يدلُّ أحدُهما على كَشْطٍ وكشف، والآخَر على سَترٍ وإخفاء.
فالأوَّل: نَجَوْتُ الجِلدَ أنْجُوه –والجلد نَجاً- إذا كشَطْتَه. ويقولون: هو في أرضٍ نَجَاةٍ: ونَجَا الإنسانُ ينجو نَجاةً، ونَجاءً في السُّرعة؛ وهو معنى الذَّهاب والانكشاف من المكان.
والأصل الآخر النَّجْو والنَّجْوَى: السِّرُّ بين اثنين. وناجَيْتُه، وتناجَوْا، وانتَجَوْا. وهو نَجِيُّ فلانٍ، والجمع أنْجِيَة.