|Dialogue Starting With a Question (2)|
Scene one of the story leaves no doubt as to the difference of style and focus between the prophets’ approach to calling to the way of God and that of their adversaries. The stark difference between the two approaches should give the activists, at any time and any place, food for thought, in that they should emulate the prophets’ approach. The approach is a combination of calmness radiating with confidence, responding to the challenge without animosity, and strength of evidence that is tinged with love and kindness. This is so as to leave the door open for the opponent to return through love, because lovingness is worthy of bringing the heart closer to the truth, whereas the mind could shy away from facing up to it.
At the same time, it gives a vivid and lively example of the Messages in their setting forth from a base of openness on the truth, in all its wide spheres, while the adversaries always seek to tread on narrow and twisted alleyways that can hardly have room for those who are already there, let alone others.
Scene two starts with God’s revelation to Noah, thus: “It was revealed to Noah: ‘None of thy people will believe except those who have believed already! So grieve no longer over their (evil) deeds.” (11: 36)
The state Noah was left in after the dialogue reached a dead end
The Quranic chapter that is dedicated to telling Noah’s story, gives you an idea about the psychological state he was in after the dialogue with his people had reached a stalemate. He was on the verge of despondency. As a responsible prophet, he stood before God to give Him a lively account of his work all those years. He was reporting to God how he spared no effort to win some people over to his cause:
He said: “O my Lord! I have called to my People night and day: But my call only increases (their) flight (from the Right).
“And every time I have called to them, that Thou might forgive them, they have (only) thrust their fingers into their ears, covered themselves up with their garments, grown obstinate, and given themselves up to arrogance. So I have called to them aloud; further I have spoken to them in public and secretly in private, saying, ‘Ask forgiveness from your Lord; for He is Oft-Forgiving; he will send rain to you in abundance; give you increase in wealth and sons; and bestow on you gardens and bestow on you rivers (of flowing water). What is the matter with you, that ye place not your hope for kindness and long-suffering in God, Seeing that it is He that has created you in diverse stages? See ye not how God has created the seven heavens one above another, and made the moon a light in their midst, and made the sun as a (Glorious) Lamp? and God has produced you from the earth growing (gradually), and in the End He will return you into the (earth), and raise you forth (again at the Resurrection)? And God has made the earth for you as a carpet (spread out), that ye may go about therein, in spacious roads.”
Noah said: “O my Lord! They have disobeyed me, but they follow (men) whose wealth and children give them no increase but only Loss. And they have devised a tremendous Plot. And they have said (to each other), ‘Abandon not your gods: Abandon neither Wadd nor Suwa’, neither Yaguth nor Ya’uq, nor Nasr’; They have already misled many; and grant Thou no increase to the wrong- doers but in straying (from their mark).Because of their sins they were drowned (in the flood), and were made to enter the Fire (of Punishment): and they found in lieu of God none to help them.
And Noah, said: “O my Lord! Leave not of the Unbelievers, a single one on earth! For, if Thou dost leave (any of) them, they will but mislead Thy devotees, and they will breed none but wicked ungrateful ones. O my Lord! Forgive me, my parents, all who enter my house in Faith, and (all) believing men and believing women: and to the wrong-doers grant Thou no increase but in perdition!” (71: 5–28)
We would like to dwell a bit on this magnificent account, which Prophet Noah (a.s.) submitted to his Lord, describing in detail all the efforts he put in his noble task, especially the dialogues he conducted with his people to urge them to embrace belief in God, and giving feedback to the response he received from them. In his report, Noah prayed to the Almighty to exchange his people with others, because he had exhausted all the ways to convince them of his message. There was no room for another endeavor. A justification was given for his prayer for getting rid of them, i.e. the danger they might pose to future generations, because the climate in which they lived was conducive to everything that was vile, and that their offspring would follow their line. Nevertheless, he remained optimistic because resignation did not feature in the dictionary of the prophets, especially when the situation was tied in with the Divine will. In this regard, there are few points that are worthy of pondering:
1. The prophet does not leave any stone unturned
Noah, the prophet, did not leave any opportunity that was made available to him without reminding his people to reconsider their position and embrace the religion, as penitence would provide a fresh start, where darkness would be left behind. They rejected all his overtures, preferring to follow the affluent people who took it upon themselves to stand against any call to the bright way of God, as these forces got used to living in darkness, and for the aim of perpetuating it.
Thus, the Message makes it incumbent on the messenger and, by the same token, the Islamic call on the activist, not to let any opportunity pass without giving leeway for repentance. This is because the spirit of the Message is like the spirit of the military, which is capable of turning man into a power whose control is outside, i.e. because it is controlled by the Message in all its capabilities and times. It marches on, or comes to a halt, only when the Message says so. It has no freedom in going about its personal affairs, away from the command centre of the Message.
2. The revelation, not hopelessness, brings the mission to an end
Hopelessness did not find its way to the heart of Noah (a.s.). It was the Divine revelation that ended his prophetic mission, when it was revealed to him that none of his people was going to convert to his cause, apart from the few who had already done so. The revelation came in the wake of Noah’s reporting back to his Lord that all his efforts in trying to win them over to His way had come to very little, asking God to grant him victory over them.
3. Indignation is not for personal reasons
Noah’s prayer for his people was not driven by personal vendetta for the disappointment he suffered at their hands. Rather, it stemmed from his responsibility as a prophet who spared no effort to prove his case in dialogue with the unbelievers. When he saw no hope in them to try to mend their ways, he thought it fit to close an old chapter and turn over a new leaf, so that people may celebrate the triumph of belief over unbelief.
That was why he pleaded with his Lord to grant him victory over them because they represented the force that pulled the strings in society, which was predominantly atheistic. There was also the fear that that corrupt society was going to lead to a similar one.
4. The Divine Messages do not safeguard unwarranted privileges
The Divine Messages do not seek to protect the privileges of the affluent. Far from it, they come to make a great effort in restricting any unjustified concessions. The Messages endeavor to raise the standard of the downtrodden of society. That was why the poor and the needy, who were dubbed by the unbelievers as the most inferior class of society, were the followers of the Message and its faithful soldiers. They were the ones who were closer to God and His messenger; the reason being that they found their salvation in it in this world before the next.
We notice here that religious history played a role in refuting the unjust criticism that says that divine religions have come to lull people spiritually so that the exploitative groups of society go about their business in cheating the less fortunate sections of society. They, therefore, maintain that the religious phenomenon is just another face of the mutual interests of the religious establishment and the forces of oppression and exploitation.
Ridicule vs. ridicule
The plan of meting out chastisement to Noah’s people started with God’s command to Noah to end his mission and start building the Ark, without giving him any leeway to intercede with Him on their behalf any more, for their fate was sealed.
Noah’s people started making fun of him for building the Ark in a landlocked area. The order from God to him was clear, in that he should trade ridicule with them, because they did not know what would become of their fate. They would have nothing to look forward to, except the deluge, which would drown everybody save the believers:
“Forthwith he (starts) constructing the Ark: Every time that the chiefs of his people passed by him, they threw ridicule on him. He said: “If ye ridicule us now, we (in our turn) can look down on you with ridicule likewise! But soon will ye know who it is on whom will descend a penalty that will cover them with shame, on whom will be unloosed a penalty [ever]lasting.” (11: 38–39)