Quran uses tangible images from our surrounding reality as metaphors in order for us to realize the guiding light of the new message. Examples include “the dawn”, “the morning”, and “the day”; because they manifest the light of the Sun and disperse the confusion and the darkness of the night. Similarly, the light of the message disperses the darkness of misguidance. All these phenomena in nature are called upon to witness the importance of the divine guidance in the life of mankind.
The revelation of Quran is the most significant event in the history of all worlds. It was witnessed by the angels and the Archangel Gibril. “Therein come down the angels and the spirit.” [97:4]
Another unseen creation, the Jinn, felt also the significant changes that took place at the beginning of revelation and described the situation as a state of emergency involving the whole universe. “And we pried into the secrets of heaven; but we found it filled with stern guards and flaming fires.” [72:8]
On that night, Surah Al-Alaq was the first coherent construct revealed to Prophet Mohammad. It laid out the features of the vision for the new era. The new era required new tools and new skills to translate the vision into actions. For the first time in the history of mankind, creation and science are brought together and incorporated into the system of knowledge of humanity in the new era. “Read in the name of your Lord who created- created man from a leech-like clot. Read! And your Lord is most generous- He who taught by the pen.” [96:1-4]
The creation of man from a leech-like clot is a new piece of information, and man must know this fact. Actually, the leech-like clot became recently a recognized stage in the development of the fetus inside the womb of the mother. This discovery represents a leap in the human understanding of creation. Creation, in the vision of Quran, is a process that consists of many stages. Creation of man like the creation of heavens and earth went through stages under the order and direction of Allah. In the Quranic worldview, creation is always accompanied by its purpose. “I have only created Jinn and humans that they may worship me.” [51:56]
“O mankind! We created you from a single pair of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes that you may know each other.” [49:13]
Science is the knowledge that we formulate about everything that has been created for us and everything we create for ourselves. Science follows creation; and there is no need to create a conflict or dichotomy between them. Who appreciates Allah, the Creator and the All-knowing, most? Those who seek knowledge appreciate Allah the most.“Those truly fear Allah, among His worshippers, who have knowledge.” [35:28]
Those who create and invent are the most who glorify Allah- the best among creators. So, blessed be Allah, The best among creators.” [23:14]
Creation and science provide the tools and the skills needed to civilize the earth, and the experiences to build newer and higher cultures. However, these same tools and skills can be given the direction of falsehood, evil, and transgression. “For you worship idols besides Allah, and you create falsehood.” [29:17]
Creation and science, the source of our strength may become the source of our weakness. In other words, we are weak if we lack the ability to invent and learn; and we are weak if creativity and science are given the direction of evil and falsehood.
From day one, Surah Al-Alaq warns us against a dangerous disease, self-sufficiency that leads to transgression and going beyond the limits. Transgression is the worst threat to the human condition. “But man does transgress all bounds, in that he looks upon himself as self-sufficient.” [96:6-7]
By the virtue of creation and science, the human being has the great potential to be autonomous and to be the agent of change and success. However, autonomy, as a virtue opposite to helplessness, can go to the extreme and convert into the disease of self-sufficiency. Quran considers self-sufficiency a state of transgression.
Self-sufficiency can take the form of resisting and refusing the help and the opinions of others around us. It is a fake feeling because we need the help and the cooperation of others to satisfy even the simplest of human desires like hunger, for example.
Self-sufficiency manifests its worst form when man resists the need for Divine guidance. Divine guidance does not take away the role, the autonomy, and the agency of man; in fact, it facilitates change and makes it possible and more effective. We need to muster all our faculties and all our knowledge and creativity as we seek the guidance of Quran to distinguish good from evil, and truth from falsehood. “Quran, as guidance to mankind, and clear signs of guidance and judgment between right and wrong.” [2:185]
The last verse in Surah Al-Alaq provides the methodology to protect ourselves against the threat of confusion and self-sufficiency. Prostrate in adoration, and bring yourself the closer to Allah.” [96:19]
Sujud represents the highest state a human being can attain close to Allah as Prophet Mohammad explained. When we put our forehead, the most dignified part of our body, on the floor; we are liberating ourselves from our own ego, the most difficult barrier that comes between us and Allah and His guidance. Sujud becomes our admission that we are in need of our Creator and His guidance. Sujud is our best way to resist the disease of self-sufficiency and to protect ourselves against the threat of destruction that results from the transgression of self-sufficiency.
Sujud is not static but a dynamic movement towards Allah. In the model of prayer, as prescribed by Prophet Mohammad, sujud is the only movement that is done twice successively in every unit of prayer or rakaa. In fact, the way sujud is performed is the exact translation of the last verse in Surah Al-Alaq into practice. No matter how high sujud can bring us close to Allah, the movement should not stop. Seeking a more advanced state is always required. Therefore, prostrate one more time and liberate yourself from the position you have already attained from the first sujud. In your daily life, do not be satisfied with any state you achieve no matter how high and advanced it is. Always aspire to the next higher and better one.
This is the vision of the new era, the era of Prophet Mohammad. Three features characterize this vision:
- Creation and creativity integrated with science and knowledge constitute the solid foundation for the progress and success of any Society. They constitute the fountain of strength as long as they are given the direction of truth and goodness.
- Vigilance must be continuously exercised to protect the society from the weakness produced by the disease of self-sufficiency, and to protect the society from the threat of self-destruction caused by transgressing the boundaries and going into the extreme.
- Divine guidance must accompany and inform all our actions to ensure that they have the right direction. Sujud and bringing ourselves closer to Allah in a perpetual and dynamic way remains our model and standard for our liberation and elevation.
By Dr. Walid Khayr