Al Baqarah, 19-20: Fitting in- or trying to…

I guess this wouldn’t sound alien to you. Most of you would probably relate to it. How often do you find yourself in a majestic gathering with your elite friends engaged in some snobbish tea-party conversation- and your mental prayer alarm nags you for the millionth time and you try to shrug it off. With shifty eyes you scan the room and see if someone’s got up to pray. If they have, you conveniently follow suit- it they haven’t, well then, noway would you take the initiative! Why bring the awkwardness upon yourself?

Or consider this, you usually hang out with two socially distinct groups. One’s totally religious sort, and secretly, you like them better ’cause it’s easier to be yourself around them. With them, you even take on a headscarf. The other group, however, is the one that keeps tabs on the latest trends and fashion- you feel them scrutinizing your outlook- from your earrings  to your stilletos (here, your headscarf is safely stashed in your closet)- whenever you’re around them. Man oh man, you feel weird about it but to keep up with the social limelight, you think you have to tag along. You feel your faith sliced and diced on the peer thread- but you continue to ignore the alarm bells that go off as your faith weakens…

Allah (swt) has sketched here, this similar scenario of wavering from the track…

 أَوۡ كَصَيِّبٍ۬ مِّنَ ٱلسَّمَآءِ فِيهِ ظُلُمَـٰتٌ۬ وَرَعۡدٌ۬ وَبَرۡقٌ۬ يَجۡعَلُونَ أَصَـٰبِعَهُمۡ فِىٓ ءَاذَانِہِم مِّنَ ٱلصَّوَٲعِقِ حَذَرَ ٱلۡمَوۡتِ‌ۚ وَٱللَّهُ مُحِيطُۢ بِٱلۡكَـٰفِرِينَ (١٩)يَكَادُ ٱلۡبَرۡقُ يَخۡطَفُ أَبۡصَـٰرَهُمۡ‌ۖ كُلَّمَآ أَضَآءَ لَهُم مَّشَوۡاْ فِيهِ وَإِذَآ أَظۡلَمَ عَلَيۡہِمۡ قَامُواْ‌ۚ وَلَوۡ شَآءَ ٱللَّهُ لَذَهَبَ بِسَمۡعِهِمۡ وَأَبۡصَـٰرِهِمۡ‌ۚ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ عَلَىٰ كُلِّ شَىۡءٍ۬ قَدِيرٌ۬ (٢٠) 

Or like a rainstorm in the sky, bringing darkness, thunder, and lightning. They thrust their fingers in their ears to keep out the stunning thunderclap for fear of death. But Allah ever encompasses the disbelievers. The lightning almost snatches away their sight, whenever it flashes for them, they walk therein, and when darkness covers them, they stand still. And if Allah willed, He could have taken away their hearing and their sight. Certainly, Allah has power over all things. [02:19-20]

Blinking in confusion, huh? These verses are deep in their own sense. They’re about the hesitant hypocrites, whose light of faith is sometimes lit and sometimes extinguished. To understand them, let’s take one phrase at a time. Read the verses again. (Just so you know, I’m consulting tafsir ibn Kathir and Dr. Farhat Hashmi’s lectures for the explanation.)

Or like a rainstorm[meaning rain of Islam], wherein is darkness, thunder and lightning_ these symbolize trials and opposition we face when we set out to obey the commandments of Allah, though lightning refers to glimmers of faith that we feel not so many times. Now think about the last time you decided to stick to the rules of Allah. Some of you might have taken hijab, recall the initial response you got from the crowd or maybe your family members: “What is it that you’ve done? Have you gone insane?…”
To all this thunder and darkness, a hypocrite’s response is to back out. “Maybe we should do this later on…maybe we should compromise…” These hypocrites prefer to ‘go with the flow’, they’re ready to compromise their Islamic values just to preserve their ‘image’.

They thrust their fingers in their ears to keep out the stunning thunderclap for fear of death. But Allah ever encompasses the disbelievers, imagine you’ve stolen something from your class fellow and the theft gets reported. Every time a teacher comes to make an announcement, your palms would sweat and your heart would beat faster out of fear for being caught. You’ll brace yourself for a suspension letter every time your teacher calls you for some reason. This is exactly the state of a hypocrite who’s subconsciously always feeling guilty about not following the Book. So, he chooses to stay ignorant. But Allah says no matter how much they try to tune out the Divine revelations, it would not benefit them because they are bound by Allah’s all-encompassing will and decision.

The lightning almost snatches away their sight, meaning; the Qur’an mentioned almost all of the secrets of the hypocrites. Allah (swt) defaced these people so that they correct themselves and also, that other people reading this Book should search their souls for stains of hypocrisy. This is one of the most beautiful things about the Quran- it unravels your complicated psyche and lays it before you to analyze and contemplate. It tells you what would happen if you go along a particular way or if let go of it. Remember that you won’t be judged until the day of Judgement. Time and time again, the Quran would remind you that the door to forgiveness is always open. It will coax you you into coming back home.

Whenever it flashes for them, they walk therein and when darkness covers them, they stand still, meaning whenever the hypocrites acquire a share in the victories of Islam, they are content with this share. Whenever Islam suffers a calamity, they are ready to revert to disbelief. This can be said about the hypocrites of Madinah who lived 1400 years back. If we apply this on ourselves, you’ll see the scenarios I highlighted in the beginning fit here. This is the crux of the matter. The very core of hypocritical deeds- obeying Allah only when it is convenient and at other times they follow the people, displeasing Allah (swt) while they are at it.

And if Allah willed, He would have taken away their hearing and their sight. Certainly, Allah has power over all things, Because they abandoned the truth after they had knowledge in it. Allah only described Himself with the ability to do everything in this Ayah as a warning to the hypocrites of His control over everything, and to inform them that His ability completely encompasses them and that He is able to take away their hearing and sight.

Alright, this should leave you with enough to think about. 🙂 When I read these verses I had a lot of flashbacks about things I was definitely not proud of doing. So I decided to peel off and discard all faulty layers of my personality. How did I go about that? The next verse spells it out. Till then, stay tuned! 🙂


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