By: Muhammad Haris
“And [do not forget] the tribes of Aad and Thamud. Their fate is quite visible from their ruins and deserted dwellings. Satan had made their foul deeds seem attractive to them, and turned them away from the right path; although they were endowed with the ability of perceiving the truth.” (Al Quran 29:38)
“[Remember also] Korah [Qaroon], Pharoah [Firaun] and Thamud, to whom Moses came with clear signs, but they behaved very arrogantly in the land; and they could not obviously escape Us.” (Al Quran 29:39)
“Thus, each one of them We penalized for his sin. On some We sent down a violent tornado; others We seized by a mighty blast; and some We caused to be swallowed up by the earth; and yet others We caused to be drowned. It was not Allah Who wronged them. It was they themselves, who wronged [their own souls].” (29:40)
The Quran implies that it is man’s ability to perceive the truth (Istibsar) or the gist of intelligence and skill that makes him morally responsible for his doings, and hence for his failure to resist his own evil impulses which is evidently the meaning of Satan (devil) in this context. Other gifts are capacity to grow and develop; and primarily the independent will – the freedom to choose.
God has specifically mentioned “Mustabsireen” for the community Aad and Thamud. Although they were keen observers they were endowed with the “ability of perceiving the truth”, yet they did not usefully utilize these inherent attributes attached to them or to the mankind in general. So here in 29:38, we have a cardinal principle.
Rendering by Muhammad Asad (a renowned Muslim scholar):
Yet, withal, thy sustainer would never destroy a community without having first raised into its midst an apostle who would convey unto them “Our Messages” (criterion of right and wrong); and never would We destroy a community unless its people are wont to do wrong – to one another (in interaction and interpersonal relationships).
“Wa ma Kana Rabbuka Liyuhlikal Kura bizulmin wa ahluha muslihoona” (Al Quran 11:117)
Translation: “And thy lord is not for annihilating the community arbitrarily while the inhabitants are practicing righteousness”
God’s chastisement does not afflict any people merely on account of their holding beliefs amounting to “shirk” and “kufr” (ascribing partners to God) but afflicts them only if they persistently commit evil in their mutual dealings and deliberately hurt other human beings and act tyrannically or illegitimately or arbitrarily towards them.
Hence those who are learned in Divine Laws hold that man’s obligations towards God rest on the principle of His Loving Kindness, Mercy, Compassion, Forgiveness, Grace and Munificence, whereas the rights of man are of stringent nature (tight, binding, rigorous) and must be strictly observed – the obvious reason being that God is Almighty, needs no defenders, whereas man is weak and needs protection.