Be Like Adam's Son: A Human and Awareness About History

From Jawdat Said

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Most people grow and get old and die without having awakened that yearning for integration; most die before they have experienced even once the exhilaration of learning the story of human history. But how can we kindle that ecstasy in the hearts of many young men and young women? To bring this about is not really an act of magic. How will it dawn on them that humankind keeps correcting itself as time passes? To perceive the march of history is such a marvelous thing that it fills the heart with elation. Do not you see what it means to see the difference between seeing things happen at random and seeing the possibility of taking the change in hand and steering change to a more fruitful and profitable direction?

That the truth dawns on even one mind is a precious thing, and the Qur'an treats it as such (as in 40:28 and the following verses; and in 36:20-21) Such individual achievements might be ignored in history, but not in the Qur'an. When you learn the precedents, it gives you a great incentive for future achievement. And what is history but a retaining of the good and elimination of the harmful or disadvantageous?

Maybe it is clear by now that history is not a fulfillment of your or my fancies – it works by its own laws; and we have to go there to see the facts, and not to bring facts to fit our own fancies. It is true that so many people will try to twist the facts to fit their desire, but history will go ahead along its own course. As it does, it will make more and more distinction between what is right and what is wrong, between truth and falsehood. The only correct attitude to history is to realize that the truth is not what I think is true, but what history says is true. And of course the measure of anything's truth in history is the amount of good it brings about. The Qur'an accepts the result of something to be the criterion for its truth. A person who does not judge things according to the good or bad they realize will only be guided by his fancy and desire. The Qur'an's lesson is precious here: take history to be your reference of truth.

I feel that I cannot say enough about the importance of this rule, that things are to be judged by their outcome. History teaches us so, and the Qur'an teaches us so. But even after repeating and reiterating, I feel that it will be long before people finally digest this lesson. Do not you see that God accepts this law to apply to Him and to His prophets – That the actual events of history are the reference? This shows you how grave the Muslims' mistake is in ignoring the facts of history, that is, the results of behaviors! How far they are from the Qur'an's handling of the events of history as a real lab of truth and falsehood! They still say that history is no more than a pack of lies, and the Qur'an deems it to be the guide to truth and a better life. Of course people will persist in denying the value of history as long as they are ignorant of it. Once they know, they will take history to be a temple for worshipping God through a study of His creation.

We know that a human is accountable on the Day of Judgment for what he/she has done, but history shows a human that he/she is accountable in this world, before he/she encounters the more serious judgment in the Hereafter. Does this make us appreciate how huge a role history plays? It is no less than the Creator's law court, where people's acts are tried and sentences are given concerning each case. This is also what I meant when I said above that the Qur'an is readable from two different perspectives – now it may be seen that history is brought into being by God, but only in response to the values, norms, thoughts, and delusions of the participant agents.

Well, granted that we are convinced of the importance of history, how do we enter this temple? How can we contrast the building of the pyramids of Egypt with Abraham's building the Ka'bah, the Holy House in Mecca? Was not Abraham the one who set the reference for telling the truth from falsehood, as we see in this dialogue reported in the Qur'an, "And rehearse to them something of Abraham's story. Behold , he said to his father and his people: 'What do you worship?' They said: 'We worship idols, and we remain constantly in attendance on them.' He said: 'Do they listen to you when you call on them, or do you good or harm?' They said: 'Nay, but we found our fathers doing this that we do.'" (26:70-74) For them, the way to judge is not to examine what benefit or harm something causes: if it was accepted by their fathers and forefathers, then it was good. Is not this same justification used by many nations – that something is good or bad in so far as the forefathers saw it to be so. While the criterion for Abraham was that what is true is what realizes benefits, and what is false is what is harmful.

We may not deny, however, that what the past generations left us is partly true. Otherwise, we should always start from the time humans were in the caves. Of course, there is a golden mean here: how can we learn all there is to learn from the past generations, without their becoming a millstone round our necks that bends us down? Is it not Abraham, our great father, who taught us to stop sacrificing a human being, when he offered an animal instead? No wonder that God says, as we see in the Qur'an, "We bestowed aforetime on Abraham his rectitude of conduct." (21:51) The point is that we do not want to throw away the baby with the dirty water. When we fail to distinguish truth from falsehood, God will do the distinction, for history will sift things, and what is good will stay and what is harmful will be washed away.

What we have in Abraham's experience with his people, when he set the rule for distinguishing what is true as being what is beneficial, and what is false as being what is harmful; this experience is putting to work God's law, "Thus Allah by parables throws forth Truth and vanity. For the scum disappears like froth cast out; while that which is for the good of mankind remains on the earth. Thus Allah sets forth parables." (13:17)

The rule here is that without writing we would not have had history, and without history, the actual events, the writing will lose its worth. I need to know all this as I try to lay the basis for a new trend in thinking, to evaluate science and knowledge; I need to pry well, to be nearer the truth. I have to keep an eye on the Scripture and an eye on the events of history.

We need also to put in something here. Everybody knows about the profitable and harmful results when dealing with things whose results appear at once or very quickly. A child will soon learn to keep clear from fire after he burns his/her hand; but it is when a long time elapses between cause and effect that people lose sight of what led to what. It is this losing sight of the link between cause and effect that leads people to disregard history.

The spans in history are not the same as the spans in the life of individuals. It is a different cycle. Of course we have the cycles in the electron, but how different they are from the cycles in galaxies! And, moving to human life, we know about the deferral of gratification, and how we use it to rank civilizations and cultures.

I need to keep track of the way of Adam's son, but without history we cannot support the simple statement about the way of Adam's son. Now history used to be very slow, and then it picked speed, so that now the span between an event and its results can be very short. You may be sure of how important history is from the fact that once people took note of it, they no longer needed another book to be revealed from God. The Qur'an alerts us to that when it says about a certain episode of history, "There is, in their stories, instruction for men endued with understanding;" (12:111) and more generally, "Take warning, then, O you with eyes to see!" (59:2) So let those who do not give history its worth suffer its blows; blows in the form of tears, blood, and the lamentations of parents, sisters, and children! You see how the people who know nothing about history spend hordes of money on worthless projects, instead of investing more in knowledge, knowledge and science and an in-depth study of religion.

The problem is that we not only wade in our ignorance, but we even are too terrified to enter the domain of knowledge. Is that what we think about God, that should we learn more about truth we would be farther from God? I know I have come close to truth, but can I touch it?