As said earlier, rebellious and malevolent chiefs of disbelievers were found in every society and throughout history. Having grown arrogant, these people rejected Allah' s messengers, who had been sent to summon them to the right path. Nevertheless, before the torment they would eventually suffer in Hell, they encountered severe affliction also in this world.
In this section of the book we will examine such nations as referred to in the Qur' an, and see how they responded to their respective messengers.
People of Nuh (as)
The chiefs of the people of Nuh (as) were excessively proud, as was the case with many other nations in history. When Nuh (as) summoned them to the religion of Allah, very few followed him. Still, Nuh (as) never despaired of saving them from the torment of the afterlife. But, despite all his efforts, his people responded to him in the following manner:
The chiefs of those of his people who were disbelievers said, "We do not see you as anything but a human being like ourselves. We do not see anyone following you but the lowest of us, unthinkingly. We do not see you as superior to us. On the contrary, we consider you to be liars." (Surah Hud, 27)
These people, whose pride showed through in their language, also insulted the believers who followed Nuh (as). Since, according to their errant thinking, superiority rested on one' s wealth, possessions, sons, position and rank, they looked for these qualities in the believers who adhered to Nuh (as). However, they failed to grasp that superiority entailed nearness to Allah and high morals:
They said "Nuh, you have argued with us and argued much so bring us what you have promised us if you are telling the truth." (Surah Hud, 32)
Before them the people of Nuh denied the truth. They denied Our servant, saying, "He is madman," and he was driven away with jeers. (Surat al-Qamar, 9)
Nuh (as) tolerated patiently this terrible behaviour and performed his task of summoning them to the truth with sincerity. Yet, when it became obvious that it was not probable for them to reform, he expressed his feelings in regards to their arrogance to Allah and turned Him for help:
He said, "My Lord, I have called my people night and day but my calling has only made them more evasive. Indeed, every time I called them to Your forgiveness, they put their fingers in their ears, wrapped themselves up in their clothes and were overweeningly arrogant. Then I called them openly. Then I addressed them publicly and addressed them privately." (Surah Nuh, 5-9)
Nuh said, "My Lord, they have disobeyed me and followed those whose wealth and children have only increased them in loss. They have hatched a mighty plot saying, ' Do not abandon your gods. Do not abandon Wadd or Suwa' or Yaghuth or Ya' uq or Nasr.' They have misguided many people. Do not increase the wrongdoers in anything but misguidance!" (Surah Nuh, 21-24)
Nuh said, "My Lord! do not leave a single one of the disbelievers on earth!" (Surah Nuh, 26)
Allah answered Nuh' s prayer; their arrogance and denial cost the people of Nuh their lives in this world. In the hereafter, on the other hand, torment also awaited them:
Because of their errors they were drowned and put into the Fire. They found no one to help them besides Allah. (Surah Nuh, 25)
The People of ' Ad
Allah sent the Prophet Hud as His messenger to the people of ' Ad. He summoned them to Allah' s path but was responded to with abuse. The arrogance of the people of ' Ad is related in the Qur' an as follows:
' Ad were arrogant in the land, without any right, saying, "Who has greater strength than us?" Did they not see that Allah, Who created them, had greater strength than them? But they renounced Our Signs. (Surah Fussilat, 15)
Such pride held before Allah is the utmost extent of perversion; theirs was an audacity that no other being would ever dare. They had such a high opinion of their power that their intelligence was marred; they failed to grasp even the most obvious facts. With the power granted to them by Allah-and thus, which could be taken back whenever He willed-they opposed Allah and His messenger. In return, they were cursed both in this world and on the Day of Rising:
That was ' Ad. They denied the Signs of their Lord and disobeyed His Messengers and followed the command of every obdurate tyrant. They were pursued by a curse in the world and on the Day of Rising. Yes indeed! ' Ad rejected their Lord, so away with ' Ad, the people of Hud! (Surah Hud, 59-60)
Allah sent the Prophet Salih to Thamud as His messenger. Like all other messengers, the Prophet Salih called his people to the truth, and reminded them about the fact that they had been created, so that they could come to know the truth. Yet, his people clung to their old ways. As related in the Qur' an:
Thamud denied the warnings. They said, "Are we to follow a human being, one of us? Then we would truly be misguided, quite insane! Has the Reminder been given to him of all of us? No indeed! He is an impudent liar." (Surat al-Qamar, 23-25)
Obviously, the Prophet' s possession of human qualities was one of the justifications that misled them. Their deficient rationale accepted obedience only to a supernatural being, an angel for instance, or to someone who could bring about miracles. Their overwhelming arrogance prevented them from obeying another human being. This is why they spoke ill of the messengers, and accused them of being liars.
The Children of Israel
A close read of the Qur' an reveals that the Children of Israel, with their ungratefulness to Allah' s gifts and blessings frequently referred in His Book, have been remembered as the most insolent people in history. Considering what they had gone through in a specific course of time, it is astonishing to see how haughty and obstinate they became, despite all mercy and forgivingness Allah showed them.
As is known, Allah granted the Children of Israel many blessings, and made them superior to other nations. In return, He only asked them to "fulfil His covenant." However, instead of showing sincere loyalty and obedience to Allah, they disobeyed their Lord' s commands, and wronged themselves by overstepping Allah' s limits:
... What has been sent down to you from your Lord increases many of them in insolence and disbelief.... (Surat al-Ma' ida, 68)
... We have incited enmity and hatred between them until the Day of Rising. Each time they kindle the fire of war, Allah extinguishes it. They rush about the earth corrupting it. Allah does not love corrupters. (Surat al-Ma' ida, 64)
Allah reveals in the Qur' an that He tested this people many times, with both blessings and difficulties.
As is known, the Children of Israel were a people bound in servitude. Due to the tyrannical rule of Pharaoh, this nation was condemned to centuries of slavery. The governing system of Pharaoh was exceptionally oppressive. The Children of Israel were at the point of despair under the Pharaoh' s regime, who, according to the Qur' an, "let their women live and slaughtered their sons." As a result of these terrible difficulties, Allah sent this enslaved nation the Prophet Musa, who showed them a great miracle by "parting the sea," and rescued them from the cruel authority of Pharaoh:
Tribe of Israel! Remember the blessing I conferred on you and that I preferred you over all other beings. (Surat al-Baqara, 47)
Remember when We rescued you from the people of Pharaoh. They were inflicting an evil punishment on you-slaughtering your sons and letting your women live. In that there was a terrible trial for you from your Lord. (Surat al-Baqara, 49)
And when We parted the sea for you and rescued you, and drowned the people of Pharaoh while you watched. (Surat al-Baqara, 50)
This miracle, for which anyone whose heart is not hardened would lead him to glorify Allah, did not inspire the fear of Allah into their hearts or make them humble. Instead of accentuating their faith, they exceeded Allah' s limits when Musa (as) had left them for a while. They even dared to idolize a calf, and thereby, showed extraordinary perversity:
Musa brought you the Clear Signs; then, after he left, you adopted the Calf and were wrongdoers. Remember when We made a covenant with you and lifted up the Mount above your heads: "Take hold vigorously of what We have given you and listen." They said, "We hear and disobey." They were made to drink the Calf into their hearts because of their disbelief. Say, "If you are believers, what an evil thing your faith has made you do." (Surat al-Baqara, 92-93)
The deviance and arrogance these people were guilty of, revealed in the Qur' an as a lesson to mankind, are not limited to this story alone. This nation, which failed to show gratitude for Allah' s forgiveness, were guilty of many other examples of insolence.
For instance, Allah bestowed upon the nation of Israel many blessings so that they would become grateful. In return for these blessings, though, He only wanted them to enter through the gate of a town filled with gifts to them and prostrate in humility. But, they wronged themselves, and rebelled against Allah:
And We shaded you with clouds and sent down manna and quails to you: "Eat of the good things We have provided for you." They did not wrong Us; rather it was themselves they were wronging. Remember when We said, "Go into this town and eat from it wherever you like, freely. Enter the gate prostrating and say, ' Relieve us of our burdens!' Your mistakes will be forgiven. We will grant increase to all good-doers." But those who did wrong substituted words other than those they had been given. So We sent down a plague from heaven on those who did wrong because they were deviators. (Surat al-Baqara, 57-59)
Another example of them given in the Qur' an is their saying that they could not tolerate a single kind of food when they were told to eat and drink Allah' s provision. Their not being contented with what Allah had miraculously provided for them, and asking for other types of food, is a clear evidence that they were far from comprehending the religion that is pleasing Allah. The extent of their lack of gratitude, and how they were repaid in this world for their wrongdoing, are all related in the Qur' an as follows:
And when you said, "Musa, we will not put up with just one kind of food so ask your Lord to supply to us some of what the earth produces-its green vegetables, cucumbers, grains, lentils and onions," he (Musa) said, "Do you want to replace what is better with what is inferior? Go back to Egypt, then you will have what you are asking for." Abasement and destitution were stamped upon them. They brought down anger from Allah upon themselves. That was because they rejected Allah' s Signs and killed the Prophets without any right to do so. That was because they rebelled and went beyond the limits. (Surat al-Baqara, 61)
Another irreverent form of behaviour of the Children of Israel was the manner of responding to the messenger when he told them of Allah' s commands. The answers they offered revealed their pride and impudence:
And when Musa said to his people, "Allah commands you to sacrifice a cow," they said, "What! Are you making a mockery of us?" He said, "I seek refuge with Allah from being one of the ignorant!" (Surat al-Baqara, 67)
"My people! Enter the Holy Land which Allah has ordained for you. Do not turn back in your tracks and so become transformed into losers." (Surat Al-Ma' ida, 21)
They said, "We will never enter it, Musa, as long as they are there. So you and your Lord go and fight. We will stay sitting here." (Surat al-Ma' ida, 24)
Such bold pronouncements, uttered against Allah' s command, are a lesson for the believers. Surely, repayment for the behaviour of the people of Musa (as) will be severe in the hereafter. In the Qur' an, Allah informs us about the punishment they will receive, in return for their perverse behaviour that led them into such serious blasphemy:
What an evil thing they have sold themselves for in rejecting what Allah has sent down, outraged that Allah should send down His favour on whichever of His servants He wills. They have brought down anger upon anger on themselves. The disbelievers will have a humiliating punishment. (Surat al-Baqara, 90)
As the verses make clear, the sole reason underlying their rebelliousness was their arrogance. Out of jealousy, they begrudged the prophets, and were reluctant to acknowledge their authority. In brief, the reason of their obstinacy, resistance and irreverence was their arrogance. Thus, they will be remembered in history as that nation which persistently defied and molested their prophets. Surely, this behaviour of theirs did not remain unanswered; because they deviated from the straight path, they earned eternal punishment:
Remember when Musa said to his people, "My people, why do you mistreat me when you know that I am the Messenger of Allah to you?" So when they deviated, Allah made their hearts deviate. Allah does not guide people who are deviators. (Surat as-Saff, 5)
The Children of Israel did not become arrogant only against the Prophet Musa, but to all messengers Allah had sent to them. As a matter of fact, there were times when their arrogance led them even to kill their messengers:
... Why then, whenever a Messenger came to you with something your lower selves did not desire, did you grow arrogant, and deny some of them and murder others? (Surat al-Baqara, 87)
Maintaining their excessively proud and unruly manner, the Children of Israel opposed also Talut (Saul), a king appointed to them as a leader, just prior to the time of the Prophet Dawud:
Their Prophet said to them, "Allah has appointed Talut to be your king." They said, "How can he have kingship over us when we have much more right to kingship than he does? He has not even got much wealth!" He said, "Allah has chosen him over you and favoured him greatly in knowledge and physical strength. Allah gives kingship to anyone He wills. Allah is All-Encompassing, All-Knowing." (Surat al-Baqara, 247)
Only one of the miracles witnessed by the Children of Israel would otherwise be sufficient for a person of faith to be guided to the fear of Allah. However, although Allah forgave the Children of Israel and showed them mercy time and time again, they behaved rudely and fomented great corruption on earth. This clearly shows that Allah disarmed the understanding of this nation, blinded their eyes, and deafened their ears, on account of their wrongdoing. The recompense of the Children of Israel, who will be remembered as a disobedient nation, is again stated in the Qur' an. This nation is a lesson to all arrogant people, who became corrupt because of the blessings imparted to them, and who seek to cause corruption on earth.
The People of the Prophet Muhammad (saas)
The Prophet Muhammad (saas) also related to his people that he was Allah' s messenger, and that they must obey him:
Say: "Mankind! I am the Messenger of Allah to you all, of Him to Whom the kingdom of the heavens and earth belongs. There is no god but Him. He gives life and causes to die." So believe in Allah and His Messenger, the Ummi, who believes in Allah and His words, and follow him so that hopefully you will be guided. (Surat al-A' raf, 158)
The Prophet Muhammad (saas) summoned his people to the path of Allah. However, their response was as follows:
Furthermore they say, "A muddled jumble of dreams!' and, "He has invented it!" and, "He is a poet!" and, "Let him bring us a Sign like those sent to previous peoples." (Surat al-Anbiya' , 5)
His people did not offer this reply because they were unable to grasp the message brought by the Prophet. It was, in actuality, a sign of their insolence. Just like the nations before them, they denied the prophet because of their pride and arrogance. Allah relates the comportment of the disbelievers in the Qur' an as follows:
When they were told, "There is no god but Allah," they were arrogant. They said, "Are we to forsake our gods for a mad poet?" (Surat as-Saffat, 35-36)
Just like the nations of the past, the idolaters of Mecca also did not accept Muhammad (saas) as a prophet, out of their conceit and desire for fallacious superiority. They maintained that the Prophet was a poet, although they did not themselves believe it. Furthermore, they alleged that he himself fabricated all the things he told, and thus, accused him of lies.
The similarity of these slanders to the words of the former nations, demonstrates that this is part of Allah' s immutable law. Yet, there is another immutable law of Allah: according to which, both in this world and beyond, Allah humiliates and inflicts punishment upon those who deny His messengers, and become arrogant towards them...
The similarity of the words used by all nations to confront their messengers is quite striking. A time difference of hundreds of years, even cultural and geographical dissimilarities, does not matter. Disbelievers, of all ages, who failed to see or ignored the truth because of their arrogance, shared a common character trait. They all followed the same pattern and adopted the very same tactics. Surely, their ends corresponded to their behaviour, and ultimately, they were repaid with humiliating punishment.
The Qur' an informs us about that many nations have existed, who were also afflicted with anguish before the ultimate torment of Hell. The People of the Thicket, Madyan, al-Hijr, Lut, and the Companions of the Well are only a few of these. And, many other nations, having existed in different times and places, perished for the very same reason:
How many wrongdoing cities We destroyed, and now all their roofs and walls are fallen in; how many abandoned wells and stuccoed palaces! (Surat al-Hajj, 45)