The People of Sabt
By Muhammad Abdul Hai
It seems the fishes were also determined in their course of action. Every Saturday they would come in thousands over surface of the sea. Anyone could capture them without the help of a net. On other days of the week they would not be seen anywhere. One would feel as if this portion of sea had no fishes. Of course, a strange phenomenon.
But something strange happens only when it has no meaning and purpose. This action of fishes used to take place with the will of Allah. He willed them likewise. In fact, there lived a nation near sea, which had requested for a day exclusively meant for worship. This particular day was Saturday called Sabbath for them. Allah had selected this day for them and asked them to remain busy in His worship the whole day, and would not do any otherworldly work. As the fishing happened to be their profession, they were also prohibited from doing so on this particular day.
As long as they remain steadfast and righteous, they kept themselves busy in His worship and prayers the whole day on Saturday. They would not go for any other work, even hunting and fishing which was their profession. Gradually degradation crept into their life. They began to transgress and disobey his orders. They would not differentiate between halal and haram; became slaves of their personal wishes. Greed, selfishness, and love for wealth made them arrogant and transgressors. Ultimately, they even would not hold the sanctity and respect of Sabbath. Above all, observing prayers on this particular day became a burden for them. And even if they performed prayers against their will, they would do so out of fear of their elders or merely as a ritual and tradition of their forefathers.
Allah is above everything in the Universe. He does not require any gains out of such acts. He does not derive any gain from His obedience or disobedience. No prayers worship, Ibadath and namaz can lessen His stature or add anything to His Greatness. Instead, prayers and ibadath which we perform and the Divine orders which we obey benefits ourselves. In so doing we make our life worth-living according to the tenets and orders of Allah. And we make our place in the company and society of good people. Moreover, the way we adopt in our life is made easy by observing the Divine guidance-and this is what Allah Wills.
If we do something good and righteous, it would be easy for us to tread a right path leading to totally virtuous life. Similarly, if we do anything bad and adopt bad habits, we will be attracted to further evils and deeds. Gradually, a man doing evil deeds get himself in entangled in many more evils. Those who decide to give up further evil deeds after doing one, thinking that they would become righteous afterwards, adopt another evil rather easily, and will rest content on wishing to adopt Right Path. Thus evils creep very easily in their life. In the end they become so much entangled with evils that they go far away from Right Path.
Same was the case with the people of Sabbath. After gradually giving up the righteous life, they adopted all evils and made life hell for themselves. On every step they transgressed the Divine orders, and entangled themselves in vices. Therefore, with the Will of Allah, fishes in thousands used to come up on surface of the sea on every Saturday. And it was sin for them to do fishing on this day. But those who had become transgressors and arrogant, decided to fishing on this particularly day. Thus they added another and last evil to an already long list, and made themselves target of Allah’s wrath.
Such was the intensity of the transgression that it looked as if the whole community had turned into disbelievers. Righteous people were not to be seen. Evil was rampant everywhere. No life was free from the disobedience of Allah and oppression. Despite all this there were some people who were still on Right Path. Their life was free from evils that had gripped others.
There were two types of good people among them. There were some who had become quite hopeless about the reform and welfare of their fellow citizens. They were of the opinion that any kind of reformative step would not help in any way in changing their life, as they would not heed to any wise counsel. Since they were on Right Path and remained steadfast in their righteousness, they observed the sanctity of Sabbath, and remained busy in prayers the whole day on Sabbath, therefore kept themselves aloof from the rest of the wrong-doers. Another section of the good people not only remained steadfast and adhered to the Right Path, but also would not tolerate the suffering of their brethren. They were pained to see the plight of wrong-doors; and were afraid of the ultimate result of their evil deeds. They were not content with their own well-being and righteousness nor they would pray for their own salvation. But they would exhort the wrong-doers to come to the Right Path. They would remind them of the wrong deeds they had been committing, check them from their misdeeds and warn them of the wrath of Allah.
But the evil deeds were so much dear to the people that they would not listen to any wise counsel or anything that was against their will and wishes and personal desires. Rather they would turn against their brethren who used to show them the Right Path.
Sometime the first group in irritation would say to the other group of good people to stop preaching among the wrong-doors and transgressors as they were not going to relent. Since the wrong-doers were not accepting their counsels there was no use of wasting time and energy on such an adamant people. They would say: “Why do ye preach to a people whom Allah will destroy or visit with a terrible punishment.
How simple and understandable was the advice! Everybody knows that a patient, who refuses to respond to the medical treatment, there is no point in giving him one medicine after another. And a patient who is already dying, and instead of taking medicine abuses the doctor, there is no use trying to save him. But that was not the case with the wrong-doers and preachers then.
The preachers replied that “we have our duty to do. What will we do when Allah will ask us on the Day of Judgment as to what we did on seeing some evils spread on earth?” So they were preaching them good tidings. And “to discharge our duty to your Lord, and perchance they may fear Him”, was their confident reply.
How true was their reply. No one is powerful enough to banish evils from the society; it is in the hands of none. And nobody is responsible for stopping such things. Even the prophets, messengers and apostles had no responsibility and power to stop the evils from spreading. However, everyone is accountable to God to an extent that to the best of his knowledge, intention and power he tried to banish evils. Or whether he could not stop them altogether. The last Prophet of Allah- Hazrat Muhammad (peace be upon him) – has said that if one sees any evil anywhere in the world he should stop it by his hand. If he is unable to do so he should do it by tongue. And even if he cannot raise his voice in stopping evil he should take in his heart that the evils is evil- and that is weakest stage if iman (faith),
However, it is only Allah who knows the inner self of a man. And it is He Who know about the future. None else in the Universe has such power and wisdom. Therefore, nobody know that those who are opposing the right (haq) or are its arch enemies today, would turn towards it and come into its fold tomorrow. One who is guided by Allah to the Right Path should thank Him for this by his actions and good deeds. Not only that. He should practice the Divine guidance for himself and then preach it to others to follow the Right Path so that they may be saved from the trials and tribulations they may suffer. Highest purpose of one’s life is to obey the Divine guidance and make others do the same.
Now come to the situation in the city of wrong-doers. They were adamant in their stand. They were not going to listen to any preaching. They refused to accept any good and wise counsel. Above all they forgot all the previous good tidings which were given to them, and continued to live a life full of misdeeds. Ultimately the time came when the wrath of Allah was to fall on them. They were punished. But these who did good deeds and called others to the Right Path throughout their life were saved. And those who did good deeds but remained sectarian and aloof from the rest of the people were also not spared. Allah says of their condition: “… they transgressed in the matter of the Sabbath. For on the day of their Sabbath their fishes did come to them, openly holding up their heads, but on the day they had no Sabbath, they did not come; them did We make a trial of them, for they were given to transgression.
“When they disregarded the warnings that have been given them, we rescued those who forbade evil; but we visited the wrong-doers with a grievous punishment, because they were given to transgression.”
It is a permanent law of God that He gives long rope to the wrong-doers and disbelievers. They are left free to the extent they repent over their misdeeds and return to the Right Path. Even if there is a slight chance of their coming back to the fold they are not touched. But when they become adamant and arrogant in their acts of transgression, smaller punishment and penalties are given to them in the beginning so that they may awake from the slumber of darkness. Some time such punishments are to forewarn them of the bigger penalties and wraths. But when people start thinking that such things are a passing phase of natural calamities of just incidents or ups and downs according to a changing weather or something like that, then Allah visits with grievous punishments only to be seen by others for drawing a lesson from it.
Same thing happened with the people of Sabbath. No wise counsel could open their ears and eyes; no preaching could budge them from their misdeeds; no voice could awaken them from deep slumber. And even the small penalties and warning could not make them relent. Ultimately Allah decided their fate. Their faces were disfigured, destroyed and they were turned into apes and monkeys. And within three days they died in humiliation. Allah says: “When in their insolence they transgressed (all) prohibitions, we said to them: ‘Be ye apes, despised and rejected’.”
You may wonder as to how a man can be turned into apes and monkeys. No doubts, it is a strange phenomenon but not impossible or impracticable for Allah Who is All-Powerful Creator, Master and Sustainer of this universe. It is but a very small thing for Him. Everything happens when He Wills.
It may be for your information that long ago there was a very wise man, a doctor, His name was Zakaria Razi. He had done research on leprosy. He says that in the extreme cases of leprosy blood in a man’s body becomes poisonous and parts of his body begin to shrink. This leads to the disfiguring of the entire body. Ultimately, the man looks like an ape or a monkey. And this is the last stage of the disease which leads to death. Truly there are hundreds of forms of punishment and penalties from Allah. There are many diseases which were not to be found in the ancient times. And who knows how many diseases were in those times which are not known now. However, forms and shapes of His punishment change from time to time. But His law of punishment never changes. One has to get punishment for wrong-doing, disbelieving and transgression notwithstanding the form the punishment.
Now you read the fate of the people of the Sabbath. Allah has mentioned this in the Qur’an not only for reading it, but to draw a lesson from it. Let us think over the lesson we can draw from it:
(1) The more you do wrong deeds the more you will draw closer to them and get yourself entangled in the net of evils. The evils deeds will lead astray.
(2) If Allah has bestowed His favour and showered His blessing on you and guided you to Right Path, it is not enough to stick to it all alone and keep aloof. It becomes your duty to preach it to others besides practicing it yourself. Those who do not do so will have to be accountable before Allah for this lapse.
(3) Do not call people to the Right Path in the hope that they would listen to you only. Make it a point that your wise counsel is accepted. In case they pay no heed to your call, do not get disheartened. It is your duty which you are doing only for Allah. From the beginning till the end you will have to continue your efforts.
(4) There is only one way to save you from the punishment of Allah in this world and in the Hereafter. And that is to remain steadfast in your Iman (faith), total submission to God, and calling others for His obedience only.
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