الآية رقم (243) - أَلَمْ تَرَ إِلَى الَّذِينَ خَرَجُواْ مِن دِيَارِهِمْ وَهُمْ أُلُوفٌ حَذَرَ الْمَوْتِ فَقَالَ لَهُمُ اللّهُ مُوتُواْ ثُمَّ أَحْيَاهُمْ إِنَّ اللّهَ لَذُو فَضْلٍ عَلَى النَّاسِ وَلَـكِنَّ أَكْثَرَ النَّاسِ لاَ يَشْكُرُونَ

(243) - (Have you not considered those who left their homes in many thousands, fearing death? Allah said to them, "Die"; then He restored them to life. And Allah is full of bounty to the people, but most of the people do not show gratitude.)

After we have a partition either by mutual consent (divorce) or by an act of God (death), the Holy Qur’an touches upon the most important and sensitive issue with respect to humans, i.e. death. The purpose here is to state the natural faith within whoever clings to the religion.

( أَلَمْ تَرَ..) (Have you not considered…): Prophet Muhammad (saws) is the one addressed here. On the other hand, Allah (swt) is the one who runs the Decree and cannot leave it without rules. Besides, so He (swt) stated the nature of such Decree; and the very first thing here is death. The Prophet (saws) has never seen for sure; yet, Allah (swt) does not say ‘haven’t you seen’ as hearing is the means for information on a historical piece of information. The case here is of people from the Children of Israel, that the Prophet (saws) had not seen it; neither had he seen the companions of the elephant when he was still in his mother Aminah’s womb, yet Allah (swt) says:

 {أَلَمْ تَرَ كَيْفَ فَعَلَ رَبُّكَ بِأَصْحَابِ الْفِيلِ }

(Have you not considered, [O Muhammad], how your Lord dealt with the companions of the elephant?)  (Al-feel: 1)

The Prophet (saws) had not seen but rather had heard of what happened. You use your senses to know what is happening, don’t you? You may hear or see; Nonetheless, seeing is more credible than hearing. It is the most credible sense. Yet, Allah (swt) is the most credible when He talks. Prophet Muhammad (saws) said:

“hearing of something is not like seeing it[1].”

Thus, the thing you see is more credible; and what you see is not like what you hear of. The sense of seeing is more believable. But Allah, the creator of all senses, is more credible than the senses; and when He (swt) tells you something you believe Him more than when you see with your eyes. You hear but it is as credible as when you see because Allah (swt) is the teller. He, the creator of the senses, is more credible than the senses.

There is a group of people here, a large number, and an incident that took place. It is very wrong to dismiss the moral of the incident and check the time when it happened? In the time of whom, Moses David, Yusha, Zacharia, or whom? This is needless as long as the Almighty does not mention it, and you do not need to know such details as the purpose is to get a message related to the faith. It is a general theme. That is why Allah (swt) does not state the place and time of the incident nor the people involved in it. A general theme may happen everywhere at any time. This is a feature of the Quranic stories when you read them. So, here we have a story of undisclosed elements like the story of the companions of the cave:

 سَيَقُولُونَ ثَلَاثَةٌ رَّابِعُهُمْ كَلْبُهُمْ وَيَقُولُونَ خَمْسَةٌ سَادِسُهُمْ كَلْبُهُمْ رَجْمًا بِالْغَيْبِ ۖ وَيَقُولُونَ سَبْعَةٌ وَثَامِنُهُمْ كَلْبُهُمْ ۚ قُل رَّبِّي أَعْلَمُ بِعِدَّتِهِم مَّا يَعْلَمُهُمْ إِلَّا قَلِيلٌ ۗ فَلَا تُمَارِ فِيهِمْ إِلَّا مِرَاءً ظَاهِرًا وَلَا تَسْتَفْتِ فِيهِم مِّنْهُمْ أَحَدًا

(They will say there were three, the fourth of them being their dog; and they will say there were five, the sixth of them being their dog – guessing at the unseen; and they will say there were seven, and the eighth of them was their dog. Say, [O Muhammad], “My Lord is most knowing of their number. None knows them except a few. So do not argue about them except with an obvious argument and do not inquire about them among [the speculators] from anyone.)  (Al-Kahf: 22)

Allah (swt) does not mention who those youngsters were as the end is to generalize such an ambiguous story, we do not know to which cave they went. We do not know who they were nor how old they were. We only know that they were youngsters. Allah (swt) wants to generalize the story for every time; thus, He (swt) neither names people nor states the place and time of the story.

( أَلَمْ تَرَ إِلَى الَّذِينَ خَرَجُوا مِن دِيَارِهِمْ وَهُمْ أُلُوفٌ حَذَرَ الْمَوْتِ ..) (Have you not considered those who left their homes in many thousands, fearing death?…): Haven’t you considered those people of the Children of Israel who left their homes in many thousands? Why had they done that? It could be due to a plague, fighting, an earthquake, or anything else. Allah (swt) does not mention why since the most important thing is the end: they left their homes in fear of death; this is the reason behind that. The story tackles the very sensitive issue of humans’ worrisome lives. You are born and to die. It is a divine decree:

 {كلُّ مَنْ عَلَيْهَا فَانٍ * وَيَبْقَىٰ وَجْهُ رَبِّكَ ذُو الْجَلَالِ وَالْإِكْرَامِ}

(Everyone upon the earth will perish,% And there will remain the Face of your Lord, Owner of Majesty and Honor.)  (Al-Rahman: 26-27)

There is a divine destiny:

 {كلُّ نَفْسٍ ذَائِقَةُ الْمَوْتِ ۗ وَإِنَّمَا تُوَفَّوْنَ أُجُورَكُمْ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ }

(Every soul will taste death, and you will only be given your [full] compensation on the Day of Resurrection..)  (Al-Rahman: 26-27)

Therefore, we cannot be careful of death; we should be prepared for it. This is the mistake they made; and Allah (swt) wants to teach humans that:

{ قُلْ إِنَّ الْمَوْتَ الَّذِي تَفِرُّونَ مِنْهُ فَإِنَّهُ مُلَاقِيكُمْ ۖ ثُمَّ تُرَدُّونَ إِلَىٰ عَالِمِ الْغَيْبِ وَالشَّهَادَةِ فَيُنَبِّئُكُم بِمَا كُنتُمْ تَعْمَلُونَ }

(Say, “Indeed, the death from which you flee – indeed, it will meet you. Then you will be returned to the Knower of the unseen and the witnessed, and He will inform you about what you used to do.)  (Al-Jumu’a: 8)

Death will come to you wherever you flee: north, south, east, or west. It is a way with one end, death which no one can repel nor know its place and timing.

 {وَلِكُلِّ أُمَّةٍ أَجَلٌ ۖ فَإِذَا جَاءَ أَجَلُهُمْ لَا يَسْتَأْخِرُونَ سَاعَةً ۖ وَلَا يَسْتَقْدِمُونَ }

(And for every nation is a [specified] term. So when their time has come, they will not remain behind an hour, nor will they precede [it].)  (Al- A’raaf: 34)

Death is a divine destiny on which mankind has no choice. You can never have a choice with respect to death. Can any person make his own choice when he commits suicide? Committing suicide is a matter of killing rather than death, and we have stated earlier the difference between death and killing as in:

{ وَمَا مُحَمَّدٌ إِلَّا رَسُولٌ قَدْ خَلَتْ مِن قَبْلِهِ الرُّسُلُ ۚ أَفَإِن مَّاتَ أَوْ قُتِلَ انقَلَبْتُمْ عَلَىٰ أَعْقَابِكُمْ }

(Muhammad is not but a messenger. [Other] messengers have passed on before him. So if he was to die or be killed, would you turn back on your heels [to unbelief]?)  (Al-Imran: 144)

Death is different from killing, then. What is the difference between them? In death, the soul leaves the body causing it to decay. On the other hand, killing happens by destroying the body and making the soul leave it. Yet, death by killing is a matter of destiny and not an act of the sword:

If the sword causes no death, other reason do;

They are many but death remains so.

There is a difference between death and committing suicide. The one who commits suicide -and you all know the rule with respect to committing suicide- has transgressed on what Allah (swt) has created, be it to himself or to others by killing them. It is also a matter of death when someone gets a gun, kills someone else and says ‘I caused him to die.’ This is killing, a transgression on what Allah (swt) has created. Allah is the only One Who causes life and death. If killed, a person dies at the due time but by means of killing. The killer can never claim that he has caused the person he kills to die, and can never do that in reality as the lifetime of the killed person is over. Death due to an illness is another example of the same. You may say that an illness has caused someone to die. Lifetime is over but the illness is the reason of death. Killing, which is forbidden, is a reason of death by destroying the structure that contains the soul:

 {فَإِذَا سَوَّيْتُهُ وَنَفَخْتُ فِيهِ مِن رُّوحِي فَقَعُوا لَهُ سَاجِدِينَ }

(And when I have proportioned him and breathed into him of My [created] soul, then fall down to him in prostration.)  (Al-Hijr: 29)

Thus, the residence of the soul into the body is a dignity for humans, and this dignity is damaged when someone kills another one. We keep saying that Islam is the religion for life not killing. Allah (swt) says:

{ مَن قَتَلَ نَفْسًا بِغَيْرِ نَفْسٍ أَوْ فَسَادٍ فِي الْأَرْضِ فَكَأَنَّمَا قَتَلَ النَّاسَ جَمِيعًا وَمَنْ أَحْيَاهَا فَكَأَنَّمَا أَحْيَا النَّاسَ جَمِيعًا ۚ }

(whoever kills a soul unless for a soul or for corruption [done] in the land – it is as if he had slain mankind entirely. And whoever saves one – it is as if he had saved mankind entirely.)  (Al- Maaida: 32)

( فَقَالَ لَهُمُ اللَّهُ مُوتُوا ثُمَّ أَحْيَاهُمْ ..  ) (..Allah said to them, “Die”; then He restored them to life..): Allah (swt) said to them: ‘die’ when they left their homes in thousands in fear of death. What does it mean? Is it in their hands to live or die? Never. Allah (swt) caused them to die. They died by the word {be}. And Allah (swt) said to them, ‘die’ and then brought them back to life. He also ordered with the same word {be}. Th question here is: why did Allah (swt) brought them back to life and didn’t keep them till the resurrection day?

Prophets before Islam used to have miracles to teach their people lessons so that they believe. However, the Holy Qur’an has been the miracle ever since the final message (Islam) was revealed. You learn lessons from what happened in the past, and such stories of the past history provide lessons for people at all times. Allah (swt) here wants to show the people who had fear of death that such fear never changes anything so he caused them to die and brought them back to life. Then? Allah (swt) did so to make it clear for humans that the issue of life and death is solely in His hands:

 يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا لَا تَكُونُوا كَالَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا وَقَالُوا لِإِخْوَانِهِمْ إِذَا ضَرَبُوا فِي الْأَرْضِ أَوْ كَانُوا غُزًّى لَّوْ كَانُوا عِندَنَا مَا مَاتُوا وَمَا قُتِلُوا لِيَجْعَلَ اللَّهُ ذَٰلِكَ حَسْرَةً فِي قُلُوبِهِمْ ۗ وَاللَّهُ يُحْيِي وَيُمِيتُ ۗ وَاللَّهُ بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ بَصِيرٌ

(O you who have believed, do not be like those who disbelieved and said about their brothers when they traveled through the land or went out to fight, “If they had been with us, they would not have died or have been killed,” so Allah makes that [misconception] a regret within their hearts. And it is Allah who gives life and causes death, and Allah is Seeing of what you do.)  (Ali-Imran: 156)

A believer fears everything but death because they believe that death is in Allah’s hands and, thus, never fear meeting their Creator but like it. so, Allah (swt) wants to deliver such a message that is related to destiny: ‘I have death in my hands, I cause death and life, and nobody else can.’ You remember the story of the cow when Allah (swt) told them:

 {فَقُلْنَا اضْرِبُوهُ بِبَعْضِهَا ۚ كَذَٰلِكَ يُحْيِي اللَّهُ الْمَوْتَىٰ وَيُرِيكُمْ آيَاتِهِ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَعْقِلُونَ }

(So, We said, “Strike the slain man with part of it.” Thus does Allah bring the dead to life, and He shows you His signs that you might reason.)  (Al-Baqara: 73)

Thus, people in thousands witnessed the signs. They were dead and brought back to life by Allah (swt) so to show this fact about destiny to the people after them.

( إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَذُو فَضْلٍ عَلَى النَّاسِ ..  ) (..And Allah is full of bounty to the people..): The question here is: does Allah (swt) treat us with justice or bounty? With bounty; and bounty is always above justice. You can’t show gratitude for any of the blessings Allah bestows to you whatever you do in order to enter paradise by justice. Justice means deeds, but bounty means mercy.

( وَلَٰكِنَّ أَكْثَرَ النَّاسِ لَا يَشْكُرُونَ  ) (….but most of the people do not show gratitude): How do you show gratitude to Allah (swt)? By remembering Him and abiding by His orders

[1] Sahih Ibn Habban, History Vol, Chapter: the Beginning of the Creation Hadith no. 6213.