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Twenty Fitrah Questions

Blog Post 40

February 24, 2021

Rajab 13, 1442

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Take a quiz. Answer these questions truthfully.

1. Would any of you like to eat the flesh of his dead brother? (1)

2. Have you seen what you emit? Is it you who create it or are We the Creator? (2)

3. Have you seen what you sow? Is it you that cause it to grow or are We the Grower? (3)

4. Have you seen the water that you drink? Is it you who send it down from the rain clouds or are We the Causer of it to come down? (4)

5. Do human beings think that We will not assemble their bones? (5)

6. Do you indeed really disbelieve in The One Who created the Earth in two days and set up equals with Him? (6)

7. Are they only waiting for the Hour to come upon them suddenly while they are unaware? (7)

 

 8. Why do you say what you do not do? (8)

9. Do they not look at the sky above them, how We constructed it and decorated it and there are not any rifts in it? (9)

10. Do you not see how Allah created seven heavens in layers and placed the moon therein as a light and placed the sun as a lamp? (10)

11. Is it when we are dead and have become dust and bones, shall we then be certainly resurrected and also our forefathers? (11)

12. When will this promise [of Allah’s Judgement] be fulfilled if you are truthful? (12)

13. Or do you inform Him of something He does not know about in the Earth or is it just a show of words? (13)

14. Have you taken a promise from Allah? For never will Allah break His promise. Or do you say about Allah what you do not know? (14)

15. Do those who disbelieve not see that the heavens and the Earth were joined together, then We split them and We made from water every living thing? (15)

16. Do you command righteousness on the people and you forget yourselves while you recite the Book? Do you not use reason? (16)

17. Where is the escape? (17)

18. Does he not know that Allah sees? (18)

19. Is he who is cast into the Fire better or he who arrives safely on the Day of Resurrection? (19)

20. Or are the darkness and the light equal? (20)

-----

How do you think you did? Were you able to answer the questions truthfully? Were any of the questions difficult to answer? If they were, why do you think that is?

Did you figure out where these questions came from? Who is asking these questions?

Allah Subhanahu wa ta’ala in the Holy Qur’an uses many different devices in His Speech to help us understand what we need to know. One of the techniques He uses is questions and more specifically rhetorical questions, such as those in the quiz. Out of the 6,660 ayats in the Holy Qur’an, 1,260 ayats include questions. (Akmescidli, 2007)

Rhetorical questions are questions whose answers are already known. As you realized in the quiz, inshallah, the questions did not require an answer. What this means is that Allah Subhanahu wa ta’ala is making a statement through asking a question. (Akmescidli) Of course, He is not asking for information. Allah Al-Alim already knows the information!

A rhetorical question easily explains and proves the topic. It makes the topic more understood. It attracts attention to a single point. It expresses ideas and feelings. (Akmescidli)

A rhetorical question compels you to be quiet and to think about it. It settles the topic in your mind. (Akmescidli) It causes you to come to terms with the reality of what Allah Subhanahu wa ta’ala is asking, how you are behaving, what is your belief, and may force you to make a change.

In some cases, Allah Subhanahu wa ta’ala forbids behaviours and then asks a rhetorical question to astound us with the wrongfulness of the behaviours, such as: “And do not spy and do not backbite others. Would any of you like to eat the flesh of his dead brother?” (49:12)

In some cases, Allah  Subhanahu wa tala states a fact about us and then aks a rhetorical question to express His “surprise” that we don’t believe in the next logical step of our re-creation in the Hereafter, such as: “And certainly, you have known the first creation, so why do you not take heed?” (56:62)

Imam ‘Ali, peace be upon him, whose birthday is tonight, during his salat one night was reciting Surah al-Waqi‘a. When he came to the ayat, “Have you seen what you emit? Is it you who create it or are We the Creator?”, he said three times, “Yes, You are the Creator of people, O Lord!” When he came to the ayat, “Is it you that cause it to grow or are We the Grower?”, he said three times, “Yes, You are The Cultivator, O Lord!” When he came to the ayat, “Is it you who send it down from the rain clouds or are We the Causer of it to come down?”, he said three times, “Yes, You are the One Who sends down rain from the clouds, O Lord!” (Ayatullah Imani, Vol. 17)

This hadith shows that we should give positive replies to the rhetorical questions like these in the Glorious Qur’an, since Allah Subhanahu wa ta’ala is speaking to us. This helps to rejuvenate its truth in our soul and helps us recite the ayats while paying attention to their significance. (Ayatullah Imani, Vol. 17)

Sometimes Allah Subhanahu wa ta’ala asks a rhetorical question and then answers it, such as, “Do human beings think that We will not assemble their bones? Yes, indeed! We are able to restore their very fingertips.” (75:3-4) and “On that Day [of Resurrection] the human being will say: ‘Where is the escape?’By no means! There is no refuge!To your Lord that Day is the place of settlement.” (75:10-12) and “Or were they created out of nothing? Or are they the creators? Or did they create the heavens and the Earth? No! They have no certainty.”(52:35-36)

Besides asking a rhetorical question and answering it, Allah Subhanahu wa ta’ala often gives more information about it elsewhere in the Holy Qur’an, such as, “Is not He Who created the heavens and the Earth able to create the like of them? Yes! and He is The Supreme Creator, The All-Knower.” (36:81) and elsewhere, “Certainly the creation of the heavens and the Earth is greater than the creation of the people, but most of the people do not know.” (40:57)

Sometimes Allah Subhanahu wa ta’ala asks a rhetorical question about our behaviour and then asks another question about more behaviours that we do and ends with advice and a warning of what we should be doing instead, such as, “ Do you then wonder at this narration? And you laugh and do not weep, while you indulge in amusements? So prostrate to Allah and worship.” (53:59-62)

Sometimes Allah Subhanahu wa ta’ala asks a rhetorical question about our behaviour and then tells us how He “feels” about it as a warning, such as“O you who believe! Why do you say what you do not do? It is greatly hateful to Allah that you say what you do not do.” (61:2-3)

Sometimes Allah Subhanahu wa ta’ala states facts and then asks a rhetorical question, such as, “The One Who created seven heavens in layers. You do not see any discrepancy in the creation of The Most Compassionate. So look again. Can you see any flaw? Then look and look again. Your sight will return to you humbled and fatigued.(67:3-4) and “We have decreed death among you and We are not to be overcome; in order that We will change your likenesses and re-create you into what you do not know. And certainly, you have known the first creation, so why do you not take heed?” (56:60-62)

Sometimes Allah Subhanahu wa ta’ala states a fact and then asks several rhetorical questions in a row, such as, “We created you, so why do you not admit the truth? Have you seen what you emit? Is it you who create it or are We the Creator?”(56:57-59)

Sometimes Allah Subhanahu wa ta’ala tells us a story and it includes a rhetorical question, such as when Prophet Ibrahim, peace be upon him, said to the idols, “Then he turned to their gods and said, ‘Do you not eat?’” (37:91)

Sometimes Allah Subhanahu wa ta’ala tells us what people say and then instructs Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him and his family, and us to ask them a rhetorical question and then Allah answers it, such as, “And they say, ‘Never will the fire touch us except for a few days.’ Say, ‘Have you taken a promise from Allah? For never will Allah break His promise. Or do you say about Allah what you do not know?’ No! Whoever earns evil and their sins surround them, those are the companions of the Fire; they will abide in it forever.” (2:80-81)

Essentially Allah Subhanahu wa ta’ala is using our common sense. It is in our fitrah, our nature, our conscience, and it allows us to know the truth.

…All themes of the Quran, no matter how varied,

are wrapped around one common thread running

through the entire book: that all types of worship

rendered to others besides or alongside God is false,

and that obedience to Him and His [P]rophets,

[Prophet] Muhammad [peace be upon him and

his family] being one of them, is a must.”

(IslamReligion.com, 2006)

 

When this blog post was in progress, I discussed it with my son and he asked me which ayats stood out to me the most. There are so many:

“Does the human being not see that We created him out of a drop of semen? Then, behold! He is a clear opponent. And he sets forth for Us an example and forgets his own creation. He says, ‘Who will give life to the bones that are decomposed?’ Say, ‘He will give them life Who produced them the first time. And He is of every creation All-Knower.’” (36:77-79)

“Were We then tired with the first creation? No! They are in confused doubt about a new creation.” (50:15)

“Do they then feel secure from the coming against them of an overwhelming punishment from Allah or of the Hour that will come to them suddenly while they are unaware?” (12:107)

“Can there be a doubt about Allah, the Creator of the heavens and the Earth?” (14:10)

“Then which of the favours of your Lord will you deny?” (55:13) This ayat is repeated 31 times in the surah, Surah al-Rahman (The Compassionate).

“Is the reward for goodness anything but goodness?” (55:60)

Imam Ali, peace be upon him, in Nahjul Balaghah says when asked if their going for jihad was destined by Allah Subhanahu wa ta’ala, a question about fate and destiny:

Woe to you. You take it as a final and unavoidable

Destiny (according to which we are bound to act).

If it were so, there would have been no question

of reward or chastisement and there would have

been no sense in Allah’s promises or warnings.

(On the other hand) Allah, the Glorified, has

ordered His people to act by free will and has

cautioned them and refrained them (from evil).

He has placed easy obligations on them

and has not put heavy obligations. He gives

them much (reward) in return for little (action).

He is disobeyed, not because He is overpowered.

He is obeyed but not under force. He did not

send down Prophets just for fun. He did not

send down the Book for the people without purpose.

“He did not create the skies, the earth and all that

is in between them in vain. That is the imagination

of those who disbelieve; then woe unto those who

disbelieve – because of the fire.” (38:27). (Al-Samawi)

 

Imam Sayyid Ali Khamenei, on June 3, 2014, said:

 

The Holy Quran is enlightenment, guidance, eloquence and clarity.

The Holy Quran speaks to us. It speaks to our hearts and our souls.

We should establish a close relationship with the Holy Quran.

It is one’s prepared heart that gains the first benefit from the

Holy Quran. If you see that your hearts are close to the

Holy Quran, you should thank God. If you see that you

easily accept and believe in Quranic teachings, then you

should know that Allah the Exalted has decided to guide you:

“Those whom Allah in His plan wills to guide, He opens

their breast to Islam. Those whom He wills to leave straying,

He makes their breast close and constricted, as if they had

to climb up to the skies. Thus does Allah heap the penalty

on those who refuse to believe” [The Holy Quran, 6: 125].

This is the characteristic of the Holy Quran. If your hearts get

close to the Holy Quran and if you establish a close relationship

with the Holy Quran, you should know that Allah the Exalted

has willed to guide you and this is the greatest divine blessing.

(Imam Khamenei, 2017)

And one of my favourites:

“Has not the time come for those who believe

that their hearts should be humble at the remembrance

of Allah and what has been revealed of the truth?

And not become like those who were given the Book

before and the time was prolonged for them,

so their hearts hardened and many of

them are defiantly disobedient.” (57:16)

 

Notes

(1)The complete ayat is: “O you who believe! Avoid most of suspicion. Indeed, some suspicions are sins. And do not spy and do not backbite others. Would any of you like to eat the flesh of his dead brother? No! You would hate it. And have Allah-consciousness. Indeed, Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” (49:12)

(2) 56:58-59

(3) 56:63-64

(4) 56:68-69

(5) 75:3

(6) The complete ayat is: “Say: ‘Do you indeed really disbelieve in The One Who created the Earth in two days and set up equals with Him? That is the Lord of the worlds!’” (41:9)

(7) 43:66

(8) The complete ayat is: “O you who believe! Why do you say what you do not do?” (61:2)

(9) 50:6

(10) 71:15-16

(11) 37:16-17

(12) The complete ayat is: “And they say, ‘When will this promise [of Allah’s Judgement] be fulfilled if you are truthful?’” (21:38)

(13) The complete ayat is: “Is He then Who stands watch over every soul’s deeds (like any who know nothing. And yet they ascribe partners to Allah. Say: ‘Name them! Or do you inform Him of something He does not know about in the Earth or is it just a show of words?’ Rather, the plotting of those who disbelieve is made to appear good to them and they are hindered from the Path. And whoever Allah lets go astray, there is not any guide for them.” (13:33)

(14) The complete ayat is: “And they say, ‘Never will the fire touch us except for a few days.’ Say, ‘Have you taken a promise from Allah? For never will Allah break His promise. Or do you say about Allah what you do not know?’” (2:80)

(15) The complete ayat is: “Do those who disbelieve not see that the heavens and the Earth were joined together, then We split them and We made from water every living thing? Then will they not believe?” (21:30)

(16) 2:44

17) The complete ayat is: “On that Day [of Resurrection] the human being will say: ‘Where is the escape?’” (75:10)

(18) 96:14

(19) The complete ayat is: “Indeed, those who distort Our Signs are not hidden from Us.So is he who is cast into the Fire better or he who arrives safely on the Day of Resurrection? Do what you will. Verily He is All-Seer of what you do.” (41:40)

(20) The complete ayat is: “Say, ‘Who is the Lord of the heavens and the Earth?’ Say, ‘Allah.’ Say, ‘Have you then taken from besides Him protectors that have no power to either benefit or harm themselves?’ Say, ‘Are the blind and the seeing equal? Or are the darkness and the light equal? Or do they attribute to Allah partners who have created like His creation, so that the creations seemed alike to them? ’ Say, ‘Allah is the Creator of all things and He is The One, The Supreme and Irresistible.’” (13:16)


References

Akmescidli, Dr. Mirza. (Oct. 10, 2007). The Method of Rhetorical Questioning in the Words of Allah. The Pen Magazine. Accessed from http://www.thepenmagazine.net/the-method-of-rhetorical-questioning-in-the-words-of-allah/

Al-Samawi, Muhammad al-Tijani. To Be With the Truthful. Al-Karsan Foundation for Publications. Al-Islam.org. Accessed from https://www.al-islam.org/be-with-truthful-muhammad-al-tijani-al-samawi/fate-and-destiny

Dastghaib Shirazi, Shaheed Ayatullah Sayyid Abdul Husayn. Heart of the Qur’an: A Commentary to Sura al Yasin. (trans. by Sayyid Ahtar Husayn S.H. Rizvi). Qum, Islamic Republic of Iran: Ansariyan Publications. Al-Islam.org/span>. Accessed from https://www.al-islam.org/the-heart-of-the-quran-commentary-of-sura-yasin-ayatullah-dastaghaib/ayat-no-78-81

Imani, Ayatullah Allamah Sayyid Kamal Faqih. (under his direction). An Enlightening Commentary into the Light of the Holy Qur’an. Vol 17. (Trans. by Sayyid Abbas Sadr-ameli). Imam Ali Foundation. Al-Islam.org. Accessed from https://www.al-islam.org/enlightening-commentary-light-holy-quran-vol-17/surah-al-waqia-verses-41-96

Imani, Ayatullah Allamah Sayyid Kamal Faqih. (under his direction). An Enlightening Commentary into the Light of the Holy Qur’an. Vol 18. (Trans. by Sayyid Abbas Sadr-ameli). Imam Ali Foundation. Al-Islam.org. Accessed from https://www.al-islam.org/enlightening-commentary-light-holy-quran-vol-18/surah-al-qiyama-chapter-75

Iqbal, Muhammad Omer. (2013). The Quran as a Literary Masterpiece within its Historical and Religious Milieus. pp. 53-54. (Master’s Thesis). University of Washington. Digital Library Washington.edu. Accessed from https://digital.lib.washington.edu/researchworks/bitstream/handle/1773/22766/Iqbal_

washington_0250O_11526.pdf?sequence=1

Khamenei, Imam Sayyid Ali. (July 11, 2017). Quran holds answers to questions a progressive society has: Ayatollah Khamenei. Khamenei.ir. Accessed from https://english.khamenei.ir/news/4999/Quran-holds-answers-to-questions-a-progressive-society-has-Ayatollah

Leghaei, Shaykh Mansour. A Guide to Practical Irfan. (1st Station: ‘Waking Up.’). Al-Islam.org. Accessed from https://www.al-islam.org/guide-practical-irfan-mansour-leghaei/1st-station-waking

Pooya, Ayatullah Mirza Mahdi. Essence of the Holy Qur’an: The Eternal Light. (Chapter 2). Imam Sahe-bu-Zaman Association. Al-Islam.org. Accessed from https://www.al-islam.org/essence-holy-quran-eternal-light-mirza-mahdi-pooya/chapter-2-existence-god

The Religion of Islam. The Style of the Qur’an. (2006). IslamReligion.com. Accessed from https://www.islamreligion.com/articles/335/style-of-quran/

Why Islam? The Qur’an Has Some Questions For You. (July 11, 2018). WhyIslam.org. Accessed from https://www.whyislam.org/quran/questions/

Yazicioglu, Umeyye. Learning to Ask Questions: The Cases of Abraham and Noah (p) in the Qur’an. University of Virginia. The Journal of Scriptural Reasoning. Accessed from http://jsr.shanti.virginia.edu/back-issues/vol-5-no-1-april-2005-islam-and-scriptural-reasoning/learning-to-ask-questions-the-cases-of-abraham-and-noah-p-in-the-quran/