Surah Al-Aaraf joins the series of long Surahs that were revealed in Mecca, when the believers lived endless persecution, discrimination, and struggle with the Quraish. It came with a clear message to the prophet PBUH and his followers, a message that we NEED to reflect on in our times: TAKE A STAND!
The idea is straightforward: the battle between good and evil has already started since the beginning of creation. This battle will not be over until the Day of Judgment. The main question that YOU should ask yourself is: are you going to stay on the side, fearing any consequences, or you’re going to stand up for your values and your Deen and your message!
The Beginning and the End
A quick intro is given in Ayahs [7:1-9]. From the second Ayah, Allah commands his prophet PBUH not to shy away from the message:
كِتَابٌ أُنزِلَ إِلَيْكَ فَلاَ يَكُن فِي صَدْرِكَ حَرَجٌ مِّنْهُ لِتُنذِرَ بِهِ وَذِكْرَى لِلْمُؤْمِنِينَ
This Book has been sent down to you [Prophet]––let there be no anxiety in your heart because of it ––so that you may use it to give warning and to remind the believers. [7:2]
Afterwards, Surah Al-Aaraf gives a scene from the beginning of time (story of Adam, [7:10-35]) and then the end of time [7:36-53]). The two points from start to finish help us draw the line, then later on the Surah zooms in into different segments of history (stories five prophets are given in [7:59-102], then a detailed discussion on the story of prophet Musa in [7:103-171]).
Nudity: The Weapon of Iblis
The story of Adam is repeated in different places in the Quran from different angles. In this Surah, the seduction of Iblis through shamelessness is highlighted! His main agenda from whispering to Adam was to expose Adam and Hawwa’s nakedness and cause them to lose their dress:
فَوَسْوَسَ لَهُمَا الشَّيْطَانُ لِيُبْدِيَ لَهُمَا مَا وُورِيَ عَنْهُمَا مِن سَوْآتِهِمَا
Satan whispered to them so as to expose their nakedness, which had been hidden from them [7:20]
When modesty becomes a rare commodity and the norm is to “show some skin”! When filthy music and shameless movies and terrible language prevail over the literature and the entertainment industry of a community, then one of the main objectives of Iblis are achieved, and the battle between good and evil becomes much easier for him. Allah gives us guidance after the story of Adam with the main take-away message:
يَا بَنِي آدَمَ قَدْ أَنزَلْنَا عَلَيْكُمْ لِبَاسًا يُوَارِي سَوْآتِكُمْ وَرِيشًا وَلِبَاسُ التَّقْوَىَ ذَلِكَ خَيْرٌ ذَلِكَ مِنْ آيَاتِ اللَّهِ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَذَّكَّرُونَ. يَا بَنِي آدَمَ لاَ يَفْتِنَنَّكُمُ الشَّيْطَانُ كَمَا أَخْرَجَ أَبَوَيْكُم مِّنَ الْجَنَّةِ يَنزِعُ عَنْهُمَا لِبَاسَهُمَا لِيُرِيَهُمَا سَوْآتِهِمَا
Children of Adam, We have given you garments to cover your nakedness and as adornment for you; the garment of God-consciousness is the best of all garments– this is one of God’s signs, so that people may take heed. Children of Adam, do not let Satan seduce you, as he did your parents, causing them to leave the Garden, stripping them of their garments to expose their nakedness to them [7:26-27]
The Surah calls for moderation in dealing with worldly pleasures. It is not forbidden to dress nicely (especially when going for the prayer) as long as it is modest; it is not forbidden to enjoy the halal food and drinks, without any excess:
يَا بَنِي آدَمَ خُذُواْ زِينَتَكُمْ عِندَ كُلِّ مَسْجِدٍ وَكُلُواْ وَاشْرَبُواْ وَلاَ تُسْرِفُواْ إِنَّهُ لاَ يُحِبُّ الْمُسْرِفِينَ. قُلْ مَنْ حَرَّمَ زِينَةَ اللَّهِ الَّتِيَ أَخْرَجَ لِعِبَادِهِ وَالطَّيِّبَاتِ مِنَ الرِّزْقِ
The “Al-Aaraf” Heights and Their Implications
Later on, horrifying scenes from the Day of Judgment are given. People from paradise calling into people of hell, and those who are tortured in hell are trying to reach out to the dwellers of paradise for help.
وَنَادَى أَصْحَابُ الْجَنَّةِ أَصْحَابَ النَّارِ أَن قَدْ وَجَدْنَا مَا وَعَدَنَا رَبُّنَا حَقًّا فَهَلْ وَجَدتُّم مَّا وَعَدَ رَبُّكُمْ حَقًّا قَالُواْ نَعَمْ فَأَذَّنَ مُؤَذِّنٌ بَيْنَهُمْ أَن لَّعْنَةُ اللَّهِ عَلَى الظَّالِمِينَ
The people of the Garden will cry out to the people of the Fire, ‘We have found what our Lord promised us to be true. Have you found what your Lord promised you to be true?’ and they will answer, ‘Yes’. A voice will proclaim from their midst, ‘God’s rejection [hangs] over the evildoers [7:44]
وَنَادَى أَصْحَابُ النَّارِ أَصْحَابَ الْجَنَّةِ أَنْ أَفِيضُواْ عَلَيْنَا مِنَ الْمَاء أَوْ مِمَّا رَزَقَكُمُ اللَّهُ قَالُواْ إِنَّ اللَّهَ حَرَّمَهُمَا عَلَى الْكَافِرِينَ
The people of the Fire will call to the people of Paradise, ‘Give us some water, or any of the sustenance God has granted you!’ and they will reply, ‘God has forbidden both to the disbelievers [7:50]
However, between these two extremes, the people of Al-Aaraf (the Heights) are mentioned. This is referring to a place on the day of judgment that is located between paradise and hellfire. People who had equal amounts of good deeds and sins will stand over it. In addition, those who committed a sin that does not allow them to enter paradise (such as rebellion against one’s parents) in addition to earning a privilege that doesn’t allow them to enter hellfire (such as dying as a martyr) won’t go either ways. Those people in the “grey area” will all end up on the heights of Al-Aarah. They stand there, wait for God’s final decision in their matter, after ALL CREATIONS are done with discussing their books of deeds. Most likely (and Allah knows best), This IS what is going to happen to by-standers, to those who mix some good deeds with lots of bad deeds, to those who go with the flow and do not take a stand in the long battle against evil
وَبَيْنَهُمَا حِجَابٌ وَعَلَى الأَعْرَافِ رِجَالٌ يَعْرِفُونَ كُلاًّ بِسِيمَاهُمْ وَنَادَوْا أَصْحَابَ الْجَنَّةِ أَن سَلامٌ عَلَيْكُمْ لَمْ يَدْخُلُوهَا وَهُمْ يَطْمَعُونَ. وَإِذَا صُرِفَتْ أَبْصَارُهُمْ تِلْقَاء أَصْحَابِ النَّارِ قَالُواْ رَبَّنَا لاَ تَجْعَلْنَا مَعَ الْقَوْمِ الظَّالِمِينَ
A barrier divides the two groups with men on its heights recognizing each group by their marks: they will call out to the people of the Garden, ‘Peace be with you!’– they will not have entered, but they will be hoping. And when their glance falls upon the people of the Fire, they will say, ‘Our Lord, do not let us join the evildoers!’– [7:46-47]
Reflect on your life, on previous decisions, friends, habits, and lifestyle; decide for yourself if more action is needed to stay away from the grey area and get closer to the people of paradise, insha Allah