It is my first free morning of the Thanksgiving week. The day stretches out unfettered by schedules. I am sipping tea and listening to Farhat Hashmi. Out of the blue while tafseering ayah 27-40 of Surah Al Maidah, she comes upon the age-old story, and explains the Quranic reference to Cain and Abel. The entire story is riveting. I have read it in many secular forms, in books, in references, but I have never heard a detailed explanation from a scholar, with so many layers of meanings.
As she continues to talk in her soothing conversational voice, I can feel the heat of Cain’s anger, the gnawing helpless pain of envy and the extreme sibling rivalry. Unlike the rivalry that I have observed in my siblings and in siblings of many other families this rivalry is not a simple rivalry for the love of a parent, it is a competition of love and acceptance of a gift to the loved one, who in this case is our Creator. The desire to acquire, or win Allah’s goodwill and love is a far more potent reason for the rivalry in these siblings than anything we experience between our siblings for our parents love. For Allah to accept the sacrifice of one and not the other is unbearable to Cain. These ayahs unfold not only the story of Cain and Abel but hold the secret of the etiquette needed to gain the love of Allah.
As the tafseer progresses with the story from the ayahs it is vivid enough for me to see in my mind’s eye the extreme disappointment in Cain’s face being transformed into hate, rage and envy. The predatory part of his Nafs taking hold of these emotions and unleashing them onto his beloved brother. I am stunned at the words of Allah. He is asking Prophet Muhammad (sas) to recount this story as news to the Arabs and the Jews and now to the future generations of Adam (AS). Why is He doing that? The answer comes later in the ayahs.
Envy in the Quran and Hadith as I understand it (Allah hu Taa’ala Alam) is defined as an emotion that challenges the decree and decision of Allah SWT. Envy challenges Allah SWT in His decision to bestow a blessing on one and not the other. The feelings that arise on observing someone get a blessing pertaining to this world or the next and being angered by it is Envy.
If I think & feel that I am more worthy of what the other person has, then I am questioning Allah’s decision to give this particular blessing to another than to me. In short the statement I am making by being envious is that I do not believe that He (SWT) is giving it to the right person, and thus He is unjust or that He has made a mistake. (Astighfirullah)
This type of Envy (in which I may think that I am worthier than the person who received the blessing) is also tinged with Kibar, which are all names for the rage, and anger that allows us to overthrow all respect, humility and submission to Allah and his Rasool and makes us challenge His (SWT) decision.
Listening to Abel’s response I sense a thread of empathy & a gentle warning in it, and perhaps fear of what may happen. These feelings are shored up by his resolve that he voices “ I will not raise my hand to harm you as I fear Allah because He is Rabb ul Alameen” I see him trying to instill the respect for the decision & power of Allah and hoping that perhaps his brother’s envy and rage will be tempered and modified by this admission.
Cain overcome by his envy and kibar, is being ridden by the wild beast of his predatory ego which blinds him to the Taa”a (submission) of Allah. I see his ego and envy like a blindfold on the eyes of a horse, and anger a whip for it. Thus Cain is galloping over unfamiliar terrain, being ridden by his ego, forgetting all else except the insult that his sacrifice for Allah SWT has not been accepted while his brother’s has, and he does the deed.
Regret comes later on the wings of fear and dismay for his action. Is it too late? Too late for Cain? Or too late for the entire human race that will come after him? We are to learn more as the ayahs unfold.
According to Abdullah bin Masood Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said “ The person who is killed without just cause then the sin of his death also falls on the first son of Adam”
Thus Every time a murder of an innocent person is committed in this world by a son or daughter of Adam, the sin of that action in addition to falling on the perpetrator is also visited on the son of Adam who initiated this action.
Bukhari’s Hadith “ Someone who initiates a wrong action for the first time, and people follow him, then some of their sin also falls on the originator of the action”
In summary these ayahs are potent and filled with examples of actions, those, which should and should not be done, and what drives us to these actions. Allah SWT gives a method for us to get closer to him, and also gives us acts that are forbidden.
I can envision our gentle Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) listening to these ayahs, understanding them, his tender heart shaken by the happenings and their consequences. I think to myself, what did I learn……….and find I have a long list to make and act upon!
Jazzaa ik Allah hu Khairan!
Key words: Envy, Ego driven, First dead man on earth, teaching of burial, the bird as a teacher, the conscience, shame, regret, Fear of Allah, killing without just cause and its ramifications. Saving someone from harm and its ramifications.
Intention of Qurbani, when is Qurbani accepted? And when not.
For details listen to: in Urdu: http://www.alhudapk.com/home/online-classes/tq-online-2005/course-material/TQ-2005-06/para-06.htm (lesson 71 tafseer)
For English: http://www.alhudapk.com/audio-video/tqe-hijab-iqbal/para6.asp (lesson 6, tafseer part 1) May Allah accept your efforts.