There is a saying from the poet Rumi which states:
Don’t look for water, get thirsty then the water will come to you
Some people have the misunderstanding that this quote is to signify that we obtain what we desire, but this is not entirely true. The meaning of this quote is that we obtain what we value. For instance, if I offer a person who is not thirsty water then they probably won’t accept it or maybe they will accept it but not care to utilize it. But a thirsty person will not only seek water, but when presented to them they will happily drink it down. This is because a person won’t necessarily value water until they are thirsty.
The message presented in the Quran operates in the same manner. Often times when a person first discovers all the phenomenal aspects of the Quran we get overwhelmed with joy. Be it the mathematical miracle of the Quran, which authenticates ever letter, verse, and sura of the Quran, or the emphasis of the worship of God alone without the associations of powerless idols like Jesus, Muhammad, or the saints, or the abandonment of the false hadith and sunnah attributed to the prophet against his will. So naturally when we discover such a momentous blessing we want to share it with everyone, and most notably the ones we love. Except what we all find out is that most other people will not share in the level of excitement we have for this book, and many will even become not only dismissive, but possibly hostile to its message.
This is because while we can bring water to someone, we cannot force them to drink unless they are thirsty.
Consider the many times you were leaving a grocery store or library and outside someone approaches you with a clipboard begging you to take interest in their cause. Be it some ballot measure, or a humanitarian cause, or a wildlife campaign to an endangered animal. The fact is that while most people won’t even stop to listen, even the small minute who do will most likely forget about the cause the second they are off to their next task. So what separates the person who is waiting outside to evangelize to anyone who will give them a second to listen and the multitude of people who are heedless to what that person has to say? The answer is obvious the one who is out evangelizing cares enough for the cause to go out in strive, while the others on the receiving end don’t.
This is because we can’t make someone care for something they don’t value.
The decision to value something rests specifically on the person. When it comes to God, it is not reason, cleverness, or even a miracle that will make someone believe, but strictly the fact that God blessed that individual by opening up their heart to the message.
[47:16] Some of them listen to you, then as soon as they leave they ask those who were enlightened, “What did he just say?” GOD thus seals their hearts and, consequently, they follow only their opinions.
وَمِنْهُمْ مَنْ يَسْتَمِعُ إِلَيْكَ حَتَّىٰ إِذَا خَرَجُوا مِنْ عِنْدِكَ قَالُوا لِلَّذِينَ أُوتُوا الْعِلْمَ مَاذَا قَالَ آنِفًا أُولَٰئِكَ الَّذِينَ طَبَعَ اللَّهُ عَلَىٰ قُلُوبِهِمْ وَاتَّبَعُوا أَهْوَاءَهُمْ
Think of the multitude of miracles that the Children of Israel saw, yet the majority of them still chose to disbelieve. God informs us that the miracle of the Quran is ten times greater than the miracles of the past (34:45), yet despite this the majority of people are still averse to this glorious book. Consider how some of the world leading experts in biology, cosmology, and philosophy are disbelievers. It is as if they are willfully blind to what is right in front of them. And because of this there is nothing we can do to change their situation and make them believe.
I remember having a close friend in college who after months of talking to him about the message and the miracles of the Quran he told me: “everything you say totally makes sense, but I just don’t have the the motivation to act on this information.”
[28:56] You cannot guide the ones you love. GOD is the only One who guides in accordance with His will, and in accordance with His knowledge of those who deserve the guidance.
إِنَّكَ لَا تَهْدِي مَنْ أَحْبَبْتَ وَلَٰكِنَّ اللَّهَ يَهْدِي مَنْ يَشَاءُ وَهُوَ أَعْلَمُ بِالْمُهْتَدِينَ
One of the hopes of every believer is that their spouse, children, parents, and loved ones all believe and save their souls, but this is a test that we will all have to deal with. We see this through the example of the prophets, Abraham with his dad, Noah with his son, Lot with his wife, Muhammad with his uncle, that we are incapable of guiding the ones we love.
[46:17] Then there is the one who says to his parents, “Woe to you; are you telling me that (after death) I will come back to life? How come those who died before us never come back?” The parents would cry for GOD’s help and say, “Woe to you; please believe! GOD’s promise is the truth.” He would say, “Tales from the past!”
وَالَّذِي قَالَ لِوَالِدَيْهِ أُفٍّ لَكُمَا أَتَعِدَانِنِي أَنْ أُخْرَجَ وَقَدْ خَلَتِ الْقُرُونُ مِنْ قَبْلِي وَهُمَا يَسْتَغِيثَانِ اللَّهَ وَيْلَكَ آمِنْ إِنَّ وَعْدَ اللَّهِ حَقٌّ فَيَقُولُ مَا هَٰذَا إِلَّا أَسَاطِيرُ الْأَوَّلِينَ
The reality is that until a person makes an active decision to change, to have God open their hearts and to want to believe then they will be fixed in their ways no matter what we say or do to try to convince that person to believe otherwise.
[13:11] Shifts (of angels) take turns, staying with each one of you—they are in front of you and behind you. They stay with you, and guard you in accordance with GOD’s commands. Thus, GOD does not change the condition of any people unless they themselves make the decision to change. If GOD wills any hardship for any people, no force can stop it. For they have none beside Him as Lord and Master.
لَهُ مُعَقِّبَاتٌ مِنْ بَيْنِ يَدَيْهِ وَمِنْ خَلْفِهِ يَحْفَظُونَهُ مِنْ أَمْرِ اللَّهِ إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَا يُغَيِّرُ مَا بِقَوْمٍ حَتَّىٰ يُغَيِّرُوا مَا بِأَنْفُسِهِمْ وَإِذَا أَرَادَ اللَّهُ بِقَوْمٍ سُوءًا فَلَا مَرَدَّ لَهُ وَمَا لَهُمْ مِنْ دُونِهِ مِنْ وَالٍ
While we are incapable of making someone value God as He should be valued, God is not. But how does God create situations to make people thirsty for God’s grace? Consider the food you ate today. How thankful were you to God for the food He provided you? I am sure you were thankful to some extent, but were you as thankful as you were when you ate after a day of fasting? Or how thankful are you for the air you are breathing? Are you as thankful for that air as you would be if you were momentarily deprived of oxygen? God like all provisions possesses infinite grace (57:29), yet He sends it down in a specific measure in order to create artificial scarcity at times so we replenish our appreciation for our Lord.
[6:147] If they disbelieve you, then say, “Your Lord possesses infinite mercy, but His retribution is unavoidable for the guilty people.”
فَإِنْ كَذَّبُوكَ فَقُلْ رَبُّكُمْ ذُو رَحْمَةٍ وَاسِعَةٍ وَلَا يُرَدُّ بَأْسُهُ عَنِ الْقَوْمِ الْمُجْرِمِينَ
[15:21] There is nothing that we do not own infinite amounts thereof. But we send it down in precise measure.
وَإِنْ مِنْ شَيْءٍ إِلَّا عِنْدَنَا خَزَائِنُهُ وَمَا نُنَزِّلُهُ إِلَّا بِقَدَرٍ مَعْلُومٍ
So sometimes out of God’s mercy He has to reduce His grace and provisions in order for us to become thirsty once again.
[7:94] Whenever we sent a prophet to any community, we afflicted its people with adversity and hardship, that they may implore. [7:95] Then we substituted peace and prosperity in place of that hardship. But alas, they turned heedless and said, “It was our parents who experienced that hardship before prosperity.” Consequently, we punished them suddenly when they least expected. [7:96] Had the people of those communities believed and turned righteous, we would have showered them with blessings from the heaven and the earth. Since they decided to disbelieve, we punished them for what they earned.
The mistake most of us make is we think these tests and hardship were limited to the people of the past and will not impact us. We think that because we have all these amenities and luxuries that the people of the past couldn’t have possibly dreamed of that we are no longer at risk of retribution.
[7:97] Did the people of the present communities guarantee that our retribution will not come to them in the night as they sleep? [7:98] Did the people of today’s communities guarantee that our retribution will not come to them in the daytime while they play? [7:99] Have they taken GOD’s plans for granted? None takes GOD’s plans for granted except the losers. [7:100] Does it ever occur to those who inherit the earth after previous generations that, if we will, we can punish them for their sins, and seal their hearts, causing them to turn deaf?
[16:112] GOD cites the example of a community that used to be secure and prosperous, with provisions coming to it from everywhere. But then, it turned unappreciative of GOD’s blessings. Consequently, GOD caused them to taste the hardships of starvation and insecurity. Such is the requital for what they did.
وَضَرَبَ اللَّهُ مَثَلًا قَرْيَةً كَانَتْ آمِنَةً مُطْمَئِنَّةً يَأْتِيهَا رِزْقُهَا رَغَدًا مِنْ كُلِّ مَكَانٍ فَكَفَرَتْ بِأَنْعُمِ اللَّهِ فَأَذَاقَهَا اللَّهُ لِبَاسَ الْجُوعِ وَالْخَوْفِ بِمَا كَانُوا يَصْنَعُونَ
[32:21] We let them taste the smaller retribution (of this world), before they incur the greater retribution (of the Hereafter), that they may (take a hint and) reform. [32:22] Who is more evil than one who is reminded of these revelations of his Lord, then insists upon disregarding them? We will certainly punish the guilty.
God allows the people to experience hardship in order to open up their hearts and have them realize that they need God.
[57:16] Is it not time for those who believed to open up their hearts for GOD’s message, and the truth that is revealed herein? They should not be like the followers of previous scriptures whose hearts became hardened with time and, consequently, many of them turned wicked.
أَلَمْ يَأْنِ لِلَّذِينَ آمَنُوا أَنْ تَخْشَعَ قُلُوبُهُمْ لِذِكْرِ اللَّهِ وَمَا نَزَلَ مِنَ الْحَقِّ وَلَا يَكُونُوا كَالَّذِينَ أُوتُوا الْكِتَابَ مِنْ قَبْلُ فَطَالَ عَلَيْهِمُ الْأَمَدُ فَقَسَتْ قُلُوبُهُمْ وَكَثِيرٌ مِنْهُمْ فَاسِقُونَ
We see in the example of the Children of Israel, that for many of them despite witnessing all the blessings that God provided them their hearts refused to open.
[2:74] Despite this, your hearts hardened like rocks, or even harder. For there are rocks from which rivers gush out. Others crack and release gentle streams, and other rocks cringe out of reverence for GOD. GOD is never unaware of anything you do.
ثُمَّ قَسَتْ قُلُوبُكُمْ مِنْ بَعْدِ ذَٰلِكَ فَهِيَ كَالْحِجَارَةِ أَوْ أَشَدُّ قَسْوَةً وَإِنَّ مِنَ الْحِجَارَةِ لَمَا يَتَفَجَّرُ مِنْهُ الْأَنْهَارُ وَإِنَّ مِنْهَا لَمَا يَشَّقَّقُ فَيَخْرُجُ مِنْهُ الْمَاءُ وَإِنَّ مِنْهَا لَمَا يَهْبِطُ مِنْ خَشْيَةِ اللَّهِ وَمَا اللَّهُ بِغَافِلٍ عَمَّا تَعْمَلُونَ
[7:175] Recite for them the news of one who was given our proofs, but chose to disregard them. Consequently, the devil pursued him, until he became a strayer. [7:176] Had we willed, we could have elevated him therewith, but he insisted on sticking to the ground, and pursued his own opinions. Thus, he is like the dog; whether you pet him or scold him, he pants. Such is the example of people who reject our proofs. Narrate these narrations, that they may reflect.
[4:147] What will GOD gain from punishing you, if you became appreciative and believed? GOD is Appreciative, Omniscient.
مَا يَفْعَلُ اللَّهُ بِعَذَابِكُمْ إِنْ شَكَرْتُمْ وَآمَنْتُمْ وَكَانَ اللَّهُ شَاكِرًا عَلِيمًا
[7:177] Bad indeed is the example of people who reject our proofs; it is only their own souls that they wrong. [7:178] Whomever GOD guides is the truly guided one, and whomever He commits to straying, these are the losers. [7:179] We have committed to Hell multitudes of jinns and humans. They have minds with which they do not understand, eyes with which they do not see, and ears with which they do not hear. They are like animals; no, they are far worse—they are totally unaware.
[6:35] If their rejection gets to be too much for you, you should know that even if you dug a tunnel through the earth, or climbed a ladder into the sky, and produced a miracle for them (they still would not believe). Had GOD willed, He could have guided them, unanimously. Therefore, do not behave like the ignorant ones.
وَإِنْ كَانَ كَبُرَ عَلَيْكَ إِعْرَاضُهُمْ فَإِنِ اسْتَطَعْتَ أَنْ تَبْتَغِيَ نَفَقًا فِي الْأَرْضِ أَوْ سُلَّمًا فِي السَّمَاءِ فَتَأْتِيَهُمْ بِآيَةٍ وَلَوْ شَاءَ اللَّهُ لَجَمَعَهُمْ عَلَى الْهُدَىٰ فَلَا تَكُونَنَّ مِنَ الْجَاهِلِينَ
For our loved ones who we want to join us in the faith all we can do is implore God for their guidance and try our best to be a good example that perhaps if God wills it will spark their interest for them to want to take heed. But sometimes the devil tempts us to act harshly with the people we love most out of frustration that they are not able to see what we see or value what it is we value. Because of this we need to be steadfast and patient and not let the devil provoke us to push people who we love away because it may not be their time to hav either heart opened up.
[25:63] The worshipers of the Most Gracious are those who tread the earth gently, and when the ignorant speak to them, they only utter peace.
وَعِبَادُ الرَّحْمَٰنِ الَّذِينَ يَمْشُونَ عَلَى الْأَرْضِ هَوْنًا وَإِذَا خَاطَبَهُمُ الْجَاهِلُونَ قَالُوا سَلَامًا
[7:198] When you invite them to the guidance, they do not hear. And you see them looking at you, but they do not see. [7:199] You shall resort to pardon, advocate tolerance, and disregard the ignorant. [7:200] When the devil whispers to you any whisper, seek refuge in GOD; He is Hearer, Omniscient. [7:201] Those who are righteous, whenever the devil approaches them with an idea, they remember, whereupon they become seers.
[41:33] Who can utter better words than one who invites to GOD, works righteousness, and says, “I am one of the submitters”? [41:34] Not equal is the good response and the bad response. You shall resort to the nicest possible response. Thus, the one who used to be your enemy, may become your best friend. [41:35] None can attain this except those who steadfastly persevere. None can attain this except those who are extremely fortunate.
[42:39] When gross injustice befalls them, they stand up for their rights. [42:40] Although the just requital for an injustice is an equivalent retribution, those who pardon and maintain righteousness are rewarded by GOD. He does not love the unjust. [42:41] Certainly, those who stand up for their rights, when injustice befalls them, are not committing any error. [42:42] The wrong ones are those who treat the people unjustly, and resort to aggression without provocation. These have incurred a painful retribution. [42:43] Resorting to patience and forgiveness reflects a true strength of character.
This does not mean that we tolerate verbal or physical abuse, but if someone is not actively fighting us then we have no excuse being harsh and stern against them.
[60:6] A good example has been set by them for those who seek GOD and the Last Day. As for those who turn away, GOD is in no need (of them), Most Praiseworthy. [60:7] GOD may change the animosity between you and them into love. GOD is Omnipotent. GOD is Forgiver, Most Merciful. [60:8] GOD does not enjoin you from befriending those who do not fight you because of religion, and do not evict you from your homes. You may befriend them and be equitable towards them. GOD loves the equitable. [60:9] GOD enjoins you only from befriending those who fight you because of religion, evict you from your homes, and band together with others to banish you. You shall not befriend them. Those who befriend them are the transgressors.
Oftentimes we forget that most of us probably were heedless and even potentially disregarding towards the truth when we first received it, but out of God’s mercy He was patient with us and eventually opened our hearts to the message. We should therefore be patient with others as God has been patient with us despite our many shortcomings.
[4:94] O you who believe, if you strike in the cause of GOD, you shall be absolutely sure. Do not say to one who offers you peace, “You are not a believer,” seeking the spoils of this world. For GOD possesses infinite spoils. Remember that you used to be like them, and GOD blessed you. Therefore, you shall be absolutely sure (before you strike). GOD is fully Cognizant of everything you do.
A couple years ago during summer we were at the beach and it was such a beautiful perfect day without a cloud in the sky, but as the day progressed you could see out in the distance at the horizon there were flashes and dark clouds. At the beginning they seemed so far that it didn’t even seem noticeable, but eventually the clouds were right at the edge of the water and the beach that just moments ago was perfectly sunny became darkened and you could see the lightning crash into the water followed by an immediate boom from the thunder. Immediately you see everyone running and huddling together and then as the lightning was right above us and the thunderous crash was almost deafening you could see everyone huddled in fear as ice cold water came gushing down causing everyone to run for shelter. You know for a fact that every person on that beach for that time was worried about their safety and were probably praying to God, yet when we came back an hour later you would have had no clue what just happened as the weather went back to normal and everyone went back about their day enjoying the beach.
[13:12] He is the One who shows you the lightning as a source of fear, as well as hope, and He initiates the loaded clouds. [13:13] The thunder praises His glory, and so do the angels, out of reverence for Him. He sends the lightning bolts, which strike in accordance with His will. Yet, they argue about GOD, though His power is awesome. [13:14] Imploring Him is the only legitimate supplication, while the idols they implore beside Him, cannot ever respond. Thus, they are like those who stretch their hands to the water, but nothing reaches their mouths. The supplications of the disbelievers are in vain.