I want you to read the following prompt and figure out what this is describing.
- A newspaper is better than a magazine.
- A seashore is a better place than a street.
- At first, it is better to run than to walk.
- You may have to try several times.
- It takes some skill, but it is easy to learn.
- Even young children can enjoy it.
- Once successful, complications are minimal.
- Birds seldom get too close.
- Rain, however, soaks in very fast.
- Too many people doing the same thing can also cause problems.
- One needs lots of room.
- If there are no complications, it can be very peaceful.
- A rock will serve as an anchor.
- If things break loose from it, however, you will not get a second chance.
When you read this, you can feel your lack of certainty regarding what is being described. It may sound like gibberish, even absurd. But if I tell you that the text is describing a kite, all of a sudden, you have a completely different feeling toward the prompt. Your view of the text no longer causes frustration or ambiguity but instead confidence that you are now in on the mystery.
Neurologist Robert Burton came up with this experiment to demonstrate how a person can experience the psychological effect that occurs when someone moves from a feeling of not knowing to a feeling of certainty. There are two takeaways from this experiment that I want to emphasize.
Firstly, once you see the truth, you can’t not see it. This shows that after obtaining knowledge and re-reading the prompt, it is very difficult to read it and not think of a kite. This is called the curse of knowledge, once someone learns something, it is hard to imagine what it was like before they gained the insight. Consider language, imagine that you are reading this text, but look at it as if you did not know English.
Secondly, the shift from uncertainty to certainty was not a conclusion as much as it was an emotional response. What previously seemed like gobblygook all of a sudden took on a valid meaning, and once that meaning was revealed to you, it was as if the veil of understanding was lifted, and you could see the text for what it was. Such that, once you were in on the secret, you may have felt some euphoria, so much so that you may even want to try this experiment on someone else to see them go through the stages of uncertainty to certainty.
God describes a similar phenomenon regarding the text of the Quran. Two people read the text, yet one person recognizes the truth and accepts it, while the other is blind to it.
[17:45] When you read the Quran, we place between you and those who do not believe in the Hereafter an invisible barrier. [17:46] We place shields around their minds, to prevent them from understanding it, and deafness in their ears. And when you preach your Lord, using the Quran alone, they run away in aversion.
وَإِذَا قَرَأْتَ الْقُرْآنَ جَعَلْنَا بَيْنَكَ وَبَيْنَ الَّذِينَ لَا يُؤْمِنُونَ بِالْآخِرَةِ حِجَابًا مَسْتُورًا
وَجَعَلْنَا عَلَىٰ قُلُوبِهِمْ أَكِنَّةً أَنْ يَفْقَهُوهُ وَفِي آذَانِهِمْ وَقْرًا وَإِذَا ذَكَرْتَ رَبَّكَ فِي الْقُرْآنِ وَحْدَهُ وَلَّوْا عَلَىٰ أَدْبَارِهِمْ نُفُورًا
A common criticism towards the Quran from disbelievers is that it doesn’t make sense. Disbelievers who read the Quran fail to make sense of it and complain that each verse appears to jump from topic to topic without a coherent connection. Now contrast this to the beleiver who is introduced to the Quran.
[5:83] When they hear what was revealed to the messenger, you see their eyes flooding with tears as they recognize the truth therein, and they say, “Our Lord, we have believed, so count us among the witnesses.
وَإِذَا سَمِعُوا مَا أُنْزِلَ إِلَى الرَّسُولِ تَرَىٰ أَعْيُنَهُمْ تَفِيضُ مِنَ الدَّمْعِ مِمَّا عَرَفُوا مِنَ الْحَقِّ يَقُولُونَ رَبَّنَا آمَنَّا فَاكْتُبْنَا مَعَ الشَّاهِدِينَ
[2:146] Those who received the scripture recognize the truth herein, as they recognize their own children. Yet, some of them conceal the truth, knowingly.
(١٤٦) الَّذِينَ آتَيْنَاهُمُ الْكِتَابَ يَعْرِفُونَهُ كَمَا يَعْرِفُونَ أَبْنَاءَهُمْ وَإِنَّ فَرِيقًا مِنْهُمْ لَيَكْتُمُونَ الْحَقَّ وَهُمْ يَعْلَمُونَ
[22:54] Those who are blessed with knowledge will recognize the truth from your Lord, then believe in it, and their hearts will readily accept it. Most assuredly, GOD guides the believers in the right path.
وَلِيَعْلَمَ الَّذِينَ أُوتُوا الْعِلْمَ أَنَّهُ الْحَقُّ مِنْ رَبِّكَ فَيُؤْمِنُوا بِهِ فَتُخْبِتَ لَهُ قُلُوبُهُمْ وَإِنَّ اللَّهَ لَهَادِ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا إِلَىٰ صِرَاطٍ مُسْتَقِيمٍ
[6:114] Shall I seek other than GOD as a source of law, when He has revealed to you this book fully detailed? Those who received the scripture recognize that it has been revealed from your Lord, truthfully. You shall not harbor any doubt.
أَفَغَيْرَ اللَّهِ أَبْتَغِي حَكَمًا وَهُوَ الَّذِي أَنْزَلَ إِلَيْكُمُ الْكِتَابَ مُفَصَّلًا وَالَّذِينَ آتَيْنَاهُمُ الْكِتَابَ يَعْلَمُونَ أَنَّهُ مُنَزَّلٌ مِنْ رَبِّكَ بِالْحَقِّ فَلَا تَكُونَنَّ مِنَ الْمُمْتَرِينَ
It is hard to make someone admit something, when they have a vested interest in their denial of it.
[2:89] When this scripture came to them from GOD, and even though it agrees with, and confirms what they have, and even though they used to prophesy its advent when they talked with the disbelievers, when it came to them what they recognized (from their prophecy), they disbelieved therein. GOD’s condemnation thus afflicts the disbelievers.
وَلَمَّا جَاءَهُمْ كِتَابٌ مِنْ عِنْدِ اللَّهِ مُصَدِّقٌ لِمَا مَعَهُمْ وَكَانُوا مِنْ قَبْلُ يَسْتَفْتِحُونَ عَلَى الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا فَلَمَّا جَاءَهُمْ مَا عَرَفُوا كَفَرُوا بِهِ فَلَعْنَةُ اللَّهِ عَلَى الْكَافِرِينَ
God leads each person by virtue of their belief.
[10:9] As for those who believe and lead a righteous life, their Lord guides them, by virtue of their belief. Rivers will flow beneath them in the gardens of bliss.
(٩) إِنَّ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ يَهْدِيهِمْ رَبُّهُمْ بِإِيمَانِهِمْ تَجْرِي مِنْ تَحْتِهِمُ الْأَنْهَارُ فِي جَنَّاتِ النَّعِيمِ
The word used in 10:9 as “virtue of their belief” is the word eman ( إِيمَانِ ) this word is typically translated as “faith”, but also means faith or conviction in this context. So the degree of one’s conviction will be dependent on their ability of not only understanding the Quran, but putting it into practice.
A common mistake I see many people make when trying to understand the verses of the Quran is they think they will get the right answer through research and study alone. They think if they read enough translations, explanations, arguments, etc. that this will inform of the correct understanding. The mistake in this line of thinking is that it is putting the cart before the horse. They assume that it is their intellect or reasoning that will direct them to the truth.
If the acceptance of the message in the Quran was strictly due to worldly intelligence alone, then Submission should be full of PhDs, academics, and noble laureates. But there is another problem with this level of thinking. As we saw in 2:89, it is not just about recognizing the truth, it is also about the will to act upon the truth when it is recognized.
I had a friend in college that stated that he evaluated the Quran, its claims, its proof and he believes it is the truth, but that he lacked the motivation to act upon it. I had another friend who accepted the Quran and starte putting it to practice, yet when it came to refraining from intoxicants he couldn’t come to do that. What these two examples demonstrate is that there is another prerequisite that is necessary if one wants to try to understand and apply the Quran correctly.
[5:49] You shall rule among them in accordance with GOD’s revelations to you. Do not follow their wishes, and beware lest they divert you from some of GOD’s revelations to you. If they turn away, then know that GOD wills to punish them for some of their sins. Indeed, many people are wicked.
وَأَنِ احْكُمْ بَيْنَهُمْ بِمَا أَنْزَلَ اللَّهُ وَلَا تَتَّبِعْ أَهْوَاءَهُمْ وَاحْذَرْهُمْ أَنْ يَفْتِنُوكَ عَنْ بَعْضِ مَا أَنْزَلَ اللَّهُ إِلَيْكَ فَإِنْ تَوَلَّوْا فَاعْلَمْ أَنَّمَا يُرِيدُ اللَّهُ أَنْ يُصِيبَهُمْ بِبَعْضِ ذُنُوبِهِمْ وَإِنَّ كَثِيرًا مِنَ النَّاسِ لَفَاسِقُونَ
[3:155] Surely, those among you who turned back the day the two armies clashed have been duped by the devil. This reflects some of the (evil) works they had committed. GOD has pardoned them. GOD is Forgiver, Clement.
إِنَّ الَّذِينَ تَوَلَّوْا مِنْكُمْ يَوْمَ الْتَقَى الْجَمْعَانِ إِنَّمَا اسْتَزَلَّهُمُ الشَّيْطَانُ بِبَعْضِ مَا كَسَبُوا وَلَقَدْ عَفَا اللَّهُ عَنْهُمْ إِنَّ اللَّهَ غَفُورٌ حَلِيمٌ
Imagine you wanted to be an appraiser of diamonds. You study how to grade diamonds by their cut, color, clarity, and carat. You have read all the books, studied all the material, etc., but your loupe, the magnifying glass you use to determine the diamond quality, is dirty or defective. If it is majorly defective or dirty, you may not be able to properly distinguish between a valuable diamond and a fake. If it is mildly defective or dirty, you may not be able to see the truth of the diamond’s value yet realize that it is authentic. So if your instrument to measure quality is not operating properly, then it may not serve you well in your endeavor.
The Quran operates in a similar manner, but the tool we use is not our intellect or reasoning but our righteousness. This is because righteousness is our baseline of what is needed to be able to distinguish truth from falsehood, but also to be able to act upon the truth when it becomes obvious to us.
[7:26] O children of Adam, we have provided you with garments to cover your bodies, as well as for luxury. But the best garment is the garment of righteousness. These are some of GOD’s signs, that they may take heed.
يَابَنِي آدَمَ قَدْ أَنْزَلْنَا عَلَيْكُمْ لِبَاسًا يُوَارِي سَوْآتِكُمْ وَرِيشًا وَلِبَاسُ التَّقْوَىٰ ذَٰلِكَ خَيْرٌ ذَٰلِكَ مِنْ آيَاتِ اللَّهِ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَذَّكَّرُونَ
Therefore before we attempt to understand and apply the Quran, we must first focus on our righteousness. To do this, we need to go to what is natural to us that any sensible person would agree is good and righteous. God informed us that our natural instinct is monotheism, and before this life, God bestowed upon us the natural knowledge of good and evil.
[30:30] Therefore, you shall devote yourself to the religion of strict monotheism. Such is the natural instinct placed into the people by GOD. Such creation of GOD will never change. This is the perfect religion, but most people do not know.
فَأَقِمْ وَجْهَكَ لِلدِّينِ حَنِيفًا فِطْرَتَ اللَّهِ الَّتِي فَطَرَ النَّاسَ عَلَيْهَا لَا تَبْدِيلَ لِخَلْقِ اللَّهِ ذَٰلِكَ الدِّينُ الْقَيِّمُ وَلَٰكِنَّ أَكْثَرَ النَّاسِ لَا يَعْلَمُونَ
[91:7] The soul and Him who created it.
[91:8] Then showed it what is evil and what is good.
(٧) وَنَفْسٍ وَمَا سَوَّاهَا
(٨) فَأَلْهَمَهَا فُجُورَهَا وَتَقْوَاهَا
So what is needed for righteousness?
[2:177] Righteousness is not turning your faces towards the east or the west. Righteous are those who believe in GOD, the Last Day, the angels, the scripture, and the prophets; and they give the money, cheerfully, to the relatives, the orphans, the needy, the traveling alien, the beggars, and to free the slaves; and they observe the Contact Prayers (Salat) and give the obligatory charity (Zakat); and they keep their word whenever they make a promise; and they steadfastly persevere in the face of persecution, hardship, and war. These are the truthful; these are the righteous.
لَيْسَ الْبِرَّ أَنْ تُوَلُّوا وُجُوهَكُمْ قِبَلَ الْمَشْرِقِ وَالْمَغْرِبِ وَلَٰكِنَّ الْبِرَّ مَنْ آمَنَ بِاللَّهِ وَالْيَوْمِ الْآخِرِ وَالْمَلَائِكَةِ وَالْكِتَابِ وَالنَّبِيِّينَ وَآتَى الْمَالَ عَلَىٰ حُبِّهِ ذَوِي الْقُرْبَىٰ وَالْيَتَامَىٰ وَالْمَسَاكِينَ وَابْنَ السَّبِيلِ وَالسَّائِلِينَ وَفِي الرِّقَابِ وَأَقَامَ الصَّلَاةَ وَآتَى الزَّكَاةَ وَالْمُوفُونَ بِعَهْدِهِمْ إِذَا عَاهَدُوا وَالصَّابِرِينَ فِي الْبَأْسَاءِ وَالضَّرَّاءِ وَحِينَ الْبَأْسِ أُولَٰئِكَ الَّذِينَ صَدَقُوا وَأُولَٰئِكَ هُمُ الْمُتَّقُونَ
[20:114] Most Exalted is GOD, the only true King. Do not rush into uttering the Quran before it is revealed to you, and say, “My Lord, increase my knowledge.”
(١١٤) فَتَعَالَى اللَّهُ الْمَلِكُ الْحَقُّ وَلَا تَعْجَلْ بِالْقُرْآنِ مِنْ قَبْلِ أَنْ يُقْضَىٰ إِلَيْكَ وَحْيُهُ وَقُلْ رَبِّ زِدْنِي عِلْمًا
If we want to understand the Quran we need to purify our garment of righteousness. This will allow us to not only recognize the truth when we see it, but it will resonate with our being and give us the confidence to act upon the message. Based on our degree of purity, God will guide us accordingly to bring to manifestation what it is that is within us so that we can all see for ourselves why what has caused us to achieve our end destiny in the Hereafter.
[56:75] I swear by the positions of the stars. [56:76] This is an oath, if you only knew, that is awesome. [56:77] This is an honorable Quran. [56:78] In a protected book. [56:79] None can grasp it except the sincere. [56:80] A revelation from the Lord of the universe.
(٧٥) فَلَا أُقْسِمُ بِمَوَاقِعِ النُّجُومِ
(٧٦) وَإِنَّهُ لَقَسَمٌ لَوْ تَعْلَمُونَ عَظِيمٌ
(٧٨) فِي كِتَابٍ مَكْنُونٍ
(٧٩) لَا يَمَسُّهُ إِلَّا الْمُطَهَّرُونَ
(٨٠) تَنْزِيلٌ مِنْ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ
One thought on “First Comes Righteousness”
Excellent article. Without Allah’s guidance and mercy, the quran is just a book. With it, it’s a healing and guidance for people.