Learning to Ask Questions: the Cases of Abraham and Noah (p) in the Quran
Among other things, the Qur’an is a call to ask questions. The first believers in the Qur’an’s message were the ones who could break the shell of complacency and question the legacy of their forefathers . The questions that the Quran invites its audience to ask are “simple” questions. These questions are meant to penetrate the thick veil of carelessness and familiarity that covers our eyes so that we see the world under a fresh light. It is through these questions that one comes to the threshold of faith or moves up the ladders of certainty in faith. I will name this questioning to which the Qur’an repeatedly calls us: “primary” questioning. There are also questions mentioned in the Qur’an as accounts of certain people’s questions. Some of these are ‘bad’ questions, which are asked by “wrongdoers”, and others seem to be ‘good’ questions, which are asked by messengers of God or believers in some context of tension. When Is/ Jesus (AS) disciples or Abraham (AS) ask for a sign of resurrection, they are granted it, but when the potential or actual unbeliever asks about how God resurrects the dead he is told that a boundless suffering is prepared for him. The aim of this essay is to try to see what makes a certain question a right now in the Qur’anic discourse.
In Islam, the ‘testimony’ (shahaada) to the truth of the unity of divinity (tawhid) , i.e. to bear witness that “There is no deity save God,” is central to tfaith. In the definition of Islam (surrender to the divine Will as it is conveyed by the divine Word), the shahaada is the first act required of muslims. It also defined the content of faith, whose primary element is faith in God. The one who surrenders (muslim)  himself to the truth is supposed to actually observe  how everything in the observable world, the world of testifying (‘alam al-shahaada), indicates this truth of tawhid, and consequently testifies to the truthfulness of the Quranic message. The Quran  refers very often to the universe and to the things and events in it and describes them as symbols, indicators or sings (ayaat) . It invites the addressee to ponder  over the meaning of those signs in order to testify to the veracity of the teachings of the Qur’an. But it also mentions stories of the prophets and of their miracles, which are obviously not observable here and now. What is their signigfiance? How is it possible to “testify” to the truth of something that cannot possibly be observed?
The story of Adam and Eve in the Quran has been understood from various perspectives, as a historical account, a symbolic account and so on. Our goal is to realize the wisdom of the story in regards to how it relates to us as individuals.
As the Quran repeatedly states that it is a message addressing all humanity, it is pertinent to ask how it is related to us “here and now”. What is the message that is conveyed to me through the story of Adam and Eve?
Affliction, Patience, Prayer: Ayyub /Job (AS) in the Quran
And [remember] Job, when he cried out to his Sustainer, “affliction has befallen me: but Thou art the most merciful of the merciful!” Whereupon We responded upon him and removed all the affliction from which he suffered; and We gave him his family, doubling their number as an act of grace from Us, and as a reminder unto all who worship Us (Quran 21:83-84).
Go beyond the level of ego, beyond me vs. you reflections from Sura Yasin (3)
The Quranic stories are all tips of an iceberg. These specific stories are told for a universal lesson applicable to all. So let us read this one attentively for a lesson intended to us all, and applicable for us here and now …
As usual, the Quranic story line minimizes details, the Quran only narrates what we need for our guidance, for our spiritual growth. What is further striking is that this is the only story in the Quran where there are no names at all: an unnamed town where two unnamed messengers are sent, and then a third to support the two.