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Category: Psychology

‘Malaika’ (Forces of Nature)

The following excerpt is taken from “Lamp of Islam” (Link)

To human bow down all the ‘Forces’, except the ‘Evil Force’ inside his mind

Clearly, thanks to this vocabulary – which is related to the special, human faculty of logical definition (55:3-4) – man is superior to and is gradually becoming capable of harnessing all the observable and hidden ‘controlling Forces of nature’ (‘malaika’), which are commanded by the Divinity to PROSTRATE themselves to man (2:34).

However, out of all the ‘controlling Forces’ (‘malaika’), there is one that makes an exception: the hidden, evil Force inside human mind that refuses to bow down to human (2:34).

It is difficult to avoid the impression that IBLIS in 2:34-36 – which refuses to bow down to Adam and misguides him – is a metaphor for all the overpowering, negative forces intrinsic in human psyche, i.e. the Devilish urge inside man, as described in a previous verse in the context (2:14). These uncontrollable, destructive emotions are burning in relation to sound reasoning, as if they are ‘made of fire (7:12).

Thus this invisible Devil residing in Adam’s inner self is described in the Quran as ‘hidden’ (‘jinn’, 18:50) and one of the ‘controlling Forces’ (‘malaika’, 2:34).

A QUESTION MISINTERPRETED THROUGHOUT THE CENTURIES

While reading the allegory of Adam in the Quran, the readers often get puzzled: “How would the ‘angels’ know about future atrocities and bloodshed?”

Now, the question posed by the Malaika (‘divinely guided natural Forces’, though traditionally misconceived as ‘winged angels’) in 2:30 has been traditionally translated in FUTURE TENSE: ‘Will You establish therein one who will spread corruption therein and will shed blood?

So the question posed by the Malaika (‘atajAAalu feeha man yufsidu feeha wayasfiku alddimaa’), when thus translated in future tense, has classically raised the wrong theological question:

‘How would the Malaika, who have no foreknowledge about the future, know about future atrocities and bloodshed?’

However, looking at the verbs in the question, we cannot see any reason why we should not simply and preferably keep their translation in PRESENT TENSE: ‘Do you establish therein one who spreads corruption therein and sheds blood? Please note that a few translators in IslamAwakened also have chosen this translation in present tense.

Then the question posed by the Malaika, when the translation is thus left in present tense, refers to modern man (Homo sapiens) – a successor of his anthropoid ancestors (cf. 6:133, 70:39-41, 56:58-62) – as a divinely authorized inheritor of Earth, who is already present on Earth (‘who spreads corruption therein and sheds blood’) and whose ‘aggressive nature’ concerns the witnessing ‘natural Forces’ about the ‘violence and atrocities’ humans are inclined to.

Please note: It is not a question that was asked by the natural Forces only once, or only in the past. As a query and a concern ongoing, it is a constantly recurring question being asked by them throughout the history of mankind (Adam).

READING THE QUESTION IN ITS CONTEXT

Let us read the question in its context:

And when your Sustainer said to the Forces: Indeed I am establishing upon Earth an inheritor, they said: Do You establish therein one who spreads corruption therein and sheds blood, while we, we hymn Your praise and sanctify You? He said: Surely I know that which you know not. 2:30

It is interesting to observe that the active participle ‘jaAAilun’ (‘establishing’; cf. ‘innee jaAAilun’,Indeed I am establishing’) in the above actually describes a CONTINUOUS PROCESS, which has already started and is ongoing, rather than a planned project of the future.

In other words – because ‘jaAAilun’ refers to past and present as much as it refers to future – ‘establishing an inheritor’ is not just one time action, it is a process. This concept is fully consistent with the evolutionary perspective: Man is in an evolutionary process of getting established on Earth.

Moreover, the clear mention of blood and the shedding of it further suggest that the question simply refers to an already existing creature of our planet – who is in an evolutionary process of getting established on Earth – rather than a future creature on it or any similar creature in another part of the Universe.

Thus ‘Do You establish therein one who spreads corruption therein and sheds blood?’ is not a question that was asked by the natural Forces only once, or only in the past. It is a constantly recurring question being asked by them throughout the history of mankind – every time with creation of every human (Adam).

Consider all those forces of nature carrying out the divine command to create a baby human (an Adam) in its mother’s womb. Consider this in macro and micro- levels, in all molecular, atomic and subatomic levels. Then just imagine this question is being asked, metaphorically, by all those forces – including physical, chemical and biological.

As Adam belongs to past no more than s/he belongs to present and future, so is the question about Adam.

It is a question asked in the past, being asked in the present and will continue to be asked in the future. It is a query and a concern ongoing.

The Soul and its Attributes

Quran 17:85:

And they ask you, [O Muhammad], about the soul. Say, “The soul is of the affair of my Lord. And mankind have not been given of knowledge except a little.”

The following excerpt is taken from “Maariful Quran” by Mufti Taqi Usmani vol. 5 pg. 544-552:

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The following excerpt is taken from “Ihya Uloom Al Din” by Imam Ghazzali vol. 3 pg. 7-46:

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The Angels of the Right and Left

The following excerpt is taken from “The Message of the Quran” by Muhammad Asad pg. 1019-1022:

50:16
NOW, VERILY, it is We who have created man, and We know what his innermost self whispers within him: for We are closer to him than his neck-vein. (50:17) [And so,] whenever the two demands [of his nature] come face to face, contending from the right and from the left,11 (50:18) not even a word can he utter but there is a watcher with him, ever-present.12

11 The first part of the above sentence – i.e., the phrase yatalaqqa al–mutalaqqiyan – may be understood in either of two senses: “the two that are meant to receive do receive”, or “the two that aim at meeting each other do meet”. The classical commentators adopt, as a rule, the first sense and, consequently, interpret the passage thus: ….. the two angels that are charged with recording man’s doings – do record them, sitting on his right and on his left”. In my opinion, however, the second of the two possible meanings (“the two that aim at meeting each other”) corresponds better with the preceding verse, which speaks of what man’s innermost self (nafs) – whispers within him”, i.e., voices his subconscious desires. Thus, “the two that aim at meeting” are, I believe, the two demands of, or, more properly, the two fundamental motive forces within man’s nature: his primal, instinctive urges and desires, both sensual and non-sensual (all of them comprised in the modern psychological term “libido”), on the one side, and his reason, both intuitive and reflective, on the other. The “sitting (qa’id) on the right and on the left” is, to my mind, a metaphor for the conflicting nature of these dual forces which strive for predominance within every human being: hence, my rendering of qa’id as “contending”. This interpretation is, moreover, strongly supported by the reference, in verse 21, to man’s appearing on Judgment Day with “that which drives and that which bears witness” – a phrase which undoubtedly alludes to man’s instinctive urges as well as his conscious reason (see note 14 below).


12 I.e., his conscience, The “uttering of a word” is conceptually connected with the “whispering” within man’s psyche spoken of in the preceding verse,

50:19
And [then,] the twilight of death brings with it the [full] truth 13 – that [very thing, O man,] from which thou wouldst always look away! – (50:20) and [in the end] the trumpet [of resurrection] will be blown: that will be the Day of a warning fulfilled.

13 I.e., full insight into one’s own self.


50:21
And every human being will come forward with [his erstwhile] inner urges and [his] conscious mind,14 (50:22) [and will be told:] “Indeed, unmindful hast thou been of this [Day of Judgement]; but now We have lifted from thee thy veil, and sharp is thy sight today!” (50:23) And one part 15 of him will say: “This it is that has been ever-present with me!”16

14 Lit., “with that which drives (sa’iq) and that which bears witness (shahid)”. While the former term evidently circumscribes man’s primal urges – and particularly those which drive him into unrestrained self-indulgence and, thus, into sin – the term shahd (rendered by me as “conscious mind”) alludes here to the awakening of the deeper layers of man’s consciousness, leading to a sudden perception of his own moral reality – the “lifting of the veil” referred to in the next verse – which forces him to “bear witness” against himself (cf. 17:14, 24:24, 36:65, 41:20 ff.).

15 Lit., “his intimate companion” (qarinuhu). The term qarin denotes something that is “connected”, “linked” or “intimately associated” with another thing (cf. 41:25 and 43:36, where qarin is rendered as “[one’s] other self”). In the present instance – read together with verse 21 – the term apparently denotes “one part” of man, namely, his awakened moral consciousness.

16 I.e., the sinner’s reason will plead that he had always been more or less conscious, and perhaps even critical, of the urges and appetites that drove him into evildoing: but, as is shown in the sequence, this belated and, therefore, morally ineffective rational cognition does not diminish but, rather, enhances the burden of man’s guilt.

50:24
[Whereupon God will command:] “Cast, cast 17 into hell every [such) stubborn enemy of the truth, (50:25) [every] withholder of good [and] sinful aggressor [and] fomentor of distrust between man and man – everyone who has set up another deity beside God:18 cast him, then, cast him into suffering severe!”


17 In this instance, as well as in verse 26, the imperative “cast” has the dual form (alqiya). As many classical philologists (and almost all of the commentators) point out, – this is linguistically permissible for the sake of special stress, and is equivalent to an emphatic repetition of the imperative in question. Alternatively, the dual form may be taken as indicative of an actual duality thus addressed: namely, the two manifestations within man’s psyche alluded to in verse 17 and described in verse 21 as sa’iq and shahid (see note 14 above), both of which, in thefr interaction, are responsible for his spiritual downfall and, hence, for his suffering in the life to come.


18 This relates not merely to the veneration of real or imaginary beings or forces to which one ascribes divine qualities, but also to the “worship” of false values and immoral concepts to which people often adhere with an almost religious fervour.


50:27
Man’s other self19 will say: “O our Sustainer! It was not I that led his conscious mind20 into evil – [nay,) but it had gone far astray [of its own accord]!”21 (50:28) [And] He will say: “Contend not before Me, [O you sinners,] for I gave you a forewarning [of this Day of Reckoning). (50:29) The judgment passed by Me shall not be altered; but never do I do the least wrong unto My creatures!”

19 Lit., as in verse 23, “his intimate companion” (qarin): but whereas there it may be taken as denoting man’s moral consciousness or reason (cf. note 15 above), in the present instance the “speaker” is obviously its counterpart, namely, the complex of the sinner’s instinctive urges and inordinate, unrestrained appetitites summarized in the term sa’iq (“that which drives”) and often symbolized as shaytan (“satan” or “satanic force”: see Razi’s remarks quoted in note 31 on 14:22.) In this sense, the term qarin has the same connotation as in 41:25 and 43:36.


20 Lit., “him” or “it” – referring to man’s faculty of conscious, controlling reason (shahid).

21 I.e., man’s evil impulses and appetites cannot gain ascendancy unless his conscious mind goes astray from moral verities: and this explains the purport, in the present context, of verses 24-25 above.

The following excerpt is taken from “The Message of the Quran” pg. 1195:

82: 10
And yet, verily, there are ever-watchful forces over you, (11) noble, recording, (12) aware of whatever you do!7 (13) Behold, [in the life to come] the truly virtuous: will indeed be in bliss, (14) whereas, behold, the wicked will indeed be in a blazing fire (15) [a fire] which they shall enter on Judgment Day, (16) and which they shall not [be able to] evade.

7 The classical commentators are of the opinion that we have here a reference to the guardian angels who record, allegorically, all of men’s deeds. However, another explanation has been suggested by me in my rendering of 50:16-23 and elaborated in the corresponding notes 11-16. In consonance with that interpretation, the “watchful force” (hafiz) set over every human being is his own conscience, which “records” all his motives and actions in his subconscious mind. Since it is the most precious element in man’s psyche, it is described in verse 11 as “noble”.

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