An Example of Two Generations
There is a verse in Suratul Ahqaf that was recited before I began my discussion. In my opinion, this verse actually portrays the scene of two generations – that of a righteous generation and the other of a generation that has gone astray. We cannot say that without a doubt every proceeding generation would be more corrupt than the previous generation and that the world is going closer towards corruption day after day. At the same time, we also cannot say that the future generations will be more perfect than the previous generations and will never fall into error.
The verses that we wanted to look at are as follows:
) وَوَصَّيْنَا الإِنسَانَ بِوَالِدَيْهِ إِحْسَانًا حَمَلَتْهُ أُمُّهُ كُرْهًا وَوَضَعَتْهُ كُرْهًا وَحَمْلُهُ وَفِصَالُهُ ثَلاَثُونَ شَهْرًا حَتَّى إِذَا بَلَغَ أَشُدَّهُ وَبَلَغَ أَرْبَعِينَ سَنَةً قَالَ رَبِّ أَوْزِعْنِي أَنْ أَشْكُرَ نِعْمَتَكَ الَّتِي أَنْعَمْتَ عَلَيَّ وَعَلَى وَ الِدَيَّ وَأَنْ أَعْمَلَ صَالِحًا تَرْضَاهُ وَأَصْلِحْ لِي فِي ذُرِّيَّتِي إِنِّي تُبْتُ إِلَيْكَ وَإِنِّي مِنَ الْمُسْلِمِينَ (
“And We have enjoined on mankind kindness to his parents. In pain did his mother bear him and in pain she gave him bith. The carrying of the (child) to his weaning is (a period of) thirty months. At length when the child reaches the age of full strength and attains forty years he says: ‘O my Lord! grant me that I may be grateful for Your favours which You have bestowed upon me and upon both my parents and that I may work righteousness such as You may approve; and be gracious to me in my progeny. Truly I have turned to You and truly I am of the Muslims.”1
This verse of the Qurʾan presents us with one of the ways of thinking and understanding of a righteous generation. It has been said that this verse was revealed in relation to Sayyid ash-Shuhada Imam Husain ibn ʿAli (a.s.) - of course, he is simply the most perfect testimony of this verse, however the verse is a general all-encompassing verse.
In this verse, there are five characteristics which have been mentioned for a righteous generation.
The first characteristic is that of a soul which is thankful and realizes the importance and worth of the blessing and gift of creation:
) رَبِّ أَوْزِعْنِي أَنْ أَشْكُرَ نِعْمَتَكَ الَّتِي (
“…’O my Lord! grant me that I may be grateful for Your favours which You have bestowed upon me…”
Such a person looks at all of the blessings and bounties that Allah (s.w.t.) has given to both of them (the mother and father) and the previous generations and then says, “O’ Allah! Give me the strength to be able to discern the truth and realize its true worth. Give me the strength to be able to make the best use of the blessings that You have showered upon us such that would earn Your pleasure.” To be thankful for any blessing means that we make use of that blessing as it should be used.
After this, we pray that Allah (s.w.t.) should give us the ability to perform actions that He is pleased with. We pray that we too should be given the chance to act in a way that is beneficial to ourselves, to others and perform those things which would earn the pleasure of Allah (s.w.t.):
) وَأَنْ أَعْمَلَ صَالِحًا تَرْضَاهُ (
“…and that I may work righteousness such as You may approve…”
The third prayer is that we turn our attention to the future generation and ask Allah (s.w.t.) for their goodness and for them to be righteous:
) وَأَصْلِحْ لِي فِي ذُرِّيَّتِي (
The fourth request made is that we are permitted to turn back towards Allah (s.w.t.) for the mistakes, slips and shortcomings which we performed in the past:
) إِنِّي تُبْتُ إِلَيْكَ (
The fifth and final prayer in this verse is that we ask to be granted the state of submission to the Truth and those things which Allah (s.w.t.) has specified for us in relation to the natural world and the Islamic legislations. It is through transgressing the limits set by Allah (s.w.t.) that leads to our destruction and annihilation:
) وَإِنِّي مِنَ الْمُسْلِمِينَ (
In relation to this generation mentioned above, it is then mentioned in the Qurʾan:
) أُوْلَئِكَ الَّذِينَ نَتَقَبَّلُ عَنْهُمْ أَحْسَنَ مَا عَمِلُوا وَنَتَجاوَزُ عَن سَيِّئَاتِهِمْ فِي أَصْحَابِ الْجَنَّةِ وَعْدَ الصِّدْقِ الَّذِي كَانُوا يُوعَدُونَ (
“These are they from whom We accept the best of what they have done and pass over their evil deeds, among the dwellers of the garden; the promise of truth which they were promised.” 320
In this part of the verse, the tense changes to the plural form and thus it is clear that it is not in reference to one individual. In this verse, it is stated that, “Such are they from whom We shall accept the best of their deeds and pass by their ill deeds: (they shall be) among the Companions of the Garden: a promise of truth which was made to them (in this life).”
However the following verse is in relation to the corrupt, misled generation, and it states:
) وَ الَّذِي قَالَ لِوَالِدَيْهِ أُفٍّ لَّكُمَا أَتَعِدَانِنِي أَنْ أُخْرَجَ وَقَدْ خَلَتْ الْقُرُونُ مِنْ قَبْلِي وَهُمَا يَسْتَغِيثَانِ اللَّهَ وَيْلَكَ آمِنْ إِنَّ وَعْدَ اللَّهِ حَقٌّ فَيَقُولُ مَا هَذَا إِلاَّ أَسَاطِيرُ الأََوَّلِينَ (
“But (there is one) who says to his parents ‘Woe on you! Do you hold out the promise to me that I shall be raised up even though generations have passed before me (without rising again)?’ And the two of them (the mother and father) seek Allah’s aid (and rebuke the son saying): ‘Woe to you! Have faith for the promise of Allah is true.’ But he says ‘This is nothing but tales of the ancients!”4’
A conceited, perplexed and mentally undeveloped generation would learn a few things, and then would not believe anything else that they hear; thus they would cease being servants of Allah (s.w.t.). They would say to their father and mother, “Woe upon you!” They would make fun of their parents and would resort to laughing at their thoughts and beliefs. Such a generation would say to their them!
) أَتَعِدَانِنِي أَنْ أُخْرَجَ (
“Do you hold out the promise to me that I shall be raised up?”
Such a generation exclaims: “Do you expect me to believe that there is another world after this one or that there is another life after this one whereas we see that previous generations came, lived, died and that is it!?”
The father and mother are religious and are not prepared to hear anything that goes against their religion and faith, however at the same time, they see that the dearest of people to them is speaking to them in such a way that it makes them upset and forces them to say to their child:
) وَيْلَكَ آمِنْ إِنَّ وَعْدَ اللَّهِ حَقٌّ (
One of the most painful things for a religious father and mother to see is their dear child drifting towards disbelief of the religion, or to see him or her deny the beliefs and go towards Kufr (complete disbelief).
) وَهُمَا يَسْتَغِيثَانِ اللَّهَ (
“…and the two of them (the mother and father) seek Allah’s aid…”
It is at this time that the cry for help can be heard in the heavens when both the father and mother call upon Allah (s.w.t.). However, the child replies to their pleas by saying that:
) مَا هَذَا إِلاَّ أَسَاطِيرُ الأََوَّلِينَ (
This verse gives us a picture of two completely different generations. One verse shows us a righteous generation, while the other verse gives us the image of a corrupt generation.
With this said, let us see which group our young generation falls under.