Qārūn (Korah) was one of Moses’ people, but he betrayed and oppressed them. (Al-Qasas 28:76)

by Fethullah Gülen on . Posted in Sūratu’l-Qasas (The Narrative)

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إِنَّ قَارُونَ كَانَ مِن قَوْمِ مُوسَىٰ فَبَغَىٰ عَلَيْهِمْ
Qārūn (Korah) was one of Moses’ people, but he betrayed and oppressed them. (Al-Qasas 28:76)

It is written in some commentaries on the Qur’ān based on reports from God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, his Companions, and earliest scholars that Korah and Moses were cousins. This assertion may have been due to efforts to find a relationship between them in order to emphasize that although Korah was very close to Moses, he could not benefit from him. Actually, neither in the Qur’ān nor in the Sunnah is there a clear reference to this assertion. Therefore, we may consider the following points regarding the verse above:

1. Korah was possibly one from among the Children of Israel, because of which the Qur’ān says that Korah was one of Moses’ people. Or Korah was one from among those whom Moses, upon him be peace, called to his Message. Like Sāmirī (the Samaritan), Moses, upon him be peace, gave him special importance and desired his conversion. But Korah was able neither to take advantage of this close concern nor to use his wealth in the cause of gaining Paradise.

The verse continues:

We had granted him (Korah) such great treasures that their very keys alone were too heavy a burden for a company of strong people. (Al-Qasas 28:76)

We should point out that the Qur’ān is absolutely free of any lies or exaggeration, which is an implicit lie. Therefore, in the light of this Qur’anic expression we can guess the amount of Korah’s wealth, whose keys were too heavy for a company of strong people to carry.

2. The treasures ascribed to Korah in our day fill museums.

3. As for Korah’s attitude in the face the treasures that were granted to him, he became spoiled, behaved insolently, and exulted in his treasures. Therefore, some among his people warned him:

Do not exult in your wealth; surely, God does not love those who exult. (Al-Qasas 28:76)

However, Korah not only remained indifferent to this warning but also persisted in his deviance and said:

All this has been given to me only by virtue of a certain knowledge that I have. (Al-Qasas 28:78)

In fact, this attitude is not unique to Korah. There have been and are many people whose wealth has spoiled them and led them astray, and they have uttered and are uttering the same things in insolence and exultation. For this reason, it would be wrong and a restriction to suppose this manner as unique to Korah. For instance, there were many who desired to have the same amount of wealth as Korah and sighed, saying:

Ah, if we but had the like of what Korah has been given! Indeed he is one of tremendous good fortune! (Al-Qasas 28:79)

However, the Qur’ān describes the reaction of those who nourished that desire in the face of Korah’s being swallowed by the earth together with his wealth, as follows:

And on the morrow, those who had longed to be in his place the day before began to say: “Woe to us! (We had forgotten that) God enlarges provision for whom He wills of His servants, and straightens it (for whom He wills). Had God not been gracious to us, He would have made us too swallowed up. Woe to us! (for we had forgotten that) the unbelievers do not prosper.” (Al-Qasas 28:82)

Indeed, Korah was punished by being swallowed up by the earth with all his wealth because he did not behave properly in the face of the wealth he had been granted and persisted in misguidance. The Qur’ān illustrates his punishment:

Then We caused the earth to swallow him and his dwelling. There was then no host to help him against God, nor (for all his possessions) was he himself able to come to his own aid. (Al-Qasas 28:81)

In fact, Korah had done wrong in two ways: First, considering himself to belong to the elite in society due to the wealth he had been granted, he acted haughtily and arrogantly toward God. Korah acted with such an arrogance and haughtiness that would prevent one from entering Paradise, and in return for his arrogance, God destined him to infamy and punished him. In other words, in return for Korah’s wrongly appropriating the wealth that had been granted to him and acting as if he would live with it forever, God had mortified him and made him swallowed by the earth together with his wealth. God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, declared: “Whoever is humble, God elevates him, and whoever is arrogant, God humiliates him.”[1] Korah should have acted humbly, but he acted haughtily and got what he deserved.

Secondly, if the number of the people who think and act like Korah increases in a community and their mentality dominates the community, divisions and fractions appear in it. In other words, if the worldview and mentality of such selfish people that earn and hoard wealth, fill up their stomach without thinking that others have a right to what they consume, and are indifferent to those who suffer poverty and destitution—if the mentality and worldview of such people become a norm and lifestyle in a community, then wide and insurmountable gaps will occur in the community. Capitalism and communism are examples of the systems that cause such gaps. They have caused the emergence of conflicting classes and dragged communities into disaster after disaster. In order to save the Children of Israel during the time of Prophet Moses from such disasters, God had Korah swallowed by earth and left a great lesson for those who would come later. With this incident God also gave the message that those whom the pomp and pleasures of this world fascinate are deceived—the world is fleeting with whatever is in it—and that God, Who grants all worldly things, may and can take it back whenever He wills.

In sum, in whatever way he had earned it, Korah had a huge amount of wealth containing gold, silver, and other precious metals and goods. It is highly meaningful with respect to the selfish and miserly character of Korah that this wealth was kept in wellguarded cases that were locked up. This huge wealth might have been earned through treasure hunting and/or usury. One who easily earns such a huge amount of wealth and has teams to preserve it and servants in his service can become insolent. So did Korah even though he was warned by some from among his people, who said:

Do not exult in your wealth; surely, God does not love those who exult. (Al-Qasas 28:76)

The ease with which he earned his wealth and his greed made Korah blind to the fact that many others had a right to his wealth. All his evil manners arose from his spiritual blindness and from his whim that he would be satisfied with the world. For only those whose balance of the heart has been destroyed and who are thus content with the world rely on it and exult in it.

[1] Sunan Ibn Mājah, Zuhd, 16; Musnad Ahmad, 3/76.