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A man came running from the farthest end of the city and said... (Yā-Sīn 36:20)

by Fethullah Gülen on . Posted in Sūrah Yā-Sīn

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وَجَاءَ مِنْ أَقْصَى الْمَدِينَةِ رَجُلٌ يَسْعَىٰ قَالَ يَا قَوْمِ اتَّبِعُوا الْمُرْسَلِينَ
A man came running from the farthest end of the city and said: ‘O my people! Follow those who have been sent (to you as Messengers). (Yā-Sīn 36:20)

The first point of attention in here concerns the phrase, “Ashāba’l Qaryah” (People of the township), which is used in the 13th verse of the same sūrah. Therefore, we understand that the Messengers to whom “the man came running from the farthest end of the city” in order to protect them came to a “civilized” land in order to convey God’s Religion, not to a desert or uncivi-lized place.

When the people of this land rejected the first two Messengers who came to them, God Almighty sent a third one to confirm them. Nevertheless, those people were so obstinate in not accepting the truth that they went so far as to kill their fellow townsman—“the man who came running from the farthest end of the city.”

This man mentioned in the verse under discussion was from among the people to whom the Messengers were sent. At a critical point, he emerged in order to confirm and protect the Messengers. The verse relates that he came running from “the farthest end of the city.” The interpreters of the Qur’ān have generally interpreted the expression of “the farthest end of the city” in the following three ways:

1. This expression means the other side or part of the city. That is, that man resided in the farthest end in one of its suburbs.

2. The word “aqsā,” which is used in this expression and is translated as “the farthest,” also means the highest, the most important, or valuable. For example, in a supplication called the Salātu’l-Munjiya (the call for blessings and peace upon our Prophet recited in praying to God for salvation), this same word is used in this meaning as a modifier in the phrase of “aqsā’l-qhāyāt,” which means “the farthest (highest) of goals.” Therefore, according to this usage, the expression, “the farthest end of the city” denotes the elite or the highest class of people (who are very much like the people of today’s high society that live in secluded mansions in a very luxurious residential area at “the farthest end of the city” without mixing much with the public and the ordinary life). So the man who came running to support the Messengers belonged to the highest class of people of the city.

3. The expression, “rajulun min aqsā’l-madīnati” (a man from the farthest end of the city), describes a meritorious, virtuous person whose mindset and way of life was far from that of his community. In fact, his call to his people, “Follow those who ask of you no wage (for their service) and are themselves rightly guided” (Yā-Sīn 36:21), demonstrates his different way of thought and belief. According to the last two viewpoints, we can describe that person as a sincere, virtuous, and trustworthy man who had a lifestyle and mentality different from those of his people and whom people had recourse to when they were in a dilemma or had difficulties. As the Qur’anic commentator Hamdi Yazir states, when his people attempted to kill or killed him, God relates that he said: “I wish my people knew that my Lord has forgiven me and made me one of those honored (with particular favors)!” (Yā-Sīn 36:26–27). We understand from this that he always desired the best for his people and never had the feelings of hatred nor a grudge against them. Conversely, he showed mercy even for his enemies and wished everyone the same happiness he had.

In fact, this voice has always been the voice of those who sacrifice themselves for the happiness of others. Here is Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings: he did not curse his enemies even when his tooth was broken and his face was in blood during the battle of Uhud. On the contrary, he prayed for those who inflicted that brutality on him, saying: “O my Lord! Guide my people, because they do not know.”[1]

By the way, I should point out that Prophet Noah’s prayer for his obstinate, disbelieving, and tyrannical people, “My Lord! Do not leave on the earth any from among the unbelievers dwelling therein” (Nūh 71:26), may at first sight be seen as contrary to what I have just said. Actually, it is not so. According to the principle of “drawing the conclusion based on what has happened,” Prophet Noah, who knew his community very well during the long years he served as Prophet, must have prayed so after he knew the Divine will or judgment about his people. When we take the way and practice of the Prophets into consideration, we will come to this clear conclusion.

In addition, there are some who claim that the stories in the Qur’ān are symbolic stories which the Qur’ān narrates to teach lessons. This is absolutely wrong, for they are historic events which took place as the Qur’ān relates.

By narrating these events, God shows us the tips of some universal truths or laws which will be valid until the end of time. In other words, these kinds of events began with Adam and will continue to happen until no human beings remain on the earth. In fact, if we view their contents, we realize that the Qur’ān does not relate them to any specific time or place. This must be what is expected from a Universal Book. Furthermore, in order to benefit from the Qur’ān sufficiently, we should never miss this important point. We should view the verses in which such events are narrated in connection with the lessons they intend to give. Another point is that whether a verse was revealed concerning a specific occasion or a specific event or a specific group of people, such as the Jews or Christians or unbelievers or hypocrites, everyone who reads the Qur’ān should assume that the Qur’ān addresses him or herself directly. Besides, readers of the Qur’ān should try to make the connection between the time, place, conditions, and the figures mentioned in the verses and their own time and place and the very conditions surrounding them.

The Qur’ān is not a book addressing only a specific time and place and specific conditions; rather, it addresses everyone regardless of time, place, and conditions. Therefore, a reader should think: “With the exception of the fact that I am not a Prophet, the Qur’ān addresses me directly,” and if one views the Qur’ān and reads it from this perspective, one will see that the Qur’ān addresses him or her. How can God and the truths about Him be restricted to a specific time and place? Therefore, having issued from the All-Eternal God’s Attribute of Speech, the Qur’ān addresses everybody regardless of time and space; at the same time it addresses God’s Messenger and his Companions. Despite this fundamental reality, if we view the narratives in the Qur’ān as certain stories about certain bygone peoples, our benefit from it will be little.

Back to the verse under discussion once again, the incident mentioned in it will continue in a similar form, if not the exact same form, until the end of time. As for the heroes of such incidents, one may count many similar heroes ever ready to sacrifice themselves for the sake of the Ultimate Truth, from the believer of the clan of the Pharaoh who emerged at a most critical point to support Prophet Moses to the hero mentioned in this verse, from Abū Bakr to many similar others who have exhibited the same heroism throughout history. The contemporary hero, who came from one of the farthest corners of Anatolia to Istanbul to present solutions to the contemporary problems of Muslims without expecting anything in return such as wealth, position, and fame, and who declared, “If I see the faith of my nation secured, I agree to burn in the flames of Hell, for while my body is burning, my soul will feel itself in a rose garden,” is one of them.

As referred to above, the Qur’ān mentions another of these heroes. He belonged to the clan of the Pharaoh and emerged at a most critical point to support Moses and prevent the attempts to kill him, saying: “Would you kill a man only because he declares, ‘My Lord is God!’” (Al-Mu’min 40:28). If someone from the lower classes of the society had done the same, he would not have been able to avert the plans to kill Moses.

The same heroism was exhibited by Abū Bakr in Makkah. At a time when Muslims were severely persecuted to the extent that they would nearly be killed, Abū Bakr, who belonged to the Makkan aristocracy, came out with the same exclamation: “Would you kill a man only because he declares, ‘My Lord is God!”[2] All this means that the events narrated in the Qur’ān are the foundational building-blocks of human history. They are repeated in all times and in all places.

[1] Bukhārī, Anbiyā’, 54; Istitāba, 5; Muslim, Jihād, 104; Ibn Mājah, Fitan, 23.
[2] Bukhārī, Fadā’ilu’s-Sahābah, 5; Manāqibu’l-Ansār, 29; Tafsīru Sūrah 40:1; Musnad Ahmad, 2/204.