Destruction of Past Generations
History is a great teacher. Acting as a server of warning and a dispenser of good counsel, it contains lessons to shape and improve one’s conduct. Little however people take benefit from it. Study of history has now become an intellectual pastime either to aid sleeping or while away time.
Quran puts forth events of the past generations so that we may take heed and correct ourselves. In ayah 6, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala reminds mankind of the past generations that were destroyed and eventually wiped out due to their disobedience or heedlessness towards Allah’s commands.
Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala says,
أَلَمْ يَرَوْاْ كَمْ أَهْلَكْنَا مِن قَبْلِهِم مِّن قَرْنٍ
“Have they not seen how many a generation before them We have destroyed…”
The addressees in this ayah are the Mushrikeen [idolators] of Makkah, however, the message is for everyone who doesn’t take heed. Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala is asking have they not seen how many generations were destroyed before them. The word “seen” here obviously denotes “ponder”, meaning have they not pondered over the fact that what happened to the previous generations? Where are they today?
The word qarnin [قَرْنٍ] is from the root letters qaf-ra-noon, and it has several meanings. Literally, it means “to join one thing with another”. It is also used for time period or a group of people collectively present at a given time and period. In the ayah, the word has been used for “generation”.
These were not some forsaken people as Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala further states in the ayah,
مَّكَّنَّـهُمْ فِى الاٌّرْضِ مَا لَمْ نُمَكِّن لَّكُمْ وَأَرْسَلْنَا السَّمَآءَ عَلَيْهِم مَّدْرَاراً وَجَعَلْنَا الاٌّنْهَـرَ تَجْرِى مِن تَحْتِهِمْ فَأَهْلَكْنَـهُمْ بِذُنُوبِهِمْ
“…whom We had established on the earth such as We have not established you. And We poured out on them rain from the sky in abundance, and made the rivers flow under them. Yet We destroyed them for their sins…”
Established here means well-settled, wealthy, blessed with children, having buildings and houses, abundant provision, riches and military might. But when they started killing prophets and disobeying the commands of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala, they were perished. Their wealth was rendered futile against the punishment of Allah.
The people of Makkah neither possessed the power of the legendary people of Aad and Thamoud nor the affluence of the people of Syria and Yemen. Therefore, for them the need of the hour was to learn a lesson from what happened to the past generations when they couldn’t save themselves from the Wrath of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala how then do the poor Arab pagans believe they will be saved.
Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala said next,
وَأَنْشَأْنَا مِن بَعْدِهِمْ قَرْناً ءَاخَرِينَ
“…and created after them other generations.”
Since they didn’t submit to Allah’s commands another generation replaced them. This generation too committed the same errors as their ancestors and was destroyed. Therefore, beware of the same end that might befall you, for you are not dearer to Allah than these previous nations, but the Messenger [salAllahu aalyhi wa sallam] whom you defied is dearer to Allah than the Messengers they defied. Thus, you are more liable than them to receive torment, if it was not for Allah’s mercy and kindness.
– We learn the warning against those people who deny messengers particularly Muhammad salAllahu aalyhi wa sallam.
– Sins are a means of destruction. Destruction can be intangible as well as tangible. Some examples of intangible destruction are loss of contentment and peace, loss of skills and abilities, loss of prestige and knowledge, and part of this destruction is that the person doesn’t get the opportunity to do good. He is deprived of blessings. A person who has been living in peace with his family is no more at ease because of his sins.
– There’s destruction in the akhirah as well as dunya.
– We learn about the Greatness of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala. He doesn’t care about the lofty blessings if a nation doesn’t worship Him.
– When a society is engaged in sin it becomes the cause of destruction of the entire nation. For example, a nation maybe involved in sin but what’s the sin of innocent children? The children die because of what their elders did. Therefore, there’s a lesson in it for us that if we are gaining knowledge and improving our conduct then it is our duty to convey the message to others as well. We have to play our role in the society and prevent it from destruction so that in the hereafter we are not questioned about our careless attitude.
May Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala save us from His wrath and destruction, aameen.