Blind Attachment to the Religion of One's Ancestors
Throughout human history some people have resisted change, progress and new ideas. Be it from science to education, the economy to the judicial system, conservative people, seeking to uphold the status quo, oppose change. But though opposing change, they are not necessarily supporting the truth, rather, in general, old habits, traditions and customs. The prophets entrusted with calling people to Allah all met with this same mentality. The Prophets Muhammad, 'Isa, Shu'ayb, Musa, Nuh, and Hud amongst others (peace be upon them all), were all opposed by people defending and upholding their own religions.
Allah describes this mentality as an attachment to ancestral religion (Surat al-Baqara, 170; Surat az-Zukhruf, 23), where people take as their guide, the lifestyle and morality handed down by their ancestors. People mistake remaining bound hand and foot to the legacy of their ancestors for a major virtue. Many of them are so committed to their ancestors, that they will not even listen with an open mind to the message of the prophets. They hate to be shown errors in their ancestors' ways, fear change, and become enemies to the truth.
The Qur'an discusses in detail what different peoples said to their prophets. In Surat az-Zukhruf, Allah mentions one people who rejected their prophet's message, saying: "… We found our fathers following a religion and we are simply following in their footsteps." (Surat az-Zuhkruf: 23)
The Pharaoh and his people rejected the Prophet Musa and his brother Harun (peace be upon them), saying "Have you come to us to turn us from what we found our fathers doing, and to gain greatness in the land? We do not believe you." (Surah Yunus: 78)
Allah asks those who reject His message simply because it does not conform to an ancestral religion to think again: "… What, even though their fathers did not understand a thing and were not guided!." (Surat al-Bakara: 170)
The Qur'an invites people to think and compare ideas, rather than blindly accepting or rejecting. "Say: 'What if I have come with better guidance than what you found your fathers following?'..." (Surat az-Zuhkruf: 24). However, people often prefer their own traditions, and ignore anything that might unsettle it, even if they have no apparent reasons: "They say, 'We reject what you have been sent with.'" (Surah Az- Zukhruf: 24)
So, because of their blind attachment to their ancestors' religion, people evade the truths of the Qur'an, overlook its teachings and ignore the divine revelation of Allah. They forget that life is short, and that one day they will die and be wrapped in a shroud and buried in the ground, after which they will be accountable to Allah for all they have done. Allah draws attention to this error of theirs in Surat al-Anbiya', "No indeed! We have given these people enjoyment, as We did their fathers, until life seemed long and good to them…" (Surat al-Anbiya': 44)
One of the best examples in the Qur'an of this process of irrational denial of prophethood is the story of the Prophet Ibrahim's people, who were disbelievers who followed the religion of their forefathers and worshipped idols. Their attachment to a superstitious religion led them to reject the Prophet Ibrahim's call to the true faith, to belief in One God. The Prophet Ibrahim asked his people and his father, who had also rejected Ibrahim's call, "… What are these statues you are clinging to?" (Surat al-Anbiya': 52).The following conversation ensued:
They said, "We found our fathers worshipping them." He said, "You and your fathers are clearly misguided." They said, "Have you brought us the truth or are you playing games?" He said, "Far from it! Your Lord is the Lord of the heavens and the earth, He who brought them into being. I am one of those who bear witness to that." (Surat al-Anbiya': 53-56)
The Surah later describes how the tribe met every invitation of the Prophet Ibrahim to believe in the One God, Allah, with refusal. So the Prophet Ibrahim said he would set a trap for the idols. After the people had gone, he broke all the idols "except for the biggest one." When the people returned they asked:
They said, "Who has done this to our gods? He is definitely one of the wrongdoers!" They said, "We heard a young man mentioning them. They call him Ibrahim." They said, "Bring him before the people's eyes so they can be witnesses." They said, "Did you do this to our gods, Ibrahim?" He said, "No, this one, the biggest of them, did it. Ask them if they are able to speak!" (Surat al-Anbiya': 59-63)
Faced with this invitation and clever stratagem of the Prophet Ibrahim, the tribe hesitated at first and for a moment, examining their consciences, they accepted that they had done him an injustice. But then they turned on him once more, saying:
"... You know full well these idols cannot talk." He said, "Do you then worship, instead of Allah, what cannot help or harm you in any way? Shame on you and what you worship besides Allah! Will you not use your intellect?" (Surat al-Anbiya': 65-67)
After this dialogue, they tried to kill the Prophet Ibrahim and cast him into the fire. Allah thwarted them by protecting the Prophet Ibrahim from the fire. This encounter, between the Prophet and his tribe, is a good demonstration of the problem we have been discussing: a people's illogical attachment to their ancestral religion, even in the face of rational proofs and evidence to the contrary.
However, on the Day of Judgment people will face Allah completely alone, and their ancestors, on whom they placed so much importance and whose paths they followed, will not save them from Allah's reckoning. The Qur'an describes their repentance and sorrow:
They will say on the Day their faces are rolled over in the Fire, "If only we had obeyed Allah and obeyed the Messenger!" And they will say, "Our Lord, we obeyed our masters and great men and they misguided us from the Way. Our Lord, give them double the punishment and curse them many times over!" (Surat al-Azhab: 66-68)2009-11-25 22:27:59