They planned a plot, and we planned a plot while they perceived not – Q27:50
Several verses of the Quran stress on the dominion of God and his disposition to and/or expression of power. However, the attitude of God to power is arguably most uniquely discussed in Al Naml, Quran 27: 50. This chapter of the Quran which is named after the ant depicts the essence of wisdom and patience in a man’s life journey. Ability to exhibit wisdom and patience in the quest for power or struggle for survival is a quality that is highly revered in Islam and well enshrined in the traditions of Prophet Muhammad.
Al Naml is one of the Makan (or Mahkiyya) revelations. That is, it was revealed in Makah before the flight of Prophet Muhammad and his followers to Medina. It chronicles the travails of prophets that lived before Muhammad namely, Moses, Solomon, Saleh and Lot, and how God intervened in their affairs during their respective era. Makkiyah chapters were mostly revealed to provide succour and hope to Muhammad and his followers when they were in their height of pain due to their persecution by the pagan Arabians.
However, according to the accounts of several scholars, the beauty of Al Naml is to be appreciated beyond the time and context of its revelation. This is based on the premise of its continued relevance in helping one to draw insights and inspiration during the period of conflict or when it seems the world is against one.
From Abraham to Moses and from Solomon to Jesus down to Muhammad, conflict and pains have been documented as the cornerstone of great insights and enduring fulfilment. This chapter teaches that even while one is on the right path to greatness, pushing the course of truth and working towards the progress of humanity, one is not immune to conflict and pains or opposition and persecution.
Another compelling theme of the chapter as entrenched in its verse 50 is the sly nature of power. Power is better taken or deployed through wisdom and strategy than through might and whim. This reflects the working of God and espouses many wise sayings one of which goes as thus:
‘’the mills of God grind slowly but it grinds exceedingly small.’’
When the enemy are in their laboratory of mischief, scheming and planning harm towards you, God is aware of this. Though He certainly has the power to thwart their moves arbitrarily, he seldom takes this route. Rather, He mostly prefers to cleverly lead them to their folly while they unknowingly leave traces and build bridges for you to manifest God’s Plan. Only in this process can you feel the pain and pleasure of growth and experience the depth and height of honour. The stories of Saleh and Moses were referenced in Al Naml to buttress this point of view.
Moses is considered by some scholars to be the first revolutionist to stage the first successful social movement in history. When Pharaoh feared that the Israelites might become so powerful someday that they would overcome their several years of bondage in Egypt, he ordered that every male child born to the Israelites should be killed.
However, when Moses was born and the mother feared he might be killed, God inspired in her to place the baby in a box and drop it at the bank of the Nile. Then God directed the course of one of Pharaoh’s daughters to the baby. The princess took a liking in the child and prevailed on the King to allow her nurture the poor infant in the palace. Thus, right under Pharaoh’s nose, his fear and waterloo was nurtured and emboldened.
The Chapter unfolds with the power of the infinite wisdom of God which encompasses both all that are known and unknown, seen and unseen by his creations. Because God possess knowledge of the hidden, many times we are caught bewildered by his actions and approach towards our affairs in the terrestrial plane. When we mostly want God to wield His sword in our defence, he play chess to our amazement. But he does this victoriously. He is the master strategist.