بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ
We know that this world is a place for test of mankind and Allah will recompense fully peoples’ deeds in the hereafter. Satan has been given respite till the day of judgment to destroy people’s beliefs and deeds. To counter Satan’s deceit, people are provided with Allah’s Word, the messengers and an intelligence to distinguish between truth and falsehood. Allah does not force belief on anyone. In view of above, how do we visualize and interpret the below ayat;
4:154 وَرَفَعْنَا فَوْقَهُمُ الطُّورَ بِمِيثَاقِهِمْ وَقُلْنَا لَهُمُ ادْخُلُوا الْبَابَ سُجَّدًا وَقُلْنَا لَهُمْ لَا تَعْدُوا فِي السَّبْتِ وَأَخَذْنَا مِنْهُم مِّيثَاقًا غَلِيظًا
And We raised over them At-Toor with their covenant ; and We said to them: “Enter the door/entrance bowing down”; and We said to them: “Do not over exceed in the matter of the Sabbath/Rest.” and We took from them a solemn covenant.
If the above ayat is visualized in a way that Allah forced Bani Israeel to believe in Him by raising a mountain over them and threatening to crush them under it if they didn’t believe. If this is the case then this understanding is not consistent with the message of Quran especially when we consider below ayahs:
10:99 وَلَوْ شَاءَ رَبُّكَ لَآمَنَ مَن فِي الْأَرْضِ كُلُّهُمْ جَمِيعًا ۚ أَفَأَنتَ تُكْرِهُ النَّاسَ حَتَّىٰ يَكُونُوا مُؤْمِنِينَ
If it had been your Lord’s will, they would all have believed,- all who are on earth! Will you (the messenger) then compel mankind, against their will, to believe!
27:92 وَأَنْ أَتْلُوَ الْقُرْآنَ ۖ فَمَنِ اهْتَدَىٰ فَإِنَّمَا يَهْتَدِي لِنَفْسِهِ ۖ وَمَن ضَلَّ فَقُلْ إِنَّمَا أَنَا مِنَ الْمُنذِرِينَ
And that I recite the Quran, and if any one accepts guidance, he does it for the good of his own self, and if anyone goes astray, say “I am only a warner”.
Faith and belief cannot be forced upon any one. The messenger is ordered to convey the message only and do not use force to impose belief on anyone.
50:45 نَّحْنُ أَعْلَمُ بِمَا يَقُولُونَ ۖ وَمَا أَنتَ عَلَيْهِم بِجَبَّارٍ ۖ فَذَكِّرْ بِالْقُرْآنِ مَن يَخَافُ وَعِيدِ
We know better what they say; and you are not the one to overawe them by force. So remind (them) with the Qur’an those who fear My warning!
The messengers only convey the message; they don’t force it on people.
64:12 وَأَطِيعُوا اللَّهَ وَأَطِيعُوا الرَّسُولَ ۚ فَإِن تَوَلَّيْتُمْ فَإِنَّمَا عَلَىٰ رَسُولِنَا الْبَلَاغُ الْمُبِينُ
And obey Allah, and obey His messenger, but if you people turn back, the duty of Our messenger is but to proclaim (the message) clearly and openly.
2:256 لَا إِكْرَاهَ فِي الدِّينِ ۖ قَد تَّبَيَّنَ الرُّشْدُ مِنَ الْغَيِّ ۚ فَمَن يَكْفُرْ بِالطَّاغُوتِ وَيُؤْمِن بِاللَّهِ فَقَدِ اسْتَمْسَكَ بِالْعُرْوَةِ الْوُثْقَىٰ لَا انفِصَامَ لَهَا ۗ وَاللَّهُ سَمِيعٌ عَلِيمٌ
There is no compulsion in din/judgment. The right way stands out clear from error. Thus whoever rejects taghoot (violent rebellion) and believes in Allah, has grasped the most trustworthy hand-hold, that never breaks. And Allah hears and knows all things.
In view of the above ayah’s we can see that it is not Allah’s practice to threaten and force belief on anyone. Therefore when the ayat 4:154 states that the mountain was raised above them and in 7:171 people thought that the mountain may fall on them, it would mean that people’s attention is drawn towards a certain mountain. This mountain has a unique status in Quran as Allah has mentioned it several times and it has certain association with messengers. From the description in Quran it seems that it is a fairly high mountain and it may seem to people that some part of it is not stable therefore may fall down over them. lets review ayahs in Quran about this mountain:
We read in Al-Quran the oath of ‘At-Toor’.
By the Toor
The ‘Toor e Sineen’ has close relation with the city of security (Mecca). The below ayat mentions ‘toor’ with the city of security.
95:2-3 وَطُورِ سِينِينَ وَهَٰذَا الْبَلَدِ الْأَمِينِ
And the Toor e Sineen, and this city of security.
Sineen in dictionary means ‘supported stones’. The stones which support each other to form interlocking. Toor means ‘stage’ and is also a mountain. ‘Toor e Sineen’ is a mountain with stones support structure. Ayahs 95:2-3 point out that this Toor-sineen i.e a mountain with supported stones is in the proximity of the Holy city of Mecca.
If you observe the pictures above, you will observe this mountain in which the famous cave of Hira is located. This cave is characterized by stones which support each other. The shape of this stone structure look like a canopy. This structure in picture is supported by interlocking of stones one over the other and to a casual observer may appear that some jostling may bring the structure down.
28:29 فَلَمَّا قَضَىٰ مُوسَى الْأَجَلَ وَسَارَ بِأَهْلِهِ آنَسَ مِن جَانِبِ الطُّورِ نَارًا قَالَ لِأَهْلِهِ امْكُثُوا إِنِّي آنَسْتُ نَارًا لَّعَلِّي آتِيكُم مِّنْهَا بِخَبَرٍ أَوْ جَذْوَةٍ مِّنَ النَّارِ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَصْطَلُونَ
Thus when Moosa had fulfilled the term, and was travelling with his family, he perceived a fire at the side of the ‘Toor’.’He said to his family. “Stay here; I perceive a fire; I hope to bring you from there some information, or a burning firebrand, that ye may warm yourselves.”
This mountain is associated with prophet Moosa (a.s) as well, in addition to its association with messenger Mohammad (pbuh). Many pilgrims visit this mountain in view of its sanctity and association with the messengers.
19:52 وَنَادَيْنَاهُ مِن جَانِبِ الطُّورِ الْأَيْمَنِ وَقَرَّبْنَاهُ نَجِيًّا
And We called him from the right side of Toor, and made him draw near to Us, for talk.
This is the place where prophet Moosa (a.s) received close communication from Allah.
20:80 يَا بَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ قَدْ أَنجَيْنَاكُم مِّنْ عَدُوِّكُمْ وَوَاعَدْنَاكُمْ جَانِبَ الطُّورِ الْأَيْمَنَ وَنَزَّلْنَا عَلَيْكُمُ الْمَنَّ وَالسَّلْوَىٰ
O Children of Israel! We delivered you from your enemy, and We made a covenant with you on the right side of Toor, and We sent down to you Manna and Salwa.
Bani Israeel, got security from their enemies around this place of safety and security and they were granted many bounties and gifts from Allah.
28:46 وَمَا كُنتَ بِجَانِبِ الطُّورِ إِذْ نَادَيْنَا وَلَٰكِن رَّحْمَةً مِّن رَّبِّكَ لِتُنذِرَ قَوْمًا مَّا أَتَاهُم مِّن نَّذِيرٍ مِّن قَبْلِكَ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَتَذَكَّرُونَ
You were not at the side of Toor when We called. Yet a mercy from your Lord, so that you give warning to a people to whom no warner had come before you so that they may remember.
The above Ayat states that the messenger was not at the side of the ‘Toor’ when he was called by the Lord to forewarn his nation. It was with Allah’s mercy that the messenger was chosen and called by the Lord to be the messenger to his nation, however, the first revelation event did not happen at At-Toor, as is popularly believed. This stresses the fact that our belief on the messenger should be according to how Allah describes him in His book and not according to man written history books.
3:20 وَشَجَرَةً تَخْرُجُ مِن طُورِ سَيْنَاءَ تَنبُتُ بِالدُّهْنِ وَصِبْغٍ لِّلْآكِلِينَ
And a tree emerges from Toor e Seena which grows with the oil and colour to the eaters.
The mention of a tree could be a reference toward the cave portion of the mountain where longitudinal stones form an interlocking resembling the shape of a bunch of leaves of olive tree.
7:171 وَإِذْ نَتَقْنَا الْجَبَلَ فَوْقَهُمْ كَأَنَّهُ ظُلَّةٌ وَظَنُّوا أَنَّهُ وَاقِعٌ بِهِمْ خُذُوا مَا آتَيْنَاكُم بِقُوَّةٍ وَاذْكُرُوا مَا فِيهِ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَتَّقُونَ
When We hung the mount over them, as if it had been a canopy, and they thought it was going to fall on them (We said). “Hold firmly to what We have given you, and remember what is therein; perchance ye may fear Allah.”
In summary the traditional rendering of above ayat is that Allah forced people to accept what revelation was given to them otherwise, they would be crushed under the mountain. However, this does not make sense as Allah very categorically states in Quran that there is no compulsion in Din/judgment. Also, Allah has allowed the people to believe freely in this world so that they can be judged accordingly in the hereafter. Therefore it is evident that Allah would never force people to believe by threatening them to crush under the mountain if they did not do so. So, we saw in this post what actually is meant with the mention of At-Toor in Quran is to make people conscious of a mountain which is associated with messengers. The mountain is in the sacred valley of peace and security i.e Mecca. A portion of it has a support structure of interlocking of stones resembling a bunch of olive tree leaves.