What does Mithaq, that is the ‘covenant’ in qalu bala, mean? Why do we not remember the promise we made in the realm of the souls? Will it make us free of responsibility not to remember that promise?

The Details of the Question
What does Mithaq, that is the ‘covenant’ in qalu bala, mean? Why do we not remember the promise we made in the realm of the souls? Will it make us free of responsibility not to remember that promise?
The Answer

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How did it occur that spirits promised to Allah (SWT) in pre-eternity? Is it something symbolic?

Most of the tafseer scholars state, based on verse 172 of Chapter al-Araf, that the mithaq started in the uterus ant that the question and the answer took place during the phase when the body was given the soul.

It will be easy to understand it when we take into consideration that Allah is free from time. Although people who were created in different times came to his world before and after others, they were all ready in the pre-eternal knowledge of Allah and they were asked that question all together at the same time.

With the question “Am I not your Lord?” in the Mithaq, people’s attention were drawn to the divine education given to them and they were taught that they should believe in Allah and worship Him as lucky slaves who were educated as human beings in return for this endowment of Allah. It will not be right to forget this message by discussing about the Mithaq.

Mithaq, in Arabic, means “strengthening, covenant, oath”. And the “Primeval Mithaq” took place when the souls answered the question “Am I not your Lord?” of God Almighty as “Yes, for certain, you are our Lord.”

Our tafseer scholars unanimously agree that the address to the souls was not verbal, that is, it does not have the quality of addressing as in the Quran or other heavenly books. Elmalılı Hamdi underlines that it is like the orders given to the angels and it is not verbal. He says: “It is not necessary to think that it is asking and answering by calling to witness as we understand it, and to think it as a covenant in literal sense.”

Accordingly, the question that the souls were asked was a nonverbal address like an inspiration.

God Almighty swears by some creatures beginning from the sun in Chapter ash-Shams. One of those creatures is the ‘soul’. The following is stated in the verse:

“By the Soul, and the proportion and order given to it”

In the verse, it is stated that the human conscience was given the ability to discriminate between the good and the bad and the fact that the ability was given was expressed as inspiration. And the question, “Am I not your Lord?” occurred as inspiration.

The conversation is not a conversation having voices, letters and syllables. Since the body had not been formed yet at that time, we should understand that conversation as the speech of the soul.

We cannot know the true nature of that address and the answer, and we are not responsible for it. However, we should state this: In a true dream, a lofty meaning is flown into the heart of a believer. When he wakes up in the morning, he understands that his Lord spoke to him through inspiration and starts to act in accordance with the inspiration. The conversation of his Lord with him in his dream, and his decision to act accordingly do not resemble to the conversations and decisions when he is awake at all.

We are addressed two questions about the Mithaq. The first one is: “Why do we not remember the Mithaq?” The second is “Will it make us free of responsibility not to remember it?”

At first, let us have a look at the first question: When a human being is in the uterus for four months, his body is given the soul. The soul has no information about the body it will stay as a guest for five months. In addition, it is not aware that it is a soul that it is equipped with many feelings like sight and hearing, spiritual capitals like mind, memory and imagination. When he comes to the world, he does not know the world, either.  He passes the period of childhood; he becomes a youth. He becomes an exceptional being that uses his mind and evaluates himself and the world he lives in and that produces some questions in his inner world and seeks answers to them. Even in that state, he does not remember his infantry and the phases in the uterus. Then he asks, “Why do I not remember the Mithaq?”

It is necessary to approach the question from two aspects. The first one is: Our Lord limited us with many things in this world and we benefit from it. For instance, He limited our sight therefore we do not see everything. If we saw the dazzling actions of the atoms when we looked at the things, we would lose our balance; maybe it would be impossible for us to live in this world. If we saw all of the bacteria on the ground that we step, we would not be able to walk easily.

Our Lord, who imposed those limitations, limited our memory too. We do not remember our infantry period, what happened during that period and before it, that is, the phases in the uterus. One of the things that took place during the period we were in the uterus is the question of the Mithaq. If we could remember the Mithaq, everybody in this world would believe in Allah and the testing and trial in this world would be meaningless.

Another aspect of the question is as follows: We read a lot about it in the miracles of the Prophet. A tree talks miraculously and approves the prophethood of the Messenger of Allah (pbuh). Then, it returns to its normal state and continues its life unaware of anything.

If God Almighty gave consciousness to the apple tree for a moment and asked it “Am I not the one that trained you so that you would yield apples?” or asked the bee, “Am I not the one that trained you so that you would produce honey?”, the answer to those questions and similar ones would be “Yes, you trained us.”

The human soul could be asked the same question: “Am I not the one that trained you as the human soul and that made you talented for many sciences and skills by equipping you with material and spiritual capitals?”

The human soul would answer that question as “Yes, it is you who trained me like that.”

As a matter of fact, the souls were asked that question and they answered that divine address as, “Yes, you are our Lord.”

As for the question “Will it make us free of responsibility not to remember the Mithaq?”, İsmail Hakkı Bursevi answers that question as follows:

“When Allah sent the prophets, He informed them about that covenant. Even if the humans do not remember it, the word of the prophets will be regarded as evidence against them. When a person does not perform one rakat of a prayer and forgets about it and when trustworthy people remind him about it, their word is regarded as evidence against him.”

When a believer “praises Allah, the Lord of the worlds,” in each rakat of the prayers, he kind of renews his mithaq. He thanks his Lord by thinking that all of the beings that surround him and help him underwent a divine education.  Then, he looks at his own being, which is a tiny example of this universe. He sees that all of the actions of education in him are carried out in the most appropriate way to help him.

To think about those actions of education that surround man from inside and outside leads man to worship Allah. By saying “Thee do we worship, and Thine aid we seek” and continuing to read the chapter during the prayer, he renews his mithaq. He says “You are our Lord; we worship you and we ask help only from you not from anybody else.” 

Alaaddin Başar (Prof.Dr.)

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