10-08-07

The arrogance of Qarun and his punishment

THE ARROGANCE OF QARUN

and

HIS PUNISHMENT

Along with Pharaoh, Qarun is mentioned among those who were

destroyed at the time of Musa.

The Qur'an informs us that Qarun was the owner of great possessions

in Egypt despite being a descendant of the Israelite tribe.

The following verse indicates that Qarun opposed Musa together with

Pharaoh:

We sent Musa with Our Signs and clear authority to Pharaoh, Haman

and Qarun. But they said, "A lying magician." (Qur'an, 40: 23-24)

It is noteworthy that Qarun, who was with Pharaoh, was also in

charge of a great treasure:

Qarun was one of the people of Musa but he lorded it over them. We

gave him treasures, the keys alone to which were a heavy weight for

a party of strong men… (Qur'an, 28: 76)

The great fortune and status Qarun possessed in Egypt, due to his

closeness to Pharaoh, made him arrogant and insolent towards his own

people. He refused to accept Musa's message, and boasted about his

possessions to make the children of Israel feel attachment to the life of this

world. In fact, his great fortune and status became the envy of some of the

people from Musa's tribe. God relates the arrogance of Qarun and the envy

those of poor faith among the children of Israel felt for him:

He went out among his people in his finery. Those who desired the

life of the world said, "Oh! If only we had the same as Qarun has been

given! What immense good fortune he possesses." (Qur'an, 28: 79)

The true believers among the children of Israel never felt inclined

towards Qarun. On the contrary, they comprehended the pitiful situation

he was in, and warned him:

…When his people said to him, "Do not gloat. God does not love

people who gloat. Seek the abode of the hereafter with what God has

given you, without forgetting your portion of the world. And do good

as God has been good to you. And do not seek to cause corruption in

the earth. God does not love corrupters." (Qur'an, 28: 76-77)

These same people of faith gave advise to the members of their own

tribe who were inclined to Qarun, and warned them to retain the nobility

of a believer in their conduct, and never to prefer the temporary pleasures

of this world over the mercy of God:

...Those who desired the life of the world said, "Oh! If only we had the

same as Qarun has been given! What immense good fortune he

possesses." But those who had been given knowledge said, "Woe to

you! God's reward is better for those who believe and act rightly. But

only the steadfast will obtain it." (Qur'an, 28: 79-80)

The main reason why Qarun went astray was his belief that he was

possessed with "knowledge." In other words, he had the boastful attitude

that he was superior to other people.

He said, "I have only been given it because of knowledge I have." Did

he not know that before him God had destroyed generations with far

greater strength than his and far more possessions? The evildoers will

not be questioned about their sins. (Qur'an, 28: 78)

Nevertheless, in the end, Qarun's arrogance brought him nothing but

harm. He brought great torment upon himself by being ungrateful to God,

and arrogantly believing that all his possessions were earned of his own

accord. Qarun finally came to realize that he was a feeble and helpless

servant of God, when his possessions, which had made him so boastful,

were completely destroyed by God:

We caused the earth to swallow up both him and his house. There was

no group to come to his aid against God, and he was not someone who

is helped. (Qur'an, 28: 81)

What befell Qarun was a warning, and an event from which those

around him, as well as succeeding generations, were to draw lessons from.

Those who sympathized with him immediately realized that what they had

desired so dearly was actually temporary and ultimately worthless. They

recognized that those who boast of their possessions and wealth can never

attain salvation, and that they will eventually have to give account for their

deeds:

Those who had longed to take his place the day before woke up

saying, "God expands the provision of any of His servants He wills or

restricts it. If God had not shown great kindness to us, we would have

been swallowed up as well. Ah! Truly the unbelievers are not

successful." (Qur'an, 28: 82)

Ultimately, the prepared end for Pharaoh and Haman, was the same

met by Qarun:

And Qarun and Pharaoh and Haman—Musa came with the Clear Signs

to them, but they were arrogant on the earth. They could not outstrip

Us. (Qur'an, 29: 39)

The story of Qarun clearly illustrates for us that God does not bestow

his mercy on those who are arrogant because of their wealth and

possessions, and who consider themselves to be wiser or more

knowledgeable than others. In the Qur'an, God also gives us examples

from other peoples of the past. Many civilizations of the past had attained

great success and material wealth. Yet, all these civilizations were

obliterated from the face of the earth. God took back the souls of these

people, who had thought themselves to be the rulers of the earth, and

reduced their glorious palaces to ruins:

How many wrongdoing cities We destroyed, and now all their roofs

and walls are fallen in; how many abandoned wells and stuccoed

palaces! (Qur'an, 22: 45)

There is another lesson the story of Qarun teaches us: not to be taken

by the allure of the temporary riches of this world and of those who

possess them. The ones a believer should be inclined to are hose who

withstand hardships in the way of God, those who spend their possessions,

and live for the cause of God, and those men of faith and wisdom, whose

hearts are full of love for God. As the Prophet Muhammad (saas) said
"God

does not look at your forms and possessions, but He looks at your hearts and

your deeds." (Muslim)
Those who appear to lead a luxuriant and

prosperous life, actually live in spiritual deprivation. Each day drift these

people into eternal torment in hell. God indicates this situation as follows:

Do not let their wealth and children impress you. God merely wants

to punish them by them during their life in the world and for them to

expire while they are unbelievers. (Qur'an, 9: 55)

Possessions should not be desired for pleasure and ostentation only.

We need to keep in mind that God puts humans to test by their

possessions as well. These possessions bring enjoyment to people as long

as they are used to earn the good pleasure of God. Qarun, for instance,

ended up in misery, despite his measureless wealth. The case of Qarun is

indeed a warning for all generations, both past and presnt.

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