The Honey Bee and Divine Revelation
Question: Is wahi (Divine revelation) sent only to the Prophets by God Almighty? If so, then what does the following verse signify?
وَ اَوۡحٰی رَبُّکَ اِلَی النَّحۡلِ (68:16)
And your Lord has sent wahi towards the honey bee. (16:68)
Answer: The word wahi has a literal meaning and is also used as a term. It is used in the literal meaning (to put something in the mind) in the verse you have referred to. As a term, it is used in the Qur'an at many instances as you very well know. When used as a term, it means religious guidance provided by the Almighty to His messengers.
So one must try to determine when a word is used literally and when it is used as a term. Such variation in usage is very customary for many other Arabic words as well. Take the case of the word zakah for example. As a term, it means a prescribed amount given in the way of Allah to obtain purity of heart and to obtain the blessings of Allah. Literally speaking, however, the word zakah, in Arabic, has two meanings: "purity" and "growth." The words "purify them" in the first and 'people who will increase their wealth' in the second verse of the Qur'an quoted below indicate these two meanings of the word:
خُذْ مِنْ أَمْوَالِهِمْ صَدَقَةً تُطَهِّرُهُمْ وَتُزَكِّيهِمْ بِهَا (103:9)
Take charity from their wealth [O Prophet!] in order to cleanse them and purify them with it. (9:103)
وَمَا آتَيْتُمْ مِنْ زَكَاةٍ تُرِيدُونَ وَجْهَ اللَّهِ فَأُوْلَئِكَ هُمْ الْمُضْعِفُونَ(39:30)
And that which you give as zakah, seeking Allah's countenance, it is these people who will increase their wealth [in the Hereafter]. (30:39)
In other words, in these two verses, the word zakah is used in its two literal meanings and not used as a term.
So one must appreciate that all words that become terms are never stripped of their original literal meaning. The real thing is that one must be able to distinguish the difference in such usage. Consulting a good commentary or some scholar could always be of help on such occasions.
Success and the Qur'an
Question: I am a born Muslim but am not able to answer convincingly the following query: Why are many Muslims, who pray regularly, not very successful in this world. Also, if one pursues one's career, one often gets involved in worldly matters and loses much reward. So what should one do? After all we cannot just sit at home.
Answer: You see we must turn to the Qur'an for the definition of the word success. One's own conception of success is of course no yardstick in religion.
The Qur'an is firm that real success is the success in the Hereafter:
فَمَنۡ زُحۡزِحَ عَنِ النَّارِ وَ اُدۡخِلَ الۡجَنَّۃَ فَقَدۡ فَازَ(185:3)
So, he who is saved from Hell and admitted into Heaven indeed attained success. (3:185)
This world is just a transient prelude to the real life to come. The Qur'an says that this world in reality has not been made for rewarding a person for every good deed or punishing him in this world for a bad deed in his span of life. It is only in the Hereafter that results willtrulybe in conformity with the deeds done. A person who is a sincere seeker of the truth, whether he is a Muslim or a non-Muslim, will attain success in the world to come.
The other thing that needs to be understood is that Islam wants its adherents to live a profound life in this world by doing whatever they can for its betterment. However, they must always give priority to the requisites of the Hereafter. If they have to choose between good and evil, they must always strive to choose good. Other than this, they must strive to contribute to make this world a better place by producing good scientists, engineers, doctors, lawyers and the like to become leaders of the world in technology. All this is inherent in the urge found in human nature. Islam does not curtail it; it only directs man to live with the priority of the Hereafter while contributing to this world through his skills and abilities. In short, one must strike a balance between one's struggles and efforts to achieve material success, which must not override the requisites of the life to come.
The Gender of God
Question: Why is the gender of God regarded to be male? The Qur'an repeatedly refers to God as "He."
Answer: Firstly, it should be kept in mind that we have no knowledge whatsoever about the physical being of God; we do not know if He is male, female, genderless or has some other gender that we are not aware of.
Secondly, in spite of not knowing what God's gender is, since humans had to address God, some gender had to be adopted.
If these two points are clear, then one can go on to consider another fact: the concept of God was found in the very first human beings – Adam and Eve. With their birth, languages were born. We have no knowledge about whatlanguage our progenitors spoke, nor do we know what languages were spoken by much later generations. Anyway, as time progressed various languages were born and in them was born the concept of gender. Even things were classified as either male or female. For example, in the English language, the female gender was adopted for a entity "country." So we now say: "Nepal is a poor country; her resources are scarce." This of course does not make the country a female. Likewise, the expression "sister-organizations" refer to similar organizations. Similarly, in the Arabic language, the nouns shams (sun), sa'ir (Hell) and sama (sky) are feminine. Why? Simply because Englishmen and Arabs used to speak this way. Likewise, the male gender was adopted for God. Again not because God is "a male" but because of the usage of the language. So consistent was this usage that in most languages, themale gender was reserved for God.
So you see with this history, one can safely conclude that genders of things and entities (except for men and women and other species whose gender is physically known), all genders are fixed by the usage of a language and have nothing to do with the actual gender of the thing.
. See, for example: Ibn Manzur, Lisan al-'arab, vol. 15, 379.
. Ibid., vol. 14, 358.