This article provides a hermetic interpretation of the chapter 17 of Quran called “The Children of Israel”. It discusses the philosophy of spiritual wisdom and rituals that are mentioned in the Quran, and the legacy of their practice.
Time is the great designer of existence in the universe which never fails to promote the beauty of it, and also to destroy every ugliness. But the beauty has to be earned through intense trials, and it can only be generated from the purity of actions under the conditions that epitomize the very essence of the creator. Man is the creature who mirrors the image of the grand design, and he carries with himself the potential to reach the pinnacle of perfection in the universe. In doing so, he not only exemplifies his heroic status as the leader in every aspect of existence, but also fulfils his destiny of being the ultimate bearer of truth.
The chapter 17 of Quran offers the most profound guidance to reach such a state of perfection by demonstrating the possibility of success in the challenging times. Here I intend to interpret this guidance of the Quran by using the hermetic arts of astrology, symbolism, kabala, and alchemy. This chapter of Quran is called “The Children of Israel” because it symbolically represents the legacy of spiritual wisdom that can help to conquer the darkness through the practices of goodness in lifestyles.
The Power and the Redemption
The true ‘power’ always expresses itself in the face of a challenge from an outside source, and operates through the actions that symbolize the best potential to overcome the problems. This power is usually invoked under the most desperate conditions, and is required to perform intelligent actions to secure oneself from impending dangers. The power can also take many forms such as physical or verbal skills, as well as psychological capacity of patience, perseverance, and hard work. A person may adopt certain practices to overcome the challenges that would serve as rituals at the time to invoke the latent power, which in turn becomes the embodiment of heroism in the most defining moments of life for that person.
Once the challenges are diminished in their intensity through the use of power, the person still stays empowered due to the mastery he achieves in the practices of rituals during those difficult times. Since afterwards, the need of ritualistic practices are no longer evident in the improved circumstances, a person may deem himself to be free of them, and thereby losing the mastery of invoking power for himself. In order to avoid that, it is necessary to understand the principle of ‘redemption’. Redemption simply means that a person should continue with the practice of rituals that led to his power, but at a lesser intense level so as not to lose the mastery of it, and also to keep the rise of darkness at bay. Such a person is with the legacy of heroism consciously inherent within his being, the legacy whose power can be harnessed at any time.
On the other hand, it is also possible to be addicted by the rituals of self destructive practices at certain times of ease without realizing the mighty momentum which could be generated by those habits. Consequently, the guidance of light would be ignored and the words of wisdom would fall on deaf ears. Such practices should be called ‘slavery’, and the addiction to them without offering the least bit of resistance is the worst form of ‘damnation’. This can be visualized as similar to sliding on a steep slope, which is very pleasurable but would always go deeper into the abyss; whilst good practices resemble the climb of some great mountain peak, which is though extremely arduous but would grant the best revelations of the universe to the being.
The Revelations of the Prime Legacy
The chapter 17 of Quran is rich in symbolic descriptions of the path to ‘Ascension’, and therefore in its interpretation I shall attempt to explain the verses from a range of perspectives. The chapter begins by stating the following verses.
Glorified be He Who carried His servant by night from the Inviolable Place of Worship to the Far Distant place of worship the neighbourhood whereof We have blessed, that We might show him of Our tokens! Lo! He, only He, is the Hearer, the Seer. (1)
We gave unto Moses the Scripture, and We appointed it a guidance for the children of Israel, saying: Choose no guardian beside Me. (2)
(They were) the seed of those whom We carried (in the ship) along with Noah. Lo! he was a grateful slave. (3)
In verse (1), the ‘inviolable place of worship’ is an allegory for the sign of Libra which brings about the sunset, and the beginning of night time; and the ‘far distant place of worship’ is Aries because the night ends with the sunrise at that sign. It is also stated here that the ‘neighbourhood’ of Aries, which would be the signs of Pisces and Taurus, are ‘blessed’ signs. The verse (1) therefore, indicates that this chapter would be about the training for the empowerment of mankind in the darker phase of the world i.e, between the setting and the rising of the Sun. The verse (2) suggests that the children of Israel had inherited the legacy of power through the laws of Moses, and were therefore in possession of the rituals of empowerment. In verse (3), the ‘Noah’s ship’ is a metaphor for the zodiac, and thus it expresses the inheritance of power by those who survived the tribulations of darkness by being in the ship of the zodiac, whilst others perished. The Quran further states,
And We decreed for the Children of Israel in the Scripture: Ye verily will work corruption in the earth twice, and ye will become great tyrants. (4)
So when the time for the first of the two came, We roused against you slaves of Ours of great might who ravaged (your) country, and it was a threat performed. (5)
Then we gave you once again your turn against them, and We aided you with wealth and children and made you more in soldiery. (6)
(Saying): If ye do good, ye do good for your own souls, and if ye do evil, it is for them (in like manner). So, when the time for the second (of the judgments) came (We roused against you others of Our slaves) to ravage you, and to enter the Temple even as they entered it the first time, and to lay waste all that they conquered with an utter wasting. (7)
It may be that your Lord will have mercy on you, but if ye repeat (the crime) We shall repeat (the punishment), and We have appointed hell a dungeon for the disbelievers. (8)
The ‘two corruptions’ in verse (4) is a reference to the two seasons of light, namely spring and summer. It is saying that the children of Israel fell into the lifestyles of decadence during the easy times, and as a result had become great tyrants. The verse (5) explains that the corruption in the sign of Aries was balance by the opposite sign of Libra which is metaphorically represented by the phrase ‘slaves of ours of great might’. In verse (6) the children of Israel practiced the rituals of power, and therefore were aided by wealth (Taurus), children (Gemini), and soldiery (Aries). Again in verse (7) the principle of cause and effect is emphasized, and further illustrated by the mention of second punishment due to the corrupt activities in the astrological signs of summer. In verse (8) the mention of ‘mercy’ is meant to recommend the power rituals of winter that should overcome the misdeeds of summer. Some of the archetypal power rituals and laws are described in the following verses.
Luminaries (Sun and Moon)
Thy Lord hath decreed, that ye worship none save Him, and (that ye show) kindness to parents. If one of them or both of them attain old age with thee, say not “Fie” unto them nor repulse them, but speak unto them a gracious word. (23)
And lower unto them the wing of submission through mercy, and say: My Lord! Have mercy on them both as they did care for me when I was little. (24)
Your Lord is best aware of what is in your minds. If ye are righteous, then lo! He was ever Forgiving unto those who turn (unto Him). (25)
The verses (23–25) explain the laws relating to old parents that is allegorical to the luminary planets (Sun and Moon). The Moon is astrologically detriment in Capricorn, whilst the Sun is astrologically detriment in Aquarius, and therefore the law states that they have to be shown respect under the troubled state.
Give the kinsman his due, and the needy, and the wayfarer, and squander not (thy wealth) in wantonness. (26)
Lo! the squanderers were ever brothers of the devils, and the devil was ever an ingrate to his Lord. (27)
But if thou turn away from them, seeking mercy from thy Lord, for which thou hopest, then speak unto them a reasonable word. (28)
And let not thy hand be chained to thy neck nor open it with a complete opening, lest thou sit down rebuked, denuded. (29)
Lo! thy Lord enlargeth the provision for whom He will, and straiteneth (it for whom He will). Lo, He was ever Knower, Seer of His slaves. (30)
The verses (26–30) indicate the trials of archetypal Venus. The astrological Venus offers wealth and gentle attitudes toward others; and thus the verse (26) requires intelligent use of material resources from a person, and the verse (28) suggests appropriate mannerism. The verses (29–30) further provide guidelines for the investment of material resources with wisdom, and at the same time never to lose faith in the providence for ones livelihood.
Slay not your children, fearing a fall to poverty, We shall provide for them and for you. Lo! the slaying of them is great sin. (31)
The verse (31) states the Saturn’s archetypal character of killing the children since Saturn rules the signs opposite to that of the parents (Sun and Moon). The winter season can also be characterized by a desolate environment, and therefore children are at considerable risk here due to the lack of resources. Here, the ritual should be to supply the children with sufficient resources so as to help them survive the harshness of winter.
And come not near unto adultery. Lo! it is an abomination and an evil way. (32)
And slay not the life which Allah hath forbidden save with right. Whoso is slain wrongfully, We have given power unto his heir, but let him not commit excess in slaying. Lo! he will be helped. (33)
In verse (32), the aggressive and dominating archetypal role of Mars is rebuked on account of their psychological consequences in the dealings with other people. The verses (33) further forbids the violence and killings for the sake of pride or any other form of vanity. The objective here is to keep the principles of justice and fair play intact in a society.
Come not near the wealth of the orphan save with that which is better till he come to strength; and keep the covenant. Lo! of the covenant it will be asked. (34)
Fill the measure when ye measure, and weigh with a right balance; that is meet, and better in the end. (35)
The verses (34–35) describe the importance of logical or rational attitudes when dealing with vulnerable situations. The archetypal Mercury signifies rules of engagement through communication skills and symbols. Therefore, any form of trickery is strictly forbidden between parties involved in business or social contracts. Also, the right conduct is encouraged in every affair to minimize the possibility of deception.
(O man), follow not that whereof thou hast no knowledge. Lo! the hearing and the sight and the heart — of each of these it will be asked. (36)
And walk not in the earth exultant. Lo! thou canst not rend the earth, nor canst thou stretch to the height of the hills. (37)
Astrologically, knowledge and insights come under the domain of planet Jupiter. The verse (36) emphasizes the use of knowledge and experience in all aspects of life. Also with knowledge comes humility and righteous behaviours that are quite explicitly taught in verse (37).
The Confirmation of the Legacy
The seven heavens and the earth and all that is therein praise Him, and there is not a thing but hymneth His praise; but ye understand not their praise. Lo! He is ever Clement, Forgiving. (44)
The verse (44) refers to ‘the seven heavens’ which is essentially an allegory of the orbital patterns of the seven astrological planets. It suggests that human beings should endeavour to comprehend the nature of existence, and use their divine intelligence to be in accord with it. The following verses emphasize this point.
Establish worship at the going down of the sun until the dark of night, and (the recital of) the Qur’an at dawn. Lo! (the recital of) the Qur’an at dawn is ever witnessed. (78)
And some part of the night awake for it, a largess for thee. It may be that thy Lord will raise thee to a praised estate. (79)
The verses (78–79) explains the significance of undertaking correct actions corresponding to the cardinal points of the zodiac. In verse (78), ‘going down of the sun’ is the reference to Libra, and ‘dawn’ is the reference to Aries; whilst in verse (79), ‘part of the night’ indicates the sign of Capricorn, and ‘a praised state’ expresses the sign of Cancer. Thus, the rituals of Quran exemplify the power that can be garnered from the trials and tribulations of time.
The End Note
Life is an ongoing ritual of the interactions of elements in nature whereby the existence manifests itself with elegance and beauty. Similarly, it is also essential for human beings to express their divine attributes by indulging into rituals of spiritual significance that reflect the beauty of their sublime character. I should conclude this article by stating the following verses from the Quran.
And say: My Lord! Cause me to come in with a firm incoming and to go out with a firm outgoing. And give me from Thy presence a sustaining Power. And say: Truth hath come and falsehood hath vanished away. Lo! falsehood is ever bound to vanish. (17, 80–81)