History of Islam
An encyclopedia of Islamic history
Surah Al Mulk (The Dominion)
Revealed in Mecca
Number of Ayahs: 30
Theme: The majesty, perfection and subtlety of creation as an invitation to faith (Iman). What is external is a simile to what is internal. The objective is the transformation of the heart so that humankind can discharge its mandate to know, serve and worship the Divine.
Surah al Mulk draws attention to the expanse and subtlety of creation as a Sign for the majesty and power of the all-Compassionate. Summarily, the message of the Surah can be divided into four parts:
Invitation to witness and reflect upon the Signs of Allah in the expanse and subtlety of creation: Ayahs 1-4,19
Signs for the fragility of life on this planet: Ayahs 5, 16, 17, 20, 21, 28, 30,
Signs in the bounties from the Sustainer: 23, 24,
The discomfiture of those who reject the Signs and the inner peace of those who accept them: 6-11, 13, 14, 15, 18, 21, 22, 25, 26, 27, 29.
بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَنِ الرَّحِيمِ
Bismi Allāhi Ar-Raĥmāni Ar-Raĥeem
In the Name of Allah, the Most Compassionate, the Most Merciful
The root word for both al Rahman and al Rahim is R-H-M (ra-ha-meem). It connotes compassion, caring, benevolence, mercy, love. The word “raham” also means the womb, alluding to life in a mother’s womb that is surrounded in multiple layers of protection and is sustained physically and spiritually by divine Grace.
Al Rahman and al Rahim are both singular, masculine, genitive (possessive) adjectives and they are among the most frequently used Asma’ ul Husna, the Most Beautiful Names of Allah of which 99 are mentioned in the Qur’an.
تَبَارَكَ الَّذِي بِيَدِهِ الْمُلْكُ وَهُوَ عَلَى كُلِّ شَيْءٍ قَدِيرٌ
Tabāraka Al-Ladhī Biyadihi Al-Mulku Wa Huwa `Alá Kulli Shay’in Qadeer
Blessed is He in whose Hands is the Dominion.
And He has power over all things.
The Surah begins with a grand introduction to the two aspects of creation accessible to humankind, namely, matter and energy in motion, Mulk and Qudrah. Together, they constitute what we call “nature”.The Ayah extols the greatness of He who holds sway over the cosmos and whose power animates all creation. Nature does not exist by itself. It is owned and controlled by a Supreme Being.
1.“Yadihi”(In Whose Hand) is used to connote command and control. There is no anthropomorphic connotation to “hand”.
2.“Mulk” (dominion) is all creation which embraces the multiple universes, known and unknown. Ours is only one of the universes.
3.“Shai” (things): includes both matter and energy as well as other forms of creation that are as yet unknown.
4.“Qadir” (owner of power): Power is energy in motion. Qadir is the primal originator of power. He it is who sets the universes into motion and He it is who controls their dynamics.
Likewise, there is an inner universe of the heart that is the stage for the manifestation of Divine Names. The outer is a mirror of the inner. Intense are the forces that move the hearts of humankind. Allah is the owner of power of what is “out there” in the physical world as well as what is inside in the human heart.
الَّذِي خَلَقَ الْمَوْتَ وَالْحَيَاةَ لِيَبْلُوَكُمْ أَيُّكُمْ أَحْسَنُ عَمَلًا وَهُوَ الْعَزِيزُ الْغَفُورُ
Al-Ladhī Khalaqa Al-Mawta Wa Al-Ĥayāata Liyabluwakum ‘Ayyukum ‘Aĥsanu `Amalāan ۚ Wa Huwa Al-`Azīzu Al-Ghafoor
He Who created death and life,
So that He may test who among you is the most noble in deeds;
And He is the Mighty, the Forgiving.
The Dominion (the cosmos) was “dead”. It did not have life. Allah gave it life. In this awe-inspiring cosmos consisting of billions of galaxies, a life supporting planet, the earth, is tucked away in a niche in the solar system of the Milky Way galaxy. Standing at the pinnacle of the vast panorama of life of on this planet is humankind, honored as a Trustee of the most sublime secretes from the Supreme Being. Man has accepted a Divine Trust to know, serve and worship his Creator. The criteria for success in this test are beautiful deeds (ahsanu ‘amala).
The Ayah asserts that the purpose for the creation of man is to test who excels in the performance of beautiful deeds.The Creator knows that humankind is weak and is prone to error. Just as He is mighty in His creation, He is also Most Forgiving and Benevolent towards His servants who turn to Him for guidance and mercy.
الَّذِي خَلَقَ سَبْعَ سَمَاوَاتٍ طِبَاقًا مَا تَرَى فِي خَلْقِ الرَّحْمَنِ مِنْ تَفَاوُتٍ فَارْجِعِ الْبَصَرَ هَلْ تَرَى مِنْ فُطُورٍ
Al-Ladhī Khalaqa Sab`a Samāwātin Ţibāqan ۖ Mā Tará Fī Khalqi Ar-Raĥmāni Min Tafāwut ۖ Fārji`i Al-Başara Hal Tará Min Fuţoor
Who created the seven heavens in layers.
You will not see in the creation of the Most Compassionate any inconsistency.
So, look again! Do you see any inconsistency (or any new creation)?
The number seven appears often in the Qur’an. It is open to multiple interpretations depending on the context.• The classical commentators took the number seven to mean “many” without quantitative specificity.
• The Ahadith mention that during his ascension (Mi’raj) the Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) ascended through seven heavens, each representing a spiritual state. On the first heaven he met Adam, on the second heaven he met Isa, on the third Yusuf, on the fourth Idris, on the fifth Aron, on the sixth Musa and on the seventh Ibrahim, peace be upon them all. Then he ascended to the station of Sidratul Muntaha (the blessed tree at the farthest spiritual heights).
• According to meteorologists, there are seven layers of the atmosphere above the earth.
• There are plausible scientific interpretations for “seven” dimensions which are consistent with current theories about the physical universe. Until recent years, the universe was thought of in terms of atoms in space-time. This construct was insufficient to accommodate gravity, weak atomic forces, strong atomic forces and electromagnetic forces, all of which have been measured and verified experimentally.
The string theory, currently accepted by physicists, visualizes the physical universe as made up of strings that vibrate in ten dimensions (eleven if we consider the strings not as one dimensional objects but as tubes). Humans perceive the world only in terms of space-time and are unable to perceive the fifth, sixth and higher dimensions. In other words, universes that exist in the other dimensions are invisible to humans. They may exist side by side with our own universe as “layers”. When we stretch out our hand, there may be multiple universes between the elbow and our finger tips.
If we consider our universe in space-time as the “lowest heaven”, there are six “heavens” in the other dimensions, adding up to a total of seven.
Let us recall that Prophet Muhammed (pbuh), during his ascension beyond the seventh heaven, saw the Lote Tree shrouded in mystery. On it was a bird that alighted every second onto the sandy soil below, swallowed up a grain of sand and returned to the tree. When the Prophet asked the archangel Jibrael what this meant, Jibrael explained that the bird was a Sign for destruction of universes. Every moment a new universe is born and a universe is consumed. This is an allegorical description of untold universes that die and untold others that are born every moment. Indeed, Allah creates death and creates life every moment consisting of entire universes!
The Ayah invites humankind to study the Cosmos and makes the assertion that there is no inconsistency or incompatibility in His majestic creation. The word “Tafawut” is translated by some commentators as “defect”. There are no “defects” in creation as it has been created in Haq (the Truth). A more appropriate translation would be “consistency” or “compatibility”. Allah created the universe in Truth and how can there be a “defect” in the Truth?
ثُمَّ ارْجِعِ الْبَصَرَ كَرَّتَيْنِ يَنْقَلِبْ إِلَيْكَ الْبَصَرُ خَاسِئًا وَهُوَ حَسِيرٌ
Thumma Arji`i Al-Başara Karratayni Yanqalib ‘Ilayka Al-Başaru Khāsi’āan Wa Huwa Ĥaseer
Then, look again, once more,
Your sight will return to you,
Humbled, and it will be tired.
The seeker of Truth, the scientist, the philosopher, the scholar or just a layman, is invited to take a second look at the universe. This “looking” can be done with the most sensitive instruments known to man and different parts of the sky can be scanned. The search will return tired and exhausted because the Dominion is so vast and awesome. But then the Ayah asks the question: “Did you see any “futoor”?
The word “futoor” has two meanings. The first one, used by most commentators is “defect”. However, this interpretation needs to be re-examined. Allah created the heavens and the earth “in Truth”. Obviously, there can be no “defect” in the Truth. So, one must look for another meaning. The word “fatara” means primal origin. “Hal Tara Min Futoor” may be translated as “Did you see the primal origin of any new universe?”. This interpretation would be consistent with the oceans of “dark matter” which emit no light but make their presence felt through gravity.
“Dark energy” and “dark matter” fill ninety five percent of our known universe. The dark matter emits no light but has mass and it bends electromagnetic radiation in its vicinity. When we look around clouds of “dark energy”, we see celestial objects that are otherwise hidden by other stars and galaxies because light emitted by the hidden celestial objects bends around the clouds of “dark energy” and appears in a direction different from its true position.
Suffices it to emphasize that the Dominion of Allah extends into dimensions far beyond space-time or our ability to see or perceive them. Indeed, physicists now postulate that each universe, our own space-time universe included, is like a “bubble” and there may be untold “bubbles” out there, each with its own dimensionality.
The Qur’an asks: Look again! Do you see the birth of a new world? The answer to this must be: Yes, indeed ! We are able to see hidden worlds and those that are in the process of birth. How wonderful !
وَلَقَدْ زَيَّنَّا السَّمَاءَ الدُّنْيَا بِمَصَابِيحَ وَجَعَلْنَاهَا رُجُومًا لِلشَّيَاطِينِ وَأَعْتَدْنَا لَهُمْ عَذَابَ السَّعِيرِ
Wa Laqad Zayyannā As-Samā’a Ad-Dunyā Bimaşābīĥa Wa Ja`alnāhā Rujūmāan Lilshshayāţīni ۖ Wa ‘A`tadnā Lahum `Adhāba As-Sa`eer
And truly, We decorated the heavens of the earth with lights,
And made for her (the earth) energy darts (to hit and destroy) the rejected (radiation),
And We have prepared for them (the harmful rays) the punishment of fiery destruction.
The word sama’/samawat occurs in the Quran over 300 times. It is usually interpreted to mean “the sky” but since the earth is a sphere and “the sky” surrounds it all around, it refers to all planets, stars, galaxies and clusters that surround the earth. In a generic sense, it refers to all that surrounds the human being. When it is interpreted as “the heavens”, it refers to man’s aspirations leading him to the presence of the Almighty. So, the journey through the “samawat” could be external in a physical sense or internal through the heart to the very source of the heavens in the Spirit.
The “lowest sky” (As Sama’a Ad-Duniya) is the space-time surrounding the earth in which the stars, galaxies and clusters are visible. The sun is one of those lamps that adores the sky. So are the moon and the planets. If we note that the earth is a reflector of energy, the earth itself becomes a lamp along with all the other lamps of the lowest heaven. By contrast, the dark matter and the invisible universes do not emit light that is visible.
The earth is armed with an electromagnetic shield. When the harmful rays (the Shayateen or the ionized particles) from the sun approach the earth, most of them are deflected, some are absorbed and only a few get through. The word Shaytan has multiple meanings, one of which is “stoned” or “that which is targeted” or “annihilated”. The protective layer around the earth acts as the “seeker” which finds the “sought after” Shayateen and destroys them. The destruction takes place with bursts of energy at the speed of light. Additionally, outer layers in the earth’s atmosphere act as heat shields by absorbing the energy from potentially harmful storms originating deep in space.
The earth is tucked away in a niche in the lowest sky (the sky of the earth) by Divine Grace, protected from a hostile universe so that it can sustain life. It is almost as if it is a laboratory to test how humankind carries the Divine Trust.
وَلِلَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا بِرَبِّهِمْ عَذَابُ جَهَنَّمَ وَبِئْسَ الْمَصِيرُ
Wa Lilladhīna Kafarū Birabbihim `Adhābu Jahannama ۖ Wa Bi’sa Al-Maşeer
As for those who disbelieve, there is the punishment of Hell from their Rabb,
And what an awful destination it is!
The human stands at the confluence of “what is inside” and “what is on the horizon” (“I will show you My signs on the horizon and within yourselves until you have certainty”). The destruction of harmful plasma by the protective layers of the earth is used as an occasion to draw attention to fire of Hell for those who cover up the Truth and reject Allah. The harmful rays become a simile for hellfire. The Shayateen (hunted rays) from outside become a simile for the Shaitan within. The earth is protected by the shields surrounding it. In a similar manner, Divine Grace surrounds those who wear the protection of Taqwa. Those who have no protection of Taqwa, are exposed to the harmful attacks of shayateen from within and are “burned” by the raging fires of hell (the fire that rises up to the very core of hearts in the absence of “coolness” that comes from the presence of Allah).
إِذَا أُلْقُوا فِيهَا سَمِعُوا لَهَا شَهِيقًا وَهِيَ تَفُورُ
تَكَادُ تَمَيَّزُ مِنَ الْغَيْظِ كُلَّمَا أُلْقِيَ فِيهَا فَوْجٌ سَأَلَهُمْ خَزَنَتُهَا أَلَمْ يَأْتِكُمْ نَذِيرٌ
‘Idhā ‘Ulqū Fīhā Sami`ū Lahā Shaheeqan Wa Hiya Tafūr.
Takādu Tamayyazu Mina Al-Ghayži ۖ Kullamā ‘Ulqiya Fīhā Fawjun Sa’alahum Khazanatuhā ‘Alam Ya’tikum Nadheer
And when they are thrown therein,
They will hear it screaming,
Close to bursting out in its fury.
Whenever a group is thrown therein,
Its keepers ask them: “Did not a Warner come to you?”
The fire that burns in human hearts that are isolated from Divine Grace is unrelenting. It is fierce, furious, all-consuming.
The soul pines for the love of God. When it is herded away from Divine presence by the incitements of Shaitan, it writhes in pain. It is this pain that is described through the similitude of burning, raging fires.
The keepers of Hell ask the occupants of Hell: Did not a Warner come to you warning of the dire consequences of covering up the truth and rejecting Allah?
قَالُوا بَلَى قَدْ جَاءَنَا نَذِيرٌ فَكَذَّبْنَا وَقُلْنَا مَا نَزَّلَ اللَّهُ مِنْ شَيْءٍ إِنْ أَنْتُمْ إِلَّا فِي ضَلَالٍ كَبِيرٍ
Qālū Balá Qad Jā’anā Nadhīrun Fakadhdhabnā Wa Qulnā Mā Nazzala Allāhu Min Shay’in ‘In ‘Antum ‘Illā Fī Đalālin Kabeer
They will say: “Yes indeed, there came to us a Warner;
And we rejected (him) and we said:
‘Allah has not sent down anything,
You are not but in great error!’”
Dialogues are used in the Qur’an as a lens to highlight moral lessons.
The people in Hellfire acknowledge that there indeed came a Warner to them but they rejected him.
وَقَالُوا لَوْ كُنَّا نَسْمَعُ أَوْ نَعْقِلُ مَا كُنَّا فِي أَصْحَابِ السَّعِيرِ
Wa Qālū Law Kunnā Nasma`u ‘Aw Na`qilu Mā Kunnā Fī ‘Aşĥābi As-Sa`eer
And they will say: “If we had listened and had reasoned,
We would not be companions of the blazing Fire.”
They are remorseful that they missed the opportunity to listen to the Warner and orient their Selves in consonance with the Truth.
فَاعْتَرَفُوا بِذَنْبِهِمْ فَسُحْقًا لِأَصْحَابِ السَّعِيرِ
Fā`tarafū Bidhanbihim Fasuĥqāan Li’şĥābi As-Sa`eer
Thus do they confess their sins,
And (the presence of Allah will be) far away from the companions of the blazing Fire.
They confess. But they had shunted themselves off from the Truth in their lives. By their own deeds, they will have taken themselves far away from Divine Grace on the Day of Reckoning.
إِنَّ الَّذِينَ يَخْشَوْنَ رَبَّهُمْ بِالْغَيْبِ لَهُمْ مَغْفِرَةٌ وَأَجْرٌ كَبِيرٌ
‘Inna Al-Ladhīna Yakhshawna Rabbahum Bil-Ghaybi Lahum Maghfiratun Wa ‘Ajrun Kabeer
Indeed, those who fear their Rabb (Who is) beyond perception (fear losing His grace),
For them, there is forgiveness and a reward supreme.
By contrast, those who fear their Creator (fear meeting Him on the Judgment Day), cultivate Taqwa and follow His guidance, find His forgiveness and receive a great reward.
وَأَسِرُّوا قَوْلَكُمْ أَوِ اجْهَرُوا بِهِ إِنَّهُ عَلِيمٌ بِذَاتِ الصُّدُورِ
Wa ‘Asirrū Qawlakum ‘Aw Ajharū Bihi~ ۖ ‘Innahu `Alīmun Bidhāti Aş-Şudoor
And whether you conceal what you say,
Or proclaim it openly,
He does indeed know the very essence of hearts.
The word “qalb” (heart) means that which turns. The heart can turn to the Spirit, receive the Light from Divine presence and diffuse it to the body and the mind. Alternately, it can turn away from the Spirit towards Duniya (the basal world) and be shunted from Divine Grace.
Looking at it from a physical perspective, the heart has an electromagnetic field. When the heart is at peace. its field is harmonious. When it is disturbed the electromagnetic fields are disharmonious. The heart is interconnected to all creation, the ‘Alam al Mulk, through the Grace of Allah. One who denies the Truth and disconnects himself from Divine Grace, is at discordance with Allah’s creation and suffers for it.
Action is energy in motion. Actions that are acted out on the stage of history are first witnessed as storms in the deep recesses of the human heart. That is why intentions are so central in judging whether actions are right or wrong. The all-Compassionate, in whose hands are the keys to the heaven and the earth, knows the very essence of our hearts. He is well aware of our intentions as well as the actions that emerge from those intentions.
أَلَا يَعْلَمُ مَنْ خَلَقَ وَهُوَ اللَّطِيفُ الْخَبِيرُ
‘Alā Ya`lamu Man Khalaqa Wa Huwa Al-Laţīfu Al-Khabeer
Does He not know, He Who created (in the first place)?
And He is the Subtle, the Knower!
Why should He not know the innermost workings of the human heart? Is He not the Creator and Sustainer of hearts? He has created what is external and what is internal, what is physical and what is spiritual, as an integrated whole. He it is who bestowed order and proportion to the Dominion (“Was Sama’ha Rafa’aha wal Meedan, alla Tatghaw Fil Meezan”. He it is who has endowed the Nafs with a sense of order and proportion (‘Wa Nafsan Wa-ma Sawwaha”). The one is a reflector of the other. The universe is a reflection of the invisible world.
هُوَ الَّذِي جَعَلَ لَكُمُ الْأَرْضَ ذَلُولًا فَامْشُوا فِي مَنَاكِبِهَا وَكُلُوا مِنْ رِزْقِهِ وَإِلَيْهِ النُّشُورُ
Huwa Al-Ladhī Ja`ala Lakumu Al-‘Arđa Dhalūlāan Fāmshū Fī Manākibihā Wa Kulū Min Rizqihi ۖ Wa ‘Ilayhi An-Nushoor
He it is Who has made the earth subject to you,
So that you walk on its highways,
And eat of its provisions,
And towards Him is the resurrection.
The emphasis now shifts to Allah’s favors. Man is a part of the Dominion but as Allah’s vice regent he holds the keys to that Dominion. He is the Trustee of the Spirit that is infused into Him by Divine Will. It is the Spirit that bestows life, knowledge and power on humankind so that it may interact with the Dominion in the Days of Allah (the days the human spends on earth), benefit from its bounties and fulfill the Divine Mission. Mankind willingly accepted the Trust. As a result, it is responsible for its actions and must submit to Judgment on the Day of Reckoning.
أَأَمِنْتُمْ مَنْ فِي السَّمَاءِ أَنْ يَخْسِفَ بِكُمُ الْأَرْضَ فَإِذَا هِيَ تَمُورُ
‘A’amintum Man Fī As-Samā’i ‘An Yakhsifa Bikumu Al-‘Arđa Fa’idhā Hiya Tamoor
Are you so protected that
He Who is in the heavens
Will not make the earth swallow you up
While it shakes?
The fragility of life on earth is emphasized in the next few Ayahs. Our planet is located in a protected niche in the solar system within the Milky Way galaxy. An increase in temperature of a few degrees is enough to destroy life on earth. A decrease in the ozone layer would play havoc on the weather patterns around the globe. Earthquakes and volcanoes are common. On the galactic level, a flip of earth’s electromagnetic field, which has happened several times in the lifespan of the earth, kills off entire populations. Meteors graze the planet’s atmosphere and on occasions when they impact the earth, they destroy entire species, as happened with the dinosaurs.
The Ayah draws attention to a geologically active earth. A super layer of crust that sustains life floats on an ocean of hot, molten magna. A quake of magnitude 9 on the Richter scale would literally open up the earth, swallow what is on the surface and close the opening as if in a tomb.
أَمْ أَمِنْتُمْ مَنْ فِي السَّمَاءِ أَنْ يُرْسِلَ عَلَيْكُمْ حَاصِبًا فَسَتَعْلَمُونَ كَيْفَ نَذِير
‘Am ‘Amintum Man Fī As-Samā’i ‘An Yursila `Alaykum Ĥāşibāan ۖ Fasata`lamūna Kayfa Nadheer
Are you so protected that
He Who is in the heavens
Will not send down on you a torrent of brimstones?
So, soon shall you know how the forewarning (unfolds)!
Humankind is helpless before the enormous power of earthquakes and volcanoes. These volcanoes spit forth brimstone (hot sulphur) burning up entire cities. The legendary city of Pompeii in Italy which was buried in volcanoes ashes offers an example
وَلَقَدْ كَذَّبَ الَّذِينَ مِنْ قَبْلِهِمْ فَكَيْفَ كَانَ نَكِيرِ
Wa Laqad Kadhdhaba Al-Ladhīna Min Qablihim Fakayfa Kāna Nakeer
And verily, those before them rejected (My Signs),
So, how (chastising) was My punishment?
Nature is a grand Sign. Many are the Signs that are offered by the cosmos which is home to our shielded and protected earth.The nourishment provided by the earth is a Sign for Allah’s benevolence. The earthquakes and the volcanic activity are Signs for His power and the fragility of life on earth. Man is invited to remember his Creator and orient his life, physically, emotionally and spiritually towards Divine presence and prove himself worthy of the Divine Trust. Those who reject the Signs are caught up in the web of their own rejection and suffer for it.
أَوَلَمْ يَرَوْا إِلَى الطَّيْرِ فَوْقَهُمْ صَافَّاتٍ وَيَقْبِضْنَ مَا يُمْسِكُهُنَّ إِلَّا الرَّحْمَنُ إِنَّهُ بِكُلِّ شَيْءٍ بَصِيرٌ
‘Awalam Yaraw ‘Ilá Aţ-Ţayri Fawqahum Şāffātin Wa Yaqbiđna ۚ Mā Yumsikuhunna ‘Illā Ar-Raĥmānu ۚ ‘Innahu Bikulli Shay’in Başeer
Do you not see the birds with their wings spread above them,
And (birds with wings) folded up?
None can uphold them except the Most Compassionate;
Indeed, He is the Seer of all things.
The flight of birds has fascinated humankind from the earliest times. There are thousands of birds, each with its own mode of flight. Each category of birds has its specific wing structure that challenges the structural mechanics expert. The arrangement of primary feathers that support flight and secondary feathers that provide navigation and control are a marvel of aerodynamics. There are birds that fly forward, upward, downward, backward, or remain stationary in flight. There are migratory birds that negotiate thousands of miles to return to their habitat to nest and reproduce. And there are birds whose flight mechanisms scientists do not understand even with the current advanced knowledge of aerodynamics, structures, navigation and control.
The Ayah invites humankind to study these mechanisms, learn from them, apply them to their use and reflect on the variety and subtlety of flight. There is Divine Purpose behind this marvelous show, namely, to acquire knowledge, serve and worship Him.
أَمَّنْ هَذَا الَّذِي هُوَ جُنْدٌ لَكُمْ يَنْصُرُكُمْ مِنْ دُونِ الرَّحْمَنِ إِنِ الْكَافِرُونَ إِلَّا فِي غُرُورٍ
‘Amman Hādhā Al-Ladhī Huwa Jundun Lakum Yanşurukum Min Dūni Ar-Raĥmāni ۚ ‘Ini Al-Kāfirūna ‘Illā Fī Ghuroor
Who is there who (can protect you like an) army
Except the Most Compassionate?
Those who disbelieve (this) are not but in deception.
The earth floats like a speck of dust in the vast expanse of space. This speck of insignificant dust, protected as it is from the ravages of hostile surroundings, sustains life.
Humankind is in utter want of Divine Grace for its sustenance, survival and existence. Who else but Allah can protect life on earth from the destructive solar winds or the harmful radiation from space? Who else but Allah can sustain life on top of a sea of molten magna?
The Ayah invites those who deny the Compassionate to contemplate the the miracle of life on earth, abandon their haughtiness and believe in Him.
أَمَّنْ هَذَا الَّذِي يَرْزُقُكُمْ إِنْ أَمْسَكَ رِزْقَهُ بَلْ لَجُّوا فِي عُتُوٍّ وَنُفُور
‘Amman Hādhā Al-Ladhī Yarzuqukum ‘In ‘Amsaka Rizqahu ۚ Bal Lajjū Fī `Utūwin Wa Nufoor
Who is there who can give you provision
Should He stop your provision?
But they are obstinate in their rebellion and flight (from Allah).
Life on earth is a miracle. We do not know of any other planet with intelligent life. The probability of another earth-like planet with intelligent life “in our vicinity” of a few hundred light years is small, although over galactic distances and multiple universes, we believe (without proof) that life does exist.
A complex and unique set of conditions sustain life on our planet: the orbit of the earth in a protected niche; successive layers of atmospheric protection; the presence of water; the diversity of flora and fauna, and so on. It is Allah’s Grace that provides sustenance for the astonishing variety of life forms. He is al Razzaq, the Provider Supreme. The Ayah emphasizes this by asking rhetorically: if this sustenance were to disappear, who but Allah can provide the sustenance? Yet those who deny His Grace, persist in their denial even in the face of overwhelming evidence.
أَفَمَنْ يَمْشِي مُكِبًّا عَلَى وَجْهِهِ أَهْدَى أَمَّنْ يَمْشِي سَوِيًّا عَلَى صِرَاطٍ مُسْتَقِيم
‘Afaman Yamshī Mukibbāan `Alá Wajhihi~ ‘Ahdá ‘Amman Yamshī Sawīyāan `Alá Şirāţin Mustaqeem
Is one who walks, falling on his face, more rightly guided
Than one who walks upright on the straight path?
Those who grasp the overwhelming evidence for the Grace of Allah in His dominion walk on the straight path in accordance with Divine guidance and are successful as Trustees on earth. Their physical, emotional and spiritual existence is in tune with the directed energies (commandments) from Allah. Those who deny this Grace and persist in their folly live a discordant life so they stumble and fall flat on their face, meaning, they cannot negotiate their path to the Truth.
قُلْ هُوَ الَّذِي أَنْشَأَكُمْ وَجَعَلَ لَكُمُ السَّمْعَ وَالْأَبْصَارَ وَالْأَفْئِدَةَ قَلِيلًا مَا تَشْكُرُونَ
Qul Huwa Al-Ladhī ‘Ansha’akum Wa Ja`ala Lakumu As-Sam`a Wa Al-‘Abşāra Wa Al-‘Af’idata ۖ Qalīlāan Mā Tashkuroon
Say: “He it is Who conceived of you and made for you
Ears, eyes and hearts (hearing, seeing and feeling),
Scarce is your gratitude!”
The miracle of life is explained in personal terms here. Not only is the probability of another earth in our vicinity small, the conception of an individual man or woman is a miracle within a miracle. Of the millions of possibilities at conception, Allah chose “you” with His Grace. From the appearance of Adam till the Day of Judgment, there never was anyone else like “you” on this planet, and there never will be another one like you. It is indeed awe inspiring!
At conception, the human is just a fertilized egg. Allah fashions life within the mother’s womb, bestows upon the human eyes with which he can see, ears with which he can hear, heart with which he can feel and a mind with which he can think. The body, mind and the heart are gifts that enable a human to relate to the heavenly Dominion.
The external is a simile for the internal. Just as the external eye sees the Dominion “on the horizon”, the inner eye sees what is hidden. Just as the external ear hears sound waves propagating through the air, the inner ear hears the sounds of heaven and the inner heart witnesses the manifestation of Allah’s Bounties (the tajalliat).
Despite all these miraculous gifts, humankind is ungrateful and heedless. It misses the opportunity to be a witness the grandeur of Allah’s creation and be a witness to the Truth.
قُلْ هُوَ الَّذِي ذَرَأَكُمْ فِي الْأَرْضِ وَإِلَيْهِ تُحْشَرُونَ
Qul Huwa Al-Ladhī Dhara’akum Fī Al-‘Arđi Wa ‘Ilayhi Tuĥsharoon
Say: “He it is Who has spread you out on earth,
And towards Him are you gathered together.”
There are over seven billion humans on earth today. Each one has been granted his share of sustenance, both physical and spiritual. Each is a Trustee of the Divine Trust and each is responsible before Divine Judgment for his actions in this life.
وَيَقُولُونَ مَتَى هَذَا الْوَعْدُ إِنْ كُنْتُمْ صَادِقِينَ
Wa Yaqūlūna Matá Hādhā Al-Wa`du ‘In Kuntum Şādiqeen
And they say: “When will this promise (come to pass)
If you are truthful?”
The disbelievers are locked in arguments about before and after, yesterday, today and tomorrow. They are not aware of the subtle and variegated meanings of time. There is clock time, relative time, perceived time, timeless time, the present time here and now, time as energy that governs the dynamics of the Dominion of Allah. The knowledge of tomorrow is hidden from humankind and is known only to Him.
The disbelievers ask: When is the Judgment Day? They are looking for an answer in space-time dimensions for which the answer may not exist even in ten dimensions. Their ignorance leads them astray into concentric spheres of darkness, away from the Light and the Grace.
قُلْ إِنَّمَا الْعِلْمُ عِنْدَ اللَّهِ وَإِنَّمَا أَنَا نَذِيرٌ مُبِينٌ
Qul ‘Innamā Al-`Ilmu `Inda Allāhi Wa ‘Innamā ‘Anā Nadhīrun Mubeen
Say: “The knowledge of it is but with Allah,
And I am not but a manifest Warner.”
The Day of Judgment is certain but the knowledge of when it shall be is only with Allah. It is hidden in the mysteries of time itself. The human perception of time is asymmetrical: we know the past but we are unable to know the future. The Prophet proclaims this truth, explaining to the disbelievers that he is but a Warner, warning humankind about the Day of Judgment and man’s ultimate responsibility before Allah. This responsibility is not imposed from the top but was accepted by all humans when they stood before Divine Presence. When they were asked, “Al Astu Bi Rabbikum” (Am I not your Rabb?), they answered, “Qalu, Bala’) yes indeed and accepted this covenant.
فَلَمَّا رَأَوْهُ زُلْفَةً سِيئَتْ وُجُوهُ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا وَقِيلَ هَذَا الَّذِي كُنْتُمْ بِهِ تَدَّعُونَ
Falammā Ra’awhu Zulfatan Sī’at Wujūhu Al-Ladhīna Kafarū Wa Qīla Hādhā Al-Ladhī Kuntum Bihi Tadda`oon
Then, when they see it is close,
Dark will be the existence of the disbelieves,
And it will be said (to them):
“This is what you were asking for.”
There will be a final reconciliation of human responsibility, just as certain as the earth itself is destined for extinction one day and the cosmos will fold up.The disbelievers deny the Judgment Day even when they are a witness to the Signs in the Dominion and a Warner has given them clear warnings. When the Day stares them in the face, they will be told: Here is what you were asking for.
قُلْ أَرَأَيْتُمْ إِنْ أَهْلَكَنِيَ اللَّهُ وَمَنْ مَعِيَ أَوْ رَحِمَنَا فَمَنْ يُجِيرُ الْكَافِرِينَ مِنْ عَذَابٍ أَلِيم
Qul ‘Ara’aytum ‘In ‘Ahlakaniya Allāhu Wa Man Ma`iya ‘Aw Raĥimanā Faman Yujīru Al-Kāfirīna Min `Adhābin ‘Aleem
Say: “Have you considered?
Whether Allah takes my life and of those who are with me,
Or shows us mercy,
Who will save the disbelievers from a painful doom?”
A rational argument for belief is presented here. The Word of Allah is true regardless of what happens to the Prophet and his Companions. The Messenger has delivered his message. He has warned humankind about the Day of Reckoning. He has reiterated the message of earlier Prophets. Allah may bestow upon him and his Companions long lives or take their lives early. Prophets are human and are bound to die but the Word of Allah is eternal and it shall endure. The meeting with Allah is certain, and Judgment shall be meted out.
قُلْ هُوَ الرَّحْمَنُ آمَنَّا بِهِ وَعَلَيْهِ تَوَكَّلْنَا فَسَتَعْلَمُونَ مَنْ هُوَ فِي ضَلَالٍ مُبِينٍ
Qul Huwa Ar-Raĥmānu ‘Āmannā Bihi Wa `Alayhi Tawakkalnā ۖ Fasata`lamūna Man Huwa Fī Đalālin Mubeen
Say: “He is the Compassionate,
We believe in Him,
And in Him is our trust.
Then, soon shall you know who is in manifest error.”
The All-Compassionate has shown His signs: the creation of the cosmos and its perfection, the sustenance of life on a fragile earth, the flora and fauna of nature, creation of humankind and the gifts of seeing, hearing and feeling. These Signs invite man to have faith and trust the Compassionate. Faith points to the correct path. The absence of faith leads to error. Faith builds a civilization. The absence of faith destroys it.
قُلْ أَرَأَيْتُمْ إِنْ أَصْبَحَ مَاؤُكُمْ غَوْرًا فَمَنْ يَأْتِيكُمْ بِمَاءٍ مَعِينٍ
Qul ‘Ara’aytum ‘In ‘Aşbaĥa Mā’uukum Ghawran Faman Ya’tīkum Bimā’in Ma`een
Say: “Have you reflected?
If your water table sank deep underground (dried up),
Then who could bring you running water?”
As a final example, the Surah draws attention to the precious gift of water. The earth would be a desolate place indeed, just like the neighboring planets, were it not for water. First, there is the mystery of how water appeared on the earth. Then, there is the physical evidence of how it is held by our planet: the unique confluence of the position of the solar system in the Milky Way, the position of the earth within the solar system, mutual gravity and rotations of the sun, the earth, and the moon, electromagnetic fields, the manifold protective layers of the atmosphere, the narrow temperature range on earth, the oceans and the winds. How many civilizations have disappeared when their water supply dried up either because of climatic changes or because of human abuse? Aquifers dry up after prolonged draughts. Famine ensues. Man and beast alike perish by the millions.This Ayah makes a rational appeal. Ponder over this: Who else but the all-Compassionate can provide you with fresh water if the sources for it were to disappear?