Last time we studied the verse that had the declaration of the prophet (pbuh) where he said that I have no control over anything including myself. I am a human being like yourself, only a warner and giving good news to those people who are willing to receive the message and live according to what the reality of this existence is. We should live with the understanding that this universe is announcing its Creator’s qualities, accepting that the things in the universe including my being must be created by Him. I have to give thanks, glorify and worship Him alone.
We will continue our study of section Al-Araf (The Cognizant) of the Quran from the following verse which describes who is this God, the Creator of the universe. These kinds of verses have dense meaning in them that we will try to get into:
هُوَ ٱلَّذِى خَلَقَكُم مِّن نَّفْسٍۢ وَٰحِدَةٍۢ وَجَعَلَ مِنْهَا زَوْجَهَا لِيَسْكُنَ إِلَيْهَا ۖ فَلَمَّا تَغَشَّىٰهَا حَمَلَتْ حَمْلًا خَفِيفًۭا فَمَرَّتْ بِهِۦ ۖ فَلَمَّآ أَثْقَلَت دَّعَوَا ٱللَّهَ رَبَّهُمَا لَئِنْ ءَاتَيْتَنَا صَـٰلِحًۭا لَّنَكُونَنَّ مِنَ ٱلشَّـٰكِرِينَ
7: 189 He is the One Who created you from a single soul, then from it made its spouse [pair] so he may find comfort in her. After he had been united with her, she carried a light burden that developed gradually. When it grew heavy, they prayed to God, their Lord, “If you grant us good offspring, we will certainly be grateful.”
A beautiful structure of the verse which has many aspects, implications to the reality of our life. We will try to understand the meaning of the verse at different levels. On one level as understood by many scholars, the verse is speaking to human beings directly and relating to their practical life. The previous verse used the phrase “لِّقَوْمٍۢ يُؤْمِنُونَ”, translated as “people who believe in God, the Lord of the universe”. In this verse, it starts with the “هُوَ” translated as “He”. Well, who is He (هُوَ) that I need to believe in? The verse replies that “He is the One who creates you from one single soul”. At the first level, I must relate it to myself as being created as a single being. The single being may be a human being, may be one cell, one substance, or the whole universe. Some scholars take this relating to human beings only, their development from birth to their death and the relationship between male and female getting married to have good children. We will expand on this into another level which is not much paid attention to.
The creation is said to be from one substance and some scholars refer this verse to the creation of Adam and his pair, known as Evel. We will generalize it to refer to all human beings. We understand from the verse that the Creator makes something, arranges the thing in such a way that from that substance (نَّفْسٍۢ) makes something as his pair. In human relationships, a spouse (زَوْجَهَا) is considered the pair. The phrase “لِيَسْكُنَ إِلَيْهَا” indicates that human beings will settle down, will find comfort in their spouse and they will be happy in their lives. That is what most of us look for, to have a family life and be happy. The human being is made such that we are looking to get satisfaction with a spouse of the opposite gender. Besides humans, animals and plants as well have this relationship to satisfy this given desire. They settle down together to fulfill a purpose in their existence.
When they get together, they are united together. The phrase “فَلَمَّا تَغَشَّىٰهَا “uses the same word “تَغَشَّىٰهَا”used in other sections of the Qur’an referring to the night and darkness covering the light. This means that the couple is really united together. The next phrase is “حَمَلَتْ حَمْلًا خَفِيفًۭا “which is that the female gets pregnant. The word “khafif’ means, “takes on a light burden.” The woman carries the baby in her womb and carries on with her life. The phrase “فَمَرَّتْ بِهِ” translated as “develop gradually” means that life goes on. At the early stages of pregnancy, the wife may not know about her pregnancy. When the weight grows heavy, they understand that a baby is coming and they pray to their understanding of God; the phrase “دَّعَوَا ٱللَّهَ رَبَّهُمَا “translated as “pray to God, their Lord”. Whoever they see as their Lord is their God. One should wonder at who is taking care of this baby in the womb, who has this command? This depends on one’s understanding of their God. Some may say naturally happening which is their understanding of God. The phrase “لَئِنْ ءَاتَيْتَنَا صَـٰلِحًۭا “translated as “if you grant us good offspring”. In fact, asking their Lord to give them a good healthy result of a baby. The phrase “لَّنَكُونَنَّ مِنَ ٱلشَّـٰكِرِينَ “, translated as “we will certainly be grateful”, i.e. If you give us a good result,we will definitely be grateful to You.
This is what this verse is understood at the human level. When human beings are having or going through something that is beyond their control, they beg a superior being, one who is in a superior position, i.e. their Lord. In fact, the Creator of the universe gives them the result. They claim to hold the promise that after the offspring is given, they would be grateful to their Lord. Their Lord being what they understand according to their capacity. When a good healthy result is granted, the following verses mention that they give up their gratefulness. They start owning the results. This is how human psychology works. When you get something, I have to submit the thing to its Creator. However, one may end up assigning the result to things themselves. This verse is warning me not to break my promise of being grateful and submitting myself to my Lord. The earlier classical scholars speak at this practical level.
This verse has a universal message touching on the existential reality besides the marriage and childbirth given as a parable to understand what is happening.
The verse states that “He is the One Who created you from a single soul”. The addressing of “you” also implies everything in the universe where the “single soul” may refer to everything that starts with one being to be created. It may be one existence as a result of one Will (Amr), one intention, i.e. God willing something to exist. Everything starts from one substance.
For example, we see elements, atoms, cells or particles are one substance depending on which combination they are in. Another example is that my body has a heart, lungs, bones, and brain which all form one body. One can see either the microscopic thing or the macroscopic universe as one thing is the result of one Will of the Absolute Being. Starting from one thing, combinations such as nucleus, electrons, atoms, molecules, then cells. water, sun, light, etc. are created with pairs. Everything is created in pairs to work together. The world is stable with the rotations of the planets and if one rotation goes out of sync, the whole world would collapse. Although actions may seem contradictory to each other such as positive, negative, attraction, repulsion are all working together and conform to form a balance as a perfectly working one unit of existence. Balance has been established from the very beginning of creation and we are living comfortably all thanks to one Will of God. The verse mentioning “after he is united with her” has meaning when the balance in the universe is established. The scientist may say that the big bang happened where one particle exploded and resulted in the universe. We can understand that one explosion was enough and the expansion of the universe took place comfortably, i.e. perfectly in harmony (sakeenah, لِيَسْكُنَ) in how the creation is taking place.
When the seed is under the earth, under damp soil, and the seed cracks, what happens? The multiplications of new baby plants surface up comfortably. Who is arranging this? With all this perfect result, the verse says that we will be thankful when we are given the perfect result. Let’s say I am working on something and am looking for the best result and that good result is given, I may not have God in my mind. What would I attribute this result to? God grants the good result to see what I am going to do with it. Rather than being thankful to the real Creator, what would I be thankful to?
فَلَمَّآ ءَاتَىٰهُمَا صَـٰلِحًۭا جَعَلَا لَهُۥ شُرَكَآءَ فِيمَآ ءَاتَىٰهُمَا ۚ فَتَعَـٰلَى ٱللَّهُ عَمَّا يُشْرِكُونَ
7: 190 Yet, as soon as He has granted them a flawless [child/work of composition]; they begin to give credit to associates alongside Him, giving them a share in bringing about what He has granted them. However, God is far above the partners they ascribe alongside Him.
When the child is granted, what is the explanation given: My wife took good nourishment during pregnancy, my wife was calm and well rested, and so the baby is happy and healthy. On the other spectrum, the scientist will say on a perfectly adjusted result that I found out how this perfectly fits, I worked a lot on it, my genius and serious intellect found out to formulate it in the best way. These are some of the associates that are attributed to the existence of the result among many things. The phrase جَعَلَا لَهُۥ شُرَكَآءَ فِيمَآ ءَاتَىٰهُمَا “giving them a share in bringing about what He has granted them.” Who is the real Creator of the things one receives? It is none other than the Lord of the universe, the Owner of the universe, the One who established this universe within an order as He wills it to be.
As frequently mentioned in many places, we are warned to keep away from “shirk”, assigning the Divine qualities to beings that themselves need to be created, i.e. giving the qualities of the Creator of the universe to any part of this world including imaginary concepts such as nature, natural laws, accidental developments. One has to question, who created them, everything so perfectly? Giving the qualities of the Creator of the whole universe to its parts or the universe itself, is a big crime. For example, by attributing outcomes to be the product of one’s intelligence, geniuses, skills, abilities. One may say that I worked on this to produce this product, rather than being humble and saying “I tried to find the way that the Creator of the universe promised that if I follow His order of creating He will create the result” They do not realize that all they are doing is following the order already existing in the universe. When it comes to their work, one claims to be the agent and when it comes to the universe, it is naturally existing. Also, the imaginary concepts like nature, natural laws have no reality; no one can show there is such a thing in matter. Matter is operating in the way it is made and existing as established by its Maker.
Another aspect of this “shirk”, association of partners that I have to watch out for is when I say that I am very thankful to the prophet (pbuh) as I received the message through him. The prophet says that the message is from God and I have to see that he is honest in transferring the message to me and sacrificing his life to transfer the message to human beings. That is why I bear witness that the prophet is an “abd”, a man like me and the messenger of God, an honest man because of his being selected by God as how he uses his perfect human qualities. If I am comfortable with the news that I receive through the prophet (pbuh) then I am happy with and thankful to the prophet (pbuh). We should express our pleasure, make our invocations to God to bless, support and reward the prophet (pbuh). I say Alhamdulillah, thank you God for choosing the best person to convey your message to me, to entrust your message to this person, prophet Muhammad (pbuh).
In the message of the Quran, I have to be careful not to get lost in the example given in the verse. This is an example of the human relationship between a husband, a wife and a baby. I have to take the universal message from this verse. For example, the verse says that they begin to give credit to associates alongside Him, giving them a share in bringing about what He has granted them. The associates are whatever one may assign the qualities of creatorship to. They claim that I am the one, it is my success which we are all guilty of doing. If someone invites me and there is delicious food, I would say “you made a wonderful dish, thank you”, all the while forgetting the real Creator. The host has to be careful. By taking the quality of taste to oneself is in fact claiming the creatorship of the taste. It is a big crime to own those qualities when we don’t own anything and have no quality to create taste or anything existing. I may be guilty of stealing the qualities of the Creator and fall into this crime. We have to be extremely careful in appreciating people, first I should mention God, thanking God for creating delicious food. Acknowledge that I am not the source of the existence of taste so why do I become proud of it? A scientist may say: Here is the product that I worked on and you are benefitting from it, don’t you appreciate me for that work? There is a saying of the prophet that if you praise a man, it is as if you kill the man, i.e. killing his eternal life which is being subjected to death, so be careful as it may go into his head. The Creator of the universe gave the opportunity to be successful, you asked and begged the Creator for the result to be created. It is not my success when the Creator gives me the result but it is the success of the Creator of the universe and His order in creation.
The concluding phrase says “فَتَعَـٰلَى ٱللَّهُ عَمَّا يُشْرِكُونَ” translated as “However, God is far above the partners they ascribe alongside Him.” In a way, it is saying what a horrible thing you are doing by ascribing My qualities to a part of this universe. All those qualities belong to the Creator of the universe where everything is designed and created perfectly in a beautiful way and you are giving them to something else that is created. God is far beyond their crime.
أَيُشْرِكُونَ مَا لَا يَخْلُقُ شَيْـًۭٔا وَهُمْ يُخْلَقُونَ
7: 191 Do they ascribe divinity alongside Him to beings that cannot create anything since they themselves are being created?
The language is so calm, kindly teaching where God is not showing any anger. After all the crime I commit by attributing qualities to things in the universe, He is still trying calmly for me to reason and not to commit the crime. The phrase أَيُشْرِكُونَ مَا لَا يَخْلُقُ شَيْـًۭٔا” translated as “Do they ascribe divinity alongside Him to beings that cannot create?” And the continuation, “وَهُمْ يُخْلَقُونَ” translated as “they themselves are being created”. Beautiful way of catching my attention to start reasoning of the crime that I may be committing and seeing the reality.
For example, a judge is interrogating a murderer, he describes the case to him and says you misused your free will. The defendant may say it was my gun, it was a tool, I had lost my mind, i.e. make all sorts of excuses. All the evidence is clear but still God shows His qualities of “Al-Haleem”, is very calm, clement, doesn’t feel offended while we are living in this world. The limit is until we die, till then we are given all the opportunities to realize His qualities.
Do they ascribe things to imaginary concepts, nature or chance which do not exist, imaginary concepts that have no power to create anything? They have no power, knowledge or will to create anything. For example, the food we eat has no power to itself but follows the way it is employed by their Creator, they are like the bricks of a wall. They are placed exactly where they are supposed to be to fulfill the purpose of existence. They are subject to the Creator, Owner of the universe. They are not the creator of themselves, they have no quality to exist by themselves. Self-existent means to be an Absolute being. The things in the universe are subject to the order of the One who established this order, they need to be given existence.
The meaning of the letter “wa” usually translated as “and” in the phrase “وَهُمْ يُخْلَقُونَ” gives another flavor here as in “since”. I am being asked to consider: Have you really ascribed any self-existing quality to anything that cannot give existence to anything else while they themselves are continuously being given existence? This should remind us of the message in section “Ikhlas” that describes the Absoluteness of God where the Creator of the universe cannot be anything like the part of the universe since He is the Creator of the universe. Similar to the artist of an art piece cannot be like anything in that art piece.
وَلَا يَسْتَطِيعُونَ لَهُمْ نَصْرًۭا وَلَآ أَنفُسَهُمْ يَنصُرُونَ
7: 192 and they are unable to give them help nor can they help themselves.
The mother and father cannot help in the growth, creation of the baby. Whatever one does in terms of arranging nutritious food, providing a comfortable place which are all prayers to God by obeying His rule of creation in this world. A mother cannot say that I am taking care of myself, sleeping well, as a result of these actions, “I am the creator of my baby” in a healthy way although the baby is within her being. Anything in the universe such as an atom itself cannot have an independent free will so that they will respond to our demand. They cannot get out of being subject to the situation that they are created in.
وَإِن تَدْعُوهُمْ إِلَى ٱلْهُدَىٰ لَا يَتَّبِعُوكُمْ ۚ سَوَآءٌ عَلَيْكُمْ أَدَعَوْتُمُوهُمْ أَمْ أَنتُمْ صَـٰمِتُونَ
7: 193 If you call [nature/matter/accidents] to guidance, they do not follow you: it makes no difference whether you call them or remain silent.
Nature or matter that exist do not have any say in their existence and can only exist if the Creator creates them, that is, the Will of the Creator allows them to exist. For example, one is dying of thirst and the water is just flowing right in front of one’s mouth. If one asks the water to come to his mouth, can the water come by chance, naturally to the mouth? The things in the universe don’t follow my desires, they have no quality to listen to me. Everything in the universe is subject to the Will of its Creator.
This Will of God is one single command, “Be and it is”. The Quran speaks in different ways in its speech, using different figures of speech to explain the reality of the universe, the essence of existence. Unfortunately, in the current civilization, generally speaking, the Quran is not being studied from an existential level. We have to try our best to benefit from the message of our Creator. I should not get lost in the examples employed in the Qur’an but should universalize the message as being applicable to each and every created being. See the message at the existential level, explaining the purpose of our existence here.
Tags: A'raf Series, Al-Araf, Belief, Feelings, human qualities, Life, Lord, Quran, Worship