Surah Qaf: The First Creation as the Foremost Proof for Afterlife

Introduction

The first few verses of this Surah highlight the creativity of God Almighty as a proof for the Afterlife or the second creation:

Do they not see the sky above them, how We have built and adorned it, without any flaw, and how We spread out the earth and put firm mountains on it, and caused every kind of beautiful plants in pairs to grow in it, as a lesson and reminder for every servant who turns to God; and how We send blessed water down from the sky and grow with it gardens and the harvest grains, and the towering palm trees laden with clusters of dates, as a provision for everyone; how with water We give new life to a land that is dead? This is how the dead will emerge. (Verses 6-11)

The punch line is delivered a little bit later: “So were We incapable of the first creation? No indeed! Yet they doubt a second creation.” (Verse 15)

Such line of reasoning is pursued at least in a dozen other places in the holy Quran, therefore it is of fundamental importance for the believers to see the universe as a beautiful creation of God, rather than as an accident as the staunch atheists will have us believe. Here is an article to express gratitude to the Al Rahman God, the Lord of Mercy, for His creativity: Ten Raised to Five Hundred Reasons for Our Gracious God.

We believe the two fundamental beliefs in Islam, which it shares with Judaism and Christianity are belief in the Transcendent God and accountability in the life after death. (87:16-19) The former is discussed at some length in the commentary of Surah Al Fatihah and the latter in the commentary of Surah Al Waqi’ah.

In verse 38 of this surah, Allah stresses again: “We created the heavens, the earth, and everything in between, in six Days without tiring.” The surah closes with a verse, highlighting the role of the prophet Muhammad, may peace be on him, as a teacher of the Quran: “But, You, (Muhammad) have not been appointed as a guardian. So remind, with this Qur’an, those who fear My warning.”

According to Muhammad Abdel Haleem, as he writes a brief introduction to this surah:

A Meccan sura which deals predominantly with the Resurrection and the Day of Judgement. Reference is made to previous generations of disbelievers (verses 12-14), both to warn the disbelievers in Mecca and to reassure the Prophet. Creation is cited as an indication of God’s ability to bring the dead to life again (verses 3-11), and emphasis is placed on the powerlessness of man on the Day of Resurrection (verses 20-30). The sura both opens and closes with mention of the Qur’an.

بِسْمِ اللَّـهِ الرَّحْمَـٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ

In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.

50:1. Qaaf;  We cite the testimony of the glorious Quran!

 ق ۚ وَالْقُرْآنِ الْمَجِيدِ

50:2. But the disbelievers marvel that a warner has come from among them and they say, ‘How strange!’

 بَلْ عَجِبُوا أَن جَاءَهُم مُّنذِرٌ مِّنْهُمْ فَقَالَ الْكَافِرُونَ هَـٰذَا شَيْءٌ عَجِيبٌ

50:3. ‘To come back to life after we have died and become dust? That is very far-fetched.’

 أَإِذَا مِتْنَا وَكُنَّا تُرَابًا ۖ ذَٰلِكَ رَجْعٌ بَعِيدٌ

50:4 We know very well what the earth takes away from them; We keep a comprehensive record.

  قَدْ عَلِمْنَا مَا تَنقُصُ الْأَرْضُ مِنْهُمْ ۖ وَعِندَنَا كِتَابٌ حَفِيظٌ

50:5. But the disbelievers deny the truth when it comes to them; so they end up in a confused state.

 بَلْ كَذَّبُوا بِالْحَقِّ لَمَّا جَاءَهُمْ فَهُمْ فِي أَمْرٍ مَّرِيجٍ

50:6. Do they not see the sky above them, how We have built and adorned it, without any flaw.

 أَفَلَمْ يَنظُرُوا إِلَى السَّمَاءِ فَوْقَهُمْ كَيْفَ بَنَيْنَاهَا وَزَيَّنَّاهَا وَمَا لَهَا مِن فُرُوجٍ

50:7. And how We spread out the earth and put firm mountains on it, and caused every kind of beautiful plants in pairs to grow in it,

 وَالْأَرْضَ مَدَدْنَاهَا وَأَلْقَيْنَا فِيهَا رَوَاسِيَ وَأَنبَتْنَا فِيهَا مِن كُلِّ زَوْجٍ بَهِيجٍ

50:8. As a lesson and reminder for every servant who turns to God;

 تَبْصِرَةً وَذِكْرَىٰ لِكُلِّ عَبْدٍ مُّنِيبٍ

50:9. And how We send blessed water down from the sky and grow with it gardens and harvest grains.

 وَنَزَّلْنَا مِنَ السَّمَاءِ مَاءً مُّبَارَكًا فَأَنبَتْنَا بِهِ جَنَّاتٍ وَحَبَّ الْحَصِيدِ

50:10. And the towering palm trees laden with clusters of dates,

 وَالنَّخْلَ بَاسِقَاتٍ لَّهَا طَلْعٌ نَّضِيدٌ

50:11. As a provision for everyone; how with water We give new life to a land that is dead? This is how the dead will emerge.

 رِّزْقًا لِّلْعِبَادِ ۖ وَأَحْيَيْنَا بِهِ بَلْدَةً مَّيْتًا ۚ كَذَٰلِكَ الْخُرُوجُ

50:12. The people of Noah disbelieved long before these disbelievers, as did the people of Rass, Thamud,

 كَذَّبَتْ قَبْلَهُمْ قَوْمُ نُوحٍ وَأَصْحَابُ الرَّسِّ وَثَمُودُ

50:13. ‘Ad, Pharaoh and the people of Lot,

 وَعَادٌ وَفِرْعَوْنُ وَإِخْوَانُ لُوطٍ

50:14. The Forest-Dwellers, Tubba’: all of these people disbelieved their messengers, and so My warning was realized.

 وَأَصْحَابُ الْأَيْكَةِ وَقَوْمُ تُبَّعٍ ۚ كُلٌّ كَذَّبَ الرُّسُلَ فَحَقَّ وَعِيدِ

50:15. So were We incapable of the first creation? No indeed! Yet they doubt a second creation.

 أَفَعَيِينَا بِالْخَلْقِ الْأَوَّلِ ۚ

 بَلْ هُمْ فِي لَبْسٍ مِّنْ خَلْقٍ جَدِيدٍ

50:16. We did indeed create man, We know what his soul whispers to him: We are closer to him than his jugular vein

 وَلَقَدْ خَلَقْنَا الْإِنسَانَ وَنَعْلَمُ مَا تُوَسْوِسُ بِهِ نَفْسُهُ ۖ وَنَحْنُ أَقْرَبُ إِلَيْهِ مِنْ حَبْلِ الْوَرِيدِ

50:17.  With two monitors set to record, one on his right side and one on his left.

 إِذْ يَتَلَقَّى الْمُتَلَقِّيَانِ عَنِ الْيَمِينِ وَعَنِ الشِّمَالِ قَعِيدٌ

50:18. He does not utter anything without a ready watcher beside him.

 مَّا يَلْفِظُ مِن قَوْلٍ إِلَّا لَدَيْهِ رَقِيبٌ عَتِيدٌ

50:19. The stupor of imminent death will bring the Truth with it: ‘This is what you tried to escape.’

 وَجَاءَتْ سَكْرَةُ الْمَوْتِ بِالْحَقِّ ۖ ذَٰلِكَ مَا كُنتَ مِنْهُ تَحِيدُ

50:20. The Trumpet will be sounded: ‘This is the Day you were warned of.’

 وَنُفِخَ فِي ال ذَٰلِكَ يَوْمُ الْوَعِيدِصُّورِ ۚ

50:21. Each person will arrive attended by an angel to drive him on and another to bear witness:

  وَجَاءَتْ كُلُّ نَفْسٍ مَّعَهَا سَائِقٌ وَشَهِيدٌ

50:22. You paid no attention to this Day; but today We have removed your veil of denial and your sight is sharp.

 لَّقَدْ كُنتَ فِي غَفْلَةٍ مِّنْ هَـٰذَا فَكَشَفْنَا عَنكَ غِطَاءَكَ فَبَصَرُكَ الْيَوْمَ حَدِيدٌ

50:23. The person’s attendant will say, ‘Here is what I have prepared.’

 وَقَالَ قَرِينُهُ هَـٰذَا مَا لَدَيَّ عَتِيدٌ

50:24. Cast every obstinate disbeliever into Hell.

 أَلْقِيَا فِي جَهَنَّمَ كُلَّ كَفَّارٍ عَنِيدٍ

50:25. Everyone who hindered good, was aggressive, caused others to doubt,

 مَّنَّاعٍ لِّلْخَيْرِ مُعْتَدٍ مُّرِيبٍ

50:26. And set up other gods beside God. Cast him into severe punishment!

  الَّذِي جَعَلَ مَعَ اللَّـهِ إِلَـٰهًا آخَرَ فَأَلْقِيَاهُ فِي الْعَذَابِ الشَّدِيدِ

50:27. And his evil companion will say, ‘Lord, I did not make him transgress; he had already gone far astray on his own.’

 قَالَ قَرِينُهُ رَبَّنَا مَا أَطْغَيْتُهُ وَلَـٰكِن كَانَ فِي ضَلَالٍ بَعِيدٍ

50:28. God will say, ‘Do not argue in My presence. I sent you a warning.’

 قَالَ لَا تَخْتَصِمُوا لَدَيَّ وَقَدْ قَدَّمْتُ إِلَيْكُم بِالْوَعِيدِ

50:29. And My word cannot be changed: I am not unjust to the slightest to any of my servants.

 مَا يُبَدَّلُ الْقَوْلُ لَدَيَّ وَمَا أَنَا بِظَلَّامٍ لِّلْعَبِي

50:30. We shall ask Hell on that day, ‘Are you full?’And it will reply, ‘Are there no more?’

 يَوْمَ نَقُولُ لِجَهَنَّمَ هَلِ امْتَلَأْتِ وَتَقُولُ هَلْ مِن مَّزِيدٍ

50:31. But Paradise will be brought close to the reverent and will no longer be distant.

 وَأُزْلِفَتِ الْجَنَّةُ لِلْمُتَّقِينَ غَيْرَ بَعِيدٍ

50:32. This is what you were promised —this is for everyone who turned often to God and kept Him in mind.

 هَـٰذَا مَا تُوعَدُونَ لِكُلِّ أَوَّابٍ حَفِيظٍ

50:33. Who held the Most Gracious in awe, though He is unseen, who comes before Him with a heart turned to Him in devotion.

  مَّنْ خَشِيَ الرَّحْمَـٰنَ بِالْغَيْبِ وَجَاءَ بِقَلْبٍ مُّنِيبٍ

50:34. So enter it in peace. This is the Day of everlasting Life.

 ادْخُلُوهَا بِسَلَامٍ ۖ ذَٰلِكَ يَوْمُ الْخُلُودِ

50:35. They will have all that they wish for there, and We have more for them that they cannot conceive.

  لَهُم مَّا يَشَاءُونَ فِيهَا وَلَدَيْنَا مَزِيدٌ

50:36. We have destroyed even mightier generations before these disbelievers. Then they searched around in the lands, but there was no refuge.

وَكَمْ أَهْلَكْنَا قَبْلَهُم مِّن قَرْنٍ هُمْ أَشَدُّ مِنْهُم بَطْشًا فَنَقَّبُوا فِي الْبِلَادِ هَلْ مِن مَّحِيصٍ

50:37. There truly is a reminder in this for whoever has a heart, whoever listens attentively.

 إِنَّ فِي ذَٰلِكَ لَذِكْرَىٰ لِمَن كَانَ لَهُ قَلْبٌ أَوْ أَلْقَى السَّمْعَ وَهُوَ شَهِيدٌ

50:38. We created the heavens, the earth, and everything in between, in six Days without tiring.

وَلَقَدْ خَلَقْنَا السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضَ وَمَا بَيْنَهُمَا فِي سِتَّةِ أَيَّامٍ وَمَا مَسَّنَا مِن لُّغُوبٍ

50:39. Oh Prophet, bear everything they say with patience; celebrate the praise of your Lord before the rising and setting of the sun;

 فَاصْبِرْ عَلَىٰ مَا يَقُولُونَ وَسَبِّحْ بِحَمْدِ رَبِّكَ قَبْلَ طُلُوعِ الشَّمْسِ وَقَبْلَ الْغُرُوبِ

50:40. Proclaim His praise in the night and at the end of every formal prayer.

 وَمِنَ اللَّيْلِ فَسَبِّحْهُ وَأَدْبَارَ السُّجُودِ

50:41. Listen out for the Day when the caller will call from a nearby place.

 وَاسْتَمِعْ يَوْمَ يُنَادِ الْمُنَادِ مِن مَّكَانٍ قَرِيبٍ

50:42. The Day they will hear the mighty inevitable blast, that is the Day when they will come forth.

  يَوْمَ يَسْمَعُونَ الصَّيْحَةَ بِالْحَقِّ ۚ ذَٰلِكَ يَوْمُ الْخُرُوجِ

50:43. It is We who give life and cause death;  and to Us is the final return.

 إِنَّا نَحْنُ نُحْيِي وَنُمِيتُ وَإِلَيْنَا الْمَصِيرُ

50:44. On the Day when the earth will be split asunder, letting them rush out and that gathering will be easy for Us.

 يَوْمَ تَشَقَّقُ الْأَرْضُ عَنْهُمْ سِرَاعًا ۚ ذَٰلِكَ حَشْرٌ عَلَيْنَا يَسِيرٌ

50:45. We know best what the disbelievers say.  But, You, Muhammad have not been appointed as a guardian. So remind, with this Quran, those who fear My warning.

 نَّحْنُ أَعْلَمُ بِمَا يَقُولُونَ ۖ وَمَا أَنتَ عَلَيْهِم بِجَبَّارٍ ۖ فَذَكِّرْ بِالْقُرْآنِ مَن يَخَافُ وَعِيدِ

Commentary

50:6-11

The first few verses of this Surah highlight the creativity of God Almighty as a proof for the Afterlife or the second creation:

Do they not see the sky above them, how We have built and adorned it, without any flaw, and how We spread out the earth and put firm mountains on it, and caused every kind of beautiful plants in pairs to grow in it, as a lesson and reminder for every servant who turns to God; and how We send blessed water down from the sky and grow with it gardens and the harvest grains,and the towering palm trees laden with clusters of dates, as a provision for everyone; how with water We give new life to a land that is dead? This is how the dead will emerge. (Verses 6-11)

The punch line is delivered a little bit later: “So were We incapable of the first creation? No indeed! Yet they doubt a second creation.” (Verse 15)

Such line of reasoning is pursued at least in a dozen other places in the holy Quran, therefore it is of fundamental importance for the believers to see the universe as a beautiful creation of God, rather than as an accident as the staunch atheists will have us believe. Here is an article to express gratitude to the Al Rahman God, the Lord of Mercy, for His creativity: Ten Raised to Five Hundred Reasons for Our Gracious God.

According to Seyyed Hossein Nasr and colleagues in their recent commentary:

This is one of several passages to call human beings to reflect upon the beauty, proportionality, and bounty of the natural world as evidence of God’s Mercy and wisdom and of the Resurrection; see 16:79-81; 24:43-50; 26:7-8; 33:27; 35:27-28; 36:71-73; 45:1-5.

We believe the two fundamental beliefs in Islam, which it shares with Judaism and Christianity are belief in the Transcendent God and accountability in the life after death. (87:16-19) The former is discussed at some length in the commentary of Surah Al Fatihah and the latter in the commentary of Surah Al Waqi’ah.

50:12-14

“The people of Noah disbelieved long before these disbelievers, as did the people of Rass, Thamud, ‘Ad, Pharaoh and the people of Lot, the Forest-Dwellers, Tubba’: all of these people disbelieved their messengers, and so My warning was realized.”

According to Seyyed Hossein Nasr and colleagues in their recent commentary:

Before them means before the idolaters who  oppose the Prophet (T). For the Quranic account of Noah and the flood, see 11:25-48; 23:23-30; 26:105-21; Surah 71. The inhabitants of al-Rass (cf. 25:38) is an enigmatic reference that some understand to mean one of the towns of the tribe of Thamud (T). Others understand al-Rass to mean “the well’’ and interpret it as a reference to the well in which the people spoken of in 36:13-27 threw the prophet whom God had sent to them (I). The ‘Ad and the Thamud were pre-Islamic Arabian tribes who rejected the prophets sent to them. For the account of the ‘Ad see 7:65-72; 11:50-60; 41:15-16; 54:18-21. For that of the Thamud, see 7:73-79; 11:61-68; 26:141-58; 54:24-31. The story of Lot and his people is discussed most extensively in 11:77-83; see also 7:80-84; 15:57-77; 21:74-75; 26:160-73;  27:54-58; 29:28-35; 37:133-38. The thicket translates al- aykah, which according to some is a proper name. The inhabitants of the thicket are either the people of Midian, who are said to have rejected the prophet Shu‘ayb (see 7:85-93; 11:84-95; 26:176-89; 29:36-37), or a second community to which Shu‘ayb was sent (Mw). For Tubba‘ , most likely a reference to a line of kings in southern Arabia, see 44:37c.

How does the history of prophets of the past plays out in the contemporary life? For this we link a recent article from the Muslim Sunrise, the oldest Muslim publication of North America, written and collected by Zia H Shah MD, Chief Editor of the Muslim Times: God’s Existence and Natural Disasters.

50:15

“So were We incapable of the first creation? No indeed! Yet they doubt a second creation.”

According to Seyyed Hossein Nasr and colleagues in their recent commentary:

This verse is a rebuke to what the idolaters say in v.  3. They are questioned as to how it is that they could doubt God’s ability to resurrect when they have the evidence of God’s ability to create everything that is around them (T). The rhetorical question is answered in 46:33: Have they not considered that God, Who created the heavens and the earth and did not weary in their creation, is able to give life to the dead? Yea! He is Powerful over all things. In the present verse, the first creation means the creation of this world. When confronted with the Quranic teaching regarding bodily resurrection, the reaction of the disbelievers is that they say, What! When we are bones and dust, shall we indeed be resurrected as a new creation? (17:49, 98). In this interpretation new creation refers to the Resurrection; see also 13:5; 14:19; 34:7; 35:16-17c. New creation can also be understood as a reference to the perpetual creation of the world, in which God’s creative act is renewed at every instant (K). That most human beings are in doubt regarding a new creation indicates that they are unable to see because their sight is not yet piercing (see v. 22).

50:34

“So enter it in peace. This is the Day of everlasting Life.”

According to Seyyed Hossein Nasr and colleagues in their recent commentary:

Enter it in peace. This is the day of abiding.”  34 Peace translates salam, which also denotes  “greeting” and “safety.” Enter it in peace is thus interpreted to mean, “Enter secure from every fear,” or “Enter with the greeting of peace” (JJ), as in 56:25-26: They hear no idle talk therein, nor incitement to sin, save that “Peace! Peace!” is uttered (cf. 7:46; 10:10; 13:23-24; 14:23; 16:32; 19:62; 25:75; 33:44; 36:58). Thus the Garden is also known as the Abode of Peace (61127; 10:25). That this is the day of abiding indicates that it is the day on which everlasting life in the Garden will begin (JJ, T).

50:45

“We know best what the disbelievers say.  But, You, Muhammad have not been appointed as a guardian. So remind, with this Quran, those who fear My warning.”

According to Seyyed Hossein Nasr and colleagues in their recent commentary:

Given the general principle in Islam that there is no coercion in religion (2:256), the Prophet is not to compel disbelievers. His function is only to remind human beings through revelation (see 88:21-22), as prophets are only responsible for proclaiming the message (see, e.g. 3:20; 5:92, 99; 13:40; 16:35. 82; 24:54; 29:18; 36:17; 42:48). Those who fear My Threat (see also 87:9-10) is understood by some to mean the believers (JJ), but can be taken more generally to mean all but the most obstinate disbelievers, since every human being is believed to bear the primordial covenant, and thus the remembrance of God, within the depths of his or her soul (see 7:172c; 30:30c).

Surah Al Balad: The City of Makkah

Introduction

This is an early Makkan surah when the Muslims were being severely persecuted there, yet it has a grand prophecy that Islam will prevail in the very same city and the holy prophet Muhammad, may peace be on him, will be hailed as a great national and international hero.

This surah once again stresses, in very powerful metaphors that the very purpose of religion is to guide us into compassionate living, a message often repeated in the Quran. Please see the commentary of Surah Al Ma’un – The Common Kindness and an article: Two Hundred Verses about Compassionate Living in the Quran.

بِسْمِ اللَّـهِ الرَّحْمَـٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ

In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.

1. I call this city as a witness.

لَا أُقْسِمُ بِهَـٰذَا الْبَلَدِ 

2. And you [Muhammad] are an inhabitant of this city.

 وَأَنتَ حِلٌّ بِهَـٰذَا الْبَلَدِ 

3. And I cite the father Abraham and the son Ishmael as a witness.

 وَوَالِدٍ وَمَا وَلَدَ 

4. That We have created man for toil and trial.

 لَقَدْ خَلَقْنَا الْإِنسَانَ فِي كَبَدٍ 

5. Does he think that no one will have power over him?

 أَيَحْسَبُ أَن لَّن يَقْدِرَ عَلَيْهِ أَحَدٌ

6. He boasts about his wealth.

 يَقُولُ أَهْلَكْتُ مَالًا لُّبَدًا 

7. Does he think no one observes him?

 أَيَحْسَبُ أَن لَّمْ يَرَهُ أَحَدٌ 

8. Did We not give him two eyes?

 أَلَمْ نَجْعَل لَّهُ عَيْنَيْنِ 

9. And a tongue and two lips?

 وَلِسَانًا وَشَفَتَيْنِ 

10. And point out to him the two clear ways [of good and evil]?

 وَلِسَانًا وَشَفَتَيْنِ 

11. Yet he has not attempted the steep path.

 فَلَا اقْتَحَمَ الْعَقَبَةَ 

12. What will explain to you what the steep path is?

 وَمَا أَدْرَاكَ مَا الْعَقَبَةُ 

13. It is to free a slave.

 فَكُّ رَقَبَةٍ 

14. It is to feed at a time of hunger.

 أَوْ إِطْعَامٌ فِي يَوْمٍ ذِي مَسْغَبَةٍ 

15. An orphaned relative.

 يَتِيمًا ذَا مَقْرَبَةٍ

16. Or a poor person in distress.

 أَوْ مِسْكِينًا ذَا مَتْرَبَةٍ 

17. Then he is of those who believe and exhort one another to patience, and exhort one another to mercy.

ثُمَّ كَانَ مِنَ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَتَوَاصَوْا بِالصَّبْرِ وَتَوَاصَوْا بِالْمَرْحَمَةِ

18. These are the people of the right hand.

 أُولَـٰئِكَ أَصْحَابُ الْمَيْمَنَةِ

19. And those who disbelieve in Our messages, they are the people of the left hand.

وَالَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا بِآيَاتِنَا هُمْ أَصْحَابُ الْمَشْأَمَةِ

20. And the Fire will close in on them.

عَلَيْهِمْ نَارٌ مُّؤْصَدَةٌ

Commentary

90:1-3

This is a Makkan surah, while the prophet Muhammad, may peace be on him, was engaged in a struggle of survival against large odds in the city of Makkah in the early part of his ministry. Given his triumph in the city later on and the earlier triumph of Abraham and Ishmael in settling the city of Makkah in wilderness some 2400 years ago and how the spring of Zam Zam came to be, described else where in the holy Quran, the city becomes a witness to the truth of Islam, the Quran and the prophet Muhammad.

90:11-16

In this surah, Allah describes the ‘steep path’ to excellence starting in verse number 11.  In verse 4 of the surah it was mentioned that human psyche is given to toil towards some goal, so it is better that he or she works towards the steep path of excellence in humanitarian works and to free slaves and captives and feed the hungry and take care of the orphans and weak, rather than pursuing some frivolous goal.

Humanitarian service should be done in a fashion that we set the orphans or the vulnerable free to achieve their best potentials rather than embroiling them into strings to use them for our purposes, like any selfish god-father figure would do, to serve his own needs. Else where the Quran says: “And they feed, for love of Allah, the poor, the orphan, and the prisoner, saying, ‘We feed you for Allah’s pleasure only. We desire no payback nor thanks from you.'” (Al Quran 76:8-9)

This surah very powerfully demonstrates that the purpose of religion or of Islam is to instill compassion and love of humanity and not an obsession with the religious dogma. For example else where we read:

Goodness does not consist in turning your face towards East or West. The truly good are those who believe in God and the Last Day, in the angels, the Scripture, and the prophets; who give away some of their wealth, however much they cherish it, to their relatives, to orphans, the needy, travelers and beggars and to liberate those in debt and bondage; those who keep up the prayers and pay the prescribed alms; who keep pledges whenever they make them; who are steadfast in misfortune, adversity and times of danger. These are the ones who are true, and it is they who are aware of God.  (Al Quran 2:177)

This verse talks about a set of beliefs and then a set of good deeds, the intricate relationship between the two escapes many if not most. Many take a set of beliefs as dogma or a magical wand that if believed in will lead to certain success here and in the hereafter. But, see if we believe that Jesus died for our sins or for that matter Moses or Joseph died for our sins or Muhammad, may peace be on him, went to heaven in his physical body, such ideas or deeply held beliefs are no different from knowing or believing that the table I am looking at in the center of my room right now is made of wood. This belief has no trans-formative value on my character. But, a belief gathered through life long experience, in All-Knowing, All-Powerful, Merciful and Gracious God, who loves us and has revealed Himself through prophets and scriptures and taught us accountability on the Day of Judgment, has the ability to jolt our psyche and make our character compassionate, truthful and honest.  Such a deeply held and experienced belief and not any set of dogmas is implied in this verse of Surah Baqarah. In short, religion is about leading an honest life of compassion demonstrating kindness and not about obsession over dogma or ritual or who has the religious authority.

According to Muhammad Ali in commentary of the verses under discussion:

Note the tone of these earliest revelations. The service of humanity (along with the service of God) is the one topic. The doing of good to the oppressed, the poor, and the orphans is called an uphill road or a high mountain because of the difficulty of doing it. The constant reference to the helping of the poor and the orphans and the setting free of slaves brings to light the real character of the Prophet, who is described by one knowing him most intimately as one who earned for those who had no means themselves (B. 1:1). No religion has laid so much stress on the uplift of the poor and the distressed as Islam, and it is the only religion which enjoins the duty of granting freedom to slaves, and the Holy Prophet Muhammad is the only founder of a religion who showed the noble example of freeing all slaves that he ever had and helping in the freedom of others. Yet prejudiced writers blame Islam for not taking any steps to uproot slavery. There is even a suggestion that such precepts regarding the nobility of liberating slaves as exist in the Makkan chapters were abrogated by later revelation (see Wherry), a preposterous statement in view of the plain directions given in 9:60 (the latest revelation) to the State itself to spend a part of the public funds in purchasing freedom for slaves.

For a more detailed discussion of love, compassion and emphasis on humanitarian work in the holy Quran, please read: Two Hundred Verses about Compassionate Living in the Quran.

Suggested reading
Abou Ben Adhem, A Compassionate Man
A Message of Compassion and Love from the Holy Bible
True Fasting: A Message of Compassion and Love from the Old Testament
Forty Hadiths or Sayings of the Prophet Muhammad about Compassionate Living
‘Love Hormone’ Oxytocin May Enhance Feelings Of Spirituality
We Will be Judged by Our Compassion and Deeds and Not Our Dogma

Surah Al Ma’un – The Common Kindness

Introduction

A Makkan surah describing the characteristics of a person who denies the faith or its real purpose.

بِسْمِ اللَّـهِ الرَّحْمَـٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ

In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.

107:1. Have you considered the person who denies the faith or its real purpose?

أَرَأَيْتَ الَّذِي يُكَذِّبُ بِالدِّينِ

107:2. It is he who pushes aside the orphan,

 فَذَٰلِكَ الَّذِي يَدُعُّ الْيَتِيمَ 

107:3. And does not urge others to feed the needy.

 وَلَا يَحُضُّ عَلَىٰ طَعَامِ الْمِسْكِينِ

107:4. So woe to those who pray,

 فَوَيْلٌ لِّلْمُصَلِّينَ 

107:5. But are heedless of their prayers.

 الَّذِينَ هُمْ عَن صَلَاتِهِمْ سَاهُونَ

107:6. Those who are all show,

 الَّذِينَ هُمْ يُرَاءُونَ 

107:7. And forbid the common kindness.

 وَيَمْنَعُونَ الْمَاعُونَ 

Commentary

Throughout the teachings of the Holy Quran, service to mankind is a running theme. At many different places God specifically mentions the help of the disadvantaged elements in the society. In fact it will not be a stretch to say that Islam promotes a welfare society. All members of the society are responsible for taking care of each other in time of their need. This aspect of the Faith is so dominant that God rejects the worship of those who are negligent of this duty.

God draws our attention towards the person who is openly rejecting Faith. This rejection is not in terms of his professing the Faith as this person is busy in salat (prayer) openly and all can see him. He is a believer and a Muslim if you ask him. Yet God is declaring him a non-believer. The reason for this denouncement by God is the actions of this person. He is identified as the one who does not help the orphan. He in fact shows his contempt by driving them away from himself.

Orphan is the direct translation of the word “yateem.” An orphan is a person whose parents have passed away. When this happens to a minor or a child, his social support is lost. Until there is some support system for him, he is not going to do well in life. The holy Prophet Muhammad (may peace be upon him) was an orphan himself. His family was able to provide support for him until he grew up. But he had a special affinity for orphans. Throughout the holy Quran and in the narrations of the Prophet, care of the orphans has been stressed over and over again.

In a larger sense anyone who does not have a leader or guide in life can also be considered an orphan. Many young children go astray because their parents are unable to provide them guidance and training due to their own circumstances or inabilities. In such cases it is the responsibility of the society to provide for the needs of these children who are orphans in a metaphorical sense.

Caring for the poor and the hungry is important for any society. The importance of this is highlighted by pointing out this in the 3rd verse. The above two values are so important to God that he denounces those who are negligent in this duty, even when they are busy in salat.

Salat is considered to be a central tenant of the religion of Islam. Generally speaking the rituals of worship carry the greatest importance in any religion. In this chapter of the Holy Quran, God has set this priority right. Salat and other rituals worship is of no importance to God unless the believer is also engaged in the service of God’s creation.  In fact God expresses his displeasure for those who only focus on the worship and forget helping those in need.

According to God, the salat of such people is only a show. It has no significance. These people have not understood the real significance of salat. God did not need for us to bow before him five times a day. It does not benefit him in any way. He is above all this. So what is the purpose of salat? According to God the real purpose of salat is to develop an understanding of the purpose of creation and religion. It is a tool for training of the believers. The real purpose is serving the creation of God. Balance between worship and service has to be maintained. (Islam is a religion of moderation and middle way, “Ummatun wasatan”)

If salat is not accompanied by good works then it is only a show.

The last verse once again addresses the miserly behavior of these people. They refuse to participate in the common kindness and are averse to helping  even by lending trivial items of daily use.

Surah Al Takathur – Competing for More

 Introduction

According to Seyyed Hossein Nasr and colleagues in the introduction to this surah:

The first two verses speak of the delusion of accumulating worldly goods, which is referenced throughout the Quran (e.g., 3:14; 9:24), while the remaining Verses (vv. 3-8) promise that those who persist in such behavior will know Hellfire with certainty.

بِسْمِ اللَّـهِ الرَّحْمَـٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ

In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.

102:1. The desire of increase in worldly possessions beguiles you.

 أَلْهَاكُمُ التَّكَاثُرُ

102:2. Till you reach the graves.

 حَتَّىٰ زُرْتُمُ الْمَقَابِرَ

102:3. Surely, you will soon come to know the vanity of your pursuits.

 كَلَّا سَوْفَ تَعْلَمُونَ

102:4. Again, you surely will soon come to know how mistaken you are.

 ثُمَّ كَلَّا سَوْفَ تَعْلَمُونَ

102:5. Only if you knew for certain!

 كَلَّا لَوْ تَعْلَمُونَ عِلْمَ الْيَقِينِ

102:6. You would surely see hell in this very life.

 لَتَرَوُنَّ الْجَحِيمَ

102:7. But, you will see it with the certainty of sight in the life to come.

 ثُمَّ لَتَرَوُنَّهَا عَيْنَ الْيَقِينِ

102:8. Then you shall be called to account, on that day, in respect of the worldly favors conferred on you.

 ثُمَّ لَتُسْأَلُنَّ يَوْمَئِذٍ عَنِ النَّعِيمِ

A common fallacy of the human condition is described in the verses: “You love that which is transitory; and you neglect that which is lasting.” (75:20-21) The Quran repeatedly teaches us to put our temporary worldly life in the perspective of eternal Afterlife. The common mistake is that most of us do not give the due importance to Afterlife, but, there  is also the possibility of error in the other direction, which is the error of asceticism, in giving up the worldly life, in not realizing that ultimately the results of our eternal life are based on our actions in this very ephemeral life.

According to Seyyed Hossein Nasr and colleagues in the commentary of the first verse of this surah:

Vying for increase in worldly gains distracts people  from obedience to God and remembering the Hereafter (Q, Ts). ‘Distraction’ (lahw) indicates an amusement, something that keeps people from achieving their real goals (Al, Is). In this vein, the Quran advises, Let not the life of this world delude you (31:33; 35:5; see also 45:35). Vying for increase translates takathur, which implies both competing and boasting. It can pertain to anything that people seek for the gratification of their egos rather than for God’s sake. According to a saying attributed to the Prophet, it means gathering wealth without right, withholding it from those to whom it rightfully belongs, and hoarding it (Q).

Islam does not prohibit the use or seeking of the good things of this world; but it certainly condemns those who are wholly engrossed in them and make them the very object and purpose of their lives. In fact the Quran has taught us a prayer to seek good both in this world and the hereafter: “And of them there are some who say: ‘Our Lord, grant us good in this world as well as good in the world to come, and protect us from the torment of the Fire.’” (2:201)

However, the Quran puts the worldly life and the eternal life, constantly into perspective, like in this surah, “The desire of increase in worldly possessions beguiles you till you reach the graves. You will soon realize the vanity of your pursuits; again, you will soon realize how mistaken you are. If you only knew with the certainty of knowledge.” (102:1-5)

We will collect all the instances in the Quran, which highlight this human dilemma of striking the balance between the worldly life and the Afterlife. For starters, please see: 3:14-15; 3:185; 9:37; 10:24; 10:70; 13:26; 18:45-46; 29:64; 35:5; 57:20 and 87:16-19. Let us conclude this paragraph by quoting the verses from Surah Kahf: “Expound to them the case of the life of this world. It is like water that we send down from the sky, and the vegetation of the earth grows and mingles with it and all becomes stubble which is scattered about by the winds. Allah has full power over everything.  Wealth and children are an ornament of the life  of this world: then of these that which is converted into a source of permanent beneficence is best in the sight of your Lord, both in respect of immediate reward and in respect of expected benefits.” (18:45-46)

This dilemma arising out of finite versus the infinite has also been described in secular literature as Pascal wager.

The desire to progress in one way or another is embedded to a lesser or greater extent in human nature.  Some are more ambitious than the others but every one is pursuing some goal or object.  It is a distinctive characteristic in man which differentiates him from all lower forms of creation. The urge to progress is a healthy one, provided it does not clash with one’s moral development.  However, today it seems that the acquisition of wealth is the main avenue of progress along which men seek to advance.  But, as mentioned before, one who devotes one’s whole attention to increasing ones wealth and neglects one’s moral development is growing away from peace and acquiring miseries for oneself.

While advancement in worldly affairs is encouraged and commended by Islam, nevertheless, greater stress is laid on the development of the soul and progress along the path of righteousness; for God says in the Holy Quran that the most honored in His sight are those who are the most righteous.  Excessive materialism arises in those men who do not look beyond the grave and fail to appreciate the scheme of things in their totality. They give attention only to their material progress as they do not know of any other progress.  On the other hand, the men of God, do not neglect their moral and spiritual progress.  A believer knows that his love for God should excel his love for the things of this world. He yearns to develop within himself the attributes of God; and while he does not ignore the responsibilities of life he is ever watchful in avoiding all temptations liable to hinder his moral and spiritual advancement.

If on one extreme, of love for worldly things, is materialism then on the other extreme is asceticism.  Asceticism is so to speak an escape from our role in this present life.  Both extremes are detrimental to the moral and spiritual progress of man.  Sometimes one opts for asceticism and a kind of resignation in life in order to escape failure and the psychological pain associated with such failure.  This, then becomes  an escape mechanism and religion should not be blamed for such faulty resignation.  Islam just wants to put all things in true perspective and set the priorities right.  If we study the life history of the prophet Muhammad there is no element of escapism in his life.  His monumental accomplishments in a short life span of 63 years will always remain unparalleled.

Materialism leads to such love for these material things that it becomes more and more difficult for one to make moral choices when material stakes are high.  Islam teaches us a balance between the two forces, so that on one hand material progress is not halted and on the other hand moral and spiritual progress is not compromised.  We do not want to lay down proofs of the life after death here for we have pursued that in the commentary of Surah Al Waqi’ah (The Event or the Resurrection).  Whereas, materialism and exclusive focus on this world is short sightedness, as it ignores the life after death, asceticism is ignoring the purpose of life.

When we think about the part of our life, that has passed, it seems like a flash, a wink or twinkling of the eye.  It only leaves a feeling of nostalgia behind, and its existence appears rather unreal.  In short it has a fleeting existence and seems like a dream that is passed.  For those who have passed all their lives and have died, according to the Holy Quran when they look back, it seems to them that they lived only for a moment on this earth (23:112-113).

Bible quotes a moving testimony from King Solomon regarding the futility of taking worldly success as the final goal of one’s life:

I undertook great projects: I built houses for myself and Planted vineyards.  I made gardens and parks and planted all kinds of  fruit trees in them.  I made reservoirs to water groves of flourishing trees. I bought male and female slaves and had other slaves who were born in my house.  I also owned more herds and flocks than anyone in Jerusalem before me.  I amassed silver and gold for myself, and the treasure of kings and provinces.  I acquired men and women singers, and harem as well — the delights of the heart of men. I became greater by far than anyone in Jerusalem before me. In all this my wisdom stayed with me.

I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure.

My heart took delight in all my work, and this was the reward for all my labor.

Yet when I surveyed all that my hand had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun (Bible, Ecclesiastes 2:4-11).

The message in these quotes is not one of asceticism but one of contentment and of simplicity.  These verses mean to put our present life in perspective of our eternal life in the hereafter.  These verses do not deny the useful role of some of the material things in our lives.  As the holy Quran, after naming some worldly goods says, “All these are the provisions of this life.”  It is excessive love and greed for material things that leads to evil and destruction of peace of mind in several ways.  If one recalls and analyzes the events of years ago, very often, one realizes that many of the issues that appeared to be vitally important yesterday, appear trivial and meaningless today.  Among other reasons, it is this perspective, that puts our present life in true colors against the life after death.

It is also very important that what is being criticized here is the act to seek material gains as ends in themselves.  A devout believer will also seek these same material gains, but with an intention to be able to serve God and His creatures with those resources.  The same pursuit becomes a mirage for the worldly inclined (24:39), and a source of spiritual progress for the devout believer.  It is the underlying intention that determines the quality of actions and in many instances the end result.

The story of Korah (Qarun), who was a contemporary of Moses puts our pursuit for worldly wealth into perspective.  His wealth made him very arrogant and exultant. The Holy Quran describes it in some detail.

Indeed, Korah was of the people of Moses, but he behaved tyrannically towards them. And We had given him treasures of hoarded wealth so much that the keys thereof would have weighed down a party of strong men. When his people said to him, ‘Exult not, surely Allah loves not those who exult;  And seek … the Home of the Hereafter (by spending in the way of Allah); and neglect not your people in this world; and do good to others as Allah has done good to you; And seek not to create mischief in the land. Indeed, Allah loves not those who create mischief;’  He said, ‘All this has been given to me because of the knowledge I possess. (Where does Allah come in the picture?)’.  …  So he went forth before his people in all his pomp. Those who were desirous of the life of this world said, ‘Would that we had the like of what Korah has been given!  Truly, he is the master of great fortune.’  But those who had been given true knowledge said, `Woe unto you (on what you long for), Allah’s (lasting) reward (in the hereafter) is best for those who believe and do good works; and it shall be granted to no one except those who are steadfast.’  (Because of arrogant attitude of Korah and his persecution of Moses and his followers).  Then Allah (caused an earth quake) and made the earth to swallow him up and his dwelling; And he had no party to help him against Allah, nor was he of those who can defend themselves.   And those who had coveted his position the day before began to say, ‘… it is indeed Allah Who enlarges the provisions for such of His servants as He pleases and straitens it for whom He pleases. Had not Allah been gracious to us, He would have caused it to swallow us up also. Ah!  the ungrateful never prosper.’  The home of the Hereafter. We give to those who seek not self-exaltation in the earth, …And the good end is for the righteous. (28:76-83)

Accumulation of wealth and power for personal aggrandizement is hell fire, but the same desire to make money to raise one’s family and to serve humanity becomes a great boon for the believer. Indeed actions are judged by their motives.

In conclusion: “This present life is merely an amusement and a diversion; the true life is in the Hereafter, if only they knew.” (29:64)

Our Collection of Essays or Articles about the Glorious Quran

We have collected the best articles explaining the Quran or some specific verses.

The Quran says: Say, ‘If the ocean became ink for the words of my Lord, surely, the ocean would be exhausted before the words of my Lord came to an end, even though We brought the like thereof as further help.’ (18:109)  This talks of expansive and vast knowledge, incorporated layer upon layer, in the brief approximately 6300 verses of the text of the scripture of Islam.

However, we do believe that the Quran like any other scripture can be misinterpreted to suit the writer’s agenda. But, we clearly understand that the glorious Quran should not be changed into a political philosophy or ideology, a totalitarian agenda or to take away freedom of conscience, freedom of religion, human rights or women rights, which will be clearly against the Quranic emphasis on compassion and justice.

bouquet

Here is our initial collection; over time we foresee hundreds of articles to be collected like a beautiful bouquet of flowers, in this collection, God willing:

Sir Zafrullah Khan Introducing the Holy Quran to the World

Why Secularism Is Compatible with the Quran and Sunnah — And an ‘Islamic State’ Is Not

God Is Living, So Why Does Religion Treat God As Dead?

Inheritance in Islam

Gender Equality in the Holy Qur’an – In the Beginning Man and Woman Were Equal

Surrendering the Sword of the ‘Sword-Verse’

Defensive War: Why Fighting Was Allowed?

The Scope, Style and Effect of the Holy Quran

Sources or Criteria for Interpretation of the Holy Quran

Explaining Misinterpretations of the Holy Text to a Christian Audience

Sources or Criteria for Interpretation of the Holy Quran

Reading the Quran: Do They Still Cook You on the Stake, For Knowing the Scripture?

One of the Best English Translations of the Quran Now Available Online

A Sexual Offender from ISIS: Is the Quran to Blame?

A Quranic Prophecy against High Odds: The Roman victory against the Persians

Aztec beliefs in the Afterlife: Stephen Hawking and me

The holy Quran speaks more often to men than women

God’s Existence and Natural Disasters

Scope, Style and Preservation of the Quran

Now we will list the titles of the essays that are available in the commentary of Syed Hossein Nasr and his associates:

How to Read the Quran by Ingrid Mattson

The Quran in Translation by Joseph Lumbard

The Islamic View of the Quran by Muhammad Mustafa al-Azami

Quranic Arabic: Its Characteristics and Impact on Arabic Language and Literature and the Languages and Literatures of Other Islamic Peoples by Muhammad Abdel Haleem

Quranic Commentaries by Walid Saleh

Traditions of Esoteric and Sapiential Quranic Commentary by Toby Mayer

Scientific Commentary on the Quran by Muzaffar Iqbal

The Quran as Source of Islamic Law by Ahmad Muhammad al-tayyib

The Quran and Schools of Islamic Theology and Philosophy by Mustafd Muhaqqiq Damad

The Quran and Sufism by William C. Chittick

The Quran and Islamic Art by ]ean—Louis Michon

The Quranic View of Sacred History and Other Religions by Joseph Lumbard

Quranic Ethics, Human Rights, and Society by Maria Massi Dakake

Conquest and Conversion, War and Peace in the Quran by Caner K. Dagli

Death, Dying, and the Afterlife in the Quran by Hamza Yusuf

 

Defensive War: Why Fighting Was Allowed?

Why Fighting Was Allowed?

Source: Introduction of the Quran Translation and Commentary by Muhammad Ali

The Muslims were allowed to fight indeed, but what was the object? Not to compel the unbelievers to accept Islam, for it was against all the broad principles in which they had hitherto been brought up. No, it was to establish religious freedom, to stop all religious persecution, to protect the houses of worship of all religions, mosques among them. Here are a few quotations:

“And if Allah did not repel some people by others, cloisters and churches and synagogues and mosques in which Allah’s name is much remembered, would have been pulled down” (22:40).

“And fight them until there is no persecution, and religion is only for Allah” (2:193).

“And fight them until there is no more persecution, and all religions are for Allah” (8:39).

Under what conditions was the permission to fight given to the Muslims? Every student of Islamic history knows that the Holy Prophet and his companions were subjected to the severest persecution, as Islam began to gain ground at Makkah; over a hundred of them fled to Abyssinia, but persecution grew still more relentless. Ultimately, the Muslims had to take refuge in Madinah, but they were not left alone even there, and the sword was taken up by the enemy to annihilate Islam and the Muslims. The Qur’an bears express testimony to this:

“Permission (to fight) is given to those on whom war is made, because they are oppressed. And Allah is able to assist them — those who are driven from their homes without a just cause except that they say: Our Lord is Allah” (22:39, 40 .

Later, the express condition was laid down:

“And fight in the way of Allah against those who fight against you, but be not aggressive. Surely Allah loves not the aggressors” (2:190).

The Qur’an, therefore, allowed fighting only to save a persecuted community from powerful oppressors, and hence the condition was laid down that fighting was to be stopped as soon as persecution ceased:

“But if they desist, then surely Allah is Forgiving, Merciful. And fight them until there is no persecution” (2:192, 193).

If the enemy offered peace, peace was to be accepted, though the enemy’s intention might be only to deceive the Muslims:

“And if they incline to peace, incline thou also to it, and trust in Allah. Surely He is the Hearer, the Knower. And if they intend to deceive thee, then surely Allah is sufficient for thee” (8:61, 62).

The Holy Prophet made treaties of peace with his enemies; one such treaty brought about the famous truce of Hudaibiyah, the terms of which were not only disadvantageous, but also humiliating to the Muslims. According to the terms of this treaty “if an unbeliever, being converted to Islam, went over to the Muslims, he was to be returned, but if a Muslim went over to the unbelievers, he was not to be given back to the Muslims”. This clause of the treaty cuts at the root of all allegations of the use of force by the Holy Prophet. It also shows the strong conviction of the Holy Prophet that neither would Muslims go back to unbelief, nor would the new converts to Islam be deterred from embracing Islam because the Prophet gave them no shelter. And these expectations proved true, for while not a single Muslim deserted Islam, a large number came over to Islam, and, being refused shelter at Madinah, formed a colony of their own in neutral territory.

It is a mistake to suppose that the conditions related above were abrogated at any time. The condition to fight “against those who fight against you” remained in force to the last. The last expedition led by the Holy Prophet was the famous Tabuk expedition, and every historian of Islam knows that, though the Prophet had marched a very long distance to Tabuk at the head of an army of thirty thousand, yet, when he found that the enemy did not fulfil the condition laid down above, he returned, and did not allow his troops to attack the enemy territory. Nor is there a single direction in the latest revelation on this subject, in ch. 9, The Immunity, that goes against this condition. The opening verse of that chapter speaks expressly of “idolaters with whom you made an agreement”, and then, v. 4., excepts from its purview “those of the idolaters with whom you made an agreement, then they have not failed you in anything and have not backed up anyone against you”, thus showing clearly that the “immunity” related only to such idolatrous tribes as had first made agreements with the Muslims and then, violating them, killed and persecuted the Muslims wherever they found them, as v. 10 says expressly: “They respect neither ties of relationship nor covenant in the case of a believer”. Such people are also spoken of in an earlier revelation: “Those with whom thou makest an agreement, then they break their agreement every time, and they keep not their duty” (8:56). Further on, in ch. 9, the condition of the enemy attacking the Muslims first is plainly repeated: “Will you not fight a people who broke their oaths and aimed at the expulsion of the Messenger, and they attacked you first?” (9:13). So from first to last, the Holy Qur’an allowed fighting only against those who fought the Muslims first; it allowed expressly only fighting in defence without which the Muslims could not live and it clearly forbade aggressive war. The waging of war on unbelievers to compel them to accept Islam is a myth pure and simple, a thing unknown to the Holy Qur’an. It was the enemy that waged war on the Muslims to turn them away from their religion, as the Holy Book so clearly asserts: “And they will not cease fighting you until they turn you back from your religion, if they can” (2:217).

Additional information from other sources

Among the key Quranic verses pertainging to defensive war are 2:190-194; 2:216-217; 3:116-156; 4:75; 5:13; 8:5; 8:38-39; 8:61; 9:1-15; 9:1-15; 9:29; 9:111; 10:109; 22:39-40; 22:52; 42:40; 47:4; 60:8-9, though there are others.

Also read 42:48; 2:256; 13:40; 5:48; 5:92 and 88:21-23.

 

Surah Al Fatihah: The Opening

1. In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.

بِسْمِ اللَّـهِ الرَّحْمَـٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ

2. All the best praise belongs to Allah, the Creator and the Sustainer of all the worlds.

الْحَمْدُ لِلَّـهِ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ

3. The Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.

الرَّحْمَـٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ

 4. Master of the Day of Judgment.

  مَالِكِ يَوْمِ الدِّينِ

 5. It is You we worship and it is You we implore for help.

 إِيَّاكَ نَعْبُدُ وَإِيَّاكَ نَسْتَعِينُ

 6. Guide us along the straight path.

 اهْدِنَا الصِّرَاطَ الْمُسْتَقِيمَ

 7. The path of those on whom You have bestowed your favors, those who incur no anger and have not gone astray.

 صِرَاطَ الَّذِينَ أَنْعَمْتَ عَلَيْهِمْ غَيْرِ الْمَغْضُوبِ عَلَيْهِمْ وَلَا الضَّالِّينَ

Commentary

General introduction to the surah

Surah Fatihah comprises of seven verses. Every devout Muslim recites it in every Rakka of the daily five prayers. This means one who is regular in prayers recites it and prays to Allah in these words, at least 32 times a day. This prayer becomes the most fundamental psyche of a believing Muslim; like Bios is the most fundamental operating system of any Windows based personal computer.

This surah has been referred in the Quranic verse, “We have given you (Muhammad) the seven oft-repeated verses and the great Quran.” (15:87)

It was revealed in the very early part of the Meccan period of the prophet Muhammad’s ministry.

According to Muhammad Abdel Haleem, “This sura is seen to be a precise table of contents of the Qur’anic message. It is very important in in Islamic worship, being an obligatory part of the daily prayer, repeated several times during the day.”

Muhammad Asad writes in the introduction to the surah:

According to Bukhari, the designation Umm al-Kitab was given to it by the Prophet himself, and this in view of the fact that it contains, in a condensed form, all the fundamental principles laid down in the Qur’an: the principle of God’s oneness and uniqueness, of His being the originator and fosterer of the universe, the fount of all life-giving grace, the One to whom man is ultimately responsible, the only power that can really guide and help; the call to righteous action in the life of this world (‘guide us the straight way’); the principle of life after death and of the organic consequences of man’s actions and behaviour (expressed in the term ‘Day of Judgment’); the principle of guidance through God’s message-bearers (evident in the reference to ‘those upon whom God has bestowed His blessings’) and, flowing from it, the principle of the continuity of all true religions (implied in the allusion to people who have lived – and erred – in the past); and, finally, the need for voluntary self-surrender to the will of the Supreme Being and, thus, for worshipping Him alone. It is for this reason that this surah has been formulated as a prayer, to be constantly repeated and reflected upon by the believer.

According to Syed Hossein Nasr and associates, in the introduction to this surah:

The primary meaning of al-Fatihah is ‘The Opening,’ which indicates the surah’s function as ‘the opening of the Book’ (Fatihat al-kitdb) and as the first surah to be recited in each cycle (rak‘ ah) of all the canonical prayers as well as the manner in which it serves as an opening for many functions in everyday Islamic life. It can also be taken as a reference to this surah’s ability to open one’s breast to faith in God.

The Fatihah is often believed to be a synthesis of the Quran’s message and to be its most important surah. Hence it has been given the title Umm al-kitab, ‘Mother of the Book,’ a term also applied to other aspects of the Quran (3:7) and to the celestial archetype of the Quran and in fact all sacred scripture (see 13:39; 43:4). It is also known as ‘The Mother of the Quran’ (IK, T), a reference to its containing the meaning of the entire Quran (IK). Other titles are ‘The Seven Oft—Repeated’ (al-Sab‘ al-mathani, 15:87); ‘The Cure’ (al- Shifa’), because it is said to have healing powers for both body and soul; and ‘The Foundation’ (al-Asas), because it serves as a foundation for the whole of the Quran. Also known as Surat al-Hamd, ‘The Chapter of Praise,’ and Surat al-Salah, ‘The Chapter of the Prayer,’ the Fatihah is recited at the beginning of each cycle of prayer by all Sunnis and many Shiites. In Shiite law one is allowed to recite the Fatihah in the third and fourth cycles or to recite, ‘Glory be to God, and praise be to God. There is no god but God, and God is great.’ It is also recited by Muslims on occasions as diverse as a funeral, a wedding, the birth of a child, the inauguration of an official event, the signing of contracts, and the commencement of an individual endeavor, such as the beginning of a journey. In some lands, funeral services are referred to as Fatihah, because they mark an opening from one life to another.

To know the traditional commentaries referred to by Seyyed Hossein Nasr as alphabets, please see About us page.

Malik Ghulam Farid introduces the surah in the following words and he puts this at the end of his commentary of the surah:

Al-Fatihah reveals a beautiful order in the arrangement of its words and sentences. It is divided into two halves. The first half pertains to God, the second to man, and the different parts of each portion correspond to one another in a remarkable manner. Corresponding to the name ‘Allah’ which stands for the Being possessing all noble attributes in the first half, we have the words, Thee alone do we worship, in the second half. As soon as the devotee thinks of God as being free from all defects and possessing all perfect attributes, the cry, Thee alone do we worship, spontaneously rises from the depths of his heart. And corresponding to the attribute “Lord of all the worlds” are the words, Thee alone do we implore for help, in the second part. When a Muslim knows God to be the Creator and Sustainer of all the worlds and the Source of all development, he at once takes shelter in Him, saying, Thee alone do we implore for help. Then, corresponding to the attribute Al-Rahman, i.e., the Giver of innumerable blessings and the Liberal Provider of our needs, occur the words, Guide us in the straight path, in the second; for the greatest of the blessings provided for man is guidance which God provides for him by sending revelation through His Messengers. Corresponding to the attribute Al-Raheem i.e., the Giver of the best rewards for man’s works in the first part, we have the words, The path of those on whom Thou hast bestowed Thy favors, in the second, for it is Al-Raheem Who bestows merited blessings on His favored servants. Again, corresponding to ‘Master of the Day of Judgment’ we have, Those who have not incurred Thy displeasure, and those who have not gone astray. When man thinks of giving an account of his deeds, he dreads failure; so, pondering over the attribute, Master of the Day of Judgment, he begins to pray to God to be saved from His displeasure and from straying away from the right path.

Another special feature of the prayer contained in this Surah is that it appeals to the inner instincts of man in a perfectly natural manner. There are two fundamental motives in human nature which prompt submission, viz., love and fear. Some people are touched by love, while others are moved by fear. The motive of love is certainly nobler but there may be — indeed there are — men to whom love makes no appeal. They only submit through fear. In Al-Fatihah an appeal has been made to both these human motives. First come those attributes of God which inspire love, ‘the Creator and Sustainer of the world,’ ‘the Gracious’ and ‘the Merciful.’ Then in their wake, as it were, follows the attribute, ‘Master of the Day of Judgment,’ which reminds man that if he does not mend his ways and does not respond to love, he should be prepared to render account of his deeds before God. Thus the motive of fear is brought into play side by side with that of love. But as God’s mercy far excels His anger, even this attribute which is the only fundamental attribute designed to evoke fear, has not been left without a reference to mercy. In fact, here too God’s mercy transcends His anger, for it is  implicit in this attribute that we are not appearing before a Judge but before a Master Who has the power to forgive and Who will punish only where punishment is absolutely necessary.

In short, Al-Fatihah is a wonderful storehouse of spiritual knowledge. It is a short Chapter of seven brief verses, but it is a veritable mine of knowledge and wisdom. Aptly called ‘Mother of the Book,’ it is the very essence of the Qur’an. Beginning with the name of Allah, the Fountain-head of all blessings, the Chapter goes on to narrate the four fundamental attributes of God, i.e., (1) The Creator and Sustainer of the world; (2) The Gracious, Who provides for all the requirements of man even before he is born and without any effort on his part for them; (3) The Merciful, Who determines the best possible results of man’s labor and Who rewards him most liberally; and (4) Master of the Day of Judgment before Whom all will have to give an account of their actions, Who will punish the wicked but will not treat His creatures as a mere judge but as a master, tempering justice with mercy, and Who is eager to forgive whenever forgiveness is calculated to bring about good results. This is the portrait of the God of Islam as given in the very beginning of the Qur’an—a God Whose power and dominion know no bounds and Whose mercy and beneficence have no limitations. Then comes the declaration by man that, his God being the Possessor of such lofty attributes, he is ready, nay eager, to worship Him and throw himself at His feet in complete submission; but God knows that man is weak and liable to err, so mercifully He exhorts His servant to seek His help at every step in his onward march and for every need that may confront him. Finally, comes a prayer—comprehensive and far-reaching — a prayer in which man supplicates his Maker to lead him to the straight path in all matters, spiritual or temporal, whether relating to his present or future needs. He prays to God that he may not only successfully stand all trials but, like His ‘Chosen Ones,’ do so with credit and become the recipient of His most bounteous favors; that he may for ever go on treading the straight path, pressing on nearer and yet nearer to his Lord and Master without stumbling on the way, as did many of those who have gone before. This is the theme of the Opening Chapter of the Qur’an which is constantly  repeated, in one form or another, in the main body of the Holy Book.

Commentary of individual verses

1:1

The very first verse of the holy Quran is often called Bismillah (بِسْمِ اللَّـهِ). Invocation of this first verse is employed by all devout Muslims to consecrate all licit actions or activities, from eating, to travel, to starting a new project. From the Quranic perspective all things that are not performed for the sake of God and in His name could be devoid of blessing. (68:17-41; 2:173; 5:3)

The Quran is a treasure of Divine knowledge to which access cannot be had without the special favor of God: None shall touch it but the purified (56:79). Thus Bismillah has been placed at the beginning of every Chapter to remind a Muslim that in order to have access to, and benefit by, the treasures of Divine knowledge, contained in the Quran, he should not only approach it with a pure heart but should also constantly invoke the help of God. The verse Bismillah also serves another important purpose. It is a key to the meaning of each individual Chapter, as all questions affecting moral and spiritual matters are related in one way or the other to the fundamental Divine attributes Rahmaniyyah (grace) and Raheemmiyyah (mercy). Thus each Chapter, in fact, forms a detailed exposition of some aspects of the Divine attributes mentioned in the verse. (F)

Other religions may have had similar teachings or verse. The Quran states that Solomon used the same words, as this verse (بِسْمِ اللَّـهِ الرَّحْمَـٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ), in his letter to the Queen of Sheba (27:30).

This speaks of universality of prophethood as the Quran says, there have not been any people to whom a Teacher has not been sent (35:24) and that the Quran is a repository of all permanent truths contained in the previous revealed Books (98:14).

For the commentary of ‘the Most Gracious’ (Al-Rahman الرَّحْمَٰنِ) and ‘the Most Merciful’ (Al-Raheem الرَّحِيمِ) please see the third verse of this surah.

1:2

“All the best praise belongs to Allah, the Creator and the Sustainer of all the worlds,” this verse in the very beginning of the Quran puts us into a full frontal debate between the atheists on the one hand and the Abrahamic faiths, Islam, Judaism and Christianity on the other hand.

The atheists claim that this universe or multiverse is by itself and there is no Creator and of course the believing Jews, Christians and Muslims, cannot agree to a proposition, which would be a complete antithesis of their religions.  Thousands of  books and movies have been made on this issue and if not thousands, hundreds of videos debating this issue are in YouTube. Any reasonable commentary on this verse would need to be of encyclopedic proportions. But, please rest assured that is not our intent here.

Not to speak of the classical or the traditional commentaries, even the most recent commentary published in 2015, by Syed Hossein Nasr and his associates, does not touch on this all important issue.

Nasr is Professor emeritus of Islamic studies at George Washington University. Here, we have taken the liberty of reproducing his commentary of the verse, in its entirety and it is less than a page of his more than 1900 page book. While we agree with every little detail that he has said, we also want to underscore what is missing, as noted above:

Praise translates al-hamd, which indicates extolling  the Praiseworthy (mahmud) and giving thanks to Him for all of the favors He has bestowed in this world and for the reward that will be given in the next world. In this vein, the Prophet is reported to have said, ‘When you say, ‘Praise be to God, Lord of the worlds,’ you will have thanked God and He will increase your bounty’ (T). But whereas thanks (shukr) is given for what one has already received, praise is given for the qualities the One Who is praised possesses prior to having bestowed anything and is thus more universal (Q). Praise (al-hamd) is rendered in the definite rather than the indefinite to indicate that all forms of praise and all gratitude belong to God (T). It is said that God has praised Himself in this opening address so that human beings can praise God in the speech of God, since God knows that they cannot praise Him fully in their own words (Qu). Regarding the inability of human beings to praise God fully, the Prophet is reported to have addressed God, saying, ‘There is no way to enumerate the praise due to Thee; Thou art as Thou hast praised Thyself’ (Qu).

Similar to the basmalah (بِسْمِ اللَّهِ) Praise be to God is a frequently repeated formula recited by Muslims on many occasions throughout their daily lives. But whereas the basmalah is employed to consecrate a deed at its beginning, Praise be to God (الْحَمْدُ لِلَّـهِ) is employed to thank God for an act or event upon its completion. According to traditional Islamic etiquette, whenever one is asked how one is feeling, the correct response should be Praise be to God, no matter one’s condition.

Reference is made to God as Lord throughout the Quran and as Lord of the worlds some forty—two times. Lord renders rabb, which refers to a master who is obeyed (sayyid), to one who puts matters in their proper order, and to one who possesses something. In reference to God it thus means that He is the Master without peer, Who arranges the affairs of all His creatures and to Whom all of creation belongs (T). Some also relate Lord (rabb) to ‘cultivation’ (tarbiyah), since God is the Caretaker (murabbi) of all things as well as the Trainer and Caretaker of our souls, hearts, and spirits (Qu).

The worlds refers to various levels of cosmic existence and the communities of beings within each level. Some say it refers to four communities: human beings, jinn, angels, and satans (Q), while others say it refers only to human beings and jinn, since the Prophet is referred to as a warner unto the worlds (25:1), and only jinn and human beings are in need of a warner (Q). It may also refer to the different generations of human beings, to all of the species in creation (Q, T), or to God’s being the Sovereign over every level of creation from the earth through the seven heavens, as in those verses that refer to God as Lord of the heavens and the earth (13:16; 17:102; 18:14; 19:65; 21:56; 26:24.; 37:5; 38:66; 43:82; 44:7; 78:37). Thus some say that in the most universal sense the worlds refers to all existent things other than God (IK, Q). In this vein, the commentator Fakhr al-Din al-Razi notes that there is infinite space beyond this world and that God can actualize all possibilities, even worlds and universes of which we have no knowledge. The verse thus refers to God being the Lord of all that can be seen or imagined and of all that cannot be seen or imagined by human beings. In this sense, the verse conveys that God is Lord of all ‘space,’ not only physical space, and therefore of all that exists, no matter what the nature of that existence may be. For this reason, there is no thing, save that it hymns His praise (17:44).

To know the traditional commentaries referred to by Seyyed Hossein Nasr as alphabets, please see About us page.

Once again, we agree with every thing said above. While we cannot offer an encyclopedic commentary as it is beyond our and our reader’s human frailties, we want to offer a few key points that will open gateway to a sea of knowledge on this all central issue between theism and atheism: Is God or Allah the Lord or the Creator of this universe?

The word Rabb (رَبِّ) according to the Arabic-English Lexicon by Edward William Lane means Lord, master, possessor, a guardian, someone who raises and fosters an orphan and last but not the least, bringing a thing to a state of completion by degrees. So, we feel confidant in translating it as Creator or Sustainer.

The name Allah is found in the holy Quran some 2800 times and the word Rabb (رَبِّ) occurs about 960 times.[1] This highlights that the Quran is about Monotheism and to understand that it is critical to understand the four most important attributes of Allah, mentioned in this surah, the first being: Rabb (رَبِّ).

1.  Mathematics is the language of the universe and to the theist mind it speaks of orderliness and purpose in our universe

Do you know which verses Dr. Abdus Salam quoted in his Nobel lecture, when he received Nobel Prize in physics in 1979?

He recited the following verses of the holy Quran.[2] He then gave the translation in English of the verses from surah Mulk:

    مَّا تَرَىٰ فِي خَلْقِ الرَّحْمَـٰنِ مِن تَفَاوُتٍ ۖ فَارْجِعِ الْبَصَرَ هَلْ تَرَىٰ مِن فُطُورٍ

ثُمَّ ارْجِعِ الْبَصَرَ كَرَّتَيْنِ يَنقَلِبْ إِلَيْكَ الْبَصَرُ خَاسِئًا وَهُوَ حَسِيرٌ

No incongruity or flaw can you see in the creation of the Gracious God. Then look again: Do you see any flaw? Yes, look again, and yet again, your sight will only return back to you fatigued, confused and defeated.  (67:3-4)

Different people have and will marvel at these verses and the beauty, harmony, order and complexity of nature, in different ways but to us it speaks of the miracle that mathematics can so effectively predict and represent nature. On this theme we want to share a NOVA documentary, brief story of the 2016 Nobel prize in physics and an article by Eugene Wigner, Nobel Laureate in physics, 1963.

Three physicists born in Britain but now working in the United States were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2016 for research into the bizarre properties of matter in extreme states, including superconductors, superfluids and thin magnetic films.

David J. Thouless of the University of Washington was awarded half of the prize of 8 million Swedish kronor, or about $930,000, while F. Duncan M. Haldane of Princeton University and J. Michael Kosterlitz of Brown University shared the other half.

The scientists relied on advanced mathematical models to study “theoretical discoveries of topological phase transitions and topological phases of matter,” in the words of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in Stockholm.

According to the famous British philosopher Bertrand Russell, in the Study of Mathematics:

Mathematics, rightly viewed, possesses not only truth, but supreme beauty, a beauty cold and austere, like that of sculpture, without appeal to any part of our weaker nature, without the gorgeous trappings of painting or music, yet sublimely pure, and capable of a stern perfection such as only the greatest art can show. The true spirit of delight, the exaltation, the sense of being more than Man, which is the touchstone of the highest excellence, is to be found in mathematics as surely as in poetry.

The Nobel prize of 2016 shows us once again, to borrow the title of Eugene Wigner’s article: The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences. The PDF file of his article is available here.

Wigner sums up his argument by saying that “the enormous usefulness of mathematics in the natural sciences is something bordering on the mysterious and that there is no rational explanation for it.” He concludes his paper with the same question with which he began:

The miracle of the appropriateness of the language of mathematics for the formulation of the laws of physics is a wonderful gift which we neither understand nor deserve. We should be grateful for it and hope that it will remain valid in future research and that it will extend, for better or for worse, to our pleasure, even though perhaps also to our bafflement, to wide branches of learning.

We conclude this section with a quote from Albert Einstein, which to us represents one line commentary of the Quranic verses quoted above: “The most incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it is comprehensible.”[3]

2.  What is the difference between science and metaphysics

In every Western university, researchers of different faiths and of no faith are working on thousands if not millions of projects together, proving once for all that for the study of nature or science per se you do not need a religion or lack there of. It does, however, require a shared understanding that the laws of nature are discoverable and reproducible and are not magical or whimsical, a shared understanding of humanity that has gradually reached a consensus among whole of humanity over the last 2500 years.

Science is shared by the whole of humanity, while metaphysics is different for each religion or atheism. Metaphysics then is the philosophical inferences or conclusions or the added ‘spin’ on the genuinely observed reality of nature that each group puts on the facts or observations of science.

All of us are not always so precise in our communication. We often muddle one reality or concept with other ideas. We bait and switch, until we can confuse our readers and people who put any author or authority on a pedestal, are ultimately confused by them. Both religious and irreligious authorities are guilty of creating their own facts by free mixing of science and metaphysics. The guilt of religious experts, at least of those not belonging to our particular sect is obvious to most but scientists can be equally guilty.

Richard Dawkins and Stephen Hawking, who have been the most well known spokespersons for atheism in the last decade or more, do not hesitate to constantly bleed and intermix their atheism into their science. The same science that makes religiously inclined even more devout and committed to God.

Scientist often present science as a perfect discipline which is always in the search of truth. This may be broadly true but is not perfectly true. Prof. Stephen G Gould writes:

I am a strong advocate of the general argument that ‘truth’ as preached by scientists often turns out to be no more than prejudice inspired by prevailing social and political beliefs. I have devoted several essays to this theme because I believe that it helps to ‘demystify’ the practice of science by showing its similarity to all creative human activity.[4]

In other words scientists are no saints or seekers of the perfect truth. They do spin self serving metaphysics around the precise scientific truths. A little wise dissection by the insightful scholars can separate science from the metaphysics.

So we can learn science from the best science teachers, even if they are atheists, we can just ignore their metaphysics, when they present it in the guise of science.

Physics one can learn from the documentaries made by Nova and PBS and biology we can learn from the documentaries of Sir David Attenborough and there are dozens of them and here we reproduce a couple:

The metaphysics of believers is described in surah Ale-Imran:

And to Allah belongs the kingdom of the heavens and the earth; and Allah has power over all things.

In the creation of the heavens and the earth and in the alternation of the night and the day there are indeed Signs for men of understanding; those who remember Allah while standing, sitting, and lying on their sides, and ponder over the creation of the heavens and the earth: “Our Lord, Thou hast not created this in vain; nay, Holy art Thou; save us, then, from the punishment of the Fire. (3:189-191)

3. Our Biophylic universe is the best scientific argument for there being a Creator of our universe

The odds of a life containing or biophilic universe as opposed to a lifeless universe are one in ten raised to five hundred. Some mind boggling odds. Now that is a scientific fact, how do we react to this would be metaphysics. To an open mind it speaks of our universe beginning from a profound consciousness rather than a mindless empty hollowness or nothingness.

Stephen Hawking, the most well know physicist of our times, wrote a book with Leonard Mlodinow, the Grand Design, it was published by Bantam Books, New York in 2010. He concludes the fifth chapter with the following passage:

The laws of M-theory therefore allow for different universes with  different apparent laws, depending on how the internal space is  curled. M-theory has solutions that allow for many different internal spaces, perhaps as many as 10*100 (ten raised to the power of 100) which means it allows for 10*500 (ten raised to the power of 500) different universes, each with its own laws. To get an idea  how many that is, think about this: If some being could analyze the laws predicted for each of those universes in just one millisecond and had started working on it at the big bang, at present that being would have studied just I0*20 of them. And that’s without coffee breaks.

Centuries ago Newton showed that mathematical equations could provide a startlingly accurate description of the way objects interact, both on earth and in the heavens. Scientists were led to  believe that the future of the entire universe could be laid out if only we knew the proper theory and had enough computing power. Then came quantum uncertainty, curved space, quarks and extra dimensions, and the net result of their labor is 10*500 universes, each with different laws, only one of which corresponds to the universe as we know it. The original hope of physicists to produce a single theory explaining the apparent laws of our universe as the unique possible consequence of a few simple assumptions may have to be abandoned. Where does that leave us? If M-theory allows for 10*500 sets of apparent laws, how did we end up in this universe, with the laws that are apparent to us? And  what about those other possible worlds?

Let us accept every thing Hawking stated as a fact. But, do we have to worship and genuflex to the minds of the great physicists, until better physicists are born with greater insights and brains with greater computing powers? Or could we look through the scholarly deception and realize that there is a greater reality underlying the apparent visible reality of our universe, which requires 10*500 universes to explain our biophilic universe. These almost infinite universes, which are called multiverse, remind us, “All the best praise belongs to Allah, the Creator and the Sustainer of all the worlds.”

God is Al Baatin or Hidden. He does not work or create by his physical hands or through magical intervention, rather through unchanging laws of nature, which remain constant and are open to our study.

Another good book on the theme of biophilic universe is one by Prof. Paul Davies: The Goldilocks Enigma: Why Is the Universe Just Right for Life?

The author, however, is agnostic. A little tweaking of his metaphysics makes his description of science, just right for the metaphysics of the theists.

4.  We can learn from every good Jewish, Christian and Muslim teacher

God or Allah being the Creator is a shared theme by all the Abrahamic faiths. The best teachers who can talk about God from their personal experience of revelation or having their prayers heard come from the Muslim faith. But, the best teachers to use science to show that there ought to be a Creator for our universe come from the Western universities, mostly with Christian faith and very occasionally Jewish or Muslim faith.

So, we need not be shy to learn from them or even use their resources in our dialogue or even debate with agnostics or atheists, with a slight addition. The official view of the Trinitarian Christianity is that Jesus has two natures and is both perfect man and fully divine.  If we can hold them tightly to that position then Jesus the perfect man was not born until the beginning of the first century of the common era, to mother Mary. So he cannot be the creator of our universe that is more than 13 billion years old. The Christian apologists may have different tricks up their sleeve but for the non-Christians this simple logic is fairly self-evident. As evident as anything can be! Therefore when the Christian scholars, writers or debaters talk of God the Creator, they are talking of Eternal God of Judaism and Islam. No more no less and we can use their scholarship to advance our understanding.

The holy prophet Muhammad, may peace be on him, said that a word of wisdom is the lost property of a believer, he or she accepts it wherever he or she finds it. So, the Muslim readers have no choice but to benefit from whatever useful and correct information provided by anyone regardless of his or her religion. The pertinent Hadith is the last in this collection of forty Hadiths: Forty gems of beauty.

5. Naturalism and Al-Baatin God of Islam

The third verse of the surah Hadid talks about four different attributes of God: the First, the Last, the Manifest and the Hidden:

هُوَ الْأَوَّلُ وَالْآخِرُ وَالظَّاهِرُ وَالْبَاطِنُ ۖ وَهُوَ بِكُلِّ شَيْءٍ عَلِيمٌ

“He is the First and the Last, and the Manifest and the Hidden (Al Baatin), and He knows all things full well.” (57:3)

The previous commentators talk extensively about three of these four attributes, but are relatively silent about the Hidden الْبَاطِنُ (Al Baatin). Among other things it perhaps implies that God is hidden behind the laws of nature.

The success of scientific enterprise in the last few centuries has shown humanity the power of trying to understand nature in a consistent and reproducible manner, excluding belief in supernatural, in likes of jinns and demons. Encyclopedia Britannica describes naturalism as:

Naturalism, in philosophy, a theory that relates scientific method to philosophy by affirming that all beings and events in the universe (whatever their inherent character may be) are natural. Consequently, all knowledge of the universe falls within the pale of scientific investigation. Although naturalism denies the existence of truly supernatural realities, it makes allowance for the supernatural, provided that knowledge of it can be had indirectly—that is, that natural objects be influenced by the so-called supernatural entities in a detectable way.

Naturalism presumes that nature is in principle completely knowable. There is in nature a regularity, unity, and wholeness that implies objective laws, without which the pursuit of scientific knowledge would be absurd. Man’s endless search for concrete proofs of his beliefs is seen as a confirmation of naturalistic methodology. Naturalists point out that even when one scientific theory is abandoned in favour of another, man does not despair of knowing nature, nor does he repudiate the “natural method” in his search for truth. Theories change; methodology does not.[5]

Despite prevailing naturalism in science, the believing Christians have traditionally understood miracles to be violation of the natural law, as such they have much to fear from naturalism. The Muslims should have no such fear of naturalism, as we believe miracles to be within the scope of Natural Laws.

Nevertheless, we are not suggesting to embrace naturalism in its totality, as sometimes it even implies a negation of a Transcendent God or any revelation from Him. For example Wikipedia has to say:

Naturalism is ‘the idea or belief that only laws of nature (physical law) (as opposed to supernatural or spiritual) and forces operate in the world; the idea or belief that nothing exists beyond the natural world.’ Adherents of naturalism (i.e., naturalists) assert that natural laws are the rules that govern the structure and behavior of the natural universe, that the changing universe at every stage is a product of these laws.

Naturalism can intuitively be separated into a [metaphysical] and a methodological component.’ Metaphysical here refers to the philosophical study of the nature of reality. Some philosophers equate naturalism with materialism. For example, philosopher Paul Kurtz argues that nature is best accounted for by reference to material principles. These principles include mass, energy, and other physical and chemical properties accepted by the scientific community. Further, this sense of naturalism holds that spirits, deities, and ghosts are not real and that there is no ‘purpose’ in nature. Such an absolute belief in naturalism is commonly referred to as metaphysical naturalism.

In contrast, assuming naturalism in working methods, without necessarily considering naturalism as an absolute truth with philosophical entailments, is called methodological naturalism. The subject matter here is a philosophy of acquiring knowledge.[6]

We, like many other Muslims, are all for methodological naturalism, as God of Islam is الْبَاطِنُ Al-Baatin or hidden and we can never catch His hand or hands working in our material world, as He is not material and He is subtle and He has Himself told us:

He is the First and the Last, and the Manifest and the Hidden الْبَاطِنُ (Al Baatin), and He knows all things full well. (57:4)

And:

Eyes cannot reach Him but He reaches the eyes. And He is the Incomprehensible, the All-Aware. (6:103)

And:

And assuredly, We have created man and We know what his physical self whispers to him, and We are nearer to him than even his jugular vein. (Al Quran 50:16)

But, we do not believe in metaphysical naturalism, as we believe in some things, which are beyond the realm of the natural. Whereas, we do not believe in supernatural jinns, demons and ghosts, we do believe in one supernatural being that is not material and not explained by strict materialism. The Quran in countless places describes the Transcendent God, His creation of the universe and His continued Providence, His revelation to humans in dreams and otherwise.

6. We should not create God of the gaps

God of the gaps is a theological perspective in which gaps in scientific knowledge are taken to be evidence or proof of God’s existence. The term was invented by Christian theologians not to discredit theism but rather to point out the fallacy of relying on teleological arguments for God’s existence. Some use the phrase to refer to a form of the argument from ignorance fallacy.

The concept, although not the exact wording, goes back to Henry Drummond, a 19th-century evangelist lecturer, from his Lowell Lectures on The Ascent of Man. He chastises those Christians who point to the things that science cannot yet explain—”gaps which they will fill up with God”—and urges them to embrace all nature as God’s, as the work of “… an immanent God, which is the God of Evolution, is infinitely grander than the occasional wonder-worker, who is the God of an old theology.”[7] [8]

If God has created the universe, then one can be certain that in keeping with His infinite entity, He would have left innumerable ways to influence the universe so that His divinity is not suspended in any way at any time.

In other words God influences our world through natural means only. We should find our God not in the unknowns or what the modern science has not discovered yet. Rather we should find the Creator God in the beauty, complexity and improbability of His Creation. For example as discussed above, the odds of a life containing or biophilic universe as opposed to a lifeless universe are one in ten raised to five hundred. This is how we find ‘God – the Creator’ by study of our beautifully organized universe.

The question arises, what are those natural means within the Natural Law that provide for Providence of God, through which God could influence our material world. This leads us to our next subject of Quantum physics.

7.  Quantum physics provides both for our free will and Providence of God

It is said that Pierre Simon Laplace had presented Napoleon with a copy of his work, who had heard that the book contained no mention of God. Napoleon, who was fond of imposing embarrassment, received it with the remark, “Laplace, they tell me you have written this large book on the system of the universe, and have never even mentioned its Creator.” Laplace is said to have replied, “Sir, I have no need of that hypothesis.” And so it goes. The apparent so called self-sufficiency of our physical universe has caused many a scientist, since Laplace to move away from the idea of a Creator of the universe or the God Hypothesis.

Given his complete confidence in both methodological and metaphysical naturalism, Laplace claimed:

We may regard the present state of the universe as the effect of its past and the cause of its future. An intellect which at a certain moment would know all forces that set nature in motion, and all positions of all items of which nature is composed, if this intellect were also vast enough to submit these data to analysis, it would embrace in a single formula the movements of the greatest bodies of the universe and those of the tiniest atom; for such an intellect nothing would be uncertain and the future just like the past would be present before its eyes.[9]

Despite Laplace tall claims, in the three great Monotheistic religions, Islam, Christianity and Judaism, God is viewed as a supreme, transcendent being, beyond matter space and time, and yet the foundation of all that meets our senses that is described in terms of matter, space, and time. That is the Al Baatin or the Hidden God of Monotheism.  Furthermore, this God is not the god of deism, who created the world and then left it alone, or the god of pantheism, who is equated with all of existence. The Islamic and the Judeo-Christian God is a nanosecond-by-nanosecond participant in each event that takes place in every cubic nanometer of the universe.  He has full knowledge of all things.  God listens to every thought and participates in each action of his very special creation.

Quantum physics was a missing piece of information in physics that took away hard determinism and restored free will and Divine Providence.  It became an interface between the material and the immaterial, the profane and the sacred, the tangible and the intangible and of course a meeting point of the knowable and the unknowable.  The scientific aspect of Quantum physics can be best read in a scientific treatise but to appreciate the mystery and aura about it, one should bank on quotes of the leading experts in the field, until one becomes an expert in one’s own right.  So, here I reproduce a few:

Werner Heisenberg: “The atoms or elementary particles themselves are not real; they form a world of potentialities or possibilities rather than one of things or facts.”

Niels Bohr: “Anyone not shocked by quantum mechanics has not yet understood it.”

Pascual Jordan: “Observations not only disturb what is to be measured, they produce it.”

Eugene Wigner: “When the province of physical theory was extended to encompass microscopic phenomena through the creation of quantum mechanics, the concept of consciousness came to the fore again. It was not possible to formulate the laws of quantum mechanics in a fully consistent way without reference to the consciousness.”

Albert Einstein: “I can’t accept quantum mechanics because I like to think the moon is there even if I am not looking at it.”[9]

Professor Daniel Robinson: “The prospect has been raised that consciousness and quantum physics are in some bizarre way interdependent. One of the most influential schools of quantum physics, the so-called Copenhagen school, has argued that the results of experiments at the micro level can be understood only in terms of the influence of the act of observation itself.”[10]

In other words, Quantum physics is the seat of consciousness, human soul, free will and Providence of God and by its very nature will remain unknowable to a significant degree, for all times to come.

8. The infinite treasures of the holy Quran

The Quran states in surah Kahf, “Say, ‘If the ocean became ink for the words of my Lord, surely, the ocean would be exhausted before the words of my Lord came to an end, even though We brought the like thereof as further help.’” (18:109)

Additionally, in surah Luqman we read, “And if all the trees that are in the earth were pens, and the ocean were ink, with seven oceans swelling it thereafter, the words of Allah would not be exhausted. Surely, Allah is Mighty, Wise.” (31:27)

In the past these verses may have seemed only metaphorically true or as poetic exaggeration, but in this day and age of information, and study of nature, with the paradigm we have suggested here, understanding of these verses begins to take even a literal meaning. For the details please see the respective verses.

Going back to the traditional understanding of this verse; Malik Ghulam Farid writes:

The verb Rabba means, he administered the affair; he increased, developed, improved and completed the matter; he sustained and looked after. Thus Rabb رَبِّ means, (a) Lord, Master, Creator; (b) One Who sustains and develops (c) One Who brings to perfection by degrees (Mufradat & Lane). When used in combination with another word, it may be used for persons or beings other than God.

He also enlists other verses of the Quran with similar wording or meaning: 6:1; 6:45: 10:10; 18:1; 29:63; 30:18; 31:25; 34:1; 35:1; 37:182; 39:75 and 45:36.

There are several verses which use the words the Creator (الْخَالِقُ), the Maker (فَاطِرِ / الْبَارِئُ) and the Fashioner (الْبَارِئُ) for Allah or their verbs: 6:14; 6:102; 7:11; 7:191; 12:101; 13:16; 14:10; 15:28; 15:86; 16:8; 16:20; 17:99; 25:3; 31:10-11; 35:1; 35:3; 36:81; 37:11; 39:62; 40:62; 42:11; 52:36; 56:59; 59:24; 77:20 79:27; and 80:18-19.

If God is not the Creator, then Theism has no foundation. Likewise, belief in hereafter loses the premise of the main intellectual proof offered in the Quran. On the other hand if our multiverse and our human lives are not an accident, atheism has no foundation whatsoever, only a psychological state to escape from accountability and hereafter. These are very common themes in the Quran in favor of Monotheism of the Abrahamic faiths. We conclude the commentary of this verse with a Quranic challenge to the non-believers: Were they created without a creative agency? Or are they the creators? Or did they create the heavens and the earth? Nay they are sure of nothing. (52:35-36) Also read: 56:57-74.

1:3

“The Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.”

According to Syed Hossein Nasr and associates, as they explain the distinction between Al-Rahman  الرَّحْمَٰنِ and Al-Rahim  الرَّحِيمِ:

Together these two Names refer to two aspects of the Divine Mercy (rahmah): one essential and universal, the other attributive and particular. The first is that by which creation is brought forth, while the second is that by which God shows Mercy to those whom He will, as in 33:43: And He is Merciful (rahim) unto the believers. The essential and universal Mercy is that of the Compassionate, which God bestows upon all things through their very existence and is the Divine aspect referred to in 20:5: The Compassionate mounted the Throne; and 25:59: Then mounted the Throne, the Compassionate [is He]. The particular Mercy is that of the Merciful, through which each creature that exists is sustained and which varies in mode according to the manner in which this Divine Name or Attribute has become manifest. It is evident that Divine Names of beauty, such as ‘the Kind’ (al-Latif), ‘the Clement’ (al-Halim), and “the Beautiful” (aI-Jamil), are manifestations of Mercy. But in Divine Names of rigor, such as ‘the Powerful’ (al-Qadir), ‘the Avenger’ (al-Muntaqim), and ‘the Abaser’ (al-Mudhill), the manifestation of Divine Mercy is veiled by the inseparability of God’s Kindness from His Majesty and determinative power (qadar). God is thus said to be Compassionate toward all of creation and Merciful toward the believers (Tb).

So, Al-Rahman is gracious to all of humanity and makes no distinction between the sinner and the saint. Al Raheem also spelled as Al-Rahim is special favor to the believers and the devout, who serve God and pray to Him. However, as all prayers are not fulfilled, as those may not fit the laws of nature or God’s grand plan, the ultimate retribution is in the hereafter. If payback to the sinner and the saint was completed in this very world, there would be no need for the hereafter. Malik Ghulam Farid stresses this point that the greater emphasis of Al-Raheem is in the hereafter. He writes in the commentary of the very first verse of surah Fatihah:

 Whereas the word Al-Rahman would denote ‘mercy comprehending the entire universe,’ the word Al- Rahim would denote ‘mercy limited in its scope but repeatedly shown.’ In view of the above meanings Al-Rahman is One Who shows mercy gratuitously and extensively to all creation without regard to effort or work, and Al-Rahim is One Who shows mercy in response to, and as a result of, the actions of man but shows it liberally and repeatedly. The former is applicable to God only, while the latter is applied to man also. The former extends not only to believers and disbelievers but also to the whole creation; the latter applies mostly to believers. According to a saying of the Holy Prophet, the former attribute generally pertains to this life, while the latter attribute generally pertains to the life to come (Muhit), meaning that as this world is mostly the world of actions and the next world is the world where actions will be particularly rewarded, God’s attribute Al-Rahman provides man with material for his works in this life, and His attribute Al-Rahim brings about results in the life to come. All things that we need and on which our life depends are purely a Divine favor and are provided for us before we do anything to deserve them or even before we are born, while the blessings in store for us in the life to come will be given to us as a reward of our actions. This shows that Al-Rahman is the Bestower of gifts, which precede our birth, while Al-Rahim is the Giver of blessings which follow our deeds as their reward.

It is not given to humans to be able to precisely know how their actions will be rewarded in this world by the Al-Rahim, but, given this attribute it always gives them hope and optimism. But, they are reassured time and again in the holy Quran that if they believe and do righteous deeds, paradise will most definitely be their reward in the hereafter and they will dwell in there for eternity. This seems to be true for a very large majority of the believers.

However, there is a very special provision for the saintly, who excel in their spirituality, beyond the ordinary. God says:

As for those who say, ‘Our Lord is Allah,’ and then remain steadfast, the angels descend on them, saying: ‘Fear ye not, nor grieve; and rejoice in the Garden that you were promised. ‘We are your friends in this life and in the Hereafter. Therein you will have all that your souls will desire, and therein you will have all that you will ask for — An entertainment from the Most Forgiving, the Merciful.’ (41:30-32)

The Divine attribute mentioned here is  الرَّحِيمِ. So, some saintly believers may know of some of the blessings coming their way based on Divine revelation to them through true dreams and like.

Love and compassion towards the fellow beings is one of the overriding themes of the holy Quran. There are literally scores of verses in the Quran inspiring the believers to show compassion and be of service to fellow humans regardless of their religion or social status. In fact it constantly urges the believers to direct their attention to the orphans and the vulnerable.

The constant Quranic insistence on Monotheism and accountability is to transform us from self indulgent into a kind, humane and compassionate person. This is the essence of the Quran like all previous scriptures as well. Hillel, a famous first century Jewish Rabbi, when asked to give a commentary on the Torah, he said, “That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. That is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation; go and learn.”

This is what the understanding of the Divine attributes of Al-Rahman  الرَّحْمَٰنِ and Al-Rahim  الرَّحِيمِ the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful, is meant to cultivate in us.

Zia H Shah MD, Chief Editor of the Muslim Times, has collected a large number of verses on the theme of human compassion: Two Hundred Verses about Compassionate Living in the Quran.

In conclusion of the commentary of this verse, one of the main Quranic themes is to transform the love of God to compassion for the fellow man. Read, how the Divine author describes His bounty to the prophet Muhammad, may peace be on him, to guide him towards the weak, vulnerable and down trodden:

Did He not find you an orphan and sheltered you, find you lost and guided you and find you in need and satisfied your need?

So, do not be harsh with an orphan and do not chide the one who asks for your help and share with others and talk about the blessings of your Lord. (Al Quran 93:6-11)

1:4

“Master of the Day of Judgment.”

The teaching most stressed in the holy Quran after Monotheism is our accountability in the hereafter. This is stressed in countless places in the holy Quran; which uses the first creation of the universe and the humans as a proof for the life to come.

In the following verse, Allah cites gravity and planetary motion as a pointer, towards His creativity and eventual hereafter:

Allah is He Who raised up the heavens without any pillars that you can see. Then He settled Himself on the Throne. And He pressed the sun and the moon into service: each pursues its course until an appointed term. He regulates it all. He clearly explains the Signs, that you may have a firm belief in the meeting with your Lord.  (Al Quran 13:2)

The Quran offers only one line of reasoning for the second creation, namely the first creation. Allah argues that one who has created this complex and awe inspiring universe and all  the life forms on our planet earth, should be able to recreate human life and of course the individual humans.