1. This is the introduction to this Surah, in which its aim and object has been enunciated in a few words. Allah has addressed the Prophet (peace be upon him) to this effect: O Prophet, most of your people are rejecting the teachings of the Quran for one reason or the other, but the fact is that what We are sending down to you is the truth whether people believe it or not.
After this brief introduction, the discourse deals with the main subject of the Surah which consists of three basic things. First, the entire universe belongs to Allah alone, and none besides Him has any right to service and worship. Second, there is another life after this life in which you shall have to render an account of all your actions. Third, I am a Messenger of Allah: whatever I am presenting before you is not from myself but from Allah. As the people were rejecting these three things, these have been reiterated over and over again in various forms to remove doubts and objections from the minds of the disbelievers.
2. In other words, “Allah is He who raised the heavens without (any) pillars that you can see.” Though there is nothing apparent and visible that is supporting these heavens, yet there is an invariable and imperceptible Power which is not only holding but keeping in its place each and every one of these huge heavens and whatever is in between them.
3. For further details of “Then He established upon the Throne,” please refer to (E.N. 41 of Surah Al-Aaraf). Here the purpose will be served if it is understood that this thing has been mentioned in the Quran at many places in order to bring out clearly the fact that Allah has not only created the earth, but also rules over His Kingdom, and that His universe is a factory that is not working automatically as some ignorant people seem to think nor is it being ruled by many gods as other ignorant people seem to believe. But it is a regular system that is being run and ruled over by its Creator.
4. It should be noted here that the addressees themselves accepted the truth of all the claims that have been made in this verse. Therefore no proofs were required of the facts that it is Allah Who has raised up the heavens without any visible support and subjected the sun and the moon to a fixed order. These things have been mentioned here only as arguments to prove that Allah is the sole Sovereign and ruler of the entire universe.
Now let us consider this question: How can such an argument as this convince those who do not believe at all in the existence of God nor acknowledge that He is the Creator of the universe and the Director of all of its affairs? The answer is that the arguments in support of the doctrine of Tauhid advanced in the Quran to convince the mushriks equally apply against the atheists to prove the existence of God. It is like this: The entire universe, the earth, the moon, the sun and the countless heavenly bodies constitute a perfect system which is working under the same all powerful law. This is a proof that such a system must have been designed by some All-Powerful Sovereign, Who possesses wisdom and unerring knowledge. This proves conclusively the existence of that Allah Who has no other equal nor associate nor partner. For there can be no system without an administrator, no law without a ruler, no wisdom without a sage, and no knowledge without the possessor of that knowledge. Above all, no one can ever conceive that there can be any creation without a Creator except the one who is obdurate or has no sense left in him at all.
5. This system is not only a standing proof of the fact that an All-Powerful Sovereign is ruling over it, but is also an evidence of the great wisdom underlying it. It also bears witness that there is nothing everlasting in it. Everything in it remains for a fixed term after which it comes to an end. This is equally true for each and every component part of it as well as for the whole system. It is quite evident from its physical structure that there is nothing everlasting and immortal. There must be some fixed term for the system as a whole, after the expiry of which it shall come to an end. Then there shall be another world. Therefore it is most likely that there shall be Resurrection as predicted in the Quran: nay, its inevitability is beyond any doubt.
6. Allah makes plain those signs which help prove the truth of what the Prophet (peace be upon him) was informing them. These signs are spread all over the universe and everyone who observes these with open eyes can perceive that the realities towards which the Quran invites the people are testified by these signs.
7. The preceding signs have been cited to prove two things. First, the universe has only one Creator and Administrator. Second, there shall be life in the Hereafter in which everyone shall be judged in the divine court and awarded rewards and punishments on merit. As the first thing was quite obvious, it has not been mentioned in the conclusion drawn from the signs. But the second thing, life in the Hereafter, has been mentioned because that was rather hidden from perception. Therefore it has specifically been stated that these signs have been made plain in order to convince you that you shall meet your Lord in the Hereafter and render an account of all your actions in this world.
Now let us consider how these signs help prove life in the Hereafter. These make it evident in two ways.
(1) When we consider how big heavenly bodies as the sun and the moon are completely subject to the will of Allah, our hearts feel convinced that Allah Who has created these things and regulated their movements so orderly around their orbits, has undoubtedly the power to bring to life the whole human race after its death.
(2) The terrestrial system also proves that its Creator is All- Wise. Therefore it can never be imagined that the All-Wise Creator could have created man and endowed him with wisdom and intelligence and invested him with power and authority, and then left him free to do what he liked with these, without being responsible and accountable for their use or abuse. For His Wisdom demands that He should take full account of all the acts and deeds of man in this world. It requires that He should take to task those who committed aggressions and compensate their victims and He should give rewards to those who practiced virtue and punishments to those who did wicked deeds. In short, His Wisdom requires that He should call to account every human being and demand: How did you carry out the trust that was placed in your hands in the shape of your wonderful body with its wonderful faculties and the numerous resources of the earth? It may be that a foolish and unjust ruler of this world might entrust the affairs of his kingdom in the hands of his agents and then forget to call them to account, but such a thing can never be expected from the All-Wise and All-Knowing Allah. It is this way of observing and considering the heavenly bodies that can convince us that life in the Hereafter is both possible and inevitable.
8. After citing some heavenly signs in support of the doctrines of Tauhid and the Hereafter, a few signs are being cited from the earth for the same purpose. Briefly the following are the arguments for Tauhid, Resurrection and Accountability.
(1) Tauhid: The fact that the earth is closely connected with the heavenly bodies (which help create life on it), and the fact that the mountains and the rivers are so interrelated with that life are clear proofs that all these things have not been created by separate and different gods nor are being governed, by gods with independent powers and authorities. Had it been so, there could not have been so much harmony, congruity, accord and unity of purpose among them; nor could these relationships have continued for such a long time. For it is quite obvious that if there had not been One All-Powerful and All-Wise Allah, it could not have been possible and practicable for different gods to sit together and evolve out such a harmonious system of the universe without any discord or conflict between its myriads of bodies.
(2) Resurrection: This wonderful planet, the earth, is itself a great proof that its Creator is All-Powerful and can, therefore, raise the dead whenever He will. For it is floating in space round the sun and it has high mountains fixed in it and has large rivers flowing on its surface: it produces countless fruit-bearing trees and it brings about the cycles of the day and the night with precise regularity. All these things bear witness to the boundless power of its Creator. It would, therefore, be sheer folly to doubt that such All-Powerful Creator is incapable of raising mankind to life after death.
(3) Accountability: The earth, with all its wonderful and purposeful signs, is a clear evidence of the fact that its Creator is All-Wise. Therefore it cannot even be imagined that He has created man, His noblest creation, without any purpose. Just as His wisdom is apparent from the structure of the earth, its mountains, its rivers, the pairs of its trees and fruits, its night and day, so it is quite obvious that it has not been made the habitation of man without any purpose, nor will it be brought to naught without the fulfillment of that purpose. Clearly mankind shall be accountable to its Creator for the fulfillment of that divine purpose.
9. That is, If you observe carefully, you will find divine wisdom, design and purpose in the diversity of the structure of the earth. Though it has countless regions adjoining one another, they are different from one another in their shapes, colors, component parts, characteristics, potentialities, productive capacity and source of minerals. This diversity has countless points of wisdom and advantage. Let alone other creatures, if we consider the diversity of regions from the point of the good it has done to mankind, we shall have to acknowledge that this is the result of the well thought and well planned design of the All-Wise Creator. For this diversity has helped the growth of human civilization so much that only an unreasonable person can assign this to mere accident.
10. Some of the date palm trees have only a single trunk from the root while others have two or more stems from the same root.
11. The things mentioned in this verse contain many other signs besides the proofs of Tauhid and the boundless powers and All-Comprehensive Wisdom of Allah. Let us consider one of these, that is, the diversity in the universe, including mankind. There is the one and the same earth but all its regions are quite different from one another. Then there is one and the same water but it helps to produce different kinds of corn and fruits. Then one and the same tree bears fruits which, in spite of likeness, differ from one another in shapes, sizes, and other features. Then there is one and the same root from which sometimes one and at others two trunks sprout up, with their own different characteristics. If one considers these aspects of diversity, one shall come to the conclusion that the divine wisdom demands the same kind of diversity in the natures, temperaments and inclinations of human beings, and, therefore, in their conducts. So, one need not worry about the existence of this diversity. As it has been stated in (Ayat 31), if Allah had willed, He could have created all human beings alike and virtuous by birth. But the wisdom that underlies the creation of the universe, including mankind, requires diversity and not uniformity. Otherwise, all this creation would have become meaningless.
12. They “disbelieved in their Lord”: their denial of the Hereafter is, in fact, the denial of the Power and Wisdom of Allah. As they say that it is impossible to bring them again to life after their death, it implies that, God forbid, their Allah Who has created them lacks not only power but wisdom, too.
13. As a shackle around the neck is a symbol of imprisonment, the words “shackles upon their necks” have been used here idiomatically to show that they are slaves of ignorance, obduracy, lust and are blind followers of their forefathers. As their thinking is influenced by their prejudices, they cannot believe in the Hereafter and would deny this, though there is every reason to believe that it is inevitable.
14. This refers to the demand of the Quraish from the Prophet (peace be upon him): If you are a true Prophet (peace be upon him) of God, why don’t you hasten to bring that scourge of God upon us of which you have been threatening us, when we are flouting and denying you? They did this in different ways. Sometimes they would invoke God mockingly and say: O Lord, settle our accounts now and do not postpone these to the Day of Resurrection. At another time, they would say: Our Lord, if what Muhammad (peace be upon him) says be true, and be from Thee, then stone us from the sky or send down some other scourge upon us from the sky or send down some other painful torment upon us. In this verse an answer has been given to such impudent demands of the disbelievers. They have been admonished to refrain from such foolish demands and avail of the respite that was being given to them and mend their ways, for they were incurring the wrath of God by adopting the attitude of rebellion.
15. This showed their mentality. The only criterion of judging whether Muhammad (peace be upon him) was a true Prophet or not according to these disbelievers, was whether he would perform a miracle to them. This was because they would not judge his message by rational arguments: they would not learn a lesson from his high character nor from the moral revolution that was being brought about among his companions by his message and noble example: nor would they carefully consider the rational arguments given in the Quran to prove the errors of their religion of shirk and superstitions of ignorance. They would ignore these rational things and demand a miracle to decide the issue.
16. This is the concise answer to their demand, though it has not been directly addressed to the disbelievers but to the Messenger (peace be upon him). It is this: O Prophet, you should not worry at all about some miracle which you might show to these people in order to convince them, for it is not a part of your mission. Your duty is only to warn the people of their negligence and of the evil consequences of their wrong ways. And for this purpose, We have always sent a guide to every people. Now you, too, are performing this duty, and it is for them to open their eyes and judge the truth of your Message. After giving this concise answer, Allah overlooks their demand but warns them, in the succeeding verses, that they have to deal with the All- Knowing Allah Who has full knowledge about everyone of them from the time they were in the wombs of their mothers, and Who keeps a keen watch over everything they do. Therefore their fates shall be decided strictly with justice in accordance with their merits and that there is no power on the earth and in the heavens that can influence in the least His decisions and judgments.