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Towards Understanding the Quran
With kind permission: Islamic Foundation UK
Introduction to Tafheem | Glossary | Verbs
Other resources: Maarif | Dawat 

 Surah Ya-Sin 36:33-40 [3/5]
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Verse Summary -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
وَءَايَةٌAnd a Sign
لَّهُمُfor them
ٱلْأَرْضُ(is) the earth
أَحْيَيْنَـٰهَاWe give it life
وَأَخْرَجْنَاand We bring forth
مِنْهَاfrom it
فَمِنْهُand from it
يَأْكُلُونَthey eat.
وَجَعَلْنَاAnd We placed
وَأَعْنَـٰبٍand grapevines,
وَفَجَّرْنَاand We caused to gush forth
فِيهَاin it
ٱلْعُيُونِthe springs,
لِيَأْكُلُواْThat they may eat
ثَمَرِهِۦits fruit.
وَمَاAnd not
عَمِلَتْهُmade it
أَيْدِيهِمْ‌ۖtheir hands.
أَفَلَاSo will not
يَشْكُرُونَthey be grateful?
سُبْحَـٰنَGlory be
ٱلَّذِى(to) the One Who
ٱلْأَزْوَٲجَ(in) pairs
مِمَّاof what
ٱلْأَرْضُthe earth
وَمِنْand of
وَمِمَّاand of what
يَعْلَمُونَthey know.
وَءَايَةٌAnd a Sign
لَّهُمُfor them
ٱلَّيْلُ(is) the night.
نَسْلَخُWe withdraw
مِنْهُfrom it
ٱلنَّهَارَthe day.
فَإِذَاThen behold!
مُّظْلِمُونَ(are) those in darkness.
وَٱلشَّمْسُAnd the sun
لِمُسْتَقَرٍّto a term appointed
لَّهَا‌ۚfor it.
تَقْدِيرُ(is the) Decree
ٱلْعَزِيزِ(of) the All-Mighty,
ٱلْعَلِيمِthe All-Knowing.
وَٱلْقَمَرَAnd the moon -
قَدَّرْنَـٰهُWe have ordained for it
عَادَit returns
كَٱلْعُرْجُونِlike the date stalk,
ٱلْقَدِيمِthe old.
ٱلشَّمْسُthe sun
يَنۢبَغِىis permitted
لَهَآfor it -
تُدْرِكَit overtakes
ٱلْقَمَرَthe moon,
وَلَاand not
ٱلَّيْلُthe night
سَابِقُ(can) outstrip
ٱلنَّهَارِ‌ۚthe day,
وَكُلٌّbut all
فَلَكٍan orbit
يَسْبَحُونَthey are floating.

وَاٰيَةٌ لَّهُمُ الۡاَرۡضُ الۡمَيۡتَةُ ۖۚ اَحۡيَيۡنٰهَا وَاَخۡرَجۡنَا مِنۡهَا حَبًّا فَمِنۡهُ يَاۡكُلُوۡنَ‏  وَجَعَلۡنَا فِيۡهَا جَنّٰتٍ مِّنۡ نَّخِيۡلٍ وَّاَعۡنَابٍ وَّفَجَّرۡنَا فِيۡهَا مِنَ الۡعُيُوۡنِۙ‏  لِيَاۡكُلُوۡا مِنۡ ثَمَرِهٖ ۙ وَمَا عَمِلَـتۡهُ اَيۡدِيۡهِمۡ​ ؕ اَفَلَا يَشۡكُرُوۡنَ‏   سُبۡحٰنَ الَّذِىۡ خَلَقَ الۡاَزۡوَاجَ كُلَّهَا مِمَّا تُنۡۢبِتُ الۡاَرۡضُ وَمِنۡ اَنۡفُسِهِمۡ وَمِمَّا لَا يَعۡلَمُوۡنَ‏  وَاٰيَةٌ لَّهُمُ الَّيۡلُ ۖۚ نَسۡلَخُ مِنۡهُ النَّهَارَ فَاِذَا هُمۡ مُّظۡلِمُوۡنَۙ‏   وَالشَّمۡسُ تَجۡرِىۡ لِمُسۡتَقَرٍّ لَّهَا ​ؕ ذٰلِكَ تَقۡدِيۡرُ الۡعَزِيۡزِ الۡعَلِيۡمِؕ‏  وَالۡقَمَرَ قَدَّرۡنٰهُ مَنَازِلَ حَتّٰى عَادَ كَالۡعُرۡجُوۡنِ الۡقَدِيۡمِ‏   لَا الشَّمۡسُ يَنۡۢبَغِىۡ لَهَاۤ اَنۡ تُدۡرِكَ الۡقَمَرَ وَلَا الَّيۡلُ سَابِقُ النَّهَارِ​ؕ وَكُلٌّ فِىۡ فَلَكٍ يَّسۡبَحُوۡنَ‏ 
(36:33) Let the26 dead earth be a Sign for them.27 We gave it life and produced from it grain whereof they eat. (36:34) We made in it gardens of date-palms and vines, and We caused springs to gush forth (36:35) that they might eat of its fruits. It was not their hands that made them.28 Will they not, then, give thanks?29 (36:36) Holy is He30 Who created all things in pairs, whether it be of what the earth produces, and of themselves, and of what they do not know.31 (36:37) And the night is another Sign for them. We strip the day from it and they become plunged in darkness.32 (36:38) The sun is running its course to its appointed place.33 That is the ordaining of the All-Mighty, the All-Knowing. (36:39) We have appointed stages for the moon till it returns in the shape of a dry old branch of palm-tree.34 (36:40) Neither does it lie in the sun's power to overtake the moon35 nor can the night outstrip the day.36 All glide along, each in its own orbit.37

26. Until now the disbelieves of Makkah were being warned and reproved for their denial of the truth and their attitude of antagonism which they had adopted towards the Prophet (peace be upon him). Now the discourse turns to the basic thing which was the actual cause of the conflict between them and the Prophet (peace be upon him), i.e. the doctrine of Tauhid and the Hereafter, which the Prophet (peace be upon him) was presenting and the disbelievers were refusing to accept. In this connection, some arguments have been given, one after the other, to make the people ponder over the realities, as if to say: Observe these phenomena of the universe, which are ever present before you. Do they not point to the same reality, which this Prophet is presenting before you?

27. “A sign”: A sign that Tauhid is the truth and shirk the falsehood.

28. Another translation of this sentence can be: So that they may eat fruits thereof and what their own hands make. That is, the artificial kinds of food, which the people prepare from the natural products, e.g. bread, curry, jam, pickles, sauces and countless other things.

29. In these brief sentences the vegetable and plant life of the earth has been presented as an argument. Man is eating the products of the earth day and night and regards this as very ordinary. But if he considers it seriously, he will see that the growth of rich crops and lush green gardens from the dry earth and the flow of the springs and rivers is not a simple thing, which might be happening of itself, but there is a great wisdom and power and providence which is working behind it. Consider the reality of the earth. The substances of which it is composed do not possess any power of their own for growth. All these substances individually as well as after every sort of combination, remain inorganic, and thus do not possess any sign of life. The question is: How did it become possible for plant life to emerge from the lifeless earth? If one looks into it, one will see that there are some important factors without whose provision beforehand life here could not have come into existence.

First, in particular regions of the earth, on its outer surface, a layer was arranged of many such substances, which could serve as food for vegetation. This layer was kept soft so that the roots of the vegetation could spread in it and suck food.

Secondly, a system of irrigation was arranged on the earth in different ways so that the food elements could get dissolved in water and absorbed by the roots.

Thirdly, the atmosphere was arranged around the earth which protects it against the calamities of the sky, becomes a means of the rainfall, and possesses gases which are necessary for the life and growth of the vegetation.

Fourthly, a relationship was established between the sun and the earth so as to provide proper temperature and suitable seasons for the vegetation.

With the provision of these main factors (which in themselves are combinations of countless other factors), the coming to life of the vegetation becomes possible. After arranging the suitable conditions the seed of each species of the vegetation was so constituted that as soon as it received favorable soil, water, air and season, vegetable life should begin stirring within it. Besides, inside the same seed a system was so arranged that from the seed of every species a plant precisely of the same species should grow with all the characteristics of its own species and heredity. Then, in addition to this, another wonderful thing was done. Vegetation was not created in twenty, or fifty, or a hundred kinds but in countless species, and they were so made that they should fulfill the requirements of food, medicine and clothing and innumerable other needs of the countless kinds of animals and man, who were to be brought into being after the vegetation on the earth.

Anyone who ponders over this wonderful arrangement, if he is not stubborn and prejudiced, will himself testify that all this could not have come about by itself. There is certainly a wise plan underlying it, according to which harmonies and relationships of the soil, water, air and season with respect to the vegetation, and harmonics and relationships of the vegetation with respect to the needs and requirements of animals and human beings have been determined, keeping in view the finest detail. No sensible person can imagine that these universal, all-embracing relationships could be a mere accident. This same subtle arrangement points to the fact that this cannot be the work of many gods. This is, and can only be the work of One God, Who is the Creator and Lord of the earth, water, air, sun, vegetation, animals and mankind. If each of these had a separate god, it cannot be imagined that such a comprehensive and universal plan with such deep and wise relationship and harmony could be produced, and should have continued to work with such regularity for millions upon millions of years.

After giving these arguments for Tauhid, Allah says: Do they not then give thanks? That is: Are these people so thankless and ungrateful that they do not render thanks to that God Who has provided all this for their survival, but thank others for the blessings and favors done by Him? Are they so wretched that instead of bowing before Him they bow before the false gods, who have not created even a blade of grass for them?

30. Glory be to Him: He is free from every defect and fault, from every error and weakness, and that another one should be His associate and partner in His work. The Quran has generally used these words when refuting polytheistic beliefs, because every belief of shirk is, in fact, an imputation of some defect, some weakness and some fault to Allah. When a person says that Allah has an associate, he in fact, thinks that either Allah is incapable of running and ruling His Kingdom alone, or He is under compulsion to make another His associate in His work. Or, some other beings are so powerful in themselves that they are interfering in God’s administration and God is putting up with their interference. Or, God forbid, Allah has the weaknesses of the worldly kings, due to which He is surrounded by an army of ministers, courtiers, flatterers and beloved princes or princesses, and thus many powers of Godhead have become divided among them. Had there been no such notions of ignorance about Allah in the minds, there could be no question of any idea of shirk in the world. That is why it has been stated again and again in the Quran That Allah is free from and exalted far above those defects and faults and weaknesses which the mushriks ascribe to Him.

31. This is still another argument for Tauhid. Here again certain realities of daily experience have been mentioned and it is suggested that man observes these day and night but does not ponder over them seriously, whereas they contain signs and pointers to the reality. The coming together of the man and woman is the cause of man’s own birth. Procreation among the animals also is due to the combination between the male and the female. Also about vegetation, man knows that the law of sex is working in it. Even among the lifeless substances when different things combine with one another, a variety of compounds come into existence. The basic composition of matter itself has become possible due to the close affinity between the positive and the negative electric charges. This law of the pairs which is the basis of the existence of the entire universe, contains in itself such complexities and finenesses of wisdom and workmanship, and there exist such harmonies and mutual relationships between the members of each pair that an objective observer can neither regard it as the result of an accident, nor can he believe that many different gods might have created these countless pairs and matched their members, one with the other, with such great wisdom. The members of each pair being a perfect match for each other and coming into being of new things with their combination itself is an explicit argument of the Creator’s being One and only One.

32. The alternation of the night and day also is one of those realities which man does not regard as worthy of much attention only because it is a phenomenon of daily occurrence and experience; whereas if he considers how the day passes and how the night falls, and what is the wisdom in the passing of the day and in the falling of the night, he will himself realize that this is an obvious sign of the existence of an All-Powerful and All-Wise Allah and of His being One and only One. The day cannot pass and the night cannot fall until the sun hides from the earth. The great regularity which is found in the alternation of the day and night was not possible unless the sun and the earth were bound in one and the same relentless system. Then the deep relationship which exists between the alternation of the day and night and the other creations on the earth clearly points to the fact that this system has been established deliberately by a Being with perfect wisdom. The existence on the earth, of the men and animals and vegetation, and even of water and air and different minerals, is in fact, the result of placing the earth at a particular distance from the sun, with the arrangement that the different parts of the earth should go on successively coming before the sun and hiding from it at definite intervals. If the distance of the earth from the sun had been a little longer, or a little shorter, or there had been a perpetual night on one side of it and a perpetual day on the other, or the alternation of the day and night had been much faster or much slower, or sometimes the day had appeared suddenly and sometimes the night without any system, no life could be possible on this planet, and even the form and appearance of the inorganic substances would have been much different from what it is now. If the hearts are not blinded, one can clearly perceive in this system the working of a God, Who willed to bring into being this particular kind of creation on the earth and then established relevance, harmonies and relationships between the earth and the sun precisely in accordance with its needs and requirements. If a person regards the concept of the existence of God and His Unity as far removed from reason, he should think for himself and see how much farther removed should it be from reason to ascribe this wonderful creation to many gods, or to think that all this has happened automatically under some deaf and blind law of nature. When a person who can accept without question these latter unreasonable explanations, only on the basis of conjecture and speculation, says that the existence of a system and wisdom and purpose is not a sufficient proof of the existence of God, it becomes difficult for us to believe whether such a person really feels the need and necessity of a rational proof, sufficient or insufficient in any degree whatever, for accepting any concept of creed in the world.

33. “Place of rest” may either mean the place where the sun will ultimately come to a halt, or the time when it will come to a halt. The true meaning of this verse can be determined only when man has attained the full and exact knowledge of the realities of the universe. But man’s knowledge is such that it has been changing in every age and what he seems to know today might change tomorrow. The people of the ancient times on the basis of their observations of the sun believed that it was moving round the earth. Then after further research and observation the view became that the sun was stationary and all the planets of the solar system were revolving round it. But this theory also did not last long. The later observations revealed that not only the sun but all the stars are also moving in a particular direction, at speeds of 10 to 100 miles per second. About the sun the modern astronomers hold the view that it is moving at a speed of 20 kilometers (about 12 miles) per second along with its whole family of the planets. (See Star and Sun in Encyclopedia Britannica).

34. That is, the phases of the moon go on changing throughout the month. It begins as a crescent, then goes on waxing every day till it becomes the full moon on the 14th of the month. Then it starts waning every day till at last it returns to its original shape of the crescent. The same has been happening for millions of years with perfect regularity, and no change has ever occurred in the phases of the moon. That is why one can always calculate and find out exactly in what phase the moon will be on a particular day. If the movement of the moon had not been bound in a system, estimation of its phases would not have been possible.

35. This sentence can have two meanings and both are correct.

(1) The sun does not have the power that it should draw the moon into itself, or enter its orbit and collide with it.

(2) The sun cannot appear in the times which have been appointed for the rising and appearing of the moon. It is not possible that the sun should suddenly appear on the horizon when the moon is shining at night.

36. Nor does this happen either that the night should approach before the appointed period of the day comes to an end, and should start spreading its darkness suddenly during the time when the day is meant to spread its light.

37. The word falak in Arabic is used for the orbit of the planets, and it gives a different meaning from the word sama (sky). The sentence, “Each in an orbit is floating” points to four realities.

(1) That not only the sun and the moon but all the stars and planets and celestial bodies are moving.

(2) The falak, or orbit, of each one of them is separate.

(3) That the orbits are not moving with the stars in them, but the stars are moving in the orbits.

(4) That the movement of the stars in their orbits is similar to the floating of something in a fluid.

These verses are not intended to describe the realities of astronomy, but are meant to make man understand that if he looks around himself, with open eyes, and uses his common sense, he will find countless and limitless proofs of the existence of God and His Unity, and he will not come across a single proof of atheism and shirk. The vastness of the solar system in which our earth is included is such that its parent body, the sun, is 300,000 times bigger than the earth, and its farthest planet Neptune is at least 2,793 million miles distant from the sun. However, if Pluto is taken as the farthest planet, it revolves 4,600 million miles away round it. Notwithstanding this vastness, the solar system occupies a very insignificant part of a huge galaxy. The galaxy which includes our solar system has about 3,000 million suns in it, and its nearest sun is so distant from our earth that its light takes about four years to reach us. Then this galaxy also is not the whole universe. According to the investigations made so far, it has been estimated that it is one of about 2,000,000 spiral nebulae, and the nearest nebula is about a million light years away from the earth. As for the farthest celestial bodies which are visible through the modern instruments, their light reaches the earth in about 100 million years. Even now it cannot be claimed that man has seen the whole universe. It is a small part of the Kingdom of God which man has yet been able to observe. It cannot be predicted how far and deep man will yet be able to see with greater and more efficient means of observation at his disposal.

All the information that has been gathered so far about the universe proves that this whole world is made up of the same substance of which our tiny earthly world is made, and the same law is working in the universe which is working in the world of our earth; otherwise it was not at all possible, that man should have made observations of the very distant worlds from the earth, measured their distances and estimated their movements. Is it not a clear proof of the fact that this whole universe is the creation of One God and the Kingdom of One Ruler? Then from the order and the wisdom and the excellence of workmanship and the deep relationships which are found in the hundreds of thousands of the galaxies and in the millions and billions of the stars and planets revolving in them no sensible person can imagine that all this has come about automatically. Is it possible that there should be no administrator behind this order and system, no sage behind this wisdom, no designer behind this design and work of art, and no planner behind this planning?