Surah al-A`raf (The Elevated Places) 7 : 172

وَإِذْ أَخَذَ رَبُّكَ مِنۢ بَنِىٓ ءَادَمَ مِن ظُهُورِهِمْ ذُرِّيَّتَهُمْ وَأَشْهَدَهُمْ عَلَىٰٓ أَنفُسِهِمْ أَلَسْتُ بِرَبِّكُمْ ۖ قَالُوا۟ بَلَىٰ ۛ شَهِدْنَآ ۛ أَن تَقُولُوا۟ يَوْمَ ٱلْقِيَٰمَةِ إِنَّا كُنَّا عَنْ هَٰذَا غَٰفِلِينَ

Translations

 
 Muhsin Khan
 Pickthall
 Yusuf Ali
Quran Project
And [mention] when your Lord took from the children of Adam - from their loins - their descendants and made them testify of themselves, [saying to them], "Am I not your Lord?" They said, "Yes, we have testified." [This] - lest you should say on the day of Resurrection, "Indeed, we were of this unaware."

1. Lessons/Guidance/Reflections/Gems

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Explanatory Note

In this short passage we have the central issue of faith and human nature portrayed in a uniquely vivid scene that shows the generations of the faraway future, as they are still in the loins of human beings, before they make their appearance in this visible world. All of them are gathered in front of their Creator who asks them: “Am I not your Lord?” (Verse 172) They all acknowledge His Lordship, admit their position as obedient servants and His status as the only Lord. They are no bigger than small atoms held in the hand of the great Creator.

This is a sublime scene with no equivalent in human language or its imaginative portraits. Its remarkable nature becomes even greater when our minds try, as hard as we can, to visualize it, looking at all these countless cells being gathered together and brought forth. They are then addressed as rational beings, on account of the innate qualities God has placed in them. They respond like rational beings, acknowledging their position and status and giving their pledges when they are still in the loins of their ancestors. We are filled with awe as we contemplate this splendid scene, looking at these tiny cells, each holding a potential life. Each is the seed of a complete human being, with unique qualities, waiting for permission to grow and appear in its special form reserved for it in the world beyond. It gives its pledge and enters into a covenant before it appears into this world of ours.

The Qur’ān portrays this splendid scene describing a great truth, which is deeply established in human nature. This Qur’ānic description was made fourteen centuries ago, when no human being had any vision of the reality of human creation, apart from myth that had no foundation. Now after all these centuries, human beings have come to know some rudimentary elements of that truth. Today, biological science tells us that genes keep a record for every human being, showing his or her qualities or characteristics when they are still in the loins of their ancestors. These genes, which keep the records of no less than three thousand million human beings, may be pooled together in a space not exceeding one cubic centimetre. Had this fact been stated at that time, it would have been met with derision and incredulity. But God certainly says the truth, as He states: “In time We shall make them see Our signs in the utmost horizons (of the universe) and within themselves so that it will become clear to them that this revelation is the truth.” (41: 53)

Ibn `Abbās, a companion of the Prophet who is renowned for his scholarship, reports: “Your Lord went over Adam’s back with His hand, and out came every human being He would be creating until the Day of Resurrection. He took their pledges and made them bear witness about themselves, saying to them: “Am I not your Lord? They replied ‘Yes, indeed.’” (Verse 172)

How did this event take place? How did God take the offspring of Adam’s children from their loins to make them testify? How did He ask them, “Am I not your Lord?” And how did they reply, “Yes, indeed.” (Verse 172) The answer to all these questions is that our human perception cannot understand how God acts, since it cannot perceive God’s own nature. Perceiving the `how’ is subsequent to perceiving the nature of the one who does. There are numerous actions that the Qur’ān attributes to God, such as the following few examples: “He then applied His design to the skies, which were yet but smoke” (41:11); “He is established on the throne of His Almightiness” (10: 3); “God annuls or confirms whatever He pleases” (13: 39); “The heavens will be folded up in His right hand” (39: 67); “Your Lord comes down with the angels, rank upon rank” (89: 22); and “Never can there be a secret confabulation between three persons without His being the fourth of them.” (58: 7) All these actions and many others reported in authentic ĥadīths as having been done, or will be done by God must be accepted as perfectly true, without any attempt on our part to understand how. It is just as we have mentioned that the perception of ‘how’ is subsequent to perceiving the nature of the one who does it. There is simply nothing that resembles God in any way. Hence, there is no way that we can perceive His nature or how He accomplishes His deeds. There is no possibility that we can resemble His action to anything we know, since there is nothing that resembles God in any way. Any attempt to do so will end in error and failure. All philosophers who tried to describe how God acts could do no more than come up with theories of endless confusion.

2. Linguistic Analysis

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Frequency of Root words in this Ayat used in this Surah *


3. Surah Overview

4. Miscellaneous Information

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5. Connected/Related Ayat

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6. Frequency of the word

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7. Period of Revelation

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A study of its contents clearly shows that the period of its revelation is about the same as that of Surah 6: al-An’am (The Grazing Livestock), i.e. the last year of the Prophet's life at Makkah, but it cannot be asserted with certainty which of these two were sent down earlier. The manner of its admonition clearly indicates that it belongs to the same period. [Ref: Mawdudi]

It is considered the longest surah revealed during the Makkan period. Some consider this surah to have been revealed after Surah 38: Sad. [Ref: Tafsir al-Maudheei, Dr. Mustafah Muslim, vol. 3, p. 2]

8. Reasons for Revelation

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9. Relevant Hadith

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12. External Links

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