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

Tafsir Zone

Surah al-A`raf 7:54

Overview (Verse 54)

A Clear Concept of God

Your Lord is God who has created the heavens and the earth in six aeons, and is established on the throne. He covers the day with the night in swift pursuit. The sun, the moon and the stars are made subservient to His command. Surely all creation and all authority belong to Him. Blessed is God, the Lord of the worlds. (Verse 54)

The monotheistic Islamic faith allows no room for any attempt by human beings to work out by themselves any particular concept of God: what He is like or how He acts. There is simply nothing similar to God in any way whatsoever. Hence, it is not up to human intellect to try to picture the Supreme Being. A human concept can only be worked out within the framework that the human intellect can define, on the basis of what it makes out of the world around it. Since there is simply nothing similar to God, then the human intellect cannot draw any definite picture of what God is like. Moreover, it simply cannot visualize how His actions take place. The only alternative available to man is to reflect on the effects of God’s actions in the universe around him.

Hence, questions like: `How did God create the heavens and the earth?, `In what form is He established on the throne?’, and `What sort of throne is this on which He has established Himself?’ do not arise in a believer’s mind. In fact, all these and similar questions are totally irrelevant and meaningless. To try to give answers to such questions is even more irrelevant and cannot be attempted by a person who properly understands the basic rule we have explained. Unfortunately, some Islamic groups who have tried hard to discuss such questions and wasted much time over them were influenced in their attempts by Greek philosophy.

The Qur’ān uses the expression yawm, which means ‘day’, as it speaks of the span of time in which God created the heavens and the earth. Their creation was over six such yawm, or six days. Again, this belongs to the realm that lies beyond the reach of human perception. Nothing of this creation has been witnessed by any human being or indeed by any creature: “I did not call them to witness at the creation of the heavens and the earth, nor at their own creation.” (18: 51)

Whatever is said about these six days is not based on any certain knowledge. They may be six stages of creation or six epochs, or six of God’s days which cannot be measured by our time which is the result of the movement of certain planets and stars. Before these were created, time, as we know it, did not exist. Still, the six days to which the Qur’ānic verse refers may be something totally different. Hence, no one may claim that he has certain knowledge of what this figure truly means.

Any attempt to interpret this statement, and similar ones, on the basis of human theories, and to justify that as being `scientific’ is simply arbitrary. It betrays defeatism under the pressure of ‘science’ which can do no more in this area than the formulation of theories that cannot be proven.

We, for our part, prefer not to go into such discussion because it contributes nothing to our understanding of the Qur’ānic statement.

We move along with the sūrah in its inspiring journey through depicting what we see of the universe and its hidden secrets.

Your Lord is God who has created the heavens and the earth in six aeons, and is established on the throne. He covers the day with the night in swift pursuit. The sun, the moon and the stars are made subservient to His command. Surely all creation and all authority belong to Him. Blessed is God, the Lord of the worlds. (Verse 54)

God, who has created this vast and awesome universe and established His own high position, conducting the operation of the universe and administering its affairs, is the One who throws the veil of the night over the day in swift pursuit. Thus, the night follows the day in quick succession. It is He who has made the sun, the moon and the stars subservient to His will and He is the Creator and the controller of all. It is He, then, who is worthy of being “your Lord”, giving you sustenance. He gives you the system which ensures your unity and the legislation which settles your disputes. To Him belongs all creation and all authority. Since He is the only Creator, He is also the only one who has any authority. It is this question of Godhead, Lordship and sovereignty, as well as the fact that all belong to God alone which constitute the theme of this passage, and indeed the whole sūrah. Its correlative is the question of submission by human beings to God and their implementation of His law in their lives. This is outlined in this sūrah in relation to questions of dress and food, as was discussed in the previous sūrah, Cattle, [Volume V], in relation to questions of animals, crops, rituals and pledges.

The great issue that the Qur’ān wants to settle should not make us overlook the remarkable nature of the scenes portrayed, their liveliness and powerful inspiration. Indeed, the greatness of the scene is on the same level as the greatness of the objective.

Our minds move along with the cycle of the day and night as they succeed each other in quick pursuit. Our consciousness cannot just be idle without following this cycle, overwhelmed with awe, almost out of breath, waiting with great interest for what will come next.

There is such finesse as these verses reflect the liveliness and beauty of the movement, portraying the day and the night in the form of persons with a clear aim and with a will to achieve the same. Such finesse of style and expression is far beyond the reach of human artistic talent.

Long familiarity kills the beauty of the majestic scenes of the universe in our minds and makes us look at them in a dull and uninterested way. But this familiarity is easily cast away here to make us look at the scene as if we see it for the first time. The night and day are not simple, natural phenomena that we see in endless repetition. They come alive with feeling, clear direction and a definite purpose. They have sympathy with human beings as they share with them the same movement of life and its essential aspect of struggle and competition.

The same is the case with the sun, the moon and the stars. We see them as living entities that have lives and souls. They receive their orders from God and carry them out in full submission. They are made subservient in the sense that they do what they are bid just as living believers obey God.

All this has its profound effect on the human conscience, motivating it to join the rest of living things that respond to God’s call. This gives the Qur’ān its great effect on the human mind which no other literary style can achieve. It addresses human nature with the great authority that belongs to the One who has revealed the Qur’ān and who is fully aware of what touches human hearts and makes them responsive.