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July 2010
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QUR'AN SPEAKS TO YOU

A Commitment made by Allah
Commentary by Sayyid Qutb
Translated by Adil Salahi
In the name of Allah, the Merciful, the Beneficent
Say: To whom do the heavens and the earth belong? Say: to Allah. He has
com­mitted Himself to (bestow) grace and mercy.
(Cattle,"Al Ana'am": 6:12)




The surah begins here to give Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh) certain instructions for a confrontation with the polytheists who were fully aware that Al­lah is the Creator of the whole universe, but they nevertheless, made certain beings, who have no power to create, equal to Him. They associate partners with Him whom they claim to have a say in conducting their lives. The Prophet is instructed to confront them with a question about the ownership of everything that is in the heavens and on Earth, after these things have been created. As the question is put, it is meant to include every single position in the whole universe. It is followed by a state­ment of fact over which they did not argue. The Qur'an tells us elsewhere that they used to acknowledge it fully: "Say: To whom do the heavens and the earth belong? Say: To Al­lah.”

Despite the depth of their ignorance which resulted in deviant concepts that devalued their quality of life, the Arabs in their pre-Islamic days were superior in this particular aspect to latter day "scientific" ignorance which does not acknowledge this fact. This modern ignorance shuts its mind to this fact while Arabs used to recognize and admit that Allah owned everything in the heavens and on Earth. However, they did not bring that recog­nition to its logical conclusion which would have required them to acknowledge Allah's to­tal authority over what he owns and that the only proper way to use what Allah has created is to get His permission and to act according to His law. Because of that, the Arabs were considered polytheists and their style of life was described as ignorant. How should those who deny Allah's authority to legislate for hu­man existence and, instead, exercise that au­thority themselves should then be described? They must be given a description other than that of polytheism. Allah describes them as unbelievers, wrongdoers and transgressors, no matter how strongly they claim to be Muslims and regardless of what religion is entered in their birth certificates.

The Qur'anic verse follows this statement of asserting Allah's ownership in the heavens and on Earth by stating that He “has committed Himself to bestow grace and mercy”. He is the sole, undisputed owner of the whole universe. Out of His generosity and by His own will, He has however, committed Himself to bestow grace and mercy. No one could suggest this exercise of bestowing grace to Him or require it of Him, apart from His absolutely free will and His compassionate lordship over the uni­verse. Grace and mercy is the basic rule in His treatment of and judgment over his servants in this life and in the life to come. Believing in this rule is one of the constituents of the Islam­ic concept of life. Even when Allah tests His servants with hardship, His mercy takes prece­dence. Indeed, the test is meant to prepare a group of them for the fulfillment of the trust He assigns to them after they have proved their dedication to His cause and preparedness to sacrifice for it. He actually sorts out the good among them from the bad: Those among them who are keen to follow Allah's messen­ger distinguish themselves from those who turn back on their heels. The exercise of mer­cy and the bestowing of grace in all this are manifest.

If we were to try to make an exhaustive list of incidents and occasions of the bestowing of Allah's mercy and how it is reflected in life, we need to devote our whole lives to that. In­deed, generations can come and go, before this task can be accomplished. In every moment Allah's grace is showered over people. We have only pointed out mercy as reflected in hard tests, because often people do not see it as such. We have no inclination to attempt to make a full list of the occasions and the inci­dents where Allah's mercy is brought into ac­tion. We will only make some brief references to that. However, we need to reflect a little on the way this Qur'anic statement is phrased. "He has committed Himself to bestow grace and mercy." The same statement is repeated again in this surah with a slight difference: "Your Lord has committed Himself to (be­stow) grace and mercy." What immediately attracts our attention in this statement is the fact that Allah, the Creator, the Owner, the Al­mighty who has power over all His servants grants them the favor of making the exercise of His mercy and grace a commitment to which He has bound himself out of His own free will. This is a great fact which we can hardly contemplate and appreciate. There is however, yet another favor here which attracts our attention. This is manifested in the fact that He has also favored His servants with tell­ing them of having committed Himself to be­stow grace and exercise mercy. Who are hu­man beings to deserve the favor of being told of what Allah has willed, and for the commu­nication to be given in Allah's own words through His own messenger? It is a great favor which can only be bestowed by Allah, the most graceful.

When we reflect in this way on this fact, we feel a mixture of surprise and happiness which no words can describe. Indeed, such facts and the effects they make on the human mind are indescribable by human language. Humans, however, can appreciate though they cannot define them.

To appreciate this fact forms a part of our understanding of the nature of godhood and the relationship between Allah and His ser­vants. It is a pleasant, comforting and reassur­ing understanding which makes you wonder at those perverted minds which level accusations at Islam because it rejects the very idea of Al­lah having a son. Islam has no time for such childish visions. At the same time, it describes the relationship of grace and mercy between Allah and His servants in a way in which no human language can express. Yet Allah's mer­cy is extended to all His servants throughout their lives. We can only refer to some of its main aspects. It is reflected in the very exis­tence of mankind who originate from where they do not know and are given a noble posi­tion which we recognize in the qualities Allah bestows on many of His servants. It is also re­flected in the forces and resources of the uni­verse which Allah has made subservient to man. This is indeed the broader view of the meaning of the provisions Allah has given to man to enable him to live in comfort and affluence. It is further reflected in granting man the ability to learn and to make his talents and abilities responsive to the world around him. The result is the knowledge man achieves through Allah's grace and on account of which some miscreants reject Allah's existence. Again, this knowledge Allah has given to man is part of the grace He has bestowed on him.

It is further reflected in the role Allah has as­signed to man as vicegerent, and the care He takes of him by sending messengers to him to give him guidance. Nevertheless, Allah treats man with forbearance despite his stubborn re­fusal to listen to the warnings of Allah's mes­sengers. It is so easy for Allah to punish him but Allah's grace oversteps his punishment. It is further reflected in the fact that Allah for­gives man his sins every time he repents of them. In the same vain, we can mention the fact that when Allah punishes man, His pun­ishment is administered on the basis of what is exactly equivalent to his bad deeds. On the other hand, Allah rewards him for his good deeds at least ten times their value and he may increase that manifold for whomever He wills. Furthermore, a good deed erases an earlier bad one.

All that is part of Allah's grace because no human being can earn admission into heaven on the basis of his or her actions alone, unless Allah bestows His mercy on them. Allah's messenger states that this applies also to him, acknowledging man's shortcomings and Al­lah's grace.

It is only appropriate to acknowledge that it is impossible for us to attempt to make any ex­haustive list of the aspects of Allah's mercy and grace. Suffice it to say that it is beyond hu­man ability to reflect on and appreciate the full significance of one moment in which Allah opens the gates of His mercy to His servant to give him a feeling of security and reassurance. To describe such a moment and the feelings it generates is a much harder task.