Responding to the Call of Faith, before it’s Too Late
In the name of God, the Beneficent, the Merciful
The unbelievers will be addressed: “Indeed, greater than your present loathing of yourselves is God’s loathing of you when you were called to the faith and you rejected it.” They will say: “Our Lord! Twice have You caused us to die, just as twice You have brought us to life! Now that we have recognized our sins, is there any way out?” [They will be told]: “This is all because when God alone was invoked, you denied this truth; whereas, when partners were associated with Him, you believed in them! All judgment rests with God, the Exalted, the Supreme One.” He it is who shows you His signs and sends down sustenance from the sky for you. Yet only those who turn to God will take heed.
(The Forgiving, Ghafir; 40: 10-13)
The verses just before this passage drew an image of certain angels, the carriers of God’s throne and those surrounding it. It shows them in supplication, addressing their prayer to God, appealing for His grace to be bestowed on believers, their brethren in faith. Now the surah gives a contrasting image of the unbelievers who find themselves in a totally different capacity. Everyone is looking for support, but none is to be found. In fact all bonds with all beings and things in the universe are severed. They are called out so that they can listen to the rebuke coming from all directions. The arrogance they demonstrated in this life is turned now into humiliation. They want to place their hopes in someone, but none is available to encourage their hopes.
The Arabic text uses the strongest word for hate. We see them addressed from all corners and told that God’s loathing of them when they were called upon to believe and still rejected the faith is far stronger than their feelings of hate toward themselves as they realize to what end they have brought themselves. They realize how different their fate could have been, had they responded to the call to faith before it was too late. This reminder is exceptionally painful for them in their newly difficult situation.
Now that all delusion is gone, they realize that the only One to turn to is God Himself; and so they do: “They will say: Our Lord! Twice have You caused us to die, just as twice You have brought us to life! Now that we have recognized our sins, is there any way out?” Their words betray their misery and despair. They call out: ‘Our Lord!’ Yet they had once denied Him and rejected His message. You gave us life the first time when You breathed of Your spirit into what was dead and thus You gave it life and we became alive. Again You have given us life after we died. We are now turning to You because You are the only One who can save us from the misery we are in. We acknowledge our faults and admit our sins. Is there, then, a way out of this misery?
Their appeal betrays the direness of their situation. They are in bitter despair. They are made to see the reason for their plight: “This is all because when God alone was invoked, you denied this truth; whereas, when partners were associated with Him, you believed in them! All judgment rests with God, the Exalted, the Supreme One.” This is what has brought you to your present position of humiliation. You denied God’s oneness and attributed partners to Him. All judgment, then, rests with Him, the Exalted, the Supreme. Both attributes fit well with the position of judgment. He is Exalted above all things and Superior to all beings.
The surah now dwells on one of God’s attributes that fits with His exalted position. The believers are instructed to address their prayers to Him, associating no partners with Him and to be sincere in their devotion to Him alone. The surah also refers to the fact of revelation so as to give a warning about the day when all mankind will be brought together for judgment, reward and punishment. On that day, all dominion and sovereignty belong to God alone.
“He it is who shows you His signs.” God’s signs are seen in everything in the universe: in the great bodies such as the sun and the planets, and also in the great phenomena such as the day and night, rain, thunder and lightning. Likewise, they are seen in minute things such as the atom, cell, leaf or flower. In each of these there is a miraculous sign which appears clearly when man tries to imitate it, let alone initiate it. Never can man fully imitate even the simplest little thing God has created.
And He it is who “sends down sustenance from the sky for you.” Of all the sustenance God sends down people know best the rain, which is the origin of life on earth and the source of food and drink. Yet there is so much more than rain that God sends down and people learn about this gradually. Part of it consists of the rays that are necessary for life on earth. Such sustenance may also include the divine messages that have provided guidance for mankind ever since the early stages of human life on earth. They showed man the right way and provided sound codes for living.
“Yet only those who turn to God will take heed.” It is the one who turns to God that remembers His grace as well as His signs and revelations which the unbelievers, with hardened hearts, prefer to ignore.