Revealed in the mid-Makkan period of Islam, this sūrah of 45 verses takes its name from the first verse where God Almighty is introduced as al-Fātir (the All-Originating). It is also called Sūrat al-Malā’ikah. The main topics dealt with in the sūrah are God’s Oneness, the Hereafter, and the Messengership of Muhammad, upon him peace and blessings. The sūrah presents proofs for these three pillars of faith and draws attention to the bounties of God.
- All praise and thanks are for God, the Originator of the heavens and the earth (each with particular features and ordered principles), Who appoints the angels as messengers (conveying His commands) having wings, two, or three, or four (or more)1. He increases in creation what He wills2. Surely God has full power over everything.
- On the existence of the angels and their being the conveyors of God’s commands and messages, see sūrah 2, notes 31, 36, 40; 11: 83, note 20; 15: 27, note 7.
What the verse means by the angels’ wings is their speed, power, and the tasks they carry out. Their wings are not restricted to four. God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and bless- ings, says that during his Ascension, he saw the Archangel Gabriel with 600 wings, and that Gabriel told him that he had seen Isrāfīl with 12,000 wings, a single one of which filled up the space between the heavens and the earth (al-Qurtubī).
- This means that God’s process of creation is continuous with expansion in scope, range, and variety. It also means that He not only creates to satisfy a purpose, but also for perfec- tion. Because of this, He creates whatever He creates in the best, and the most beautiful and purposeful form and fashion.
- Whatever God opens up for human beings out of (the treasures of ) His Mercy, none is able to withhold; and whatever He withholds, none is able to release. He is the All-Glorious with irresistible might (Whom none can prevent Him from doing what He wills), the All-Wise (in Whose every act there are many instances of wisdom).
- O humankind! Remember and reflect on God’s favors upon you. Is there any creator, other than God, that provides for you from the heaven and the earth? There is no deity but He: How then are you turned away from the truth and make false claims?
- If they deny you (O Messenger), even so Messengers were denied before you. (So do not grieve:) to God all affairs are ultimately referred (and whatever He wills occurs).
- O humankind! (Know well that) God’s promise (of the Last Judgment) is surely true; so do not let the present, worldly life delude you, nor let any deluder (including especially Satan) delude you in (your conceptions) about God.
- Surely Satan is an enemy to you, so treat him as an enemy (do not follow him, and be alert against him). He calls his party (of followers) but that they may become companions of the Blaze.
- Those who persist in unbelief, for them is a severe punishment. As for those who believe and do good, righteous deeds, for them is a forgiveness (to bring unforeseen blessings), and a noble, generous reward.
- Is one whose evil deeds is decked out to be appealing to him so that he con- siders it as good (like him who follows God’s guidance)? God leads astray whom He wills and guides whom He wills.3 So do not let yourself perish in bitter re- grets on their behalf (because they refuse faith). Surely God has full knowledge of all that they do.
3. God has two kinds of Will. One is His (pre-eternal) Decree concerning the creation, including responsible, conscious beings. This Will, called Mashīah, is absolute with regard to things and unconscious beings, while It takes into consideration the (future) will of re- sponsible, conscious beings. That is, God knows beforehand in what way those beings will use their free will and decrees accordingly. God’s other Will (Irādah) entails what He de- mands from His servants and denotes those things with which He is pleased. In this verse, God leads astray whom He wills means that He lets go astray those who choose to follow Satan and the promptings of their carnal soul, with the result that they follow their fancies and personal ideas and commit evil deeds that, though not based on true knowledge, seem just to them. As for, He guides whom He wills, this denotes those who choose to resist the temptations of Satan and their carnal soul, and instead follow the guidance that God sends through His Messengers, and they see as good whatever God decrees as so.
- God is He Who sends forth the merciful winds, so that they set clouds to move, and We drive them towards a dead land and (thereby) We revive the earth after its death (with the rain carried in the clouds by the wind). even so will the Resurrection be.
- Whoever seeks might and glory should know that all might and glory is for God (so let him seek from Him alone). To Him ascends only the pure word (as the source of might and glory), and the good, righteous action (accompanying it) raises it.4 But those who are devising evil actions, for them there is a severe punishment, and their devising is bound to come to nothing.
4. The pure word is, first of all, the Declaration of the Divine Oneness, namely, There is no deity but God. Declarations of other pillars of faith and all other pure, truthful words are based on this Word. Without the good, righteous actions that it requires, this declaration remains only an assertion. Only good, righteous actions make it wholly acceptable in God’s sight and cause it to yield pure, wholesome fruit (14: 25). Other pure words and declara- tions approved by God likewise become acceptable in God’s sight by means of the good actions that are called for. In addition, any assertion or declaration becomes true faith and is established in the heart through the good actions that are required by it.
- (O humankind:) God created you from earth (in the beginning, and the ma- terial origin of every one of you is also earth), and then from a drop of (seminal) fluid, and then He has fashioned you in pairs (as either of the two sexes, making you mates of one another). And no female carries or gives birth, save with His knowledge. No one long-lived has been granted a long life, nor another one not so long-lived has been appointed a shorter life but is recorded in a Book. Surely that is easy for God.
- Nor are the two seas (large bodies of water) alike: this one is sweet and palat- able, and pleasant to drink, but that one, salty and bitter. You obtain from both fresh meat (for your nourishment), and precious stones to wear as ornament. And you see ships plowing through (both kinds of water), so that you may seek of His bounty, and that you may give Him thanks.5
5. The Qur’ān draws our attention to the two types of seas (and similar large bodies of wa- ter) in some other verses (e.g., 25: 53). The material origin of the universe is one single mat- ter, namely ether (see sūrah 2: 29, note 8; sūrah 11, note 2); and all things in the universe are made of basically four substances: hydrogen, oxygen, carbon, and nitrogen. Despite the simplicity of origin, there is almost an infinite variety of creatures in the universe. More- over, all human beings are created, originally, from earth. The biological origin of every human being – male sperm and female ovum – is also made of the same substances, and all parents are nourished with the same. But there is a world of difference between human be- ings in many aspects. This infinite variety in apparent similarity clearly demonstrates God and His absolute freedom, and based on many instances of wisdom.
- He makes the night pass into the day and He makes the day pass into the night (and so makes each grow longer or shorter); and He has made the sun and the moon subservient to His command, each running its course for a term ap- pointed. Such is God, your Lord: His is the Sovereignty (the absolute ownership and dominion of all things). Whereas those whom you deify and invoke, apart from Him, own not so much as the pellicle of a date-stone.
- If you invoke them, they do not hear your call; and even if they heard, they would not able to respond to you. And on the Day of Resurrection they will disown your having associated them (with God). And none can inform you (and thereby lead you to understand the truth) like One All-Aware.
- O humankind! You are all poor before God and in absolute need of Him, whereas He is the All-Wealthy and Self-Sufficient (absolutely independent of the creation), the All-Praiseworthy (as your Lord, Who provides for you and all other beings, supplying all your needs).6
6. Fethullah Gülen expands in this idea:
His is power, by which we are powerful. We are well-known by His Name or fame.
We go beyond peaks and continue on our way; We overcome all difficulties with facility.
We possess nothing worldly but are absolutely rich, And are dignified and respectable through His Dignity. We follow the way of reflection, so
Whatever exists is a source of knowledge of God for us. (Key concepts, 1: 172)
What follows is an excerpt from Said Nursi on the same idea:
Your perception and acknowledgment of your essential poverty leads you to the Divine Name the All-Merciful, by Which you find inexhaustible treasure. Your perception and acknowledgment of your essential helplessness leads you to the Divine Name the All-Pow- erful, by Which you find the real source of power. You can purify yourself by perceiving that your existence lies in acknowledging your essential non-existence. considering yourself self-existent, you fall into the darkest pit of non-existence. In other words, relying on your personal existence and, thus, ignoring the Real creator, causes your ephemeral personal existence to be drowned in the infinite darkness of non-existence. But if you abandon pride and egoism and recognize that you are only a mirror in which the Real creator manifests Himself, you attain infinite existence. One who discovers the Necessary Being, the mani- festations of Whose Names cause all things to come into existence, is counted as having found everything. (The Words, “The 26th Word,” 493)
- If He so wills (in order for the fulfillment of His purpose for creation), He can put you away and bring a new generation (in your place, who will acknowl- edge their poverty and praise God in return for His favors).
- That is surely no great matter for God.
- And no soul, as bearer of burden, bears (and is made to bear) the burden of another; and if one weighed down by his burden calls to (another for help to) carry it, nothing of it will be carried by that other, even if he be his near of kin.7 You can warn (in a profitable way) only those who stand in awe of their Lord though unseen (beyond their perception), and establish the Prayer in conformity with its conditions. And whoever is purified (of his wrong ideas or actions), is only purified for the good of his own soul. And to God is the homecoming.
7. In the same way that no one is held responsible for the crime of another, no one can take upon themselves the sin of another. This is inconceivable both from the viewpoint of the Religion (and law), and because of the fact that every one will be concerned only with their own soul in the Hereafter. So, the doctrine of Original Sin, with which all humankind is supposedly burdened because of the “lapse” of Adam, upon him be peace, and eve, is com- pletely groundless and contrary to this basic principle of the Religion (and law)—namely, responsibility and the corresponding recompense are not transferable. Secondly, as no one can be burdened with the burden of another, nor absolved of any crime or sin he or she has committed through the suffering of another, the christian “Doctrine of Atonement” is baseless. Moreover, God did not compel Adam, upon him be peace, and eve to eat of the forbidden tree in order to incarnate into, or create out of Himself a human son— nor did, or would, He then condemn Jesus, upon him be peace, to suffer great pains and to taste death, even if temporarily. That, too, is completely contrary to Divinity as taught by the Divine Religion(s).
- The blind and the seeing are not equal;
- Nor are the depths of darkness and the light.
- Nor the shade and the scorching heat.
- And nor are equal the living and the dead. Surely God makes hear whom- ever He wills; and you are not one to make hear those who are in the graves.8
8. The comparisons in the verses 19-22 implicitly refer to the difference between faith and unbelief with their characteristics and consequences, and between the believers and unbelievers. Faith means seeing, insight, light, knowledge, and life or being alive; while unbelief is blindness, darkness with many depths, ignorance, and being dead. So, faith gives a believer serenity, tranquility, and peace of heart; while unbelief is the cause of stress, dis- content, and unhappiness.
- You are only a warner (not accountable for their being guided).
- Surely We have sent you as Messenger with the truth, as a bearer of glad tid- ings (of prosperity in return for faith and righteousness) and a warner (against the consequences of misguidance); and there has never been a community but a warner lived among them.
- If they deny you, even so denied those before them (to whom a Messenger was sent). Their Messengers came to them with the clear proofs (of their Mes- sengership), Scriptures (full of wisdom and advice), and the Book enlightening (their mind and hearts) and illuminating (their way.)9
9. That is, some of the Messengers, like the Prophet David, upon him be peace, came with Scriptures full of wisdom and advice, and some like the Prophets Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad, upon them all be peace, with the enlightening Book. In addition, the Book also contained what there was in the Scriptures.
- Then I have seized those who insisted on unbelief. How awesome was My disowning them!
- Do you not see that God sends down water from the sky? Then We bring forth with it produce of various colors (shapes and taste); and in the mountains there are streaks of white and red, of various colors (due to the flora or the vari- ety of stone and rock), as well as raven-black;
- And likewise human beings, and beasts, and cattle, diverse are their colors. Of all His servants, only those possessed of true knowledge stand in awe of God.10 Surely God is All-Glorious with irresistible might, All-Forgiving.
10. That is, only those who are unbiased and unprejudiced can have true knowledge or the knowledge of the truth. The sign of one having such knowledge is sincere faith in, and awe of, God. Such people can truly and deeply understand what all such phenomena in creation really mean and cannot help but feel deep respect for God, and the need and desire to worship Him.
- Those who recite God’s Book (and, thereby, glorify, praise, and exalt God, and declare His absolute Oneness),11 and establish the Prayer in conformity with its conditions, and spend out of what We have provided for them (in God’s cause and for the needy), secretly and openly, hope for a trade which will never perish.
11. Glorifying God means believing, acknowledging, and declaring that God is absolutely free from, and exalted above, having any defects or attributes particular to the creation, such as begetting and being begotten, dying, feeling any need and, therefore, having partners or helpers. In short, glorifying means knowing and declaring what God is not and cannot be. Praising God means believing, acknowledging, and declaring that God has all attributes of perfection and, therefore, deserves praise, thanks and worship. In other words, prais- ing means knowing and declaring what and who God is, and mentioning Him as such, with the attributes of perfection that are exclusively His. exalting God means believing, acknowledging, and declaring that God is infinitely and absolutely great and there can be none comparable with Him, and that He is infinitely beyond what we can conceive of Him. We glorify, praise, and exalt Him and declare His absolute Oneness after the daily Prayers.
- For God will pay them their rewards in full, and give them yet more out of His bounty. Surely He is the All-Forgiving, the All-Responsive (to the gratitude of His creatures).
- That which We reveal to you of the Book is the truth, confirming (the Di- vine origin of and the truths that are still contained by) the Revelations prior to it. Surely God is fully aware of His servants and sees (them) well.
- Then (after every Messenger), We have made those of Our servants whom
We chose heirs to the Book (to preserve and teach it, and secure its practice in daily life). However, among them are those who (in fulfilling their duty as heirs to the Book) wrong their own selves (on account of certain failings and sins), and among them are those who follow a moderate way, and among them are those who, by God’s leave, are foremost in doing good deeds. That (the inherit- ing of the Book) is the great favor.
- (So) Gardens of perpetual bliss will they enter, therein adorned with arm- bands of gold and pearls, and their garments therein will be of silk.12
12. For an explanation, see 18: 31, note 17.
- And they will say: “All praise and gratitude are for God, Who has removed grief from us (such as we had suffered until we were admitted here). Surely Our Lord is All-Forgiving, All-Responsive (to the gratitude of His creatures),
- Who, out of His grace, has made us settle in the abode of eternal residence, wherein no toil touches us, and wherein no weariness afflicts us.”13
13. The Qur’ān often distinguishes three groups of people, namely the unbelievers (includ- ing hypocrites) who are condemned to punishment in Hell; the believers whose good excels their evil; and the believers who are foremost in doing good deeds (e.g., 56: 7–11). So some commentators have concluded that verse 32 makes the same classification, and means by those who wrong their own selves, as the Qur’ān does in many of its verses, the unbeliev- ers and hypocrites, and by those who follow a moderate way, the believers who have mixed their righteous deeds with evil ones (see 9: 102). Hence, those who have been promised Gardens of perpetual bliss in the following verse (33) are those who are foremost in doing good deeds, and for the second group, it may be that God will return their repentance with forgiveness (9: 102).
However, as pointed out by some commentators, this verse is about the inheritance of the Qur’ān and those whom God has specially chosen among His servants for this duty. Inheritance of the Qur’ān (the Book) means to preserve, teach, and practice it in daily life (5: 44). So, since this inheritance has special importance, this verse emphasizes it and dis- tinguishes among those among the Muslims, or the community of Muhammad, upon him peace and blessings, chosen for this duty. They are not, however, all of the same quality and degree. Among them are those who wrong their own selves on account of certain failings and sins (not by unbelief, hypocrisy, or the association of partners with Him, of course); those who follow a moderate way— i.e., those who cannot dedicate themselves fully to this duty; and those who, fully dedicated, outstrip all others. So, as long as they serve the Qur’ān and continue to learn and teach it and practice it in daily life, all these three groups will be forgiven by God and admitted to Paradise.
God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, bequeathed the Qur’ān and his house- hold, including his progeny, to his community (Muslim, “Fadāil as-Sahābah,” 37). This means that, first of all, his household and progeny must and will serve the Qur’ān. How- ever, this Tradition also gives the glad tiding that those who serve the Qur’ān, even though
they do not belong to his progeny by blood, are (spiritually) included in them, as is Salmān al-Fārisī. For the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, declared: “Salmān is from us, from the Prophet’s Household” (canan, 12: 370).
- As for those who disbelieve, for them is the fire of Hell: they will not be sentenced to death so that they can die (and so be relieved), nor will its suffer- ing be lightened for them. Thus do We recompense every ungrateful one who disbelieves.
- And therein they will cry aloud: “O our Lord! Take us out, we will do good, (righteous deeds), not (the wrong) we used to do before.”“Did We not grant you a life long enough for whoever would reflect and be mindful to reflect and be mindful? In addition, a warner came to you (to warn against this punishment). Taste then (the consequences of your heedlessness); for the wrongdoers have none to help them (against it).”
- Surely God is the Knower of the unseen of the heavens and the earth. And He surely has full knowledge of what lies hidden in the bosoms (so that He treats you according to your beliefs and intentions).
- He it is Who has made you vicegerents on the earth.14 So whoever disbe- lieves (in ingratitude, rejecting this truth and attributing God’s deeds to others than Him), his unbelief is charged against him. The unbelief of the unbelievers does not increase them in the sight of their Lord in anything but abhorrence; and the unbelief of the unbelievers does not increase them in anything but loss.
14. On vicegerency, see 2: 31, note 32.
- Say: “Have you considered those (beings and things) that you associate with God and, apart from God, invoke? Show me what it is that they have created of the earth. Or do they have a share in the (process of creation in the) heavens?” Or have We granted those people a Book so that they are (in associating part- ners with God) based on a clear evidence from it? No! Rather, the wrongdoers promise each other nothing but delusion.
- Surely God alone upholds the heavens and the earth, lest they cease to be. If they should start to fail, there is none that could uphold them (if He were to let them fail. That He does not let them fail, despite all the wrongdoing of His servants, is because) He is All-clement (showing no haste to punish the errors of His servants), All-Forgiving.
- They swore by God with their most solemn oaths that if a warner came to them, they would most certainly follow his guidance more than any of the com-
munities (to whom a warner came). Yet, now that a warner has come to them, it has increased them in nothing but aversion;
- Growing in arrogance in the land and devising evil schemes. But an evil scheme overwhelms none but its own authors. So, can they expect anything other than the pattern of (events and outcomes that overtook) the people of old times (whom God destroyed)? You will never find in God’s way any change; you will never find in God’s way any alteration.15
15. This means that the way in which God treats people in return for following the same path is evident. God never makes a mistake, never forgets, is never neglectful, and never can be bribed; He always does what is true and wise. His decree can never be turned away from its goal, nor postponed, nor evaded. His way is always straight (11: 56).
- Have they never traveled about the earth that they may see what was the outcome for those before them (who obstinately disbelieved in Our signs)? They were greater than them in power. By no means is God One Whom anything whatever in the heavens or on earth can frustrate (in His decrees). Surely He is All-Knowing, All-Powerful.
- If God were to take people to task for whatever wrong they commit (and accumulate to their account), He would not leave on earth any living creature. But He grants them respite to a term appointed (by Him). When the end of their term falls, (He treats each as He wills according to his deserts), for surely He sees His servants well.