The Quran

Commentaries for 2.164

Al Baqara (The cow) - البقرة

2.164 Abbas - Tanwîr al-Miqbâs min Tafsîr Ibn ‘Abbâs
Then He mentioned the sign of His divine Oneness, saying: (Lo! In the creation of the heavens and the earth) i.e. in their making; or as it is said: in the making of what is in them, (and the difference of night and day) in the alternation of night and day, and in the increase and decrease of their duration, (and the ships which run upon the sea with that which is of use to men) in their livelihoods, (and the water) rain (which Allah sendeth down from the sky, thereby reviving) through rain (the earth after its death) after suffering by drought and being dried up, (and dispersing) creating (all kinds of beasts) male and female (therein, and the ordinance of the winds) in changing the direction of the wind towards the right and towards the left, coming sometimes from the East and sometimes from the West, sometimes carrying torment and sometimes mercy: (and the clouds obedient) subservient (between heaven and earth) He says: in all these (are signs) indications of the Lord's divine Oneness (for people who have sense) who believe that they are from Allah.
2.164 Asrar - Kashf Al-Asrar
Surely in the creation of the heavens and the earth, the alternation of the night and the day, the ships that run on the sea with what benefits people, the water that God sends down from heaven giving life to the earth after its death, the scattering of every beast therein, the shifting of the winds, the clouds subjected between heaven and earth-there are signs for a people who have intellect.
In this verse the Lord of the Universe shows the generality of people the road to Himself, so that they will gaze upon the wonders of the dominion of heaven and earth and on the artisanries of land and sea and then recognize the Artisan and attest to His oneness.
Ibn ʿAṬāÌ said, “He made Himself recognized to the common people with His creation, to the elect with His attributes, and to the prophets and the elect of the elect with His Essence.” The gaze of the common people is on the artisanry, the gaze of the elect on the attributes, and the gaze of
the prophets and the elect of the elect on the Essence. The generality of the faithful look at the artisanry and from the artisanry reach the Artisan. The elect among the faithful know the attributes and from the attributes reach the Object of attribution and from the name the Named. Thus it was said to the Children of Israel, “Sacrifice a cow” [2:67], but they did not recognize it. So the cow was described to them, they recognized it, and they sacrificed it.
As for the prophets and the sincerely truthful, they recognize Him through Him, not through other than Him. They look from Him to Him, not from the other to Him. God alludes to this state when He says, “Dost thou not see thy Lord, how He stretched out the shadow?” [25:45]. He did not say, “Look at the shadow so that you may see My artisanry.” He said, “Look at Me so that you may see My artisanry. O paragon of the world! Look not at Gabriel's coming, look at My sending. Look from Me to him, not from him to Me.”
Consider for a moment the female companions of Joseph. When the very entity of Joseph was unveiled to them, they were annihilated from themselves and became absent from Joseph's attributes.
When they saw him, they admired him greatly [12:31] and they cut their hands instead of the oranges. They were unaware of themselves and made absent from Joseph's attributes. At the moment of face-to-face vision they said, “This is no mortal!” [12:31]. They saw Joseph as an angel and were unaware of his human attributes. They were so busy contemplating Joseph that they did not attend to the attributes. If the essence of a created thing can have this sort of effect on the heart of female companions, what wonder is it that the self-disclosure of the Creator's Essence to the secret core of the elect should do much more?
Then, at the end of the verse, He says, “there are signs for a people who have intellect.” There are all of these, but it wants clever people to know, it wants seers to see. From every side is a road to the Real's courtyard-it wants travelers! The whole world is table upon table, dish upon dishit wants eaters! The beauty of the endless Presence is unveiled-it wants gazers!
It wants a man to catch the scent-
otherwise, the world is full of the east wind's fragrance.
Intellect [ʿaql] is the fetter [ʿiqāl] of the heart. In other words, it ties the heart back from everything but the Beloved and prevents it from unworthy follies. In the creed of the Sunnis, intellect is a light and its place is the heart, not the brain. It is the precondition for being addressed by God, not the cause of being addressed. It is merely the instrument of recognition, not the root. The basis and profit of intellect is that the heart comes to life through it: that he may warn whosoever is alive [36:70], that is, whosoever has intellect. Hence, those who have no intellect are not counted among the living. Do you not see that the mad man is not addressed, nor the corpse? This is because they have no intellect.
Intellect is three letters: ʿa means it “recognizes” [ʿarafa] the Real in the unreal; q means it “accepts” [qabila] the Real; l means it “clings” [lazima] to the Real.
The servant's intellect is a divine bestowal and a lordly gift. The servant's obedience is earned, but obedience cannot be set right without that bestowal, and that bestowal is useless without God's success-giving.
Thus it has been reported that the Exalted Lord created the intellect. He said to it, “Stand up.” It stood up. He said, “Sit.” It sat. He said, “Come.” It came. He said, “Go.” It went. He said, “See.” It saw.
Then He said, “By My exaltedness and majesty, I have created nothing more eminent and honored than you. Through you I shall be worshiped and through you I shall be obeyed.”
Because of these caresses, intellect began to admire itself. The Lord of the Worlds did not let that pass. He said, “O intellect, look behind yourself. What do you see?” The intellect looked behind itself and saw a form lovelier and more beautiful than itself. It said, “Who are you?” The form said, “I am that without which you are useless. I am success-giving.”
O intellect, though you be eminent, become low! O heart, no longer be heart, but blood, blood!
Enter the curtain of that waxing sweetheart!
Come in without eyes, leave without tongue!
2.164 Jalal - Al-Jalalayn
They then asked for a sign to prove this, and the following was revealed: Surely in the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the marvels contained in them, and the alternation of the night and day, passing and returning, increasing and diminishing, and the ships that run in the sea, and do not become cracked and sink, with what profits men, of trade and merchandise, and the water, the rain, God sends down from the heaven with which He revives the earth, with vegetation, after it is dead, after it has dried out, and He scatters abroad in it all manner of crawling thing, by dividing them and spreading them throughout on account of the vegetation, for they thrive on the fertile pastures it produces; and the disposition of the winds, changing it from south to north, from cold to warm, and the clouds compelled, subjugated by God’s command, moving to wherever God wishes, between heaven and the earth, without being attached [to either of the two] — surely there are signs, indicating His Oneness, exalted be He, for a people who comprehend, [a people] who contemplate.
2.164 Kashani - Kashani
Surely in the creation of the heavens and the earth, to the end of this [verse], in other words, in the existentiation of the heavens of the spirits, the hearts and the intellects and the earth of the souls, and the alternation of [the night and day], [the alteration] of light and darkness between them, and the ships, that are the bodies, that run in the sea, of the absolute mass, with what benefits people, in the acquisition of their perfections, and the water that God sends down from the heaven, that is, the spirit [which He sends down] from the water of knowledge, with which He revives the earth, of the soul, after it is dead, because of ignorance, and He scatters abroad in it all manner of crawling thing, [meaning] those animal faculties that are alive by the life of the heart, and the disposition [of the winds, and the clouds compelled between heaven and the earth]: [the disposition] the tempests resulting from the surplusses of the acts of the Truth and the clouds from the self-disclosures of the lordly attributes, [clouds] disposed and made ready between the heaven[s] of the spirit and the earth of the soul - surely there are signs, proofs, for a people who comprehend, by means of the intellect that is illumined by the light of the Law and disengaged from the blemishes of illusion.
2.164 Kathir - Ibn Al Kathir
The Proofs for Tawhid
Allah said:
إِنَّ فِي خَلْقِ السَّمَـوَتِ وَالاٌّرْضِ
(Verily, in the creation of the heavens and the earth...)
Therefore, the sky, with its height, intricate design, vastness, the heavenly objects in orbit, and this earth, with its density, its lowlands, mountains, seas, deserts, valleys, and other structures, and beneficial things that it has. Allah continues:
وَاخْتِلَـفِ الَّيْلِ وَالنَّهَارِ
(...and in the alternation of night and day.)
This (the night) comes and then goes followed by the other (the day) which does not delay for even an instant, just as Allah said:
لاَ الشَّمْسُ يَنبَغِى لَهَآ أَن تدْرِكَ القَمَرَ وَلاَ الَّيْلُ سَابِقُ النَّهَارِ وَكُلٌّ فِى فَلَكٍ يَسْبَحُونَ
(It is not for the sun to overtake the moon, nor does the night outstrip the day. They all float, each in an orbit.) (36:40)
Sometimes, the day grows shorter and the night longer, and sometimes vice versa, one takes from the length of the other. Similarly Allah said:
يُولِجُ الَّيْلَ فِى النَّهَارِ وَيُولِجُ النَّهَارَ فِى الَّيْلِ
(Allah merges the night into the day, and He merges the day into the night) (57:6) meaning, He extends the length of one from the other and vice versa. Allah then continues:
وَالْفُلْكِ الَّتِى تَجْرِى فِى الْبَحْرِ بِمَا يَنفَعُ النَّاسَ
(...and the ships which sail through the sea with that which is of use to mankind,)
Shaping the sea in this manner, so that it is able to carry ships from one shore to another, so people benefit from what the other region has, and export what they have to them and vice versa.
Allah then continues:
وَمَآ أَنزَلَ اللَّهُ مِنَ السَّمَآءِ مِن مَّآءٍ فَأَحْيَا بِهِ الاٌّرْضَ بَعْدَ مَوْتِهَا
(...and the water (rain) which Allah sends down from the sky and makes the earth alive therewith after its death), which is similar to Allah's statement:
وَءَايَةٌ لَّهُمُ الاٌّرْضُ الْمَيْتَةُ أَحْيَيْنَـهَا وَأَخْرَجْنَا مِنْهَا حَبّاً فَمِنْهُ يَأْكُلُونَ
(And a sign for them is the dead land. We give it life, and We bring forth from it grains, so that they eat thereof.) (36:33), until:
وَمِمَّا لاَ يَعْلَمُونَ
(which they know not.) (36:36)
Allah continues:
وَبَثَّ فِيهَا مِن كُلِّ دَآبَّةٍ
(and the moving (living) creatures of all kinds that He has scattered therein,) meaning, in various shapes, colors, uses and sizes, whether small or large. Allah knows all that, sustains it, and nothing is concealed from Him. Similarly, Allah said:
وَمَا مِن دَآبَّةٍ فِي الاٌّرْضِ إِلاَّ عَلَى اللَّهِ رِزْقُهَا وَيَعْلَمُ مُسْتَقَرَّهَا وَمُسْتَوْدَعَهَا كُلٌّ فِى كِتَابٍ مُّبِينٍ
(And no moving (living) creature is there on earth but its provision is due from Allah. And He knows its dwelling place and its deposit (in the uterus or grave). All is in a Clear Book (Al-Lawh Al-Mahfuz ـ the Book of Decrees with Allah).) (11:6)
وَتَصْرِيفِ الرِّيَـحِ
(...and in the veering of winds...)
Sometimes, the wind brings mercy and sometimes torment. Sometimes it brings the good news of the clouds that follow it, sometimes it leads the clouds, herding them, scattering them or directing them. Sometimes, the wind comes from the north (the northern wind), and sometimes from the south, sometimes from the east, and striking the front of the Ka`bah, sometimes from the west, striking its back. There are many books about the wind rain, stars and the regulations related to them, but here is not the place to elaborate on that, and Allah knows best.
Allah continues:
وَالسَّحَابِ الْمُسَخَّرِ بَيْنَ السَّمَآءِ وَالأَرْضِ
(...and clouds which are held between the sky and the earth,)
The clouds run between the sky and the earth to wherever Allah wills of lands and areas.
Allah said next:
لآيَـتٍ لِّقَوْمٍ يَعْقِلُونَ
(...are indeed Ayat for people of understanding,) meaning, all these things are clear signs that testify to Allah's Oneness. Similarly, Allah said:
إِنَّ فِى خَلْقِ السَّمَـوَتِ وَالاٌّرْضِ وَاخْتِلَـفِ الَّيْلِ وَالنَّهَارِ لاّيَـتٍ لاٌّوْلِى الاٌّلْبَـبِ - الَّذِينَ يَذْكُرُونَ اللَّهَ قِيَـماً وَقُعُوداً وَعَلَى جُنُوبِهِمْ وَيَتَفَكَّرُونَ فِى خَلْقِ السَّمَـوَتِ وَالاٌّرْضِ رَبَّنَآ مَا خَلَقْتَ هَذا بَـطِلاً سُبْحَـنَكَ فَقِنَا عَذَابَ النَّارِ
(Verily, in the creation of the heavens and the earth, and in the alternation of night and day, there are indeed signs for men of understanding. Those who remember Allah (always, and in prayers) standing, sitting, and lying down on their sides, and think deeply about the creation of the heavens and the earth, (saying): "Our Lord! You have not created (all) this without purpose, glory to You! (Exalted are You above all that they associate with You as partners). Give us salvation from the torment of the Fire.'') (3:190, 191)
2.163-167 Maududi - Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi - Tafhim al-Qur'an
Anyone who does not look around like an animal but makes an intelligent observation of the great system of the universe that is working day and night before his very eyes, and is not blinded by prejudice or obduracy, can see many a sign pointing to the Reality. He will certainly see that it is being ruled only by the All-Powerful, All-Wise Sovereign. He can also understand that Allah alone is the God of the whole universe and that there is absolutely no room for any kind of interference or partnership, for no one else has any quality or power or authority to entitle him to the claim of Godhead.
They set up equals......": they ascribe some of the exclusive qualities and powers of Allah to others and render all or some of His exclusive rights to false gods. For instance, though Allah alone has control over all the forces of nature and has the power to fulfil all the needs of His creatures and to hear their prayers and requests, and although He alone knows all that is open or hidden, yet they invoke others for help or attribute all or some of these powers and qualities to others than Allah and thus set up compeers to rank with Him.
Again it is the exclusive right of Allah that His subjects should acknowledge Him as the Supreme Authority, bow down their heads before Him and fear Him alone in open and secret. But as they render all or some rights to others than Allah, they set up compeers with Him. Then, Allah alone is entitled to prescribe what is lawful and what is unlawful, what is clean and what is unclean. He alone has the authority to define the rights and duties of His subjects, lay down commands and prohibitions for them, etc. Therefore those who arrogate to themselves any of these rights shall be guilty of shirk. Again, He alone deserves to be acknowledged as the Sovereign and, as His subjects, the people should consider His Commandments to be final and turn to Him for guidance; therefore those who ascribe any of these rights to others than Allah, set up compeers with Him; likewise those institutions or persons who claim to possess any of these qualities or rights or assume to themselves any of these qualities or rights or demand that others should accede these to them, set themselves as compeers with Allah, whether or not they put forward formal claims to Godhead.
Belief in Allah demands that one should prefer His Will to one's own will or to that of others, and cherish His love so dearly as to be ready to sacrifice all other affections for its sake.
This helpless end of the ring-leaders and misguiders and their followers has been specially mentioned here to warn the Muslims to be very careful in selecting and electing their leaders and guides. The former communities weal astray because they followed wrong leaders and evil guides. The Muslims should, therefore, learn a lesson from their end and discriminate between leaders and misleaders and should not follow the latter.
2.164 Qushairi - Al-Qushairi
Surely in the creation of the heavens and the earth and the alternation of the night and day and the ships that run in the sea with what profits men and the water God sends down from the heaven with which He revives the earth after it is dead and He scatters abroad in it all manner of crawling thing; and the disposition of the winds and the clouds compelled between heaven and the earth-surely there are signs for a people who comprehend. He informed the hearts of the seekers among the rational thinkers aṣḥāb al-istidlāl and those who possess intellects arbāb al-ʿuqūl of the evidentiary proofs of His deliberative power the signs of His existence and the marks of His lordship which are the various kinds of His acts. He drew their attention to the different aspects of wisdom and evidentiary proofs of [divine] oneness waḥdāniyya. Along with these He established demonstrative proofs that are subtle in expression and aspects of the evidentiary proofs that are precise in allusion. For there is no entity arising out of nonexistence whether a person or ruins trace or vestige heaven or space air or water sun or moon drop or rain sand or stone star or tree that is not evidence of oneness waḥdāniyya and a means of access for those who direct themselves to His existence.
2.164 Wahidi - Asbab Al-Nuzul by Al-Wahidi
(Lo! In the creation of the heavens and the earth…) [2:164]. ‘Abd al-‘Aziz ibn Tahir al-Tamimi informed us> Abu ‘Amr ibn Matar> Abu ‘Abd Allah al-Ziyadi> Musa ibn Mas‘ud al-Nahdi> Shibl> Ibn Abi Najih> ‘Ata’ who said: “When the verse (Your God is One God; there is no god save Him, the Beneficent, the Merciful) [2:163] was revealed to Allah’s Messenger in Medina, the disbelievers of Quraysh in Mecca said: ‘How can one Allah be enough for all people?’ And as a response Allah, exalted is He, revealed (Lo! In the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the difference of night and day…) up to His saying (… are signs (of Allah’s Sovereignty) for people who have sense)”. Abu Bakr al-Asfahani informed us> al-Hafiz ‘Abd Allah ibn Muhammad> Abu Yahya al-Razi> Sahl ibn ‘Uthman al-‘Askari> Abu’l-Ahwas> Sa‘id ibn Masruq> Abu’l-Duha who said: “When the verse (Your Allah is One Allah…) was revealed, the idolaters were astounded. They exclaimed: ‘Just one Allah. Let him bring us one sign if he is truthful’. Allah answered by revealing the verse (Lo! In the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the difference of night and day…)”.