Abbas - Tanwîr al-Miqbâs min Tafsîr Ibn ‘Abbâs
Allah then proceeded to mention His blessings on them, saying (He it is Who created for you), made subservient for you (all that is in the earth) of beasts, plants and other things, as a blessing from Him. (Then turned He to the heaven) i.e. He turned to the creation of the heaven, (and fashioned it as seven heavens) positioning them vertically above the earth. (And He is Knower of all things) regarding the creation of the heavens and earth.
He it is who created for you all that is in the earth, then He went up to heaven and proportioned it as seven heavens, and He is knower of everything.
In another place He said, “He subjected to you whatsoever is in the heavens and whatsoever is in the earth, all together, from Him” [45:13]. He is saying, “I created everything in the empire of the earth for you and subjected it to you. My bestowal is not tiny, My generosity toward those who are burnt for Me is not trivial. There will never be any backsliding in My caressing you. Nor is it as if I limited Myself to the empire of the earth, for I also set up the heavens for your gaze, for the pleasure of your eyes, and as a storehouse for your daily provision. My servant! When you step into the street of My covenant, you do not know what good news reaches the heaven-dwellers and the earth-dwellers and how they congratulate each other. I know, for I know everything and reach everyone.” And He is knower of everything.
In this verse there is a subtle point. He did not say, “Who created you for all that is in the earth.” He said, “Who created for you all that is in the earth.” In other words, “I created everything that is in the empire of the earth and the heavens for your sake, and I created you for My sake.” Do you not see that He said specifically to Moses, “I chose thee for Myself” [20:41], and generally to the creatures, “I created the jinn and mankind only to worship Me” [51:56]? It was MuṣṬafā who understood the worth of this declaration and gave thanks for this one of His blessings. On the night of proximity and generosity when he was taken to the heavens, all of creation and the empires of the two worlds were scatted at the feet of his truthfulness. That paragon did not look at it from the corner of his eye. He said, “I was not created for this.” The eyesight did not swerve, nor did it trespass [53:17]. Hail to him!
Abū Yazīd BasṬāmī, who beautifully traveled in the road of MuṣṬafā's Sunnah and beautifully observed courtesy toward the Presence, said, “I kept on crossing perils until I found the empires.
Then I left the empires behind and arrived at the marks giving witness to the King. I said, 'The prize.'
“He said, 'I have given to you all that you have seen.' “I said, 'You are the desired.'
“He said, 'Then I belong to you, just as you belong to Me.'”
The Pir of the Tariqah said, “O God, when a breeze blew from the garden of friendship, I made my heart its sacrifice. I found a scent of friendship's treasury and called out in kingship over the world. Lightning flashed from the east of the Haqiqah, and with little thought of water and clay I left the two worlds behind. You gazed once, and in that gaze I burned and melted. Add another gaze and make it the salve of this burned one! Grasp this drowned man, for the remedy and salve of the wine-stricken is wine!” In this meaning Majnūn sang,
He it is Who created for you all that is in the earth, that is, the earth and all that is in it, so that you may benefit from and learn lessons from it; then, after creating the earth, He turned to, that is, He made His object, heaven and levelled them (fa-sawwāhunna: the pronoun [-hunna] refers to ‘heaven’, since, it [heaven] is implicit in the import of the sentence attributed to it [the pronoun]), that is to say, He made them thus, as [He says] in another verse, [fa-qadāhunna] so He determined them [Q. 41:12]) seven heavens and He has knowledge of all things, in their totality and in their individual detail, so do you not then think that the One who has the power to create this to begin with, which is much greater than what you are, also has the power to bring you back [after death]?
He it is Who created for you all that is in the earth, in other words, the lower aspect which is the world of the elements in its entirety since it constitutes the origin points of your creation and the substrata of your existence and subsistence; then He presided over [the heaven], that is, He turned evenly to the upper aspect - thumma ('then') is used to indicate a separation between the two aspects and the two moments of existentiation, the originational (ibdāʿī) and the creational (takwīnī), and not a lapse between the two time periods, so that the creation of the earth necessarily precedes that of the heavens; [and He levelled them seven heavens and He has knowledge of all things]: He then proportioned them as seven heavens according to what the generality thinks, for the eighth and the ninth [heavens] are [respectively] the seat (kursī) and the throne (ʿarsh) in their manifest dimension. In reality the lower aspect is the corporeal world, like the body and its limbs given its inferior rank in relation to the spiritual world which is the upper aspect referred to by the expression 'heaven'; thumma is used to indicate a separation between [the act of] creation and the command; 'and He levelled them seven heavens' is an allusion to the ranks of the world of spiritual beings: the first is the angelic earthly realm and the forces of the soul and the jinn; the second is the world of the soul; the third is the world of the heart; the fourth is the world of the intellect; the fifth is the world of the mysteries; the sixth is the world of the spirit while the seventh is the world of concealment, which is the spiritual mystery distinct from the mystery of the heart. It is to this that the Commander of the Believers [ʿAlī b. Abī Ṭālib], peace be upon him, alluded when he said: 'Ask me about the paths of the heavens, for I know them better than the paths of the earth'. Its paths are the states and the stations such as renunciation, reliance, satisfaction and the like. Know that the intellect when referred to by the term wisdom is the spirit in the terminology of the Sufis. And what we have referred to as the intellect in the terminology of the Sufis is the rational faculty that belongs to the speaking soul according to the philosophers. That is why the Sufis say that the intellect is the polished part of the heart illumined by the light of the spirit, while the heart is the speaking soul. Remember this lest [your] understanding become confused by the different terms [used].
After Allah mentioned the proofs of His creating them, and what they can witness in themselves as proof of that, He mentioned another proof that they can witness, that is, the creation of the heavens and earth. Allah said,
(Say (O Muhammad ): "Do you verily disbelieve in Him Who created the earth in two Days And you set up rivals (in worship) with Him That is the Lord of all that exists. He placed therein (i.e. the earth) firm mountains from above it, and He blessed it, and measured therein its sustenance (for its dwellers) in four Days equal (i.e. all these four `days' were equal in the length of time) for all those who ask (about its creation). Then He Istawa ila the heaven when it was smoke, and said to it and to the earth: "Come both of you willingly or unwillingly.'' They both said: "We come willingly.'' Then He finished them (as) seven heavens in two Days and He made in each heaven its affair. And We adorned the nearest (lowest) heaven with lamps (stars) to be an adornment as well as to guard (from the devils by using them as missiles against the devils). Such is the decree of the Almighty, the Knower) (41:9-12).
These Ayat indicate that Allah started creation by creating earth, then He made heaven into seven heavens. This is how building usually starts, with the lower floors first and then the top floors, as the scholars of Tafsir reiterated, as we will come to know, Allah willing. Allah also said,
(Are you more difficult to create or is the heaven that He constructed He raised its height, and has perfected it. Its night He covers with darkness and its forenoon He brings out (with light). And the earth, after that, He spread it out. And brought forth therefrom its water and its pasture. And the mountains He has fixed firmly. (To be) a provision and benefit for you and your cattle) (79:27-33).
It is said that "Then'' in the Ayah (2:29) relates only to the order of reciting the information being given, it does not relate to the order that the events being mentioned took place, this was reported from Ibn `Abbas by `Ali bin Abi Talhah.
(He it is Who created for you all that is on earth) "Allah created the earth before heaven, and when He created the earth, smoke burst out of it. This is why Allah said,
ثُمَّ اسْتَوَى إِلَى السَّمَآءِ وَهِىَ دُخَانٌ
(Then He Istawa ila (turned towards) the heaven when it was smoke.) (41:11)
فَسَوَّاهُنَّ سَبْعَ سَمَـوَاتٍ
(And made them seven heavens) means, one above the other, while the `seven earths' means, one below the other.''
This Ayah testifies to the fact that the earth was created before heaven, as Allah has indicated in the Ayat in Surat As-Sajdah.
Spreading the Earth out after the Heavens were created
Sahih Al-Bukhari records that when Ibn `Abbas was question about this matter, he said that the earth was created before heaven, and the earth was spread out only after the creation of the heaven. Several Tafsir scholars of old and recent times also said similarly, as we have elaborated on in the Tafsir of Surat An-Nazi`at (chapter 79). The result of that discussion is that the word Daha (translated above as "spread'') is mentioned and explained in Allah's statement,
(And the earth, after that, He spread it out. And brought forth therefrom its water and its pasture. And the mountains He has fixed firmly.) (79:30-32)
Therefore, Daha means that the earth's treasures were brought to its surface after finishing the job of creating whatever will reside on earth and heaven. When the earth became Daha, the water burst out to its surface and the various types, colors, shapes and kinds of plants grew. The stars started rotating along with the planets that rotate around them. And Allah knows best.
Maududi - Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi - Tafhim al-Qur'an
It is not easy to determine the significance of "seven heavens". In every age man has been formulating different theories about cite heaven and the expanse of space surrounding the earth and beyond it according to his observations and speculations, which have been always changing. Hence it will not be correct to link anyone of these with the "seven heavens" referred to in the Qur'an. It may either mean that God has divided the whole Universe beyond the earth into seven permanent spheres, or that the part of the Universe in which the earth lies consists of seven spheres.
Here, the people have been warned of two things: first, that they cannot, and should not, adopt an attitude of disbelief and rebellion against Allah, Who knows everything and from Whom nothing that one does remains hidden. Second, that the God Who knows everything is, in fact, the Source of true knowledge. Arty one who turns away from Him, will surely go astray into the darknesses of ignorance. When none beside Him is the source of knowledge, and none beside Him can provide the light by which one may walk one's way of life, what is then the good of turning away from Him?
He it is who created for you all that is in the earth; He made all created things subject to [human beings] meaning that they obtain benefit from [created things] in everything: [human beings] dwell on the earth live under the sky are guided by the stars and benefit in one way or another from every created thing. Furthermore [if human beings] were to reflect upon any perceived thing or effect ʿayn wa-athar they would recognize the perfection of His power and the appearance of His lordship in [that thing or effect]. It is said that He has paved the way of knowing for them and awakened them to the ways of beautiful behavior. Moreover He taught them the most sublime aspiration inasmuch as He claimed their works and states for Himself alone for He said Do not prostrate to the sun and moon [41:37]. then He turned istawā to heaven and leveled the seven heavens and He has knowledge of all things. The things that have been brought into existence akwān are laid out in a uniform way istawat by His power; it is not that the Real سبحانه in His Essence sat Himself down istawā on any created thing. How could that be! Unicity aḥadiyya and Self-Sufficiency ṣamadiyya are His reality. What some have imagined regarding the possibility of Him being in a specific place is absurd since one “sits” in a place but the Real سبحانه in His Essence does not sit in any place.