and Who created the pairs, the species, all of them, and made for you ships and cattle, such as camels, on which you ride (the referential pronoun has been omitted here for brevity; it is genitive in the case of the first, that is, fīhi [sc. tarkabūna fīhi, ‘you ride in them’] and accusative in the case of the second [sc. tarkabūnahā, ‘you ride them’]),
("Who has created the heavens and the earth'' They will surely say: "The All-Mighty, the All-Knower created them.'') In other words, they will admit that the Creator of all that is Allah Alone, with no partner or associate, yet they still worship others -- idols and false gods -- alongside Him.
الَّذِى جَعَلَ لَكُمُ الاٌّرْضَ مَهْداً
(Who has made for you the earth like a bed,) means, smooth, stable and firm, so that you can travel about in it, and stand on it and sleep and walk about, even though it is created above water, but He has strengthened it with the mountains, lest it should shake.
وَجَعَلَ لَكُمْ فِيهَا سُبُلاً
(and has made for you roads therein,) means, paths between the mountains and the valleys.
(in order that you may find your way.) means, in your journeys from city to city, region to region, land to land.
وَالَّذِى نَزَّلَ مِنَ السَّمَآءِ مَآءً بِقَدَرٍ
(And Who sends down water from the sky in due measure, ) means, according to what is sufficient for your crops, fruits and drinking water for yourselves and your cattle.
فَأَنشَرْنَا بِهِ بَلْدَةً مَّيْتاً
(then We revive a dead land therewith,) means, a barren land, for when the water comes to it, it is stirred (to life), and it swells and puts forth every lovely kind (of growth). By referring to the revival of the earth, Allah draws attention to how He will bring bodies back to life on the Day of Resurrection, after they have been dead.
(and even so you will be brought forth.) Then Allah says:
وَالَّذِى خَلَقَ الأَزْوَجَ كُلَّهَا
(And Who has created all the pairs) meaning, of everything that grows in the earth, all kinds of plants, crops, fruits, flowers, etc., and all different kinds of animals.
وَجَعَلَ لَكُمْ مِّنَ الْفُلْكِ
(and has appointed for you ships) or vessels,
وَالاٌّنْعَـمِ مَا تَرْكَبُونَ
(and cattle on which you ride.) means, He has subjugated them to you and made it easy for you to eat their meat, drink their milk and ride on their backs. Allah says:
لِتَسْتَوُواْ عَلَى ظُهُورِهِ
(In order that you may mount on their backs, ) meaning, sit comfortably and securely,
(on their backs) means, on the backs of these kinds of animals.
ثُمَّ تَذْكُرُواْ نِعْمَةَ رَبِّكُمْ
(and then may remember the favor of your Lord) means, whereby these animals are subjugated to you.
(when you mount thereon, and say: "Glory to Him Who has subjected this to us, and we could have never had it.'') means, if it were not for the fact that Allah has subjugated these things to us, we could never have done this by our own strength.' Ibn `Abbas, Qatadah, As-Suddi and Ibn Zayd said: "We could not have done this ourselves.''
وَإِنَّآ إِلَى رَبِّنَا لَمُنقَلِبُونَ
(And verily, to Our Lord we indeed are to return.) means, `We will return to Him after our death, and our ultimate destination is with Him.' In this Ayah, mention of earthly journeys draws attention to the journey of the Hereafter, just as elsewhere, mention of earthly provision draws attention to the importance of ensuring provision for the Hereafter, as Allah says:
وَتَزَوَّدُواْ فَإِنَّ خَيْرَ الزَّادِ التَّقْوَى
(And take a provision (with you) for the journey, but the best provision is the Taqwa) (2:197). And mention of earthly garments is also used to draw attention to the raiment of the Hereafter:
وَرِيشًا وَلِبَاسُ التَّقْوَى ذَلِكَ خَيْرٌ
(and as an adornment; and the raiment of the Taqwa, that is better) (7:26).
Maududi - Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi - Tafhim al-Qur'an
At other places the earth has been described as a bed, but here as a cradle. That is, just as a child lies resting in its cradle, so is this great globe meant to be a place of rest for you, which is suspended in space, which is spinning on its axis at a speed of 1,000 miles an hour, which is revolving around the sun at a speed of 66,000 miles an hour. Its interior is so intensely hot that it can melt the stones and it manifests its power sometimes in the form of volcano eruptions. But, in spite of that, the Creator has made it so tranquil that one sleeps on it. in fill peace and there is no jerk whatever. One lives on it and does not at all feel that this globe is suspended and one is hanging from it with one's head pointing downward. One moves about on it with satisfaction and never thinks that one is riding on a vehicle moving faster than a bullet. You dig it at will and turn it inside out and beat it as you like to obtain your sustenance, whereas a little shaking of it in an earthquake makes you feel what a terrible giant it is, which Allah has subdued for you. (For further explanation, sec AI-Naml: 61 and E.N. 74 on it).
The passes in the mountains and the rivers in the hill and plain regions are the natural paths, which Allah has provided on the surface of the earth. Man has spread on, the earth by means of these. If the mountainous ranges had been created erect, without a crevice, and there had been no rivers and streams, man would have been confined to the same areas where he was born. Then, Allah through another grace has not made the whole surface of the earth uniform in nature, but has created different marks of distinction by means of which man recognizes different lands and feels the difference between one land and another. This is the second important means by which man became able to move about on the earth. This blessing can be appreciated by the one who has had a chance of going on a vast desert, where for thousands of milts the earth is without any landmarks and one does not know where one has reached and where one has to go.
This sentence gives two meanings simultaneously:
(1) "That by means of these natural paths and land-marks you may find your way and reach the place you want to reach: " and
(2) "that you may obtain guidance from the observation of this craftsmanship of Allah Almighty: may reach the underlying reality and understand that this system of the earth is not functioning haphazardly, nor has been devised by many gods jointly, but there is one All-Wise Creator, Who has made these paths in the hills and on the plains in view of the needs and requirements of His creatures, and has given each region of the earth a different form in countless different ways by means of which man can distinguish one region from the other.
That is, "For each region He has ordained an average measure of the rain, which falls year after year for long ages regularly. It does not happen that an area may have two inches of the rainfall one year and 200 inches of it the next year. Then He spreads the rainfall over different places in different times in such a way that it becomes beneficial on the whole for the products of the earth. And this is also His wisdom that He has deprived some parts of the earth of the rainfall almost wholly and turned them into dry, barren deserts, and in some other parts, He sometimes causes famines w occur and sometimes sends torrential rains so that man may know what a great blessing the rain and its general regularity is for the populated areas, and he may also remember that this system is under the control of another power, whose decrees cannot be changed by anyone. No one has the power that he may change the general average of the rainfall of a country, or effect a variation in its distribution over vast areas of the earth, or avert an impending storm, or attract the displeased clouds towards one's own land and compel them to rain." (For further explanation, see AI Hijr: 21-22, Al-Mu'minun: 18-20).
Here, the birth of vegetation in the earth by means of water has been presented as an argument for two things simultaneously:
(1) That these things are happening by the power and wisdom of One God; no one else is His associate in these works; and
(2) that there can be life after death, and it will be. (For further explanation. see An-Nahl: 65-67, Al-Hajj: 5-7, An-Naml: 60, Ar-Rum: 19, 24; Fatir: E.N. 19 and Ya Sin: E.N. 29).
Pairs here does not imply only pairs of men and women among human beings and of males and females among animals and vegetation, but there are countless other things which the Creator has made as matching partners of each other and by whose coming together and combination new and ever new things come into being in the world. For example, among the elements, some can be combined with others and some cannot be. The combination of these which can combine is resulting into various compositions, e.g. the negative and positive charges in electricity are the matching partners of each other and their mutual attraction is causing wonderful things to happen in the world. If man considers the structure and the mutual relationships and the different forms of cooperation and the results of the combination of this and other countless pairs which Allah has created among countless of His creations. He cannot help testifying to the truth that this great workshop of the world is the creation of one and only one Almighty, All-Wise Designer, and is functioning only under His care and control, Only a man of mean intelligence could suppose that all this happened, and is happening, without a Wise Being, or there is the possibility in it of the agency and interference of more gods than one.
That is, "Only man from among all the creatures of the earth was not given this power by Allah to use boats and ships and animals as conveyance so that he may be loaded on them like bags of grain and should never think as to who it is who created possibilities for him to run boats in the mighty oceans, and who created some animals of the countless kinds of animals, with a nature that they become his servants in spite of being far stronger than him in power, and he rides on them and drives them wherever he likes. To benefit by these blessings and to forget the Benefactor is a sign of the heart's becoming dead and the conscience's being insensitive. For when a man endowed with a living heart and a sensitive conscience will sit on these conveyances, he will be filled with the feelings of the blessings and with the gratitude for it, and will cry out: "Glorified is the Being Who subjected these things to me: Glorified is He from that another should be His associate in His Being and attributes and powers: Glorified is He and free from the weakness that He should become helpless of performing the functions of His Godhead by Himself and should stand in need of other associate gods: Glorified is He that I should make another an associate with Him in rendering thanks for these blessings."
The best practical commentary of the intention and meaning of this verse are the words that the Holy Prophet (upon whom be Allah's peace) used to pronounce at the time he sat on the conveyance. Hadrat 'Abdullah bin 'Umar says that whenever the Holy Prophet sat on a conveyance for a journey, he would pronounce Allah-u Akbar thrice, then would recite this verse, and then pray: "O God, I implore You to grant me in this journey the grace of goodness and piety and such acts as may please You. O God, make the journey easy and roll up the long distance for us; O God, You alone are the Companion during the journey and Guardian of the family in ow absence. O God, take care of us during, the journey and our household in ow absence. " (Musnad Ahmed, Muslim, Abu Da'ud, Nasa'i, Darimi, Tirmidhi).
Hadrat 'Ali says: Once the Holy Prophet put his foot in the stirrup with bismillah, and then, after riding, said: Al-,hamd-u lillah, subhan-alladhi sakhkhara lana hadha...., then pronounced al-,hamd-u-lillah thrice, and Allah-u Akbar thrice; then said: Subhana-ka, la-ilaha ills anta, qad zalamtu nafsi fagh fir-li. Then he laughed. I asked: What made you laugh. O Messenger of Allah? He replied: When a servant says: Rabb-ighfir-li, Allah Almighty is very pleased with this. He says: My servant knows that there is none beside Me who can forgive sins." (Ahmed, Abu Da'ud, Tirmidhi, Nasa'i, and others)
Abu Mijlaz says: "Once I rode on my animal and recited this verse: Subhan-alladhi sakhkhara lane hadha... ; Hadrat Hasan (may Allah be pleased with him) said: Have you been commanded to say so? I said: What should I say then? He replied: Say, thank God, Who guided us to Islam: Thanks to Him, Who did us a favor by sending Muhammad (upon whom be Allah's peace): Thanks to Him, Who admitted us into the best community that has been raised for the people; then recite this verse." (Ibn Jarir, Ahkam al-Qur'an by Jassas)
That is, "While embarking on every journey one should remember that there is ahead a longer and final journey also. Besides there is the possibility in the use of every conveyance that an accident may turn that very journey into one's last journey; therefore, every time one should remember one's return to one's Lord so that if something untoward happens, one does not die unawares.
Let us pause here for a while and consider the moral results of this teaching. Can one imagine that a person who while sitting on a conveyance starts his journey consciously with Rill remembrance of Allah and his return and accountability before Him, would commit sins and injustices and tyrannies on the way? Can a person think or utter these words from his mouth when he intends to go to meet a prostitute, or to visit a club for the purpose of drinking and gambling? Can a ruler, or a government official, or a merchant who has stepped out of his house with such thoughts and such words at his lips, usurp the rights of others when he reaches his destination? Can a soldier utter these words while boarding his aircraft or tank when he goes out to shed blood of the innocent and deprive the weak of their freedom? If not, then this one thing alone is enough to bar every movement undertaken for the commission of a sin.