Nature, Too, Praises Allah *
(As for the unbelievers, their deeds are like a mirage in the desert that the thirsty traveler supposes to be water, but when he comes near to it finds that it is nothing. But he finds that Allah (has always been present) with him, and that He will pay him his account in full; for Allah is swift in reckoning.
Or else, like the depths of darkness in a vast deep ocean, made yet more dark by wave billowing over wave, with clouds above it all: Depths of darkness, layer upon layer, (so that) when one holds up his hand, he can hardly see it. Indeed, those from whom Allah withholds light will find no light at all.
Are you not aware that it is Allah Whose limitless glory all creatures that are in the heavens and earth extol, even the birds as they spread out their wings? Each of them knows how to pray to Him and to glorify Him; and Allah has full knowledge of all that they do.
To Allah belongs the dominion over the heavens and the earth, and to Allah will all return.) (An-Nur 24:39-42)
The first two verses paint two scenes that are full of life, describing the situation the unbelievers find themselves in. The first of these two scenes highlights the surprise faced by the unbelievers when Allah gives them their account. It is a much greater surprise than that of a desert traveler being deluded by mirage and then finding it to be nothing.
In the second scene, layers of darkness gather on top of one another, which stands in contrast to the false brightness of the mirage. The great fear is transmitted by the bottomless ocean engulfed in darkness and by the waves upon waves moving in a never-ending motion. Above all these, dark clouds gather. Thus, layers of darkness amass, to the extent that if someone holds out his or her hand, he or she fails to see it in the engulfing darkness that spreads an air of fear and panic.
This is all a description of unbelief, which is shown as darkness totally isolated from the divine light that radiates throughout the universe, a deep error that prevents people from seeing even the nearest signs of guidance, a fear that leaves no trace of security. For, (Indeed, those from whom Allah withholds light will find no light at all.)
Allah's light is guidance planted in people's hearts, giving them an informed insight and a bond between human nature and the laws that operate in the universe at large. It is the only true enlightenment. People who are cut off from this light remain in darkness that cannot be removed, in fear with no security, in error without return. At the end, they find all their actions to be a mirage leading them to ruin. No action is valid unless based on faith, no guidance without faith, and no light unless Allah's.
This is the scene of unbelief, error, and darkness in human life. The scene of faith, guidance, and light in the great universe follows it. It is a scene showing the entire universe with all that live in it, human and Jinn, planets and stars, and all beings, whether animate or inanimate, sharing in Allah's glorification. We feel how awesome the scene is as we hear the glorification echoed everywhere in the heavens and the earth.
(Are you not aware that it is Allah whose limitless glory all creatures that are in the heavens and earth extol, even the birds as they spread out their wings? Each of them knows how to pray to Him and to glorify Him; and Allah has full knowledge of all that they do. To Allah belongs the dominion over the heavens and the earth, and to Allah will all return. ) (An-Nur 24:41-42)
Humans do not live alone in this universe. All around them, to their right and to their left, above them and underneath them, and in the expanse beyond, whether reached by their imagination or not, there are beings Allah has created with different natures, forms, and shapes. All of them share in their belief in Allah, turn to Him, and extol His praises. He (has full knowledge of all that they do.)
The Qur'an directs humans to look around them: All is of Allah's making and all living things everywhere in the heavens and earth are His creatures, glorifying Him, and singing His praises. The Qur'an also directs our full attention to something we see every day without stirring any feeling in us because of its familiarity: It is the scene of birds lifting up their legs and spreading out their wings as they fly. They also glorify Allah. (Each of them knows how to pray to Him and to glorify Him.) Only humans neglect to glorify their Lord when He is the one Who should be most aware of the importance of believing in Allah and glorifying Him.
In this scene, the whole universe appears full of humility as it turns to its Creator, singing His praises and addressing its prayers to Him. It does this by nature. Its obedience to Allah is represented in its laws, which operate by Allah's will. When humans refine their senses, they see this scene as reality, as though they hear the rhythm of Allah's glorification echoed throughout the universe. They share with all creatures their prayers and appeals to Allah. Such was Muhammad, Allah's Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him): When he walked, he heard the gravel under his feet singing Allah's praises. Such was David (Dawud): When he chanted his Psalms, the mountains and the birds chanted with him.
(To Allah belongs the dominion over the heavens and the earth, and to Allah will all return.) No one should turn anywhere other than to Him, and no refuge is to be sought except with Him. Meeting Him is inevitable. His punishment, if deserved, cannot be averted except through His grace. To Him, all will return.
* This article is based on the author's work Fi Zhilal Al-Qur'an (In the Shade of the Qur'an), here excerpted with kind permission and with slight modifications from www.islamicvoice.com.
Sayed Qutb(1906-1966) was a prominent and influential Muslim intellectual and writer. He wrote many books about Islam and its distinctive features as a comprehensive way of life. Among his most important works is his exegesis of the Qur'an In the Shade of the Qur'an, which was widely welcomed among Muslims and established itself as one of the best references in Qur'an exegesis.
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