(ENGLISH) COMMENTARY BY MUHAMMED ESED
( BY MUHAMMED ESED )
35 - AL-FATIR
In the name of god, the most gracious, The dispenser of grace: (1)

1 - According to most of the authorities, this invocation (which occurs at the beginning of every surah with the exception of surah 9) constitutes an integral part of "The Opening" and is, therefore, numbered as verse I. In all other instances, the invocation "in the name of God" precedes the surah as such, and is not counted among its verses. - Both the divine epithets rahman and rahrm are derived from the noun rahmah, which signifies "mercy", "compassion", "loving tenderness" and, more comprehensively, "grace". From the very earliest times, Islamic scholars have endeavoured to define the exact shades of meaning which differentiate the two terms. The best and simplest of these explanations is undoubtedly the one advanced by Ibn al-Qayyim (as quoted in Mandr I, 48): the term rahman circumscribes the quality of abounding grace inherent in, and inseparable from, the concept of God's Being, whereas rahrm expresses the manifestation of that grace in, and its effect upon, His creation-in other words, an aspect of His activity.

        
Most of the authorities place this surah which derives its title from Gods attribute of Originator of the heavens and the earth in its first verse - chronologically between surahs 25 (Al-Furqan) and 19 (Maryam): that is, about seven or eight years before the Prophets exodus from Mecca to Medina. Another title given to it by some of the Companions and several classical commentators is Al-Malaikah (The Angels), also based on verse 1. Almost the whole of Al-Fatir deals with Gods unique power to create and to resurrect, as well as with His having revealed His will through the medium of His prophets - but only such as are endowed with [innate] knowledge stand [truly] in awe of God: [for they alone comprehend that,] verily, God is almighty, much-forgiving (second paragraph of verse 28).
1. ALL PRAISE is due to God, Originator of the heavens and the earth, who causes the angels to be (His) message-bearers, endowed with wings, two, or three, or four. (1) [Unceasingly] He adds to His creation whatever He wills: for, verily, God has the power to will anything. (2)

1 - The wings of the spiritual beings or forces comprised within the designation of angels are, obviously, a metaphor for the speed and power with which Gods revelations are conveyed to His prophets. Their multiplicity (two, or three, or four) is perhaps meant to stress the countless ways in which He causes His commands to materialize within the universe created by Him: an assumption which, to my mind, is supported by an authentic hadith to the effect that on the night of his Ascension (see Appendix IV) the Prophet saw Gabriel endowed with six hundred wings (Bukhari and Muslim, on the authority of Ibn Masud).

2 - I.e., the process of creation is continuous, constantly expanding in scope, range and variety.

2. Whatever grace God opens up to man, none can withhold it; and whatever He withholds, none can henceforth release: for He alone is almighty, truly wise.
3. O men! Call to mind the blessings which God has bestowed upon you! Is there any creator, other than God, that could provide for you sustenance out of heaven and earth? (3) There is no deity save Him: and yet, how perverted are your minds! (4)

3 - See 10: 31 and the corresponding note.

4 - Sc., inasmuch as you attribute divine qualities or powers to anyone or anything beside Him. For an explanation of the phrase anna tu fakun (lit., how turned-away you are, i.e., from the truth), see 5: 75.

4. But if they [whose minds are perverted] give thee the lie, [O Prophet, remember that] even so, before thy time, have [other] apostles been given the lie: for [the unbelievers always refuse to admit that] all things go back to God [as their source].
5. O men! Verily, Gods promise [of resurrection] is true indeed: let not, then, the life of this world delude you, and let not [your own] deceptive thoughts about God delude you! (5)

5 - See 31: 33 (which is phrased in exactly the same way) and the corresponding note. As regards the explicit reference to Satan in the next verse of the present surah, see Razis remarks quoted in note on 14: 22, as well as note on 15: 17.

6. Behold, Satan is a foe unto you: so treat him as a foe. He but calls on his followers to the end that they might find themselves among such as are destined for the blazing flame
7. [seeing that] for those who are bent on denying the truth there is suffering severe in store, just as for those who have attained to faith and do righteous deeds there is forgiveness of sins, and a great reward.
8. Is, then, he to whom the evil of his own doings is [so] alluring that [in the end] he regards it as good [anything but a follower of Satan]? For, verily, God lets go astray him that wills [to go astray], just as He guides him that wills [to be guided]. (6) Hence, [O believer,] do not waste thyself in sorrowing over them: verily, God has full knowledge of all that they do!

6 - See note on 14: 4, which explains my rendering of this sentence.

9. AND [remember:] it is God who sends forth the winds, so that they raise a cloud, whereupon We drive it towards dead land and thereby give life to the earth after it had been lifeless: even thus shall resurrection be!
10. He who desires might and glory [ought to know that] all might and glory belong to God [alone]. Unto Him ascend all good words, and the righteous deed does He exalt. But as for those who cunningly devise evil deeds - suffering severe awaits them; and all their devising is bound to come to nought. (7)

7 - It appears that in this context - as in the first paragraph of 10: 21 or in 34: 33 - both the noun makr (lit., a scheme, or scheming or plotting) and the verb yamkurun (lit., they scheme or plot) have the connotation of devising false [or fallacious] arguments against something that is true. Since the preceding passages refer to Gods creativeness and, in particular, to His power to create life and resurrect the dead (verse 9), the evil deeds spoken of above are, presumably, specious arguments meant to disprove the announcement of resurrection.

11. And [remember:] God creates [every one of] you out of dust, (8) then out of a drop of sperm; and then He fashions you into either of the two sexes. (9) And no female conceives or gives birth unless it be with His knowledge; and none that is long-lived has his days lengthened - and neither is aught lessened of his days - unless it be thus laid down in [Gods] decree: for, behold, all this is easy for God.

8 - See second half of note on 3: 59, and note on 23:12.

9 - Lit., makes you pairs or mates (of one another).

12. [Easy is it for Him to create likeness and variety:] (10) thus, the two great bodies of water [on earth] are not alike (11) the one sweet, thirst-allaying, pleasant to drink, and the other salty and bitter: and yet, from either of them do you eat fresh meat, and [from either] you take gems which you may wear; and on either thou canst see ships ploughing through the waves, so that you might [be able to] go forth in quest of some of His bounty, and thus have cause to be grateful.

10 - This interpolated sentence reflects Razis convincing explanation of the passage that follows here, and its connection with the preceding one.

11 - For this rendering of al-bahran, see note on 25:53.

13. He makes the night grow longer by shortening the day, and He makes the day grow longer by shortening the night; and He has made the sun and the moon subservient [to His laws], each running its course for a term set [by Him]. Thus is God, your Sustainer: unto Him belongs all dominion - whereas those whom you invoke instead of Him do not own so much as the husk of a date-stone!

12 - See note on 13: 2.

14. If you invoke them, they do not hear your call; and even if they could hear, they would not [be able to] respond to you. And [withal,] on the Day of Resurrection they will utterly disown your having associated them with God. (13) And none can make thee understand [the truth] like the One who is all-aware.

13 - The Quran states in many places that all false objects of worship - whether saints, angels, relics, fetishes, or deified forces of nature - will bear witness against their one-time worshippers on Resurrection Day, and will disown them: a symbolic allusion to mans perception, at the end of time, of the ultimate reality.

15. O men! It is you, who stand in need of God, whereas He alone is self-sufficient, the One to whom all praise is due.
16. If He so wills, He can do away with you and bring forth a new mankind [in your stead]: (14)

14 - See note on 14:19.

17. nor is this difficult for God.
18. AND NO BEARER of burdens shall be made to bear anothers burden; (15) and if one weighed down by his load calls upon [another] to help him carry it, nothing thereof may be carried [by that other], even if it be ones near of kin. (16) Hence, thou canst [truly] warn only those who stand in awe of their Sustainer although He is beyond the reach of their perception, (17) and are constant in prayer, and [know that] whoever grows in purity, attains to purity but for the good of his own self, and [that] with God is all journeys end.

15 - I.e., on Judgment Day - for whatever [wrong] any human being commits rests upon him alone (6:164, which is followed by a sentence identical with the one above).

16 - Thus, any transfer of moral responsibility from one person to another is shown to be impossible. Whereas the first part of the above statement implies a negation of the Christian doctrine of original sin with which mankind is supposedly burdened, the second part categorically refutes the doctrine of the vicarious atonement of that sin by Jesus. (See also 53: 38 and the corresponding note.)

17 - For an explanation of this rendering of bil-ghayb, see note on 2: 3. The meaning is that only those who believe in the existence of that which is beyond the reach of human perception can really benefit by the warning inherent in the preceding statement. (See also 27: 80 - 81 and 30: 52 - 53.)

19. For [thus it is:] the blind and the seeing are not equal;
20. nor are the depths of darkness and the light;
21. nor the [cooling] shade and the scorching heat:
22. and neither are equal the living and the dead [of heart]. Behold, [O Muhammad,] God can make hear whomever He wills, whereas thou canst not make hear such as are [dead of heart like the dead] in their graves:
23. thou art nothing but a warner.
24. Verily, We have sent thee with the truth, as a bearer of glad tidings and a warner: for there never was any community but a warner has [lived and] passed away in its midst. (18)

18 - One of the meanings of the term ummah (preferred by Zamakhshari in his commentary on the above verse) is people of one time or age; another, people of one kind, i.e., a nation or a community (which is adopted by me in this context). Taking into consideration a third, well-established meaning, namely, a (particular) way of life or of behaviour (Jawhari), the term community comes, in this instance, close to the modern concept of civilization in its historical sense. The stress on the warners (i.e., prophets) having passed away is meant to emphasize the humanness and mortality of each and all of them.

25. And if they give thee the lie - even so gave the lie to the truth [many of] those who lived before their time, [when] there came unto them their apostles with all evidence of the truth, and with books of divine wisdom, and with light-giving revelation;
26. [but] in the end I took to task all those who were bent on denying the truth: and how awesome was My rejection!
27. ART THOU NOT aware that God sends down water from the skies, whereby We bring forth fruits of many hues - just as in the mountains there are streaaks of white and red of various shades, as well as (others) raven-black,
28. and (as) there are in men, and in crawling beasts, and in cattle, too, many hues? (19) Of all His servants, only such as are endowed with [innate] knowledge stand [truly] in awe of God: (20) [for they alone comprehend that,] verily, God is almighty, much-forgiving.

19 - Cf. 16: 13, where the splendour of nature (the beauty of many hues) is spoken of as an evidence of Gods creative power.

20 - I.e., spiritual knowledge, born of the realization that the phenomena which can be observed do not comprise the whole of reality, inasmuch as there is a realm beyond the reach of a created beings perception (cf. note on 2: 3).

29. (It is) they who [truly] follow Gods revelation, and are constant in prayer, and spend on others, secretly and openly, out of what We provide for them as sustenance - it is they who may look forward to a bargain that can never fail,
30. since He will grant them their just rewards, and give them yet more out of His bounty: for, verily, He is much-forgiving, ever-responsive to gratitude.
31. And [know that] all of the divine writ with which We have inspired thee is the very truth, confirming the truth of whatever there still remains of earlier revelations (21) for, behold, of [the needs of] His servants God is fully aware, all-seeing.

21 - For this explanatory rendering of the phrase ma bayna yadayhi, see note on 3: 3.

32. And so, We have bestowed this divine writ as a heritage unto such of Our servants as We chose: and among them are some who sin against themselves; and some who keep half-way [between right and wrong]; (22) and some who, by Gods leave, are foremost in deeds of goodness: [and] this, indeed, is a merit most high!

22 - See 7: 46 and the corresponding note.

33. [Hence,] gardens of perpetual bliss will they enter, therein to be adorned with bracelets of gold and pearls, and therein to be clad in raiments of silk; (23)

23 - Regarding this symbolic adornment of the blessed in paradise, see note on 18: 31.

34. and they will say: All praise is due to God, who has caused all sorrow to leave us: for, verily, our Sustainer is indeed much-forgiving, ever-responsive to gratitude
35. He who, out of His bounty, has made us alight in this abode of life enduring, wherein no struggle can assail us, and wherein no weariness can touch us!
36. But as for those who are bent on denying the truth - the fire of hell awaits them: no end shall be put to their lives so that they could die, nor shall aught of the suffering caused by that [fire] be lightened for them: thus shall We requite all who are bereft of gratitude.
37. And in that [hell] they will cry aloud: O our Sustainer! Cause us to come out [of this suffering]! We shall [henceforth] do good deeds, not such as we were wont to do [aforetime]! [But We shall answer:] Did We not grant you a life long enough so that whoever was willing to take thought could bethink himself? And [withal,] a warner had come unto you! Taste, then, [the fruit of your evil deeds]: for evildoers shall have none to succour them!
38. Verily, God knows the hidden reality of the heavens and the earth: [and,] behold, He has full knowledge of what is in the hearts [of men].
39. He it is who has made you inherit the earth. (24) Hence, he who is bent on denying the truth [of Gods oneness and uniqueness ought to know that] this denial of his will fall back upon him: for their [persistent] denial of this truth does but add to the deniers loathsomeness in their Sustainers sight and, thus, their denial of this truth does but add to the deniers loss.

24 - See note on 2: 30. In this instance, Gods having made man inherit the earth implies the grant to him of the ability to discern between right and wrong as well as between truth and falsehood.

40. Say: Have you ever [really] considered those beings and forces to whom you ascribe a share in Gods divinity, (25) [and] whom you invoke beside God? Show me what it is that they have created on earth - or do [you claim that] they have a share in [governing] the heavens? Have We ever vouchsafed them (26) a divine writ on which they could rely as evidence [in support of their views]? (27) Nay, [the hope which] the evildoers hold out to one another [is] nothing but a delusion. (28)

25 - Lit., those [God-] partners of yours: see note on 6: 22.

26 - I.e., to those who ascribe divinity to beings or forces other than God.

27 - Cf. 30: 35 - Have We ever bestowed upon them from on high a divine writ which would speak [with approval] of their worshipping aught beside Us? The reference to a divine writ makes it clear that the people spoken of here are the erring followers of earlier revelation, and not atheists.

28 - I.e., their expectation that the saints whom they invest with divine or semi-divine qualities will mediate between them and God, or intercede for them before Him, is based on nothing but wishful thinking.

41. Verily, it is God [alone] who upholds the celestial bodies (29) and the earth, lest they deviate [from their orbits] - for if they should ever deviate, there is none that could uphold them after He will have ceased to do so. (30) [But,] verily, He is ever-forbearing, much-forgiving! (31)

29 - Lit., the heavens- in this case apparently a metonym for all the stars, galaxies, nebulae, etc., which traverse the cosmic spaces in obedience to a most intricate system of God-willed laws, of which the law of gravity, perhaps most obvious to man, is but one.

30 - Lit., after Him. This seems to be an allusion to the Last Hour, which, according to the Quran, will be heralded by a cosmic catastrophe.

31 - I.e., inasmuch as He does not speed up the end of the world despite the sinfulness of most of its inhabitants, and neither punishes without giving the sinner time to reflect and to repent (cf. verse 45).

42. As it is, they [who are averse to the truth often] swear by God with their most solemn oaths that if a warner should ever come to them, they would follow his guidance better than any of the communities [of old had followed the warner sent to them] but now that a warner has come unto them, [his call] but increases their aversion,
43. their arrogant behaviour on earth, and their devising of evil [arguments against Gods messages]. (32) Yet [in the end,] such evil scheming will engulf none but its authors: and can they expect anything but [to be made to go] the way of those [sinners] of olden times? (33) Thus [it is]: no change wilt thou ever find in Gods way; yea, no deviation wilt thou ever find in Gods way!

32 - I.e., fallacious arguments meant to disparage those messages and to disprove their divine origin (cf. 10: 21 or 34: 33 and the corresponding notes on the Quranic use of the term makr in this sense).

33 - I.e., the way (sunnah) in which God has punished them.

44. Have they never journeyed about the earth and beheld what happened in the end to those [deniers of the truth] who lived before their time and were [so much] greater than they in power? And [do they not see that the will of] God can never be foiled by anything whatever in the heavens or on earth, since, verily, He is all-knowing, infinite in His power?
45. Now if God were to take men [at once] to task for whatever [wrong] they commit [on earth], He would not leave a single living creature upon its surface. However, He grants them respite for a term set [by Him]: (34) but when their term comes to an end - then, verily, [they come to know that] God sees all that is in [the hearts of] His servants.

34 - Or: known [to Him alone] - i.e., the end of their lives on earth.