Allah says in the Qur’an,
Do you not see that Allah has made subject to you whatever is in the heavens and whatever is in the earth and amply bestowed upon you His favors, [both] apparent and unapparent? But of the people is he who disputes about Allah without knowledge or guidance or an enlightening Book [from Him]. (31:20)
Simply through a cursory reading of this ayah, one becomes overwhelmed by the beauty and ardent power of its message. Every word that Allah uses in the Qur’an encompasses immeasurable wisdom and prudence and in this ayah we see some amazing examples of imagery and word choice. To capture a few glimpses of the beauty of this ayah, this post will carefully dissect a few components of it.
Allah azza wa jal (honored be his Glory) begins by speaking to all of mankind, أَلَمْ تَرَوْا “do you not see?” This phrase incites the listener to contemplate. It is in the form of a it is a rhetorical question that provokes active reflection.
The rhetorical device prompts consideration and then transitions into the focal point:
“…that Allah has made subject to you whatever is in the heavens and whatever is in the earth…”
Sakhkhara comes from taskheer which means ‘to forcibly appoint someone to do something’ even if it against their will. This word also means ‘to make something serviceable; to be at your service for your own use.’
The use of this word denotes two things:
- Everything in the heavens and earth is for your service – the stars, trees, plants, etc. are here for our benefit.
- Some things are under our control, but others are not. We cannot control the rain or sun, but we can control the animals.
The clouds, the sky, the sun, the moon, the stars and everything on this Earth have been made subservient to human beings because of Allah’s command.
“…and amply bestowed upon you His favors, [both] apparent and unapparent?”
Isbaaghun-ni’am, when this word is used in relation to blessing such as this ayah, it gives the meaning of ‘giving abundantly.’ It is when every blessing that is needed, that it is given. Allah has given you His blessings completely, has showered them on you, and made them abundant.
The use of Asbagha carries three different meanings:
- Atama – He has completed.
- Akmala – He has perfected.
- Awsa’a – He has made it vast.
All of these meanings describing the blessing of Allah are encompassed in one word: asbagha. Through simple contemplation on the blessings of Allah, one will see how these three meanings are in each and every blessing.
The word for blessings in this ayah is ni`am, which is plural of ni`mah; everything that is beneficial is known as a ni`mah. The use of the plural here again points to the blessings Allah has bestowed upon mankind in an exceedingly monumental fashion. Allah has given us these blessings as ihsan (utmost good) upon us.
Allah then describes the kind of blessings He has given us:
Thaahiratan: everything that can be known through observation. This refers to blessings that are physical, tangible, and that we can see and grasp immediate knowledge of. A thaahir blessing would be our body and the food we eat.
Baatinah: everything that cannot be observed but is known through evidence. Have you ever heard of the statement, “it was a blessing in disguise?” This refers to internal blessings that we cannot immediately perceive. For example, we don’t know the subtle intricacies of our bodies. Most of us do not even know how our bodies function and operate until something goes wrong. Batin blessings also refer to intangible blessings; for example, our intellect and the knowledge we retain. Allah has given us blessings that we do not easily recognize and are intangible to us.
He has completed, perfected, and given these blessings in abundance to you – known, unknown, tangible and intangible. He has made it so that everything –the heavens, the earth, our very bodies—are working in such a way that we are getting blessing after blessing. This is the completion of Allah’s favors.
Imam Sa’di explains this ayah in his tafsir by reminding us the blessings of Allah on His servants, beseeching us (the servants) to the gratitude and reflection of these blessings, and warning against the heedlessness of such.
So He the Most High said,
“Do you not see that Allah has made subject to you whatever is in the heavens…” (31:20)
From the sun to the moon to the stars, which are all made for the benefit of His servants.
“… and whatever is in the earth…” (31:20)
From the animals to the trees to the crops, from the streams to the minerals. Likewise, Allah mentions:
“It is He who has created for you what all that is in the earth…” (2:29)
Imam Sa’di continues, “and (He) has provided you abundantly…” What has He provided abundantly? He has cultivated for you and submerged you with His blessings, both evident and hidden, that which is known to us and that which is concealed from us: the blessings of life and religion (Islam), the collection of benefits and the repelling of pain. Therefore, your employment (the reason for your function) is to rise with gratitude towards these blessings.
Yet, after He has made all that is upon the earth serviceable to us, and has given us apparent and hidden blessings,
But of the people is he who disputes about Allah without knowledge or guidance or an enlightening Book [from Him]. (Qur’an, 22:8)
From among mankind there is the one who argues concerning Allah. They argue about His Oneness and His existence. They do not accept His Oneness or His Attributes. This argument they carry is without any knowledge. Ilm in this ayah means daleel (proof) or any purpose.
What is the connection in this ayah between the blessings of Allah and tawhid (belief in the One God)?
It is after receiving all of these blessings that clearly point to the Oneness of Allah, to worshiping Him Alone and submitting to Him, there are those among us who dispute regarding the Oneness of His existence.
Benefits from this Ayah
- Allah conveys questions to mankind so that we can reflect. Asking questions was also a teaching technique of the Prophet (sal Allahu `alayhi wa sallam – peace be upon him). He said in one hadith, “…If there were a river at the door of one of you in which he takes a bath five times a day, would any soiling remain on him?” They replied, “No soiling would [be] left on him.” He (s) said, ” That is the five (daily) prayers. Allah obliterates all sins as a result of performing them.” [Bukhari]
- Reflection is good for your emaan and heart. Allah asks in the form of a question so that we can ponder and reflect.
- The Mercy of Allah: He even gives to those who disbelieve and associate partners with Him. This is denoted in the Name of Allah, “Ar-Rahman,” the Most Merciful. He continually and consistently gives to all of creation.
- Knowledge (ilm) is through proof (daleel). Allah says that those who argue concerning Him have no knowledge, which means they do not have any proof for their disbelief and shirk.
- The blessings that Allah has given us point to His Oneness. When Allah commands mankind to worship Him Alone, He states in the next ayah, “[He] who made for you the earth a bed [spread out] and the sky a ceiling and sent down from the sky, rain and brought forth thereby fruits as provision for you. So do not attribute to Allah equals while you know [that there is nothing similar to Him].” (2:22)
- The Books that Allah azza wa jal revealed are “muneer” (enlightening). Muneer gives two meanings of enlightening; it is something that enlightens (others) and is enlightening (in itself).
- Allah did not create us and leave us to provide for ourselves. He has given us apparent and hidden blessings and has made the earth a resource for us–this shows that Allah is the Rabb, the Provider and the Sustainer.
May Allah make us among those who are grateful to Him and return to Him in a state of Islam. Ameen.