Glorifying the Creator
The Surah opens with an order to praise Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala. We are instructed to glorify Him, recognize His supremacy and infallibility in everything and remember His divine attributes. The two presented attributes are Lordship and Highness. The word Rabb means the Nourisher, Sustainer and Provider. The ‘Highness’ attributes prompts one to look up to endless horizons. It is Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala Who created all that and Who is above all of us and everything in this world. When the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam used to recite this ayah:
سَبِّحِ اسْمَ رَبِّكَ الاّعْلَى
“Exalt the Name of your Lord, the Most High,”
he would say,
سُبْحَانَ رَبِّيَ الْأَعْلَى
“Glory to my Lord, the Most High.”
Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala should be remembered by the names which fit Him, and no such name should be used for His exalted Being which, with regard to its meaning and sense, does not fit Him, or which reflects some aspect of deficiency, lack of reverence, polytheism about Him, or which refers to some wrong belief in respect of His Being, attributes, or works. For this purpose, the safest way is that only such names be used which He himself has mentioned in the Qur’an.
Secondly, Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala should not be remembered by the names as are used generally for the created beings, or the created beings should not be called by names as are specifically meant for Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala. And if there are some attributive names which are not specifically meant for Allah, but may also be used for the created beings, such as Ra’ouf (Kind), Raheem (Compassionate), Kareem (Generous), Sami’ (Hearing), Baseer (Seeing), etc. one should exercise due care not to use them for man as they are used for Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala.
Thirdly, Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala should not be mentioned in a way or in a state which reflects lack of respect for Him; for example, to mention His name when engaged in mockery or jest, or when in the lavatory, or while committing a sinful act, or before the people who might behave insolently in response or in assemblies where the people are engaged in absurd things and might laugh off His mention, or on an occasion when it is feared that the hearer will hear it disdainfully.
About Imam Malik, it is related that when a beggar begged him for something and he did not have anything to give, he would not turn away the beggar, saying that Allah would help him, as is commonly done by the people, but he would excuse himself in some other way. When asked why he did so, he replied, “When the beggar is not given anything and one makes an excuse, it inevitably displeases him. On such an occasion, I do not like to mention Allah’s name, for I do not like that somebody should hear His name in a state of annoyance and displeasure.”
Everything Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala has created is well-proportioned and perfect. Every creature is assigned its own role and given guidance so that it may know its role and play it.
“Who destined and [then] guided,” means that He determined beforehand what would be the function of a certain thing in the world, and for that purpose what would be its size, its form and shape, its qualities, its place of location, and what opportunities and means should be provided for its survival, existence and functioning, when it should come into being, and when and how it should cease to be after completing its part of the work. Such a scheme for a thing is its taqdeer (destiny). And this destiny Allah has set for everything in the universe and for the entire universe as a whole. This means that the creation has not come about without a pre-conceived plan, haphazardly, but for it the Creator had a full plan before Him, and everything is happening according to that plan.
The Surah complements the talk about proportion, perfection, destiny and guidance with an inspiring insight from the realm of plants, “And who brings out the pasture. And [then] makes it black stubble.”
The pasturage, as used here, refers to all plants. Every plant is suitable for one sort of species or another. Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala has created this planet and provided on it enough food to nourish every single living creature which walks, swims, flies or hides itself underground.
The pasturage is green when it first shoots forth, but it withers away and blackens. It may be used for feeding when green, after it blackens and withers, or in between. Thus, it is useful in every condition, and it serves a purpose according to the elaborate planning of the One who creates, proportions, determines and guides.
The reference here to the life of plants carries also an implicit connotation that all plants are reaped and harvested. Similarly, every living being will come to its appointed end. This connotation fits in well with the reference to the two worlds of man, “But you prefer the worldly life, while the Hereafter is better and more enduring,” [87:16-17].
This life is a pasture which comes to its end when it withers away and blackens, while the life to come is the one which lasts.